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Science at the Academy

door 19

Door 19: Death and Taxidermy
October 24, 2019

Nothing is certain but death and tax … idermy! At the Academy, we’re no strangers to the most bizarre science that life (and death) have to offer. At Door 19: Death and Taxidermy, explore our spookiest specimens and weirdest things in jars behind the scenes. Meet a couture taxidermist, discover decomposition, practice preservation and geek out over gravestones. Come in costume or come as you are for a scarily fun evening featuring frightfully good food and an open bar.

Click here for the full list of activities and to purchase tickets to Door 19. 

scientist holding giant clam

Scientist Saturday: Giant Clams
Saturday, September 14, 1–4 p.m.

Meet graduate student, Michelle Gannon, who studies giant clam shells. These majestic mollusks live in coral reefs in symbiosis with colorful algae that provide them food. They have very long lives, observing and recording weather events and conditions as they grow their shells. Giant clams are surrounded by corals, fishes, plankton and other reef organisms.

Hear about the life of a giant clam, what you can learn from their shells and color your own beautiful picture. At home, write a short story about the life of your giant clam and submit it to the Philadelphia Shell Club Instagram page @philadelphiashellclub. Creative stories and pictures will be featured in the PSC Newsletter!

About Scientist Saturday

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 from 1 to 4 p.m. The program welcomes guests of all ages to interact with the scientists, who are happy to converse with you about their current research. Come back for new guests each month. Free with general admission. No registration required.

compost stew

Reading List: Taking Care of the Environment

You probably care deeply about keeping the environment clean. You likely take steps to be an environmental steward, perhaps rinsing and sorting your recycling, composting, conserving water, reusing items and more. You may even encourage members of your household to do the same. But have you considered how to explain the importance of these actions to your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews or friends? How will you help to prepare the next generation to work hard to make the planet a more sustainable place?

Whether you’re seeking a starting point for conversation, you want to further your own knowledge or you’re looking to join a global movement, our reading list will help you find a place to start.

Our List:

tree on fire 

How Does a Rainforest Catch Fire?

Characterized by high levels of rainfall – it seems peculiar that a massive fire could take root in a rainforest region. That is why understanding exactly how and why Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest was set ablaze is particularly important. 

Academy scientists explain what is happening with the fires in Brazil. Click here for the full post:

anthropocene movie

One Night Only!
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch Documentary Screening

Presenting Sponsors:
Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival
Co-Presenter: WHYY/ Pulse

Wednesday, September 25, 7 p.m.
at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
$15 Public
$12 Academy Members

Timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival join institutions around the nation in screening Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

A stunning sensory experience and cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is a years-in-the-making feature documentary from the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013) and narrated by Alicia Vikander.

The film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.

From concrete seawalls in China that now cover 60% of the mainland coast, to the biggest terrestrial machines ever built in Germany, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to metal festivals in the closed city of Norilsk, to the devastated Great Barrier Reef in Australia and massive marble quarries in Carrara, the filmmakers have traversed the globe using state-of-the-art camera techniques to document the evidence and experience of human planetary domination. Check out the trailer!

Stay after the screening for a discussion and audience Q&A with experts, Scott Knowles (PhD, Head, Department of History, Drexel University, and urban disaster expert) and Stephanie Kroll (PhD, Watershed Ecology Section Lead, Academy of Natural Sciences). Moderated by Maiken Scott, host of WHYY’s The Pulse.

wildflower illustrations

A Relic of Botany History

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:

academy scientists in creek

Time Outdoors: It’s Healthy

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. 

Fork-tailed Flycatcher Photo by Jason Weckstein/ANS

Amazonian Birds

Last spring, ornithologists Jason Weckstein and Nate Rice brought back the first cache of birds from Brazil to be added to the Academy’s Ornithology Collection since the 1920s. The scientists and their colleagues collected and preserved the birds, along with thousands of tissue and parasite samples, during three collaborative expeditions to the region. The researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the basic principles of how pathogens and parasites are transmitted and evolve.

Read more:


New Shipworm Eats Stone

The Academy’s Gary Rosenberg, PhD, was part of a team that examined and described a new anatomically and morphologically divergent species of shipworm which was published recently by The Royal Society. This shipworm’s taste for rock sets the bivalve apart from thousands of others. Although other animals burrow in stone, this new species, Lithoredo abatanica, is unique in that it actually eats the rock as it burrows, expelling sand as feces.

Read more:

scientists on boat

Where Does Your Water Come From?

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:

dragon headed katydid

Bugs of Bug Fest

More diverse than any other living thing on Earth, insects are pollinators, nature’s recyclers and exterminators, and are an important food source for many other living things. More than 100 species, including millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, stick insects, caterpillars, tarantulas, live beetles and many others will be the centerpiece of the Academy’s most popular festival, Bug Fest, on August 10 and 11.

Read more:

scientists in stream

Keeping Tabs on the Environment

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.

pristine mountain stream

Five Things You Can Do Now to Help the Environment

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:

exterior of the Academy of Natural Sciences

Academy Blog

Covering topics ranging from environmental science to collections and field research, the Academy blog is a one-stop-shop for our latest science news. Expect to hear from our usual Academy writers and communicators, plus lots of others who work at the museum, in the lab or in the field every day. You may see pictures or videos from the field, hear a scientist’s commentary on a research trip or discovery or learn more about an item in the Academy’s collections. You’ll also get information about upcoming events and exhibits, opportunities for families and membership at the Academy.


freshwater mussels in drawers

Academy Science News

Through our monthly science newsletter, we keep you up to date on what our scientists are publishing, what science events are happening and where the Academy has appeared in recent science news both locally and nationally. Sign up below and make sure to elect to receive science news emails when you choose your email preferences.

Join the list:

scientist shows trilobites

Members’ Night
October 18, 2019

For one night each year, our researchers, scientists and educators welcome members behind the scenes for exciting activities that showcase what the Academy’s experts do every day! Meet our staff, see our collections and experience the breadth and depth of work that takes place behind the scenes.


scientist with entomology specimens

Support Science

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: