Why is the KU Natural History Museum on the road? Museum staff members are on their way to join a Tyrannosaurus Rex dig site in Montana, where KU paleontologists are busy finding and extracting fossils for KU. The #teamTrexKU effort began in May with a crowdfunding campaign that provided the resources for researchers and students to go to the excavation site for up to four weeks. The team arrived the first week of July and has already found part of a rib and part of a lower jaw, adding to the 15 percent of this T. rex already found during previous expeditions. The hope is to bring much more of this exciting find home to KU.
Join fellow Jayhawks at three upcoming events to learn more about this expedition, enjoy beer, and help create an exhibit about microbes for the KU Natural History Museum.
Lawrence KU alumni and friends gathered at the Adams Alumni Center recently for a scientific lecture on microbiology and chemistry, including an opportunity to experiment with different variables and test outcomes.
Okay, it was a beer tasting.
But Association members and guests were treated to a fascinating interactive talk that touched on the history of brewing and the science behind the various flavors and varieties of brews we’ve come to enjoy. Lawrence Network leaders Brandon Petz, b’06 g’07, Kyle Eichelberger, p’12 and Tyler Rockers, d’13, coordinator of alumni programs, organized the event for the Lawrence Alumni Network.
Free State Brewery’s head of brewing and bottling, Steve Bradt, c’88, entertained the audience by bringing tasting samples of Free State beer along with small containers of the various hops, malts and yeast that combine to create some of the most popular brews at Kansas’s first brewery. From John Brown Ale to Bora Bora IPA, guests could sample some of the different beer varieties while learning about the science–and the ingredients–behind each brew.
Friends from the KU Biodiversity Institute were also on hand to address the crowd and share their display on microbes, the single-cell organisms that are part of our everyday lives.
The KU Natural History Museum, recently ranked number one among public university natural history museums, is currently featuring an exhibit on the microbial world called “Exploring the Microbiome.” You might be surprised to learn how many microbes and bacteria surround us.
Fortunately, as Bradt informed the audience during his lecture, hops contain a natural antimicrobial property.
“No known pathogens can live in beer,” Bradt reassured the audience. “So it’s a relatively safe drink.”
That’s a relief. In fact, I think I’ll drink to that.
The exhibition had been closed since February, when subzero temperatures following a 14-inch snowfall that shut down campus for two days also killed the bees in the museum’s observation hive.
Bee numbers had already taken a hit from parasites, but the museum managed to stabilize the hive and hoped to carry it over to spring, when the bees could repopulate. A webcam was set to broadcast the exhibition. Then a rare sustained east wind apparently caused the weakened colony to cluster in the hive’s entrance tube to block the breeze.
“We got the camera installed and everything tested, then the storm hit and we’re done,” says Bruce Scherting, director of exhibits. “Nothing to see.”
Parasites and infections have wiped out the bees before, but death by deep freeze is a first—one more indicator of the troubles pollinators face.
“If you talk to people who raise bees, you hear many of the same stories, about the challenges of fungal infections, mites and weather,” Scherting says.
On May 9 the museum installed new bees and rebooted the exhibition. The project was funded by a gift honoring Lawrence, assoc., and Frances Smith Moore, d’75.
“It’s a nice way to show how wonderful bees are and what they do for people,” Scherting says of the exhibition, which is a popular favorite and a valuable teaching tool. “It draws attention to the bigger problem that’s happening out in the world: Bees are having a really hard time of it.”
The latest issue of Kansas Alumni magazine features an article by Chris Lazzarino about the Natural History Museum’s historic wildlife exhibition, Panorama.
The iconic display, one of only three large-scale natural history panoramas in the world, was originally created for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The Panorama faces its most perilous chapter. KU’s Natural History Museum is raising funds for a conservation assessment. The study will determine which steps are necessary and feasible to preserve fragile specimens in the display.
Photographer Steve Puppe’s photos show the Panorama’s nine climate zones. The Panorama offers visitors close-up views of animals and plants from Western Hemisphere ecosystems ranging from South American rainforests all the way north to the arctic coast.
The slideshow below contains images of the Panorama, courtesy of Steve Puppe, KU Natural History Museum and Spencer Research Library.
Click here to visit the Kansas Alumni magazine page on our website, where you can download (in PDF format) the full Panorama article. Members can also log in to read the full magazine online.