Museum researcher receives $260,000 to study echolocation in moths

November 10th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether by buzzing, singing, cawing or hissing, plenty of animals boast their own form of communication. But researchers now hope to unlock a common predator-prey language found in insects and mammals: echolocation in hawkmoths and bats.

“Moths and bats are completely unrelated yet they are talking to each other,” said principal investigator Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We can’t hear it, but they certainly can, so we’re trying to do some experiments where we let the two organisms fly together and see how they interact.”

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Kawahara $260,000 to research hawkmoths’ use of echolocation as a defense mechanism against predatory bats. The grant will fund research in Ecuador, French Guinea and Borneo, molecular biology lab work at the Florida Museum, and experiments at a live bat cage in Boise, Idaho, run by co-principal investigator Jesse Barber, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Boise State University. (more…)

Museum researcher receives $800,000 grant to study birds in the Andes

September 19th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With $800,000 from the National Science Foundation, Florida Museum of Natural History conservation biologist Scott Robinson is researching bird ranges in the Andes Mountains.

Robinson is leading a team of about 20 researchers measuring ideal temperatures for different species’ survival, studying how successfully the birds nest and to what extent predators dictate their existence. With this data, scientists hope to understand which Neotropical bird species will be able to move upslope as temperatures increase with global warming. (more…)

Museum archaeologist receives $55,000 to analyze Swift Creek pottery

September 13th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History researcher Neill Wallis recently received a $55,000 National Science Foundation grant to analyze and digitally document pottery made by prehistoric people of the Deep South.

The grant will help Wallis analyze Swift Creek Complicated Stamped pottery used by hunter-gatherers of northern Florida, Georgia and eastern Alabama from A.D. 100 to 800. Wallis began the project this summer with $20,000 from the Wenner-Gren Foundation used to conduct neutron activation and petrographic analyses. The three-year NSF grant will fund preparation of the vessels, database development, travel expenses, photographing the designs and radiocarbon dating soot on the pottery. (more…)

UF, FSU receive $10 million for project to digitize U.S. biology collections

July 8th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The National Science Foundation announced today its award of a $10 million grant to the University of Florida and Florida State University to coordinate 92 institutions in 45 states working to digitize the nation’s biological collections.

Available to anyone online, the natural history data and its increased accessibility will help researchers identify gaps in scientific knowledge and could assist government agencies and others making decisions related to climate change, conservation, invasive species, biodiversity and other biological issues.

“There are probably a billion specimens in the U.S., but information isn’t easily accessible,” said Larry Page, principal investigator of the five-year project and a research scientist at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “This program is about making that information available to researchers, educators, policymakers and the general public – anyone who wants it.” (more…)

Florida Museum graduate student receives $13,500 NSF grant to study pitcher plants

June 13th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History graduate student Nicholas “Nic” Miles recently received a $13,500 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant to study carnivorous pitcher plants.

Miles will study three pitcher plant families from Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas to determine if leaves evolved from a flat to a tube-like structure the same way in all three.

“Pitchers are an amazing adaptation for plants, and their evolution is even more amazing because they evolved at three independent times during the history of plants,” said Miles, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in botany. (more…)

Florida Museum researcher receives $15,000 NSF grant to study sea cucumbers

May 11th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History student François Michonneau recently received a $15,000 National Science Foundation grant to research sea cucumbers in Japan.

The NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant program provides partial support for projects to improve the quality of research in the biological sciences. Michonneau said his research will lead to a better understanding of the history of species diversification in the sea.

“Studying sea cucumbers is a good starting point because they provide lots of evidence about evolution,” Michonneau said. (more…)

UF to lead $2.7 million worldwide project to discover fish species

August 9th, 2010

UF to lead $2.7 million worldwide project to discover fish species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Florida and two other institutions $2.7 million to conduct a global inventory of the largest order of freshwater fishes, including some of the most commercially important fish worldwide.

The four-year grant is part of the NSF Planetary Biodiversity Inventory initiative, which began in 2003 and aims to identify and catalog every species on Earth by 2025. (more…)

UF one of first to receive two NSF research, education grants in same cycle

August 5th, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida is one of the first institutions to receive two Partnership for International Research and Education Grants from the National Science Foundation in a single award cycle.

The university’s Florida Museum of Natural History received $3.8 million to study the history of climate change and biodiversity in Panama, and the College of Engineering received $3.1 million to study multiphase fluid mechanics with leading institutes in Japan and France.

“One of the primary goals of the project is to build internationally competent researchers among future U.S. scientists through innovative research and learning experiences,” said Doug Jones, director and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum and principal investigator on the museum’s grant. (more…)

Grant to help zoo visitors learn more about science with their cell phones

November 30th, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Zoo visitors may soon use their cell phones to “Call the Wild” as part of a project led by University of Florida researchers to help the public learn more about the nature of science.

Scientists at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recently received a $494,509 National Science Foundation grant to develop “Call the Wild,” a project that will encourage zoo visitors to expand their trip and their understanding of science through the use of mobile technology applications.

“We want to creatively engage visitors in learning how science works – for example, that science knowledge continues to grow and change, and science is a collaborative and creative process,” said project leader Betty Dunckel, director of the Florida Museum’s Center for Informal Science Education. “We are using cell phones, which are most frequently thought of as communication tools, as learning tools.” (more…)

Florida Museum bird sound recordings to go digital, online with help of grant

November 23rd, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History ornithologists are preparing to digitize nearly all of the Museum’s analog bird-sound field recordings, one of the largest collections in the Western Hemisphere with 23,650 cataloged recordings representing about 3,000 species.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the three-year, $446,000 project will make the collection at the Florida Museum more readily available to scientists and the public for bird research and identification.

The project will involve more than 2,200 reel-to-reel and cassette tapes of a diverse collection of bird sounds, with a primary focus on New World birds. The digitization process, which begins in January, will result in public access to the recordings via the museum’s Web site. The museum plans to one day have all its recordings available online. The only sounds currently available are about 100 recordings of Florida birds. (more…)

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