Citizen Science Saves the Day!

Just recently, our Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Dr. Dan Brooks, co-presented a poster at the North American Ornithological Congress in Washington, DC about an invasive species of goose present in the United States. In true HMNS fashion, the study enlisted the help of ordinary people, who happen to have a passion for Biology. They call it “citizen science” when lay persons help professional researchers in their studies. The study we’re covering was of the ecology, behavior and reproduction of invasive Egyptian geese (Alpochen aegyptiacus).

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kelly

Egyptian geese are native to Africa, but are invasive throughout Europe, and parts of North America. One of the purposes of the study was to help demonstrate the importance of continuing to research and monitor the effects populations of these geese are having here in the U.S.

The potential ecological and economic effects suggested by the study include aggression toward native species, hybridization, eutrophication (which is a form of pollution caused by an excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water), agricultural damage and aircraft strikes.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kelly

 

A questionnaire was designed and distributed via internet list-servs, birdwatching festivals, birdwatching clubs, and word of mouth. Citizen scientists completed and returned Information on the questionnaire that was often supported by photographic evidence and other forms of proof.

The results showed that Egyptian geese do not migrate vast expanses, they mainly moved short distances, if they even changed their location. Antagonistic behavior toward native species was not common, however there was one confirmed report of hybridization with a duck.

 

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Photo courtesy of Susan Young

 

The study determined that these geese were generalist in their diet, but did have a high reliance on humans. Of course, since humans are everywhere, this reliance is more of a boon to them than anything else. The study also found that goslings attain 50% of their adult size after the first month, are nearly full grown after 2 months, and disperse from their natal site at a little more than two months of age. A relatively quick growth spurt!

This may sound like simple observations to some, but the importance here lies in formally observing a very large number (sample size) of these animals in order to assess patterns and trends. Many people may notice that the geese at the local pond don’t go anywhere in the winter, but they do not realize the number of ponds inhabited by these geese, or the amount of damage to that can happen when a group of these birds takes up permanent residence.

With research like this, made possible by citizen science, institutions like HMNS can help encourage better management of our environment.

For more information related to this subject, be sure to check out our Hall of Texas Wildlife, which has exhibits, on invasive species, as well as endangered and rare species of animals found in Texas.

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HMNS Weekly Happenings:

 

 

Mummies are coming!

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Our new special exhibit, Mummies of the World, opens Friday, September 23 for members and noon on Saturday, September 24 for the public!

GET TICKETS HERE

Described as “fascinating, intriguing, and inspiring,” by NBC, “absolutely extraordinary,” by NPR and “a must see,” by FOX TV, Mummies of the World will instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in each and every visitor.

Come face to face with the largest exhibition of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. The exhibit provides a window into the lives of ancient people from every region of the world including Europe, South America and Ancient Egypt, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations. With over 1.5 million nationwide visitors experiencing Mummies of the World to date, the display at The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the regional premiere!

Embark on a journey into the extraordinary world of mummies and mummification. Through modern science, engaging interactive and multi-media exhibits featuring 3-D animation, explore how mummies are created, where they come from and who they were. Using state-of-the-art scientific methodology, discover how modern science enables researchers to study mummies through innovative and non-invasive ways, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations.

What secrets do mummies hold about the past? What clues do they bring us for the future? A journey awaits as we unravel their mysteries.

 

 

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Lecture – Maya Ritual Secrets Revealed by Tomás Gallareta

One can find images of ritual and human sacrifice at many Maya sites. Among these are the Nunnery Quadrangle at Uxmal, the ballcourt, Castillo, Sacred Cenote and the Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá. These depictions shed light on ancient Maya customs surrounding royal succession, and decisions to go to war. Dr. Tomás Gallareta Negrón will explain how Maya ritual is not dead, as shamanism still being practiced today.

This program is co-sponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support from the Mexican Consulate General of Houston and BBVA Compass.

September 20, at 6:30pm

Tickets $18, Members $12.

 

Coming Soon!

 

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Lecture – The Gettysburg Event by Brian Matthew Jordan and Ed W. Clark

Recognized as having the most casualties of any other engagement, the Battle of Gettysburg is noted as the turning point of Civil War in 1863. Traditional Civil War histories have concluded in 1865, now Dr. Brian Jordan has mined previously untapped archives—soldiers’ anguished letters and diaries, and gruesome medical reports—to trace a Union regiment’s shocking transition from the battlefield to the home front.

Instead of being welcomed home as heroes, these veterans—tending rotting wounds, battling alcoholism, campaigning for paltry pensions—tragically realized that they stood as unwelcome reminders to a new America eager to heal, forget and embrace the freewheeling bounty of the Gilded Age.

Also speaking this evening will be Ed W. Clark, Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, who will address the current state of affairs at Gettysburg. A book signing of Dr. Jordan’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War” will follow the lecture.

This program is co-sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation.

September 27, at 6:30 pm

Tickets $18, Members $1

 

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Cultural Feast – Oktoberfest: The History and Science of Beer
In 1810, King Ludwig I of Bavaria proclaimed that the last sixteen days of September, ending with the first full weekend in October, should be set aside for feasting and beer drinking. To commemorate this tradition, join HMNS at St. Arnold Brewing Co. for the history and science of beer making. Tour St. Arnold³ production facility with founder Brock Wagner and special guest Scott Birdwell of DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer. Drink your fill of brew and enjoy Bavarian pretzels and sausage.

Hosted at St. Arnold Brewing Company. 21 and up only.

Tickets $59, Members $49

Advance ticket purchase is required by September 25. No refunds will be made 72 hours before the event, however tickets can be transferred to another individual. Please notify webmaster@hmns.org with your name, transaction number, and name of the guests using your tickets.

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Art and the Animal: The Society of Animal Artists 56th Annual Members Exhibition at HMNS

Matthew Hillier – “Snowy In The Shallows”

Matthew Hillier – “Snowy In The Shallows”

Opening soon at HMNS –  Art and the Animal: The Society of Animal Artists 56th Annual Members Exhibition

September 23, 2016 – January 1, 2017

The Society of Animal Artists (SAA), founded in 1960, is devoted to promoting excellence in the artistic portrayal of the creatures sharing our planet, and to the education of the public through art exhibitions, informative seminars, lectures and teaching demonstrations.

Barn owl by Simon Gudgeon, Life size, bronze and mild steel, limited edition of 12

Barn owl by Simon Gudgeon, Life size, bronze and mild steel, limited edition of 12

It is the mission of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA) to educate the public on the fact that the genre of animal art is no different than the various art forms which focus on the human figure, landscape, still life, etc. All living creatures are acceptable as subject matter: birds, mammals, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, insects, etc. – both wild and domestic.

Patricia Pepin – “Quietude”

Patricia Pepin – “Quietude”

The Society simply requires that they be depicted correctly, utilizing fine art techniques. All fine art mediums are acceptable: acrylics, oils, watercolor (both opaque and transparent), graphite, pen and ink, scratchboard, ceramic, wood, stone, bronze, etc.

Carrie Cook – “On the Inside Looking Out”

Carrie Cook – “On the Inside Looking Out”

Admission to this exhibit is included with entrance to the permanent exhibit halls.

 

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Density and Alchohol

Density is an important concept to understand when you are trying to figure out if something will float or sink, but it can also affect the gas in our atmosphere and even liquids in mixed drinks!

Layered drinks look very impressive, but it’s really simple science that makes it all possible. The layers are able to float on one another because of specific gravity. Specific gravity is the ratio between the density of a substance and a reference standard. Usually we use water as a standard for liquid, which has a specific gravity of 1.00. If oil has a specific gravity of 0.914 and we add it to water, it will float on the water because its specific gravity is less than that of water.

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Photo courtesy of Pete: https://www.flickr.com/photos/comedynose/5297942291/in/photolist-ci5BKj-95akEB-CLDYxA-CTsQVA-xmijTt

The same concept can be applied to mixed drinks. In general, liquids with a higher sugar content like grenadine, liqueurs and brandies have a higher specific gravity, which means that they would sink in water. Liquids with higher alcohol content like vodka, absinthe and Everclear™ tend to have a lower specific gravity, which means they would float on water. In actuality, alcohol and water have the tendency to mix together, but alcohol can float on water if poured very carefully over the back of a spoon onto the water. Bartenders use the concept of density and specific gravity to create layered mixed drinks!

A simple layered drink to make is a Dark ‘n Stormy. There are only two ingredients, so it’s an easy one for a beginner.

1. Start with an old fashioned glass filled with ice.
2. Pour in about 4 fluid ounces of ginger beer.
3. Carefully pour in about 2 fluid ounces of dark rum. It may be easier to slowly pour it over the back of a spoon.
4. Done!
It is easier to make layered drinks containing alcohol because alcohol has a lower specific gravity than most liquids. If you are interested in non-alcoholic layered drink, consider making this fruity beverage!
1. Choose any glass you’d like. The narrower the better because you can see the layers better.
2. Start with a splash (or 2) of grenadine at the bottom.
3. Mix 1 part orange juice and 1 part pineapple juice together in a separate glass.
4. Carefully pour the orange-pineapple juice mixture over the back of a spoon onto the grenadine.
5. Then, enjoy!

These drinks look great without a lot of work. Just science! To see density in action, visit OKRA Charity Saloon on Cocktail Chemistry Mondays (September 19th) and vote for HMNS while you are there!

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