Museum Musings

Celebrating All-Star Teachers


In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Fernbank Museum would like to take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding teachers we had the privilege of working with this year.Thank youfor all the hard work you do and for making Fernbank Museum a part of your curriculum! Becky -web

As a teacher, you play a key role in the achievements and success of each student who steps through your door. Teachers are required to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, patient and caring. (Although sometimes one quality more than the others!) Finding these attributes wrapped into one individual is a rare gem.

It’s a pleasure to see students immersed in a special exhibit at the museum. It’s great to hear them gasp at something during an IMAX® film. Though the nicest part is watching a great teacher engage the students—connecting the content to what they’re studying in class, asking questions, and furthering the students’ curiosities and interests. You are such an integral part of these children’s lives, and we want to thank you for the incredible work you do.

We hope to see you again in the 2015-2016 school year.

—Becky Facer, Education Program Manager—Environmental Programs

You might also like: Fernbank Field Trips, Educator Corner

 

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:24

From Writing Grants to Pulling Plants: Why I Volunteer

I have a bit of a dual identity around the Museum. Monday through Friday, I work alongside other Fernbank employees on the Development team as the Museum’s Grants and Sponsorship Coordinator. On the second Saturday of the month, however, I’m a Fernbank Forest Restoration Volunteer. I should preface what I’m about to say with the following: I prefer curling up with a good book over pretty much any physical activity, and I’m not exactly the “outdoorsy” type. Yard work, or any iteration thereof, is not my thing. I was, however, writing about Fernbank Forest and our restoration efforts quite a bit in proposals and was motivated to get some firsthand experience out in the Forest. And so, early on a Saturday morning—Did I mention I’m a night owl, too?—I headed into Fernbank on my day off to shadow the Forest Restoration Volunteers.

Forest Restoration Shirts

The non-native, invasive plant species that have permeated the forest must be hand pulled, without the use of heavy machinery or broadcast spraying herbicides. Restoration work calls for detail and precision, as we need to remove the invasives in ways that are the least disruptive to both the soil and the native vegetation. English Ivy (Hedera helix), Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), Lilyturf (Liriope spicata), and Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) are among the most plentiful of the invasive plant species currently in the forest, but Fernbank has identified a total of 45 non-native plant species that will need to be removed.

Forest Restoration Digging

This is not your grandma’s gardening! I left sweaty, dirty, and ready for a well-deserved afternoon nap. But I’ll tell you something else: I’ve been back almost every month since. That day I discovered a wonderful, welcoming group of community members who care deeply about the future of Fernbank Forest. The group boasts multiple Master Gardeners, folks with ecology degrees, and others with years of restoration experience. They have been generous teachers as I’ve learned to identify native vs. non-native plants. Their enthusiasm for the forest is both inspiring and invigorating. Restoring the natural biodiversity of the forest will be a lifelong commitment, and I am beyond thankful to be serving with such a dedicated group of volunteers.

And the forest itself? Breathtaking. Peaceful. A place worth getting up for early in the morning on your day off.   

—Laura Heiman, Grants and Sponsorship Coordinator

You might be interested in: Fernbank Forest; Forest Restoration Volunteers; Other Volunteer Opportunities

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:14

Isn’t Every Day Earth Day?


As a life sciences intern at Fernbank Museum, I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity in the form of helping plan the Museum’s 2015 Earth Day activities. As a budding ecologist and longtime outdoors enthusiast, Earth Day has always held a certain significance for me. The lessons instilled on this unique holiday helped strengthen the connection with nature I have felt from a young age—a connection that has taken me from the vast, open wetlands of Brazil to the dark, dense rainforests of Borneo. Alex -with -Long -Nosed -Horned -Frog -Borneo -FOR-BLOGFrom childhood hikes with my family to learning about composting and recycling in school, each Earth Day serves as a reminder; a window into a forgotten era of holism before man considered himself separate from nature. Yet, perhaps this is a naïve perspective. Though it remains essential for lessons of the past to be incorporated into our collective memory, we as a species should be looking to the future. The future is where our children and our children’s children will live and learn, and it's up to us to decide how the world will provide for and teach them.

Now let’s (briefly) talk numbers. Big numbers. For 4.54 billion years (that’s 4,540,000,000!), this planet has revolved faithfully around the yellow dwarf star at the center of our solar system, known affectionately to us as the “sun.” For about 99.9956% of this total time, modern humans were not around. In the mere 0.0044% of the earth’s existence since the evolution ofHomo sapiens, our species has managed to rack up a current population of nearly 7.3 billion people. According to these figures, the number of people living on Earth right now is far greater than the number of years the planet has even existed! For me, that’s quite a reality check.

“With great population size comes great responsibility.” Well, maybe that’s not exactly how the original quote went, but this version certainly has some truth to it. The human population has reached enormous proportions within the last few centuries. Consequently, many of the earth’s natural systems are struggling to maintain their functions in the face of our exponential expansion and the widespread pollution, deforestation, and oil/mineral extraction that comes with it. In the 1960’s, recognition of these environmental issues began to surface, and on April 22, 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and a strong-willed following of professors, students, and activists organized the first Earth Day (for those who were enjoying the numbers, that means we have been celebrating Earth Day for a measly 0.00000077% of the Earth’s existence!). Alex -with -3-lined -salamander -state -bot -garden -athens -FOR-BLOG 

Originally planned as a nationwide teach-in on the environment, the first Earth Day saw over 20 million Americans take a stand for environmental reform. Every year since, a growing number of people and nations have celebrated our planet by organizing festivals, fundraisers, and all types of events aimed at drawing attention to both the beauty and fragility of Earth’s ecosystems. Last year’s Earth Day saw over 1 billion people from 192 different countries pay homage to our Pale Blue Dot, and this year we expect nothing less.

For this reason, I am proud to help carry Senator Nelson’s torch this year by engaging the public, and specifically the youth, about Earth Day and its never-diminishing relevance. 

I invite you to join the Museum on Sunday, April 19 for a variety of Earth Day-themed programs including guided tours of Fernbank Forest and a special presentation from Save Georgia’s Hemlocks.

—Alex Terry, Life Sciences Intern

You might also be interested in Public Programs in Fernbank Forest, Current Restoration Work, Sustainability at Fernbank Museum

Written by Fernbank Museum at 12:33

Earth Day Inspirations


Earth Day is just around the corner, offering another opportunity to teach visitors, young and old, why we love the earth, and why we should protect it. As a life science programs intern, I’ve grown slightly introspective as the date approaches. I care deeply about the planet and about the fate of its ecosystems, and Earth Day has always represented an opportunity to share that sentiment. Ashley Blog April 2015

Since I began interning at Fernbank in January, one of the main things that excites me is the Museum’s ability to draw out my own passions in the visitors. I’ve been interested in natural history since I was a small child; some of my earliest memories involve catching frogs and chasing snakes (and consequentlybeingchased when my parents realized what I was after). I grew up in the Washington D.C. area, and could be counted on to alternate between the zoo and the museum of natural history as my choices for weekend outings. Here, I love walking past the dinosaurs and through the front doors and experiencing the palpable excitement of the school groups who can’t wait to learn, even if they don’t quite know that’s what they are doing.

The message of conservation here is subtle; to me, the exhibits show what we have on earth is worth protecting, rather than simply preaching at an audience that surely has heard it all before. The exhibits excite a passion for knowledge which I developed in a similar setting. While I shadowed a live animal presentation, a little boy raised his hand and said “One day, I want to be a scientist!” I find it so heartening to know that visiting Fernbank might not be just a way to get out of class, but can truly be a formative experience for visitors.

The live animal presentations are particularly special for me; I’ve always loved reptiles and amphibians, but have always been surprised to find that not everyone shares that interest. At Fernbank, the visitors are at the edges of their seats trying to get a good look at the legless lizards or the blue tongued skink, and can hardly wait to guess why a lizard is not a snake. After the event, they race off to learn about the ecosystems of Georgia, to check out The Power of Poison exhibit and to appreciate the other animals and activities in Fernbank NatureQuest. As they do, I am confident that some of that love of the natural world will stick with them.

—Ashley Stumvoll, Life Sciences Intern

Written by Fernbank Museum at 11:17

Dinosaur Q&A


While I’m a fan of the idea of Chris Pratt leading a gang of Velociraptors, nothing compares to the original Jurassic Park. And, nothing compares to watching this most iconic of dinosaur films with an actual paleontologist! 

Author and paleontologist Dr. Anthony Martin of Emory University will lead the special presentation Science on Screen: Jurassic Park at Fernbank Museum, Sunday, March 22.* Before Dr. Martin delves into the science behind the film (can we talk about thatTriceratops poop??), I had a few questions for him.Tony Martin Blog

What is your favorite part of being a paleontologist?
My favorite part of being a paleontologist is going outside and searching for fossils, especially with other paleontologists. I’m really happy whenever I get the chance to do this.

Why are my arms so short?
Blame your ancestors and evolution for that. Your great-great-great-great grandparents probably didn’t need big arms to survive a typical day during the Mesozoic Era, so your arms reflect that history, which is perfectly, normal. Besides, long arms are overrated.

What is your favorite dinosaur?
Oh, that’s easy: Oryctodromeus cubicularis. This was a small ornithopod dinosaur from Montana that lived during the Cretaceous Period, about 95 million years ago. One reason why it’s my favorite dinosaur is because it’s the only known burrowing dinosaur, fossilized in its den with two younger dinosaurs of the same species. Even better, I was lucky enough to co-name it! Its name literally means “digging runner of the den.”

Have you ever met Jeff Goldblum?
No, I haven’t. But you know what’s really sad for him? He hasn’t met me yet, either. Hopefully it will happen someday: after all, life finds a way.

Do you have any snacks?
What did you have in mind: Chihuahuas or Great Danes? Wait a minute: why are you looking at me like that?

Black and blue or gold and white?
I like dresses of all colors, regardless of how people perceive them.

Do you think feathers would look good on me?
Oh, for sure. I’m thinking iridescent black for most of your body, with some yellow and red feathers on your arms, and hot pink on the top of your head. With an ensemble like that, think of how you’d rock the Buckhead night life!

When can we go to Jurassic Park?
I’m sorry to report that ‘Jurassic Park’ closed about 145 million years ago. Fortunately, though, we can still see the living descendants of dinosaurs today as birds. Which is pretty cool, because that means you can watch the relatives of ‘Jurassic Park’ in your backyard every day.

You can find Dr. Martin on Twitter at @Ichnologist. And you can find me on Twitter at@giga_a_dino and on Facebook

—Giggy A. Dinosaur

*Admission to Science on Screen: Jurassic Park is free, but space is limited and. reservations are required. 

Written by Fernbank Museum at 11:45
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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