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Science at the Academy

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


door 19

Door 19
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.

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Bug Fest
August 10–11, 2019

Learn about insects from all over the world, take a bug walk outdoors with scientists and check out specimens from the Academy’s behind-the-scenes collections. See amazing live insects, learn the buzz about bees from an urban apiarist and learn about entomophagy (eating bugs). Chat with entomologists from the Academy and the American Entomological Society and find out about current research. Get a closer look at some specimens from our collections, watch live shows and ask whatever insect questions are bugging you. Plus enjoy family activities like story time, face painting, crafts, roach races and more.

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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.

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