National UF butterfly science curriculum engages kids as scientists

October 1st, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Youth around the country will become bona fide butterfly researchers as part of a new science curriculum developed by University of Florida faculty and staff.

The curriculum, Project Butterfly WINGS, was developed by the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and has been reviewed and recommended by the National 4-H Council. It also is one of 11 afterschool curricula recommended by the 4-H Afterschool Taskforce and is available to all educators, afterschool programs and 4-H clubs nationwide.

Project Butterfly WINGS, which stands for Winning Investigative Network for Great Science, began as a National Science Foundation-funded project to interest girls in science. (more…)

Fla. Museum to host fourth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 24-25, online registration now available

July 27th, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Join the Florida Museum of Natural History during its fourth annual ButterflyFest Oct. 24 – 25 for a weekend of fun activities focused on pollinator conservation and gardening.

ButterflyFest is a free, family-friendly event with activities and workshops emphasizing awareness and conservation of backyard pollinators and wildlife. This year’s event also features the first “Pollinator Photo Contest” with cash prizes awarded in junior and adult age divisions.

“ButterflyFest celebrates our living Rainforest exhibit and highlights the ongoing research conducted by our scientists in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity,” said Douglas Noble, head of exhibits and public programs. “The fun, engaging atmosphere of the festival brings thousands to the museum to embrace our role in the conservation of pollinators.”

This year’s festival features wildlife research ecologist, author and artist Thomas Allen as the keynote speaker, as well as games, activities, workshops and tours for the whole family. (more…)

‘Amazing Butterflies’ interactive maze exhibit opens Saturday at Fla. Museum

June 9th, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Transform into a caterpillar and grow into a butterfly beginning Saturday at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest temporary exhibit, “Amazing Butterflies.”

In “Amazing Butterflies,” visitors experience the challenges of being a caterpillar as it morphs into a beautiful butterfly through a hands-on human maze. Along the way, they discover the ways caterpillars move, what they eat and how other creatures help them achieve their transformation.

“This exhibit is a wonderfully fun, family-friendly show and perfectly complements the experience of seeing live butterflies in our Butterfly Rainforest,” said Florida Museum exhibits director Darcie MacMahon.

Families can learn to crawl like a caterpillar by slipping into a set of caterpillar legs and using teamwork and locomotion to sprint for the finish line. Visitors will discover why carpenter ants in Panama defend metalmark caterpillars from parasitic wasps and other predators, and feed a caterpillar its lunch through team games and contests. (more…)

Fla. Museum receives grant for Florida wildflower and butterfly education

May 20th, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History has received a $13,872 grant to reprint the popular educational brochure, “Florida Wildflowers and Butterflies.”

The grant from the State of Florida and the Florida Wildflower Foundation Inc. is the third award the museum has received for the project.

“We have distributed 250,000 copies of the brochure across the state,” said Florida Museum Center for Informal Science Education Director Betty Dunckel. “It has been very well received and reflects the tremendous interest in learning more about our native wildflowers and butterflies.”

The museum received the grant in March and is now distributing the additional 250,000 brochures through organizations around the state. The brochure contains 100 color photographs of native wildflowers and butterflies and has a companion web site with a searchable database. (more…)

Fla. Museum scientist receives UF assistant professor excellence award

May 20th, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Assistant Curator of Lepidoptera Keith Willmott recently received the 2009 Jack Wessel Excellence Award for Assistant Professors.

The award, given to 10 individuals at the University of Florida, recognizes outstanding achievements and the potential for future accomplishments by assistant professors. The provost selected the winners from those nominated by their college or unit. Each winner will receive a one-time award of $5,000 to fund his or her research.

“I was honored that the department chose to nominate me,” Willmott said. “It’s particularly gratifying to see that the value of the work done at our world-class museum is recognized at the university level.” (more…)

Crawl, climb and fly with ‘Amazing Butterflies’ at Florida Museum beginning June 13

April 1st, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This summer, the Florida Museum of Natural History invites visitors to transform into caterpillars and journey through one of the planet’s most amazing lifecycles at “Amazing Butterflies” June 13 – Sept. 7.

In “Amazing Butterflies,” visitors experience the challenges of being a caterpillar as it morphs into a beautiful butterfly through a hands-on human maze of larger-than-life leaves, grass and trees. Along the way, they discover the ways caterpillars move, what they eat and how other creatures help them achieve their transformation.

“The timing of ‘Amazing Butterflies’ couldn’t be better, since summer is when our local butterflies are most active and people can watch their magical lifecycle unfold in their own backyards,” said Florida Museum exhibits director Darcie MacMahon. (more…)

Butterfly mating behavior, evolution topic of Sunday presentation at Fla. Museum

December 3rd, 2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw may have her finger on the pulse of New York’s dating life, but when it comes to relationships of a more animal variety she has nothing on Andrei Sourakov.

Sourakov, collections coordinator for the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, will present “Fight and Flight,” an interactive film, lecture and discussion on the mating behavior and evolution of butterflies and moths at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Most people think butterflies are gentle creatures above earthly needs,” Sourakov said. “But they have urges just like humans and other animals.”

His presentation on the mating practices of butterflies will explain their human-like and sometimes aggressive patterns. Most butterflies are extremely selective about mating and base their decision on looks, strength and the scent of a potential partner. Some males will brawl with other suitors vying for the same female while others will go to the extreme of secreting a substance on a female partner that prevents her from mating with other butterflies. (more…)

Fla. Museum researcher honored as Entomology Society of America fellow

November 12th, 2008

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History curator of Lepidoptera Jacqueline Y. Miller has been named a fellow of the Entomology Society of America. She will be inducted during the society’s annual meeting that begins Sunday in Reno, Nev.

Selection as an Entomology Society of America fellow acknowledges outstanding contributions in research, teaching, extension or administration.

“Dr. Miller is certainly worthy of having been selected as a fellow by the Entomological Society of America,” said J.E. McPherson, past president of the society. “She has had an outstanding career, not only through her numerous research contributions to the science of entomology but to her dedicated service to the society.”

Miller is the Allyn Curator of Lepidoptera and associate director of the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity where she is actively engaged in research and fieldwork, particularly in the West Indies and Central and South America. Her research interests include the systematics, life history, biodiversity and biogeography of butterflies, with a special focus on the Castniidae, commonly known as butterfly moths. (more…)

Fla. Museum researcher receives $365,000 grant for butterfly conservation workshops

November 5th, 2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Imperiled butterflies across the U.S. may benefit in the coming years from a series of innovative workshops designed by a Florida Museum of Natural History researcher with over a decade of experience working to recover the endangered Miami blue butterfly in south Florida.

Jaret Daniels, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, received $365,299 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in September. His winning grant proposes organizing and executing five training workshops over a three-year period through the Imperiled Butterfly Conservation and Management program.

“The intent of this program is to raise the bar for butterfly conservation,” Daniels said. “We’re targeting institutions that participate in butterfly conservation, or plan to do so in the future, but whose staff is limited by lack of information or experience; especially regarding techniques or methodologies for captive breeding and reintroduction of imperiled butterfly species.” (more…)

Rare fossil butterflies to be displayed during Fla. Museum ButterflyFest this weekend

October 15th, 2008

Editors note: A full schedule of events follows this release.

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History ButterflyFest visitors will have the opportunity this weekend to see four rare butterfly fossils not normally on public display.

The fossil butterfly exhibit is one of the many activities and workshops taking place during the museum’s annual butterfly festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Housed in the Florida Museum’s invertebrate paleontology collections, the specimens are four of about 50 known fossil butterflies in the world.

“Butterfly fossils are rare because they have extremely delicate exoskeletons,” said Florida Museum of Natural History Invertebrate Paleontologist Roger Portell. “Insect fossils are preserved under unique conditions.” (more…)

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