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Science Never Stops

Explore highlights from The Academy's scientific research. Make sure to check out the Academy Blog for more stories.

Academy Conversation: Natural Disasters, Extreme Weather and Climate Change
Tuesday, September 29, 3 p.m.

academy conversation bridge with orange sky

Wildfires in the Western U.S. are burning at an unprecedented scope and scale. Hurricanes are more frequent, and more destructive, than ever before. We can no longer pretend that climate change is something we need to start preparing for – the effects of climate change are here now, and science knows what’s going on. We are seeing the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events play out in the ways that climate scientists have been warning us about since 1988. So, what happens next? 

Join Academy scientists and guest panelists to discuss the impacts that climate change is having on today’s extreme weather events and natural disasters. 

Moderator: Roland Wall, Director, Patrick Center for Environmental Research


  • Ezra Wood, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Drexel University
  • Beth Watson, PhD, Associate Professor, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, Drexel University
  • Steve Mason, PhD Candidate, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, Drexel University

This is a free, digital event. You will receive a Zoom link upon registration. 

Fourth Annual Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival
September 23–27, 2020

Philadelphia Environmental Film Fest logo

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is proud to be a lead sponsor of the 2020 Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival. For the first time, the Festival will be entirely virtual, with 13 curated programs consisting of 50 films, panel discussions and filmmaker Q&As—all available for viewing from your own home.

Ticket information:

$30 Unlimited Pass (Unlocks all 13 programs & Extras) or
$12 Single Ticket to the Program of your Choosing 

Tickets can be purchased here:

Academy scientists, staff and friends of the Academy will appear in panel discussions and filmmaker Q&As for the following films:

Click here to explore all 13 Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival programs.

Watch the festival trailer:

A Shaker of Science 

scientists stand next to dirty truck

A Shaker of Science is a pay-what-you-wish, interactive virtual happy hour where Academy scientists and staff can share their stories and adventures in a casual setting.

A Shaker of Science: Jason Weckstein and Nate Rice
Thursday, September 17, 2020, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a virtual live happy hour and unwind with Academy ornithologists as they share stories of science and adventure.

We are shaking things up with two of our favorite bird guys, Jason Weckstein, PhD, and Nate Rice, PhD, for a virtual happy hour! Academy ornithologists Jason and Nate spend much of their time studying, growing and caring for our collection of a quarter-million bird specimens. In addition to being brilliant scientists, these two are a real hoot to hang out with. 

Jason and Nate will share stories of adventure, discovery and perhaps a few close calls in the name of science — we heard a rumor that Nate might have busted up an international bird smuggling ring while on expedition. We will also hear what it is like to be on expedition in remote and exciting places, tips for great places to go birding in our area and very likely everything Jason knows about our favorite breakfast cereal bird, the toucan. 

After registering, check out our blog for posts about Nate and Jason’s many adventures and discoveries. We recommend checking out this post about the unveiling of much anticipated Brazilian bird specimens last summer,  this one about Jason’s work on Malaria-carrying parasites, and don’t miss reading a bit on one of their expeditions to Mexico as well.

A Shaker of Science is a pay-what-you-wish event.

Be the first to know about our upcoming Shaker of Science events and more exclusive opportunities by becoming a member today.

Summer Butterfly Guide

buckeye butterfly by Isa Betancourt

Welcome to summer in the Philadelphia area! As the temperature and humidity soar, so do the butterflies! We present 12 summer butterfly species to watch for in the mid-Atlantic region. Let us know which species you are seeing by posting in the comments or on social media!

Click here to view the full Summer Butterfly Guide.

Bug Fest

bug fest

All of our 2020 virtual Bug Fest content is now online!  

Talk about web crawling… Bug Fest has gone digital for 2020! Join us on Zoom, Facebook and Instagram to celebrate all things creepy, crawly, sticky, prickly, wiggly, yucky, and kinda cute for our annual celebration of invertebrates. Download new activities and watch exclusive videos; tune in to talk with real scientists; learn about insects from all over the world, and see specimens from the Academy’s behind-the-scenes collections. Go ahead, get caught in our web! 

Click here to explore all of our 2020 virtual Bug Fest.

academy unscripted

Academy Unscripted is a new series featuring one-on-one conversations with Academy scientists. Stay tuned for new episodes every other Thursday starting July 16.

Episode 1 - Senior Director of Exhibits & Public Spaces Jennifer Sontchi talks with Interim Curator of Fishes Mark Sabaj

Is COVID-19 Affecting Our Water?


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many lifestyle changes around the globe, namely —  people are staying at home.

The onset of this extreme, sudden and nearly universal social isolation has prompted our Biogeochemistry Section scientists to ponder what kinds of changes in water quality they might see due to COVID-19.

With the large-scale shift to people working at home and sheltering in place, there will likely be an increase in suburban wastewater effluent. Effluent is an outflowing of water or gas to a natural body of water, from a structure such as a wastewater treatment plant, sewer pipe or industrial outfall.

Will this cause changes in water quality that we will be able to detect over time, as social distancing measures continue to be in effect?

Click here to read the full article on the Academy Blog.

The Academy Nature Project

loyalsock canyon vista by mike servedio

Doctors and psychologists have long recognized that spending time in nature leads to a healthier well-being. Time spent outdoors is related to lower stress levels, decreased blood pressure, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Many people are experiencing nature differently during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are taking more walks to break up the monotony of staying at home, some are taking fewer trips outside because they are unable. Many people are watching the world from the windows of their houses and seeing things outside they'd never noticed before. People are rearranging travel plans as the future remains uncertain, while others are dreaming of places they've been to escape what sometimes feels like an endless cycle of bad news. 

At the Academy, we want to know how you are interacting with nature during these difficult times. We'll be posting a different photo/video prompt each week on our social media channels to encourage you to share both current and past nature photos. 

For our first week, we are asking people to post photos to show spring in their location. Post your comments on our Facebook post or use #AcademyNatureProject on Instagram and Twitter.

When the museum reopens, we hope to showcase many of your photos at the Academy alongside our Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit.

Click here to learn more about The Academy Nature Project.

Virtual Meeting Backgrounds

Looking to spice up your virtual meeting while working from home? Try one of virtual meeting backgrounds and join your coworkers live from Dinosaur Hall, Antarctica or one of our beautiful stream scenes. Even have Lulu the sloth join your group! Click the thumbnail for the full sized image.

  • academy of natural sciences exterior Academy Exterior
  • Antarctica  Antarctica from Paleontologist Ted Daeschler's expedition
  • dinosaur hall Dinosaur Hall
  • stream Stream Scene 1 - Hay Creek, near Birdsboro, PA
  • takin diorama Takin diorama
  • stream Stream Scene 2 - Raymondskill Creek, near Dingman Township, PA
  • stream Stream Scene 3 - The Upper Delaware River near Masthope, PA
  • sloth Lulu the two-toed sloth

Recycling 101

recycling bins on street

In January 2019, we learned that over 50% of Philadelphia’s recycling was being sent straight to an incinerator in Chester. The problem was part of a larger issue with recycling nationwide — that the market for purchasing recycled goods, with China being the primary buyer, had shifted greatly. In 2018, China decided to no longer accept recycled materials that didn’t meet new stringent rules around contamination and mixed materials. Soon, recycling, which had actually been profitable for Philadelphia, became an expense for the city.

One of the main reasons that much of Philadelphia’s and the United States’ recycling is so expensive to sell is that it is deeply contaminated. You can help address this problem by knowing what you can recycle and how best to clean your recycling. On the Academy Blog, find out the answers to these common questions about recycling in Philly:

  • How clean should my recycling be?
  • What can and can’t you recycle curbside?
  • What can you recycle at a special facility?
  • How can you reduce the amount of recycling you create?
  • What does yard waste and composting have to do with creating less waste?
  • What resources can help me recycle properly in the Philadelphia suburbs? 

Click here to read our Recycling 101 blog.

A Real Shocking Discovery


Academy Ichthyologist Mark Sabaj is one of the co-authors on the descriptions of two new species of electric eel.  

Scientists have discovered a new species of eel that can discharge up to 860 volts of electricity – significantly more than the 650 volts previously recorded by what had been believed to be the only type of eel in existence… until now.

Mark Sabaj, PhD, interim curator of fishes at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is well-versed in techniques for catching electric eels both with and without getting shocked. He contributed to a large study of electric eels as a member of a multinational team led by Carlos David de Santana, an ichthyologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Sabaj is a co-author on the descriptions of two new species, Electrophorus voltai and Electrophorus varii, published in Nature Communications.

Click here to read the full Q & A with Mark Sabaj on the Academy Blog.

Color Our Collections


Coloring can have many benefits for people of all ages. It can help enhance motor skills and vision, reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus. 

Click here to download a PDF coloring book made of images from the Academy's Library and Archives.

kids doing science craft

Simple science activities to try at home

Science is the effort to discover and increase human understanding of how the physical and natural world works. It is amazing how science touches every aspect of our daily lives; from turning on the lights in the classroom to the snacks we eat daily. Science is about encouraging and asking questions, it is a process rather than a set of facts to memorize. As members of society, it is important that your child gains understanding of what science is and becomes familiar with the work and activities associated with science.

In all types of science, we use the same tools for investigation. We question, observe, study, experiment, and then discover and uncover new findings. As parents, we can model these activities with our children and, through hands-on activities, build and nurture their sense of curiosity. Young children are natural scientists. It is our role to encourage them to continue in their explorations.

Below, you will find fun, interactive, hands-on activities that are easy to do with materials you usually have at home. Explore with your child and learn together while having fun. We hope you enjoy the activities listed here. However, the most valuable aspect will be the time spent with your child, sharing your knowledge and gaining new experiences as you explore the world of science together.


Google Arts and Culture Exhibits

These five online exhibits feature images from our collections and field research and were created in Google's Art and Culture platform.

Get Lost on the Academy Blog

A new species of shipworm.

Our blog features hundreds of stories, here's a few favorites from recent times:


Localish explores the Academy's Collections

In June 2019, we moved a life-size Spinosaurus from New Jersey, over the Ben Franklin Bridge and to Logan Square outside of the Academy.

Watch paleo-artist Christopher DiPiazza draw a life-size version of Hadrosaurus in our Drawn to Dinosaurs exhibit. Filmed during Paleopalooza 2019. Watch an interview with DiPiazza here. See more time lapse videos of all of our Drawn to Dinosaurs artists including Jason Poole, Ray Troll, David Zinn, and Christian Rodriguez on the Drawn to Dinosaurs page.

Recommended Reading

Some of our favorite science stories from the last few months:

More Highlights From the Academy Blog: 

Mussel Survey

scientists look for mussels in river

In late September, Academy staff scientists and collaborators conducted a mussel survey on the Schuylkill River upstream from Boathouse Row. Their goal was to document the presence or absence of mussels and, in particular, whether there were any Tidewater Mucket (Leptodea ochracea) in this stretch of the river. This survey was the last in a series that was conducted throughout the lower Delaware River watershed.

Click here for details and to see more photos.

Four Ways to Cut Your Carbon

scientists on boat

Looking to reduce your personal carbon emissions? There are some big steps you can take. For example, if you need to travel a long distance, you can choose rail or even sailboat — to follow in Greta Thunberg’s wake — rather than flying. The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist last week completed a transatlantic journey by racing yacht to attend the United Nations summit meeting on global warming this month. Few of us fly every day, and fewer sail. So how can we do our part to reduce CO2 emissions (which contribute to harmful greenhouse gases largely blamed for driving global warming) in our daily life?

Click here for four ways you can reduce your carbon.

A Relic of Botany History

wildflower illustrations

Dr. Carl Ludwig Willdenow’s Anleitung zum Selbststudium der Botanik: ein Handbuch zu öffentlichen Vorlesungen (Dr. Carl Ludwig Willdenow’s Guide to Self-Study of Botany: A Handbook for Public Lectures) has been added to the Academy's library. Willdenow is a major figure in the field of botany. The book was not previously contained in our vast collection and contains several brilliantly colored plates. 

Learn more about the title's addition to the Academy:

Time Outdoors: It’s Healthy

academy scientists in creek

Doctors and psychologists have long recognized that spending time in nature leads to a healthier well-being, and a growing field of research aims to better understand and quantify the benefits of spending time in nature. Time spent outdoors is related to lower stress levels, decreased blood pressure, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

So, if the prescription is to spend more time in nature, what’s the dosage? A recent The New York Times article highlights some new findings, namely that researchers have zeroed in on the ideal amount of outdoor time for reaping nature’s maximum health benefits: 120 minutes per week. Two hours in a week doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it can sometimes be difficult to fit that time into our already hectic schedules.

Click here for some easy suggestions for adding 120 minutes of outdoor time to your week. 

Where Does Your Water Come From?

scientists on boat

The Wissahickon Creek watershed is 64 square miles and covers portions of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania. The Wissahickon is a small but important part of a larger system. It is a tributary of the Schuylkill River, which in turn is the largest tributary of the Delaware River. The whole Delaware River Basin covers 13,500 square miles and provides water for more than 15 million people, including half of New York City’s potable water supply. Do you know the source of your drinking water?

Read more:

Keeping Tabs on the Environment

scientists in stream

Summertime means the height of field work season for many Academy scientists. They can be found up and down the Delaware River watershed measuring fish, collecting algae samples, measuring sea level rise due to climate change, testing water for the presence of harmful chemicals and more. Wading in cool streams, hiking bucolic trails, walking through wetlands, and boating to find the fish are all involved. But so are smacking mosquitoes, sweating in waders, battling sun burn, and lugging equipment in heat and humidity. But all in all our scientists agree: it beats sitting in the office! 

Learn where our scientists are this summer.

Five Things You Can Do Now to Help the Environment

pristine mountain stream

Did you know that a recycling shipment with as little as 0.5% non-recyclables can be considered unusable and trashed? Are you aware that livestock is a major source of greenhouse gasses and that eating less could reduce your environmental impact? Have you tried adjusting your thermostat one degree to save 10% on your energy use? Learn five things you can do to reduce your footprint on our earth.

Read more:

Support Science

scientist with entomology specimens

Make a difference today with your gift to the Academy’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund provides vital support for the Academy’s most critical needs, including research, collections care, education and exhibits. Your support of the Annual Fund will protect the Academy’s irreplaceable collections, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s botany collection and John James Audubon’s birds; support world-class research addressing today’s most significant questions in environmental science, biodiversity and evolution; help support science education for more than 80,000 schoolchildren each year; and fund outstanding exhibitions, educational programs and environmental forums for learners of all ages.

I Support Science: