Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
A team of future paleontologists digging for fossils in our Devonian shale pile!
Fair goers taking part in our climate activity on the lawn outside the 4-H Youth Building led by PRI's Global Change Coordinator, Trisha Smrecak.
A young fossil hunter unearthing some Devonian wonders at our Fair exhibit!
Dr. David Skorton, President Cornell University receives a rain gauge for his home from PRI's Rob Ross, Associate Director for Outreach while visiting our exhibit at the Fair.
If you are making a visit to the Great New York State Fair stop out and see us! We are right on the front porch of the 4-H Youth Building!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tracking Climate in Your Backyard is a collaborative project between PRI, 4-H of New York State, the citizen science project Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), and the Cornell Institute for Resource Information Systems. The project teaches youth about weather and climate through a hands-on curriculum and citizen science precipitation gathering project.
Each time a rain, hail or snow storm crosses an area, CoCoRaHS volunteers take measurements of precipitation.. These precipitation reports are then recorded on the CoCoRaHS web site (www.cocorahs.org). The data are then displayed and organized for its end users to analyze
and apply to daily situations, ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards. These data, along with the curriculum provided by Tracking Climate in Your Backyard, provide 4-H participants with insight into local weather and climate.
CoCoRaHS is administered in New York State by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at the Cornell University Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. CoCoRaHS is used by a wide variety of organizations and individuals. The National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (water supply, water conservation, storm water), insurance adjusters, USDA, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor & recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors in the community. All precipitation measurements that are garnered at the Fair will be entered into the national database for these purposes.
Visitors from all over the state will have the opportunity to learn more about Tracking Climate in Your Backyard at the Fair and how they can take part in this citizen science project. They will also have the chance to hunt for fossils in 380-million-year-old shale from the Ithaca area. The Central New York area is rich in fossils from the Devonian period (about 400-350 million-years-ago), and it’s quite common to find them at parks or even in your own backyard. These fossils can tell us a great deal about what life was like millions of years ago and about the geology of our landscape.
“Geology is a local subject,” stated Rob Ross, Associate Director of Outreach at the aleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth. “No two places share exactly the same sequence of geological events that led to the way the places are today. In this sense, geology is a subject to be explored in one’s own neighborhood, examining the detailed sequence of rocks for the history that has gone on under our feet, and finding clues to what life was like as the earth evolved over the last 4-billion years.”
For more information about Tracking Climate in Your Backyard please visit us on the web at www.museumoftheearth.org/outreach.php and for more information about CoCoRaHS please visit www.cocorahs.org.
The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, New York, is a nationally-ranked, university-affiliated natural history museum, and an emerging national leader in Earth system change education and paleontological research, the study of the fossil record, and the Earth
sciences. These fields provide powerful opportunities to improve public understanding of the natural world and humanity's place in it. PRI was founded in 1932 by Gilbert Harris, professor of geology at Cornell University, to house his collection and library. PRI has outstanding
programs in research, collections, publications, and public outreach. The Institution cares for a collection of 2-3 million specimens (one of the 10 largest in the U.S.), and publishes the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere (Bulletins of American Paleontology,
begun in 1895). In 2003 PRI opened the Museum of the Earth on its campus on Ithaca's West Hill, overlooking Cayuga Lake. This education and exhibits facility contains 8000 square feet of permanent exhibits, telling the history of the Earth and its life through the geologic record of the Northeastern U.S. Unique elements include the skeletons of the Hyde Park Mastodon and Right Whale #2030 and the 544 square foot mural, Rock of Ages Sands of Time. The Museum builds upon PRI’s wide variety of programs and activities for people of all ages.
To learn more about PRI’s Museum of the Earth visit our website at:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Here's another type specimen from the PRI Collections (type specimens and their importance were discussed in last week's Fossil of the Week, August 19, 2009). This one is Heliophyllum halli form pravum Wells, 1937, PRI catalog number 24552. It's a horn coral, from our own Ludlowville Formation (Middle Devonian, Hamilton Group, approx. 380 million years old) at the eastern shore of Skeneateles Lake, Onondaga County, New York. The species was described in volume 2, number 6, of our still-active journal Palaeontographica Americana. This paper described this plus a number of other forms or varieties of the coral Heliophyllum halli, yet emphasized that these are only extreme morphs of a single, highly variable species. Today such forms are often blamed on different ecological conditions that give rise to different shapes, processes, or proportions. This form is characterized by its distorted appearance, perhaps caused when the coral toppled over during a storm, thereafter growing in another direction (notice that the base of the coral grows parallel to the plane of the photograph, whereas the head has turned to face you). "Pravum" is the Latin word for crooked or not straight. PRI honored the author of this species in 2008 by creating the John W. Wells Grants-in-Aid of Research Grant, a competitive scholarship awarded annually to help a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher visit PRI to do collections-based research. John Wells (1907-1994) was a past President of the PRI Board of Trustees, a long-time geology faculty member at Cornell University, and one of the world's leading authorities on fossil and living corals.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Photo Courtesy Rachel Philipson Photography and Design
Today, Dr. Judith Nagel-Meyers, Collections Manager from PRI and radiologists from Cayuga Medical Center took a look inside the bones of the Hyde Park Mastodon's foot at theCMC with a CT scan. The scans are being done for John Hutchinson at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. Hutchinson is doing research on elephants and is hoping to learn more from this ancient elephant like creature.
Here's some pictures from today's CT Scan. (I will update with the scanned images as soon as I have them.)
Dr. Nagel-Meyers and a CMC Radiologist preparing the specimen for its CT Scan.
The specimen getting scanned.
Here's a short video:
Monday, August 24, 2009
Check it out here: Opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms
Friday, August 21, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
"Tropical Montane Cloud Forests" with Tim Fahey, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor, Cornell Department of Natural Resources.
Many tropical mountains are clothed with clouds every afternoon and this climatic feature has shaped the extraordinary lush forests of their slopes. Climatic change now threatens these diverse and attractive ecosystems.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
11:00 a.m. to4:00 p.m.
Chris' Portable Paleontological Projects and Polls
Artist-in-residence and Syracuse University professor Chris Wildrick joins us again on Saturday, August 22 and will be offering several interactive paleontology-themed projects that you can play and participate in. These projects, which take the form of various games, endeavors, and surveys, aim to be entertaining, thoughtful, and sometimes challenging.
Chris is investigating dinosaur aesthetics, or why we think dinosaurs looked the way we think they did. The specific projects rotate from one day to the next, so on any given day, Chris may ask you to try to make a sound like a dinosaur, name all the dinosaur species you can, make a dinosaur sculpture, psychoanalyze your subconscious emotional relationships with a particular dinosaur species, or decide which dinosaur species would be the best fit for the roles in certain movies and myths. Also, Chris will intuit your favorite dinosaur by reading your palm! (Or at least he'll try.)
Join us to participate in the fun and to help Chris out with his work!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Mineral ID Day
Have a mineral and not a fossil? No problem. The museum's long-time volunteer, Eniko Farkas, a geologist and member of the Cayuga Gem and Mineral Club, helps identify your mystifying Mineral.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This "piece of rock" is one of PRI's most important specimens! It's a holotype, that is, the original specimen upon which a scientific name is based, in this case the snail Cerithium gainesensis from the Eocene Midway Group of the Chattahoochee River, in Clay County, Georgia. The species was named by Cornell Professor of Geology Gilbert Harris in 1896 in volume 1 of the scientific journal that he founded, Bulletins of American Paleontology. (Harris would later found Paleontological Research Institution, bringing his journal and collections with him.) Holotypes are very valuable because they are irreplaceable - they are the only specimens in science that are absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt correctly identified. This is because they virtually represent the species - in this case, the species Cerithium gainesensis is literally based on this piece of rock. Identifications of all other specimens are merely someone's opinion, and can change - holotypes cannot. So if we lose a holotype, or one is damaged, we're in trouble from a taxonomic point of view. Another thing to notice is the "absence" of the shell on this rock - the shell exists only as an impression. Harris wrote, "I collected a large number of specimens of gainesensis and ... all are in the forms of moulds and casts." He drew the species for the plate in his publication (reproduced here) based on these impressions. The rock also includes an internal mould, presumably also of this species. The species "gainesensis" was named for the place that it was collected - Fort Gaines, Georgia. The PRI collection includes over 6,000 holotype specimens, making it the tenth largest of its kind in the US.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
As one tours the Museum of the Earth you will notice black markers that alert the visitor to a "mass extinction" that occurred during the specified time period. How did these creatures become extinct? Well, it seems some evolutionary biologists from the University of California, the Smithsonian, and the University of Chicago have discovered that for some creatures their extinction are written in their DNA.
Extinction: Is It in the Genes?
By Phil Berardelli
ScienceNOW Daily News
7 August 2009
Sometimes it's just a case of being a member of the wrong family. Researchers analyzing evidence from 200 million years of fossil records have concluded that some lines of living organisms don't need a cataclysmic event to wipe them out. They just seem destined to go extinct.
Read the full article: Science Magazine.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The Marcellus Shale is a natural gas rich unit of rock that lies beneath the Southern Tier of NYS, most of Pennsylvania, and West Viriginia. Due to the demand for natural gas, as well as high gas prices, the previously too expensive to produce Marcellus Shale is now being actively pursued by oil and gas companies as a natural gas source. PRI has been working as a part of the Cornell University "Marcellus Shale Team" to provide outreach and education to communities that have already been or could potentially be impacted by gas well drilling in the Marcellus Shale. In the months of July and August, we have participated in 4 Marcellus Shale 'roadshows,' bringing important information to impacted communities. The Marcellus Shale team also works together to maintain a website, with pertinent sections for landowners, concerned citizens, and municipalities. You can visit the website here: http://gasleasing.cce.cornell.edu.
Trisha Smrecak is PRI's representative to the"Marcellus Shale Team." Here's a clip from a recent interview on the subject below:
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
To listen or view his lecture click here: Mann Library
To learn more about For the Rock Record click on the book cover:
Monday, August 10, 2009
I took a short video of him working this morning. That said, you really must come to the Museum to really experience what he is doing. Everytime I walk by I see something new. Enjoy!
Sorry for the sound quality -- It's a busy day here at the Museum!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
This is fossil coral. Coral might look like a rock or a plant, but it's actually an animal, or rather many animals. The coral "head" is a hard framework of calcium carbonate, but when alive, it is coated and inhabited by a colony of individual, genetically identical, soft-bodied polyps, each of which looks something like a tiny anemone. Each of these polyps is a feeding device for the colony. The tiny tentacles extend at night to catch small fish and plankton using stinging cells called nematocysts. But most corals get most of their energy from photosynthetic algal cells (zooxanthellae) living commensally in their tissues. These algal cells must have sunlight, consequently, most corals grow in clear, shallow water within the "photic zone" of the oceans, that is, less than 200 feet deep. Coral heads or skeletons are built up over generations of polyps and are major contributors to the physical structure of coral reefs in tropical and subtropical waters, such as off the Florida Keys or the enormous Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia. The first corals appeared in the Cambrian Period, about 542 million years ago, along with most of the other major phyla on Earth today. But fossil corals are extremely rare until the Ordovician Period, about 100 million years later, when corals became widespread. The two forms of Ordovician corals (horn corals and tabulate corals) were both extinct by the end of the Triassic Period (200 Ma). Today's reef-building or stony corals (Scleractinia) became common in the Jurassic Period (200-145 Ma) and later periods. The species shown here is a scleractinian - a type of brain coral, so named because the convolutions on its surface resemble those on a human brain.
~Text by Paula Mikkelsen
Monday, August 3, 2009
An earthquake sends waves of energy through the Earth. There are two types of waves: body waves and surface waves. Body waves travel through the Earth and surface waves travel along the surface of the Earth. The waves are picked up by special sensors called seismometers. PRI has seismometers located on a concrete pier in our Seismology Room. The motion created by the Earth’s waves moves a magnet over a coil. As the magnet moves back and forth over the coil, the coil generates a voltage. Each time the magnet swings one direction and then reverses, the voltage reverses. The voltage pattern created is sent to the seismograph as an electrical signal. The signal causes the pen to move back and forth. The motion of the pen on the paper is the same pattern as the waves sensed by the seismometer.
We are able to track earthquakes in real time. Below is a photo of the seismic activity recorded today, Monday, August 3rd. There was an earth earthquake that struck the Gulf of California this afternoon. It was a 5.9 on the Richter Scale and is represented in the image below.
If not here's a link to the Science Friday website where you can download the show for free!
Science Friday: The Art of the Natural History Museum