GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many native species have vanished from tropical islands because of human impact, but University of Florida scientists have discovered how fossils can be used to restore lost biodiversity.
The key lies in organic materials found in fossil bones, which contain evidence for how ancient ecosystems functioned, according to a new study available online and in the September issue of the Journal of Herpetology. Pre-human island ecosystems provide vital clues for saving endangered island species and re-establishing native species, said lead author Alex Hastings, who conducted work for the study as graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF department of geological sciences.
“Our work is particularly relevant to endangered species that are currently living in marginal environments,” said Hastings, currently a post-doctoral researcher at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. “A better understanding of species’ natural roles in ecosystems untouched by people might improve their prospects for survival.”
Thousands of years ago, the largest carnivore and herbivore on the Bahamian island of Abaco disappeared. The study reconstructs the ancient food web of Abaco where these two mega-reptiles, the endangered Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors are invited to flutter, flap and frolic at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s ninth annual ButterflyFest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 4.
The free event features live butterfly releases, butterfly gardening workshops and one of the museum’s largest plant sales of the year. The three-day sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 3-5 includes more than 150 species and 2,500 plants.
“ButterflyFest is one of the museum’s signature events and fun for everyone,” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “There is something for the serious and casual gardener, as well as families, scouts and students.”
The event celebrates the importance of backyard wildlife with an emphasis on pollinators like butterflies, bees and birds by providing family-friendly activities and presentations. This year’s theme is “Wings, Wildlife and Biodiversity.” The festival also features a children’s activity area, entertainment and food and merchandise vendors.
Festival attendees may march in costume at the Pollinator Parade, watch the University of Florida juggling club Objects in Motion and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students will have the opportunity to investigate monster myths and explore celebrations from around the world with the Florida Museum of Natural History during school holiday camps Nov. 24-25.
Pre-registration for students enrolled in grades K-5 for the 2014-2015 school year is required for all camps and is available online at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/events/camps/school-holiday/. The camps provide natural history exploration through museum exhibits and hands-on activities.
“Museum camps are all about having fun while learning,” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey.
On Nov. 24, students will explore the “Monster Myths” behind megalodon, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and giant squids, and learn about the difference between science and storytelling. This camp complements the museum’s featured fall exhibit, “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived,” which explores the evolution, biology and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Over the past 4 million years, North American fauna migrated to South America via the Isthmus of Panama. University of Florida scientists and K-12 educators recently made the same trek to dig up the past.
A new $350,000 National Science Foundation grant is engaging Florida Museum of Natural History researchers with K-12 science educators in the real world of science through fieldwork and collaboration, including a two-week trip to Panama last month.
Florida teachers, including three from Gainesville area schools and one from Tampa, joined educators from California and New Mexico in Panama to work with scientists discovering fossils that tell the story of the Great American Interchange—the dispersal of plants and animals from North America to South America and vice versa, said project leader UF Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator and (more…)
Editors: Exhibit press materials are available here.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After six years of touring the country to more than 1 million visitors, the Florida Museum of Natural History welcomes “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” home beginning Oct. 4.
Produced by the Florida Museum, the exhibit tells the story of the largest shark that ever lived. It features a 60-foot-long walk-through sculpture of Megalodon and describes the evolution, biology and legends of giant prehistoric sharks. Though this dominant marine predator vanished 2 million years ago, its fascinating story inspires lessons for science and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History begins its fall “Science Café” series Sept. 15 with lepidopterist Akito Kawahara discussing “Discovering How Insects Jam Bat Sonar: A Story About Nocturnal Fieldwork in the Depths of the Amazon, Borneo and Central Africa.”
The program at Saboré, 13005 SW First Road, Suite 129 in Town of Tioga begins at 6:30 and reservations are required. For more information or to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Amanda Erickson Harvey, 352-273-2062.
Now in its fourth year, the Science Café program brings guest speakers and community members together at local establishments to discuss contemporary science over food. Seating and food orders begin at 6 p.m. with the program starting at 6:30 p.m.
“Our fall Science Café series begins with a program that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the museum’s McGuire (more…)
Editors: A complete list of awards is available online
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The National Science Foundation has awarded six grants totaling about $7.5 million to digitize biodiversity collections, a nationwide effort coordinated by the iDigBio program based at the University of Florida.
The research is critical to understanding our planet and how changes in biological diversity affect human societies. The funding will shed light on “dark data,” information that is inaccessible to most scientists, educators, policymakers and the general public, and will further the national effort to digitize biodiversity collections.
“There are specimens that have been around for 100-200 years, but they are in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere, and it’s hard to know where everything is and how to get (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida Museum of Natural History gallery exhibit opening Sept. 1 illustrates how human actions can lead to the extinction of a species—even those considered common just a century ago.
“A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon” marks the 100-year anniversary of the bird’s extinction, and features illustrations, artwork and poetry from famed naturalists who documented the pigeon’s biology and its decline. Visitors may also learn about related Florida Museum research and view a well-preserved pair of Passenger Pigeons mounted in the 1890s.
Prior to its extinction 100 years ago, the Passenger Pigeon was one of the most abundant birds in the world, with population estimates ranging from 3 billion to 5 billion.
“James Audubon witnessed a flock that took three days to fly over a locality in north central Kentucky,” said Jessica Oswald, a former Florida Museum ornithology graduate student.
The populous pigeons couldn’t (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Due to popular demand, the Florida Museum of Natural History has extended the closing date for “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” to Sept. 7.
Originally on display through Sept. 1, “Wolf to Woof” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibit on the history, biology and evolution of dogs. It shows how dogs have secured a special place in human society as an incredibly diverse and versatile species that serves as hunters, herders, guards and companions.
“ ‘Wolf to Woof’ has been a very popular summer visitor attraction, so we’ve decided to give our community an extra week to see what all the ‘howling’ is about,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Tina Choe.
The exhibit reveals an in-depth history of dogs and their connection with wolves through four themed sections featuring artifacts, multimedia displays, photomurals and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — By tracing nearly 3,000 genes to the earliest common ancestor of butterflies and moths, University of Florida scientists have created an extensive “Tree of Lepidoptera” in the first study to use large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing.
Among the study’s more surprising findings: Butterflies are more closely related to small moths than to large ones, which completely changes scientists’ understanding of how butterflies evolved. The study also found that some insects once classified as moths are actually butterflies, increasing the number of butterfly species higher than previously thought.
“This project advances biodiversity research by providing an evolutionary foundation for a very diverse group of insects, with nearly 160,000 described species,” said Akito Kawahara, lead author and assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “With a tree, we can now understand how the majority of butterfly and moth species evolved.”
Available online and to be published in the August print edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the study builds the evolutionary framework for future ecological and (more…)