About Vincent

Vincent is the Copywriter at HMNS.

STEM & GEMS: Stephanie Thompson Swims With Sharks

Editor’s Note: As part of our annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) program, we conduct interviews with women who have pursued careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. This week, we’re featuring Stephanie Thompson, Animal Care Technician at HMNS

Make sure you mark your calendars for this year’s GEMS event, February 21, 2015!

GEMS blog October

Stephanie Thompson with a Great White Shark model in HMNS’ SHARK! Touch Tank Experience

HMNS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thompson: 
I have always wanted to become a marine biologist and work with sharks. I got my chance to really sink into marine biology when I started working with Texas A&M Galveston in its efforts to help in the conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2011. I got the job of Animal Care Technician at HMNS in 2014 then graduated with my degree in Marine Biology.  Now I finally have my opportunity to work with sharks.

HMNS: How old were you when you first become interested in science?
Thompson: I was five years old when I realized I wanted to be a biologist.

HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
Thompson: My parents took me to a beach in NC. We went to a pier and someone caught a shark and let me pet it. Since then I have always wanted to work with sharks and the ocean!

HMNS: What was your favorite project when you were in school?
Thompson: My favorite project in school was my fish collection project in ichthyology. I had to go out to various lakes and beaches in the eastern part of Texas and collect various species of fish throughout the semester. At one point I got to go out into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for my collection and was accompanied by a pod of dolphins.

HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science/technology/engineering/math?
Thompson: I take care of the live animals at HMNS. This means I feed them, clean their homes, and care for them if they are sick.

HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Thompson: The best part of my job is taking care of the sharks[in SHARK! The Touch Tank Experience]! It’s a dream come true.

HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Thompson: In my spare time I like to paint, work on projects in my mom’s wood shop, and spend time with family and friends!

HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career? 
Thompson: Never give up on dreams! It may be a long and difficult road but if it is something you really want to do then don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.

HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS)?
Thompson: It is important because the more girls who have access to these kinds of events means that it is likelier that these girls will be interested these fields in the future. There is not enough women in these industries right now, meaning that it is dominated by men. If more women became engineers, biologists, or physicists then the workforce would have different perspectives. With more women in these fields we could have better technologies and make more discoveries about the world around us!

GEMS is always looking for organizations to share enthusiasm about science and math with young students. If you are part of an organization that would like to participate in GEMS, applications are available here!

 

 

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:

 

HMNS in the Classroom: Amazing arthropods model for middle schoolers

Editor’s Note: This post was written by HMNS Outreach Presenter Sahil Patel.

Those expecting a typical runway show were in for a surprise; the models all had at least six legs, nobody was showing off the latest fall collection, and the paparazzi consisted of a group of art students at Johnston Middle School.

A student concentrates while sketching one of the eight legs on Peanut, the Costa Rican Curly Hair Tarantula. Peanut was very cooperative and stood still the whole day for the classes.

A student concentrates while sketching one of the eight legs on Peanut, the Costa Rican Curly Hair Tarantula. Peanut was very cooperative and stood still the whole day for the classes.

HMNS’ LyondellBasell Bugs On Wheels traveled to Christina Gutierrez Gonzalez’s art class October 1-2 to model for a group of talented middle school artists. Exotic specimens from the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s insect zoo spent the days playing muse as the students learned about the arthropods and practiced their sketching.

A student smiles while observing a Giant African Millipede attempt to escape its plexiglass enclosure. While it is just a little too small to get out right now, this millipede is expected to grow up to one foot long.

A student smiles while observing a Giant African Millipede attempt to escape its plexiglass enclosure. While it is just a little too small to get out right now, this millipede is expected to grow up to one foot long.

In February 2013, Gonzalez booked the TOTAL Wildlife On Wheels program for the same purpose, and after the presentation yielded fun and fantastic artwork, she decided to try it again, this time with bugs.

A student sketches a Giant Prickly Stick, who is just trying to blend in with his stick. This species of walking stick will curl its abdomen and mimic a scorpion if threatened.

A student sketches a Giant Prickly Stick, who is just trying to blend in with his stick. This species of walking stick will curl its abdomen and mimic a scorpion if threatened.

Many students got the chance to draw multiple of the five live and five once-living arthropods present.

HMNS Bugs on Wheels

A student colors in the wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly. While the butterfly’s upper wings are a brilliant, bright blue, the undersides are a darker brown with eye spots.

While the bugs lounged around, the students were hard at work, carefully drawing outlines in their sketchbooks and filling in gaps with pencils.

Two students draw the outline of Stewart, the Giant Long-Legged Katydid. This species of katydid may be the largest and loudest in the world, but they are herbivorous and very gentle; Stewart was a very good model!

Two students draw the outline of Stewart, the Giant Long-Legged Katydid. This species of katydid may be the largest and loudest in the world, but they are herbivorous and very gentle; Stewart was a very good model!

The event was a hit once again. One young man stopped the HMNS presenters as they left for the day and gave them a thumbs up, saying, “Thanks for the awesome sixth period!”

A student colors in the legs of Peanut with alternate bands of black and yellow. Peanut, like all arachnids, has eight legs and two main body segments.

A student colors in the legs of Peanut with alternate bands of black and yellow. Peanut, like all arachnids, has eight legs and two main body segments.

Bugs On Wheels and our other Outreach programs, such as TOTAL Wildlife On Wheels, ConocoPhillips Science On Stage, and Chevron Earth Science On Wheels, bring the wonders of the Houston Museum of Natural Science to you through hands-on and interactive presentations. For further information on these programs and more, visit our HMNS Outreach website or send us an email at outreach@hmns.org!

A student shows off his finished rendition of an Atlas Beetle behind the specimen itself. While its horns look scary, these beetles are not harmful to humans and are often kept as pets.

A student shows off his finished rendition of an Atlas Beetle behind the specimen itself. While its horns look scary, these beetles are not harmful to humans and are often kept as pets.

For more information on HMNS’ outreach programs, click here.

For more information on LyondellBasell Bugs on Wheels, click here.

About the author of this post:
Sahil has worked for HMNS in some capacity each summer since 2007 with the Moran Ecoteen Program and Xplorations Summer Camps. He quite literally grew up at the Museum; Sahil and his mom made biweekly trips at lunchtime until he started school at age 5, and he was a regular camper in Xplorations from ages 6-13. In 2014, he was hired full-time as Outreach Presenter, a job where his friends think he spends all day playing with alligators, tarantulas, and dinosaur fossils. He doesn’t like to contradict them.

We’re gonna scare your pants off: Psycho and The Exorcist showing this month at HMNS

Take Two gets spooky this October with classic horror flicks showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre

We’re bringing “Hitch-y” Back: Psycho showing October 10
Come scream at Hitchcock’s most iconic film, Psycho, showing Friday October 10 at 7:00 p.m.

Obsessed with the Possessed: The Exorcist showing October 24
Relive the nightmarish film The Exorcist once again on the Giant Screen Friday October 24 at 7:00 p.m.

Want to know more about why we feel fear, what happens to the body when we’re afraid and we love horror movies? Check out the video below to learn about the chemistry of fear! Then don’t forget to come out for Psycho 10/10 and The Exorcist 10/24 at HMNS!

And for everyone still making their Halloween plans:

Houston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS October 31! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside.

Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

And for everyone who identified with this meme:

 

We spotted this today:

Sweet dreams.