About Daniel

An inveterate punster, amateur chef, and fencer, Daniel B has a double degree in History and Museum Science from Baylor. He currently serves as the Assistant Program Coordinator for the Wiess Energy Hall and Adult Education at HMNS.

April is here! Get Ready to Celebrate Earth Day all month long in Houston.

Well it’s that time of year again. Happy April everyone! With the April flowers come Earth Day celebrations. While the official Earth Day is April 22, Houstonians like to celebrate Earth Day every weekend in April. Even better, all these Earth Day events are free!


Start out the month by bringing your recyclables to Discovery Green. April 4th is a recycling Saturday. Spend the day downtown or around Hermann Park (maybe even at HMNS?) and end your day at the Miller Outdoor Theater watching Legally Blonde the Musical (not Earth Day centered but still fun and free).


April 11th is the big event at Discovery GreenEarth Day Houston sponsored by Air Alliance Houston. It’s the big event because that’s where HMNS and I’ll be. Not only will we have info and a cool game about how you can conserve energy, but also have BUGS. While it may not sound exciting to have bugs when you’re outside, these are bugs you can (and will want to) interact with. Come by and pet a tarantula. Don’t worry, when you stop by you won’t be bugging us.


The Houston Arboretum has a slew of free events on April 18. Everything from a self-guided scavenger hunt to guided hikes and face painting. They will also have a plant sale.


Exploration Green will host its first Earth Day on April 25. They will have a trail run, arts and crafts, kite flying and much more.

So take advantage of one or more of the Earth Day events. Brush up on your energy conservation at the Energy Conservation Club. See y’all out at Discovery Green.

A Young Museum Fan Gives a Lecture on Energy

One of the hardest things in the world is trying to convince people that energy education and energy literacy is important. Energy and its use drive the global economy. There is a direct correlation between energy use and happiness. (And, quite frankly, I like having warm showers in the winter.)

When you approach people about energy education most of them say the subject is too complex. That it is too hard. Both of which are untrue and here’s why:

This is what happens when you have a passion about education. You make things happen. Thank you Olllie!


The world’s last dreadnought: Distinguished Lecture pays homage to Battleship Texas

Ships named “Texas” have a grand history — just like the state. The first ship to bear the name came about when the United States realized it had less naval power than countries like Belize or Chile. The U.S. set out on a naval modernization program under the direction of then Undersecretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, and built two modern battleships: the USS Texas (commissioned in 1895) and the USS Maine

While the Maine became infamous for starting the Spanish American War in 1898, the “Old Hoodoo” — as the Texas was called — under the command of Captain John “Jack” Phillips, served well at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. There, she was part of Commodore Schley’s “Flying Squadron,” a force of ships gathered to defend the Atlantic coast against any Spanish fleets making their way to our shore. The Spanish fleet bottled up in the bay made a daring run to escape the blockading American fleet. In a matter of hours, the Spanish ships were sunk or run aground, and the U.S. fleet suffered only two casualties.

This first Texas was decommissioned in 1911 so her name could be added to a new dreadnought battleship, Hull No. 35. 

uss-texasLaunched on May 18, 1912, a few days after another infamous ship sank, the new Texas (BB -35) had a distinguished career with many firsts. Before she even had a shakedown cruise, she was off to support U.S. troops during the “Tampico Incident” in Mexico before World War I. Under the command of Victor Blue, she ferried convoys across the Atlantic and protected main layers around the northern German coast during World War I.  She escorted President Wilson to the peace conference after the war.  

During the intra-war years, she switched from burning coal to burning oil — a change that increased her range significantly and reduced the weight of the fuel she carried from 3,000 tons of coal to 400 tons of oil. She was the first battleship to have anti-air guns, launch a plane from her decks, and test radar. She participated in the landings in North Africa, the D-Day invasion, and the Battle of Okinawa, amongst others.

Since WWII, she’s been quite busy. In 1948, Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the country. She currently serves as the flagship of the Third Texas Navy.

She also has an active acting career, playing the battleship West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. But I prefer when she plays herself in Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers. In the Ayes of Texas trilogy, she repeatedly saves the nation of Texas from the Soviet fleet. Way to go girl!

The next “Texas” was a Nuclear Guided Missile Cruiser (CGN). This Texas (CGN-39) was part of the new nuclear navy that launched in the 1960s and 1970s. She was second in the Virginia-class of cruisers. She participated in Operation Eagle Claw, an operation to rescue Iranian hostages. Under Captain William K. Gautier, she served as anti-air commander during the First Persian Gulf War. Due to the cost of maintenance and the fall of the Soviet Union, she was decommissioned about halfway through her expected life in 1993.

The current USS Texas has kept the nuclear tradition. She is second in the Virginia-class of nuclear attack submarines. Commissioned in 2004, the story of the USS Texas (SSN-775) is one shrouded by the depths of the sea. Under Commander Andrew Hertel, she patrols the ocean’s depths, looking for other silent and submerged killers, as well as surface fleets.

Join us on Tuesday, June 3 for our Distinguished Lecture Series to learn about the captains of the Battleship Texas and her place in history. The lecture is in conjunction with the showing of the incredible D-Day film and the Battleship Texas Centennial exhibit.

Digging in the dirt: Getting to know the Dimetrodon of the Texas Permian Red Beds

I love my job. Not everyone can say that. My avocation and vocation are as two eyes with one sight (paraphrasing Robert Frost). Part of that job was taking a group of 15 patrons up to the Museum’s dig site outside Seymour, Texas. There, under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Bakker and David Temple, the group learned how to properly excavate bones of ancient animals —  in this case, Permian synapsids, amphibians, and fish.   

I got to go through a spoil pile (the pile of debris and castoff that others have thrown aside), and found several bits of our very early ancestors, the synapsid Dimetrodon.  I also worked on removing the overburden (the rock and dirt that is over a site we want to excavate), and found bits from a dorsal spine of a Xenacanthus, an ancient shark. It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream (as I child I played paleontologist rather than fireman and my first Deinonychus is still buried out back at my childhood home).

But I’m not the only one who dreamed of finding fossils in Texas.

Noted Swiss naturalist Jacob Boll came to Texas in 1869 to join La Reunion commune that is located in the current Reunion District of Dallas. (The Reunion Tower is named in honor of that small settlement.) La Reunion commune was responsible for the first brewery and butcher shop in the Dallas area. It also helped Dallas become the center for carriage and harness making.

Jacob Boll came over to set up high schools based in scientific inquiry. Through the late 1870s, he searched for fossils for Edward Drinker Cope, the noted “Bone Wars” paleontologist. Boll found over 30 new vertebrate species from the Permian period, which can be seen in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History.  Unfortunately, on his last trip, he was bitten by a rattlesnake, wrote some final letters to his family, composed a short poem in German, and died.  

In the Permian period, Texas was very different from today. Near Seymour, there were rivers and seasonal flood plains. However, even with this picture, there are still unexplained factors about the life of Dimetrodon — one being that there was not enough prey to sustain the population that we have found in the fossil record. While the Dimetrodon were making sushi out of Xenacanthus and chewing on some Trimerorhachis legs (like frog legs, only much shorter), there was not enough food to go around.

Now add to this case the curious fact that almost no Dimetrodon skeleton found has an intact tail. Anyone who has been to a good Cajun restaurant will know that the best meat on an alligator is the tail. And Dimetrodon would agree — hence the lack of tails.

But even this does not account for all the food necessary to keep all the predators alive.  Where is the missing food?

Dr. Bakker gave us a couple of hints as to what he thinks is the answer. 

 A few miles away from the site, there is an old Permian river basin where we find Edaphosaurus, a large Dimetrodon-like herbivore. Was it possible for Dimetrodon to walk a few miles, ambush an animal about its size, then walk back for a rest? This would provide food for the population.          

If you are interested in learning more about the Texas Red Beds, join us for our Fossil Recovery Class on May 20. You can go through some of our collection from the trip and learn about fossil collecting and identification techniques.

Click here for more information.