Girl Scouts earn badges for science at HMNS

by James Talmage, Scout Programs

After more than a year of hard work, Girl Scouts Heidi Tamm, Zoe Kass, Meredith Lytle and her sister Angela Lytle completed the entire Scouts@HMNS Careers in Science instructional series, earning each scout a total of seven badges.

Careers in Science is the Scouts@HMNS series of classes for Girl Scouts that aims to introduce girls to different scientific fields, lets them meet women working in those fields, and shows them what it’s like to work at the museum. There are seven different classes: Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Fossil Dig, Geology, and Paleontology. As the Fossil Dig class finished up March 7, those four girls added their seventh and final Careers in Science patch to their vests.

Girl Scouts accept badges for completing the Careers in Science series of classes at HMNS. Pictured from left to right are Angela Lyle, Meredith Lyle, James Talmage, Heidi Tamm, and Zoe Kass.

Girl Scouts accept badges for completing the Careers in Science series of classes at HMNS. Pictured from left to right are Angela Lytle, Meredith Lytle, James Talmage, Heidi Tamm, and Zoe Kass.

Heidi Tamm and Zoe Kass have been taking the classes together since the summer of 2013.

“They were really into earning all the patches and completing the whole series of classes.” said Julia Tamm, Heidi’s mother.

Heidi, whose favorite class was Archeology, said, “I liked science before the classes, but now I understand about the careers and what people actually do.”

Zoe kept taking the classes because of the fun activities and being able to see the museum in more detail. Her favorite class was Paleontology, which focuses on the Museum’s Morian Hall of Paleontology. 

Meredith and Angela, Girl Scout Cadette and Senior, respectively, have also taken all the classes together. Angela explained that she learned “there are lots of careers in science available and there are lots of women that work in science, especially at the Museum.”

Meredith encouraged other girls to try out the classes, even if they aren’t interested in science.

“You may decide you like it, or you’ll just learn something new,” she said.

The sisters agree that the Girl Scouts organization is moving more toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers, and that it’s not a boy thing to go into science. Anyone can do it, especially Girl Scouts.

For more information on the Careers in Science series, visit and start collecting your patches today!

Get your wings with Your Community and Heritage, a new Eagle-required badge available this summer!

After the rip-roaring success of our Spring Break series, we’re offering Summer Scouts a new Eagle-required badge as one half of a week-long class: Your Community and Heritage. In just one five-day course, Scouts will have the opportunity to earn both the Citizenship in the Community badge and the American Heritage badge.

Citizenship in the Community explores how the local community works to provide services for its residents. Participants will talk to a government representative to learn how city services are provided, learn about community organizations and ride the light rail downtown and visit a court session.

In earning the American Heritage Badge, Scouts will research their family’s history and their community and explore how our Nation’s past has led to its present.

Boy Scouts - Chemistry Merit BadgeIt’s going to be a big summer at HMNS for Scouts: Scouts can earn up to four Eagle-required badges at HMNS Main and up to three at HMNS at Sugar Land, in addition to an array of other badges.

But it’s not all Boy Scout-centric! We’ve also got Webelos Super Science for the younger set and a brand new summer summer edition or Careers in Science for the Girl Scouts.

To learn more, view a full schedule and register for classes, click here!

Weird (Careers in) Science: Scientific Illustrator Julius Csotonyi finds inspiration in his own backyard

It’s time for another installment of Weird (Careers in) Science!

Today, we’d like to introduce you to a life-long artist who found a way to pair his interest in art with a fascination with all things scientific. How? Let’s find out.

Meet Julius T. Csotonyi. With degrees in biology, microbiology and ecology, Csotonyi found his way back to his love of visual art when he began using his scientific background to create commercial illustrations. Little by little, through word of mouth and his work for various institutions (including Alberta, Canada’s Royal Tyrell Museum), Csotonyi found himself with an unexpected career.

Using personal photographs of landscapes from around the globe, his own imagination and a dash of ingenuity, Csotonyi creates life-like reenactments of prehistoric scenes, rife with drama and vividly executed.

Where most artists have the luxury of live models, Csotonyi has to rely on scientific evidence to stay true to forms that are long-extinct. And although much of his process involves in-depth consultations with paleontologists to ensure accuracy, Csotonyi looks to the modern world for inspiration.

One spot of inspiration can be found in the artist’s dog, a Corgi/Jack Russell mix called Wiki. Using digital layering, Csotonyi has used Wiki’s fur as the basis for the fur of large mammals he draws, and Wiki’s postures as inspiration, too!

wiki + dide
Julius’ mural of Didelphodon was inspired, in part, by the posture of his dog Wiki. A Didelphodon skeleton in the hall is mounted in the same pose.

“Wiki was instrumental as a reference source for fur texture and posture in my creation of the image of Tazzie the Didelphodon for the terrestrial Cretaceous mural,” Csotonyi says. Wiki helped Csotonyi capture the begging pose of Tazzie, whose skeleton is mounted in a similar upright posture, holding a clam. “It’s just a happy coincidence that Wiki seems to think she’s a 70-plus million-year-old mammalian mollusk terror!”

Julius poses in front of his favorite mural in the hall — a Dimetrodon locked in battle. Fifteen of Julius’ creations are on display at our new Hall of Paleontology.

Csotonyi creates his images digitally using both traditional techniques and digital compositing, which makes it easy to make revisions in the event of new scientific evidence.

“There’s a lot less guesswork nowadays,” Csotonyi says. “Muscle placement, even skin textures are known. We have more complete skeletons to work with and can even infer color.”

Our own mummified Triceratops, Lane, is a perfect example of the type of specimen that makes Csotonyi’s job a lot easier. Before Lane’s discovery, there were no Triceratops skin impressions available to give artists an accurate picture of scale formation. Now Lane’s skin has proven that Triceratops had much larger scales than other dinosaurs, and the quality of the specimen means artists can even see specialty structures like knobs and quills.

“The key is to illustrate things as realistically as possible, applying as much known science as possible,” says Csotonyi. “It’s more about accuracy than expression.”

To see more of Csotonyi’s creations, visit the new Hall of Paleontology today!

Weird (Careers in) Science: Meet Keith Strasser — scientific sculptor extraordinaire

Here at Beyond Bones, we’re launching a new segment to spotlight the sort of science careers you might not think to think of. Most people know what a curator does, but what about careers in cast-making, the transport of artifacts or scientifically accurate sculpture?

We’ll introduce you to at least one of those professionals today. Meet Keith Strasser, New York-based scientific sculptor and creator of the dazzling Dimetrodon replica that’s soon to be on display in our new Hall of Paleontology.

dimetrodon replica
Pretty impressive, no?

How does one become a designer of dinosaur sculptures?

Strasser started his career building and repairing musical instruments, and soon concluded that wood is not the most forgiving of mediums; if you make a mistake, you’re pretty much toast.

Eager to try out a more flexible material, Strasser tried his hand sculpting in clay and submitted the result to a contest in Boston. His first go — a figure of a dragon — won first place, and Strasser hasn’t looked back.

Borrowing medical anatomy books from his chiropractor brother, Strasser set to work learning how muscles and bones interact. Before long, he was creating scientific sculptures for a company that had seen his work at the contest. One of the very first maquettes Strasser made was for a Dimetrodon — the same maquette was used for the Dimetrodon on display in the new Hall of Paleontology!

“That guy’s been my meal ticket for 15, 20 years!” Strasser says.

He’s since worked for a number of museums, theme parks and other commissioners on scientific sculptures of all sizes, from a 30-foot Parasaurolophus to 3-foot lady bugs.

Strasser begins with a wire form and then fleshes it out with clay, although the materials he uses depend heavily on the proposed size of the specimen he’s creating. Its outer layer can be cast in any number of materials; some are cast in resin, others in plastic. “There are many ways to top a mountain,” Strasser explains.

He says one of the best things about his job is the artistic license he gets to take when it comes to imagining the skin and coloring of his creatures. Take a look at the Dimetrodon replica in our paleontology hall. How do you envision him?