About Amy P

Amy is the Director of Adult Education at HMNS.

Quick, To The Bat Cave: Four Reasons to Celebrate Bats This Week

This week is an important week for the winged mammals!

  1. The Rafinesque’s big-eared bat is making its debut in the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife at HMNS (Hint: you have to look up to find it)
  2. Houston’s Batgirl Dr. Cullen Geiselman is speaking at HMNS about what makes bats so important on October 27 (More info below.)
  3. Halloween is the battiest holiday around!
  4. An epic move to help conserve the world’s largest bat colony will also take place on October 31.

Over 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats make their summer home at the Bracken Cave outside of San Antonio—making Bracken Cave the largest concentration of mammals on Earth.

Bracken Cave Bat Emergence video: 

The City of San Antonio, Bat Conservation International (BatCon) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) partnered to protect the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years from land developers. Read more about the conservation plan from the San Antonio News and BatCon.

Dr. Cullen Geiselman has studied various species of bats all over the world. She is Vice Chair of the BatCon board and a former staff member. To help celebrate these mosquito-eating machines, join us on Monday at HMNS for Dr. Geiselman’s bat talk.

Amy Bats

Bats: The Night Shift
Cullen Geiselman, Ph.D., Bat Conservation International
Houston Museum of Natural Science, Wortham Giant Screen Theatre
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.

For more information and tickets, visit www.hmns.org/lectures.

This lecture is cosponsored by Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, and included in their course Biodiversity: A Wildlife and Ecosystem Necessity.

Learn more about Dr. Geiselman in “Adventures of Cullen Geiselman, Batgirl” by Lisa Gray, Houston Chronicle, July 26.

Empathy, Ethics and Bonobos: Distinguished Lecture Tonight at HMNS

Why do we have empathy? Why do we rush to another’s aid? Why do we put our arm around others to support them? 

Empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans. In his work with monkeys, apes and elephants, anthropologist Dr. Frans de Waal has found many cases of one individual coming to another’s aid in a fight, putting an arm around a previous victim of attack, or other emotional responses to the distress of others. By studying social behavior in animals — such as bonding and alliances, expressions of consolation, conflict resolution, and a sense of fairness — de Waal demonstrates that animals and humans are preprogrammed to reach out, questioning the assumption that humans are inherently selfish.

On October 21, Dr. Frans de Waal will be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to explore empathy’s survival value in evolution, and how it can help to build a more just society based on a more accurate view of human nature. He will suggest that religion may add to a moral society, but as an addition and way to enforce good behavior rather than as the source of good behavior.

Following the lecture at HMNS, Dr. de Waal will sign copies of his latest book, The Bonobo and the Atheist.

Ethics Blog

Dr. Frans de Waal is a Dutch/American behavioral biologist known for his work on the social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics, compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His latest book is The Bonobo and the Atheist. De Waal is professor of psychology at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the (US) National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of “The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today,” and in 2011 by Discover as one of the “47 All Time Great Minds of Science.”

SONY DSC

Ethics without God? The Evolution of Morality and Empathy in the Primates
Frans de Waal, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Co-Sponsored by The Leakey FoundationClick here for tickets.

For more from Dr. Frans da Wall, check out his TED talk:

 

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