Museum Musings

Volunteer of the Month: August

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This month, we are honoring a volunteer whose contributions expand beyond the walks of the Museum, Teri Wall.

In September, Teri Wall reach her second anniversary as both a Polaris volunteer and as a Forest Restoration Volunteer. With a background in environmental compliance and remediation, Teri is a natural fit for the Museum's Second Saturday Forest Restoration Program. As one of the original volunteers for this special program, she has dedicated herself to assisting the Museum with the arduous process of removing invasive plant species from Fernbank Forest and the Forest Overlook.

"It's not easy, but for Teri to do this for two years shows her commitment to ecology and to Fernbank," said Steve Place, who currently leads the Second Saturday Forest Restoration Program and was an original volunteer alongside Teri.

When she's not digging up English Ivy or volunteering in the Member and Volunteer Services office, Teri loves the outdoors, where she enjoys running, cycling, hiking or whitewater rafting.

Volunteering has been a lifelong passion for Teri that began when she was in 6th grade, helping in the library of her mother's school. 

For information on how to become a volunteer, call 404.929.6360 or volunteer@fernbankmuseum.org.

Learn more about "Atlanta's hidden gem," Fernbank Forest.

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:02

A Leafy Adventure

Disclaimer: My background is in communications. Before working at Fernbank I couldn’t tell a red oak from a pine tree. That said, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to learn more about natural history by joining one of the Museum’s unique educational programs. I’m able to discover and learn through a new perspective, often doing so with the curiosity of an explorer and the wide-eyed-enthusiasm of a child.

Speaking of natural history, Fernbank’s Summer Camp covers a variety of areas under the big umbrella that is natural history. So, I returned to summer camp, specifically on “Forest Day” for the Discovery Team camp (rising 2nd – 3rd graders).

Our lesson started in Fernbank NatureQuest, identifying trees (beech, long-leafed pine, short-leafed pine, red oak), part of plants (leaves, stems, roots) as well as seed dispersal.

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Then it was time to take the lesson outdoors with a trip to Fernbank Forest with Fernbank educator, Charlee Glenn. Shortly upon entering the forest, we stopped to identify our first tree, a muscle tree. We did this not from memory, but by examining the bark, leaves and circumference of the tree.

The bark on muscle trees almost looks like veins that you’d see on bodybuilder flexing. Not only does the bark look similar to muscles, it is also a very strong tree. Despite having a smaller circumference, the muscle tree is very dense. To illustrate this, Charlee asked one of the campers to try to push the tree to see if it’d bend. (Note: it did not, but boy did that kid try.)

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Next up (after navigating at least 5 spider webs), we found a red oak tree. Red oaks have lobbed leaves and its bark is light with dark stripes (like a zebra). Since one of the main identifiers we used for this tree was its leaves, we looked for some on the ground.

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As we made our way to Huntemann Pond, Charlee talked about some of the animals that live in Fernbank Forest. As if on cue, a red tail hawk made its presence known with a series of calls. 

In addition to hawk calls, and despite the excited chattering of kids, you could still hear the rest of the forest: a variety of song birds, banjo frog, and the unmistakable “PLOP” of a frog jumping into the pond.

Today’s forest adventure included a special presentation by current FUN volunteer Meg, who has also served as a restoration volunteer in the Fernbank Forest Overlook. Her focus during that project was removing invasives. She provided a quick overview of the difference between invasive vs. native plants and how the invasives impact the native species.

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It’s summer camp, so of course there was show and tell. Meg led a game of “Name that Invasive!” English ivy, kudzu, wisteria, privet and monkey grass - Oh my! Inspired by their new knowledge of invasives, one of the campers declared “let’s go pull ALL the monkey grass!”

Love the enthusiasm kid, but hold on a sec.

“You can’t just pull these [invasive] plants out of the ground,” Meg explained. She continued “It’s a careful process that takes time. We have to remove the entire plant, right down to the roots.”

As we made our way out of the forest, Charlee asked the kids to call out any invasives they spotted. One camper spotted a bank covered in English ivy and said “It’s like a football field of ivy!”

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It was great to learn about the forest along with the campers. Their sense of wonder and endless curiosity was inspiring. Right up until I ran into my 6th spider web.

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Click here to see more photos from my leafy adventure.

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

Written by Fernbank Museum at 12:08

Behind the Scenes of Whales: Giants of the Deep

Fernbank Museum is thrilled to be hosting the special exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep (on view through August 24). It is absolutely breathtaking, and really allows viewers to understand the vastness of these massive creatures and their cultural significance to people of the South Pacific.

That said, perhaps the best part about this exhibit is the significance that it holds for the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori.

The Maori and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa worked closely together to create this exhibit from artifacts that have long belonged to the Maori people. This exhibit introduces visitors to these magnificent animals, as well as the importance of whales to so many of the people in the South Pacific.

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Patrons looking at Maori artifacts

It has been an honor for the employees here at Fernbank to experience such a huge part of the Maori culture. In fact, when the exhibit first came to us, we all got the chance to meet the Maori collections manager, Mark Sykes.

Sykes was an integral part of the installation process, but he also came to say a prayer over all of the objects in the exhibit. He has met the whales at many of their museum stops, his purpose is to make sure the spirits of the wales, and other exhibit pieces, are at peace.

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Fernbank and Te Papa employees working hard to assemble the skeletons

At each museum, before the exhibit is broken down for travel, a Maori collection manager has come out to say a blessing over the whales that allows their spirits to rest as employees begin the long process of breaking down the exhibit. As the objects from the exhibit arrive at their next stop, Skyes says another blessing to wake them up and introduce them to their new temporary home. 

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The Evolution of Whales

Fernbank employees were allowed the privilege of participating in the blessing of the whales as they arrived at our Museum. It’s safe to say that everyone left with a deeper understanding of how important these creatures are to the Maori people. What may look like skeletons to the rest of us, embodies the spirit of the very culture that the Maori hold so dear.

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58-foot-long Sperm Whale Skeleton

As you come visit this special exhibit, keep in mind the cultural significance that is so deeply engrained in these majestic creatures.

—Brittany Loggins, Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator

Written by Fernbank Museum at 12:10

Volunteer of the Month: July

July2014-VOTM.jpgWe are pleased to honor David, Sarah, and Larry as our July volunteers of the month. This terrific trio is among a group of volunteers who came to the Museum through our neighbor, The Frazer Center. Several times each month, David, Sara and Larry can be found welcoming our visitors to the IMAX® Theatre with bright smiles and energetic personalities. At the Frazer Center, they also support the Child Development program by playing with the kids and helping with snack time. When not volunteering, they enjoy dancing, making jewelry and listening to music.

For information on how to become a volunteer, call 404.929.6360 or e-mailvolunteer@fernbankmuseum.org.

Written by Fernbank Museum at 15:23

A Fond FUN Farewell

Sathvik.jpgThe Fernbank Ultimate Naturalist program, also known as the FUN volunteer program, provides and an opportunity for youth ages 13-17 to gain hands-on experience in a museum setting.

The Fernbank FUN program runs June through May and includes 80 to 90 students. FUN volunteers support Fernbank’s educational efforts through a variety of projects, including interacting with guests at special “Discovery Carts” stationed throughout the Museum, providing event support at family adventure days and more. 

Fernbank educators provide training, support and guidance to FUN volunteers. Currently leading the program is Education Program Manager–Earth Science, Kaden Borseth.

“Whether they volunteer for one year or 5+ years, every FUN volunteer makes a difference in the lives of guests and helps inspire a greater appreciation of natural history,” said Borseth.

Several volunteers enjoy the experience so much, they elect to continue the program until such time they age out—usually upon graduating high school.

“It’s bittersweet. We are sad to have to say goodbye, but also happy to see them moving on to great things,” said Borseth.

One of those bittersweet movements happened in May, as Fernbank said farewell to one of our long-time volunteers, Sathvik (pictured). In his own words, this is what the FUN program meant to him:

Thank you for four great years in the FUN program. I am graduating high school and moving on to The Johns Hopkins University, where I hope to study pre-med and major in Global Health Studies. I would like to eventually receive an MD and an MPH. I will definitely come by to visit Fernbank during summers and school vacations; my sister is starting the FUN program this summer. Thanks again for teaching me not only about science but also about how to speak to people and carry on conversations. The skills I learned through FUN have been very invaluable.

Thank you Sathvik. And thank you to all of our incredible FUN volunteers—past, present and future.

Information on the 2015-2016 program will be available on our website in February. Until then, please say “Hello” to our summer FUN team the next time you visit the Museum!

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

Written by Fernbank Museum at 08:55
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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