During Dino-mite Summer, meet living dinosaurs (you call them birds), get messy making a marvelous mixture, take a closer look at incredible live bugs, or share a belly laugh with Marty the Moose during story time. All activities are free with admission, and you don’t need to make a reservation. Dino-mite Summer begins…NOW!
Here is a list of the exciting free programming over the next two months.
2:30 Naturalist Presentation
Weekdays, 2:30 p.m.
From feathers and jewels to bugs, dinosaurs, fossils, and live animals, natural science is full of surprises! Learn nature’s secrets through these informal and interactive presentations
Mondays: Up Close With Live Butterflies
Tuesdays: My Cousin, the Dinosaur
Wednesdays: How to Prepare a Fossil
Thursdays: Bug Appetit Invertebrate Feeding
Fridays: Training an Animal
Mondays With Marty
Mondays, 1 p.m.
Marty the Moose loves nothing more than a story time spent entertaining the crowds with his terrible jokes and goofy sense of humor. Join Marty and his favorite humans to hear a special story and meet a live animal.
Tuesdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–close
Use cutting-edge technology to explore the miniature world of everyone’s favorite live backyard bugs at this interactive cart!
Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Science Now is an interactive, hands-on look at current science news! Visitors of all ages can find our enthusiastic volunteers ready to chat about news related to climate change, evolution, biodiversity and extinction, and water. Drop by for a brief activity or conversation!
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
In July, learn about the many different sounds animals make in order to talk to each other. Design your own sound-making devices!
In August, investigate buggy behavior and learn how to design an experiment with a live colony of animals.
July 14 and 21 & August 18
1 p.m.–4 p.m.
Discover current research and meet real scientists at Scientist Saturdays. See hands-on demonstrations of scientists’ exciting research and ask all the questions you want. The program welcomes guests of all ages to interact with the scientists, who are happy to converse with you about their current research. Get more information on dates and topics.
Join us for our annual celebration of insects! Talk with real scientists, learn about insects from all over the world, and see specimens from the Academy’s behind-the-scenes collections. Eat bugs, get your face painted, and relax as you enjoy a buggy show!
If you’re a parasite and want to spread out a little in Amazonia, then you better be cool with riding around in a variety of different birds, a new study found.
The Amazon region of South America is one of the most diverse tropical forest ecosystems on Earth, but an Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University study showed that in the blood parasites that cause malaria, bird hosts and the region’s physical geography play significant roles in the spread and diversity of these parasites.
Plasmodium infecting a bird’s blood cells. These parasites are “generalists” and were found to be more spread out and diverse in the Amazon region. Photo by Jeff Bell
A team led by Alan Fecchio, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Academy, and Jason Weckstein, PhD, an associate curator of Ornithology at the Academy and an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, looked into two groups of haemosporidian parasites: Plasmodium and Haemoproteus.
“Plasmodium infection and distribution patterns are principally shaped by geography, whereas Haemoproteus patterns of diversity and distribution are primarily shaped by their host evolutionary relationships,” Weckstein said of the findings from his study, published in Ecography.
Amazonian motmot (Momotus momota), a carrier of haemosporidian parasites. Photo by Alan Fecchio
They found that the ability to switch to new bird host species was the prime indicator of regional diversity in haemosporidian parasites. Furthermore, Fecchio and colleagues found that Plasmodium, in particular, were more widespread, which makes sense because they are “generalists” that can latch onto several different types of birds.
Haemoproteus, however, are limited in the types of birds they can infect. As such, they don’t get spread around very much.
But if Plasmodium can hop into a bunch of different birds, what keeps them from being everywhere in this region? Birds can fly anywhere, right?
The ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti), one of the few carriers of the Haemoproteus parasite. Photo by Jason Weckstein
Well, it’s not as simple as that.
“Early 19th century Amazonian explorers Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace noted that major Amazonian rivers often appeared to form barriers to dispersal for birds, primates and other organisms,” Weckstein said. “As a result, if one compares the faunas found in areas flanking most Amazonian rivers, a large portion of the species will be different on opposite banks.”
Although the Amazon River is the most recognizable to most, there are many rivers in the Amazon region — such as the Xingu, the Tapajós and the Madeira. These make up roughly eight recognized areas of endemism in the region.
And, as it turns out, some of these birds just don’t have the endurance to make the trip across these rivers. Others might just have no reason to.
“Some birds never leave the dark understory of the forest and, thus, will not even cross small rivers, streams or open pastures,” Weckstein said. “Scientists have even conducted experiments and found that these understory birds fatigue and are unable to cross large expanses of open space, such as open water.”
Haemoproteus parasites infecting blood cells. These parasites only infect certain birds and were less spread out in Amazonia. Photo by Jeff Bell
For comparison, some rivers in Amazonia are 10 to 20 times wider than the Delaware River at the spot where the Benjamin Franklin Bridge spans it in Philadelphia.
So even though Plasmodiumcan jump into multiple kinds of birds, if those birds are all staying put, so is the Plasmodium.
Although the study focused mainly on bird parasites, it provides another building block to understanding microorganisms that affect humans, too, like malaria. After all, human malarial parasites are also members of the Plasmodium genus.
“This work helps us to understand the transmission of these parasites between species and how that may play an important role in their evolution,” Weckstein explained. “Thus, it helps us to characterize the ecology of pathogen dispersal and host switching events, which is critical to understanding many of our own human pathogens.”
In an era when Prohibition was law and bathtub gin was king, the sweet aromas of botanicals often veiled the taste of bad booze. On Thursday, June 14, the Academy presents the third in a series of Door 19 adults-only nights, this one inspired by the flora and fauna of the Roaring ’20s and the museum’s world-renowned specimen collections.
The theme is Boozy Botanicals and features an open bar by partner Boardroom Spirits Distillery, live jazz, adult activities, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of the Academy’s Botany and Entomology collections. The event runs 6-9 p.m. and party-goers are encouraged to wear flapper dresses, fedoras or whatever they want for the Roaring ’20s theme.
The Academy created Door 19 as an oddly charming evening that will forever change how people think about science. Curated for the curious, Door 19 is quirky science meets themed soiree, set against a backdrop of live performances, music, potent libations, and dinosaurs. There are only four Door 19s happening in 2018 and the fourth takes place in October.
On June 14, besides the open bar, dinner by 12th Street Catering, and specimen collection tours by Academy scientists, participants can:
Explore how plants and insects are critical to your favorite evening libations
Make an herbal tincture to take home with the help of Greensgrow Farm’s and an herbalist.
Make (and taste) botanical simple syrups from herbs with the help of Urbanstead
Dare to try some tasty bug treats
Identify a ladybug and have your name preserved for centuries on a ladybug specimen.
Get up close and personal with live bugs, including tarantulas
See giant bugs come to life in our special exhibit, Xtreme Bugs
Enjoy live jazz with saxophonist Victor North and vocalist Meg Clifton North.
Tickets are $85 with discounts for Academy members, Mutter Museum members and Drexel University alumni. For more information and to register, click this link today.
A new exhibit making its debut this month at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University features the mind-boggling behaviors and extreme characteristics of some of the earth’s most fascinating creatures—in the extreme.
Yes, the Madagascar hissing cockroach does play an important role in the ecosystem.
Xtreme Bugs, opening Saturday, May 26, features nearly 20 giant, moving, hissing, clicking insects from around the world. Picture this: an 18-feet-long wiggling centipede, a five-feet-long blood-sucking bed bug, a 12-feet-tall hissing, pink orchid mantis.
Xtreme Bugs blends technology, science, artistry and imagination to capture the most unusual aspects of the insect world. From a fluttering, oversized monarch butterfly to a gigantic Madagascar hissing cockroach, the exaggerated size of these creatures shines a creative spotlight on what makes them extreme.“Not only are these enormous animatronic insects such fun to examine up close, but we can also learn a lot about their extreme behaviors and the physical characteristics that allow bugs to thrive and survive,” said Academy President and CEO Scott Cooper.
Stink bugs are common in homes, though not at large as you see here.
Visitors to Xtreme Bugs will experience a bug’s-eye view of their world, explore critter calls, dig for ancient arthropods, play a bug facts game, and learn why insects are so vital to our daily lives.
“These fantastic models give the visitor the view I get when I look at these insects under the microscope in carrying out my research” said Jon Gelhaus, PhD, an entomologist and curator of the Academy’s world class insect collection. “Insects are so important to our lives—pollinating most of our food crops, giving us honey and silk, keeping pest insects and plants in check, breaking down leaves into soil.
“This exhibit gives us a chance to appreciate how bizarrely wonderful they look, but also how important they are in our world’s ecology,” Gelhaus said.
Scorpions have adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and can now be found on all continents except Africa.
A variety of live insects will be on view for close-up inspection in the adjacent Butterflies! exhibit and the Outside In children’s discovery center. Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 11:45 a.m. Academy experts will give short insect talks and answer questions.
Xtreme Bugs, created by Dinosaurs Unearthed, Corp., will be on view through Jan. 21, 2019. Western Pest is the presenting sponsor for Xtreme Bugs, which also is supported by a generous donation from VWR Charitable Foundation.
Larger than life and stunning to behold, the critters of our special exhibit Xtreme Bugs make their debut at the Academy on May 26!
These animatronic insects are headed here for a reason: Entomology has played a part in the Academy of Natural Sciences since its founding in 1812.
Our Entomology Department’s collections currently contain more than 3,500,000 specimens, of which more than 11,000 are primary types, and represent over 100,000 species. Some specimens were collected as recently as this past week. Others are over two centuries old. Researchers use the collections to study how to tell different insects apart, to discover new species, to understand insect biology, ecology and evolution and to understand changes in habitat and climate due to man’s activities.
In our public museum, insects are everywhere! You can see dozens of different species of insects on display, including butterflies, tarantulas, walking sticks, grasshoppers and maybe even praying mantis. In our Outside In exhibit, you can see over 30 species of live insects and other arthropods and find a real hive where you can observe live bees in action.
The Academy hosts an annual Bug Fest (August 11 and 12, 2018), where the museum is filled with live arthropods. For this year’s event, we are planning new activities and shows and we will revisit some old favorites—back by popular demand. You can talk with real scientists, learn about insects from all over the world and see specimens from the Academy’s behind-the-scenes collections. Eat bugs, get your face painted and relax as you enjoy a buggy show. Learn more about our annual buggy festival!
Learn more about bugs at the Academy by watching the video below. And hear from invert expert and Academy educator Karen Verderame, and curatorial assistant in entomology Isa Betancourt!
Drexel University environmental science graduate Jackie Garcia had the opportunity to pursue an independent study during her senior year. She chose Academy scientist and Drexel professor Jon Gelhaus as her mentor. Together, the two set out to explore the complex field of forensic entomology. We talked with Garcia about learning a new field during an independent study, sharing her work with the public at Bug Fest and inspiring one high school student to pursue her own work in the field.
ANS: In your own words, what exactly is forensic entomology?
JG: Forensic entomology is the study of how insects and other arthropods are used in legal investigations. There are three types of forensic entomology: 1) medicolegal or medicocriminal, in which necrophagous insects assist in crime scene analysis; 2) urban, in which insects are studied in the context of human environment (such as pest infestations); and 3) stored product, in which insects are monitored in relation to edible food resources.
ANS: How did you become interested in forensic entomology?
JG: Interests in forensic entomology usually stem from its glamorous portrayal in popular TV shows like NBC’s Law and Order or even movies like Demme’s (1991) The Silence of the Lambs. While these are on my favorites list, my interest in forensic entomology actually grew from a number of separate passions of mine.
As an environmental science major, I quickly learned how fascinating and useful insects can be. Growing up with parents working in the medical and legal fields, my interest in forensics and anatomy has always been present. Over time, from personal research, I realized that I could wrap all of these interests up and study them at once with forensic entomology.
ANS: How did Academy scientist and Drexel professor Jon Gelhaus help you broaden your knowledge of this field?
JG: Because I was a combined BS/MS student in the BEES department, I spent most of my time at Drexel taking the maximum credit load. During senior year, I finally had the opportunity to pursue a free credit, but was in a unique position where no graduate classes were available to me as I had completed the ones running during Summer term. I quickly grabbed this opportunity to complete an independent study and I could think of no one more equipped to mentor me than Dr. Gelhaus.
From previous classes with him, I knew that he not only was an expert in entomology, but also patient, inquisitive and still an active learner himself. I had worked with Dr. Gelhaus in the past to write a paper for the honors program on the conservation of Monarch butterflies, so I knew his teaching approach fit my learning process. While Dr. Gelhaus informed me that he did not know much on forensic entomology, he still graciously accepted my proposal. Together, we settled on resources from which we both read and learned. Dr. Gelhaus was able to fill in any gaps I had in the field of general entomology, while what we read filled in the details of forensics. He guided me through my own field research project, research paper, and of course, encouraged me to attend Bug Fest.
ANS: What happened when you presented your research at Bug Fest (the Academy’s annual celebration of insects)? I hear you met a high school student at Bug Fest, and you later worked together on another project on this topic.
JG: At Bug Fest 2017, I held a small table with pinned specimens, carrion traps and specimens. To my surprise and delight, the table got a lot of attention from all age groups. The high school student was sent my way by Dr. Gelhaus. She did not have any previous experience in forensic entomology, but she had a general interest in entomology and was looking for ideas for her own science fair projects. She took an immediate liking to my table topic and seemed enthused about the project I had done. I happily spoke with her and gave her my contact information, should she have any questions on where to start.
During the next several months and into the new year (up to present), I have kept in contact with her via email and phone. With the information, resources and advice I’ve sent her, she has been successful in recreating my experiment and has won first and second place thus far in science competitions. I am extremely proud of her!
ANS: What sort of career might you have as a forensic entomologist? Do you intend to pursue this field now that you’ve graduated? If not, what are your plans?
JG: Forensic entomology is not really a career title in the USA just yet, where its study is a rather new field in comparison to countries such as the UK or Ireland. There are many entomologists who consult with forensic scientists, however. This knowledge is also studied by crime scene analysts, law enforcement officers, medical examiners and pathologists.
So far, I have been a student of forensic entomology. Beyond my independent study, I am self-guided through literature and backyard science. At the moment, I am changing career paths from environmental science to the medical field. I was accepted to the National University of Ireland, Galway medical school! I hope to tie in my passions for forensics and entomology as they apply to health.
ANS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JG: I would like to encourage all students to attend and participate in Bug Fest, whether their interest for entomology is casual or a passion. Holding a table gave me the opportunity to put a spotlight on a rather obscure topic and share my excitement for learning with others. I was able to interact with people who were just as awed by forensic entomology as me and change the minds of people who seemed wary of how bugs tell us about murders. It was a greatly rewarding experience. I left Bug Fest and went on to write a presentation on Medicocriminal Entomology for the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health, mentor a student whose was inspired by me enough to continue where I left off and a sense that I truly triggered the academic curiosity of many.
Mark your calendars! Bugs are all over the academy this spring and summer.
Save the date! Bug Fest returns on August 11-12, 2018! This year’s event will coincide with our special exhibit, Xtreme Bugs! Starting May 26, you can come face-to-feet with nearly 20 massive, colorful, moving bugs! From a fluttering oversized monarch butterfly and a fluffy tri-colored bumblebee to a gigantic Madagascar hissing cockroach and a blood-sucking bed bug, these towering animatronics tell a rarely seen story of the behaviors and intricacies of extreme bugs. Get a bug’s-eye view of the world, explore critter calls, dig for ancient arthropods and play an Xtreme bug facts game! Tickets are now on sale for this buggy exhibit!
Lizards in Puerto Rico are evolving feet that better grip concrete surfaces. In New York City parks, white-footed mice carry genes for heavy metal tolerance. Europe’s urban blackbirds sing at a higher pitch than their rural cousins to be heard over the din of traffic.
In his new book, Menno Schilthuizen argues that cities are changing the evolution of the plants and animals that live there. He will describe his findings at the free April 11 Academy Town Square.
The event is free and takes place at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Cash bar opens at 5:30 p.m. and the informal discussion begins at 6:30 p.m. Academy entomologist and urban ecologist Isa Betancourt will contribute insights into what’s happening in Philly based on her ongoing Logan Square Fountain insect survey.
After the program, Schilthuizen will sign copies of his book, and Betancourt will display insect specimens she collected in the fountain. To register, visit http://bit.ly/2Fybkkt
Schilthuizen (MEN-no SKILT-how-sen), a senior research scientist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and professor of evolutionary biology at Leiden University, is one of a growing number of urban ecologists studying how flexible and swift-moving natural selection can be. With human populations growing, people are having an increasing impact on global ecosystems, and nowhere do these impacts overlap as much as they do in cities, Schilthuizen has found.
In cities, wild animals and plants live side-by-side with people and need to adapt to a range of challenging conditions: hotter climate; the semi-desert of the tall; mini-parks which pose their own dangers of smog and free-ranging dogs and cats; traffic noise; barriers to movement for any animal that cannot fly or burrow; food sources left by people.
And yet, as Schilthuizen shows in his book, the wildlife sharing these spaces with us is not just surviving, but evolving ways of thriving.
The Academy Town Square series is designed to engage and provide relevant educational content to the public on environmental issues. The series is made possible by Warren Environmental Counsel.
The Pulse tells stories at the heart of health, science and innovation. Go on an adventure into unexpected corners of the health and science world each week with award-winning host Maiken Scott. New episodes of The Pulse are available every week on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Philadelphia’s dinosaur museum is throwing its 10th annual Paleopalooza festival, Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, with special guest Buddy the T. rex from PBS Kids “Dinosaur Train” and fossils good enough to eat.
Visitors enjoy tours of our famous Dinosaur Hall and an up-close look and explanation of special fossils at Paleopalooza, March 3 and 4.
Local graffiti artist Christian Rodriguez, whose work has been displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will recreate the famous Hadrosaurus foulkii, New Jersey’s state dinosaur which is on view at the Academy, on a giant chalk board while visitors watch over the two days.
Academy scientists will show rare dinosaur and other fossils from the museum’s collection, including some belonging to Thomas Jefferson and a 2.5 million-year-old musk ox skull collected by William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, at Big Bone Lick State Park, Ky.
Kids can take pictures with the star of “Dinosaur Train” when Buddy the T. rex makes appearances at 12:30, 1:30 and 3 p.m. both days. Adults and kids will dig digging for small fossils to take home, but the real thrill may come to those with a sweet tooth.
Visitors will be able to sample chocolate candies inspired by the shells, fossils, insects and other specimens in the Academy’s collection. Photo by Shane Confectionery.
Inspired by the Academy’s specimen collection, the cabinet of confections will be constructed throughout both days, and visitors can sample bites of sweets that might bite back. Think sandstone cookies embedded with bones hand-sculpted from sugar, real bugs embedded in amber hard candy, and a dinosaur nest made of cake with buttercream-filled chocolate eggs.
The grand finale comes at 4 p.m. both days when visitors will be able to consume the remaining candy specimens.
Need we say more? Paleopalooza is free with regular museum admission and is obviously fun for both adults and children. For information about all the other activities (besides eating candy), visit ansp.org. To purchase tickets at a discount, click the bottom below.
Knock 3.14159 times on Door 19 for admission to an oddly charming evening that will forever change how you think about science. Curated for the curious, Door 19 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is quirky science meets themed soiree, set against a backdrop of live performances, music, potent libations, exclusive behind-the-scenes access, and dinosaurs.
For only four nights this year, participants will have the chance to go beyond the familiar museum galleries and into the research specimen collections that are off-limits to visitors. There, Academy experts will bring their coolest specimens out to play.
In this new program for adults only, the Academy’s rogue scientists will go a little bit off script to share their incredible knowledge—from prohibition-era mixology to dinosaur foreplay. You’ll be reminded that no, in fact, you haven’t seen it all—far from it.
Curated for the curious, the new Door 19 evening program for adults offers quirky science, encounters with live animals, special access to the collections, and more. Photo by William McGinnis/ANS
The Mating Game, Feb. 8
The first Door 19 will happen Thursday, Feb. 8, from 6–9 p.m., in partnership with 8 Oaks Distillery. The theme is “The Mating Game”—appropriate as the lead up to Valentine’s Day—and you must be 21 and older to attend.
Mating—all living things do it, but sometimes it seems the wild kingdom does it a bit weirder than humans do. The Academy staff will carefully select museum specimens from their world-renowned collection, plus engaging live animals to reveal unique courtship rituals, dinosaur foreplay, and other sexy secrets of the animal world.
Participants can warm up at the open bar featuring Eight Oaks Craft Distillers, then sing and dance through mating calls and courtship rituals, go on a “blind date” in the diorama and dinosaur halls, eat great food, and much more.
A premium ticket includes guided behind-the-scenes tours of the natural history collections featuring bodacious birds and those surprisingly sexy beasts, the diatoms. Tours start at 6 p.m. and are limited in space, so sign up early.
For more details and to register, visit Door19philly.com. Tickets are $75 and $125, with a $15 early bird discount if you register by Jan. 15. Academy members can save an additional $10 per ticket.
More Door 19s
Mark your calendar for more Door 19 experiences and reserve you place at ansp.org/door19.
Thursday, April 12. Theme: Off The Hook, in partnership with Flying Fish Brewing Co.
Thursday, June 14. Theme: Boozy Botanicals, in partnership with Boardroom Spirits Distillery
Thursday, October 18. Theme: Skeletons in our Closet, in partnership with Eight Oaks Craft Distillers
On Friday, October 13, the Academy opened five floors of exhibits, labs, and collections–but only to members–for a hands-on evening of exclusive access to science. Fondly called Members’ Night, this once-a-year event is the perfect time for our researchers, scientists, and educators to share exciting activities that showcase what they do every day!
With new and different things to do every year, this event is among the reasons we think the Academy’s membership is one of the best family memberships in Philly. Members get the chance to meet our staff, see our collections and labs, and experience important research in action. Here are some highlights in case you missed this year’s Members’ Night or are deciding whether to purchase a membership this holiday season:
Explore the Dioramas
Members wanting to investigate our dioramas up close got to explore three of our North America dioramas using green screen technology–and they have the photos to prove it!
The Great Insect Pumpkin Patch
We pulled out the most orange, green, and black insect specimens from our collection to display at our insect “pumpkin patch.” Members also got the chance to learn about cannibal caterpillars and vampire moths!
Bird Specimen Preparation
Have you ever wondered how our scientists prepare the specimens for our collection? This year our ornithologists demonstrated how they prepare bird specimens and collect valuable biodiversity data for the museum’s scientific collections.
Make Your Own Herbarium
When visiting the Botany Collection, members got to learn how 1.2 million specimens in the Academy’s herbarium are cared for, and they even got to prepare their own herbariums to take home!
Want to join us for Members’ Night next year? All you have to do is purchase a membership! Membership at the Academy of Natural Sciences gives you free year-round general admission to the museum, where you’ll see some of the most surprising and spectacular wonders of the natural world. With exclusive early access to exhibits, program discounts, Members’ Night, and more, membership at the Academy is an exciting, educational family bonding experience.