15th annual Trashformations showcase to be held Nov. 22

November 1st, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For some Alachua County students, trash doesn’t equate to garbage, but instead may be morphed into creative works of art. The Florida Museum of Natural History will display these artistic creations during the 15 annual Trashformations showcase Nov. 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Trashformations recycled art show and competition is open to middle school, high school and college students. All entries are constructed from 70 percent or more recycled material and judged on the criteria of “most creative expression” and “most innovative use of recycled materials.”

“This event helps you look at recyclables in a new way,” said Florida Museum educator Tiffany Ireland. “It’s always interesting how someone turns milk jugs into an ibis or cans into an owl. This is an opportunity for us to showcase our local, young talent. Every year you always get wowed by something.”

Students in each division compete for cash and other prizes and (more…)

Murdering, tyrant plants topic of final fall ‘Science Café’ Nov. 11

October 30th, 2013

Grant Godden preparing an RNA extraction from a species of mint. Photo by Angelica Cibrian-Jaramillo, National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Mexico.

Grant Godden prepares an RNA extraction from a species of mint.
Photo by Angelica Cibrian-Jaramillo, Mexico National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Liars, crooks, murderers and tyrants­ find out more about plants and how they evolve to compete for resources at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s next “Science Café” on Monday, Nov. 11.

The final “Science Café” of the fall series will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Saboré, 13005 SW First Road, Suite 129 in Town of Tioga. University of Florida department of biology and Florida Museum of Natural History doctoral candidate Grant Godden will discuss “Despicable Plants: A Botanical World of Liars, Crooks, Murderers and Tyrants.”

“My ‘Science Café’ explores the origins and evolution of seemingly sinister strategies such as fraud, theft, murder and oppression,” Godden said. “It draws from numerous botanical examples of despicable plants. These include deceptive orchids, parasitic witchweeds, and carnivorous and allelopathic plants.”

The program format provides a comfortable setting for community members and (more…)

Observe night sky during free ‘Starry Night’ program Nov. 15

October 16th, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have an opportunity to tour the universe with astronomy experts during the seventh annual Starry Night event, from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 15.

Starry Night

Astronomers lead visitors in stargazing during a past event.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Free, space-themed activities include a portable planetarium show and the opportunity to view the universe in 3D as well as rocks from space including a 70-pound meteorite.

Outside, visitors may gaze at the moon, planets and stars through professional quality telescopes and learn about the night sky with members of the Alachua Astronomy Club and UF astronomy department. (more…)

Museum ‘Science Café’ Oct. 28 to focus on shellfish aquaculture industry

October 15th, 2013
Leslie Sturmer examines Sunray Venus Clams. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Leslie Sturmer examines Sunray Venus Clams.
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Cedar Key shellfish aquaculture industry is the topic for discussion at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s next “Science Café” program Oct. 28 at Blue Gill Quality Foods, 1310 SW 13th St. in Gainesville.

State shellfish extension agent Leslie Sturmer will discuss “Farming the Sea: The Cedar Key Story” beginning at 6:30 p.m.

“When Florida’s commercial fishing businesses were declining, University of Florida and Florida Sea Grant collaborated with other entities to build a new hard clam aquaculture industry near Cedar Key, where about 80 percent of Florida’s clam farming now occurs,” Sturmer said. “The industry has a statewide economic impact of over $50 million, supporting more than 550 jobs in Cedar Key alone.” (more…)

New study of Panama shark, ray fossils sheds light on ancient ocean connections

October 14th, 2013
Pimiento measuring tooth

Lead researcher Catalina Pimiento measures a shark tooth at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new study led by University of Florida researchers provides evidence of an interchange between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans nine to 11 million years ago despite the ongoing formation of the Isthmus of Panama.

Seeking to provide the most complete description to date of 10-million-year-old shark and ray fossils in an outcrop on the Caribbean side of Panama, the researchers identified species that today are restricted to the Pacific Ocean, suggesting the oceans were connected at the time. The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Paleontology.

The research has significant implications for the evolutionary history of sharks and possibly other marine animals, said lead researcher Catalina Pimiento, a doctoral candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. (more…)

Three streaming webcams added to Butterfly Rainforest

October 9th, 2013
This still image was taken from the feeding station webcam in the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit.

This still image was taken from the feeding station webcam in the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Butterfly Rainforest exhibit may now be viewed worldwide via three streaming content cameras available on the Florida Museum of Natural History website.

Visitors may view links to all camera feeds at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/critter-cams/. The feeds include the overall exhibit on the overhead canopy camera as well as up-close views of a (more…)

Swallow-tailed Kite exhibit opens Oct. 12

September 27th, 2013
Photo by Jim Gray

Photo by jimgrayimages.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The story and beauty of the Swallow-tailed Kites’ annual 10,000-mile round-trip migration from Florida to South America is the subject of a new Florida Museum of Natural History exhibit opening Oct. 12.

Through paint, pictures and poetry, artist Margo McKnight and Ken Meyer of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute tell the tale of the fascinating journey and complex lives of these rare and beautiful birds of prey in the exhibit “A Swallow-tailed Kite’s 10,000-mile Journey: A Black and White Odyssey.”

“I undertook this project to simply introduce this amazing bird to a new audience,” McKnight said. “Awareness is the very first step and can turn into intention, which in turn can move people to action. Just one step can make a difference.”

Due to a sharp decline in the number of Swallow-tailed Kites over the last century, the (more…)

Fossil record shows crustaceans vulnerable as modern coral reefs decline

September 23rd, 2013
Florida Museum postdoctoral researcher Adiel Klompmaker is lead author of a new study in Geology suggesting a direct correlation between the abundance of coral reefs and the diversity of many crustaceans.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Florida Museum postdoctoral researcher Adiel Klompmaker is lead author of a new study in Geology suggesting a direct correlation between the abundance of coral reefs and the diversity of many crustaceans.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many ancient crustaceans went extinct following a massive collapse of reefs across the planet, and new University of Florida research suggests modern species living in rapidly declining reef habitats may now be at risk.

Available online and scheduled to appear in the November issue of Geology, the study shows a direct correlation between the amount of prehistoric reefs and the number of decapod crustaceans, a group that includes shrimp, crab and lobster. The decline of modern reefs due to natural and human-influenced changes also could be detrimental, causing a probable decrease in the biodiversity of crustaceans, which serve as a vital food source for humans and marine animals such as fish, said lead author Adiël Klompmaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus who started the study at Kent State University. (more…)

Researchers receive $450,000 NSF grant to classify butterfly group

September 11th, 2013
This cloud forest species photographed in Ecuador, Parataygetis albinotata, occurs in the tropical Andes and is a member of the subtribe Euptychiina, which museum researchers are classifying with funding from a three-year, $458,000 National Science Foundation grant.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Keith Willmott

This cloud forest species photographed in Ecuador, Parataygetis albinotata, occurs in the tropical Andes and is a member of the subtribe Euptychiina, which museum researchers are classifying with funding from a three-year, $458,000 National Science Foundation grant.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Keith Willmott

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History scientists have received a three-year, $458,104 National Science Foundation grant to research a common, but often misidentified, butterfly group.

The diverse subtribe Euptychiina is found throughout the Americas, with most species occurring in grasslands and forests from the U.S. to Argentina. Its classification, however, is highly disorganized. Recent research shows at least 20 percent of the group’s species have no scientific name and about 65 percent of the genera are invalid. Museum collections serve many important roles, including helping scientists better understand where species occur and how the environment changes over time.

With hundreds of thousands of Euptychiina specimens stored in museum collections worldwide, (more…)

Discover what lives on, under your skin and in backyards at Sept. 30 ‘Science Café’

September 10th, 2013

Andrea Lucky and collected Florida ant specimens.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Andrea Lucky inspects collected Florida ant specimens.
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Discover the many species inhabiting your yard, home and body at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s first “Science Café” of the fall series on Sept 30.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. at Saboré, 13005 SW First Road, Suite 129, Town of Tioga. The restaurant opens at 6 p.m. and offers a limited menu for attendees. University of Florida guest speakers Andrea Lucky, assistant research scientist for the entomology and nematology department and Jiri Hulcr, assistant professor at the School of Forest Resources and Conservation will describe “The Beauty and Complexity of Insects, Fungi and Microbes Under (and on) Your Feet.”

“Biodiversity is all around us, including our own backyards, not just in faraway places,” Hulcr said. “There is so much we are still discovering about the wildlife that lives around us, and (more…)

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