About Amy P

Amy is the Director of Adult Education at HMNS.

Beauty, the Sublime and Darwin: Exploring the “sheer poetry” of field biology with Dr. Harry Greene

The diversity of life on Earth is under serious threats from multiple human-related causes. Science plays well-known roles in addressing management aspects of this problem. 

Dr. Harry W. Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, wants us all to know that natural history also plays a vital role in Earth’s health.

Ecology Lecture 1

Natural history enhances our appreciation for organisms and environments, thereby influencing value judgments that ultimately underlie all conservation. Wow, that is huge! This is why we should all care about nature — our planet and all life on Earth depends on it!

While Greene is in Houston for the East Texas Herpetological Society Annual Conference and Reptile Expo September 19 – 21, he will give a special presentation at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Monday, September 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Greene will explain how an 18th century philosopher’s distinction between “beauty” and “sublime” can be used in the context of Darwin’s notion of “descent with modification.” As a good biologist, he will illustrate this approach with frogs, snakes, African megafauna, Texas longhorns, and California condors.

Dr. Harry Greene is a popular author and will be signing copies of his latest book Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art following the lecture. The book explores multiple themes including the nuts and bolts of field research and teaching, the destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity, the “sheer poetry” of field biology, and the role of natural historians in saving species from extinction.

Ecology Lecture 2

“Natural History and Aesthetics – Why Should We Care About Nature?”
Harry Greene, Ph.D., Cornell
Monday, September 22, 6:30 pm 
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Public $18, HMNS members $12
To register in advance, click here or call 713.639.4629. 

Harry W. Greene’s primary interests are behavioral evolution, community ecology, and conservation biology, and is especially interested in mammals, lizards, and snakes, particularly vipers. Greene is the Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellow and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and a recipient of the E.O. Wilson Award from the American Society of Naturalists. His book Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature (UC Press), won a PEN Literary Award and was a New York Times Notable Book.

Love our lectures? Save the date for these upcoming nature lectures at HMNS!
More info at www.hmns.org/lectures

Plant Conservation in a Rapidly Changing World
Thursday, September 25, 6:30 p.m.
Habitat destruction will drive to extinction more than half the kinds of plants and animals that exist now on Earth within the next 75 years or so. Dr. Peter Raven will share how plant species can be saved through high-tech genetic seed banks, the establishment of protected areas, and botanic garden collections. Cosponsored by the Mercer Society.
Click here for tickets.

Monarchs: Is the Migration Moribund?
Monday, September 29, 6:30 p.m.
The monarch butterfly is known for its annual roundtrip journey to and from overwintering sanctuaries in central Mexico. Yet today this marathon migration is under great threat. Dr. Nancy Grieg will discuss what, if anything, can we do, followed by a screening of the 3D film Flight of the Butterflies.
Click here for tickets.

Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity and Oil Spill Resilience
Monday, October 13, 6:30 p.m.
The Gulf of Mexico appears quite resilient in the face of many environmental insults, such as overfishing, habitat loss and destruction, degraded water quality, extensive coastal development, and climate change. Dr. Wes Tunnel will explain what a tipping point of too many problems might eventually cause.
Click here for tickets.

“Bats: The Night Shift”
Monday, October 27, 6:30 p.m.
Bats have radiated into almost every habitat on Earth, bringing with them their important ecological responsibilities. Their great diversity of feeding strategies is a testament to the adaptability of these nocturnal animals and reveals their important roles they play within ecosystems. Bat researcher Dr. Cullen Geiselman will discuss the great variety of bats, including the 38 species in Texas of which eight call Houston home.
Click here for tickets.

Growing an Ark: The Expanding Role of Gardens in Plant Conservation
Thursday, November 6, 6:30 p.m.
Journey around the world and learn of the significant successes and contributions by botanic gardens in the efforts to rescue plants from extinction through expanded research, conservation programs, and environmental education with Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Cosponsored with The Mercer Society. 
Click here for tickets.

Come to the Dark Side: Distinguished Lecture Explores Dark Matter

The ordinary atoms that make up the known universe — from our bodies and the air we breathe to the planets and stars — constitute only 5 percent of all matter and energy in the cosmos. The rest is known as dark matter and dark energy, because their precise identities are unknown. 

Dr. Katherine Freese, one of today’s foremost pioneers in the study of dark matter, is a key player in the epic quest to solve one of the most compelling enigmas of modern science: What is the universe made of?

This dynamo researcher, speaker and author will be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on September 4 for a lecture on her work on the front lines of dark matter research.

Blending cutting-edge science with her own behind-the-scenes insights as a leading researcher in the field, acclaimed theoretical physicist Katherine Freese will recount the hunt for dark matter, from the discoveries of visionary scientists like Fritz Zwicky — the Swiss astronomer who coined the term “dark matter” in 1933 — to the deluge of data today from underground laboratories, satellites in space and the Large Hadron Collider.

Theorists contend that dark matter consists of fundamental particles known as WIMPs —or weakly interacting massive particles. Billions of them pass through our bodies every second without us even realizing it, yet their gravitational pull is capable of whirling stars and gas at breakneck speeds around the centers of galaxies and bending light from distant objects.

Many cosmologists believe we are on the verge of solving the mystery! Freese will help even the non-science majors be able to fathom this epochal moment in humankind’s quest to understand the universe.

Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan splits her time between Ann Arbor and New York City, and is also member of the International Advisory Board for the Oskar Klein Center for Cosmoparticle Physics in Stockholm, Sweden.

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter
Katherine Freese, Ph.D., University of Michigan
Wednesday, September 3, 6:30 p.m.

Following the lecture, Dr. Freese will sign copies of her new book The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, which provides the foundation needed to fully fathom humankind’s quest to understand the universe.

Book signing is in partnership with River Oaks Bookstore.

And, save the date for our next Dark Matter program…
Film Screening – Particle Fever
Thursday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.

10,000 scientists from over 100 countries who have joined forces in pursuit of explaining the origin of all matter. Join Dr. Paul Padley, professor at Rice University and member of the Hadron Collider team, for this is a one-night-only event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

For advance tickets to both events, call 713.639.4629 or visit www.hmns.org/lectures

One with nature: Photographer Amy Shutt teaches you how to capture the world through your lens

Do you love nature? Do you also love photography? Well then you’re in luck! On August 6, HMNS is excited to host a workshop with nature photographer Amy Shutt.

AMY_3976-1-fbIn this exotic photography adventure, students will learn how to get the best nature shots possible when photographing animals, insects and flora. Amy will teach you the basics of your DSLR camera, leaving you with an understanding of how to use aperture, shutter speed, and ISO together to get out of Auto mode.

Students will then venture out to photograph the insects, animals, flowers and plants in the Cockrell Butterfly Center. We will also work on photographing the waterfall to get soft velvety water shots. All participants will receive one-on-one instruction with their equipment.

1463010_10200426208652378_1926119065_nAmy Shutt is a regular contributing photographer to 225 Magazine and is on the Board of Directors of the New Orleans and Gulf South Chapter of ASMP. She is also an active member of North American Nature Photography AssociationProfessional Photographers of America, American Society of Media Photographers, and HeartsSpeak

You may view her portfolio at amyshutt.com and her workshops website at amyshuttworkshops.com.

HMNS Adult Hands-On Class
Nature Photography Workshop
Wednesday, August 6, 2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Tickets $200, Members $150
Click here for tickets and information.

AMY_9239-1-900-fb-nocrAmy Shutt’s love of photography began at an early age. She always had a Polaroid handy, shot a now-defunct disc camera in her tweens, and received her first 35mm when she was 11. A self-described “ditch rat” (because she hung out in the ditch behind her house watching and catching turtles, snakes, and bullfrogs as a kid), Amy has always had a deep appreciation for animals and nature. Growing up in Louisiana, she was exposed to its unique flora and fauna, and that has remained deeply set in her veins over the years. Observing nature went hand-in-hand with photographing nature; it came naturally to her. 

She now specializes in nature, animal, food, editorial, and commercial photography in Baton Rouge and beyond. She also teaches various photography classes, nature photography workshops, and lighting workshops throughout the seasons in Louisiana, Texas, California, and Colorado. 

When Amy is not shooting in the studio, her favorite things to photograph are still flora, fauna, landscapes, and all things nature. She especially loves the swamps of her home state of Louisiana and the coast and deserts of California. Married to ornithologist Van Remsen of LSU Museum of Natural Sciences, she is constantly exposed to nature in her every day married life, whether it be birding or working in the hummingbird garden in the yard. This has proved to fuel her passion for photographing wildlife and landscapes over the recent years. 

In 2014, Amy partnered with world-renowned Audubon Zoo in New Orleans to develop and teach Basic, Advanced, and Specialized Photography Classes that focus on animal photography as well as conservation and animal education. She has since branched out to other zoos and natural science facilities to develop and teach photography classes and workshops.

Amy feels teaching people about photographing nature and animals can forge a strong relationship and a sense of deep respect between humans and the flora and fauna we live side-by-side with on this planet — a bond that only becomes deeper the more one photographs. 

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WHOOP! Aggie volcano beneath the sea confirmed largest on Earth

In 1993, oceanographer William Sager began studying the massive underwater mountain mass about 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan in a mountain range known as the Shatsky Rise. At that time, Sager was with the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. He nicknamed the large mountain mass “Tamu Massif” —“Tamu” for the abbreviation of Texas A&M and “Massif” for the French word frequently used to describe a large mountain mass. 

Tamu Massif

Ten years later Dr. William Sager, now with the University of Houston’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, announced that Tamu Massif was actually one single volcano on September 5, 2013.

Since they are submerged beneath the oceans in remote locations and therefore difficult to study, far less is known about volcanoes beneath the sea than those that tower above us on land. The origins of underwater volcanoes are murky; their structures and how they erupt and evolve is unclear. 

Multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples taken from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program core sites were used to interpret the structure of Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. 

Tamu Massif is seen to be a single, immense volcano, constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano center to form a broad, shield-like mound the size of New Mexico. The volcano has anomalously low slopes, probably due to high effusion rates and low viscosity of the erupting lava (i.e. being underneath all that water makes it difficult for the lava to flow).

The largest single volcano on Earth, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Data from Tamu Massif document a class of oceanic volcanoes that is distinguished by its size and shape from the thousands of common seamounts found throughout the oceans. 

Next year, William Sager and his team will return to Tamu Massif to collect more data bearing on its shape and formation.

Olympus Mons above, Hawaiian islands below, to scale.

Dr. William Sager will give a vivid presentation on Tamu Massif at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. to complement Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters, now on display at HMNS.

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
Tamu Massif, The World’s Biggest Volcano Is Hiding Beneath the Sea
William W. Sager, Ph.D.
Tuesday, June 24, 6:30 p.m.
Click here or call 713-639-4629 for advance tickets.

Massif Blog 2Tamu Massif, the world’s largest volcano, was discovered in 2013 in the northwestern Pacific Ocean by a team of researchers lead by Dr. William Sager. Constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano’s center, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Dr. Sager will explain how he is unlocking the murky secrets of oceanic plateau structure, how they erupt and evolve using multichannel seismic profiles and core samples from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and why this new data is important to you. Professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Houston, Dr. William W. Sager leads research vessels to sea to collect geological data. 

Massif Blog 3