Newly discovered tiger shark migration pattern might explain attacks near Hawaii

September 5th, 2013
Yannis Papastamatiou, a marine biologist in the ichthyology division at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus, is lead author of a new study examining the complex migration patterns of tiger sharks. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Yannis Papastamatiou, a marine biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, is lead author of a new study examining the complex migration patterns of tiger sharks.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The migration of mature female tiger sharks during late summer and fall to the main Hawaiian Islands, presumably to give birth, could provide insight into attacks in that area, according to a University of Florida scientist.

In a new seven-year study, researchers from UF and the University of Hawaii used new techniques to analyze the predators’ movements in the Hawaiian archipelago, where recent shark incidents have gained international attention, including a fatal attack in August. The study revealed different patterns between males and females – less inter-island movement was seen in males, while about 25 percent of mature females moved from the remote French Frigate Shoals atoll to the main Hawaiian Islands during late summer and early fall. The peer-reviewed authors’ manuscript is available online and tentatively scheduled to appear in the November print issue of Ecology. (more…)

Celebrate eighth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 19-20

September 5th, 2013
Michael Boulware, living exhibit specialist at the Florida Museum, releasing butterflies during ButterflyFest. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Michael Boulware, living exhibit specialist at the Florida Museum, conducts the daily butterfly release during ButterflyFest 2011.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will celebrate its eighth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 19-20.

The free event celebrates the importance of backyard wildlife and its role in the ecosystem and includes the largest butterfly plant sale of the year beginning Friday, Oct. 18.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view Lepidoptera specimens normally not displayed and speak with representatives from groups including the Florida Bluebird Society, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Lubee Bat Conservancy, and (more…)

UF scientists encounter holes in tree of life, push for better data storage

September 3rd, 2013
University of Florida distinguished professor Doug Soltis, co-author of a new study published today (09-03-13) in PLoS Biology, examines the flower species Tragopogon miscellus in this 2011 photograph.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

University of Florida distinguished professor Doug Soltis, co-author of a new study published today in PLoS Biology, examines the flower species Tragopogon miscellus.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to public access, the tree of life has holes.

A new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers shows about 70 percent of published genetic sequence comparisons are not publicly accessible, leaving researchers worldwide unable to get to critical data they may need to tackle a host a problems ranging from climate change to disease control.

Scientists are using the genetic data to construct the first comprehensive open-access tree of life as part of the National Science Foundation’s $5.6-million Assembling, Visualizing and Analyzing the Tree of Life project. Understanding organismal relationships is increasingly valuable for tracking the origin and spread of emerging diseases, creating agricultural and pharmaceutical products, studying climate change, controlling invasive species and establishing plans for conservation and ecosystem restoration.

The study appearing today in PLoS Biology describes a significant (more…)

Exhibits exploring Florida’s surfing history, beach science open Aug. 31

August 2nd, 2013

This photograph was taken in Daytona Beach at Florida’s first surfing championship in 1938. Photo courtesy of Patty Light/ Gaulden Reed Archive

This photograph was taken in Daytona Beach at Florida’s first surfing championship in 1938.
Photo courtesy of Patty Light/ Gaulden Reed Archive

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — “Catch the wave” at the Florida Museum of Natural History as it opens two new temporary surfing exhibits Aug. 31.

“Surfing Florida: A Photographic History” explores the sport’s rich cultural history in Florida, while “Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife” mixes museum specimens with interactive stations to provide interesting details about animals that live at the beach, some of which also surf. (more…)

Register now for Creative B daylong St. Augustine field trip Aug. 3

July 23rd, 2013

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This rendition of a courtyard in colonial St. Augustine, Fla, by artist Michael Rosato is from the “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins” exhibit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Explore the rich archaeology of St. Augustine through an all-day trip Aug. 3 with the Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida Creative B program.

Gain an all access pass to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, Colonial Quarter, Castillo de San Marcos and Government House Museum. The trip also includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the Florida Museum’s upcoming exhibit “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins,” which highlights St. Augustine as the nation’s oldest permanent European settlement. The exhibit is scheduled to open to the public in October.

“This trip provides an experience only the museum can offer,” said museum education assistant Tiffany Ireland. “Participants have the opportunity to visit important sites led by the scientists and researchers who have excavated and study artifacts detailing the 500-year-old culture and history of St. Augustine. (more…)

Students with ‘A’ in science statewide receive free admission

July 12th, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is continuing its popular “A for Science” free admission program for K-12 students statewide.

Students who receive an “A” or “E” grade in a science can provide their most recent report card at the front desk and receive a free admission with the purchase of a paid regular price adult admission.

The offer is valid for the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit, the “Titanoboa: Monster Snake” exhibit open through Aug. 11, or a value admission for both exhibits. Beginning Aug. 31, the offer is valid for the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit, the new “Surfing Florida: A Photographic History” and “Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife” exhibits, or a value admission (more…)

Study shows hawkmoths use ultrasound to combat bats

July 3rd, 2013
A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher shows hawkmoths, including this species, Theretra nessus, produce ultrasound as a defense mechanism against bats. The study published online today in Biology Letters identified three hawkmoth species that use a sound-producing system found in the genitals. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Pablo Padron

A new study co-authored by Akito Kawahara, Florida Museum assistant curator of Lepidoptera, shows hawkmoths, including this species, Theretra nessus, use their genitals to produce ultrasound as a defense mechanism against bats.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Pablo Padron

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For years, pilots flying into combat have jammed enemy radar to get the drop on their opponents. It turns out that moths can do it, too.

A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher shows hawkmoths use sonic pulses from their genitals to respond to bats producing the high-frequency sounds, possibly as a self-defense mechanism to jam the echolocation ability of their predators.

Echolocation research may be used to better understand or improve ultrasound as a vital tool in medicine, used for observing prenatal development, measuring blood flow and diagnosing tumors, among other things. The study appears online today in the journal Biology Letters.

(more…)

UF ‘Creative B’ free monthlong movie series begins July 6 with ‘King Kong’

June 14th, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Get ready to pop some popcorn and break out your favorite blanket.

The Florida Museum of Natural History will show free movies each Saturday in July beginning with “King Kong” (1933) on July 6 as part of the University of Florida “Creative B” program. The museum is open to the public from 6 to 10 p.m. and UF students receive free admission to the “Titanoboa: Monster Snake” exhibit each movie night with a valid Gator 1 ID.

The series includes a guest panel question-and-answer discussion on the art and validity of each film’s science content. The programs start at 7 p.m. and movies begin at 7:30 p.m.

“We are using science fiction movies to teach and discuss different science topics,” said Tiffany Ireland, Florida Museum education assistant. “Using this summer’s theme of cryptozoology we will discuss the need and use of scientific inquiry, research and discovery.” (more…)

DNA study shows hornworm pests have Central American origins

May 31st, 2013
05-31-13 Akito hawmoth evolution study 1206290086

Florida Museum of Natural History lepidopterist Akito Kawahara displays a tobacco hornworm larva, raised at the museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the University of Florida campus.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History researchers have co-authored the first comprehensive study on the evolution of two agricultural pests commonly used as model organisms.

Tobacco and tomato hornworms are among the largest caterpillars, able to individually devastate an entire plant if left unchecked. Despite their use in many fields of biology, the relationships of these hawkmoths have been confused for more than 50 years. The study published online May 3 and scheduled for the September 2013 print edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution shows they are not as closely related as previously believed, providing a new baseline for determining correct classifications within the group, said lead author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus.

“When people make decisions about these species, they can’t assume that they are most closely related – there are other species in between that we (more…)

Active duty military personnel, families receive free admission May 27-Sept. 2

May 21st, 2013

BSM-no-tag

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As part of the Blue Star Museum program, the Florida Museum of Natural History will offer free admission to all fee-based exhibits for active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2013.

“This is a great opportunity to visit the museum and enjoy the exhibits, while being recognized for serving in the military,” said Michael Blahnik, Florida Museum security guard and former U.S. Navy seaman.

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 1,800 museums across America. The program runs from May 27 through Sept. 2. (more…)

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