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Newsletter of the Virginia Museum of Natural History


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From the Director Exhibit spotlight Curators’ Corner Upcoming Events

Celebrate Earth Week April 15 – 23

Spring 2011

Living off the Land opening June 4 with family festival The Living off the Land exhibit, to be open at VMNH from June 4, 2011 to January 14, 2012, will highlight the many ways humans depend on nature for a wealth of resources, focusing on economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits. The exhibit will include information about Virginia wildlife, modern and ancient hunting and fishing methods, and the evolution of the rifle. The museum will celebrate the opening day of the exhibit with the Living off the Land family festival on Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A wide variety of exhibitors and participating organizations will present interactive programs, informative displays, and fun activities for visitors of all ages. Wilderness-Adventure will be at the festival offering several programs throughout the day, including “Fire by

Friction” and “Wilderness Medics,” along with samples of backcountry foods. Kudzu Kabin Designs, with artist Nancy Basket of Walhalla, SC, will be on hand to showcase kudzu art cards and kudzu baskets. Kudzu Kabin Designs also offers teacher workshops, and more. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will also be at the festival presenting a variety of learning opportunities. Rhythms Round the World of Lynchburg will be at the festival showcasing handmade instruments made from natural materials. For information about becoming a sponsor of the Living off the Land exhibit or opening day festival, please call 276-634-4164 or e-mail Sponsored by

Don’t miss the Animal Secrets, and Documenting Diversity exhibits now open See the Exhibit Spotlight on page 4.


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Director’s Message Natural history museums bring together an array of disciplines spanning the sciences and education. They are fueled by benefits that only collections representing our natural resources and heritage can provide. More than that, natural history museums often galvanize other institutions allowing us to work towards similar goals and celebrate a diverse planet. Dr. Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian will be our keynote speaker at the 24th Annual Jefferson Awards and will speak of his work applying modern CSI techniques to 17th century digs. We are partnering with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and other organizations for Living off the Land, opening June 4. We are also happy to announce that the VMNH Board of Trustees has granted Dr. Noel Boaz, the museum’s founder and first executive director, senior fellow status. These relationships are facilitated through our diverse staff, and the draw of the museum’s natural history collection of over 10 million specimens. We are very proud of the work done here at the museum, including the work we do in schools and at field sites throughout the Commonwealth. Partnering with numerous organizations to provide quality programs and exhibits has made our progress more meaningful, and has helped advance our science disciplines with unique discoveries. The museum staff also partners with you, as a visitor, member, and donor. Without you, our celebration of planet Earth and its natural treasures would never be realized! I’m looking forward to your next visit. Sincerely, Joe B. Keiper, Ph.D., Executive Director

Governor McDonnell appoints trustees Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced five appointments to the VMNH Board of Trustees. In total, the board consists of 23 appointees. Dr. Mark A. Crabtree of Martinsville was appointed for a term expiring June 30, 2015. Crabtree is a dentist in Martinsville. Lee Lester of Martinsville was appointed for a term ending June 30, 2015. Lester serves as a community activist. Monica T. Monday of Martinsville was appointed for a term that will end June 30, 2014. Monday serves as an attorney with Gentry, Locke, Rackes & Moore, LLP. Janet Scheid of Vinton was appointed for a term that will expire June, 30, 2015. Scheid serves as Greenway Planner for Roanoke County. Stephen D. Walker of Charlotte Courthouse was appointed for a term ending June 30, 2015. Walker is a professor of history at Southside Virginia Community College. As the governing body of the museum, the Board is responsible for the formation and maintenance of the general policies, standards and operational continuity of the museum. Other members of the board are Chairman C. Novel Martin, III, of Roanoke; Vice-Chairman Sammy Redd, of Martinsville; Treasurer James W. Severt, II, of Washington, D.C.; Secretary Melissa Neff Gould, of Richmond; Pamela A. Armstrong of Martinsville; Dr. LeAnn S. Binger of Petersburg; Christina S. Draper of Richmond; Nancy R. Fitzgerald of Huddleston; Paul Fleisher of Richmond; Dr. Oliver S. Flint, Jr. of Alexandria; Thomas C. Honer of Roanoke; Conover Hunt of Hampton; Dr. Mervyn R. King of Martinsville; Arlene Milner of Keysville; Dr. J. James Murray, Jr. of Charlottesville; Kimble Reynolds, Jr. of Martinsville; Dr. Philip M. Sprinkle of Martinsville; Lisa Lyle Wu of Arlington.

Jefferson Awards to be held April 8 A world-renowned forensic anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution will serve as keynote speaker at the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation’s 24th annual Thomas Jefferson Awards dinner and ceremony to be held on April 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the museum. Dr. Douglas Owsley, division head for Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, will serve as keynote speaker. The Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Thomas Jefferson Awards honor Virginia businesses, groups and individuals for their contributions to and support for natural science and natural science education. Tickets to the dinner and ceremony are $25 per person. Jefferson Awards attendees can enjoy networking at the event from 5:30 to 6 p.m., with the awards ceremony and dinner to take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Visitors will then have the opportunity to visit with Keynote Speaker Dr. Doug Owsley and museum scientists from 7:30 to 8 p.m. The VMNH curators will have information stations set up for attendees with selected scientific specimens from the VMNH collections highlighted. The VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards are sponsored by Missy Neff Gould, Dr. Richard Hoffman, Drs. Tom and Denise Unterbrink, the Radford University Forensic Science Institute, Patrick Henry Community College, Ferrum College, New college Institute, the Radford University College of Science and Technology, and Sammy Redd & Associates Real Estate Management.

Board of Trustees appointments Noel T. Boaz, Ph.D., M.D., of the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine, was named a senior fellow of the museum. DorothyBelle Poli, Ph.D., of Roanoke College, was named a research associate of the museum. Eliza Winston, B.A., was named an affiliated researcher of the museum.

VMNH • Virginia, Naturally


The museum’s Dog Days of Winter family festival was held on January 22 in conjunction with the opening of the special exhibit Animal Secrets, now open through May 7. Festival attendees learned about the many unique and important responsibilities canines serve in people’s day-to-day lives. Visitors experienced a gray wolf from the museum’s collections on display, with information about the evolution of dogs. Participating organizations included Saint Francis Service Dogs, the Martinsville City Police Department’s K-9 unit, and the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA. Additionally, Dr. Joe May of the King’s Mountain Animal Clinic in Martinsville was on hand to educate visitors on the micro-chipping process that can be used to track dogs and keep them safe.

Deep Earth Academy programs held February 25–26 The museum hosted a lecture by Oceanographer Dr. James Cowen titled “Life Deep Beneath the Ocean: The Most Remote Biosphere on Earth” on Friday, February 25 at VMNH. The museum was awarded the Distinguished Lecture Series program and accompanying educational programs from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Around 50 visitors attended. The Distinguished Lecture was offered for free with support from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. The Consortium for Ocean Leadership is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that represents 95 of the leading public and private ocean research education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education and sound ocean policy. The organization also manages ocean research and education programs in areas of scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.

In addition to Dr. Cowen’s program, the museum hosted school programs and teacher workshops conducted by Ocean Leadership’s educational organization, Deep Earth Academy. The school programs drew around 31 middle school students and 44 high school students with their teachers on Friday, February 25. In these programs,

students learned about the JOIDES Resolution and how the sediments from the deep sea help us understand Earth’s history

and future. Students made observations of cores, viewed microfossils, and learned more about the microbial world hidden deep in the ocean floor. A guest appearance by Dr. Cowen gave students an opportunity to ask what it is like to be a scientist and to sail on the ship. The museum also offered interactive teacher workshops conducted by Deep Earth Academy on Saturday, February 26. Teachers learned how they can bring the excitement and adventure of the research done on the JOIDES Resolution to students through hands-on activities based on authentic ocean drilling data, the JOIDES Resolution Web site that follows each expedition through videos, blogs and other social media tools, and free posters, pencils, and loan items that bring the real science to life. At this workshop, teachers also learned how they can get on board the ship as an Educator at Sea, along with having classes talk directly with scientists at sea through video conferencing.


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Exhibit Spotlight Animal Secrets Now Open through May 7, 2011 Special Exhibit Hall What do raccoons eat? How does an eagle care for its young? Where does a chipmunk sleep? In Animal Secrets, children and parents will find the answers to questions like these as they explore the hidden habitats and secret lives of forest animals. Through imaginative role-play and multi-sensory, hands-on activities, families will discover nature from an animal’s point of view as they explore immersive, naturalistic environments, including a stream, a woodland, a meadow, a cave, and a naturalists’ tent. Animal Secrets is designed for children ages 3 to 8 and their families.

Education Programs Museum public education programs are held in the museum’s Suzanne M. Lacy Education Center and in area parks. Programs are $5 per participant (unless otherwise noted). Pre-registration is required one week prior to each program by contacting the museum at 276-634-4185 or Programs are subject to cancellation if minimum numbers are not met.

Presented by:

Documenting Diversity Now Open Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall Biodiversity is the variation of life forms on Earth and within ecosystems. Documenting Biodiversity explores how scientists document and study issues related to Earth’s diversity and shows why such research is important and how it is applied in various disciplines. This exhibit also focuses on the importance of diversity on a global and local scale.

Living off the Land Opening June 4, 2011 to January 14, 2012 Special Exhibit Hall This exhibit, to be developed by VMNH staff, will highlight the many ways in which humans depend on nature for a wealth of resources, as well as economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits. The exhibit will include information about Virginia wildlife, modern and ancient hunting and fishing methods, and the evolution of the rifle. The exhibit will also include examples of Native American and prehistoric tools and pottery. Presented by

VMNH offers children ages 3 to 5 the opportunity to experience natural history first-hand with the Doodle Bugs! program. The hour-long programs include imaginative stories, fun activities, games and crafts that spark creativity and curiosity. Programs are held at 10 a.m. and repeated at 3 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Bubble Science April 27 Get ready to get messy making your own bubbles and bubble blowers out of different materials.

Under the Sea May 25 Dive in and discover sea creatures that call the ocean home.

Summer Adventure Camps Imagine That! June 20 – 24, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., ages 10 – 14 Come and explore the world of Rube Goldberg and simple machines. Campers will use Legos® to discover the importance of simple machines and trade their Legos® for recycled materials to build their own Goldberg-like contraption. Check our Web site for a complete list of 2011 Summer Adventure Camps!

Energy Engineers April 16, ages 12 – 14 Explore different sources of energy, what energy does for us, and create a windmill with Legos®.

Mother Earth Mysteries VMNH Special Saturdays programs make learning fun. Each program explores a different natural history topic through games, crafts, and fun-filled activities. Programs are held from 10 a.m. to noon unless otherwise noted. Fee is $5 and pre-registration is required one week in advance. Off-site program fees must be pre-paid or paid in cash on the day of the event.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum April 2, ages 10 – 12 Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the museum? Bring your curiosity and make interesting discoveries as we explore what lies beyond the exhibits. Explore places visitors never see.

A Night Under the Stars April 2, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m., all ages Smith River Sports Complex Find out what’s up in the nighttime sky. Participants will learn how to navigate around the sky and locate some of the more common objects. Pre-registration is required.

Who Lives Here? April 9, ages 6 – 8 Earth has a huge variety of organisms that live in a wide range of habitats. Join us as we explore these habitats and the animals that call them home through games and activities. We will also explore the Documenting Diversity exhibit.

April 16, 1 – 3 p.m., ages 8 – 11 Frank Wilson Park, stone shelter Spend the afternoon exploring Frank Wilson Park as an environmental research scientist, and see if you can solve environmental mysteries! You will dig for clues and test your theories in this fun outdoor adventure.

Spring Art Creations April 23, ages 5 – 8 Celebrate spring and create your very own spring-inspired work of art!

Museum Careers

VMNH • Virginia, Naturally


A Night Under the Stars May 14, 8:15 – 9:15 p.m., all ages Location to be announced. Find out what’s up in the nighttime sky. Participants will learn how to navigate around the sky and locate some of the more common objects. Pre-registration required.

Surviving the Great Outdoors May 21, ages 8 – 11 Frank Wilson Park, stone shelter What would you do if you became lost in the woods? Learn GPS skills and a few simple survival skills using natural resources in the great outdoors.

June Bug Jumpers June 11, ages 3 – 5 Frank Wilson Park, stone shelter Do the warm weather, blooming flowers, and animal life of spring make you want to get outside and run around? Join us in the park as we explore the plants and animals of spring with games and create some wildlife-inspired songs.

April 30, ages 12 – 14 Have you thought about who works at a museum? Ever considered working at one? Join us and discover the various careers within a museum and have fun doing it! Graphic design, scientific research, collecting, Full of Hot Air June 11, ages 8 – 11 security, education, and more! Who says wings are necessary for flight? What about something as simple as air? Hot Microscopic I Spy! air, that is! Participants discover the mystery May 7, ages 8 – 11 behind hot air balloons. Explore instruments to view things both large and small with dissecting scopes and microscopes. Also, see how VMNH uses its scanning electron microscope!

Nature Hunt on the Dick and Willie

Homeschool Wednesdays

May 7, all ages Dick and Willie Passage Trail, Liberty Street Trailhead. Take a walk on Martinsville’s newest trail, but don’t walk too fast! There’s plenty of nature to be explored along the path. Test your skills to see if you can find everything on the list!

With this new program, homeschool students come together on the second Wednesday of the month for a program in which the education staff provides hands-on learning activities. Students are divided into two groups, one for ages 6 to 10 years and another for ages 11 to 18 years. Upcoming programs include: Properties of the Earth (April 13); Earth Cycles (May 11); and Wonders of Water (June 8). Homeschool parents may attend the program with their child or spend time in the Teacher Resource Center. For more information, call 276-634-4185 or e-mail

Flower Power May 14, all ages Gravely Nature Preserve April showers bring May flowers. Join VMNH at Gravely Nature Preserve and learn about nature’s beautiful flowers. After our flower exploration we will create an environmentally friendly flower pot!


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Are your young children dressed for bed but won’t go to sleep? Bring your children, ages 3 – 5 years, to the museum to enjoy some edutainment. Come in your pajamas and enjoy the excitement of an overnight quest without spending the night. Fee: $20 for a parent and a child and $10 each additional child.

Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Dinos Bite! April 15, 6 – 9 p.m. Join us on this fabulous adventure as we enjoy fun crafts, games, and stories that deal with Dinosaurs. Registration deadline is April 8.

Spring into Spring May 13, 6 – 9 p.m. Enjoy Spring at the museum by making fun crafts, playing games, and going on a nighttime adventure. Registration deadline is May 6.

Mother-Daughter Pajama Party May 6 – 7, 6 p.m. – 9 a.m. Mothers, are you looking to spend quality time with your daughter outside the home? Join us at the museum for our first Mother–Daughter sleepover! Enjoy exciting activities together. Join us for this special sleepover! Fee: $50 per mother/daughter pair; $20 for each additional daughter Registration is required by April 29. Sleepover includes a pizza dinner, evening snack, and a continental breakfast. Adult chaperones are required. Contact the museum for more information and sleepover forms.

Curators’ Corner Curator Conducts Polar Environmental Research Tiny Antarctic marine creatures collected 100 years ago by Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott give new clues about polar environmental change. By comparing more recently collected colonies of a bryozoan — sea-bed filter-feeding animals that look like branching twigs — with specimens from Scott’s expeditions, Dr. Judith Winston, VMNH curator of marine biology, together with an international team of scientists, has found the first conclusive evidence of increased carbon uptake and storage by Antarctic marine life. Reporting in the journal “Current Biology,” Winston and the team explained how they examined annual growth bands in skeletons of bryozoan specimens (Cellarinella nutti) collected from Antarctica’s Ross Sea during the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, a

The museum staff sends out a monthly e-newsletter called Big Al’s Almanac. Each edition contains VMNH Education news and event listings for the upcoming month. Subscribers include parents, teachers, local organization members, and volunteers. To become a subscriber, e-mail, and put “I want to receive Big Al’s Almanac!” in the subject line.

Earth Week Events A wide variety of activities are planned for this year’s Earth Week, April 15 – 23. Bring your Earth Week Passports to the programs you attend and enter the Grand Prize drawing during the Earth Week Festival on April 23 at the Smith River Sports Complex from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit

Virginia Institute for Natural Youth Leadership (VINYL) Sunday, June 26 – July 1 The Virginia Museum of Natural History and Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature Worldwide are teaming up to offer a first-of-its-kind professional development opportunity. Designed for teachers, environmental educators, and community leaders, VINYL will combine Sharing Nature activities, youth leadership development strategies, and feature field trips to nearby parks. For more information, please call 276-634-4185 or e-mail

project where a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The scientists discovered that polar carbon sinks may be on the rise after analyzing samples of a marine creature collected during Scott’s famous 1901 expedition to the South Pole in addition to those collected by later expeditions. The bryozoans grew consistently until 1990, when their growth doubled. The findings provide new insight into how carbon dioxide (CO2) is being stored on the seabed and could help geologists and environmentalists in projecting climate change. The study helps bring to light the challenges of understanding how large-scale processes like climate change and the ozone hole are affecting our planet. Experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, The British Antarctic Survey, the Institute of Oceanology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History contributed to this study.


VMNH • Virginia, Naturally


Gift Ideas at the

Museum Store!

The Virginia Museum of Natural History at 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA is the state museum of natural history for Virginia, seeking to preserve, study and interpret the wealth of Virginia’s natural heritage. The museum promotes research, education, exhibits, publications and programs in natural history. VMNH ADMISSION $9/Adults, $7/College Students and Senior Citizens, and $5/Children and Youth 3 to 18. Children under 3 and VMNH members are always free with membership card. Group rates are available.

Bringing Archaeology to Students Dr. Elizabeth Moore, VMNH curator of archaeology, Moore received a Dominion Foundation Educational Program grant to work with the junior class at the Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology to incorporate archaeology into the research class taught by Dr. Nina Huff. Students Governor’s School students Megan McKinney and have followed the research process from literature review to designing Tyler Weeks, Bassett High School. research methods, gathering data, and making observations and interpretations. The students are using a collection from a Native American contact period village site dating to the mid-1600s and located in Pittsylvania County. Students will present their results to their peers, parents, and school officials at VMNH in April. Moore is also hosting three Piedmont Governor’s School senior students who are conducting their senior thesis research using artifacts from the archaeology collections to examine questions of environmental change and animal distribution over the past 400 years, cultural contact, and Native American exchange of natural resources.

VMNH HOURS Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays as well as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Please call ahead for current hours of operation. The museum is within easy driving distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville and Greensboro, NC. For more information about membership, museum exhibits, group tours, or special events, please visit our Web site at or call 276-634-4141.

Newsletter Production Editor Ryan L. Barber Art Director Melody Cartwright Managing Editor Jessica Davenport Copy Editor Zachary S. Ryder

Executive Staff Executive Director Joe B. Keiper, Ph.D. Director of Administration and Services Gloria W. Niblett Director of Research and Collections James S. Beard, Ph.D. Director of Education and Public Programs Dennis A. Casey, Ph.D. Director of Marketing and External Affairs Ryan L. Barber Interim Director of Development Ryan L. Barber

Studying mammals on the Virginia barrier islands Curator of Mammals Dr. Nancy Moncrief recently published a 7-page technical article in the December 2010 issue of “The Southwestern Naturalist. “ The article reports results of her collaborative research with colleagues at Utah State University on the ecology of mammals that inhabit the Virginia barrier islands. Also, along with VMNH Research Associate Dr. Raymond Dueser, Moncrief recently presented results of her research at the annual meeting of The Wildlife Society’s Virginia Chapter. This meeting was attended by about 100 university faculty members, students, and wildlife professionals from throughout the Commonwealth.

&+00, &1&,+4&1%1%" 0*&1%0,+&+&+01&121&,+ The Virginia Museum of Natural History is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Southeastern Museums Conference, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Virginia Association of Museums, and Museum Store Association. VMNH is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VMNH Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization.


21 Starling Avenue Martinsville, VA 24112 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED

Volunteers of the Month January: Tim Dooley February: Emily Garnes March: Julia Gravely

Buy tickets for a Costa Rican Adventure! Visit 8

VMNH • Virginia, Naturally

Corporate Members and Sponsors Bassett Office Supply, BB&T, Blue Ridge Packaging Corp., Building Supply Company, Inc., Carter Bank & Trust, CenturyLink, Charity League of Martinsville-HC, Chick-Fil-A of Liberty Fair Mall, El Nortenõ Mexican Restaurant, Hooker Furniture Corporation, Kings Mountain Animal Clinic, Lester Group, Inc., M-HC Economic Development Corporation, Marjorie Sutton Memorial Foundation, Martinizing Dry Cleaning, Martinsville First Savings Bank, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norris Funeral Services, Inc., Painted Plate Catering, Pepper Moon Catering, Pigs-R-Us, Inc., Pizza Hut, Quality Inn/Dutch Inn, Ratatouille Catering LLC, Rising Sun Breads LLC., Rotary Club of Martinsville, S & K Office Products, Inc., State Farm Insurance, SunTrust Bank, Susan Critz Catering, T. R. Properties, Inc., Tacoma, Inc., The Eye Site, Virginia Lottery, Vistar Eye Center, Wal-Mart

As part of VMNH’s Green Initiative, the newsletter is printed on recycled paper. In addition, it is printed with vegetable-based ink.

green initiative

Upcoming VMNH Events April 8 – The VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards, 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 15 –23 – Earth Week activities will be held at VMNH. Visit for details. May 7 – The special exhibit Animal Secrets closes. June 2 – Opening reception for the Living off the Land exhibit. June 4 – The special exhibit Living off the Land opens, with the Living off the Land family festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Spring 2011 VMNH Newsletter  

"Virginia, Naturally" is the quarterly newsletter of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.