About Meagan

Meagan is a Marketing Intern and is new to HMNS this summer, but she is no less excited about all of the new exhibits here at the Museum. Her responsibilities include assisting anyone and everyone in the Marketing department. Her summer will include helping with everything from public relations to advertising.

Welcome to the HMNS Animal Alcove: Where the wild things are

You’ve seen the animals on display in our African and Texas wildlife exhibits. While realistic, none of these mounts actually slither, wiggle or do much of anything, really.

But HMNS has a live animal collection that much of the public never even sees. These animals are not on display, but used to educate at our outreach programs. Outreach programs like Wildlife on Wheels (WOW) give students a unique and hands-on opportunity to learn the basics of animal life.

I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the Animal Alcove that houses more than 40 of the animals used in the outreach programs. Right when you walk into the room, you feel like you have stepped into a completely different environment. In fact, this is exactly what the staff in charge of these animals is shooting for.

My first thought was, “Does the Museum have any snakes?” Absolutely we do! The Museum houses both venomous and nonvenomous snakes ranging from a rattlesnake to a bald python. One of the newest snake residents at the museum is a rainbow boa. This particular boa is a female, and she is known to the staff as being a bit of a diva — which is her right, considering how pretty she is.

The Museum also has an in-house baby American alligator. The alligators that come through the Museum do not stay here long. The Museum has a foster program through Brazos Bend State Park and houses these alligators until they begin to mature and then they send them back out into their natural habitats.

Even though the snakes and reptiles were the first animals I asked about, they were not the first animals that caught my eye: that would be two green-cheeked conures. These two little guys are very beautiful to look at and they are also very charismatic. But be careful! These little guys draw you in with their charm and pretty feathers and then reward you with a little bite on the finger. They are a good example of the look-but-don’t-touch rule.

However, they are not the only birds that call the museum home. There are also two ring-necked doves. These love to be petted and held and will even make little laughing sounds for visitors.

Moving away from scales and feathers, let’s talk about the furry friends here at the museum. There are several adorable mammals here that can make you smile. There is a short-tailed opossum, two ferrets, and two degus, in addition to a sweet black rabbit.

The degus were my personal favorites. Degus are rodents, but they are more closely related to chinchillas and guinea pigs than they are to rats and mice. These two will greet you at the door of their cage begging for treats and will even crawl out onto your hand for some petting and loving. Then when they have had enough attention, they are happy climbing onto their exercise wheel for a little cardio.

In contrast to that were the two ferrets on the other side of the room. Both of these laid-back fellows were fast asleep in either a hammock or the corner of their cage.

All of these animals were very interesting, but I am one who picks favorites. My favorite member of the live animal collection at the museum is the axolotl.

I know, you’re thinking, “What on earth is that?!”

An axolotl is a salamander that is closely related to the tiger salamander (which you can also find at the Museum). What is so interesting about the axolotl is that it resembles a tadpole more than it does a full grown salamander.

Even though you may not have heard of an axolotl, you might already have an idea of what it looks like. Toothless, the black dragon from the movie How to Train Your Dragon, was modeled after an axolotl! If you look below, you can see the striking resemblance:

Meet our Axolotl!

React + Interact: What do Ozzy Osbourne and gingers have in common? Plus big bugs, false memories and more!

The Museum is always interested in educating its fans, whether that’s within our exhibition halls or online. If your daily social media experience doesn’t include the Houston Museum of Natural Science, you might be missing out on news that can feed your noggin.

Photo courtesy of melontao via Instagram

For example, this week one visitor was so inspired by our new Hall of Paleontology that she took it upon herself to design a unique dino necklace. Using souvenirs from our Museum Store and a little creative inspiration, she was able to combine her love of dinosaurs (especially T. rex) with her love of jewelry.

Courtesy Glamourbones
Photo courtesy of Glamourbones’ Dino DIY

Have you ever wondered why the moon looks so much larger right at the horizon than it does high in the night sky? Well, you aren’t alone, and there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. You can also craft a quick and easy way to identify the phases of the moon using ordinary items found in most people’s homes.

Bringing it back down to earth, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to create their own Neuralyzer (the tool used by the Men in Black to erase memories). They were able to create a false memory in the mind of a mouse! Don’t worry, the mouse wasn’t harmed. And although it’s unlikely that he imagined he was once an A-List movie mouse that starred in Stuart Little, his false memory was still pretty fascinating.

Speaking of critters prone to delusions, the greenhouse here at the museum will be raising one of the largest moths in the world! Check out the Atlas Moth caterpillar and see for yourself whether it deserves its title.

Atlas Moth

In other noteworthy happenings, the Museum is currently hosting the Nautilus Live, which is using remotely-operated vehicles to search the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The research team has been discovering some pretty fascinating things, including an underwater rainforest. A Bald Cypress forest that had been preserved for almost 50,000 years has recently been uncovered — in part thanks to hurricane Katrina — and is just waiting to teach the world about its history.

Did you know that gingers owe their distinct hair color to a mutation in northern Europe from thousands of years ago? It’s true, and redheads might be going extinct!

And speaking of mutants (sorry my fair friends; it’s accurate), it was recently discovered that Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant! He won’t be making the cast of X-Men any time soon, but he does have some very interesting genes that scientists believe is the reason he has survived all of his, erm, medicinal recreation.

courtesy gawker media

If you found any of these stories interesting, then make sure that you follow the Houston Museum of Natural Science on all of our social media channels so you don’t miss a beat!

React + Interact: From crunchy crickets to partying with a prince, science gets social

Royalty and cracking codes and castaways, oh my! It might sound like a plot summary of a new hit novel, but it’s actually a few of the highlights that our online followers liked and shared this week. From a fancy dinner with Prince Charles to edible insects to the difference between Dimetrodons and Uma Thurman, it was just another week in social media land for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

It was an important week for NASA as Apollo 11 celebrated its 44th Anniversary of making the U.S. the first country to explore the Moon. Not only did they celebrate winning the Space Race, but they also helped build up a little boy’s dream of someday going to Mars. A 7-year-old boy named Dexter wrote NASA a heartfelt letter expressing his desire to go to Mars. NASA didn’t just answer him; they also sent him a ton of “cool space swag” as well as pictures of the Red Planet and the Curiosity Rover — once again proving that the United States has the best space program in the world!

In other news, Tom Hanks may not have been the only famous castaway. Several detailed aerial photos show a remote island that Amelia Earhart may have survived on for some time as a castaway. These photos didn’t show any volleyballs with faces hanging around, but there was still enough evidence to show that the famous flyer may have lived in island isolation for a short while.

Many social media followers of the Museum enjoyed a post showing just how delicious and nutritious crickets can be. In case you don’t follow us on Instagram, you too can view this young lady enjoy her crunchy cricket snack.

instagram.com/hmns

One of our many awesome Instagram snaps

Kate Middleton’s baby bump may have been drawing most of the news recently, but Houstonians should be paying particular attention to another British Royal: the Prince himself, as Prince Charles recently hosted a black-tie-dinner for a handful Museum patrons. The focus of this soiree was to discuss a partnership between the museum and the Hereford Cathedral, which currently houses one of the four 1217 Magna Cartas. The patrons were lucky enough to view the Magna Carta and the King’s Writ as well as enjoy a lovely dinner with the charming Prince.

image courtesy of CultureMap Houston

Read the whole story at CultureMap Houston

On an historical note, HMNS also blogged about cracking the code of the Rosetta Stone. It explains how the month of July in 1799 turned out to be the most important month in the history of understanding Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. It explains how the stone was discovered and used to bridge the gap between understanding ancient Greek and understanding ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Pushing even further back in history to the age of the dinosaurs, Dr. Bob Bakker blogged about some fabulous Dimetrodons and some of their interesting anatomy. He even uses the beautiful Uma Thurman to further his explanation for a great read about one of our in-house exhibits. Once you read up on the Dimetrodon, make sure you come and enjoy it in person in our new paleo hall, curated by the wonderful Dr. Bakker himself.

breastplate

Although Dimetrodons have armored chests, they don’t look quite like this illustration by Bakker

These were just a few of the many stories that our social media followers enjoyed this week. If you missed any of it, make sure that you follow the Houston Museum of Natural Science on all of our social media channels. We are posting fabulous new information every day — and sharing yours, too!

Plunge 4,000 feet deep from your seat at Nautilus Live this week — it’s shipwreck time

Beginning last Wednesday, July 17 through this Thursday, July 25, the Nautilus and her two ROVs, Hercules and Argus, will be exploring a shipwreck located in the Gulf of Mexico. The wreckage site was discovered by Shell Oil while scanning a lease location. Because the ship has not yet been identified, it is being called the “Monterrey Shipwreck,” after Shell’s name for their proposed project.

The site will be the deepest shipwreck to be systematically investigated in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its depth, the wreckage cannot be explored through usual means (through the use of SCUBA teams).

That is where Hercules and Argus come in. A team of scientists will be able to safely view and analyze the site from the Nautilus as it bobs more than 4,000 feet above the actual wreckage.

Nautilus Live

This particular shipwreck is referred to as “time capsule” wreckage. The ship is suggested to be extremely well preserved due to how deep it is and the lack of nearby oil and gas infrastructure. Using sonar data, the site appears to be tightly contained and an outline of a hull that is 84 feet long and 26 feet wide can be seen.

The goal of this project is to thoroughly map and document the wreck site while also recovering artifacts for analysis and exhibition. The team on the Nautilus is hoping to answer several questions about the wreckage: What is it? Whose ship was it? Why was it out on those particular waters? How was it lost? What caused it to sink? All of these answers may rewrite history and clarify forgotten events in the history of the Gulf of Mexico.

As exciting as studying a newly discovered ship wreck might be, the adventures of the Nautilus as well as Hercules and Argus don’t stop there. Over the next several months, the Nautilus will be studying several fascinating underwater sites. This includes visiting the deepest point in the Caribbean and studying an underwater mountain. The research team will also work off the coast of Puerto Rico and analyze the site of a 7.2 underwater earthquake that caused a tsunami!

They will also be studying underwater volcanos, including Kick’ em Jenny, the most active and dangerous underwater volcano in the Caribbean Sea. Experience these findings with the team from the Nautilus live in the Burke Baker Planetarium here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Be transported to the ocean floor each day at 1 and 3 p.m. via telepresence technology and rove the sea bottom, making discoveries and interacting live with the Nautilus research team. For more information on this exclusive partnership and to purchase tickets online, click here.