Overall Impressions of the Symposium

by Leah Everitt

I thought that the symposium was a fantastic experience overall.  Each person in the group liked different talks that we went to.  It was great talking with everyone afterword about the different things they found interesting because they were excited about that subject.  I think that the discussion we had in the car on the way back where we went over all the talks and what we liked and didn’t like really made us all synthesize the information we had learned.

In my opinion the panel discussion at the end of the conference really tied all of the different talks together and put them into a greater context.  The talks covered everything from plant diseases to ancient DNA so being able to talk to these researchers about how they thought of their research in the broader categories of Ecology and Evolution really brought everything together.

Apart from the talks I think that it is also important to mention that in between these talks we had time to ask researchers and other scientists about their research and careers.  In particular I was very interested in doing this because I am planning on doing graduate studies in biology.  It was amazing to have the opportunity to talk to people a few years ahead of me on a similar path to one I am about to take.

In conclusion if I were presented with the opportunity to go to another symposium even on a topic that I wasn’t very interested I would still go.  The talks are interesting, tying the research into a broader context really reminds you why you study science and meeting people in your field can really help to define what path you would like to take.

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Touring the Museum at UMich

by Katherine and Elisabeth Sorrows

Looking around the museum

Each of us found a different section that we really enjoyed. We looked at the Smilodon and the Mastodon. They have Mastodon footprints to look at and the right hind leg of the Mastodon was printed on a 3-D printer so you could see the pixels on the leg. If you didn’t know what to look at you would miss the pixels. They have a new exhibit of a snake about to eat dinosaur eggs. They were recently discovered where an avalanche had occurred.

We also looked at exhibit design and Katherine really liked the design of the exhibit about petrified wood. She really liked the design of the exhibit there was different tiers of information, the information was also laid out in a way that it was not overwhelming. The petrified wood was a really pretty object, it was a very big piece and had been polished so you could still count all the rings. There was an amazing new exhibit of a very recent discovery of a dinosaur nest with a snake about to eat the babies. Heather had been reading about the study so she was excited to share what she had been reading as well as to look at what was in the exhibit. We also discussed the presentation of the content. As well as how they were able to make an exhibit so quickly after it had been discovered.

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Discussion with Exhibit Staff

We met with Kira B. and John K. in one of the exhibits, they work on education and exhibit design respectively. One thing I learned from them was how much the exhibit designer can influence a museum even long after they are gone. The exhibit we sat in had dioramas of different geologic time periods. The designer at the time, sometime in the 60s, was not interested in the Triassic period so there is no diorama about it, and the exhibit has mostly invertebrates. For this exhibit visitors were not considered as much, there was no visitor survey for the exhibit. We also discussed different types of exhibits and the pros and cons of having more technology or less. One exhibit idea that worked well was using post-it notes as an interactive method of getting visitors to share their opinions. We also talked about what a museum was for. Some of the things we agreed with Kira and John about were that screens can be used at home, museums should be more about interactive, allowing visitors to touch and feel things that cannot be felt at home.

I enjoyed learning and thinking about the running of museums, and the variety of projects they were involved in. One thing we discussed was having to prioritize exhibit design, deciding which exhibits are most important to update or do. There is only so much that can be done with the resources and people that are there. We also talked about how to write exhibit labels and looked at the ages of exhibits.

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Exploring the Museum Collections at UMich

by Katherine and Elisabeth Sorrows

First Day at University of Michigan

We got to interact with current PhD students, meet with an EC alum who works in the museum, explore the collections and museum and talk to the museum staff. We will focus this week on our interactions with the collections. Look NEXT week for our blog about the museum.

Coffee Break: Meeting Doctoral Students

We arrived Friday in the morning in time to join the Ph.D. students for their coffee break. People from different departments of science would come together and have coffee everyday. Some students were using the time to check in with their advisors or just hang out and talk about topics either related to their research or current news that is going on around the world. Some were also chatting and hanging out as any students would.

Mollusk Collection

We were able to meet with a few different people throughout the day. We met with Diarmid O’Foighil who is the Director of UMMZ as well as the mollusk curator. One thing that surprised me was how small some of the mollusks were, many of what we looked at were tiny dots in little tubes. There were also really big mollusks, the diversity was really interesting, it was fun to look at both together. We also learned about some disease research taking place about mollusks.

Bird Collection

I really liked getting to see the bird collection. Janet Hinshaw, an EC alum, showed us the collection. We said we wanted to see some of the extinct birds, type specimens, birds of paradise and some from Hawaii.  It was really cool to get to hold some of the extinct birds; the ivory billed woodpecker, northern flicker, Norfolk Pigeon, and the flightless Stephens Island Wren. The Birds of Paradise got their names by Europeans who received footless and sometimes wingless specimens that had been prepared by the native traders. They removed the wings and feet for easier transport and for decorations. The Europeans wondered about the mythical footless and wingless birds and how they kept themselves aloft by their plumes.

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Mammals

We met with Cody Thompson in the mammal collection. We got to see many different small and large taxidermy mammals and the skins collection. The museum is moving soon so we looked at the collections and talked some about how to move such big collections. We also talked about the importance of choosing what your museum can take and saying no to certain animals. It is important to consider the size of the collections, the space, and the amount of preparation that will be needed of the offered specimen will require.

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On the Road Again

by Emily McGrew

Even museum staffers occasionally take a break and hit the road for a springtime road trip! Two weekends ago, Heather, our director, drove a minivan full of sleepy museum staffers to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We had the chance to meet with a few members of their museum team and explore the museum and collections, as well as attend a symposium entitled, “Humans as a Force of Ecological and Evolutionary Change”.

We learned and thought a lot during our time there, and we’d like to share it with you! Over the next two weeks, we’ll be posting a series of articles from staffers who went on the trip, covering all of our experiences. We look forward to hearing your responses!

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See the Museum Through Our Eyes

This video, made especially for us by Winston Wu Photography, features director Heather Lerner telling her story and experience of the museum. Check it out to learn more about how the staff works and loves the museum world. Music by Tom Day.

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Opening the House

by Asa Duffee, Worker Extraordinaire

Once a year, the Joseph Moore Museum has a chance to show off all its gusto and demonstrate the whole museum.  What am I talking about? Why, our open house!

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The open house demonstrates all aspects of the museum, not just the typical public display – we hold special activities and open up the collections, complete with staff members to demonstrate what we do behind the scenes.  We even open three hours more than usual (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) in order to pack in all the extra fun.

 

 

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This year, activities included Ancient Adena tattoos (not permanent), face-painting, planetarium shows, and weight measurements on other planets.  The live animals also get to see the entire museum, as staff members carry them around upstairs.

Did you miss it this time? Well, no worries! Check out our Facebook page to keep posted on special events, and keep in mind the open house for next spring!

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The Best Job Ever (You Could Do It, Too)

By Emily McGrew

“So…what do you actually do at the museum?”

I get this question a lot. The short answer is I work in web media and as a tour guide. But the long answer, when people are willing to listen, encompasses so many more experiences, from cleaning up after our live animals to researching and designing new signs for them. Just as a sample, in my first month at the museum, I painted a ceiling, cleaned out a collections cabinet, created flyers for an event, and put party hats on the big skeletons to take promotional photos for open house (By the way, open house this year is March 1, more info to come!)

Kate Roosa, another marketing team member, has a different experience of the museum than mine, though:

(Thanks to Earlham College’s marketing division for the fantastic video!)

Working at the museum is undoubtedly the best work experience I could have had at college. I’ve learned so many skills that help me when I apply for jobs, not only in terms of lines on my resume, but in confidence to say that yes, I can take on an independent project and do well. Like Kate, I also spent a summer working in the museum where I and another intern took on the work of the entire student staff team, from hosting to caring for the animals, to keeping the web media up-to-date and staffing museum events.

Hey, speaking of summer internships, if you’re an Earlham student interested in the museum, you can apply for this year’s summer internship! Click here to read about the jobs and start your application. Deadline to apply is March 1 for the museum, so time is running out if you want to learn with us here at the museum!

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Ice Age in Indiana

Kids carving their names into ice.

Have you noticed that the weather in Richmond has been slightly below a balmy 70 degrees?  In fact, it’s been cold enough to merit Richmond’s very own ice festival!  The museum decided that the festival wouldn’t be complete without proper experts on ice ages, so we commemorated the cold with a small part in the festivities.

Specifically, on February 1st we partnered with the Grassroots Action Resource Center on Main Street to summon the glaciers to central Indiana.  Our event featured a giant block of ice in which kids carved their names, as well as mammoth-based story times.  For fun and nutrition we sold hot chocolate and funnel cakes to anyone looking to warm up from the frozen outdoors.

The Meltdown Ice Festival was Richmond’s first-ever celebration of frozen H20 and featured custom ice sculptures all around town.  Special events included a professional ice-sculpting competition, a frozen zombie walk, crafts, and more.

While temperatures still permit ice, be sure to slide over to the museum for some genuine education on Pleistocene Epoch glaciations and megafauna!

 

Director Heather Lerner and her daughter present the museum’s temporary advertisement on Main Street.

 

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‘Mars Mania!’ was Marvelous!

By Katherine Sorrows

On Saturday we had an event called Mars Mania. 170 people came to the event. We had many different stations where visitors could learn different things about Mars and NASA. We had a model of Curiosity. We also had a full scale model of the wheel to help reference Curiosity’s size. Curiosity is the size of a mini coop. We had some new planetarium shows which were really cool. There was a video of the landing on Mars, and Chris Angell made a podcast about Curiosity and Mars.

 

Some of our stations included a station at which you could learn about how craters are formed as well as meteors and why meteorites burn. It turns out that meteorites burn not because of friction but because of the atmosphere and the pressure it exerts on the meteorite. We had a really fun demonstration for this. We had a compression syringe that can ignite a piece of toilet paper from the compression when you push on it really fast. The museum also has a piece of a meteorite which we had out. It is surprisingly heavy.

 

The station I worked at had inventions that NASA has made that have entered the consumer market. We had a guessing game of what NASA had invented and what they hadn’t, some of what was in that game were, tang, cordless tools, scratch- resistant lenses, and water filters. Tang was not actually invented by NASA but many visitors were surprised by that. We had a book at that station which is free and produced yearly. It is called Spinoff and it contains the inventions which NASA has made in that year that have entered the consumer market. Some things they invent to use we do not see in quite the same form, but the technology behind them we do see.

 

We also had a scale to place the planets on and to see how far away from the sun each planet is in comparison to the others.

 

We had a lot of fun with a mat and scale that calculates the weight that you would weigh on each planet. The gravitational force of each planet is different so you are pulled toward that planet with a different force. It also had some really fun facts about each planet.

 

Downstairs we had a hopscotch game to see how jumping would feel different on Mars due to the different gravitational pull.

 

We had a station in which you could calculate your age on Mars. While the days are approximately the same on Earth as they are on Mars the years are different. It takes longer for Mars to go around the sun.

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Cincinnati’s Got a Museum When People Come to See ‘em

By Katherine Sorrows and Katy Rockefeller

Last weekend Katy Rockefeller, Heather Brock, Bailey Heinzen, and Katherine Sorrows went with Director Heather Lerner to the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and the Ultimate Dinosaur exhibit. Before heading to the Museum, we stopped off at the Geier Collections & Research Center and met with Dr. Brenda Hunda, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Cincinnati Museum. She talked to us about her research and curation duties, as well as the importance of networking and getting involved with museums and education. She emphasized how important it is to start networking and create connections in the field.

Dr Hunda took us to the paleontology collections where we looked at both vertebrate and invertebrate collections. The vertebrate collections are organized by geologic time period, while the invertebrate collections are organized by taxonomy. We learned first hand about different kinds of trilobites, including their metamorphosis and larval stages. We also discussed the evolution of fish and looked at Dunkleosteus specimens. At the center of the room was a long table, covered with the remains of a Sauropod that was in the process of being reassembled The Dinosaur was huge, well over 70 feet long!
We were also interested in the storage of specimens. Their metal cabinets have doors with vents at the top and bottom so that toxic gases don’t build up inside of the cases as specimens off-gas over time. Each specimen is kept in an undyed, acid-free, cardboard box on a piece of foam to keep it from rolling or sliding. They also store important publications in printed form right there with the specimens. They use bright red cabinets for their type specimens to signify that those are the cabinets to focus on in an emergency. They also use a system of colored dots within the drawers to mark important specimens.

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We also talked about how science is an ever changing field and how difficult it can be prepare for the future. Paleontology used to just be about the remains, now it is imperative to record the context of where they were found, including rock type and any particles found in the surrounding rock. It is possible to do DNA and other molecular analysis on some recent specimens now but many subfossils have been prepared and stored in ways that make it hard to do that research. Now, when we prepare and store fossils we try to keep in mind that in 50 years, scientists may have completely different methods, and although it is difficult, we try to prepare specimens in a way that will not hinder scientists of the future.

After saying our goodbyes (and many thank-yous) to Brenda, we headed for the Museum, which is beautifully located in Cincinnati’s old train terminal station. After lunch, we explored the Ultimate Dinosaur exhibit. They had a geologic time scale which showed pictures of when different species lived, and we were able to identify some of the fossils Dr. Hunda had shown us. We also saw a huge trilobite that is the type specimen. The dinosaurs ranged from tiny cat-sized creatures to unimaginably enormous. The herbivores had very tiny heads and long necks, whereas the carnivores had long sharp teeth and bigger heads.  The exhibit showed how the distribution of dinosaurian fossils provides evidence for continental movement. Most of the dinosaurs on exhibit are from the southern hemisphere, so they are not species we see often in North American displays. This exhibit had a lot of multimedia, including touch screens, interactive video displays and a smartphone app to view dinosaur animations.

Afterward, we went to the natural history portion of the museum. They had a great hands-on experimentation station, and we all watched a demonstration using liquid nitrogen. They have an exhibit where it felt as if you were exploring a cave and could find models of the animals that you would find in caves. They also had an ice age re-creation exhibit, including a model of our giant beaver, as well as giant sloths, dire wolves, mastodons, mammoths and many other animals. We discussed how the exhibits were set up, enjoying many of the interactives, but having difficulty finding the exhibits we most wanted to see.

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