Museum Musings
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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

Here We Grow Again


Please join us in welcoming Eli Dickerson to Fernbank Museum as our new Ecologist. Eli will be coordinating programs and leading Museum ecology initiatives ranging from community engagement and public outreach to the ongoing restoration work inside the 65-acre Fernbank Forest.Eli On Blood Mtn

Eli is no stranger to Fernbank Museum. He previously served as Fernbank’s Environmental Outreach Programs Manager from 2005-2011, working with students, teachers, children and families to educate the public in environmental science. One of the programs he developed, UrbanWatch Atlanta, remains one of the Museum’s core science program for students.

And, Eli is no stranger to ecology! He has a wealth of experience, including positions with the National Park Service, Piedmont Park Conservancy and Trees Atlanta.

Read the official press release for more information on Eli’s experience and his new role at Fernbank Museum.

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

You might also be interested in:

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

Written by Fernbank Museum at 13:26

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

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 Neighborhood Nestwatch Experience

This summer, Fernbank has the opportunity to begin working with the Smithsonian Institution’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program.  This citizen science project is geared to connect bird enthusiasts with actual researchers to gather scientific data related to bird habits and population patterns. Recently, Christine Bean (VP of Education) and I had the opportunity to learn firsthand how the program works, as Chris’ yard has become one of the research sites, along with her next-door-neighbor.

As an educator with a passion for animals and scientific research, I was intrigued to learn more about how the program actually works at the study sites and was not disappointed. The Nestwatch scientist, Alie, began by observing the area and surveying which bird species were present. Then, we helped setup mist nets and a sort of “field command station”. Throughout the few hours we monitored the nets, we caught a handful of birds, which were banded, measured, recorded and released. We also caught a few species that are not currently targeted in the study, so they were released unharmed.

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“It was the first time I’d held a bird—Alie taught me how to hold it so it would be gently yet firmly supported. I was struck by the warmth of this tiny creature, and its strong heartbeat,” Christine Bean

Having a propensity for working hands-on with animals, I was thrilled about the opportunity to help manage the birds through the process and aid in recording their measurements. The birds banded included a Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal and 2 Chickadees. Chris and her neighbor will continue to observe these animals year after year and report their data directly to the Smithsonian Institution.

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Cardinal with “pacifier”

During the experience, one of the most entertaining parts was learning about the different behaviors of each bird species. We learned that Cardinals and Tufted Titmouse are two species that “announce” their frustrations throughout the banding process and that cardinals have the most powerful bites of the 8 targeted species for this study. While the Cardinal was in the process of measurement and banding, Alie offered a twig to pacify the bird and it worked! 

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I couldn’t believe how quickly and efficiently Alie was able to work with the birds, recording their data and going through several steps before releasing them back into the neighborhood. She held the bird in one hand, using the other to write, shuffle through data sheets and measure tail and tarsus lengths. The birds were also weighed, sexed and evaluated for body fat content. Alie’s compassion for these animals was also evident from her gentle and comforting manner, all while explaining the process and answering questions from us. Overall, the experience was incredibly rewarding, as we learned about the birds and the research process and had the opportunity to actually be a part of this scientific study!

Learn more about Neighborhood Nestwatch and find out how YOUR backyard can be involved.

—Lynn Anders, Animal Programs Coordinator

Written by Fernbank Museum at 10:26
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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