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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.

Climate Risks From Headwaters to Coast
Presented by Academy Town Square and the Drexel Climate Year Speaker Series
Thursday, June 24, 7 p.m.

Climate Risks from headwaters to coast

Join us for Climate Risks From Headwaters to Coast, an Academy Town Square presented in partnership with the Drexel Climate Year Speaker Series. With the opening of Gideon Mendel: Drowning World at the Academy, we have become even more cognizant of how overwhelming climate events around the world, including flooding, affect humans. Hear from three outstanding Drexel faculty members on their areas of research exploring the impacts and risks of climate change, and participate in a moderated discussion addressing audience questions.

This is a free, virtual event.

Moderator: Erin Wright: Environmental Studies and Sustainability Major, Drexel ‘22

Speakers:

  • Stefanie Kroll, PhD, Academy of Natural Sciences, Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Sciences, will speak about her project of understanding headwaters structure, function and resilience to climate change. This will include defining headwaters and why they matter to watersheds, as well as water quality in large rivers.
  • Debjani Bhattacharyya, PhD, Department of History, will present on the multiple factors that constitute risk in the Indian Ocean shores that compound and aggravate climate risk, charting the history from the 2005 tsunami to the current cyclones.
  • Franco Montalto, PhD, College of Engineering and Center for Public Policy, will define and describe the challenges associated with compound flood risks in coastal communities. These include the stress that increasingly intense precipitation, rising sea levels and coastal surges pose on obdurate infrastructure.

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This Academy Town Square is being presented in coordination with the exhibition of Gideon Mendel: Drowning World at the Academy. The exhibition features 37 photographs, two found-object displays and a video by leading contemporary photographer Gideon Mendel, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa. Mendel began photographing major floods in 2007 when one in the United Kingdom and another in India occurred within two weeks of each other. Their proximity struck him as a shared vulnerability that seemed to unite people. This unique photographic exploration of flooding offers a stark portrayal of the human condition within the context of overwhelming climate events around the world. The exhibition includes color images of some of the poorest and wealthiest communities on the planet, all exposed to the floodwater that envelops them.


Academy Nightcap: Drugs in Nature
Thursday, June 17, 8:30 p.m.

Academy Nightcap, Drugs in Nature

Nature is full of drugs, and animals know what’s up. Whether it’s sheep going to extremes for hallucinogens, or our beloved bees seeking strong alcohol sure to give any adult human a buzz, nature’s substances appeal to all kinds of species. Even our domestic pets have a taste for nature’s elixirs from time to time. So why do animals love to use these drugs? Join the discussion and meet some experts who know some of nature’s most bizarre facts. Hear a few stories of animal inebriation from beekeeper Don Shump and veterinarian Dr. Maria Mick as you spiral down the rabbit hole with us into the fascinating topic of animal drug use in nature.

This is a virtual event.

Tickets: $10 General Admission/$7 Members

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Is Philly Being Snubbed Again?

magicicada cassini - cicada pinned for entomology collection 

Entomology Curator Dr. Jon Gelhaus wonders if Philadelphia will miss out on the Brood X cicadas this year. 

Read Is Philly Being Snubbed Again? on the Academy Blog.


Gideon Mendel: Drowning World
Now Open

drowning world gideon mendel curtains in flood water

Gideon Mendel: Drowning World is a unique photographic exploration of flooding, a stark portrayal of the human condition within the context of overwhelming climate events around the world. The exhibition features 37 photographs, two found-object displays and a video by leading contemporary photographer Gideon Mendel, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa. Mendel began photographing major floods in 2007 when one in the United Kingdom and another in India occurred within two weeks of each other. Their proximity struck him as a shared vulnerability that seemed to unite people. Drowning World includes color images of some of the poorest and wealthiest communities on the planet, all exposed to the floodwater that envelops them. In this moment the floods are a leveling factor, and people are brought together in visual solidarity.

Academy Member? Click here to reserve your tickets


How to Celebrate 17-year Cicadas – Eat One!

cicada resting on a hand

Academy entomologist Isa Betancourt has an idea on how to celebrate the 17-year cicadas — eat one! 

Click here to read her blog and grab the recipe for cicada and grits.


Early Spring Butterfly Guide 

butterfly on dandelion

Learn which butterflies to look for and how to identify local butterflies in our Early Spring Butterfly Guide.  

Click here to view the Early Spring Butterfly Guide.


Spotted Lanternflies Are Here

spotted lanternfly black bug with pink and black wings

Academy Animal Programs Developer Karen Verderame talks about what we can expect to see this Spring regarding the invasive spotted lanternfly. 

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


Scientists Discover New Species

Peacock bass a yellow and beige fish with yellow spots lying on a table

Researchers from Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences and The Academy of Natural Sciences discovered 37 new species in 2020.

From fish to fossils to bugs to sea snails, click here to learn about some of the new species.


Mystery in the Library

Sepia tone photo of woman sitting at desk with man at card catalog

A photo from 1909 sends Academy Archivist Jennifer Vess on a deep dive to explore the women associated with the library. 

Click here to read the entire story of the mystery in the library.


Lights Out Philadelphia

lights out philly logo with blue background showing philly skyline with birds flying over 

Bird Safe Philly has announced that Philadelphia is joining the national Lights Out initiative. This voluntary program involves turning off or blocking as many external and internal building lights as possible at night during migration seasons when birds are passing through the city by the millions.

The first season of Lights Out Philly launches April 1, at the start of peak spring migration and runs through May 31, when most winged migrants will have passed through Philadelphia. 

During the spring and fall migration periods, property managers and their tenants will be asked to voluntarily switch off unnecessary lights, especially in a building’s upper levels, lobby and atrium, and turn off or dim external lighting. 

Lights Out Philly is the result of a collaborative effort led by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, National Audubon Society-Mid-Atlantic Region, and two local Audubon Society chapters (Valley Forge and Wyncote).  
 
The Bird Safe Philly initiative is endorsed by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, the Building Owners and Managers Association Philadelphia, and the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia. 

These have pledged their support as early adopters: 

  • Comcast Technology Center and Comcast Center, the two tallest buildings in the city 
  • Brandywine Realty Trust, the city’s largest landlord 
  • A dozen other building operators 

Philly joins 33 other cities in nation in signing on to Lights Out. 

Click here to read more about the initiative.


Reading the Leaves

pressed plant leaf on white background 

The veins in a leaf do more than store water for the plant; even plant leaves preserved as fossils. They can reveal what environmental conditions were like when and where the plant was growing.

Leaf veins are a passion for Zack Quirk, a National Science Foundation fellow and University of Michigan paleobotany PhD candidate, who’s been using the Academy’s Botany Collection to measure the length of veins in plants. He chose the Academy herbarium because of it wide range of specimens collected from around the world. To collect these plants on his own would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

Click here to continue reading Reading the Leaves on the Academy Blog.


The Name’s Bondi, Synodus bondi

syondus bondi fish specimen

Scientists at the Academy have a long history of contributing specimens not only to the collections of their primary field of study, but also to other collections throughout the museum. For example, Edward Drinker Cope is best known for his contributions to paleontology, but he was also an early driving force behind the creation of the Academy’s Ichthyology and Herpetology collections.

It remains common today for our researchers to bring back specimens from collecting expeditions for their colleagues in other departments. They may collect some mollusks while gathering fish or pick up some interesting specimens for sale in a market. Every so often their efforts may be rewarded with a new species named in their honor.

This is what happened in 1939 when Ichthyology Curator Henry Weed Fowler described a new species of lizardfish from Jamaica and named it Synodus bondi. The specimens used in the description were collected by an ornithologist from the Academy by the name of James Bond, a name made famous by Ian Flemming when he borrowed the moniker for his spy novels.

Read more on the Academy Blog.


Paleopalooza - A Virtual Festival

paleopalooza

All of our 2020 virtual Paleopalooza content is now online! 

Plug in to the world of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures with a week of digital Devonian discoveries and computerized Cretaceous content! From Saturday, October 17 to Sunday, October 25, join us on Zoom and Facebook to celebrate all things paleo, from inverts encased in amber to the modern cousins of ice age animals. Download new dinosaur activities and watch exclusive videos, tune in to talk with real scientists, learn about fossils from all over the world and see specimens from the Academy’s behind-the-scenes collections. Most digital activities are free; Zoom programs require free registration but may be limited in the number of attendees.

Click here to explore all of our virtual Paleopalooza.


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. Explore more episodes of Academy Unscripted.

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


Is COVID-19 Affecting Our Water?

drain

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.


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

eel

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.


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

shipworm
A new species of shipworm.

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


Videos

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.


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: https://www.anspblog.org/a-relic-of-botany-history/


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: https://www.anspblog.org/where-does-your-drinking-water-come-from/


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: https://www.anspblog.org/what-are-5-things-you-do-to-help-the-environment-in-under-10-minutes/


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: https://ansp.org/get-involved/support/annual-fund/