Virginia Museum of Natural History News http://www.vmnh.net Virginia Museum of Natural History News Monday, 15 December 2014 11:40:23 EST HD CMS en daily 1 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/320 Wildlife of Manhattan finds new home at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/320 Monday, 01 December 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is the new home to over 230 wildlife mounts that VMNH officials hope to display inside the museum in the coming months. Monday, 01 December 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is the new home to over 230 wildlife mounts that VMNH officials hope to display inside the museum in the coming months.  Ranging from bison to wolves to water fowl, the collection recently made its way from Manhattan to Martinsville. Known as the Speck Collection, the specimens were donated to the museum by New York City socialite, Gregory Speck, who previously kept the collection inside his Upper Manhattan apartment.  Wanting to move to Harrisonburg, Virginia to be closer to family, Speck chose to donate the collection to the museum due to the museum’s ability to properly care for, store and display every specimen.  According to an article in the New York Times, the collection could have filed an entire hall at the American Museum of Natural History.  Instead, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is the proud new home of the collection. “We are thrilled to accept such a wonderful collection of mounts,” said Ryan Barber, deputy director of VMNH.  “The possibilities for each specimen are practically endless and can easily be incorporated into our exhibits, educational programming, and research programs.  This is a huge development for the museum and we are extremely grateful for Mr. Speck’s generosity." Museum officials already have preliminary plans to display some specimens inside current museum exhibits, and are discussing the possibility of using other specimens as centerpieces for a new exhibit. “While plans are preliminary, we hope to be able to integrate many of the water fowl specimens inside the 'Wild Watersheds’ exhibit,” said Ryan Barber, deputy director of VMNH.  “Plans for other mounts are being discussed, and could possibly include a new public exhibit inside the museum lobby, where non-paying visitors will have a chance to view them up close and personal.  Many of the specimens may also be used in offsite exhibits throughout the region.” http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/318 Reptile Day festival a success http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/318 Tuesday, 14 October 2014 12:00:00 EST The annual Reptile Day festival was a huge success, drawing over 300 area students on October 10 and over 1,300 visitors on October 11. Thank you to sponsors American Global Logistics and River Community Bank. Tuesday, 14 October 2014 12:00:00 EST The Reptile Day festival slithered its way back to the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday, October 11, giving festival attendees the chance to view many of the cold-blooded creatures that call Virginia and North Carolina home, as well as the chance to see some of the most exotic and feared reptiles from around the world. Over 300 students took part in Student Day on October 10, and over 1,300 visitors attended the public festival on October 11. Reptile Day presented a unique opportunity for visitors to see over 200 live snakes and other reptiles, while allowing presenters to demonstrate that reptiles play a critical role in the environment and, most often, a harmless role in peoples' day-to-day lives.  Visitors also had the opportunity to handle a variety of the animals on display. “I want people to learn their importance to the environment and their importance to people,” said Mark Kilby, operator of the Luray Zoo in Luray, Virginia, noting that snakes in particular are not mean and overly aggressive like many people believe, but are actually gentle creatures. Kilby has presented at every Reptile Day the museum has hosted, wowing audiences with his presentations that have previously included a king cobra, black mamba, giant snapping turtle, alligator and more.  Throughout the day, animal experts displayed hundreds of live reptiles and amphibians that range from venomous snakes to tiny frogs.  Keith Farmer, of the North Carolina Herpetological Society, provided a large variety of snakes and reptiles that are native to Virginia, North Carolina, and the surrounding region. In addition to the Herpetological Society’s animals, the museum displayed its own herpetology collection and Brice Stevens, a private keeper, displayed a massive, female, albino, Burmese python.  Michelle Stocker, a vertebrate paleontologist from Virginia Tech who focuses on the history of reptiles, was also on hand for special presentations. The museum also hosted a variety of reptile-themed games and crafts throughout the day provided by VMNH educators and volunteers.  Food and drinks were available for purchase at the museum's PALEO Café. Thank you to event sponsors American Global Logistics and River Community Bank. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/319 International Archaeology Day http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/319 Friday, 03 October 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is participating in International Archaeology Day on Saturday October 18, 2014.   Friday, 03 October 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is participating in International Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 18, 2014.  Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery hosted every October by the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad. Archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests are offered through the country. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones. To learn of any special programming conducted by the museum, contact information@vmnh.virginia.gov for more information! http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/317 VMNH receives $20,000 grant for new exhibit http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/317 Monday, 22 September 2014 12:00:00 EST VMNH has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Patterson Trust for a new saber-toothed cat exhibit. Monday, 22 September 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr., Charitable Foundation Trust for a new Smilodon fatalis, or saber-toothed cat exhibit.  This new exhibit will travel to selected museums, libraries and other venues statewide before being placed on display in the museum’s Harvest Foundation Hall of Ancient Life in late 2015. This new exhibit will feature a scientifically accurate cast of the skeleton of Smilodon, which lived in what is now Virginia during the Pleistocene epoch, from 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago.  In addition to the skeletal display, the exhibit will also feature educational materials and interactive signage that will provide visitors with vital lessons in anatomy and physiology. “We are grateful to the Patterson Trust for support of this exciting new exhibit project,” said Ryan L. Barber, deputy director of VMNH.  “This new display will greatly enhance visitors’ experiences, providing a look at one of the most fascinating animals believed to have lived in what is now Virginia until the last ice age.” With its capability to be traveled to other venues along with being on display at VMNH, the exhibit is an important component of the museum’s ongoing “Museum Without Walls” program which includes goals and objectives designed to expand the museum’s reach statewide.  Museum staff, trustees and foundation board members are currently developing the next phase of the program, “Museum Without Walls 2015-2020.” “The Smilodon will be an eye-catching ambassador for our state-wide efforts, with its permanent lair being right here in our exhibits in Martinsville,” said Dr. Joe B. Keiper, executive director of VMNH. “Our staff will mount and pose the cast skeleton in a custom fashion, making this a unique draw to our Starling Avenue facility.” The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr., Charitable Foundation Trust was established in 1997 by Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, life-long residents of Virginia. For more information about the museum and its permanent, special and traveling exhibits program, please visit www.vmnh.net or email information@vmnh.virginia.gov. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/316 Nominations sought for 28th annual Thomas Jefferson Awards http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/316 Friday, 29 August 2014 12:00:00 EST Nominations are being sought for the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation’s 28th annual Thomas Jefferson Awards honoring individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science and natural science education Friday, 29 August 2014 12:00:00 EST Nominations are being sought for the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation’s 28th annual Thomas Jefferson Awards honoring individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science and natural science education. An award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Nominations are being accepted through December 1, 2014 for the following awards: The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science: presented to an individual who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.  Download nomination form The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education: presented to a Virginia educator who has made significant contributions to natural history or natural science education at any academic level. Download nomination form The William Barton Rogers Corporate Award: presented to a corporation that has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia, through contributions to: research, science education, or other relevant programs of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The Thomas Jefferson Award for Conservation: presented in recognition of significant conservation efforts in Virginia. For more information about this event, including more information about the nominating process, call 276-634-4163 or email information@vmnh.virginia.gov. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/315 Dr. Joe B. Keiper named to VAM Governing Council http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/315 Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:00:00 EST Dr. Joe B. Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, has been named to the Virginia Association of Museums Governing Council, serving as the director for nature, science, and planetaria. Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:00:00 EST Dr. Joe B. Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, has been named to the Virginia Association of Museums Governing Council, serving as the director for nature, science, and planetaria.  As an advocate for Virginia’s museums, Dr. Keiper will take on the responsibilities of assessing the needs of the Commonwealth’s museums, determining how those needs can be met, and keeping the Virginia and federal legislatures aware of the cultural and economic benefits of museums. “In addition to providing important educational opportunities and serving as repositories for a variety of collections, museums are also crucial drivers of economic development,” Keiper said.  “Museums of all types and sizes draw visitors from across the Commonwealth and beyond, benefiting local economies and providing quality of life benefits for citizens. VAM is dedicated to ensuring museums remain a strong and special part of Virginia communities.” The Virginia Association of Museums Governing Council is made up of 23 members, including officers, an immediate past president, two ex-officio members, and directors who represent all geographic areas of Virginia, as well as the great diversity of museum disciplines. For more information about the Virginia Association of Museums, visit www.vamuseums.org. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/313 VMNH, City of Waynesboro reach fundraising milestone http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/313 Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:00:00 EST VMNH and the City of Waynesboro, in partnership with the Center for Coldwaters Restoration, recently announced that they have successfully raised $50,000 to fund the development of a master plan for a proposed natural science interpretive facility in Downtown Waynesboro. Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History and the City of Waynesboro, in partnership with the Center for Coldwaters Restoration, recently announced that they have successfully raised $50,000 to fund the development of a master plan for a proposed VMNH natural science interpretive facility in Downtown Waynesboro. The announcement was made during a press conference at Waynesboro City Hall. “We are pleased to announce that the citizens of Waynesboro have joined forces and raised over $25,000 from 46 partners to match the City’s contribution of $25,000 to fund the next step in the proposed interpretive center in Waynesboro”, stated Mayor Bruce Allen. “This commitment from the City Council, Economic Development Authority, and citizens demonstrates the desire of the City of Waynesboro to be the home of this interpretive center.  The partnership between the City, our Downtown Development organization (WDDI) and the Virginia Museum of Natural History has been fantastic and we are looking forward to continuing that partnership for many years.” With its main facility located in Martinsville, the Virginia Museum of Natural History serves as the Commonwealth’s natural history museum with diverse programs in research, collections, education and exhibits.  The museum conducts outreach and distance learning programs for statewide audiences, while also maintaining a traveling exhibits program that brings museum collections to statewide and regional audiences. “As the state’s museum of natural history, we serve the entire Commonwealth through our scientific research, education and exhibits programs,” Dr. Joe B. Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History said.  “With the establishment of a branch interpretive facility in Waynesboro, we have the opportunity to reach thousands of new visitors each year, including area residents and travelers to the Shenandoah National Park.” Aspiring to reach a wider audience throughout Virginia, the museum and the City of Waynesboro partnered with Chmura Economics in 2013 to commission a feasibility study that confirmed the viability and financial sustainability of a branch facility in Waynesboro. The study, published in April 2013, indicated that a museum facility in Waynesboro would be successful and serve a core service area of 11 cities and counties with a combined population of 450,000 including 63,000 K-12 students plus the 300,000 visitors to the Shenandoah National Park who utilize the south entrance near Waynesboro. A new 21,850 square foot facility (this size facility was used as an example – actual proposed size and a new or reutilized facility will be better defined in the master plan)  would cost $7.4 million to construct providing 108 construction jobs; ten jobs would be created for the annual operation of the museum; annual visitor spending would be $1.8 million and create 20 indirect jobs, provide local tax revenue of $23,608 and state tax revenue of $49,576, and provide net revenue to the VMNH of $84,628 per year. Based on the recommendations of the Chmura study, the museum’s Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the development of a master plan to provide further insight into what an interpretive facility should include.  The board also noted that funds used to pay for the master plan should be raised in the Waynesboro region. “We partnered with the leaders and citizens of Waynesboro to raise $25,000 in private donations within a relatively short time-frame,” said Keiper.  “Citizens and companies in Waynesboro demonstrated their enthusiasm and support for this project, and with the City of Waynesboro’s $25,000 in matching funds, we are now poised to move forward with the development of a facility master plan.” A committee represented by museum staff, trustees, the City of Waynesboro and the WDDI Center for Coldwaters Restoration committee selected Quatrefoil, a Maryland-based design firm, to conduct the master plan. “We are very pleased to be partnering with Quatrefoil, a top-notch design firm with significant national and international experience,” Keiper said.  “We are especially excited about the opportunity to work directly with Waynesboro citizens, families and educators to generate content for the proposed interpretive center.” Museum leaders will begin working with Quatrefoil in August and will host a series of meetings throughout fall 2014 to receive broad input from the Waynesboro region.  The results of the master plan will be unveiled in early 2015, with the plan to include story boards, scripts, a visual preliminary walk-through of the visitor experience, and information about site selection. "This is wonderful news for the City of Waynesboro," said Delegate Dickie Bell. "Through their financial support, the community has shown their enthusiasm for this project.  The completion of this interpretative facility, combined with other ongoing projects in the City of Waynesboro, has the potential to draw thousands of visitors into Downtown Waynesboro.  This influx of tourists could spur additional economic and business development.  I am so pleased to hear that we are moving forward with the development of a master plan for this project, and I stand ready to assist in any way that I can." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/312 Ants exhibit closing Sunday, July 6 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/312 Tuesday, 01 July 2014 12:00:00 EST Sunday, July 6 marks the final day to visit the "Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants" special exhibit.  The exhibit is sponsored at VMNH by Bassett Furniture Industries and the Marjorie Sutton Memorial Fund. Tuesday, 01 July 2014 12:00:00 EST Sunday, July 6 marks the final day to visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History's "Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants" special exhibit.  The exhibit is sponsored at VMNH by Bassett Furniture Industries and the Marjorie Sutton Memorial Fund. Small, yet abundant, with complex and wildly diverse lifestyles, ants are everywhere, living lives mostly hidden from our view.  The ant-themed exhibit allows visitors to view the world at an ant's level through the macro lens photography and insight of famed ant expert and photographer, Dr. Mark Moffett. Moffett’s stunning images tell incredible stories about the lives of ants—hunting, communicating, dealing with disease and agriculture—and chronicle the work of entomologists in the field.  In addition to a robust photo gallery, the museum is developing large-scale, live ant colonies to be on display once the colonies mature. “Being an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution has provided the museum the phenomenal opportunity to offer this world-class exhibit here in Martinsville," said Ryan Barber, deputy director of the museum.  "While we'll miss the exhibit, we're excited that we will continue to display the exhibit's large-scale carpenter ant farm at VMNH, while making room for other exciting exhibits to be displayed in our special exhibit gallery." The ant-themed exhibit will give way to "Living on the Water", set to open Saturday, July 26.  The new special exhibit will offer a variety of visuals and interactive elements to explain the central role water plays in day to day life by honing in on 4 major uses, including consumption, recreation, workforce and research.  To celebrate the opening, the museum will host an exhibit debut festival on July 26, featuring water relay races, sandcastle building, dunking booths and many other family-oriented activities throughout the day. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Now through August 31, the museum is open Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. as part of its "Summer Discovery" program, which also features discounted new museum memberships and special offerings from the museum's PALEO Café. Museum admission is $5 per adult, $4 for seniors and college students, $3 for children 3-18 and free for children under 3 and museum members. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/308 Reptile Day set for October 11 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/308 Monday, 16 June 2014 12:00:00 EST Slither your way into the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday, October 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 16 June 2014 12:00:00 EST Slither your way into the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday, October 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and spend the day viewing a plethora of snakes, lizards, alligators and even amphibians!  The Reptile Day festival is the perfect family day of fun and learning.  Squash your reptile fears and entertain your scaley curiosities with live presentations from reptile experts and the opportunity to hold a vareity of animals! Over 200 live snakes and other reptiles Reptile-themed games and crafts throughout the day Cobras, rattlesnakes, alligators and other amazing creatures Reptile and amphibian specimens from the VMNH collections Special presentations by reptile Experts Mark Kilby and Keith Farmer Reptile Day is sponsored by American Global Logistics and River Community Bank, N.A., and it's one of several signature events taking place as part of the Virginia Science Festival from October 4-11. Thousands of families will come face-to-face with amazing research and technical achievements from Virginia’s educational, non-profit and for-profit institutions, and enjoy hands-on experiences designed to inspire all ages about the wonders of science. For more information, please visit http://sciencefestivals.org/events/virginia-science-festival.            http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/309 Summer Discovery 2014 at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/309 Sunday, 25 May 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will be open on Sundays beginning May 25 as part of its "Summer Discovery" program taking place from May 25 to August 31, 2014. In addition to Sunday openings, the program will include discounted new memberships and PALEO Cafe specials. Sunday, 25 May 2014 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is currently open on Sundays as part of its "Summer Discovery" program taking place from May 25 to August 31, 2014. In addition to Sunday openings, the program will include discounted new memberships and PALEO Cafe specials. “We are excited to begin opening the museum each Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.,” said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of VMNH.  “Many of our out-of-town visitors visit the museum on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, and our Sunday openings will better accommodate our visitors’ schedules.” In addition to opening its doors on Sundays, the museum is offering $10 discounts on new memberships at the “Individual” level and higher purchased during the promotion period.  Museum memberships are available in both one-year and two-year options, and include free unlimited admission, free or reduced admission at over 200 museums and science centers worldwide that are members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, a 10 percent discount on purchases made in the VMNH Museum Store and PALEO Cafe, and more. "VMNH Memberships are a great way to support the museum while receiving a variety of unique, exciting benefits,” said Ryan Barber, deputy director of VMNH.  “In addition to providing a variety of benefits, museum memberships provide funding for vital programs in research, education and exhibits.” The “Summer Discovery” program also includes the PALEO Cafe’s new “10 for 10” program that provides discounted admission and lunch for groups of 10 or more individuals. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/292 Free science presentations Oct. 10, 14 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/292 Tuesday, 01 October 2013 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is hosting two science-themed presentations free to the public on October 10 and 14, with guest speakers from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.  Tuesday, 01 October 2013 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is hosting two science-themed presentations free to the public on October 10 and 14, with guest speakers from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.  Dr. Bernard Means of VCU will present "Adventures into the (Virtual) Unknown: 3D Laser Scanning and America's Past" on Thursday, October 10 from 6 to 7 p.m., while Dr. Larry Richards of UVA will present “Engineering Greats” on Monday, October 14, also from 6 to 7 p.m. "Adventures into the (Virtual) Unknown: 3D Laser Scanning and America's Past” will focus on how technology and 3D laser scanning has helped advance the fields of anthropology and archaeology over recent years.  The presentation will be conducted by Dr. Bernard Means, instructor of anthropology at VCU, who has completed extensive 3D scanning work at the museum in recent months. “Engineering Greats” will highlight the contributions of engineering professionals that have shaped the world we know today.  Dr. Larry Richards, who serves as professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia, will conduct the presentation, which is geared towards both adults and students, especially students at the high school level and above. Each presentation will take place in the museum’s Walker Lecture Hall and each is free to the public thanks to generous donations to the VMNH Foundation Discovery Fund.  For more information about these events, visit www.vmnh.net or email information@vmnh.virginia.gov.   About Dr. Bernard Means Dr. Bernard K. Means has a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Physics from Occidental College, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Arizona State University. His dissertation research involved applying new theories and cutting-edge technologies to American Indian village sites from southwestern Pennsylvania, many excavated during the 1930s by New Deal archaeologists.  Means's scholarly pursuits include reconstructing American Indian village life from cross-cultural studies of village spatial and social organizations, the research potential of archaeological collections, applications of accelerator mass spectrometry dating to developing new chronological frameworks in southwestern Pennsylvania and northwestern Virginia, archaeological investigations of the Monongahela Tradition, directional statistics and analysis of mortuary and other archaeological data, and, the history of New Deal archaeology in Pennsylvania and across America. About Dr. Larry Richards Richards is a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia.  He came to UVA in 1969, joined the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1976, and moved to mechanical and aerospace engineering in 1985 to develop and administer the manufacturing systems engineering program.  He served as director of the program from 1986 to 2002, and director of the A. H. Small Center for Computer Aided Engineering from 1992 to 2002.  Richards now teaches courses on creativity and new product development, invention and design, and graduate probability and statistics for engineers and scientists.  He regularly offers courses via distance education through the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering program. For the past 12 years, Richards has brought Engineering Teaching Kits into middle school science and math classes through the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative.  These kits introduce the engineering design approach to problem solving, and teach key science and math concepts using guided inquiry.  The kits have been developed on over 50 topics, including submersible vehicles, solar cars, heat transfer, building bridges, catapults and projectile motion, water filtration systems, electricity and magnetism, crash testing and passenger protection, aerospace engineering, sustainable house design, simple machines, and brain surgery. Teams of undergraduate students design and implement the kits, and field-test them in local schools.  Recently, Richards has been working with middle schools near the new Rolls Royce Crosspointe manufacturing facility and helping teachers bring engineering into their classes. Richards is active in the American Society of Engineering Education and Frontiers in Education.  He is past chairman of the society's educational research and methods division, and has been on the advisory board for the K - 12 engineering education and outreach division.  He is a Fellow of the society, and serves as the UVA campus representative. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/290 Reptile Day festival is September 21 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/290 Saturday, 21 September 2013 09:00:00 EST The Reptile Day family festival is slithering its way back to the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday, September 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 21 September 2013 09:00:00 EST The Reptile Day family festival is slithering its way back to the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday, September 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving festival attendees the chance to view many of the cold-blooded creatures that call Virginia and North Carolina home, as well as the chance to see some of the most well-known and feared reptiles from around the world. Reptile Day presents a unique opportunity for visitors to see over 200 live snakes and other reptiles, while allowing presenters to demonstrate that reptiles play a critical role in the environment and, most often, a harmless role in peoples' day-to-day lives.  Visitors are also allowed the opportunity to handle a variety of the animals on display. “I want people to learn their importance to the environment and their importance to people,” said Mark Kilby, operator of the Luray Zoo in Luray, Virginia, noting that snakes in particular are not mean and overly aggressive like many people believe, but are actually gentle creatures. Kilby has been a Reptile Day staple, wowing audiences with his presentations that have previously included a king cobra, black mamba, giant snapping turtle, alligator and more.  This year, Kilby's alligator and reptile presentations will take place from 11:30 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Throughout the day, animal experts will display hundreds of live reptiles and amphibians that range from venomous snakes to tiny frogs.  Keith Farmer, of the North Carolina Herpatological Society, will be providing a large variety of snakes and reptiles that are native to Virginia, North Carolina, and the surrounding region.  Other displays include Reptile Rescue, Reptiles of Virginia, specimens from the museum's collections, and a special viewing of a female albino Burmese python. In addition to Mark Kilby's presentations, the festival offers several other presentations throughout the day.  Meredith Swartwout, from Virginia Tech, will present "Virginia Snakes" from 10:30 to 11 a.m. and  "Poisonous Snakes in Virginia" from 1 to 1:30 p.m.  Additionally, Keith Farmer will make a special presentation from 3 to 3:30 p.m. titled "Snake Mythconceptions", providing visitors with the facts regarding the true nature of snakes. The museum will offer a variety of reptile-themed games and crafts throughout the day provided by VMNH educators and volunteers.  Food and drinks will also be provided for an additional cost at the museum's PALEO Café. Admission to the festival is $5/adults, $4/senior citizens and college students, $3/children 3-18, and free for children under 3 and museum members.  Admission also grants visitors access to all of the museum’s exhibit galleries. For more information regarding the festival, including a schedule of events, visit www.vmnh.net. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/239 Palentologists Find Hoard of Fossils, even a whale's skeleton, near Va. Quarry http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/239 Monday, 14 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Hidden behind an old rock quarry south of Fredericksburg is a nondescript sandpit that opens a window on the world of 14 million years ago, a spot where dolphins frolicked and sharks hunted. Monday, 14 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: The Washington Post By Eric Niiler, Published: March 14, 2011 Hidden behind an old rock quarry south of Fredericksburg is a nondescript sandpit that opens a window on the world of 14 million years ago, a spot where dolphins frolicked and sharks hunted. Today, teams of student and volunteer diggers are pulling out a jackpot of fossils sandwiched between layers of bluish-gray rock. "We don't know how they got here," said Alton Dooley, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, as he chipped away at the clay surrounding a newly uncovered bone. Dooley and other scientists say this is one of the biggest fossil sites east of the Mississippi - staggering in both number and diversity of species. "The most striking thing is the sheer number of bones and teeth that are packed in such a small area. In 20 years, we've only excavated about 4,000 square feet, and we've pulled out tens of thousands of specimens." Dressed in muddy camo pants, sweatshirt and ball cap, Dooley ponders the riddle of what is called the Carmel Church quarry site. How did all these animals end their lives in this one small patch of once-submerged ground? Was there a cataclysmic event, such as a landslide or a toxic red tide that killed them all? Maybe it was an ancient whale graveyard, or a calving ground? Or is the treasure trove the result of some slow geologic process? Since he started coming here in 1990, Dooley's crews have uncovered just a small portion of the exposed sandy slope. He leads digs here several times a year, sometimes with volunteers from local colleges or the natural history museum. Last week, it was four college students - plus Dooley's wife and 15-year-old son - who joined him to spend six days of their spring break in the dirt and mud. ‘Pretty crazy' The technology for examining fossils may have advanced, but the process of digging them out remains slow and painstaking. Bundled in stocking caps and fleece jackets against a pre-storm chill, the students knelt on foam pads, working away at the foot of a 15-foot wall of sediment. They were doing paleontology the old-fashioned way - some more enthusiastically than others. "I have friends on cruises and at Mardi Gras this week," said Jordan Hutton, a 19-year-old sophomore at Roanoke College. He poked the hard, compact soil with a small dental pick. "I'm pretty jealous." He acknowledged, though, that at least he'd come away from spring break with something besides a hangover. "I've always liked science, but not enough to study it intensely," said Hutton, whose major is art history. "Here I'm learning about the patience and time that it takes to do it. The way they put together a skeleton is like the way I put together a painting." In just a few days of digging, Hutton had found two fish vertebrae, part of a whale and some carbonized wood. Hutton said he would take the wood back to his biology class, where he hopes to examine it under an electron microscope to figure out what kind of tree it was. Nearby, Laura Kellam was excavating with a chisel, a garden spade, a dental pick and a paintbrush. "To look at the different layers of the sediment," said Kellam, an environmental science major at Roanoke College, "and to think that 14 million years ago this was underwater here in Virginia is a pretty crazy concept."   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/236 University Pays Visit to NCI: George Mason Officials Like What They See http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/236 Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Two George Mason University officials who visited the New College Institute on Wednesday came away excited and energized about the institute's future.   Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, March 10, 2011By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff WriterTwo George Mason University officials who visited the New College Institute on Wednesday came away excited and energized about the institute's future."You can just see a college town emerging" in uptown Martinsville, said Rick Davis, George Mason's associate provost for undergraduate education. "It's like a college town in the rough."Â�"If you close your eyes, I can see a college town in 10 years," said Shirley S. Travis, dean of the university's College of Health and Human Services. "... You can really see the potential (and) what this could look like."Â�Travis and Davis were part of a five-member delegation that spent Wednesday meeting with local officials, educators, and civic and business leaders about George Mason's interest in possibly making the New College a branch campus. The Fairfax-based university is one of five Virginia universities that have expressed interest in that possibility and the second to send a team to the area.Travis described Wednesday's event as a chance for the New College and its supporters to get to know more about George Mason and vice versa."I think it's a date," she said. "They want to know a little bit more about us ... (and) we're here to learn about their vision" for the future.Established five years ago, the New College partners with numerous universities to offer courses toward master's degrees and the second two years of bachelor's degrees at its uptown campus. It has about 400 students.A commission that studied the institute's future recently recommended that it become a branch of an existing state university. In addition to George Mason, other schools that have expressed interest in exploring the possibility of making NCI a branch are Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, Radford and Virginia State universities.Travis said she and others in the group were beginning to share local officials' vision, which she described as 3,000 or 4,000 students living, studying and having fun within uptown Martinsville. That could lead to more development uptown as loft apartments, restaurants, coffee shops and more open to meet students' needs, she said."I think we talked about a couple of things simultaneously," Travis said. The first is a university community that eventually would become a destination for students from around the state, and the second is NCI's role in work force development.Given state funding constraints and other economic realities, "for a state university to do all this alone is just not going to happen," she said. But if business and civic leaders are willing to partner with a university, it could work, she said.She said her team also was told about financial support provided by The Harvest Foundation and the availability of scholarships for New College students.Harvest, which formed the commission that explored how NCI should evolve, matches state funding for the New College dollar for dollar. It has pledged to do so up to $50 million.Resources such as the Harvest Foundation; facilities that are part of NCI as well as buildings uptown into which the institute might be able to expand; community resources, such as the Virginia Museum of Natural History; and additional community support mean many elements already are in place, Davis said."The resources to begin the project are here. ... There's a lot of things in place to make this work," he said.George Mason understands the path New College would like to follow because it evolved in a somewhat similar way, Davis said. Founded in 1957 as a two-year branch campus of the University of Virginia, it began in an elementary school on the edge of the D.C. suburbs, he said.By the early 1960s, "a group of local leaders - some politicians, some business leaders - said, "˜We really should raise this up, make it a university,'" Davis said.They created a four-year campus that "rather quickly grew to be the largest (university) in the commonwealth," he said.George Mason now has 32,000 students at branch campuses in Prince William, Loudoun and Arlington counties. Each branch is tailored to its community, Travis said.It is too soon to say what degree programs would best fit NCI if it were to become a branch of George Mason, Travis said, but she said flexibility and innovation are keys to George Mason's work.The university offers programs for various kinds of students, from those just graduating from high school to adults pursuing graduate degrees while working full time and supporting families, she said. Several programs are designed to maximize time and efficiency, such as an RN to MSN program that allows students to bypass a bachelor's degree and go straight to a master's degree, cutting out a couple of semesters of study, she said.Two new programs allow students to go from a bachelor's degree to a Ph.D., Travis said.Those are "very innovative programs" that provide ways "to get people where they need to be as quickly and efficiently as possible," she said.Both she and Davis pointed out local officials' desire to make the New College an engine for economic and cultural change in the area."There has been a rare unanimity of purpose expressed - not just purpose, but passion," Davis said. "There's an aspiration for something that goes beyond degrees," he said. Those he spoke with would like to see "a cultural shift in the community."Neither Davis nor Travis speculated on George Mason's possible role in the New College's future. Davis, however, said that after what the group heard Wednesday, "we are more interested" in the possibility of making NCI a branch than they were before the visit.He noted that the other universities that have expressed interest also have much to offer.The next step, Davis said, will be for the group to report to senior administration at George Mason, to "give them the lay of the land." They also will gather more data, he said."I think certainly - speaking for our team - I think we have come away deeply impressed and affected by the experience," Davis said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/237 Some Great Museums Ready to Move http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/237 Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:00:00 EST How can we make sure museums are recognized for all the good things they do for their communities? Kudos from the White House would be one great thing, wouldn't it? Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: American Association of Museums How can we make sure museums are recognized for all the good things they do for their communities? Kudos from the White House would be one great thing, wouldn't it? That's why AAM is partnering with ACM and APGA to launch a "Let's Move Museums, Let's Move Gardens" campaign as part of the Obama administration's anti-obesity initiative. What a great way to share what museums are doing to educate their audiences about food and nutrition, access safe and healthy food, and encourage activity! And it will help museums inspire their colleagues with examples of what can be done in institutions of various types and sizes. "Well," (you may be thinking) "that's fine for the public gardens; they are all about plants and being outdoors! It's easy for them. And the Children's Museums have been focused on kids' health for a long time. What about the rest of us? What can an art museum do to fight obesity? Or a historic site?" Lot's! Here is just a small sampling of the diverse organizations I think are pre adapted to be "Let's Move" museums! The Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum runs "Hip Hop to Wellness," addressing childhood obesity by involving the family in making healthy changes in diet and encouraging physical activities through activities such as the Oak Park Kids Run and Hip-Hop, African Dance and Salsa workshops. The Detroit Institute of Arts partners with Sodexo on local implementation of its Feeding our Future program, providing free summer lunches for area school children who rely on free and reduced-price meals during the academic year. The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum has created a cardio workout exhibit designed to help Mississippi school kids win the battle against childhood obesity. Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Heirloom Farm tackles access to healthy, affordable food and nutrition education through such projects as an outdoor exhibition, farm-to-school programs for local public schools, and food-focused museum tours and activities. The Museum of Science, Boston, integrates education about obesity and health into its exhibits and programs, including the presentation "Body Talk: Obesity" and the Human Body Connection. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry touring exhibit "Every Body Eats" explores healthy food choices. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History's health programs include "You Are What You Eat" and "Macronutrients: Fads versus Fitness" delivered in classrooms or via distance learning, as well as the "Health on Wheels" outreach van. The Virginia Museum of Natural History's "Community Nature Initiative" provides family outdoor experiences and promoting healthy lifestyles. What about your museum? Do you think you are ready to be a "Let's Move" museum? Read more about what that involves and indicate your interest (no commitment required) by signing up here. Help us show the White House how many museums are ready to help their communities Move! http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/232 County Hosts Prospective Teachers http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/232 Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Nineteen current or future educators got acquainted with the Henry County School System on Saturday. Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, March 8, 2011 By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterNineteen current or future educators got acquainted with the Henry County School System on Saturday. Those educators could become familiar faces in the area, as some may apply for jobs in the school system later this year. Saturday's event was the county schools' first "meet and greet" with potential job applicants, said Linda Dorr, assistant superintendent for administration/human resources. It began at the Henry County Administration Building and included a tour of several county schools."It's an opportunity for individuals to come to our school division, meet school principals ... a way for them to get to know Henry County Schools," said Dorr. "It's a chance for us to look at them and a chance for them to look at us." The tour also included Piedmont Arts, TheatreWorks, the New College Institute and the Virginia Museum of Natural History.It was an opportunity to "sell our community and sell our school system" to people who could become future residents and educators in the area, Dorr added. Those who were invited to attend the event are current or future teachers who expressed interest in the school system at job fairs around the state, Dorr said. The school system anticipates several vacancies due to retirements at the end of this school year, and officials want to develop a pool of potential applicants in anticipation of that, she said. She added that many school divisions around the state hold similar meet and greet events. The event is similar to a job fair, but with a personalized look at that particular system. None of the candidates who visited the area Saturday has applied for a job in the school system, Dorr said.The participants ranged in age and experience, she said. Some will be graduating from college, some have previous teaching experience and others are career switchers who have work experience but are just beginning careers in education, said Dorr. "I hope they will remember that Henry County schools are a great place to work," she said. Roger Naus, a candidate endorsed to teach secondary social science and special education K-12, traveled to Henry County from Hurt. "I was impressed with the people I spoke to at a recent job fair. Linda Dorr was very impressionable. I also liked what I saw online at the school division's website," said Naus.People from all over the state, and some from neighboring states such as North Carolina, attended. Some are former Henry County students who will be graduating from college soon and pursuing careers in education. Catherine Wilson, a prospective foreign language teacher, will graduate in May from Sweet Briar College endorsed to teach French. "I met Mrs. Dorr at the Tri-College Career Fair at Lynchburg College. I am very impressed with how this is structured," said Wilson.Many of the potential applicants teach in one of the 10 content areas identified by the Virginia Department of Education as hard to fill, said Dorr. Those areas are special education, elementary education in grades pre-kindergarten through six, middle school education in grades six through eight, career and technical education, mathematics in grades six through 12, science in grades six through 12, foreign language in grades K-12, school counselors, health and physical education in pre-K through 12th grade and English in grades six through 12. She said many of the positions that may open in the school system at the end of this school year are in one of those areas. Dorr said about 13 teachers are expected to retire at the end of this school year. However, she said that doesn't necessarily mean 13 positions will open, because some teachers already in the system may be moved to those positions.She declined to say which teachers will retire. She added that there are two teachers who previously were laid off due to budget cuts, and if any positions open in their certification areas, they will be offered jobs before any other applicants. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/233 Martinsville Man Forced to Evacuate Libya http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/233 Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST He's a man known locally for founding the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: ABC 13 Posted: Mar 08, 2011 6:48 PM EST Reporter: Sarah BloomMartinsville, VA - He's a man known locally for founding the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.Professor and doctor Noel Boaz also spends time teaching in Libya, an area he recently had to evacuate because of a revolution movement.He says he knew it was time to leave after the "Day of Rage" when he says he saw government helicopters shooting high-powered guns. Two vehicles used for his teaching and research were also stolen during the revolt."It was unsettling, we tried to make the best of the situation for the time we could," said Dr. Noel Boaz, who evacuated Libya. "But finally we realized the situation was getting out of hand. It was sort of escalating and time to leave."Boaz made it home safely about a week ago, by traveling through Egypt. He says he's glad to be back in the US because of the political freedoms here. However, he says he does plan to go back, and hopes to get some much needed medical supplies to the area.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/234 Martinsville Man Witnesses Violence in Libya http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/234 Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Noel Boaz says he's happy to be back safely in his office at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Tuesday, 08 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: GoDanRiver.com By: Jarett Henshaw | WSLS 10 Published: March 08, 2011 MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Noel Boaz says he's happy to be back safely in his office at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Until two weeks ago, he'd been living in Libya for the last year heading up international fossil research, and had to find a way out when the violence started. "I heard helicopters, and then I heard very high caliber guns being fired on unarmed demonstrators. That was the turning point for me, because I realized this is not crowd control. This is genocide," said Boaz. He took some of his own pictures of a rebel with an automatic rifle, and kids standing on a government tank that was overtaken protesters. Dr. Boaz says he's been in some tense situations before doing research in other countries, but he says this was definitely the worst he's ever seen. "It's scary. I've been in some tight situations before in the Congo, and I spent a year in Bosnia. This was a lot closer than anything I've been in. This was a lot more shooting," said Boaz. He also tried to move one of his $50,000 research vehicles to a secured facility. "I did brave the barricades to get my vehicle to our garage, only to have our garage burned and looted that evening," said Libya. Boaz eventually escaped Libya by driving to Egypt, then flying home. Despite everything that's happened, Boaz says he plans on returning, under one condition. "It really changed our attitude about the Gadhafi government. We really won't do our scientific project until that government's changed," said Boaz. His archeological research is very important, and Boaz says he'll reassess the situation in Libya in another month.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/231 Boaz Tells of Fleeing from Libya http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/231 Monday, 07 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Noel Boaz decided it was time to leave Libya on Feb. 20, three days after the "Day of Rage" when anti-government protests erupted. Monday, 07 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, March 7, 2011By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff WriterNoel Boaz decided it was time to leave Libya on Feb. 20, three days after the "Day of Rage" when anti-government protests erupted."On Saturday, I decided I can't work with a government shooting unarmed people from helicopters with high-powered guns," Boaz said Saturday at his Martinsville home.Boaz, who founded the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, has worked in Libya and other places around the globe for decades. He has been in Libya for most of the past year, and he has a contract for the current year to continue his work. He is a professor of anatomy and the head of medical education at the Libyan International Medical University (LIMU) in Benghazi, Libya. A paleontologist, he also is the international director of the East Libya Neogene Research Project, an international group of scientists that has searched for fossils in north-central Libya since 1979.On Thursday, Feb. 17, Boaz attended a routine university council meeting in the morning. He knew it was to be the "Day of Rage," with protests to start in the midafternoon, but he was not worried."I heard some noise, a few firecrackers, but nothing terribly exciting. It was a tempest in a teapot," he said Saturday. But "as darkness fell, you could hear the sound of massive crowds."Â�Boaz did not leave the five-story university residence building near the center of town where he and other foreign faculty members lived. From his window, he could see people running down the streets."Then I started hearing firing. First it was small arms; then automatic weapons. We didn't hear helicopters that day," he said.Things quickly deteriorated, he said."The rapidity with which events went from total calm to swirling crowds of protesters being fired upon by automatic weapons Thursday night and into early Friday morning was astounding," Boaz stated in an article on the Internet site Science Insider, which covers science policy.There were 20-25 fatalities a day until the government forces were expelled from Benghazi, he said, adding that the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli called him every day for an update. Casualties were worse in Tripoli, he said, although the numbers were kept secret. "My experience is I think Tripoli is anxious to change the government," Boaz said. Libyans generally are pro-American, he said, but the government distances itself from the United States."Yes, there is a repressive regime in some ways, but you don't see a lot of that," he said, adding that he was skeptical Libya would have the same upheaval as Egypt and Tunisia experienced.The politics of Libya are complicated, he said, but the country is "substantially different from Egypt and Tunisia. It's been very instructive for me to live there."Â�Boaz and the others stayed in the university building for the following days, leaving only briefly in the mornings to get food, Science Insider reported.On Saturday, the government fired on its own people from helicopters. That, combined with the fact that Internet and phone services were going out and they are critical to his work, caused Boaz to decide to leave the country.Then he had to figure out how. But first, knowing he was going to be leaving Libya, Boaz decided to drive one of two special $50,000 vehicles, used for field work, to a safe compound. Ten minutes after he got a ride and arrived safely back at his building, he heard a helicopter and automatic machine gun fire aimed at a nearby funeral procession.A few days ago, he learned the compound had been overrun that night and the vehicle taken, despite his efforts. His team of scientists, notified via e-mail, was devastated.On Feb. 22, he and academics from Egypt and India prepared to flee the country but none of the university's drivers wanted to take them to the border because a group of Egyptian professionals had been robbed and shot the day before, Science Insider reported. They finally found drivers and at 1 p.m., their two vans "blasted out of there. We were going like low-flying aircraft," Boaz told Science Insider.After an 11-hour drive, they reached Salloum on the Egyptian border. It was chaotic there, but his driver seemed to know the border guards and Boaz's group was waved through without checks of their passports, he told Science Insider.Eventually, they found a bus to Cairo. There, he bought airline tickets to Athens, Greece, where he stayed with a colleague before flying to Washington, D.C."I've been doing this for 35 years, field work, and never lost anybody," he said. "I was glad to be able to get out," and he even beat the U.S. Embassy staff out of the country.During the trip out of Libya, the retina in one of Boaz's eyes became detached, so when he returned to this country he had to go to North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for eye surgery. Then his aunt, Mary Newport Taylor of Martinsville, died on March 1. So Boaz has returned to his home here, and plans to stay for the foreseeable future.Boaz is involved with numerous projects, writings and organizations. Among others, he has moved his nonprofit research institute, the Integrated Centers for Science and Medicine, from Oregon and California, he said. While not ready to announce all his plans, he said that will have four centers, including one on medical education in general. He probably will focus on that for the next few months, "minimum, before I start thinking about going back to Libya," he said, adding that his work will include developing new types of courses for continuing medical education.Another of the centers is the International Institute for Human Evolutionary Research, which is the oldest of the four - started in 1991 - and the one through which he does some of his work in Libya, Boaz said. Boaz also is working on several publications and, as a senior fellow of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, he can do research there.Paleontology is concerned with fossils. Boaz said his work is similar to the excavations VMNH curator Nick Frazier did on dinosaurs in Wyoming several years ago, "except in a different time period."Â�The fossils he excavates in Libya are 7 to 17 million years old, Boaz said, which is "less old" than the dinosaurs."I'm particularly interested in the whole story of the origin of human lineage in Africa, the time when we think the ancestors of people started. It's an exciting area," he said.It is an area that will draw him back to Libya, Boaz said. The paleontology field is competitive, and his team has the difficult-to-obtain permission to investigate two sites, he added. "We have a tremendous amount of investment - 25 years of work in these areas and we still haven't found everything. It's more than a treasure hunt," it is about understanding the significance of what is found, Boaz said.At age 59, Boaz said he may do more orchestrating the projects than actually working in the field, but he has no doubt it will continue."This is one of the biggest projects in this area of science in Africa. We need to continue with this," he added.But he also worries that the current strife will result in the loss of scientific treasures in Libya, including the skull of a Stegotetrabelodon syrticus, a massive animal similar to an elephant but with four tusks. It lived about 6 to 8 million years ago in North Africa and Arabia, Science Insider reported.It was found in 1934 and the entire Libyan Museum of Natural History was built around the specimen before the museum was closed because of World War II, Boaz said. Now, the skull is stored in a crate specially made by Boaz and his colleagues in the Sarayy al-Hamra fort in Tripoli, next to Green Square. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been filmed and interviewed at the fort, Boaz said. He said if he had three more days or a week there they would have moved the crate to a safe place, but now he worries that something could happen to it."It would be a catastrophe" from a scientific standpoint if anything happened to the skull, he said.Now, Boaz said it is good to be back in the United States."You hear a lot about what's wrong with the U.S., but it never fails to feel good to get back," he said. Here, "people get mad but they don't shoot you." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/229 Scientist Tackles Climate Change http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/229 Friday, 04 March 2011 12:00:00 EST A Virginia Museum of Natural History scientist is involved in research that she thinks shows the Earth's climate is changing. Friday, 04 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, March 4, 2011By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS - A Virginia Museum of Natural History scientist is involved in research that she thinks shows the Earth's climate is changing.Tiny Antarctic marine creatures collected 110 years ago by explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott are giving an international team of scientists, including Judith Winston, the museum's curator of marine biology, new clues about environmental change at the South Pole.The team compared recently collected colonies of bryozoans - animals that live on sea beds and look like branching twigs - with specimens from Scott's expeditions."The ocean bottom is just covered with these creatures," Winston said.In doing so, the team discovered the first conclusive evidence of increased carbon absorption and storage among Antarctic marine life.In the scientific journal Current Biology, Winston and the team recently told how they examined annual growth bands in skeletons of bryozoan specimens collected from the Ross Sea of Antarctica by researchers from more than 80 nations during the Census of Antarctic Marine Life.The census was a 10-year project aiming to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life. After analyzing samples of a marine creature collected during Scott's 1901 expedition to the South Pole and ones collected during later expeditions, the scientists determined that instances of carbon sinking to the bottom of polar seas may be increasing.Winston said the bryozoans grew consistently until 1990, when their growth doubled."We don't know why exactly," she said, "but something is different in their environment" now.The findings offer insight into how carbon dioxide is being stored on the seabed and could help geologists and environmentalists forecast climate change, said Winston."This is one of the few pieces of evidence that life in Antarctica has recently changed drastically," she said. "These animals are taking more carbon dioxide out of circulation and locking it away on the seabed."Thus, the amount of carbon being buried on the seabed is increasing, while globally we are becoming more aware of the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," she added.The study helps reveal the challenges of understanding how climate change, the ozone hole and other large-scale environmental processes are affecting the Earth, according to officials with the museum in Martinsville.The bottom line is that the study is "another canary in the coal mine that says the climate is changing whether we like it or not," Winston said, and perhaps we should try to find ways to control it "before it bites us."Â�Other scientists at the museum are excited about Winston's and the other scientists' work."This is a perfect example of the value of museum collections," said Jim Beard, director of research and collections at VMNH. "They provide windows into the past that would otherwise not be accessible to scientists."Â�Although more research is needed to understand how big a role bryozoans plays in the environment, the researchers believe it probably is a small one.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. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/230 Scientist Tackles Climate Change http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/230 Friday, 04 March 2011 12:00:00 EST A Virginia Museum of Natural History scientist is involved in research that she thinks shows the Earth's climate is changing. Friday, 04 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: Consortium for Ocean Leadership A Virginia Museum of Natural History scientist is involved in research that she thinks shows the Earth's climate is changing.(From Martinsville Bulletin) - Tiny Antarctic marine creatures collected 110 years ago by explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott are giving an international team of scientists, including Judith Winston, the museum's curator of marine biology, new clues about environmental change at the South Pole.The team compared recently collected colonies of bryozoans - animals that live on sea beds and look like branching twigs - with specimens from Scott's expeditions."The ocean bottom is just covered with these creatures," Winston said.In doing so, the team discovered the first conclusive evidence of increased carbon absorption and storage among Antarctic marine life.In the scientific journal Current Biology, Winston and the team recently told how they examined annual growth bands in skeletons of bryozoan specimens collected from the Ross Sea of Antarctica by researchers from more than 80 nations during the Census of Antarctic Marine Life.The census was a 10-year project aiming to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life. After analyzing samples of a marine creature collected during Scott's 1901 expedition to the South Pole and ones collected during later expeditions, the scientists determined that instances of carbon sinking to the bottom of polar seas may be increasing.Winston said the bryozoans grew consistently until 1990, when their growth doubled."We don't know why exactly," she said, "but something is different in their environment" now.The findings offer insight into how carbon dioxide is being stored on the seabed and could help geologists and environmentalists forecast climate change, said Winston."This is one of the few pieces of evidence that life in Antarctica has recently changed drastically," she said. "These animals are taking more carbon dioxide out of circulation and locking it away on the seabed."Thus, the amount of carbon being buried on the seabed is increasing, while globally we are becoming more aware of the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," she added.The study helps reveal the challenges of understanding how climate change, the ozone hole and other large-scale environmental processes are affecting the Earth, according to officials with the museum in Martinsville.The bottom line is that the study is "another canary in the coal mine that says the climate is changing whether we like it or not," Winston said, and perhaps we should try to find ways to control it "before it bites us."Other scientists at the museum are excited about Winston's and the other scientists' work."This is a perfect example of the value of museum collections," said Jim Beard, director of research and collections at VMNH. "They provide windows into the past that would otherwise not be accessible to scientists."Although more research is needed to understand how big a role bryozoans plays in the environment, the researchers believe it probably is a small one.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.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/228 UF Researchers Begin Mission Friday to Study Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/228 Thursday, 03 March 2011 12:00:00 EST A group of 23 researchers led by University of Florida scientist Gustav Paulay will leave from St. Petersburg Friday on an expedition to survey the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico's ocean floor. Thursday, 03 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: University of Florida News GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A group of 23 researchers led by University of Florida scientist Gustav Paulay will leave from St. Petersburg Friday on an expedition to survey the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico's ocean floor.Funded by BP through the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the scientists will make the 10-day trip aboard the institute's 115-foot research vessel. The divers, scientists and photographers will document hard bottoms of Florida, from the Keys to the Panhandle, to gain a better understanding of these sponge- and coral-dominated communities. "Certainly we will potentially notice effects from the oil spill, but the primary issue is that we have an oil spill in our backyard and we have a very limited understanding of the marine communities and diversity of organisms out there," said Paulay, curator of malacology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "How can you tell what's changed if you don't know what's out there?" James Thomas, a researcher from Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center, will collect and observe arthropods that live in sponges, which are hyper-sensitive to organic pollutants, including pesticides, dyes and crude oils."If they're not there inside the sponges, it will be a signal that some kind of toxic event occurred," Thomas said. "If we don't find what we expect, it's an indication there's been some kind of an impact." Pinpointing the cause of a change will be much more difficult because a baseline for the biodiversity in the Gulf has not yet been established, he said."We're actually creating a baseline," Thomas said. "This is one of the first comprehensive surveys in that area that's ever been carried out."The expedition is the most comprehensive biodiversity study of the hard grounds along the west Florida shelf and includes researchers from other Florida institutions as well as Old Dominion University, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution, Paulay said. Researchers plan to repeat the survey next year to observe short-term changes in biodiversity. The data will be useful for science as well as the fishing industry."Every fisherman knows if you're bottom fishing, the most important word is ‘structure,' " Paulay said. "Wherever you have structure on the bottom, you will have fish - hard bottom allows structures to develop."Scientists will post initial findings and photographs on the Florida Museum's invertebrate zoology blog, http://spinelessscience.blogspot.com/. Further results will be posted online as the information is analyzed.The trip will be carried out in two legs, with 14 researchers on each segment. The 194-ton R/V Weatherbird II will travel south from St. Petersburg to the Florida Keys March 4-9, then north from St. Petersburg to the Panhandle March 10-14. Researchers will focus on two areas: a quantitative assessment of marine life and an observational survey of the species found.Divers will venture 30 to 100 feet underwater to reach the hard-bottom communities, which in Florida are typically fossilized limestone reefs and beds, with a thin sand veneer in places. These support large, attached animals like sponges, corals, sea fans, sea squirts and sea weeds giving structural complexity to the bottom. Researchers who are not certified divers will collect by dredging and trawling the waters as the ship travels. Stops for observations will take place about every 10 to 20 miles. The divers will work only during the day, but the dredging and trawling will continue through the night, Paulay said.Funding for the project was part of a $10 million grant to the Florida Institute of Oceanography by BP, and Paulay's proposal was one of 27 the institute selected from 233 submissions.Jenna Moore and Mandy Bemis, research technicians in the Florida Museum's department of invertebrate zoology, are among the two-thirds of the group who are certified divers. They expect of be part of the "underwater vacuum team.""We'll be brushing off rubble and suctioning off things that were missed," Bemis said. "While we're vacuuming, people will be collecting things you can see with the naked eye." Richard Pyle invented the underwater vacuum tool the team will use, which scientists call "The Pyleizer." The hand-held device carefully vacuums tiny marine organisms easily missed by eye.About six divers at a time participate in the surveys, recovering specimens that will undergo Paulay's efficient method of labeling, photographing and tissue sampling everything on deck before being prepared for the trip back to the laboratory, Moore said.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/225 'Bownessie' Latest Lake Monster? http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/225 Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST The latest entry in the lake monster sweepstakes is making a bid for glory -- but skeptics say the so-called "Bownessie" of Lake Windermere, England, could be a hoax. Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: MSNBCBy Eric Niiler The latest entry in the lake monster sweepstakes is making a bid for glory -- but skeptics say the so-called "Bownessie" of Lake Windermere, England, could be a hoax. Tom Pickles and Sara Harrington, work colleagues who were kayaking at the lake as part of a team-building exercise, snapped this photo of the possible sea creature with a mobile phone. It appears to show a multi-humped black object moving through the water from left to right. Pickles described the object as "a giant dark brown snake with humps measuring three car lengths," and said it had seal-like skin texture but with a "completely abnormal" shape. Harrington was quoted as saying she was "completely petrified" by the encounter. Lake Windermere is in the British lake district, just a few hours drive from the infamous Loch Ness. While the photo has made the rounds of the Internet, professional "cryptozoologists" or people who study animals that haven't been identified by science, say they have their doubts. SLIDE SHOW: Sea Creatures Real and Imagined"I'm always cautious of photographs," said Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, and author of "Cryptozoology: A to Z." "If you look at this photograph, its pretty distinct with these humps. We have seen this kind of thing before, sometimes it's garbage bags tied together and sometimes it's anonymous creatures." Coleman should know. He spent several weeks on a Loch Ness expedition in 1999 and has researched how sightings of lake monsters seem to persist in the so-called "monster latitudes" of water bodies that include Lake Champlain, Lake Okanagan, B.C., Loch Ness and Lake Brosno, Russia. Coleman says they are all deepwater lakes in remote areas, surrounded (until recently) by forests. North America's Lake MonstersVisitors to these lakes who report strange sightings are often unfamiliar with local wildlife, Coleman said. So the wake of an otter, snake or drifting log becomes a strange sea animal. Paleontologist Alton Dooley digs up the fossils of prehistoric whales, sharks and sea creatures that lived 14 million years ago. "I'd love to see a sea monster," Dooley said from his office at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "But I don't think its going to happen. I think its very easy to see things you don't understand." Dooley remembered the time that he and his grandmother saw a strange "freakish" creature cross the road in front of their truck one night in rural southern Virginia. They both swore it was a monster of some sort. The next week, the animal made a similar appearance, but under different lighting, Dooley realized it was a deer caught in his headlights. While this most recent case of the "Bownessie" (named for the local town in England) may not hold up to scrutiny, Coleman believes there are far too many sightings of strange creatures to discount all of them. He points to scientific discoveries of new species of beaked whales, giant squid, monitor lizards and other large animals that were the subject of legends until very recently. "We all like a mystery," he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/226 Virginia Museum of Natural History Hosts Distinguished Lecture, School and Teacher Workshops http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/226 Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville 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 the museum. Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: Consortium for Ocean Leadership Posted By Will Ramos(From Martinsville Daily) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville 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 the museum. 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, which was offered free of charge with support from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.The Consortium for Ocean Leadership (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.The Ocean Leadership Distinguished Lecture Series brings the scientific explorations and discoveries of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) research to undergraduate and graduate students, to the geoscience community, and to the general public. Since 1991, over 250 presentations have been made through the Ocean Leadership Distinguished Lecturer Series program to audiences at museums, U.S. colleges and universities, and other organizations.Climate change, volcanoes, and the origins of life are far flung topics unified through the IODP. The IODP and its program predecessors have been sailing the world's oceans for over 40 years, recovering over 200,000 meters of samples. In 2005, Dr. James S. Beard, director of research and collections and curator of earth sciences at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, sailed aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a research vessel operated by the IODP. Beard was one of 30 scientists from nine countries who took part in an expedition to collect deep ocean core samples.Dr. James Cowen is a research professor in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Cowen's research interests include interdisciplinary research into life in extreme environments and the development of instrumentation to enable such research. Cowen earned bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a doctorate in biology (oceanography) from the University of California at Santa Cruz."We are very honored to have been selected by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to host a Distinguished Lecture Series program," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "The Virginia Museum of Natural History has a strong history working with the IODP and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, with Dr. James Beard, director of research and collections and curator of earth sciences at VMNH, having sailed aboard the JOIDES Resolution as part of an international team of scientists. Working with Ocean Leadership, with its outstanding scientific and educational programs, is a natural fit for the museum."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."This was an exceptional learning opportunity for a variety of audiences - from middle and high school student programs on Friday, to Dr. Cowen's public lecture Friday evening, to a teacher professional development workshop on Saturday," said Dr. Denny Casey, director of education and public programs at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "This is a cutting-edge science, technology, and ocean engineering program and we are thrilled to have been able to offer this at the museum. In addition, this was an exciting complement to our new ‘Documenting Diversity' exhibit which opened January 22, along with the recently opened ‘Hahn Hall of Biodiversity'."Deep Earth Academy works to equip K-12, university, and informal educators to teach about the Earth using all disciplines - from chemistry, physics, biology and math to engineering and technology to reading and writing. Deep Earth Academy uses exploration of the world as a model and strives to help students become better decision makers, problem solvers, science-literate citizens and stewards of the planet.For more information about the museum's current and upcoming exhibits, research and collections, and various programs, please email information@vmnh.virginia.gov or visit www.vmnh.net.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/227 Virginia Museum of Natural History Curator Claims Evidence of Global Warming http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/227 Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST Dr. Judy Winston is the Curator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, and says her research helps prove global warming. Wednesday, 02 March 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLS 10 Written By Jarett Henshaw MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Dr. Judy Winston is the Curator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, and says her research helps prove global warming. "It's warming in Antarctica that's doing it," said Winston. In her lab, she's been studying a small organism from Antarctica, called a Bryozoan. A Bryozoan is, it's a small microscopic creature that builds its own colony, very similar to coral. Winston says after looking at more than 20,000 samples of Bryozoans, collected over the last 100 years, she found a strange pattern in their growth. "It grew at about the same rate right up until 20 years ago. The latest collections from the 1990's to 2008, it's rate of growth doubled," said Winston. She says her other colleagues in Antarctica have found measurable temperature changes, and she believes it's the reason for the recent Bryozoan boom. "It indicates that climate change is affecting these animals," said Winston. Many people are skeptical about global warming, so I asked her if there are any other factors that could cause this kind change. "There's no evidence that I know of. There's no publications that say there's something else happening," Winston said. The science journal "Current Biology" is publishing Dr. Winston's findings in this week's issue. So, at least some in the science community agree with her, that global warming is very real.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/223 Museum's Summer Rates to be Cut http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/223 Sunday, 27 February 2011 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will lower its admission rates from Memorial Day through Labor Day to try and increase visitation. Sunday, 27 February 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, February 27, 2011 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History will lower its admission rates from Memorial Day through Labor Day to try and increase visitation.The temporary rates were unanimously approved by the museum's board of trustees on Saturday.If attendance goes up, the lower fees could be made permanent, according to museum officials.Current admission rates are $9 for adults; $7 for college students, senior citizens and active duty military personnel; and $5 for youth 3 to 18 years of age.The temporary rates will be $5 for adults; $4 for college students, senior citizens and military personnel; and $3 for youth 3 to 12 years of age. Those between 13 and 18 would pay the adult price, said Executive Director Joe Keiper.Children under 3 years of age will continue to be admitted for free.Visitors have told museum staff they think that for the number of exhibits at the facility, $9 is "a little steep" for admission, Keiper said.Getting money from more people should compensate for the lower fees, he said. But admissions revenue accounts for only about 11âÂ�„2 percent of the museum's budget, he said.The less visitors spend to get into the museum, the more they are likely to spend in the cafe and gift shop, said trustee Mervyn King of Martinsville.Attendance was 31,383 in 2006-07; 43,905 in fiscal 2007-08, its first full year in its new building; 31,910 in 2008-09; 33,279 in 2009-10; and 15,900 through January of this fiscal year, according to VMNH data.Also Saturday, the trustee board unanimously approved naming Dr. Noel Boaz, the museum's founder, as a senior fellow to the museum.Senior fellows basically have privileges to visit the museum and collaborate with its scientists whenever they want, Keiper said, noting that Boaz always has been welcome there.In Boaz's case, Keiper said, the honor is intended as "a sign of respect for all the work he's done" to advance the field of natural sciences.Along with being the museum's founder, Boaz has done extensive research pertaining to fossils, said Dr. J. James Murray Jr. of Charlottesville, chairman of the trustee board's research and collections committee."His research has been first class," Keiper said of Boaz, who is in Libya on a fossil dig.Because of the political unrest there, museum officials asked that people keep Boaz in their thoughts and prayers.The museum now has six scientists as senior fellows.The trustee board also received its proposed slate of officers for the fiscal year that will start in July.Proposed by a nominating committee are Sammy Redd of Martinsville, chairman; Missy Neff Gould of Richmond, vice chairman; Jim Severt II of Washington, secretary; and Christina Draper of Richmond, treasurer. The board will vote on the slate at its May meeting.Board Chairman Novel Martin of Roanoke did not seek reappointment as chairman."I'm juggling a few too many balls right now" with youth athletic coaching, church activities and other civic responsibilities, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/221 Affiliates Help Smithsonian and Mit Solve Mysteries http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/221 Friday, 25 February 2011 12:00:00 EST Helping the Smithsonian solve a mystery about a fictitious environmental disaster - doesn't that sound like fun? Friday, 25 February 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: Smithsonian Affiliation Helping the Smithsonian solve a mystery about a fictitious environmental disaster - doesn't that sound like fun? A preview look at the Vanished site, a curated alternate-reality game Smithsonian scientists have teamed up with MIT's Education Arcade to engage middle-school students to do just that, in an online alternate-reality game. Vanished will kick off on April 4 at vanished.mit.edu. In the course of 8 weeks, students ages 11-14 from all over the country will collect clues on- and off-line, and form a scientific community to help Smithsonian scientists test hypotheses and solve this mystery. Thanks to the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, a range of scientists from entomologists to paleontologists will host videoconference sessions with players, mentoring them through their scientific discoveries. (Read more in this USA Today article.) Where will students collect the real data from their hometowns, to share with Smithsonian scientists? Many will look to their local Affiliate for clues. According to MIT game designer Caitlin Feeley, "a kid in Kansas could go to the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson and bring back information on space exploration, and a kid in North Carolina could go to the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, walk through their incredible diorama, and bring back information on how a lost species massively affected an entire ecosystem." In fact, 17 Affiliate museums are partnering with the Smithsonian and MIT to offer clue-gathering opportunities for gamers. "The Aerospace Museum of California is excited to partner with the Smithsonian and MIT in this unique educational opportunity," says Linda Payne, the Museum's Education Director. "We are certain that Vanished will stimulate students' interest in scientific exploration and problem solving." The game, made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, hopes to capitalize on the popularity of shows such as CSI to offer a specific kind of scientific problem-solving for students. "The kids are actually doing science," says Elizabeth Cottrell, Smithsonian geologist and director of the Smithsonian's global volcanism program. "They are going to have the ‘Ah, I get it,"... moment for themselves." Thanks to the Smithsonian Affiliates who will help students find those "Ah hah" moments... right in their own neighborhoods. Affiliate partners for Vanished:Mid-America Science Museum, Hot Springs, ARMary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, Tallahassee, FLBuffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WYKansas Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KSThe Museum of Flight, Seattle, WASchiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia, NCAerospace Museum of California, McClellan, CAPutnam Museum, Davenport, IAHeinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PASouth Florida Museum, Bradenton, FLVirginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville, VAKenosha Public Museum, Kenosha, WIMuseum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MTMuseum of Dentistry, Baltimore, MDSouth Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/220 Old Marine Records Reveal Swelling Polar Carbon Sinks http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/220 Thursday, 24 February 2011 12:00:00 EST Scientists in Poland, the UK and US have discovered that polar carbon sinks may be on the rise after analyzing samples of a marine creature collected during a famous 1901 expedition to the South Pole. Thursday, 24 February 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: Balkans.com Business News Balkan Business News Correspondent - 24.02.2011Scientists in Poland, the UK and US have discovered that polar carbon sinks may be on the rise after analyzing samples of a marine creature collected during a famous 1901 expedition to the South Pole. According to the team, the bryozoan grew consistently until 1990, when their growth doubled. The findings, which provide new insight into how carbon dioxide (CO2) is being stored on the seabed and could help geologists and environmentalists in projecting climate change, are presented in the journal Current Biology. The bryozoan investigated by scientists is Cellarinella nutti (C. nutti), a filter-feeding invertebrate that resembles branching twigs. As there is a plethora of C. nutti in the Antarctic, researchers regularly use this creature for their studies. An advantage to assessing C. nutti is that it preserves a clear macroscopic environmental record in its skeleton, recorded as tree-ring-like-growth-check lines. 'This is one of the few pieces of evidence that life in Antarctica has recently changed drastically,' explains lead author David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey. 'These animals are taking more carbon dioxide out circulation and locking it away on the seabed.' The team says the quick growth of C. nutti hints at an immediate rise in the regional production of the phytoplankton that the bryozoans consume. CO2 dissolved into the seawater is important for these algae; it ensures their survival. The carbon in the algae is first absorbed by C. nutti and then incorporated into its skeleton and other tissues. As the creatures grow, some portions of its body are detached and fall to the sea floor where they end up getting buried. 'Thus, the amount of carbon being buried on the seabed is increasing,' says Dr Barnes, 'whilst globally we are becoming more aware of the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.' Ozone losses are probably responsible for the shift. Such losses have triggered a rise in wind speeds since 2000. Dr Barnes points out that plankton benefit immensely from these stronger winds; the winds blow ice out of the way and help improve the circulation of surface waters. 'If we are right, this is a rare example of animals responding to one global phenomenon, the ozone hole, and affecting another, the greenhouse effect,' Dr Barnes notes. Their research got a big boost with the early marine collections assembled by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, an explorer and polar pioneer who led the British National Antarctic Expedition and British Antarctic Expeditions at the turn of the 20th century. Specimens maintained by museums in New Zealand, the UK and the US were also used in the study. 'Scott's most famous journey was to reach the South Pole, but a team lead by the Norwegian explorer [Roald] Amundsen beat them to it,' Dr Barnes says. 'Scott's team died in 1912 on the journey back to his food depots, and so his exploits are often not associated with success. What is not so well known is that his voyages were first and foremost scientific ones, and the collections of material and information they made were impressive even by today's standards.' 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. While more research is needed to understand how big a role C. nutti plays in the environment, the researchers believe it is probably a small one. 'Nevertheless, we think that the combination of ice shelf losses and sea ice losses due to climate change and the effect of ozone loss-induced wind speeds offer some hope for much-needed carbon sequestration to the seabed in the Southern Ocean,' Dr Barnes explains. 'There are few other places in the world where global and regional changes could actually lead to more carbon being removed from the system.' Experts from the Institute of Oceanology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Natural History Museum in the UK, and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in the US contributed to this study. Source; European Union http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/222 Captain Scott's Centry-Old Collections Suggest Marine Life is Capturing More Carbon http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/222 Tuesday, 22 February 2011 12:00:00 EST Tiny Antarctic marine creatures collected 100 years ago by Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott give new clues about polar environmental change. Tuesday, 22 February 2011 12:00:00 EST News Article: British Antarctic Survey Issue date: 22 Feb 2011Number: 01/2011 Tiny Antarctic marine creatures collected 100 years ago by Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott give new clues about polar environmental change. By comparing present-day bryozoans - a sea-bed filter-feeding animal that looks like branching twigs - with specimens from Scott's expeditions scientists have found the first conclusive evidence of increased carbon uptake and storage by Antarctic marine life. Kymella polaris, a cheilostome bryozoan, at 32m depth Reporting this week in the journal Current Biology an international team of scientists explain how they examined annual growth bands in skeletons of specimens of bryozoans (Cellarinella nutti) collected from Antarctica's Ross Sea during the Census of Antarctic Marine Life. When compared with museum collections in the UK, US and New Zealand - including specimens from Scott's expeditions - they found that since 1990 bryozoans grew more rapidly than at any time before. The most likely explanation is greater availability of food (phytoplankton). The findings suggest that this new growth is an important mechanism for transferring carbon into the sea bed. Lead author, Dr Dave Barnes, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says, "For the first time we've been able to use the longest record of animal growth as evidence of rapid recent change to life on the seabed. Scott's biological collections are considerable in quality and quantity and will continue to become even more valuable for determining how life responds to change across time. Few biological studies in Antarctica go back more than 30 years, so these data are invaluable and highlight the importance of long-term monitoring." The spurt in growth means that animals reach the size earlier at which ocean currents snap them off. As the animals topple over they bury carbon, therefore increasing the seabed's potential as a carbon sink.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/218 Cooking Gone Wild: Muehleck Serves Up Flavorful Game http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/218 Wednesday, 16 February 2011 12:00:00 EST After growing up hunting with his father, Jim Muehleck, Jason Muehleck is carrying on the family tradition - which includes preparing wild game in tasty ways. Wednesday, 16 February 2011 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, February 16, 2011By TRISHA VAUGHAN - Bulletin Accent WriterAfter growing up hunting with his father, Jim Muehleck, Jason Muehleck is carrying on the family tradition - which includes preparing wild game in tasty ways. Muehleck, 29, of Martinsville, is chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County chapter of Ducks Unlimited. He likes to cook waterfowl and also deer, which was one of the first wild game meats he learned to prepare, he said. "Anything you can do with beef you can do with deer," such as ribs, steaks and lasagna, he added. Muehleck even likes to prepare game for holiday meals at Ameristaff, where he is the vice-president. He said he has prepared venison chili, summer sausage (with venison) and pheasant for the events. He is a 1999 graduate of Martinsville High School and a 2003 graduate of Bridgewater College with a bachelor's degree in business administration. In the past, Muehleck has prepared deep-fried wild turkey and pheasant Wellington for Thanksgiving at home. He cautioned that when serving wild game in meals for company, the host also should serve dishes made with farm-raised meats (such as pork or chicken) because some people don't eat wild game. His wife, Kate, is "not a wild game fan," Muehleck added.Muehleck's mother is Susan Muehleck of Henry County, and his grandparents are Dr. William and Janet Muehleck of Martinsville. His brother is Matthew Muehleck of Henry County.Hunting "gets in your blood. It's fun," Muehleck said. He has been an avid duck hunter for about 18 years and one day hopes to teach his son Samuel, 7 months, how to hunt. As Jason Muehleck grew older, he cooked more game, expanding from deer and turkey into dove, quail and duck. He has learned that some people who don't eat processed or farm-raised meats like wild game, whether for the taste or moral reasons such as the animal having a better and more free life. "When harvesting an animal you want to use it to the best of the ability," he said, adding that he only kills animals he or someone else would be able to eat. He added that in addition giving game meat to friends and relatives, many hunters donate extra meat to Hunters for the Hungry, which distributes wild game meats to families in need. Many people think meat from hunting has a "wild, gamey taste," which Muehleck said is not the case if prepared properly. When Muehleck finds a recipe he likes to use with beef or chicken, he saves it and experiments with substituting deer or pheasant. Wild turkey is interchangeable with the pen-raised variety, he added. "Find a recipe that works for you and go for it," he said.Muehleck and members of Ducks Unlimited will continue their efforts to spread their love of hunting as well as promote the organization's emphasis on conservation at the annual Martinsville-Henry County Ducks Unlimited Banquet, to be held from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at Virginia Museum of Natural History. Tickets cost $25 for the meal, beverages and participation in the auctions and games. A $50 ticket also includes a single membership to the organization, with a $75 ticket providing membership for two people. The $250 sponsor-level tickets include everything the $75 ticket offers along with an entry into a gun giveaway and an invitation to the club's annual thank-you dinner, to be held later in the year. Tickets may be purchased by calling Muehleck at 632-5061, or at the door.Proceeds will benefit Ducks Unlimited at the local and national levels. The dinner has "continued as long as the chapter has been around," and this is the second year the banquet has been held at the museum, Muehleck said.In addition to the two dinners, the organization teams with the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to hosts a free Greenwing event for youth each year. Greenwing includes hunting demonstrations, hunting safety, outdoor activities, paintball, food and more.Muehleck said that Ducks Unlimited works to advocate conservation and combat the decline in hunting. He said he believes there are three factors that contribute to the decline: "Cost of hunting, including licenses and fees;"Video games and television being substituted for outdoor activities; and"The family unit becoming weaker. Hunting is a tradition that is passed down through families and if the families aren't doing that, the younger generation won't take it up, he said.He added that the organization works to preserve the wetlands which are home to many types of waterfowl. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/217 Natural Museum Teaches Virginia's Pre-History http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/217 Thursday, 30 December 2010 12:00:00 EST Imagine the excitement of walking through a door and being greeted by a fully mounted Allosaurus. This is just one of the many diverse exhibits the Virginia Museum of Natural History of Martinsville has to offer those eager to learn more about Planet Earth. Thursday, 30 December 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: News Network Archaeology Author: Rebekah Carter | Source: The News Leader [December 30, 2010]Imagine the excitement of walking through a door and being greeted by a fully mounted Allosaurus. This is just one of the many diverse exhibits the Virginia Museum of Natural History of Martinsville has to offer those eager to learn more about Planet Earth.Joe Keiper, executive director of the museum, said the exhibition gives you a sense of wonder and diversity of our planet over a vast amount of time."We want to share with you the science that we do," said Keiper, adding the facility does research that isn't done anywhere else, and visitors will get to see science in action."We have a hall on how nature works and a gallery on uncovering Virginia that focuses on the work that has been done in the past," Keiper said. "We serve the entire state of Virginia and have over 18,000 students who come through our museum," he said.The museum was recently awarded re-accreditation by the American Association of Museums, the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum."This is an outstanding outcome of our museum's review by the American Association of Museums," Keiper said. Accreditation from AAM is the gold standard in museum operations. Our staff is incredibly talented, and our boards and community are very supportive."Without the help of local business leaders, private donors and community members, the museum would not be able to get this level of accreditation, Keiper said. "They help us so much financially and they engage in the museum by coming in the front doors," he added.Keiper said that of the nation's estimated 17,500 museums, 777 are accredited. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a two-person team of peers, he said."Accreditation is an entirely self-motivated process, and is no small task," said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. "Accreditation is clearly a significant achievement. But put simply, it means the citizens of the communities served by these museums have in their midst one of America's finest museums."Jennifer Doss, the local director of Martinsville tourism, said the division of tourism does numerous group tours at the museum. "The museum really has a 'wow' factor and people are so surprised that this small town has such an amazing museum," Doss said. "One visit is almost not enough. You need to come back and see it again and again."One of the unique things about the museum is that it has a working research lab and seven staff scientists, Doss said."You may come in and get to see them researching or cleaning dinosaur fossils," she said, adding that their displays are constantly changing."It's a fun and educational experience, and we are very fortunate to have it in our back yard for our children to grow up around and be exposed to," Doss said.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/216 VMNH Will Begin Closing on Sundays http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/216 Monday, 27 December 2010 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will be closed on Sundays until the summer due to a lack of visitation on that day. Monday, 27 December 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, December 27, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History will be closed on Sundays until the summer due to a lack of visitation on that day.Income on Sundays has been less than the cost of operating the museum on that day, according to Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.Starting this week, the museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Its PALEO Cafe will open an hour earlier on weekdays.The museum will reopen on Sunday afternoons from May 29 to Sept. 4.Executive Director Joe Keiper said he expects demand for Sunday openings will be greater during the summer.Opening seven days a week used to be standard practice for the museum, but budget cuts two years ago forced it to close on Sundays. The museum resumed Sunday operations on Sept. 5 on a temporary basis.Sunday operating hours are 1 to 5 p.m.Average visitation on Sundays has been 12 people, but the number on any given Sunday has ranged from four to 28, Barber said. Most of those people have been from out of town, he noted.Those figures are "not enough to justify" opening on Sundays, he said. "It is definitely the weakest day for visitation."Â�Barber said it would seem reasonable that a lot more people would visit on Sundays because most people are off from work or school and able to drop by. He admitted that he and other staff at the state-supported museum do not know why Sunday visitation has not been higher.The museum has been minimally staffed on Sundays, with only two security guards and a "box office person" - someone to collect admission fees and run the museum store and cafe - on duty, Barber said.It costs the museum about $150 to be open on a Sunday, Barber said. That reflects wages for the three employees and does not include utility costs, which are not much, he said.Yet average revenues on Sunday - including admission fees plus store and cafe sales - have been about $76, Barber said.In comparison to Sunday visitation figures, on Saturdays the museum usually sees at least 30 visitors, and often many more, Barber indicated. He said if a special event is being held on a Saturday, visitation can be in the hundreds.Friday afternoons and Saturdays generally are the busiest times for the museum, he said.Overall visitation at the museum continues to be "strong," Barber said.From July through November, the museum saw 12,164 visitors, statistics show. That compares to 12,593 visitors for the same period last year.Considering school budget cuts and other economic concerns, Barber said museum officials are not worried about the slight drop. He mentioned that students make up a large percentage of the museum's weekday visitors.Keiper said the museum wants to tailor its operating days and hours to fit the needs of its visitors. But it also has to operate as efficiently as possible, Barber said.Museum officials hope some recently opened exhibits and displays will lure visitors.Newer permanent attractions include the "Hahn Hall of Biodiversity," "Hooker Furniture Discovery Reef" and "Fossil Overlook."Â�On display temporarily is "Earth From Space." Presented by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the 20 information panels show large color reproductions of images captured by satellites circling the world.Upcoming temporary exhibits include "Documenting Diversity" and "Animal Secrets," both of which will open Jan. 22. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/215 Big Game on Display: Hahn Donates Collection to VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/215 Sunday, 29 August 2010 12:00:00 EST Dr. Thomas Marshall Hahn Jr. went to great lengths to hunt his African mammal collection, but area residents can skip the safari (and the malaria) by heading to the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Sunday, 29 August 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, August 29, 2010 By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterDr. Thomas Marshall Hahn Jr. went to great lengths to hunt his African mammal collection, but area residents can skip the safari (and the malaria) by heading to the Virginia Museum of Natural History.The Hahn Hall of Biodiversity features the African mammal collections of Dr. Hahn, president emeritus of Virginia Tech. During the opening reception Friday, more than 150 members came out to see the exhibit before it opened to the public on Saturday. "The exhibit is breath-taking, I will have to come back and bring my family," said Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech, who attended the event. Hahn is a big game hunter who killed the animals that now line the walls of VMNH while on safari in Africa. Hahn said he made two trips, one to Zambia and another to South Africa in 1999 and 2000."Each hunt is different. They're all wonderful adventures," said Hahn, "You have the joy of seeing animals in their natural habitat and the thrill of the hunt."?While he was hunting, Hahn said he traveled by plane, vehicles and "a lot of walking" to stalk and kill his prey. He was especially proud of his specimen of a Sitatunga, a swamp-dwelling antelope that now stands at the beginning of the Hahn Hall.Hahn said he spent three days tracking the Sitatunga, walking for miles and sleeping on the ground in swamps.He slept in a sleeping bag and he covered himself with mosquito netting, but he still caught malaria on the expedition, Hahn said. However, he said the illness was well worth it when he shot and killed the Sitatunga at dawn on the third day of his hunt in the swamp. After he successfully killed any animal he planned to mount, the skull and pelt were sent back to the United States to be mounted by a taxidermist who specialized in African mammals. Now, all of the mounted animals can be used to educate and impress museum visitors, said museum Director Joe Keiper. "We had been wanting to do something that incorporated classification and adaptation," said Nancy Moncrief, curator of mammology.She said that Hahn's donation gave the museum a perfect opportunity to do just that. There are 75 species of antelopes in Africa, and 26 are included in this exhibit, said Ryan Barber, museum spokseman. Those 26 species have been divided into six groups for visitors to observe, said Moncrief. The species in the same group hang together on the walls of the exhibit, and a guide showing similar types of antlers also is available. The hall is designed so that educators can walk through with a laser light and point out similar groups and discuss the different species, Barber said. Moncrief said there also are videos of Hahn's trips on display so visitors can see how the animals moved in the wild. Staff member Donnie Jones installed the new lighting systems, Barber said. He added that the lights are fiberoptic, which means they require less energy and they will not damage the specimens. Jessica Davenport, publications and exhibits manager, said it took a while to figure out how best to display the animals. She said staff took measurements of every animal, and then she made computer layouts to figure out the best way to showcase the specimens. For some animals, such as the hyena, the answer was simple. Hahn had museum-quality taxidermy work done, and many of his full-bodied pieces already were installed on wooden pedestals. "It's phenomenal taxidermy," said Moncrief, adding that she had "never seen a full mounted hyena anywhere."?Along with his specimens, Hahn donated $50,000 to the museum to help develop the exhibit hall, said Barber. Other than labor, it did not cost the museum anything. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/214 Sloth from Ice Age makes a move http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/214 Wednesday, 25 August 2010 12:00:00 EST The giant ground sloth went extinct about 10,000 years ago, but one of them was on the move Sunday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.   Wednesday, 25 August 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, August 25, 2010By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterThe giant ground sloth went extinct about 10,000 years ago, but one of them was on the move Sunday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.A life-size, 10-foot-tall model of Jefferson's Ground Sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) named "Clawd" has been a fixture at the museum since 1990, said Ryan Barber, marketing and external affairs director at VMNH. Clawd had been displayed on the museum's upper level, overlooking the main floor, since the new museum opened in 2007.That changed Sunday, when museum officials moved Clawd downstairs to the Saltville exhibit in the Uncovering Virginia gallery.The Saltville exhibit explores what Virginia was like during the Ice Age, when real-life Clawds might have walked through the future backyards of Henry County and Martinsville. According to information in a 1985 VMNH newsletter, the Jefferson Ground Sloth lived in caves and survived the Ice Age only to become extinct some 10,000 years ago. Some scientists believe early man wiped out the giant ground sloth through hunting, wrote Noel Boaz, the museum's first director.Clawd now will be a permanent part of the Saltville exhibit, Barber said. The move was necessary because Clawd's former home on the museum's upper level soon will become a permanent dinosaur exhibit.That new exhibit, expected to open in October, will provide a place for materials from the current "Messages from the Mesozoic" exhibit, Barber said. That meant that Clawd - who would have lived during the Ice Age, not the earlier Mesozoic - had to be moved, Barber said.Twenty years after Clawd joined the museum, he was showing signs of age and needed a few repairs. Before the model was moved, some of its toes were removed so they could be fixed, Barber said. After the toes were taken off, Clawd's arm and tongue were detached before he was moved to the ground floor, said Barber. Once he was installed in the new location, the sloth's toes, tongue and arm were reattached.Moving a giant ground sloth - even an inanimate one - is no easy feat, according to Barber. Made of a combination of fiberglass, wood and synthetic hair, Clawd weighs several hundred pounds, Barber said.To move him, museum personnel placed Clawd on a lift and lowered him to the ground floor. From there, he was lifted onto a flat rolling cart and transported to the Saltville exhibit. The model was created based on fossils and skeletons of the actual animal, Barber said.According to former director Boaz's report, a fossilized leg and hand skeleton of the giant ground sloth became the first fossil vertebrate discovered and named in America. It was found in a cave in Greenbrier County, Va., (now West Virginia) in the 1790s, Boaz wrote. Jefferson named the animal Megalonyx, meaning "great claw" in Greek, and thought it might have belonged to a large carnivorous, lion-like animal, Boaz wrote. With Jefferson's description of this beast in 1799, vertebrate paleontology started in this hemisphere, Boaz wrote. The report added that a scientific colleague realized that the fossil actually was similar to the much smaller, living tree sloths of South America and named the species after Jefferson: Megalonyx jeffersonii. More recent discoveries have shown that the creature was the size of a large bear and was a vegetarian. It used its large claws for digging and tearing vegetation, wrote Boaz. Despite the giant claws, the sloth continues to be a popular attraction for museum visitors, Barber said. "He's definitely touchable," Barber said, adding that visitors often take photos with him.Barber said he has seen models of giant sloth skeletons, but he has never seen another life-like model of a giant sloth at a natural history museum. To preserve the unique sloth for future visitors, Barber said staff members are looking into building a platform around the model, which also would give visitors better visibility. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/213 Group Aims to Support VMNH: While Having Fun http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/213 Tuesday, 17 August 2010 12:00:00 EST A group of local residents in their 20s, 30s and 40s is working to support the Virginia Museum of Natural History while providing social opportunities for young professionals. Tuesday, 17 August 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, August 17, 2010By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterA group of local residents in their 20s, 30s and 40s is working to support the Virginia Museum of Natural History while providing social opportunities for young professionals.The Young Friends of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) is designed to raise awareness about the museum among young professionals while providing a place for networking and socializing, said VMNH Director of Development Debbie Lewis."I am pleased that in the two years since the Young Friends of VMNH was established, we have been able to provide a unique social venue for the young professionals of our community as well as showcase this extraordinary institution," said Lewis. "This energetic group of individuals recognize the tremendous value of a museum membership and are working to develop a greater awareness of the VMNH throughout the community."?By getting young people involved at VMNH, museum officials hope to attract and retain new members. Lewis said the museum has gained about 40 memberships through Young Friends, both family and individual memberships. The group's events draw more people, sometimes as many as 100, she said."Being a part of Young Friends is one way to support the museum and the many educational opportunities it provides our community," said member Melany Stowe, who is career development coordinator for Henry County Schools.Many of the group's events are held in the museum, and participants can explore the museum's exhibits while socializing."As an educator and parent, my initial interest in the museum was for the benefit of local children. However, I have never left the museum without learning something," Stowe said.Lewis said creating a group for young professionals was often discussed, and two years ago members of the VMNH foundation board got together to plan the first event, which was held Aug. 20, 2008. Activities have been held ever since.Other than museum membership fees, there is not a separate cost to belong to the group. "Young Friends is an example that there are a lot of young people in town who are trying to do good things in the community," said member Shane Painter, an attorney. Those who are members help promote and support VMNH, and there are also events that reach out to the community, including one in which children from the Boys and Girls Clubs were invited to a cookout and take part in a scavenger hunt at VMNH with Young Friends members. In addition to supporting the museum, Young Friends provides "a good networking opportunity both professionally and socially," Painter said.The most recent Young Friends event was a canoe trip on the Smith River. The trip attracted members and nonmembers, some of whom traveled from out of town to attend, Lewis said.Previous Young Friends events have included parties with food, drinks and themes such as a Mardi Gras dinner and a tacky sweater Christmas party.The next Young Friends event, called "Endless Summer," will be open to local educators free of charge, said Lewis. When they meet at the museum from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 23, the educators will be able to socialize, eat and listen to music, all while discovering the educational resources available at the museum, she said. Young Friends events typically carry admission costs, but local businesses are providing sponsorships to allow educators to attend "Endless Summer" for free."I am very excited and proud to be a member of a group that recognizes the daily efforts of our local teachers and is willing to sponsor an event just for them," Stowe said. Young professionals in the community who want to attend Young Friends events or get involved in the organization can find out more information on the museum's website, www.vmnh.net; through the group's Facebook page, which is listed publicly; or by e-mailing YoungFriendsVMNH@gmail.com. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/212 Reptile Fans Slither in for Museum Event http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/212 Sunday, 25 July 2010 12:00:00 EST Giant snakes impressed those who stopped by Reptile Day to get up close and personal with their scaly friends at the VMNH. Sunday, 25 July 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, July 25, 2010 By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer Giant snakes impressed those who stopped by Reptile Day to get up close and personal with their scaly friends at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday. More than 500 people got a chance to see and handle a variety of snakes during the day-long program. Keith Farmer of the North Carolina Herpetological Society had snakes in cages and containers laid across several tables for children to observe, touch and ask questions about. Farmer said he hopes to help people become more comfortable around snakes because most are harmless. A large boa constrictor was draped around his shoulders during the event. As he answered questions about snakes, the python slowly wrapped itself around Farmer. He said there was no danger since the python was much too small to be interested in him as a potential meal. Most of the time snakes encountered in the wild are more afraid of people than the people are of them, Farmer said. He added that even with poisonous snakes, it is best to leave them alone because they have no reason to attack a person who is too big to eat. "Snakes do a lot of good," said Farmer, adding that although snakes help keep mice and rat populations down, "a lot of people have an unnatural fear of snakes." Nikki Blankenship, 11, of Collinsville, wasn't afraid of snakes. She was examining a large albino Burmese python while it wrapped itself around reptile enthusiast Brice Stevens. "It feels weird," Nikki said after touching the python. Stevens explained that the scales on the snake are made out of keratin, which is the same thing human fingernails are made of. Nikki said she likes snakes because many of them are colorful, and she hopes that when she gets older she can have a snake of her own. Snakes weren't the only reptiles on display Saturday. A small fenced in area provided a temporary home for a large African Spurred Tortoise, which was about two feet around in circumference. "I haven't seen a turtle that big ever," said Hayden Fulcher, 6, of Martinsville. Hayden said he was excited to see all of the snakes at Reptile Day, but he also was interested in the shark teeth and dinosaur bones on display nearby. When asked whether he preferred snakes or dinosaurs, he thought about it and then declared that he liked both equally. Also during Reptile Day, Mark Kilby of Luray Zoo gave live reptile demonstrations, and Bonnie Keller spoke about rescuing reptiles. There also were educational activities, including stories and games about reptiles. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/205 Festival Draws Crowd to Park http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/205 Monday, 14 June 2010 12:00:00 EST Hundreds of area residents braved the heat Saturday to attend the Outdoor Fun Festival at J. Frank Wilson Park. Monday, 14 June 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, June 14, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterHundreds of area residents braved the heat Saturday to attend the Outdoor Fun Festival at J. Frank Wilson Park.More than two dozen organizations, businesses and clubs participated in the second annual festival, sponsored by the Virginia Museum of Natural History and Martinsville Parks and Recreation Department.The National Weather Service forecasted a high temperature on Saturday of 89 degrees but, according to the service's website, the thermometer actually reached 93 degrees by 1:30 p.m. as a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon."If it wasn't for the shade, it would be terrible out here," said Lee Sessor of Ridgeway as he helped his 31âÂ�„2-year-old son, Austin, down a sliding board.Children's activities included an inflatable rock climbing wall and castle that kids could bounce in. Kids also enjoyed a variety of playground equipment at the park, including swings, a merry-go-round and a basketball court.Food vendors sold many tasty treats. There was live music, and local civic groups and community organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, Civil Air Patrol and Smart Beginnings, distributed information about their activities."There's a lot of good information ... (and) good music," Sessor said.Going Big, a campaign to raise $100,000 by July 31 to install a skateboard park at Wilson Park, had a fundraising jar at the festival. A representative of the campaign, Christian Perkins, said donations to the jar were "a little more than I thought" they would be, although he did not have a total amount.Overall, the campaign so far has raised more than $35,000, organizers said last week."Every little donation can help," Perkins noted.Eugene Reynolds of Martinsville brought his three grandchildren - Jamarius, 11, and Yaniya and Jaliyah Reynolds, both 7. He said the festival was "really, really nice."Â�Yaniya Reynolds said she liked the snow cones for sale and the basketball courts the best.Martinsville Parks and Recreation Director Gary Cody estimated attendance at 1:30 p.m. at about 500 children and adults. The event ended at 3 p.m.Although he was pleased with attendance, Cody said "you always shoot for more."Â�"Everyone's saying it's great, it's just hot," he said, adding that the heat could have kept some people away.Cody added that one idea he has for future Outdoor Fun Festivals is a water balloon toss contest. At the least, it might help keep people cool, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/204 LCS Students Sweep State Arbor Day Contest http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/204 Wednesday, 05 May 2010 12:00:00 EST Lynchburg City School fifth graders swept the state's Arbor Day fifth grade poster contest. Wednesday, 05 May 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: Lynchburg City Schools Lynchburg City School fifth graders swept the state's Arbor Day fifth grade poster contest. O'Shea Nowlin, from R. S. Payne Elementary School, came in first place with his artistic rendition of this year's theme "Trees are Terrific and Energy Wise". Lexi Mullin from Perrymont Elementary won 2nd place in the state and the state's third place winner was Olivia Deddens from Bedford Hills Elementary School.O'Shea will be honored during the city's Arbor Day celebration at R. S. Payne on Monday, May 10, 2010. At that celebration the Director of Education and Public Programs from the Virginia Museum of Natural History will talk about the importance of the poster contest.The contest is put on by the Arbor Day Foundation. The winners of each state competed in a national competition in which a student from Alabama won. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/203 VMNH Awards Honor Science Supporters http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/203 Thursday, 22 April 2010 12:00:00 EST Scientific achievements and contributions from around the state were recognized Wednesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Thursday, 22 April 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, April 22, 2010By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterScientific achievements and contributions from around the state were recognized Wednesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.More than 70 people attended the museum's 23rd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards, according to museum spokesman Zach Ryder. The awards honor Virginia businesses, groups and individuals for their contributions to, and support for, the natural sciences."The museum is a tremendous treasure right here in Martinsville. It is a spectacular resource," said keynote speaker Dr. Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech.Rick Wunderman, Ph.D., presented the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science to Sharon Simkin. She accepted the award on behalf of her late husband, Tom Simkin, Ph.D., who had served as volcanologist and petrologist emeritus in the department of mineral sciences at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.The award is presented to a person who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history."Tom was a bold guy. He held his views and was not afraid to be unorthodox," said Wunderman.Wunderman said Simkin researched volcanoes by "plotting everything, even the economic impact." He said Simkin's studies can help scientists to learn more about volcanoes in the future.There is still a lot to understand, such as "ash clouds and how they effect the weather," said Wunderman.Jeff Kirwan, Ph.D., extension specialist and professor for Virginia Tech's department of forestry, presented the Thomas Jefferson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. The award was presented to both Byron Carmean, instructor of horticulture for the Chesapeake County Public Schools, and Gary Williamson, retired park naturalist with the Virginia state parks.This award is presented to a Virginia educator who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history, environmental and science education in either the formal or non-formal sectors."Byron and Gary have spent every weekend of their lives over the past 30 years going out and looking at big trees," said Kirwan. Throughout that time, both men discovered several important old and large trees in Virginia, he said."They work together, so I always think of them simultaneously, and together their contributions to science and science education are phenomenal," he said.Caroline County received the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award, which is presented to an entity that has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia, through contributions to research, science education or other relevant programs of the museum.Gary Wilson accepted that award on behalf of the county, where he works as director of economic development and tourism. It was presented by Allen Dooley, Ph.D., assistant curator of paleontology at VMNH, who said that the Caroline County Visitor Center has an exhibit that VMNH helped create to educate visitors on the scientific aspects of the area.T. Marshall Hahn Jr., Ph.D., president emeritus of Virginia Tech, received the William Barton Rogers Individual Award, which is presented to an individual who has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia, through contributions to research, science education, or other relevant programs of the museum.Winistorfer, who presented the award, said Hahn contributed to the museum by donating a collection of mammal mounts. He said the "Hahn Hall of Mammals" will open at the museum later this year and expose visitors to different types of wild animals.Elizabeth Moore, Ph.D., curator of archeology at VMNH, presented an award to Thomas Fleenor, archaeology volunteer at VMNH, in memoriam. Fleenor received the "Matthew Fontaine Maury Distinguished Service Award, which is presented to a person or corporation that has provided exemplary service in the development of VMNH. His widow, Marty Fleenor, accepted the award."Tom was a lover of the outdoors and had a great interest in archaeology, both in the fieldwork and what we can learn from the past," said Moore.Dr. Lauck "Buck" Ward, curator emeritus of invertebrate paleontology at VMNH, received the Noel T. Boaz Director's Award, presented to a person or organization selected by the museum's director. The award is given to someone who has made significant contributions through volunteer efforts or financial support that enable the museum to be a more successful institution and to secure its future as a great museum benefiting all citizens of Virginia.VMNH Executive Director Joe Keiper presented the award to Ward, noting that it was his "first time" selecting and presenting a Noel T. Boaz Director's Award. He said that Ward "continues to make scientific contributions and comes in every day despite retirement."Â�The Jefferson Awards were sponsored by Norfolk Southern, Bruce Wingo, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/202 Stop and Smell the Roses at "America's Largest Open House" http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/202 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 12:00:00 EST Historic Garden Week is a shining example of how Virginia's rich traditions, warm hospitality and beautiful landscape make it a great place to relax and reconnect with loved ones Tuesday, 06 April 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: PRWeb Richmond, Va. (PRWEB) April 6, 2010 Historic Garden Week is a shining example of how Virginia's rich traditions, warm hospitality and beautiful landscape make it a great place to relax and reconnect with loved ones. Known as "America's Largest Open House," Historic Garden Week takes place April 17-25, 2010, and showcases more than 250 of Virginia's most beautiful private homes, gardens and historic landmarks annually. Now in its 77th year, the program is the oldest and largest statewide tour event of its kind in the nation. Properties showcased on three dozen tours hosted by garden clubs across the state span four centuries of Virginia's architecture, history and landscape design. Tours range from $10 to $35 per person. Compete details are available on http://www.Virginia.org.Virginia's Historic Garden Week is not only for people with a green thumb. The entire family can enjoy the variety of tours and special activities planned for this year - from children's gardens, live music and even fashion shows. Children can tap into their inner gardener at hands-on children's gardens including Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond and the Norfolk Botanical Garden. History fans will love the chance to tour some of Virginia's most iconic sites and gardens including Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier and more. Nature lovers will enjoy tours at event locales ranging from the ocean to the mountains and people interested in architecture can visit stately plantations, renovated farmhouses, suburban estates, city townhouses and waterfront villas. To top it off, several Virginia destinations are offering special garden week travel packages, making it easy for people to stop and smell the roses. Below are some highlights of Garden Week celebrations and special packages. These and more can be found at http://www.Virginia.org. The Garden Week Package at The Jefferson Hotel, one of Virginia's most luxurious and legendary hotels, offers superior or deluxe accommodations, breakfast for two, Garden Week guidebook, valet parking and a signature spring floral arrangement from Blooms at The Jefferson. Package price from $235.Historic downtown Lexington will be in full bloom with the Garden Week Getaway to Lexington package, offering two-nights at Llewellyn Lodge, breakfasts, Historic Walking Tour and Garden Tour Tickets. Package price from $339 for two.America's Historic Triangle - Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, is always a Garden Week favorite. The James River Plantation Garden Week Lodging/Touring Package includes one night at Piney Grove at Southall's Plantation, breakfast and a two-hour progressive candlelight plantation tour. Package price $170 per person or $300 per couple.Garden Week goers in Southern Virginia can take advantage of the Landscapes to Tablescapes: Garden Week Tour Package at Quality-Dutch Inn in Martinsville. This package includes one night stay, tickets to the Martinsville-Henry County Garden Week Tour, gift card for Martha's Baskets, Gifts & More, lunch at Arts & Deli Café, gift basket, dinner and breakfast at the Amsterdam Dining Room and a tour of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Package price $160 per person or $235 per couple.Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. For more information on Historic Garden Week and to begin planning a visit, go to http://www.Virginia.org or call 1-800-VISITVA. A 2010 Virginia Garden Week tour book is available for $6 each, along with more information about tours and schedules, at http://www.VAGardenweek.org.Note: Tours are sponsored by members of The Garden Club of Virginia to benefit the restoration of historic gardens and grounds across the Commonwealth. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/201 Area's New Tourism Director Find There's Plenty to do Here http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/201 Sunday, 28 March 2010 12:00:00 EST Jennifer Doss thinks Henry County and Martinsville have enough attractions to entice tourists to come here and stay a week or longer. Sunday, 28 March 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, March 28, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterJennifer Doss thinks Henry County and Martinsville have enough attractions to entice tourists to come here and stay a week or longer.Those attractions include historical sites, recreation opportunities, arts and cultural amenities and outlet stores, said Doss, the new director of tourism for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).Her personal interests in those types of attractions prompted her to apply for the job, which she started in January. Her duties include finding ways to promote the community and its attractions that entice tourists to visit and spend money, thereby strengthening the local economy."Tourism is a major economic driver for our community," said Doss, formerly rivers and trails project manager for the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA)."Everyone benefits from tourism," even if their jobs do not directly pertain to it, she said. For instance, if a visitor's car breaks down, a local mechanic can fix it, and money the mechanic is paid is then spent in the community.Statistics cited by Doss show that tourism in Virginia last year generated $17.7 billion in revenue and supported 208,000 jobs statewide.She does not yet have figures showing how much revenue and how many jobs tourism supports in Henry County and Martinsville.However, a DRBA study showed that visitors who come to the area to hike along local trails collectively spend thousands of dollars a year on items such as food, gasoline and hiking equipment, she noted.Henry County and Martinsville have things to interest practically anyone, according to Doss.For instance, she said, history lovers can learn about Colonial-era governor Patrick Henry, who lived in the area for part of his life. They can find out about local history at the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Museum, research family history at the Bassett Historical Center and visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History to learn what the Earth was like many centuries ago.Outdoor enthusiasts can walk and hike along local trails or go fishing along the Smith River. Arts and culture lovers can visit Piedmont Arts Association and attend TheatreWorks performances, and shoppers can find bargains at local furniture outlets and the J.C. Penney Outlet store, she said.Managers at those stores have told her that the outlets attract shoppers who live three hours or more away, she added.Also, visitors can buy works of local artists - things "they can't get anywhere else in the world" - at the Southern Virginia Artisan Center uptown, said Doss."All of these (attractions) play a huge role in developing a package (of opportunities) that will entice people to come" to the area, she said.But first they must be made aware of those attractions.Under Doss' leadership, the EDC is launching an advertising campaign to promote the area to visitors. Ads will be published in several publications focusing on the region and southeastern United States, she said.A Web site, www.visitmartinsville.com, has information about area attractions, and Doss is striving to keep it updated daily. She also is using social networking opportunities to tell people about things to see and do.A toll-free phone number, 1-888-PACE4YU, has been set up so people who plan to visit the area can order free packages of information on attractions.Through those venues, information on Henry County and Martinsville is "reaching just about every state in the nation," Doss said.The area already is receiving a lot of tourists. A log at the visitor's center uptown shows that in the past month, tourists have come to Henry County-Martinsville from all over Virginia and as far as California and New York.But the EDC does not know how many tourists actually are visiting the area. Doss said a survey that is being developed for distribution at motels will help officials keep track of tourist numbers.She noted that in a survey conducted by the Martinsville Speedway, race fans rated the community as the friendliest place to watch a NASCAR race."That speaks very highly of us," she said.To motivate race fans to "take a right turn out of the speedway parking lot and go into town," Doss said the EDC and local restaurants are working on a promotion for the fall race at the speedway. When fans receive race tickets they order, they also will get a discount coupon for a restaurant, she said.The EDC also is developing package deals with area motels in which visitors can pay a set fee for lodging, meals and admission to attractions, she said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/198 Endangered Beetles Vs. Endangered Houses http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/198 Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST LUSBY, Md., March 23 (UPI) -- Homeowners on a stretch of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland are frustrated by an endangered beetle that prevents them from measures to halt cliff erosion. Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: UPI.com Published: March. 23, 2010 LUSBY, Md., March 23 (UPI) -- Homeowners on a stretch of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland are frustrated by an endangered beetle that prevents them from measures to halt cliff erosion.Marcia Seifert, a retired teacher and insurance company executive, and her friend, Phyllis Bonfield, bought a house 10 years ago in Chesapeake Ranch Estates in Calvert County. Since then, about half their backyard has crumbled to the beach below."It would be funny if it weren't so absurd," Seifert told the Baltimore Sun. "We were never told there was an endangered species along the cliff that would prevent us from protecting our homes." The only known populations of Puritan tiger beetles live in the sand and clay cliffs of Calvert County along one river on Maryland's Eastern Shore and on the Connecticut River in New England. State and federal laws prevent steps that could harm their habitat.A state Senate committee was considering a bill Tuesday that would allow homeowners to take some steps to stabilize the cliffs without worrying about the beetles. But Lauck Ward, a geologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said the cliffs are eroding at both bottom and top and efforts to keep them in place will fail.Ward recommends moving cliff-top houses away from the edge. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/199 Rare Beetle Foiling Residents' Hopes to Shore Up Crumbling Clavert Cliffs http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/199 Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST With her house perched atop a 70-foot cliff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, Marcia Seifert has a view you could die for. Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: Baltimore Sun March 23, 2010|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Baltimore Sun reporterLUSBY - With her house perched atop a 70-foot cliff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, Marcia Seifert has a view you could die for. She's hoping it won't come to that. When Seifert and her housemate Phyllis Bonfield bought the place at Chesapeake Ranch Estates a decade ago, the cliff was 52 feet from their deck. Now it's only half as far away at best - and about 9 feet in one spot - as bits and chunks of their backyard have tumbled onto the beach below.Their home and nearly a dozen others along this stretch of Calvert County shore are endangered by the crumbling cliffs - and by an extremely rare beetle that lives in them. Residents who own waterfront homes here say they knew about the eroding cliff, but not about the Puritan tiger beetles, which have severely limited what they can do to halt or slow the loss of their land."It would be funny if it weren't so absurd," said Seifert, 73, a retired teacher and insurance executive. "We were never told there was an endangered species along the cliff that would prevent us from protecting our homes."Fearful that their homes could tumble over the edge in the next several years, she and other residents are pressing state and federal officials for some relief from the strictures of the laws protecting the beetles and their cliff habitat from disturbance.A Senate committee in Annapolis is scheduled to hear testimony today on a bill that would push the state to allow "incidental" loss of some beetles if no alternative exists. A similar bill, sponsored by Del. Anthony O'Donnell, a Southern Maryland Republican, unanimously passed the House last month."Some of these houses are within 8 feet of the edge of the cliff," O'Donnell said. "It's scary as hell, and they're losing chunks 8 to 12 feet at a time."Seifert says it's a safety issue. She estimates that about 90 homes in Chesapeake Ranch Estates and 360 others along the Calvert shore are on cliffs that have been deemed beetle habitat. The bluffs, made up of sand and clay, can give way without warning - and did so with fatal consequences in 1996, burying a 12-year-old girl on the beach below. Last Thanksgiving, one cliff-top resident lost a backyard hot tub.State and federal officials say they're eager to help the homeowners. But they say they must balance property owners' needs against the very particular needs of the beetles, which are found only along the Chesapeake Bay and the Connecticut River in New England."For these communities, it is a huge problem right now, we understand that," said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, supervisor of the bay field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said his office has joined with Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and other officials to come up with a plan for safeguarding cliff-top homes without pushing the beetles to extinction.They're not far from that, according to scientists. In the bay, the beetles have been found only along a 2.4 mile stretch of cliff shore in Calvert and in the lower Sassafras River in Cecil County. Biologists tallied just over 2,000 last year along the Calvert cliffs, less than half the number found the year before. But their numbers fluctuate, so it's hard to tell if they're holding their own or declining. The beetle has been classified as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1990, and endangered under Maryland's parallel law.The reason for the beetles' rarity may lie in their habits and habitat needs. They're found in the open in June and July, when they forage for food and mate on the beach. Then the females scale the bluff to lay eggs. Their larvae burrow into the sandy portion of the cliffs to feed for more than a year before emerging to repeat the cycle.Chesapeake Ranch Estates and other waterfront communities along Calvert's bay shore were first planned and developed in the 1930s and '50s, before the county had zoning rules, according to Greg Bowen, director of planning and zoning. In 1984, the county began requiring new homes be at least 100 feet from the toe of the cliff, but some have been built closer because their owners signed waivers excusing the county from liability.Seifert and others say they thought they'd be able to control the erosion. However, the usual methods of armoring the shore with boulders, known as riprap, or of building walls or revetments, would wipe out the beetles' habitat.Federal and state regulators have let some property owners put boulders and concrete "reef balls" off their shoreline to break the wave action that undercuts the cliffs. Seifert said she and her housemate spent more than $75,000 to place a low rock wall along their 165-foot beachfront, and a neighbor paid for 40 feet of break-water.But Seifert said her yard keeps disappearing in two places - on the side where her other neighbor chose not to do anything, and in the center, where her septic drain field had been until it slid down the cliff. She got approval to fill the sinkhole and try to stabilize it with vegetation, but the patch of ground is sinking again.The problem is that the cliffs are eroding from the top as well as the bottom, with rain, snow and septic drainage seeping down through the topsoil to the layers of sand and clay, destabilizing them."If those guys [riprap] the cliffs and walk away and leave those houses there, those houses ... are going into the bay anyway," said Lauck Ward, a geologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History."The only thing that will stop the worry of homeowners is to have his house moved back to a common-sense place," Ward said. "At Calvert Cliffs, I'd want to be back at least 120 feet."Residents and officials say many of the lots are too small to relocate the house and still have room for a well and septic system.Seifert and others think it's time the government's concern for the beetles gives way to the need to safeguard people's safety and property."When it comes right down to it," she said, "this is not an issue between an endangered species, be it a tiger beetle or polar bear, and a property owner. This is an issue of fundamental constitutional rights. We're guaranteed by the Constitution to be able to own property and to protect it."C. Barry Knisley, an entomologist who has studied the beetle since the 1980s, said he sympathizes with the homeowners."I can't defend the beetle in saying it's of great value," said the retired biology professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. But the beetle is an indicator of a rare type of shoreline that itself may be worth protecting, he says. And, he notes, people go to great lengths to preserve man-made works of art and wonders of the world. "I would argue in the same way that species should be given every chance to survive in their natural habitat."In the wake of a town hall meeting in February, state, federal and local officials have pledged to meet every couple weeks to search for a solution. One idea would drive ultra-long steel pins or rods into the cliff to stabilize it. Any option will be expensive for the homeowner, however.Knisley has another idea. "One solution, ... would be to buy these people out and let nature take its course," Knisley said. "Stabilization put there now may be good for five years, 10 or 15. But, eventually, the bay is going to have its way."Either way, Seifert says she figures she and her housemate are living here on borrowed time. "I don't think we've got a year," she said. "We're going to tough it out as long as we can."Reporter Frank D. Roylance contributed to this article .  Puritan tiger beetles(Cicindela puritana)• Size: Less than half an inch long•Diet: Insects and crustaceans• Habitat: Along the Chesapeake Bay and New England's Connecticut RiverSource: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/200 Shoring Up Cliffs Called Harmful to Bay- Geologist says silt would create underwater desert http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/200 Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST Efforts to shore up the base of the cliffs on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay could trigger problems for the area's freshest fossil beds - and turn the bay floor into a silty "desert," an expert on the region's geology says. Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: Baltimore SunMarch 23, 2010|By Frank D. Roylance Efforts to shore up the base of the cliffs on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay could trigger problems for the area's freshest fossil beds - and turn the bay floor into a silty "desert," an expert on the region's geology says. Lauck Ward, a geologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History who has studied the Maryland and Virginia cliffs for more than 30 years, says the best fossils, laid down as much as 18 million years ago, would be buried by riprap and slumping sand. "Scientifically it would be a wipeout," he said. "But ... that's just one of the problems."Since the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, sea levels have been rising, flooding the lower Susquehanna River valley and creating the Chesapeake Bay. As the water rose, it cut cliffs into the ancient marine sediments exposed at high points along the old riverbanks.Nor'easters gnaw at the base of the cliffs. The bottom layers have more clay, more water, and more tensile strength to resist erosion than the sandier layers above.The erosion is also buffered by the narrow beach formed by the sand that falls from above. Riprap boulders are stronger, but they bring other problems, Ward said.Wave action in front of the boulders would scour away the beach, and the rocks would cut off the flow of cliff sand into the bay, Ward said. The cliff sand is "the only sand that's getting out into the bay. Everything else that's coming down the rivers ... is superfine silt and clay in suspension."Sealing off that sand would make the bay bottom increasingly silty and inhospitable to oysters, crabs and other life, he said."It's going to wipe out the bottom, make the bottom a barren desert," he said. "It's obvious to paleontologists." Fossil species are few in the silty sediment layers in the cliffs. In the sandier layers, "there's an explosion of diversity. The only way to get it [today] is to leave the ... cliffs alone."Riprap does not stop erosion at the top, either, Ward said. Over time, water seeps into the top sediments. Freeze-thaw cycles and drying cause slides and slumps from the cliff face. Trees help to draw that water out. But much of that cover has been cut.A U.S. Geological Survey report in 2003 noted that when left alone, with tree cover at the top, the cliffs retain an angle of 70 to 80 degrees, while the cliff face retreats at a rate of 2.3 feet to 4.3 feet a year.A decade earlier, the USGS reported that where the "toe" of the cliffs are stabilized, the cliff tops keep retreating until the angle from the base to the top decreases to a stable, vegetated slope of 30 or 35 degrees. The "cliffs" are destroyed."Other protective structures aimed to slow down erosion of slump material ... are generally ineffective," the USGS said.In a study summary, authors Curt Larsen and Inga Clark said, "We can tell you confidently that if you are foolish enough to build or buy a house on a cliff edge with a beautiful view of the Chesapeake Bay, simple toe protection of that cliff is not going to save your bacon." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/197 VMNH May Consider Fort Monroe Presense- After Site is Redeveloped http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/197 Sunday, 21 February 2010 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History may establish a presence at a military base that soon will be history - once the base is redeveloped. Sunday, 21 February 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, February 21, 2010 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer The Virginia Museum of Natural History may establish a presence at a military base that soon will be history - once the base is redeveloped. Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, home to the nation's largest stone fort, is occupied by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command but is scheduled to close in 2011. At that time, a Federal Area Development Authority will start managing the site on the state's behalf. The state will hold the title to land and buildings, and historic buildings will remain, but a developer may be hired to redevelop, manage and market the real estate, according to the authority's Web site. Preston Bryant, who was state secretary of natural resources under former Gov. Tim Kaine, has expressed interest in the museum having a presence at the 570-acre base once it is redeveloped. Museum trustee Conover Hunt of Hampton, who is the authority's deputy director, also is interested. She told the board of trustees Saturday that about 1.6 million people live in Hampton Roads - the largest metropolitan area in Virginia - but no natural history entity is there. The VMNH board plans to hold its next meeting on May 1 at Fort Monroe. Trustees want to look around in case the museum is able to have a presence there. But until it is decided what the base will become, the museum cannot figure out what type of presence is possible, said board Chairman Pam Armstrong. A presence could range from an information kiosk to a satellite museum, depending on how much money is made available to fund it, she indicated. The idea is a long way from becoming a reality. "We don't have any money ... at this time" to fund a presence at the base, and the state is unlikely to provide funds anytime soon, said Armstrong. Still, the Chesapeake Bay would be a great "learning laboratory" for museum scientists, Hunt said. The museum draws tourists from throughout Virginia and nearby states, but many of its visitors are from the Southside. It currently is taking part in efforts to revitalize Martinsville's uptown central business district to try and lure more people to the area. "We need to get bodies in this town" to help the local economy thrive, said trustee Mervyn King of Martinsville, who owns and develops buildings uptown. He told the board that a goal of local leaders involved in the revitalization is to have three at least cultural institutions - the museum, Piedmont Arts and a local history museum to be established in the historic former courthouse - in close proximity. King said amenities are needed to "appeal to a broad variety of people" because everyone is not interested in the same things. In attracting tourists, "we all need to cooperate," he said. "One person (or entity) cannot do it all."Â� Also Saturday, trustees learned that the museum currently has about 620 members. That number is down by about 100 from a year ago, according to Director of Development Debbie Lewis. People who buy museum memberships receive perks such as free admission for a year and invitations to exhibit openings and other special events. Lewis said she thinks the drop in memberships is largely due to the museum discontinuing a newsletter that kept members informed of happenings there. Not knowing what was going on, they may have not been able to determine when their memberships expired, she said. A committee is developing ways to try and regain past members and create new benefits to attract new members, Lewis added. The trustee board also learned that: "The museum is developing relationships with the Danville Science Center and the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Both facilities have exhibits on dinosaurs and are jointly promoting them, said Ryan Barber, the museum's marketing and external affairs director. The living museum combines aspects of a wildlife park, science museum, aquarium, botanical preserve and planetarium, its Web site shows. Hunt said the facility seems to her to be "more like a zoo" than a museum. "A "Mollusk Madness!" fund-raiser will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight March 27 at the museum. The event will feature music, an oyster roast, barbecue and NCAA basketball tournament games on large screens. The name is a play on the "March Madness" tournament. Individual seating as well as corporate sponsorships are available. "The 23rd Annual VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 21 at the museum. The awards recognize Virginia businesses, groups and residents for their contributions to, and support for, natural sciences. "About $3.4 million in pledges have been received toward the museum foundation's capital campaign. The goal is $5 million, Lewis said. The campaign raises money to pay for the museum's permanent exhibits. The board met for about 10 minutes in closed session to discuss legal and personnel matters but took no action afterward. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/196 New Director at VMNH will Work to Keep Things Fresh http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/196 Wednesday, 17 February 2010 12:00:00 EST A museum should always be evolving so it can attract repeat visitors as well as new ones, according to Joe Keiper. Wednesday, 17 February 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, February 17, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterA museum should always be evolving so it can attract repeat visitors as well as new ones, according to Joe Keiper.Long-term exhibits are fine, he said, but ultimately "you do not want things to be permanent" so visitors do not see the same historical specimens over and over again, losing interest in the museum in the process.Keiper, who began his new job as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) earlier this month, said museums should strive to regularly develop new exhibits, as well as interpret artifacts in current exhibits in new ways "so people have something new to touch, to see and to read."Â�When that happens, they are more likely to visit a museum frequently and support it financially through admission fees and donations, he indicated.Keiper said he wants to find ways for VMNH visitors to "dig a little deeper" into exhibits to learn more about natural history topics that they find most fascinating. Someone looking at a particular exhibit would be able to delve into it at different degrees, depending upon his interest in it, he said.He also wants to hear from area residents so they can "give their input" into ways the museum in Martinsville can remain enticing to visitors.VMNH is Virginia's official natural history repository and draws visitors from throughout the state and beyond. Keiper intends for the museum to develop new methods - one possibility he gave is new festivals - that will convince people in other areas to drive perhaps a few hours to the museum.Keiper still is learning about the area. He said that Henry County-Martinsville may not have as many attractions as larger places where other museums of VMNH's stature are located. But it has more features than many localities of its size, and the ones it has are unique, he said.Mentioning the museum, Piedmont Arts Association and opportunities for recreation along the Smith River and local trails as examples, he added that the area is "a good place to come and spend a long weekend."Â�"My mouth is watering" for those recreational opportunities, Keiper said, noting that he is an outdoors enthusiast.He said the museum must work with local government and tourism officials to promote the community to tourists.Still, Keiper said he recognizes that due to Martinsville's distance from more heavily populated areas, such as Richmond or Tidewater, "we are going to be serving primarily a much more local audience" than museums in larger cities.For that reason, he said VMNH must continue placing a lot of emphasis on being involved in the community, such as taking part in science and natural history learning activities in local schools.A SCIENTIST AND AN ADMINISTRATORKeiper, 41, previously was director of science and curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. He said he was somewhat familiar with VMNH through its scientists' research.VMNH has an "undeniable" reputation among natural historians as an institution that does quality research, he emphasized.He was happy with his job in Cleveland and was not looking for another. But he found out about the VMNH director's job opening and was intrigued. The more he learned about the museum, the more "I got excited," he recalled.Among things he found exciting, he said, was VMNH's move into its modern building on Starling Avenue three years ago, the museum's presence and role in a small community and the progress it has made since opening in 1984."There are not many successful museums that are only 25 years old," said Keiper, who was born in Germany but grew up in New Jersey.He decided to apply for the VMNH job, he said, because "it is a refreshing opportunity to help this institution" grow and prosper.Keiper received a bachelor's degree from Bloomfield College, a master's degree from Slippery Rock University and a doctorate in biology from Kent State University.In Cleveland, he became known as the "bug guy" due to his extensive interest in, and knowledge of, insects.Keiper speaks enthusiastically about basically everything, from his new job to his new co-workers to his ideas for VMNH. But he really gets excited when he starts talking about bugs.He noted, for example, that there are roughly 20,000 species of flies, and "all have a unique role in nature."Â�And, yes, he can identify every species.But "I can't do it by sight" all the time, he admitted - he uses reference books when necessary.His bug knowledge has enabled him to participate in more than 30 homicide investigations, such as when police discovered insects on decaying corpses. He said he is willing to help local law enforcement officials if needed.He plans to give a local lecture on insects at some point in the future.As a scientist moving into administration, Keiper said he knows his job as VMNH's new director will "take me away from the lab bench" as he handles other aspects of museum operations, such as fundraising.But whenever he can, he plans to visit VMNH scientists in their labs and talk to them about their work, maybe lending a hand if he has time."I want to keep my finger in" science being done at the museum, he said. The more he knows what is happening at VMNH, the better he can promote the museum and its work, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/194 Crowds See Dinosaurs Come to Life at VMNH's 'Dino Day' http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/194 Sunday, 24 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Dinosaurs had a second chance at life Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History when children of all ages got the chance to watch and create moving dinosaurs. Sunday, 24 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, January 24, 2010By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterDinosaurs had a second chance at life Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History when children of all ages got the chance to watch and create moving dinosaurs. The occasion was Dino Day, when families came see the museum's new dinosaur exhibit, "Messages from the Mesozoic"Â�; make crafts; and play games about dinosaurs. Carolyn Seay, special events manager at the museum, said shortly before the event ended at 4 p.m., more than 700 visitors had been counted.Immediately upon entering the museum, small children flocked to two stars of the exhibit. One has become a well-known staple of Martinsville's museum. She is affectionately known to staff and students as "Cera," a Triceratops which is wired to move and stomp her feet from atop her leaf-covered pedestal. Beside her a newcomer - a Tyrannosaurus rex who towered over Cera - was causing quite a stir."The kids adore them," Seay said of the ferocious couple. The T. rex could move his arms and lower his huge head down to the eye level of most small onlookers. He also roared, which only added to his appeal. "The T. rex was my favorite part," exclaimed Tristan Shelton, 8, of Stanleytown. Tristan said he liked the moving T. rex because it was his favorite type of dinosaur."I like the T. rex because it was a carnivore," he explained. Shelton said he is an omnivore, or an animal who eats meat and plants. He also explained that some animals are herbivores, eating only plants. His grandmother, Carol Shelton, said Tristan adores the dinosaur exhibits at the museum. This year she decided to bring some more children, including his cousin Olivia Allen, 6, of Fieldale. Carol Shelton said Tristan had guided the other children around the exhibits, explaining which were herbivores and carnivores to them. Olivia, however, was less interested in what the dinosaurs ate and more interested in where they went. "My favorite part of Dino Day was figuring out how they got extinct," she said, adding that apparently, a large meteor had wiped them out, leaving behind only footprints and bones. While the children enjoyed the dinosaur exhibits upstairs, they could be more hands-on with the crafts. Shelton created a T. rex puppet downstairs in the craft and game area of Dino Day. After coloring in cut-out pieces of T. rex head, arms, legs, tail and body, volunteers helped children assemble them with string and straws. The children could use their creation as a puppet or wear it around their neck as a dino-necklace. Volunteer Jo Carter of Collinsville handed out dino parts to color and helped the children create the puppets. Carter is a retired teacher and part-time educator at the museum. "They like it because they can create a dinosaur and make it their own. Their creativity really comes out," she said.Caitlyn Cannaday, 4, of Bassett, colored pieces of a dinosaur in red, pink, purple and blue. As Carter helped Caitlyn tape the different body parts together to make the puppet, she asked the child what the T. rex was going to use its little arms for. Perhaps it would use them for climbing, Carter suggested."No," replied Caitlyn, "but it will be making big footprints." Once her puppet had been completed and looked sufficiently colorful and bright, Caitlyn chose a name and a gender for her T. rex - "Mulan, the lady dinosaur," she decided. After completing T. rex puppets and viewing the large dinosaurs on display upstairs, the remaining children and parents piled into a room for story time. During a story about dinosaurs who danced under the moonlight, the audience got a chance to make their own noise with drums, shakers and triangles http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/193 'Messages from the Mesozoic' Set- Exhibit to Open Saturday at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/193 Friday, 22 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Starting this weekend, visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History can step back in time and learn about animals that existed millions of years ago. Friday, 22 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, January 22, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterStarting this weekend, visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History can step back in time and learn about animals that existed millions of years ago.A new exhibit, "Messages from the Mesozoic," will open Saturday and run through Sept. 18 at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville.Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs, said the exhibit is designed to help visitors learn about different types of fossils, as well as how they are formed and where they are found.Museum visitors can examine and compare different specimens of dinosaurs, as several large skeleton casts of dinosaurs will be on display. They include a 40-foot-long Acrocanthosaurus and a 12-foot-long feathered Deinonychus, both of which date back more than 100 million years.The dinosaurs on display are believed to have roamed in Virginia and other places, Barber said."Despite the many discoveries of animals, plants and dinosaur tracks found in Virginia, there has never been an actual fossilized dinosaur body part found in the commonwealth," he said.The only pieces of evidence of dinosaurs in Virginia found so far are footprints, or other trace fossils - records of the movement of dinosaurs left in mud or fine sand and preserved over millions of years in layers of sedimentary rock, Barber added.The exhibit opens as part of Saturday's "Dino Day" festival at the museum. Activities will include a "dino dig pit" where people use paleontology tools to uncover fossil casts, dinosaur-themed children's craft activities and dinosaur films in the museum's Hooker Furniture Theater.Presentations on dinosaurs will be made by Dorothy Belle Poli, assistant professor of biology at Roanoke College, and Alton Dooley Jr., associate curator of paleontology at the museum.Also, children can participate in a Dino Day puppet show and demonstrate their acting skills, Barber said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/192 Governor Notes Gains in Area http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/192 Friday, 15 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Gov. Tim Kaine is proud to have helped establish the New College Institute. Friday, 15 January 2010 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, January 15, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterGov. Tim Kaine is proud to have helped establish the New College Institute."I kind of helped to get the ball rolling," he recalled Thursday while visiting the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville on his next to last full day as governor.The state-supported institute in uptown Martinsville opened in 2006 with a goal of helping boost local economic development by increasing the number of area adults with college degrees.While he was lieutenant governor in 2004, Kaine and a bipartisan coalition of state and local officials spearheaded legislation to establish a college in southern Virginia. Then as governor in 2006, Kaine signed into law a bill passed by the General Assembly establishing the institute.In 2012, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is expected to decide whether NCI should remain in its current form or evolve.Kaine said that as governor, he has strived to help rejuvenate the economy of Henry County and Martinsville, which have seen thousands of jobs lost as industries closed during the past decade. For many months, the city has had the state's highest unemployment rate. In November, it was 20 percent.Gordon Hickey, the governor's press secretary, said Kaine has visited the area at least 16 times during his four years as governor.Along with helping launch NCI, Kaine said he is proud that the museum's new building on Starling Avenue was established under his watch. The facility opened in 2007 and is five times larger than the museum's previous building on Douglas Avenue.Kaine indicated that by being a more modern facility, the new building has the potential of luring more visitors from out-of-town. Officials have said those visitors spend money when they are here and boost the local economy.Another source of pride for Kaine is the Martinsville schools. In October, he visited Martinsville High School and proclaimed that the city schools are the best in the state in terms of striving to help students be successful at learning. He called the city schools the "poster system for excellence."Speaking to Piedmont Regional Governor's School students - many from Martinsville - who were at the museum, Kaine said it is "remarkable" that graduation standards at the high school are higher than state standards.He said he also is glad to see increasing numbers of high school students in the city taking advanced placement courses.The governor said he also is proud of helping to preserve open space in the area through conservation efforts he has promoted.He said that about 437,000 acres in Virginia, "an area twice the size of the Shenandoah National Park," have been legally preserved as open space while he has been governor. Although the area needs new businesses, Kaine said it also needs open space to help protect air and water quality, as well as because "people love the great outdoors" and want places to enjoy recreational activities.Thursday was Kaine's last day traveling in the state as governor. As part of that trip, he visited the museum to announce recipients of grants of federal stimulus funds for alternative energy projects. Two of the 15 recipients are in the Henry County-Martinsville area. Kaine said he came to Martinsville because he wanted his last day traveling to be memorable, and area residents "have always been so welcoming to me." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/191 Institute of Texan Cultures Partners with Smithsonian Institution http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/191 Tuesday, 12 January 2010 12:00:00 EST The Institute of Texan Cultures has been accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliations program and will formalize the agreement at a signing ceremony at 10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 28. Tuesday, 12 January 2010 12:00:00 EST News Article: UTSA Today By James BenavidesPublic Affairs Specialist (Jan. 11, 2010)--The Institute of Texan Cultures has been accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliations program and will formalize the agreement at a signing ceremony at 10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 28. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the Institute of Texan Cultures will receive access to artifacts, education and performing arts programs, expert speakers and teacher workshops, along with resources to complement and broaden exhibitions. UTSA President Ricardo Romo and Institute of Texan Cultures Executive Director Tim Gette, along with Harold A. Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations, will address Smithsonian officials, local civic leaders, UTSA personnel and friends of the institute at the ceremony. "The Smithsonian has a long and proud relationship with the ITC, going back to 1972 during the first Texas Folklife Festival and continuing right up to the present," said Closter. "We are confident that the affiliate relationship will enhance the work that both of our organizations are doing to understand, interpret and display the wonderful and diverse traditions of the American people." "The Smithsonian Institution is synonymous with world-class teaching and learning through its exhibits, programs and outreach, and it is an honor to be included in the company of this national treasure," said Romo. The Smithsonian Affiliations program shares the rich knowledge of the Smithsonian Institution with a broader audience, adhering to the Smithsonian's highest aesthetic, intellectual and professional standards. The program aspires to create experiences and opportunities to broaden perspectives on science, history, world cultures and the arts -- goals that are directly compatible with the mission of UTSA and the Institute of Texan Cultures as outlined in the university's "UTSA 2016: A Shared Vision" strategic plan. "It is a great privilege to enter into this affiliation," said Gette. "I had the good fortune of establishing Smithsonian Affiliations at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Dallas Museum of Natural History, and the partnership impacted both museums in a very positive way. Now, we at the institute are honored to have this opportunity to bring some of the greatest treasures and knowledge of our nation to Texas." "As UTSA moves toward becoming a national research university, this affiliation helps propel the Institute of Texan Cultures onto the national stage as well," said Romo. "With the opportunity to host traveling Smithsonian exhibits, the institute will make the rich Smithsonian cultural experience available to many people who otherwise may never have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C." The signing ceremony will be the first event in a day of activities at the institute. At 2 p.m., there will be a United States Immigration and Naturalization Services Naturalization Ceremony. Later in the evening, the institute will celebrate the opening of its new traveling exhibits gallery. The first exhibit in this new area, "RACE: Are We So Different?" created by the Science Museum of Minnesota, in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association, explores the science, history and everyday experience of race perceptions. The Smithsonian partnership allows the institute an opportunity to offer members a Smithsonian membership -- two memberships in one. Benefits include a one-year subscription to Smithsonian magazine, discounts at the Smithsonian and ITC museum stores, unlimited general admission at the ITC for two adults and children living in the household, invitations to members-only ITC events, discounts on Asian Festival and Texas Folklife Festival tickets, and more. The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. Durango Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m., Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit the Institute of Texan Cultures Web site. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/190 Local Offices Assess State Budget Cuts- NCI to Lose $8,131; VMNH is spared http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/190 Sunday, 20 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Officials with local agencies and institutions that get state funds are trying to determine what Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed budget cuts, announced Friday, will mean to them. Sunday, 20 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, December 20, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterOfficials with local agencies and institutions that get state funds are trying to determine what Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed budget cuts, announced Friday, will mean to them.Some of them knew Friday. For instance, the New College Institute (NCI) fared better with the governor's budget than Executive Director Barry Dorsey expected.NCI originally had a base budget in state funds of $1,623,809 for fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012, but earlier this year a reduction of $151,571 in state funds was imposed on the institute. That left NCI with $1,472,238 in state funds for each of the two fiscal years, according to Dorsey.State budget documents released Friday show that Kaine is recommending that NCI get $1,464,107 in state funds in 2011 and also in 2012. As a result, the net loss in state funds to NCI for each of those two years would be $8,131, Dorsey said.However, any loss of state funds results in a corresponding loss of funds from The Harvest Foundation to NCI. That means for 2011 and also for 2012, NCI will lose a total of $16,262, according to Dorsey and calculations.Dorsey said he thinks NCI can make up those cuts without significantly impacting programs, and he thinks two new degree programs planned for launch in 2011 - accounting and special education - can go forward as planned.He said he does not yet know how NCI will make up the budget cuts."I think Gov. Kaine has protected NCI much better than we expected," said Dorsey. "I thought the reduction (in state funds) would be much higher."Now, "the trick will be to hold this recommendation through the entire General Assembly session" that starts in January, he said. "We'll have to work very hard" to do that.Virginia Museum of Natural History Interim Executive Director Gloria Niblett said the museum was spared in the budget cuts Kaine announced Friday.In October, the museum had been ordered to trim its spending by 10 percent, or about $261,000."Ten percent was already a big cut from our budget," Niblett said. "I don't know why we were spared (more cuts Friday). I'm just glad we were."Â�She said the museum dealt with the 10 percent cut already ordered mainly through energy-saving measures and reducing discretionary spending.Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin said many budget cuts for specific offices and agencies are not yet known.However, "the governor's budget, as introduced, is devastating for Henry County," and it "will impact our ability to deliver core services," Summerlin saidThere is less state aid for public schools statewide in the budget, he said, and the constitutional officers' cuts are "huge," especially in the area of law enforcement.Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry is "very concerned. We've had discussions about our ability to deliver services," Summerlin said.Some cuts would be offset by stimulus and other funds, he said, but stimulus funds are short-lived and eventually the locality will have to come up with funding.The governor announced proposed cuts of $357 million in state funds to public schools. However, superintendents of the local school systems said they do not expect to find out from the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) how much their systems will be cut until later this week."It's early to determine" how the state cuts will affect Martinsville schools, said city Superintendent Scott Kizner. He said it probably will take about a week for the DOE to let school systems know how much they will be cut."Obviously, we know we're going to have to make reductions. We've heard that loud and clear," Henry County Superintendent Anthony Jackson said of he and other county school officials.Jackson said he just wants the state to "give me a picture of how difficult it's going to be so we can roll up our sleeves and get to work" figuring out how to absorb the cuts.He said he will take public opinion into account when he eventually makes recommendations to the Henry County School Board.Like the superintendents, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) officials on Friday were waiting to hear from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) how much the college's funds will be reduced. They expect that will occur sometime this week.Once they find out how much PHCC will be cut, "we need to sit down and figure out what it means" in terms of how the college will be affected, said Vice President for Institutional Advancement Natalie Harder.Kaine proposed a 26 percent reduction in general funds to public colleges and universities beginning in July. State budget documents show that he is recommending a $14.5 billion cut in fiscal 2011 and a $49.4 billion cut in fiscal 2012 for the entire community college system.Those are "some significant cuts," said PHCC Public Relations Director Kris Landrum. As a result, "every college in the VCCS ... is going to be struggling to operate efficiently and effectively."Landrum said college administrators have discussed some ideas for cuts but she was not at liberty to discuss them now. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/188 VMNH Names Ohio Scientist to Head Local Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/188 Friday, 18 December 2009 12:00:00 EST An Ohio scientist and museum curator is coming to Martinsville to be executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Friday, 18 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, December 18, 2009By FROM BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS - An Ohio scientist and museum curator is coming to Martinsville to be executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Joe B. Keiper, currently the director of science and curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was hired by the VMNH Board of Trustees in a unanimous vote Thursday.Keiper will earn an annual salary of $105,000 for the Martinsville job, which he will start Feb. 1, said VMNH board Chairman Pam Armstrong.That is the same salary that former VMNH executive director Tim Gette was earning when he quit in January. A job advertisement indicated that would be the most a new director would earn upon being hired because the salary was frozen due to state budget cuts.Gette left to work at a museum in Texas, his home state. Gloria Niblett, VMNH's director of administration and services, has been interim director.The museum board met in closed session for about 45 minutes for a final discussion about job applicants before emerging and voting to hire Keiper.Among more than 80 applicants, Keiper "rose above the field," said board member and search committee co-chairman George Lyle.Keiper, who Armstrong said is in his early 40s, earned a bachelor's degree from Bloomfield College, a master's degree from Slippery Rock University and a doctorate in biology from Kent State University. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California-Riverside.Armstrong said Keiper has worked at the Cleveland museum for nine years and currently supervises about a third of the staff there, documents show.During interviews, she and other members of the search committee liked his high energy and ideas for the museum's future, she said."He is pro (for) everything this museum is about," including research and education, she added.Also, he has an outgoing personality, Armstrong said. Based on comments by his references, he is friendly and likes to hear people's ideas, she said.Armstrong said she was impressed that in offering ideas during interviews, Keiper did not have an "I can do this" attitude but rather an "if you all are with me, we can make this happen" attitude."He's a can-do guy," said Jim Beard, director of collections and research at VMNH, who already has met Keiper.In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Keiper said he thinks VMNH will be "a good match" for him. He said he is impressed with the enthusiasm that museum employees whom he has met show toward their jobs."Change is always difficult" under new leadership, he said. But "I hope there's a sense of trust" among VMNH staff that he can lead them well."That goes both ways," he added, noting he already has developed a lot of respect for VMNH employees and scientific research they have done.Keiper said he also is impressed with the museum's "deep connections with the state it serves" in that it focuses on the uniqueness of Virginia's natural history rather than natural history in general.He aims to find new ways to show that uniqueness and "present objects in a way that makes Virginians proud ... of their natural history heritage," he said.Also, Keiper said he wants to make sure that when museum visitors have questions about exhibits and natural history, they can get those questions answered by VMNH workers.Cultivating relationships between the museum and visitors will be important to fundraising efforts, he said.To do that, staff must be able to talk with visitors and find out about their natural history interests. Then the museum must find ways of meeting their interests and stay in touch with the visitors, according to Keiper.About 50 percent of Keiper's job will be administration, and the other 50 percent will be fundraising, Armstrong said.Most state museums are in capitals or metropolitan cities. Because it is in Martinsville, a small city, VMNH has an impact on its community that many museums do not have, Keiper said.He said the museum always must keep in mind that it is a state institution and strive to provide exhibits and programs of interest to all Virginians, but "first and foremost" it should maintain its high visibility in the area."The people of Martinsville have a wonderful opportunity to watch this museum and its programs grow," he said.Of the more than 80 applicants for the director's job, five people were interviewed by the search committee, Armstrong said.There was only one in-house applicant, she said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/189 Cleaveland Museum of Natural History's "bug guy" to leave for Virginia Post http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/189 Friday, 18 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Joe Keiper, the amiable Cleveland Museum of Natural History scientist whose deep knowledge of bugs delighted museum-goers and aided police in crime investigations, is leaving to run a Virginia institution. Friday, 18 December 2009 12:00:00 EST New Article: Cleveland.comWritten By John Mangels Joe Keiper, the amiable Cleveland Museum of Natural History scientist whose deep knowledge of bugs delighted museum-goers and aided police in crime investigations, is leaving to run a Virginia institution. Keiper will be the new executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. His appointment was announced Friday. His duties begin Feb. 1. "I know I'm leaving the world's greatest job, but at the same time, this is an exciting challenge," said Keiper, a nine-year veteran of the Cleveland museum, where he was director of science and curator of invertebrate zoology. "We're absolutely thrilled for Joe," said museum communications director Marie Graf. "He's done such great work for us. Obviously other people recognize that too." Keiper, an entomologist, is familiar to museum patrons as the "bug guy" who supervised the facility's extensive insect collection and could talk authoritatively about everything from beautiful butterflies to pesky midges. He studied the types and habits of flies and beetles that devoured a black bear's carcass in a Geauga County woods in order to help with poaching investigations. He has been in the news recently because of his consulting work with the Cuyahoga County coroner's office, using maggots collected from the remains of alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell's 11 victims in an attempt to pin down when they died. While Keiper hopes to continue some forensic work in Virginia, his main job will be overseeing the growing museum. It is a relatively young institution, founded in 1984. It recently completed a major expansion, but remains about half the size of the 89-year-old Cleveland museum, with roughly one-third its yearly attendance. "It's not the world's largest institution, but they have wonderful collections, wonderful labs, an outstanding education program," Keiper said. "It's going to be a real honor working with these people." Keiper was one of 80 candidates in the Virginia museum's international search for a new director. He "grabbed our attention from his very first interview," board of trustees chairwoman Pamela Armstrong said in a statement. Keiper "has the qualification, energy, goals, and most importantly the 'can-do' vision to take the Virginia Museum of Natural History to its next level of development." The Cleveland museum is still looking for its own new executive director after the July 2008 resignation of renowned scientist and fossil hunter Bruce Latimer, who left to return to teaching and research. The museum was on the verge of naming a new director this summer, but the nominee's unexpected death forced the search process to start over. Internationally known zoologist Seddon Bennington, the chief executive of the Museum of New Zealand, had accepted the Cleveland museum's offer to fill the vacant director's post, Graf said. While hiking with a friend in the New Zealand mountains in July, Bennington was caught in a sudden snow storm. An alpine rescue team found Bennington's and his companion's bodies four days after the pair disappeared. They had died of exposure. Bennington's loss was one of several setbacks for the Cleveland museum this year. Like many other charitable institutions, its endowment was hard-hit by the recession, and in February the museum laid off 16 employees. The bad economy also delayed a capital campaign to raise money for the museum's renovation and expansion. Attendance and donations in 2009 are ahead of last year's totals, Graf said, and the museum will finish the year with a budget surplus of about $130,000. Two or three new finalists for the director's spot will visit and meet with senior staff in January, she said. The museum also will seek a replacement for its departing science director. Keiper said the Cleveland museum's financial difficulties weren't a factor in his decision to leave; rather, it was the opportunity to lead an institution. "Even if things were perfect, I just think it's time in terms of my career trajectory to go forward," he said. The Cleveland museum should have no trouble attracting his successor, Keiper said. "There's going to be people lined up to take this position. This is a good bug lab. The work that goes on here and at the universities and other institutions is really first class. The bug world isn't done in Cleveland, that's for sure." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/186 Santa Makes Stop at VMNH- Open House Draws 200 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/186 Thursday, 03 December 2009 12:00:00 EST With a 14 million-year-old baleen whale specimen (Eobalaenoptera) hanging overhead, nearly 30 children waited their turns to sit on Santa's lap and tell him their gift requests. Thursday, 03 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, December 3, 2009By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff WriterWith a 14 million-year-old baleen whale specimen (Eobalaenoptera) hanging overhead, nearly 30 children waited their turns to sit on Santa's lap and tell him their gift requests.They were in The Great Hall of the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Tuesday for the museum's holiday open house, which also included a scavenger hunt, puppet skits, children's choirs, Santa reading a story and the lighting of three live Christmas trees outside the museum. In all, nearly 200 people attended the three-hour event, according to museum officials.Seven-year-old Lucas Wilson of Martinsville said he asked Santa for a drum set."He wants to pound on things," said Lucas' mother, Angela Wilson. Lucas' dad is David Wilson.Michaela Garrett, 11, of Martinsville, and Dustin Beckner, 12, of Collinsville, sat on Santa's opposite knees.Michaela said she asked for a laptop computer. "I want to send people e-mails," she said.And Dustin? He asked for a keyboard cell phone."I'm tired of my old" cell phone, which he said cannot do as many things as the one he wants for Christmas.Michaela is the daughter of Jim and Janice Garrett, and Dustin is the son of Kim Beckner. Michaela and Dustin are members of the children's choir of First Baptist Church in Collinsville, which sang children's Christmas songs earlier during the open house. Kim Beckner is the choir director."I didn't know what I wanted to get, so I told him (Santa) I'd send him a note," said 5-year-old Rachael Cardwell of Ridgeway.While many children were eager to talk with Santa, Rachel's sister, Amelia, 1, kept her distance."She wanted to look at him. She didn't want to get too close," said Kristin Cardwell, Amelia and Rachel's mother. Their dad is Gene Cardwell.Skyler Spence, 4, of Martinsville, said he asked Santa for a reindeer "'cause it's almost Christmas."Â�He is the son of Cori and Rusty Spence of Martinsville.After Santa finished hearing the children's gift requests, he began reading the book "Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas" by Anne Muecke. Because Santa's gloves were thick, he needed a little help, and Debbie Lewis, the museum's director of development, sat on his knee and turned the pages.According to a summary of the book on the dust jacket, every Christmas Eve dinosaur fossils in the museum come to life and "sing, dance, eat gingerbread and be merry. And this year, a young boy who lives across the street gets to join in the magical story." The museum tried to get TV's Al Roker, who read the story on a CD that comes with the book, to appear at the open house but didn't get the request in early enough, Lewis said.After reading the story, Santa hugged children - sometimes several at a time - before leaving the museum.Earlier in the afternoon, children and adults alike took part in a scavenger hunt that led them to various exhibits in the museum as they sought answers to seven questions. Try this one: "How many fossil dinosaur bones have been found in Virginia?" None, said Ryan L. Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs.First United Methodist Church of Martinsville presented a puppet show, with contemporary to traditional songs.The puppet show was a hit among children for several reasons. For instance, Skyler Spence liked the funny elephants in Noah's Ark, and Michaela Garrett enjoyed the puppets singing "Merry Christmas," they said.The senior girls and adult choirs from Christ Episcopal Church also sang at the open house, said David Pulliam, organist and choir master.The free open house culminated with the ceremonial lighting of three live Christmas trees "measured in sizes of 12, 10 and 8 feet, weighing more than 2 tons combined," according to the museum Web site. Debbie Lewis said one of the bald white pine trees will be planted on the museum grounds, and two will be donated to others in the community.Earlier in the day, dozens of children from Albert Harris Elementary School placed decorations they made on the trees. The decorations, which will attract birds, were made of such things as dried apples and oranges; strung popcorn and dried cereals; peanut butter and birdseed on pine cones; and other natural materials, said fifth-grade teacher Sarah France.About 100 first-, second-, third- and fifth-grade students from the classes of Andrea Betton, Katrell Ramsey, Emily Clark, Sarah France and Leslie Crowe classes were involved, school officials said.Jaiylon Blackwell, 11, a fifth-grader at Albert Harris, admired the lighted trees. "I feel good 'cause I put work into it," said Jaiylon, the son of Cheree Blackwell of Martinsville.Several adults said the open house activities were fun and educational.Ditto for Jamel Hill, 18, a senior at Martinsville High School, who was one of about 15 students from the MHC After 3 after-school program to attend. He said the group came to see the exhibits, but "if I were a kid myself, I'd be real excited." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/187 Walking With Dinosaurs- In Roanoke? http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/187 Thursday, 03 December 2009 12:00:00 EST The movie Jurassic Park was the first of its kind to create a real-life depiction of dinosaurs. Thursday, 03 December 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: The Roanoke Star The movie Jurassic Park was the first of its kind to create a real-life depiction of dinosaurs. Now, The Creature Production Company, in association with BBC-TV Worldwide, has created a theatrical presentation of dinosaurs that are life-sized and close enough to touch. "Walking with Dinosaurs" will roam at the Roanoke Civic Center January 8-10, 2010.The dinosaurs are within scale of their true size. CEO of The Creature Production Company, Carmen Pavlovic, said at a preview event last week that "The dinosaurs are life-sized, making the show so immense it could only fit in arenas. It's a 20 million dollar arena spectacle of unprecedented size and quality, which captivates young and old alike." The show uses 25 tractor-trailers to haul the dinosaur show around - a concert will typically use 5-8. It took six years to develop the program in Australia.The dinosaurs actually have "skin" and moving, blinking eyes. They also react to the audience, producing even more of a dramatic effect. A baby T-Rex came out during the demonstration to visit with some children from nearby Roanoke Catholic School."It is so realistic and wonderful to see the children's excitement," said one teacher. Student Sabrina Becker noted, "It was kind of scary at first because they look so real, but then you know they are not." The baby T-Rex ensemble, a small mockup of what will be here in January, weighs 100 pounds and was worn by a man. Meanwhile the show's walking T-Rex is 1.8 tons; the Brachiosaurus is 36 feet tall and 56 feet long. It can nearly reach the ceiling of the Roanoke Civic Center Coliseum.Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers, on hand for the media event, said, "Don't spend all of your money at Christmas; you will want to save [some] for what is coming to the Roanoke Civic Center." Sheila Umberger, Roanoke City Library Director, felt the quasi-educational program "will enrich our community."She also wanted to remind people that December is dinosaur month at the libraries, with special activities planned throughout the month. The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is also hosting a DINO DAY on January 23. Ryan Barber, Director of Marketing for the museum, encouraged the public to plan a stop and visit the real bones of dinosaurs on display there.A review written in The Christian Science Monitor said "Walking with Dinosaurs" is "precisely what the title promises - 90 minutes of mammoth, life-sized reptiles. They are scientifically accurate, not to mention technological and creative marvels. They are just the first wave of immersion ‘edutainment'."Tickets prices start at $19.50 and top out at $59.50. The January 8th show is at 7 p.m. Shows on Saturday the 9th are at 11a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. There are two shows on Sunday the 10th at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The dinosaurs are so large that there really aren't any bad seats in the arena. The youngest age suggested for show attendees is 3. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/185 Students at Work for a Day- Through Job-Shadowing Program http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/185 Wednesday, 02 December 2009 12:00:00 EST It might be a tough job market, but some Henry County middle school students landed their dream jobs for a day. Wednesday, 02 December 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, December 2, 2009By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff WriterIt might be a tough job market, but some Henry County middle school students landed their dream jobs for a day.According to Henry County Schools spokesman Melany Stowe, a group of eighth-graders participated in job shadowing Tuesday. Before choosing where they wanted to go, Stowe said students met with a career coordinator to talk about career goals and take a career assessment.On the job site, most students spent the full day with a mentor. The experience, Stowe said, would help students decide if the job they shadowed is something they are interested in pursuing as a career.Samantha Workman and Kimberly Whorley, both eighth-graders from Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, spent their day at the SPCA working with animal health care director Nicole Cooke.(Continued from Page 1-A)Cooke said the two students spent the first part of the day cleaning dog runs, or kennels, and filling cups with dog treats for visitors. They also helped when animals got shots, and they gave flea baths to animals arriving at the SPCA.Cooke said five dogs were brought in that day from Henry County animal control, and they needed shots and baths before they could see visitors who might want to adopt them. Workman and Whorley both agreed that bathing the dogs was their favorite part of the day.If someone enjoys working with animals, they should pursue animal care, Cooke said. She recommended a veterinarian technician license, which can be obtained after high school. There are many jobs available to anyone who wants to work with animals, and Cooke said she enjoys working at the SPCA.At the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, another student learned about a job that helps make nonprofit organizations such as the SPCA and VMNH possible - marketing. Chipper Jones, an eighth-grader at Fieldale-Collinsville, shadowed Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for VMNH.Barber said one of the biggest parts of his job is to find stories about the museum to communicate to the public through media releases, Web sites and other means. Writing, he said, is a big part of the job, as well as being involved with the institution itself."It's important to make great exhibits and have great programs, but we still have to get people to come in to see them," Barber said.That is where marketing comes in, he said, explaining that his job is to feature events, programs, exhibits or research in materials that will be sent to the audience who would be interested in that subject.For example, Barber said a scientific discovery would be sent to academic and scientific journals, while information on a children's educational program might be sent as a news release to local newspapers and television and radio stations. Ideally, a reporter will cover a story after receiving a media advisory, but if the reporter cannot make it, Barber sends a news release, he said.Barber gave Jones a tour of the museum, explaining various exhibits and ideas that are important to communicate to the public through marketing. Jones said he wants to pursue marketing because his older brother studied it, and he added that the subject looks interesting.There are different ways to get into marketing, Barber said. He majored in mass communications in his undergraduate and graduate education. Although understanding other forms of media, such as Web sites, photography and graphic design is important, Barber said he spends a lot of his time writing.One trend that is changing in marketing and will affect the work force Jones will enter, Barber said, is that Internet social networking no longer is optional for many companies. VMNH has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, and he said his job sometimes requires updating them and writing content.Social networking reaches a wide audience, and it is affordable, Barber said. He added that some larger companies are beginning to hire employees whose entire job involves managing the company's presence on these Web sites.That means a student who spends hours on social networking sites may accidentally be preparing for a future career.In addition to Cooke and Barber, students shadowed teachers, nurses, school counselors and band directors, law enforcement officers, a newspaper photographer and professionals in other fields, Stowe said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/184 Roanoke Children Shriek with Dinosaur- An animatronic critter showed up to preview an upcoming civic center show http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/184 Friday, 20 November 2009 12:00:00 EST Third-graders at Roanoke Catholic School were probably the luckiest pupils in the Roanoke Valley on Thursday morning. Friday, 20 November 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Roanoke Times By Mike Allen981-3236 Third-graders at Roanoke Catholic School were probably the luckiest pupils in the Roanoke Valley on Thursday morning.Although it's possible that for a few moments -- as a 7-foot-tall baby Tyrannosaurus rex disconnected a cordon with its teeth and began snapping its jaws at them -- some of the kids might not have agreed with that statement.But there was laughter amid the shrieks. And some students told their teachers they wanted the T. rex to come back -- as soon as it was safely backstage again.No one was in any real danger, but the utterly convincing, life-size puppet made that hard to remember. The dinosaur's appearance at the Roanoke Civic Center was part of a promotional campaign for "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular," a massive stage show involving full-scale free moving animatronic dinosaurs that's coming in January.The 90-minute arena show features 17 dinosaurs, including a lumbering brachiosaurus that's 36 feet tall -- tall enough that its head will be at risk of brushing the Roanoke Civic Center's ceiling. There are two 23-foot-tall adult tyrannosaurs. There's also an ornithocheirus, a flying dinosaur with a wingspan of 38 feet.Matthew Rimmer, a spokesman for the production's North American tour, said the ornithocheirus actually flies during the show. When asked how that's done, he just smiled.The show, based on a popular BBC television program of the same name, took six years and $20 million to create. The dinosaurs are designed to be as scientifically accurate as possible, to simulate what seeing those creatures in the flesh might have been like. The show began touring in 2007 and often sells out, Rimmer said. It takes 25 tractor-trailers to transport the equipment. Three people are required to operate each of the largest of the dinosaurs by remote control, Rimmer said.At Thursday's news conference, Alton Dooley, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, said the museum will open a new exhibit in January, "Messages from the Mesozoic," that will include a never-before displayed skeleton of a small dinosaur.At Roanoke's main library later Thursday afternoon, about 50 kids displayed the same reactions as the Roanoke Catholic students, falling completely silent when the dino walked into the room, then shrieking and scrambling as it leaned down and nipped at them.Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham attended the civic center conference and then came to the library event with her two grandsons. Her youngest grandson, 8-year-old Justin Kraft, tried to hold his ground as the tyrannosaur loomed over him, roaring, but finally backed away when the puppet's jaws briefly engulfed his head."I loved it," said 8-year-old Kayla Walker, who was with a group brought by the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia. "When he came out, it freaked me out, it like freaked me out.""At first I thought it was real, but it wasn't," said her friend Taneah Ledesma, 7.The actor inside the 100-pound puppet, 23-year-old Stephen Hershey of Pennsylvania, landed the job through a January audition and now tours the country pretending to be a T. rex."It's probably the most complicated puppet in existence," he said, describing the levers and consoles inside.He said he loves interacting with children. "You kind of see their imaginations go wild." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/183 Council to Consider Legislative Agenda http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/183 Monday, 09 November 2009 12:00:00 EST Martinsville City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting its legislative agenda for 2010. Monday, 09 November 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, November 9, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Martinsville City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting its legislative agenda for 2010.Each fall, the council adopts a list of legislative priorities for the coming year's General Assembly session. The list outlines what city officials hope lawmakers will accomplish to benefit Martinsville and nearby communities during that session.The 2010 General Assembly will convene in January.This year's list includes priorities pertaining to transportation, education, economic development and governance issues. Some of the priorities are indicative of concerns that lawmakers may make budget cuts.Martinsville's top three priorities for lawmakers in each category - in the order in which they are listed - are as follows:TRANSPORTATION"Urging the Commonwealth Transportation Board to reach a final decision on the planned Interstate 73's corridor in Henry County."Upgrading sections of U.S. 220 that will be incorporated into I-73 to interstate highway standards, starting with sections in Henry County."Finishing improvements to U.S. 58, particularly the widening of the stretch between Stuart and Hillsville to four lanes. That would make the highway four lanes across all of southern Virginia, officials have said.EDUCATION"The council endorses the legislative agendas of both the Martinsville and Henry County school systems, as noted at the top of the list."Opposing the imposition of any unfunded mandates and, if the state cuts education funding, allowing localities to decide what expenses to cut."Continuing support for the development and funding of the New College Institute. If NCI's funding is cut, the list says, the city urges that reductions be "minimized to the greatest extent possible" because the institute is "in the critical stage of growth, and its success is critical to" uptown revitalization.ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT"Maintaining current levels of funding for economic development initiatives, including the Governor's Opportunity Fund."Enhancing localities' power to address and eliminate blighted properties."Continuing funding the Virginia Museum of Natural History at current levels.GOVERNANCE"Asking for a joint gubernatorial/legislative commission to be appointed to examine the structure of local government in Virginia. The commission would, among other things, find ways to help cities expand revenues and eliminate duplication of services among cities and the counties they border."Maintaining full funding for so-called "599 funds." The funds, named after a House bill, have been provided to cities since the 1970s in exchange for them giving up their rights to annex land from surrounding counties."Exploring potential new options for localities to generate revenues.Virginia is a "Dillon Rule" state in which municipalities have only powers that are expressly granted to them by the state. Therefore, a city could not, for instance, impose a tax that the state does not give it power to impose.The legislative priority list also includes a shorter list of priorities for Congress. The city's top three priorities for congressmen are:"Continuing to place priority on making improvements to U.S. 58 and developing I-73."Upgrading portions of U.S. 220 that will be incorporated into I-73 to interstate standards."Encouraging Amtrak, the federally operated rail service, to provide motorcoach transfer service between Danville and Martinsville.The list will be considered when the city council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.Area lawmakers are expected to attend the meeting so they can discuss the list with city officials.Other agenda items during the council meeting will include:"Hearing matters pertaining to the 2010 census."Hearing an update on the Safe Routes to Schools program from officials with Activate Martinsville Henry County."Considering revisions to rules regarding the use of Beaver Creek Reservoir."Hearing information on two American Municipal Power projects in which the city might consider participating."Considering a revised facility cost agreement for Henry-Martinsville Social Services."Hearing business from the floor."Meeting in closed session to receive legal advice. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/182 Activities Planned for Race Weekend- TGIF Moved to Farmer's Market http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/182 Friday, 23 October 2009 12:00:00 EST Looking for something to do on race weekend? Following are some of the activities on tap: Friday, 23 October 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, October 23, 2009By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS - Looking for something to do on race weekend? Following are some of the activities on tap:TODAYTGIF has been moved to the Farmer's Market in uptown Martinsville, featuring The Band of Oz: 7-11 p.m. Admission: $7 adults; children 12 and under accompanied by an adult, free. Grand re-premiere of the movie "Last American Hero," a movie with scenes shot in Martinsville and many local residents appearing as extras: 6:30 p.m. today and 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rives Theatre in uptown Martinsville. The movie is a fictionalized story of Junior Johnson's racing career. Tickets are $5 today and $10 Saturday with proceeds to benefit the Martinsville High School Band's Washington, D.C., trip in March. (See more under Saturday.)SATURDAYHowl-O-Ween Extravaganza: 1-4 p.m. at the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA. Parade of ghouls and goblins at 2:30 p.m.; face painting for kids and more. Register participants and their pets to be judged in the Bark and Boo Costume Contest. There is a $5 registration fee for participating. Poop-N-Scoop raffle at $2 a ticket.Virginia Museum of Natural History-sponsored Chili Cook-off with guest judge NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler and entertainment by the Part-time Party Band: 4-9 p.m. at the museum. Advance tickets are $10 per adult and $5 for children 18 and under; or $15 at the door. Advance tickets available at the museum's online store at www.vmnh.net or by calling 634-4166. Patrick County Music Association will present its monthly Music Jamboree at the large Rotary Building in Stuart. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m.; music will start at 3 p.m. Performers include special guest The Lonesome River Band with Sammy Shelor and Sue Nester, Herbert, Tina and Catherine Conner, The Shelton Brothers, Chords of Faith, Highway 61, Unshackled, Skyline Drive, and the Country Boys. Free admission. Bring chairs.Grand re-premiere of the movie "Last American Hero," a fictionalized story of Junior Johnson's racing career: 9:30 p.m. at the Rives Theatre in uptown Martinsville. The movie is . Tickets are $10 Saturday with proceeds to benefit the Martinsville High School Band's Washington, D.C., trip in March. The band also will perform Saturday at the Rives. At Saturday's showing, Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers racing team will attend; 5th District Congressman Tom Perriello will auction off a personal tour of the U.S. Capital at 9 p.m.; and officials will make presentations to a Canadian delegation visiting here.Blue Ridge Folk Life Festival: 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Ferrum College. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors.See the Calendar on Page 6-A for more activities. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/181 Artists Come Together for Wildfire Art Show- Opens Saturday at VA Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/181 Friday, 25 September 2009 12:00:00 EST A new Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) exhibit looks not only at wildlife but also the intricate process of creating a work of art. Friday, 25 September 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, September 25, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterA new Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) exhibit looks not only at wildlife but also the intricate process of creating a work of art."Wildlife Art Revealed" will open Saturday and continue through Jan. 9. The exhibit was specially designed for the museum and never has been shown elsewhere, said Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.The exhibit features bronze animal sculptures by Paul Rhymer and Roger Martin, pyrography - images burned into wood - by Julie Bender, and oil paintings and graphite drawings by Robert Caldwell.All of the artists are members of the Society of Animal Artists and live between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, according to Barber.They were at the museum Thursday afternoon for a preview of the exhibit that was open to invited guests.Rhymer, a model maker/taxidermist with the Smithsonian Institution's natural history museum, organized the exhibit with help from Jessica Davenport, VMNH's publications and exhibits manager."The museum has turned an art show into a nice educational experience," said Rhymer, adding he thinks that does not often happen at museums.Having collaborated with VMNH on projects in the past, he is impressed that the museum puts as much effort into educating its visitors about its exhibits as it does showing the exhibits, he said.Rhymer recruited the other artists to participate.For artists to be able to display their works at a museum of VMNH's caliber is "an amazing opportunity," Bender said."You just don't pass up" such an opportunity, said Caldwell."To have this kind of facility in an area like this," Rhymer said, noting the area's rural character, Henry County-Martinsville "is really privileged."Â�"It's a beautiful place, a fabulous facility," Martin said of the museum.Included in the exhibit are time-lapsed videos showing some of the works while they were being created as well as interviews with the artists.The artists said they think most people do not realize the many hours - or even days and months - that artists put into their works, often crafting the pieces with fine details to make them seem as realistic as possible.Bender's pyrography "Phillipine Tarsier," which shows the endangered animal clinging to a tree branch, is an example. The tarsier's eyes are focused in a way that makes them seem to follow visitors walking in the museum.Caldwell's "Cobblestones" shows a raccoon standing near a building along a cobblestone alley, with large roll-out trash containers lining the alley in the background. The highly detailed picture seems much like a black-and-white photo, but it actually is a sketch on a board done with a graphite pencil.Sculptures in the exhibit also seem life-like.Rhymer's "Free Ride" shows a bird standing on the back of a hippopotamus. Only the top part of the hippo is sculpted; it seems to be wading in water.Greeting visitors near the exhibit hall's entrance is "Jeremiah," a bullfrog sculpted by Martin. It looks like the real thing, only much larger.The artists said that before creating their works, they spend time researching the animals and their characteristics. Sometimes they examine the animals in the wild, too."You can spend a lot of time ... just looking around" the exhibit and being mesmerized at the details of the artistry, Barber said.Visitors will be admitted to the museum for free on Saturday if they have a Smithsonian Museum Day admission card as part of a special annual event. The cards are available both in Smithsonian magazine and online at www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday.Otherwise, regular museum admission prices apply Saturday and on other days. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/180 City to Lose $257,000 in State Funds http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/180 Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:00:00 EST Martinsville and its constitutional offices expect to lose $256,968 in state funds in the current fiscal year due to recent budget cuts imposed by Gov. Tim Kaine, according to City Manager Clarence Monday. Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Martinsville BulletinThursday, September 24, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterMartinsville and its constitutional offices expect to lose $256,968 in state funds in the current fiscal year due to recent budget cuts imposed by Gov. Tim Kaine, according to City Manager Clarence Monday.He discussed the funding cuts with the Martinsville City Council on Tuesday.Among constitutional offices, the Martinsville Sheriff's Office's reduction of $112,589 will be the largest, a document presented to the council shows.Other losses are in the commonwealth's attorney's office, $31,051; the circuit court clerk's office, $25,805; the commissioner of the revenue's office, $7,865; the treasurer's office, $5,099; and the registrar's office, $4,827, the document shows.In addition, the city will lose $66,732 in so-called "599 funds." Those funds, named after the House bill that provided them, have been supplied to Virginia cities since the 1970s in exchange for giving up annexation rights.Monday said those figures are "as firm as we can get them" from the state.The city also expects to lose $3,000 in revenue from electric bills paid by the Virginia Museum of Natural History as part of its efforts to operate more efficiently, the document indicates.While he is not sure, Monday said those efforts could be tied into Kaine's budget cuts. For that reason, he decided to include the $3,000 loss alongside those directly imposed by the state.Constitutional officers were asked to submit suggestions to compensate for their losses, plus "other ideas to help us balance the budget," Monday said.Those suggestions were due by 5 p.m. Wednesday, but he said he will not have time to fully examine them before the weekend.Monday said he will present his recommendations on dealing with the funding losses - based on the officers' suggestions - to the council Oct. 13.Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a letter of intent for the city to take part in updating the West Piedmont Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan.The West Piedmont Planning District Commission will apply to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for $56,250 to update the plan by October 2011 so the district will remain eligible for federal disaster mitigation funds, a document shows.A hazard mitigation plan identifies potential hazards and shows strategies for lessening the impact of disasters, according to city Safety Director Bobby Phillips.As an example, a mitigation plan could show that a locality plans to buy homes in a flood plain from homeowners before a flood occurs, he said.He did not discuss the contents of the current plan.Technically, the city is supposed to contribute $2,500 of its own money toward updating the plan, a document shows. Phillips said, though, that it "should not cost us any real money" since the city's share can be "in-kind contributions" of employees who help prepare the updated plan.The council also:"Heard from Mayor Kathy Lawson, who said that more than 450 people on Saturday apparently stopped and looked at the "big chair" recently installed uptown, based on local merchant Tim Martin's count.Lawson said she understands that many of those people went into uptown stores and bought items, which boosted sales. So the attraction "is working," she said.Stroud said he has seen many motorists along East Church Street slow down to look at the chair.The 20-foot-high chair was built to commemorate Bassett Furniture's 100th anniversary in 2002 and then traveled around the country as an attraction at the opening of Bassett furniture stores. The company donated the chair for use as part of the Deep Roots campaign, and it was installed as an uptown attraction in the Broad Street Parking Lot and dedicated last week."Heard from Councilman Danny Turner, who suggested that the city study the availability of parking uptown. He indicated there may be a shortage.Lawson said she understands that "a lot of merchants" park in spaces in front of their stores and their vehicles remain there all day. She said city officials need to look into that situation.Turner said the city needs to make sure enough parking is available uptown five or six years from now "when everything (development) starts exploding" there. He was alluding to plans for revitalizing the central business district."Made three appointments to city boards and commissions following a closed session.Martin, the uptown merchant, was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Martinsville Planning Commission. He is a former member of the commission, but he has not served in at least a year, Monday said.David Hodges was appointed to a three-year term on the Martinsville Board of Zoning Appeals, and Brooke Hairston was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Martinsville Transportation Safety Commission.Hairston, a student at Martinsville High School, will fill a student seat on the commission, according to Monday. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/179 US Returns Smuggled Chinese Relics http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/179 Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:00:00 EST U.S. officials returned to China fossils seized at various ports of entry in the United States Monday. Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: cctv.comU.S. officials returned to China fossils seized at various ports of entry in the United States Monday. Among the returned items are the jaw bones of a saber toothed cat and fossils of dinosaur eggs which have been authenticated by experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History as being some 60-million years old.Chinese officials spoke highly of the return of the cultural relics.Xie Feng, Chinese deputy chief of mission, said, "The repatriation of historic and cultural artifacts back to China has opened up a new era for bi-lateral law enforcement cooperation."The case involves the seizure of parcels at Chicago's O'Hare airport and Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers in 2006 and 2007. An investigation is ongoing by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But so far, no one has been arrested in either country for smuggling the fossils out of China and into the United States.John Morton, assistant secretary, said, "Transnational crime between China and the United States and vice versa is a particular concern for us simply because here are two very large and powerful sovereigns in the world and there's a lot of very good and legitimate trade and travel between those two countries but with that trade and travel also comes some misconduct and we're very focused on working to attack that."Morton continued by saying that a general recognition and full assistance of both sides are key in tackling such crimes.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/178 US Turns Over Seized Fossils to China http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/178 Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:00:00 EST US Customs officials have handed back to China confiscated fossils dating from as early as 100 million years ago, including bones of a saber-toothed cat and a partial skull of a dinosaur called Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis. Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: WAToday.com.au US Customs officials have handed back to China confiscated fossils dating from as early as 100 million years ago, including bones of a saber-toothed cat and a partial skull of a dinosaur called Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis.The undocumented relics had been shipped in two loads and were confiscated by customs agents in Chicago, Illinois, and Richmond, Virginia, the Homeland Security Department said.A department announcement said the fossils were found during routine inspection of arriving cargoes. Some were suspected of being intentionally brought in violation of US import laws, the department said.John Morton, an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said "the attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property."We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China."Experts at Chicago's Field Museum said the dinosaur fossils confiscated there date from 100 million years ago.Psittacosaurus was a small, two-legged dinosaur, less than two metres long, with a distinctive skull that had a prominent parrot-like beak and high nostrils.Also among the seized fossils were 24 fossilised dinosaur eggs, which were authenticated by experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History to date from about 60 million years ago.The contraband fossils were handed over to China in a ceremony at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.The embassy's deputy chief of mission, Xie Feng, expressed gratitude to the US government."In recent years, China and the US have developed close co-operation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counterterrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," Xie said.Homeland Security said US Customs officers found the first cache of fossils in three parcels at the Chicago O'Hare International Mail Facility in December 2006 and October 2007.The parcels were confiscated after X-ray images did not match the declared contents.The Chinese Consulate in Chicago determined the fossils were cultural relics that should not have been exported.The Ministry of Land and Resources in China requested that they be returned, and the items were seized.Chinese officials are being sent to the United States to escort the fossils back to China.© 2012 AP http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/176 Ancient Bones Seized, Returned to China http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/176 Monday, 14 September 2009 12:00:00 EST WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fossilized bones of a saber-toothed cat and dinosaurs that may be 100 million years old are among "priceless" artifacts that the United States handed over to China in a ceremony Monday. Monday, 14 September 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: CNNBy Josh Levs WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fossilized bones of a saber-toothed cat and dinosaurs that may be 100 million years old are among "priceless" artifacts that the United States handed over to China in a ceremony Monday.The fossils, which also include dinosaur eggs believed to be 60 million years old, were seized by U.S. authorities when people tried to bring them into the United States through mail or luggage, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told CNN."These pre-historic fossils are an invaluable part of the history of the People's Republic of China and they will undoubtedly contribute to the scientific exploration of that nation's past," said John Morton, the assistant secretary of Homeland Security who oversees ICE, in a statement before the ceremony at the Chinese Embassy.Xie Feng, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, expressed "heartfelt gratitude to the U.S. government for its efforts to return the fossils to China," the statement said. Watch how ancient bones were found »The head of the saber-toothed cat has an open jaw with long, sharp teeth. It measures eight inches high, about 12inches from the teeth to the back of the head, and just over eight inches in width, said ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly.The head of one of the dinosaurs -- a Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis, which were small -- is just under seven inches high, seven inches front to back, and seven inches ear to ear, said Reilly.These were among the items that entered the United States through the mail.In December 2006 and October 2007, Customs and Border Patrol agents inspecting shipments through the Chicago O'Hare International Mail Facility found three parcels containing the collection of fossils. When X-ray images showed that the packages did not seem to match declared contents, the parcels were passed on to ICE for investigation."The attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property. We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China," Morton said in the statement."The fossils in Chicago were evaluated by experts at the Field Museum, who determined them to be animal remains dating back as far as 100 million years," ICE said in the statement.ICE spokeswoman Reilly said there is "a big black market" for such items. Though "priceless" and "invaluable" from a historic perspective, the cat and dinosaur fossils and some other fragments are valued at about $30,000 combined, she told CNN.The collection of 24 fossilized eggs from several dinosaurs was brought in by a passenger at Washington Dulles International Airport.Customs agents found them and had them shipped separately to Richmond, Virginia, where the passenger was ending his journey. Experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History authenticated the eggs and determined them to be about 60 million years old, ICE said in the statement.The eggs are worth nearly $40,000, Reilly said.No criminal charges were filed, she said. But those who brought in the artifacts lost every penny they may have spent.Countries have special documents permitting people to transport such artifacts when it is allowed, Reilly said.Those who brought the items into the United States did not necessarily get them in China. "What often happens is that the person who is actually transporting the thing acquired it in a third country," she said.In recent years, several countries have been stepping up efforts to return precious historic artifacts to China.Xie Feng of the Chinese Embassy cast Monday's development as part of an era of increased U.S.-Chinese cooperation."In recent years, China and the U.S. have developed close cooperation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counter-terrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," he said in the statement. "Such law enforcement cooperation will benefit the safety of our countries and the protection of our people's lives and property." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/177 US Returns Ancient Fossils to China http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/177 Monday, 14 September 2009 12:00:00 EST US customs officials turned over to China today fossils dating from as early as 100m years ago that included bones of a sabre-toothed cat, a partial skull of a dinosaur called a Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis and eggs of several other dinosaurs. Monday, 14 September 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: The Guardian US customs officials turned over to China today fossils dating from as early as 100m years ago that included bones of a sabre-toothed cat, a partial skull of a dinosaur called a Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis and eggs of several other dinosaurs. The undocumented relics had been shipped in two loads and were confiscated by customs agents in Chicago and Richmond, Virginia, the US homeland security department said. A department announcement said the fossils were found during routine inspection of arriving cargoes. Some are suspected of being intentionally brought in, a violation of US import laws, the department said. John Morton, an assistant secretary of homeland security, said "the attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property. "We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China." Experts at Chicago's Field Museum said the dinosaur fossils confiscated there date from 100m years ago. Psittacosaurus was a small, two-legged dinosaur, less than two metres long, with a distinctive skull that had a prominent parrot-like beak and high nostrils. The 24 fossilised dinosaur eggs were authenticated by experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History to date from about 60m years ago. The contraband fossils were turned over in a ceremony at the Chinese embassy in Washington. The embassy's deputy chief of mission, Xie Feng, expressed gratitude to the US government. "In recent years, China and the US have developed close cooperation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counterterrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," Xie said. Homeland security said US customs officers found the first cache of fossils in three parcels at the Chicago O'Hare International Mail Facility in December 2006 and October 2007. The parcels were confiscated after X-ray images did not match the declared contents. They were handed over to US immigration and customs enforcement (Ice) for further investigation. The Chinese consulate in Chicago determined the fossils were cultural relics that should not have been exported. The ministry of land and resources in China requested that they be returned, and the items were seized. The fossilized dinosaur eggs entered the United States through Washington Dulles airport outside Washington and were shipped to Richmond, where they were seized by CBP officers and determined to be protected property. Chinese officials are being sent to the United States to escort the fossils back to China. Ice, the largest homeland security investigative agency, investigates cultural artifacts that appear to have been imported illegally and often show up for sale in the US market. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/175 Boaz Praises VMNH Work, Collections http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/175 Sunday, 30 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has become as much of a force in the scientific world during its 25-year existence as larger, more established museums in its field, according to world-renowned scientist Noel T. Boaz.   Sunday, 30 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, August 30, 2009 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer The Virginia Museum of Natural History has become as much of a force in the scientific world during its 25-year existence as larger, more established museums in its field, according to world-renowned scientist Noel T. Boaz. "I'm elated it's still here (in Martinsville) and has done so well" over the years, Boaz said Saturday during the museum's Founder's Day event. A native of Martinsville, Boaz is an anthropologist, anatomist and physician who founded the museum in 1984 and served as its first director. He now is director of the International Institute for Human Evolutionary Research, which he founded in 1991 in Oregon, and teaches at a West Indies medical school. He said the Virginia museum "compares very well" with other natural history museums throughout the nation and world and is better than some museums that have been established longer. "The quality (of the museum) and its collections are excellent," Boaz said, and "its research is excellent."? What makes it so good is the caliber of its curators, he said. Scientists at the museum constantly do research and travel worldwide, getting to know and collaborate with scientists around the world in the process, he noted. As a result, he said, "the curators know their stuff" and are able to answer museum visitors' scientific questions definitively. Scientists at some natural history museums are not always as up-to-date on what is happening in their fields, he said. In 2007, the museum moved from a former elementary school on Douglas Avenue into a modern new building five times as large on Starling Avenue. Boaz is proud that the museum he founded has made such progress. "The building is important," he said. However, "what goes on inside the building (the scientific research) is of equal or more importance."? The museum is recruiting a new executive director to succeed Tim Gette, who left earlier this year to be director of a museum in his home state of Texas. To help the museum advance its contributions to natural sciences, Boaz said he thinks its next director should be "a scientist who knows how curators do their jobs" and understands their needs. He hopes the state will put "more resources" into the museum in the future so it can expand its scientific work. For example, he said he would like to see the museum become involved in botany, the study of plants. Also, Boaz said he hopes the museum helps pull Martinsville-Henry County out of its economic slump. He said the museum likely draws more tourists to the area than any other area attraction except the Martinsville Speedway. He added that the museum is in a good position to lure tourists because it basically is in "the center of the state." He said it is about equidistant from the farthest eastern and western parts of Virginia, and people in Northern Virginia can drive about the same distance to Martinsville as to the beach. As part of Founder's Day activities at the museum, Boaz gave a lecture on the evolution of human beings as it has been traced from Africa. He said that human evolution is "a controversial subject" and did not delve into the controversy. But he said there is scientific evidence that "humans have emerged by a process of change" involving prehistoric mammals over millions of years. "Africa seems to be the mother country of us all," regardless of what continent our ancestors came from, Boaz said. Referring to chimpanzees and gorillas, Boaz said Africa still is home to the "anatomically closest animal relatives" to humans and is the only continent with "hominid" fossils between 2 million and 6 million years old. A "molecular clock" developed by scientists shows the separation of human and chimpanzee lineages occurred 6 million to 7 million years ago, he said. Boaz's lecture attracted a large crowd. He took time afterward to talk with those who attended and answer their questions. Julia Fowler-Boynton, a Martinsville native who now lives in California, was in town Saturday and made her first visit to the museum at its Starling Avenue location. She said she came in part to see Boaz, who she knew in school. "He's really a person who has followed his dream," she said, noting he had wanted to be a natural scientist since the fourth grade. The museum charged Founder's Day visitors no admission. More than 300 people visited, according to Marketing Associate Zach Ryder. "Everyone seems to love what they see," Ryder said, mentioning there were supervised tours of areas of the museum not usually open to the public. Fowler-Boynton said the museum is "quite lovely. Everything is very nicely presented. It's just a great asset for Martinsville."? Gary Bye of Bassett, who also visited the museum during Founder's Day, said what he likes most about the museum is that it has "something for kids and adults" alike to enjoy. He said families can have a day-long adventure there. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/174 Museum Marking 25th Year- Founder's Day Celebration to Mark 'How Far We've Come' http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/174 Friday, 28 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has made a lot of progress during the past 25 years, officials agree. Friday, 28 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, August 28, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History has made a lot of progress during the past 25 years, officials agree."We've faced many challenges over the years," including funding cuts and convincing the state to build the museum a new building, Interim Executive Director Gloria Niblett said.Those challenges were overcome, and the museum now is firmly entrenched as a major attraction and economic stimulus for Henry County and Martinsville, as well as the official natural history collections and research center for Virginia, noted Niblett and Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.Last year, the museum attracted 32,000 people. Since its new building opened on Starling Avenue, it has hosted people from 49 states and 13 nations.Officials expect the museum will face new challenges in the future. Barber said he thinks those challenges will be mostly in terms of offering visitors new experiences that will entice them to return over and over.Saturday, the museum will recognize the progress it has made during the past quarter century during its Founder's Day Celebration."It is a chance to honor how far we've come from our humble beginnings," as well as think about the museum's future, Barber said.Dr. Noel T. Boaz started the museum as a private foundation in 1984. The Boaz Foundation soon was renamed the Virginia Museum of Natural History and opened to the public in June 1985 in a former elementary school on Douglas Avenue in Martinsville.The museum became a state agency in 1988 with help from then-House Speaker A.L. Philpott of Bassett during the administration of Gov. Gerald Baliles, a Patrick County native.George Lyle, a member of the museum's board of trustees, recalled that when he came to Martinsville from the Washington, D.C., area that year, "it was just a small museum."Â�"I was used to big museums in big cities," said Lyle, now the attorney for Henry County government. However, "I was impressed with what it (the museum) had inside" and research being done by its scientists."It just needed a better facility" to display its collections and research, he said.In March 2007, the museum moved into a new 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue, funded through a General Assembly bond issue five years earlier. With roughly five times as much room as the Douglas Avenue facility, the new building gives the museum space for larger, modern exhibits and to display more of its 22 million specimens of natural history.The museum now is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and has 57 people, including 36 full-time employees, on its staff."We have world-renowned scientists" who travel on science exhibitions and consult with scientists worldwide, Barber said.And, "we're now recognized as one of the top museums in our field in the world," Niblett emphasized.The museum also is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction that only about 10 percent of museums in the United States have.While there are a few natural history museums in the nation with larger staffs, "we're definitely as good as they are," said Barber.The new building helps people realize that, he added.It also is attracting more people. The museum had about 47,000 visitors in its first fiscal year after moving into the new building, which was quadruple the average number of annual visitors at the old location, Niblett said.During the 2008-09 fiscal year, visitation dropped to about 32,000 people."I'm sure that's due to the economy," said Niblett. "But it's still triple what we had in the old building," and she feels confident visitation will rise when the economy improves and people start traveling more for leisure."Our (educational) programs are booked to capacity," she noted. "That shows we have outstanding programs."Â�Currently, most of the museum's visitors come from an approximately 50-mile radius, including northern portions of North Carolina that are closer to Martinsville than to that state's Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, according to museum officials.Because it draws many people from outside Henry County and Martinsville, the museum has become a major tourist attraction for the area, Niblett and Barber said. When those visitors come to the community, they stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants and shop in local stores, boosting the area's economy, the officials said.The museum does not yet have statistics showing just how much of a boon it has been to the local economy, they said.As staff members strive to find ways to lure people from farther distances, Barber said, "we must make sure we continue to have quality exhibits that make people willing to drive (a lengthy distance) to see."Â�Staff members are working closely with tourism staff of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. to market the museum along with other area attractions. When there are multiple attractions for people to see, they are more likely to visit an area and stay longer, and the longer they stay, the better off the local economy is, Barber indicated. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/173 City Schools Looking 'To Build on the Positive'- As New School Year Begins http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/173 Thursday, 20 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The 2,500 students expected to begin a new school year in Martinsville today will be greeted by new teachers, new programs and some expanded programs. Thursday, 20 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, August 20, 2009By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe 2,500 students expected to begin a new school year in Martinsville today will be greeted by new teachers, new programs and some expanded programs."Our objective this year is to build on the positive directions we are heading in by implementing new and expanded programs," Martinsville Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner said.A highlight this year is a new Freshman Academy at Martinsville High School, he said.Ninth-grade students started school on Wednesday, a day earlier than other students, and they were met with a team of educators who provided "a more personalized learning schedule" in a central location on one side of the building, Kizner said.The academy will provide additional support to freshmen during their first year of high school. It was deemed necessary because national research shows the transition to high school "is one of the most difficult," Kizner said.The high school's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, which offers advanced classes, also was expanded, and business classes will partner with others to encourage and expand the entrepreneurial spirit among students by creating kiosks to illustrate business models, Kizner said.Some students will open small businesses at school as part of the program, he added.The high school's new Teen Health Center will offer a number of services including vision, hearing, stress, nutrition and dating issues. Its staff is "ready to go," he said. A Response To Intervention program at Martinsville Middle School will provide "different levels of support to children that are struggling" in class, and also reinforce reading and writing skills, Kizner said.Educators at Patrick Henry Elementary School have created alliances with the Virginia Museum of Natural History. As a result, and in conjunction with the PTO, Kizner said a greenhouse will be built on the school property to provide hands-on learning opportunities.Albert Harris Elementary School also will use gardening in an outdoor campus to offer hands-on science experiments, he said.The seven comprehensive early childhood learning programs will continue at Clearview Elementary School, Kizner said."There is a division-wide initiative" to get parents more involved through programs such as father/son or mother/daughter reading nights and "open nights" for specialized discussions of interest to certain grade levels or classes, Kizner said.The division also hopes to create partnerships with parents to help youngsters understand and follow expectations in student handbooks, specifically as they pertain to dress, cell phones and the like, he said."We want to make sure parents understand our policy and support it," Kizner said.The school division also assumed responsibility for the Continuing Adult/GED program previously offered through Patrick Henry Community College, Kizner said. Classes are held in the central office, and so far, about 60 people have enrolled. A total of 28 new teachers will be in classrooms this year, he said. Sixteen were hired to replace teachers lost through attrition. Federal stimulus funds were used to hire the remaining 12 teachers.Some new hires are from other states, including upstate New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan. Two teachers recently returned from teaching stints in Honduras, he said. As a result of the diverse backgrounds of the new staff members, Kizner is anticipating new ideas will be generated for more programs to be implemented.Last year, 2,520 students were enrolled in the division, including those in the early childhood development program. The 2,500 expected today is an estimate, he said. "But I anticipated a decline" based on census projections and a report from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which predicted an overall declining enrollment in Southside Virginia, Kizner said. The research center provides information, data, research and technical assistance in a number of different areas.Birth rates from five years ago also pointed to the decline."That is a pattern we may see over the next couple years," Kizner said. Regardless, "our thinking is build on your strengths. An organization has got to keep looking at ways to improve" or else it will falter. "We are willing to take risks" and implement new ideas and strategies, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/171 Fossil Whale Offers Clues on Feeding, Handedness http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/171 Wednesday, 19 August 2009 12:00:00 EST From a patch of ancient seafloor that lies west of Interstate 95, a fossil whale with a broken jaw presents a mystery that may have been solved with today's publication of a paper by the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Wednesday, 19 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Hamptonroads.comBy Diane TennantThe Virginian-Pilot© August 19, 2009 From a patch of ancient seafloor that lies west of Interstate 95, a fossil whale with a broken jaw presents a mystery that may have been solved with today's publication of a paper by the Virginia Museum of Natural History.The partial skeleton came from a quarry north of Richmond that is considered the best fossil site in Virginia."It's just incredibly rich," said Alton C. Dooley Jr., a paleontologist at the museum and co-author on the paper. "I can dig here for the rest of my life and we won't get it all done."At least a dozen whales have been found at the dig, which is in a quarry operated by Martin Marietta Aggregates. The first whale found was a new species, and a cast of the skeleton is the centerpiece of the nearby Caroline County visitor's center. After that came one rare find after another - whales piled on top of each other, dolphins and sea turtles alongside pieces of land animals such as a horse, a camel, a tapir and a peccary.Based on the shells of microscopic algae called diatoms, the water at this site was no more than 50 feet deep and probably brackish rather than salty, Dooley said. Several thousand shark and ray teeth have been collected; there are so many that erosion litters them across the surface of the ground."We've actually only excavated about 5 percent of this site," Dooley said.Digging began on a small scale in 1991. As scientists came to realize how unusual the site is, the pace of digging picked up, but it will take years to complete.About 50 species have been identified so far, and the museum has in storage about 60 plaster "jackets" containing large chunks of rock and earth holding fossils that have not even been opened, let alone cleaned and identified.For two years, Dooley and his team have been excavating the longest and most complete whale skeleton ever found at Carmel Church. It is the first whale found there with at least part of its tail in position. For two weeks in August, volunteers, including Kayla Leyden, a rising senior at Lakeland High School in Suffolk, painstakingly dug around it with paintbrushes and dental picks.Scientists do not know why so many whales and other animals are in such a small space - the fossil beds run in a narrow band for about 400 feet. The bones of different species are intermingled. Some lie neatly in place as though the animal died and was buried quickly by sediment, but the bones of other whales are scattered and bear bite marks from scavenging prehistoric sharks.The 14 million-year-old whale featured in the scientific paper was found in 2006. It lay upside down, tail and flippers missing, and its position obscured the most interesting thing about it: the broken left jaw.Broken bones are not unusual in a fossil bed. But this whale's jaw had new bone growing around the broken ends, showing that the animal had lived for at least a week after the injury. In addition, the left side of the snout had been crushed, and the left jaw joint damaged.Such an injury has never been reported in a fossil baleen whale, Dooley said. In modern whales, broken jaws are usually caused by ships hitting them."But ship collisions were certainly not occurring in the Miocene, so what sort of event could lead to a fracture?" Dooley and co-author Brian L. Beatty ask in the paper.A clue was provided by the ribs. Most marine mammals have lightweight spongy bones to help them float. The fossil ribs were heavy and denser than expected, more like the bones of modern-day sea cows that act as ballast to hold them down as they feed on submerged plants.It had always been assumed that most baleen whales, fossil and modern, were filter feeders, Dooley said, straining mouthfuls of seawater through tough, stringy plates of baleen that take the place of teeth.But Pacific gray whales are bottom feeders, using their baleen to filter sediment for food. They usually turn to the right as they gouge holes in the seafloor; only about 20 percent of gray whales prefer the left side.Based on the injury and the dense bones of the fossil, Dooley and his co-author from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine concluded that the fossil whale was also a bottom feeder, and may have injured its jaw by hitting something on the seafloor."This is the first time we've got solid evidence for feeding from the seafloor in a baleen whale," Dooley said. "This is also the first time handed behavior is described in a fossil whale. We were just lucky we got a left-handed one."Mark Uhen, a term assistant professor at George Mason University who is not involved with the paper, said it is difficult to find fossil evidence of behavior."This is rather special, that he's hypothesizing evidence of feeding behavior just from the bones," Uhen said. "Evidence of it in a fossil is pretty neat."Nick Pyenson, soon-to-be curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian, said the interpretation is hard for other scientists to replicate."I guess I'm very skeptical of any claim of behavior," he said. "It's difficult to test."Dooley hopes to examine more mysteries at Carmel Church, such as why so many apparently healthy adult animals ended up there, their bones intermingling. Some evidence suggests it happened relatively quickly; other evidence points to a longer time frame.He also expects to find new animals as more of the quarry fossil beds are exposed. He's hoping for a relative of the saber-toothed cat, or a prehistoric rhino, more horses or a seal. The teeth of a four-tusked elephant called a gomphothere were found some years ago in Westmoreland County, in the same soil layer that Dooley is working on at Carmel Church."I feel like a gomphothere is in there," he said. "I can hear it calling to me."Diane Tennant, (757) 446-2478, diane.tennant@pilotonline.com http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/172 Omission of a Nascar Pioneer Stirs a Debate http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/172 Wednesday, 19 August 2009 12:00:00 EST As construction of Nascar's $146 million Hall of Fame takes shape in Charlotte, N.C., racing fans are arguing over the nominees for the first five inductees to be honored there. Wednesday, 19 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: The New York Times As construction of Nascar's $146 million Hall of Fame takes shape in Charlotte, N.C., racing fans are arguing over the nominees for the first five inductees to be honored there.But the biggest debate may be over a name missing from the 25 contenders announced last month: Nascar's pioneering black driver, Wendell O. Scott."Wendell Scott was a hero Nascar didn't want," Larry Edsall, the former managing editor of AutoWeek magazine, wrote online.The omission is also stirring broader discussion of Nascar's past discrimination and what critics say is its continued record as the nation's least diverse major sport.Since Scott broke the racial barrier more than half a century ago, several minority and female drivers have competed in some events. Despite a nine-year diversity program, all but one of the 125 regular drivers in Nascar's three national racing series are white males. The sole ethnic minority is Juan Pablo Montoya, who is Hispanic."It appears that all those splashy press conferences and impassioned speeches on diversity from Nascar officials were just empty platitudes," wrote Allen Gregory, the racing columnist for The Bristol Herald Courier in Virginia.Nascar's mission statement says: "Nascar is committed to making the sport - on and off the racetrack - look like America. No other issue is more important to Nascar's success and growth."Brian France, chairman of the multibillion-dollar enterprise, has pledged to make "all Americans feel welcome to participate in our sport."Nascar has spent millions recruiting diverse drivers, employees, vendors and college interns. It awards Wendell Scott Scholarships and hired his son, Wendell Jr., as a mentor.But racial incidents have clouded the sport. A crew chief slurred a black driver this spring; a black crewman was confronted by a coworker wearing a pillowcase on his head in 1999; slurs were scrawled in toilets at a track in 2001; a fired Nascar inspector filed a race and sex bias suit in 2008; and critics have objected to Confederate flags waved by some fans.Nascar says it has zero tolerance for bias and has responded by suspending, barring or firing people in various incidents and by privately settling the bias suit. The dearth of minority and female racers in the top ranks reflects the prolonged years it takes to develop drivers, who often start training in childhood, said Nascar's diversity director, Marcus D. Jadotte. He predicted more progress as "we expand into every demographic area and group." The history of Scott's roadblocks remains largely ignored by Nascar. Barred from some races and sometimes cheated in scoring, Scott never landed corporate sponsors, which could have afforded him a first-rate vehicle and a professional crew.Still, he managed to rank among the top 10 drivers in 147 national races; finish in the top 10 annual standings in four seasons; and win dozens of minor league races, a Virginia state championship and a national race.The 1977 film "Greased Lightning," starring Richard Pryor, was loosely based on Scott's life. Scott, of Danville, Va., died in 1990 at 69.The debate comes amid revived interest in Scott's career, chronicled in the biography "Hard Driving" (Steerforth Press, 2008) by Brian Donovan, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. A Los Angeles Times review praised its "carefully documented" new evidence of Nascar's "history of racism."Supporters will stage a Wendell Scott Recognition Day tribute on Sept. 12 at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, with speakers and a petition for his induction."It's a lost page of history," said the organizer, Alexir Hairston, a family friend and artist who painted Scott. Like many white drivers in the Southern-rooted sport, Scott honed his skills outracing law enforcement to haul moonshine. After starting to race legitimately in 1952, he competed in hundreds of sanctioned contests until injuries in a 21-car pileup forced him to retire in 1973.Though he has been called the Jackie Robinson of racing, Scott's initiation was different. While the Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Robinson to integrate baseball, Donovan's book documented that Nascar's establishment thwarted Scott.For years Scott was barred from Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and barred from some races elsewhere. Officials denied him the Rookie of the Year award he had earned and hassled him over trivia like chipped paint and his sons' beards, the book reports. The most egregious humiliation came in a major 1963 race in Jacksonville, Fla. Scott won by two laps, even beating Richard Petty.But officials apparently blanched at the prospect of the winner's customary kiss for the local - white - beauty queen. So the scoreboard went blank, the checkered flag was withheld and the runner-up was crowned victor."Everybody in the place knew I won the race," Scott recalled. Later, officials conceded a "scoring error" and privately gave him a crude wooden trophy with no inscription.Nascar's salute to Scott on its Web site cites his Jacksonville victory - but omits the troubles.Though Scott never complained publicly during his driving years, he endured grandstand jeers and slashed tires and said some drivers intentionally bumped him into crashes.But he won crossover popularity as a gritty underdog and earned the friendship of many drivers.Nascar helped some promising white drivers find sponsors, but not Scott."If he'd had the equipment or financial backing that I and others had, he would have won more races," said Ned M. Jarrett, a Hall of Fame nominee who said he once urged Lee Iacocca, then a Ford executive, to aid Scott. Serving as his own mechanic, Scott made do with inferior cars and amateur crews and sometimes ran on recapped tires. "They wasn't going to help a black man," he told Donovan. "That's all there was to it." The financing problem persists. Harry L. Davis, whose son Marc, 19, was mentored by Wendell Scott Jr., said, "Until sponsorship is attached to diversity drivers, nobody is going to make it." Charlotte Motor Speedway's former president, H. A. Wheeler, said Scott "was obviously a much better race driver than the record shows." Jadotte, Nascar's diversity director, said, "Nascar embraces and celebrates Wendell Scott's contribution to the sport."While Scott's travails haunt the debate at Nascar, his achievements have won honors elsewhere, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in Darlington, S.C.A 50-member panel will choose Nascar's five inaugural inductees this fall, followed by new selections annually. Whether Scott is eventually inducted, "there will definitely be recognition of his career in the exhibit on diversity," said the Hall's director, Winston B. Kelley.Like Scott's sanitized salute on Nascar's Web site, however, the exhibit is not expected to delve into issues like the Jacksonville dispute, Kelley said.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/170 Polling Place Outside Precinct, Within Mile http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/170 Thursday, 13 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The new polling place for Martinsville's Precinct 3 at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Starling Avenue is not actually in that precinct. Thursday, 13 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, August 13, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe new polling place for Martinsville's Precinct 3 at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Starling Avenue is not actually in that precinct.Martinsville City Council on Tuesday adopted on first reading an ordinance establishing changes in the city's voting precincts.The ordinance states that the polling place for Precinct 3 has moved from the museum's former location at 1001 Douglas Ave. to the museum's new location at 21 Starling Ave.While the new museum building is not in the precinct, it is within a mile of the precinct's boundaries, and that is allowed under state code, city voter Registrar Ercell Cowan said Wednesday.Cowan did not immediately know exactly how far outside the precinct the new museum building is. She said the distance was measured by Martinsville Electoral Board member Ray Carr, and he determined the building is within a mile of the precinct boundaries.Carr is out of town and could not be reached for comment.City officials said the museum offered its new facility for the polling place, and they could not find another suitable location for it.The museum currently is using its Douglas Avenue building mainly for storage, and it no longer is open to the public, so it no longer can be used for voting.During Thursday's council meeting, the Rev. Tyler Millner, pastor of Morning Star Holy Church in Axton, asked why the city did not think it appropriate to use a church as the new polling place for Precinct 3.Mayor Kathy Lawson said some localities use churches for polling places.Jeff Adkins, chairman of the city electoral board, said officials did not find a church in Precinct 3 that met all of the city's needs for polling places.One such need, officials said, is easy access for people with disabilities.Also, City Attorney Eric Monday said he has "deep-seated concerns" about voters casting ballots in churches due to issues pertaining to the separation of church and state.Cowan said the new museum building will be a better polling place than the old one because it has better traffic flow and easy access to the disabled.Other changes mentioned in the ordinance involve the names of buildings used for polling places.Under the ordinance, the polling place for Precinct 1 at 605 Fourth St. is renamed "Martinsville City Housing Office" to reflect the building's existing use. It used to be the Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy.Similarly, the polling place for Precinct 5 at 746 Indian Trail is renamed "Martinsville City Schools Administrative Offices" to reflect the building's current use. It previously was Druid Hills School.During its Aug. 25 session, city council will consider adopting the ordinance on second reading to make it official.The U.S. Department of Justice must give its approval to the polling place location and name changes. Cowan said she anticipates no problems. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/169 Virginia Museum of Natural History to Celebrate 25th Anniversary http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/169 Wednesday, 12 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Wednesday, 12 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLS MARTINSVILLE - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary.The Martinsville museum says it is holding a Founder's Day Open House on Aug. 29 as part of the celebration. It will include free admission and supervised behind-the-scenes access to selected labs and collections storage areas.Officials say the museum has experienced steady growth since its founding and has earned recognition as one of the nation's leading museums in its field. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States.The museum also became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2004. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/166 VA History Museum to Celebrate 25th Anniversary http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/166 Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Victoraadvocate.comMARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary.The Martinsville museum says it is holding a Founder's Day Open House on Aug. 29 as part of the celebration. It will include free admission and supervised behind-the-scenes access to selected labs and collections storage areas.Officials say the museum has experienced steady growth since its founding and has earned recognition as one of the nation's leading museums in its field. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States.The museum also became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2004. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/167 History Museum Celebrates 25th Ann. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/167 Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Wavy.com Tuesday, 11 Aug 2009MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary.The Martinsville museum says it is holding a Founder's Day Open House on Aug. 29 as part of the celebration. It will include free admission and supervised behind-the-scenes access to selected labs and collections storage areas.Officials say the museum has experienced steady growth since its founding and has earned recognition as one of the nation's leading museums in its field. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States.The museum also became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2004. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/168 VA History Museum to Celebrate 25th Anniversary http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/168 Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Starexponent.com MARTINSVILLE, VA - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Martinsville museum says it is holding a Founder's Day Open House on Aug. 29 as part of the celebration. It will include free admission and supervised behind-the-scenes access to selected labs and collections storage areas. Officials say the museum has experienced steady growth since its founding and has earned recognition as one of the nation's leading museums in its field. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States. The museum also became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2004. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/165 Starling District Mulled http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/165 Wednesday, 05 August 2009 12:00:00 EST A local official thinks private investments as well as public funds could be needed to upgrade structures on Starling Avenue in Martinsville, where the city plans to establish an arts, culture and tourism district. Wednesday, 05 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, August 5, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterA local official thinks private investments as well as public funds could be needed to upgrade structures on Starling Avenue in Martinsville, where the city plans to establish an arts, culture and tourism district.City planners' proposal for the district includes economic incentives to help motivate property owners. But Martinsville cannot afford as many incentives, or to put as much money toward them, as larger cities with similar districts, according to Wayne Knox, the city's director of community development.Certainly, "we're not going to buy folks' property to rehabilitate it," Knox told the Martinsville Planning Commission on Tuesday.Martinsville City Council would have to approve some of the incentives and implement them during the fiscal year that starts next July. For that reason, city planners are not rushing to seek council's approval of the district. Knox said, though, that he hopes the district will be established by early 2010.The planning commission on Tuesday had initial discussions on the district. Commission members voiced no objections to the proposal, but they asked Knox for more information, including:"¢ How much money should the city put toward incentives?"¢ What is city staff envisioning in terms of requirements for both interior and exterior renovations?"¢ What is a clear definition of an arts- or culture-oriented business?"¢ How would the commission as well as the city's Architectural Review Board and a proposed city Arts, Cultural and Tourism Commission work together to oversee the district?Knox said he will try to provide that information during the commission's next meeting on Aug. 20.Basically, the district is intended to lure businesses and other attractions of interest to arts and culture enthusiasts. The ultimate goal is to lure tourists who will spend money in the area, thereby boosting the local economy."Tourism is such a growing part of our economy," especially among people interested in the area's furniture- and textile-making heritage, Knox said.Businesses already on Starling that are not connected with arts and culture would not have to move. However, they may not be eligible for incentives to help with renovations, officials said.The Piedmont Arts Association and the Virginia Museum of Natural History already are on the avenue, and Knox said arts and culture enthusiasts have expressed interest in finding living quarters nearby. He said that he knows certain owners of structures on Starling are interested in turning space in their structures into dwellings.Starling Avenue, once mostly residential, began evolving in the 1960s as a professional district, Knox recalled. Most houses on the avenue currently are used as offices or small businesses.Commission member James Crigger Sr. said a building at the intersection of Starling and Memorial Boulevard has had upstairs apartments at least since the 1940s. He knows because he lived there many years ago, he said.That building would be a logical point to start improving living spaces and adding others, Knox said.Another commission member, Barbara Cousin, asked how laws regarding structures' accessibility by disabled people would affect renovations.Little, Knox indicated. He said that when a structure is used for business as well as a home, downstairs generally is used for the business and upstairs is used for the home. Therefore, he thinks people other than those living in a structure usually would not need to go upstairs, so structures along Starling would need little - if any - modifications for disabled people.However, the structures still would have to comply with regulations in the city's building code pertaining to access to the disabled, he said.Due to the presence of Piedmont Arts and the museum on Starling, Knox said, city planners think having an arts, culture and tourism district on the avenue would be "a natural fit."Â�If the district is successful, it eventually could be expanded to include uptown, he said.Joe Williams, Piedmont Arts' interim executive director, attended Tuesday's meeting. He said he thinks the district would spur economic growth, but he thinks something other than small shops may be needed to lure visitors.One idea that came up in conversation between Cousin, Knox and Williams after the meeting is European-style sidewalk cafes - or, at least, outdoor dining areas like the one Arts Etc. has in front of its restaurant uptown.But they acknowledged one potential problem with that idea: If the cafes served alcoholic beverages, how could customers who had too much to drink be kept from causing disturbances on the sidewalk or street?Sports fans who go out to eat after attending events at an arena planned uptown are apt to want something more potent than iced tea, Cousin said.Cafes may need a railing or shrubbery that separates customers from a nearby sidewalk, she said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/164 Starling Avenue Arts Tourism District? City Planners to Consider Proposal http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/164 Monday, 03 August 2009 12:00:00 EST City planners envision Starling Avenue becoming a bustling destination for people who enjoy the arts and cultural events - a draw that could spill into other neighborhoods and boost Martinsville's economy through tourism. Monday, 03 August 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, August 3, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterCity planners envision Starling Avenue becoming a bustling destination for people who enjoy the arts and cultural events - a draw that could spill into other neighborhoods and boost Martinsville's economy through tourism.When it meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Martinsville Planning Commission will begin discussing a proposal to establish an official arts, culture and tourism district along Starling. The proposal includes both existing and potential incentives aimed at encouraging economic growth in those realms.Barbara Parker, director of programs for Piedmont Arts Association said she thinks there is enough local interest in the arts, as well as cultural events, to help make the city's vision a reality."Anything we can do to enhance the (local) quality of life ... is never a bad idea," Parker said.Wayne Knox, the city's director of community development, noted that the avenue already is home to Piedmont Arts and the Virginia Museum of Natural History, as well as several shops.Noting that more than 5,000 people attended performances sponsored by Piedmont Arts during its past fiscal year, Parker said she thinks demand for arts and cultural activities is increasing locally. That may be because such activities "make people forget" about economic problems, she said.Other cities, including Harrisonburg and Staunton, have been successful in establishing arts and culture-oriented districts, Knox said.Consultants and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. have determined that the community has economic growth potential through tourism due to attractions such as Piedmont Arts, the museum, historic sites and furniture outlets.The city's proposal includes incentives to help people establish businesses such as art galleries, museums, theaters, antique shops, dance studios and music-oriented clubs, as well as living space for artists.Some of the incentives, such as "flexible zoning" letting artists live, work and sell art in the same building, as well as a partial exemption of taxes on substantially rehabilitated real estate, already exist or are being developed.The proposal includes ideas for other types of incentives, including:"¢ A grant program for new or expanding businesses that would create jobs in the arts, culture and tourism district but which need some financial aid. Funds could be used toward start-up costs, improving the facades of buildings, developing merchandise inventories and other needs."¢ A five-year rebate of 50 percent of the business professional occupation license fees paid to the city by a qualifying business, and"¢ A voucher program to help low- to moderate-income people, including students, rent living space in the district.Knox said the district eventually could be expanded to encompass uptown.The Southern Virginia Artisan Center, which includes a gallery for local and regional artists and Patrick Henry Community College's School of Craft and Design, already is uptown, along with Studio 107, a communal art studio affiliated with Piedmont Arts, and Arts Etc., a store catering to artists, according to Knox and Parker.Knox said that Tuesday, the planning commission will "start the dialogue" for creating an arts, culture and tourism district along the avenue."We don't have a set timetable" to establish the district, he said, noting that he expects discussions among commission members - plus research they may ask staff to do regarding additions to ideas they might present - could take a few months."We have to iron out how we'd do it and the cost," Knox said of the incentives. He said that Martinsville City Council is aware of city planners' desire for the district and incentives necessary to create it, but council has not seen an in-depth proposal yet.The commission eventually will hold a public hearing, Knox said. When a firm plan for the district is decided upon, it will be given to city council for consideration, he said, adding that council also will hold a public hearing. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/163 Space Comes Down to Earth for Kids in Camp at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/163 Monday, 27 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Several teams of area middle school students huddled around tables last week at the Virginia Museum of Natural History as each worked to build a model lunar rover powered by solar power. Monday, 27 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, July 27, 2009By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff WriterSeveral teams of area middle school students huddled around tables last week at the Virginia Museum of Natural History as each worked to build a model lunar rover powered by solar power.The teams had two hours to build, test, rebuild, test, rebuild, test, etc. until they developed rovers - think of the vehicles used by astronauts to explore the surface of the moon - that worked.Trials were held later to determine the rovers that traveled the farthest, fastest and straightest.The activity was one of the hands-on exercises at the four-day "Rock-It-Science Camp" last week. The camp was held in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo mission, which marked mankind's first step on the moon.More than 30 students from Fieldale-Collinsville, Laurel Park and Martinsville middle schools signed up to take part in the first two days of the camp, which took place at VMNH on Wednesday and Thursday. About 45 students signed up for the last two days of the camp, during which they went to the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton and visited the NASA Langley Research Center, the birthplace of America's space program.On Wednesday at VMNH, Amy Sabarre, director of the NASA SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Science and Aerospace Academy) lab at Martinsville Middle School, divided the students into teams with instructions to each build a lunar rover using construction toys - such as motors, tires, gears, axles and brightly colored interlocking building blocks - plus a solar panel. After explaining the general options for building a rover and the essential materials needed, Sabarre put the students to work and told them to ask a teacher for help only after a team's members had discussed the problem thoroughly and still were stumped.Jonathan Jamison, a rising seventh-grader at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, said he was learning "how to use solar power and transfer it to kinetic energy" (energy of motion). Jonathan is the son of Rhonda and Mark Jamison of Fieldale. Several other students said they were learning about such things as solar energy, robotics, technology, rocketry and how to study moons or planets.Earlier in the day, students explored space in a hunt, using GPS equipment, binoculars and telescopes. During a snack, students in teams simulated creating a sandwich in zero gravity. If they dropped any of the ingredients of the sandwich, someone would take it away, because it would float off in zero gravity.Students also crawled into an indoor star lab (an inflatable dome) and heard a presentation by Sabarre on the Greek mythology behind constellations, saw diagrams outlining the various constellations and finally, looking at a picture of only the stars but no diagrams, were asked to find several of the major constellations and other heavenly bodies on their own. Colin Penn, 11, a rising sixth-grader at Martinsville Middle School and the son of Stephanie Hedrick of Collinsville, and several other students said they enjoyed learning the mythology behind the constellations. Colin said he learned that the North Star appears not to move, and that could be helpful if he got lost. "I'll be able to find my way out of the woods or something," he said.Several other students said seeing the diagrams of the constellations might help them locate some of them in the night sky.Activities on the agenda for Thursday included a simulation of how the Martian rover got to the surface of Mars. Students dropped an egg from two locations at the museum. Each egg was packaged in a triangle cube, with balloons on the outside and a parachute made of such materials as a trash bag, foil, parchment paper or tissue paper. At the Virginia Air & Space Center, staff were to provide a variety of activities for the students, including a sleepover inside the center during which campers could stargaze on the center's observation deck.The camp was provided by VMNH and the Virginia Air and Space Center in partnership with the Hampton Roads Convention & Visitors Bureau. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/162 Snakes Alive! Reptiles Get Rave Reviews at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/162 Sunday, 26 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Snakes are not slimy, visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's third annual Reptile Day festival on Saturday learned. Sunday, 26 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, July 26, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterSnakes are not slimy, visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's third annual Reptile Day festival on Saturday learned."It's very scaly," said Travis Wood, 10, the son of Bert and Patricia Wood, as he touched a snake. But "it feels really neat."Wood touched both a green snake that was about the size of a pencil in diameter, as well as a rat snake that was about the size of a garden hose. Neither snake is poisonous."It kind of tickles" when a snake crawls on you, Paul Sattler of the Virginia Herpetological Society said as he held the green snake.He said that particular snake was an adult, but he acknowledged that some green snakes get much larger in diameter.Wood said he would like to have a snake as a pet."But my mom's scared to death of them," he said, so forget that idea.The museum holds Reptile Day to help people see up close many of the cold-blooded creatures found in Virginia and North Carolina, including snakes and other reptiles.However, museum staff said they also wanted to show people that snakes usually are not dangerous, and they play a critical role in the environment.For example, a sign on an aquarium housing a kingsnake noted that they hunt and eat poisonous snakes.Mark Kilby, operator of the Luray Zoo, has participated in Reptile Day each year. He said snakes usually are docile, not overly aggressive like many people believe, and people are realizing that more and more."A lot of people are losing their instant fear" of snakes, Kilby said. He said he thinks that is due largely to the popularity of television programs showing reptiles and other wildlife in a positive manner "instead of exploiting their defensive characteristics for shock" purposes.People should become familiar with snakes so they can identify ones they come into contact with, said Joanna Wauhop, co-owner of ZooPro, a Virginia Beach-based firm that does animal education programs.When people see a snake in their yard, they should try to identify it and decide if it is poisonous. Then, they should call an animal control officer or another professional animal handler to remove it, according to Wauhop."If it's not venomous," she said, "the best thing is to keep it in your yard" because, like the nonpoisonous kingsnake, some snakes kill poisonous ones and other creatures more dangerous than they are.Among other reptiles on display were turtles, tortoises, frogs, lizards and small alligators.Alligators are not found in the wild in Southside. But if a person comes into contact with an alligator in its habitat, such as along the coast, Wauhop said the person should "go far away" from it as quickly as possible and call animal control officials.People definitely should be wary of alligators, she said. Alligators that are 3 to 4 feet long or more "can take off a finger or inflict some serious damage" to a person.Kilby said, though, that alligators generally are afraid of people and usually will not attack someone they see.They "extremely rarely bite people," he said. He noted statistics that show there have been only 20 to 30 fatal alligator bites nationwide in the past century, compared to about 500 fatal dog bites in the past 30 years.Alligators "don't see us as a food source," he added. But when people feed them, alligators will "expect handouts" and lose their fear of people.Some birds and spiders also were on display at Reptile Day since some of the participating wildlife organizations also handle them. Noting that some birds eat snakes, Carolyn Seay, the museum's special events manager, said having birds alongside the snakes shows "the entire food chain" in nature.Reptile Day also featured family-oriented crafts and games, plus stories read by museum staff and volunteers. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/161 Museum Teams Dig for Dinos http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/161 Monday, 06 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Severe thunderstorms, deadly wildlife and scorching heat are mere nuisances for veteran Wyoming dinosaur excavator Dr. Alton Dooley, who is leading teams on the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 2009 Wyoming Dinosaur Dig. Monday, 06 July 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, July 6, 2009Severe thunderstorms, deadly wildlife and scorching heat are mere nuisances for veteran Wyoming dinosaur excavator Dr. Alton Dooley, who is leading teams on the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 2009 Wyoming Dinosaur Dig. Some might not consider spending a week digging under Wyoming's blazing summer sun much of a vacation, but for many who take part, that's exactly what the dig is."Taking part in a dig is a vacation that's not for the faint of heart," said Dooley, assistant curator of paleontology at VMNH. "Participants forgo the luxuries of afternoons at the pool, fine dining and room service, but in turn are given a rewarding experience that many people never get."Although Dooley is a veteran of the dig, many of his team members come with no experience. Students, professionals of all kinds and amateur paleontologists take part in the excavations. Dooley spends from two to four weeks at the site each year, and participants choose one week during that time."Participants in these excavations are exposed to a variety of different topics," Dooley said. "They learn the techniques for properly collecting fragile fossils while working in the same deposits explored by famous paleontologists such as Edward Cope, Charles Marsh and Barnum Brown." Although "vacation" might be a subjective term, there is little debate that the Wyoming Dig is a trip unlike many, with each day providing participants with new experiences. From surprise visits from Wyoming's indigenous scorpions and snakes to visits from the much less frightening pronghorns, exposure to Wyoming's unique wildlife is an integral part of the excavation experience.Despite the work involved with the Wyoming excavations, participants don't spend the entire trip roughing it under the sun. Some afternoons are spent visiting the surrounding area's natural wonders and museums."Within a one-hour drive of our field site there are exposed a tremendous variety of rock formations spanning almost 3 billion years of the Earth's history," Dooley said. "Participants take a number of afternoon field trips to these sites as well."Â�Wyoming, well known for its many dinosaur fossil deposits, is in stark contrast to Virginia, which has yet to yield a single dinosaur fossil."There are so many fossil sites in Wyoming that it requires coordinated efforts by various museums and federal agencies to try to preserve as many fossils as possible," Dooley said. "While the Jurassic rocks in this part of Wyoming have been heavily collected over the last 150 years, there are still new discoveries being made all the time, especially since the fossils can differ dramatically in deposits that are only a few miles apart. The Two Sisters site being excavated by VMNH has never been excavated before, so we're only just starting to get a feel for what's preserved there."Although Virginia has yielded its fair share of paleontological discoveries, Wyoming holds the distinction of being a leading dinosaur hotbed - for now."Not a single dinosaur fossil has ever been discovered in Virginia, but there is reason to believe that one day such a find will be made," Dooley said.The original fossils used to create the cast of the full-size Allosaurus displayed inside the Virginia Museum of Natural History were discovered in Wyoming. This particular Allosaurus was chosen for display because it was discovered near the VMNH excavation sites. Although there is no direct evidence that Allosaurus lived in what is now Virginia, its presence in both Wyoming and in Europe makes it likely that it once roamed this region as well.Dooley will remain in Wyoming through July 11 and keeps a blog of each day's activities at www.paleolab.org. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/160 Collections on the Move at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/160 Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:00:00 EST A little more than two years after moving into its Starling Avenue building, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is in the moving process again. Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Tuesday, June 30, 2009 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer A little more than two years after moving into its Starling Avenue building, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is in the moving process again. It is moving many specimens being kept in storage at the former museum building on Douglas Avenue to its current facility. The specimens being moved are those that are sensitive to heat and high humidity levels, such as mounted animals and certain fossils. Once they are moved, heating and air-conditioning systems in the former museum building - now known as the Research and Collections Center - can be shut off. That is expected to reduce museum operating expenses by about $20,000 in the new fiscal year that will start Wednesday, said Operations Manager Rian Culligan. Due to budget cuts, the state expects the museum to trim its expenses by about $73,000 in fiscal 2010, according to Director of Administration and Services Gloria Niblett, who also is interim executive director. The rest of the savings is expected to be achieved through measures such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, turning lights off when rooms are not in use and reducing staff's discretionary spending, museum officials said. This winter, just enough heat will be turned on in the old building to keep sprinkler system pipes from freezing, said Culligan. He said with little heat and no air conditioning, temperatures in the building could get almost unbearable for museum staff who occasionally go over there to retrieve items or study specimens for research. Culligan said about 75 percent of the natural history specimens in storage on Douglas Avenue are being moved to the Starling Avenue location. Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber said the museum will look for ways to use those specimens in current and future exhibits. "We want to keep it fresh," he said of the exhibits, so visitors hopefully will see something new whenever they come. Items being stored at another location - space donated by SunTrust Bank for the museum's use - are being moved to Douglas Avenue. Those items are not sensitive to heat and humidity, said Culligan. On a recent afternoon, the Douglas Avenue building - which was a school many years ago, before it became the first museum building - was quiet and smelled musty inside. Rooms and hallways contain some natural history specimens and materials used in old exhibits. Building materials, equipment and office supplies not in use are scattered among the specimens. For instance, buckets of stucco are piled near an old exhibit pertaining to rocks. Piled along a wall in the building's auditorium are roughly 300 chairs used for special museum functions. Tables fill the auditorium's stage. Barber said much of the equipment and furnishings in storage will be sent to Richmond as time allows and staff become available to haul it there. The items are owned by the state - not the museum itself - so "we can't sell it, get rid of it, have a yard sale, or whatever," he laughed. About 40 percent of the Douglas Avenue building is occupied by items in storage, officials estimated. With more than 22 million specimens of flora and fauna in the museum's collections, there is no way the Starling Avenue building can contain all of them, so the Douglas Avenue building always will be needed for storage, Culligan surmised. The museum is the state's official repository for natural history specimens, so its collections will grow in the future, Barber noted. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/156 VMNH Director Search Expands http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/156 Friday, 19 June 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is readvertising the post of executive director to try and get a larger number of applicants. Friday, 19 June 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, June 19, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History is readvertising the post of executive director to try and get a larger number of applicants.The job has been vacant since February, when former director Tim Gette returned to Texas, his home state, to be executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures, which is part of the University of Texas at San Antonio.George Lyle, who heads the Virginia museum's search committee, said the museum has received 69 applications for the director's job. He would not discuss the applicants or their resumes in detail."We have some good applicants ... and people who applied are still being considered" for the job, Lyle said. But "we wanted more" applications.Lyle is on the museum's board of trustees, which will hire the new director. Because individuals have different backgrounds, the more people who apply, the more "we can make sure we get the right person," he said.Pam Armstrong, the board of trustees' chairman, could not be reached for comment Thursday.The job remains posted on the museum's Internet page and a Virginia state government jobs Web site. Now, it also is being advertised in two science and nature magazines."Some of the people who read those publications are different" from those who have read the museum and state Web pages, and they could be seeing the ad for the first time, Lyle said.No changes have been made to the advertisement since it originally ran, except to say that applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 8.Lyle said the trustees hope to hire a new director before the end of the year. Search committee members aim to agree on a candidate to recommend to the full board for consideration during its August meeting, he said, but he is not sure that will happen due to the new July 8 application deadline."We are moving with expediency" in the search, he said, but because they want to make sure they hire the right person, "we don't want to move too hastily."Â�The ad says the museum's new executive director should have an advanced degree in a related field, such as museum studies, business administration, education or natural science, "and/or equivalent work experience."Â�"Significant fundraising responsibilities" are part of the job, and candidates must be familiar with all aspects of museum operations and have excellent leadership, communication and management skills, the ad states.When he left, Gette was earning an annual salary of about $105,000. That will be the maximum amount that a new director can earn when he or she is hired, the ad shows. Due to state budget cuts, the salary has been frozen.The salary that a new director will be paid will be based on his or her experience and qualifications, according to the ad. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/158 Bay's Coastal Cliffs Are But Shells of Their Former Selves http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/158 Friday, 05 June 2009 12:00:00 EST Weather significantly troubled Capt. John Smith and his crew in early June 1608 as they explored Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore. Friday, 05 June 2009 12:00:00 EST New Article: Chesapeake Bay Journal Past is Prologue By Kent Mountford Weather significantly troubled Capt. John Smith and his crew in early June 1608 as they explored Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore. Thunderstorms had torn their shallop's sails, broken a mast and trapped them against Bloodsworth Island for days. Frustrated by winds that had opposed their sailing through a nearby channel, they called it the Straits of Limbo.Eventually, a fair wind and tide let them sail through into the mainstem Chesapeake on June 11, 1608. As they came out of what is today called Hooper Straits, they saw the Bay's distant Western Shore for the first time. Scanning south to north, amid a dark line of distant trees swimming in mirage against the horizon, they saw a bright flash of sunlight on open sand and clay cliffs. These drew both the eye and interest, and Smith shaped his course across the Bay toward these "Mountains on the [mainland]."Smith named these "Rickard's Cliffes" after his mother's English family. Calvert Cliffs, as they are known today, provide a cross section into 20 million years of Chesapeake history.This cliff stood out in Smith's memory as he later recounted his exploration of the Bay, but there are other cliffs with their own histories along margins of Virginia's river necks, the southern shore of the Potomac at Nomini and on its northern shore downstream of Popes Creek. There are also cliffs on the Patuxent western shore at Drumcliff and on the Bay's upper Eastern Shore around Worton and Turkey Points.Over the next few hundred years, geologists unraveled the complex sedimentary record in these cliffs, which extends back many millions of years before Chesapeake Bay was created. Our overview on the sequence of these events, the former muddy basins, sandy shallows, vast shell beds and the remains of sharks and whales, has been continuously refreshed by shoreline erosion-between 100 to 400 feet-over the subsequent four centuries.With each collapse of a cliff face in winter breakdowns and with each sorting of beach sediments by wave action at the toe of the cliff, fossil remains of creatures from these ancient habitats are revealed. Geologist Peter Vogt calls this continuous erosion process "the windshield wiper on Maryland's past."Their wide panoramic views make these cliffs tempting home sites. But once erosion events occur along unstable banks, there is immediate public pressure to stabilize and harden these shorelines. Techniques have included bulkheading, stone revetments, groins perpendicular to the shoreline, kudzu plantings and offshore breakwater structures to retard the erosive effects of waves. The result, Vogt, points out, is the eventual turning off of the windshield wiper that has revealed the Chesapeake's history.Drumcliff on the Patuxent, for example, is a "type locality," a place where a geological feature or particular fossil species was first discovered. Homeowners, fearing for the loss of their property, have stabilized the shoreline with rock. Formerly, scientists could look repeatedly at a site like this for clues about life stages, development of descriptive characters and the evolution of an organism now extinct. With thousands of species rapidly facing extinction today, understanding the fate of past inhabitants, without the effects human influence, can be useful.In 1998, I attended a field trip with the American Malacological Society at a privately owned site just north of Long Beach called Matoaka, which incidentally, was Pocohontas' actual Indian name. Fossil collectors from the Smithsonian, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and Europe have come to these cliffs for more than a century to find specimens from hundreds of extinct species. The host swarmed over the cliffs, plucking out examples of the beautiful Ecphora quadricostata, an extinct, four-ribbed and amber-colored snail, some big as a fist. It was selected years ago as Maryland's state fossil.We walked along exposed horizontal beds containing millions of little spiraling Turritella snails. These shells were likely dead when they accumulated in these deposits, washed there by waves or currents, on some sea floor depression or along a shoreline-much like the shell "hash" swimmers find at the undertow on many modern beaches.At other sites, there were beds of the huge Miocene oyster Isognomon. Large quantities of these shells formed layers. When they came into contact with groundwater, these layers dissolved, re-precipitated and solidified into limestone conglomerate. Elsewhere, these beds form rock shelves, even caves where exposed on the shoreline. They are natural beach stabilizers, preventing further erosion over a human lifetime.These shellfish had an incredibly thick shell, with 1.5-inch hinges joining the individual valves of a mollusk. Had they not become extinct, a few of these would have provided a substantial human meal. Fossil pearls have even been found in some.From a vantage 20 feet up a 100-foot cliff, I tried to imagine what this ancient shore might have been like 15 million years ago. One thing I did know: It was not a scene like today's Chesapeake.Geologist and paleontologist Ralph Eshelman said that from roughly 23 million to 5 million years ago, during the Miocene Epoch, this had been what scientists now call the Salisbury Embayment, a bight or cove-hundreds of miles wide-along the edge of an ancient sea. A cape to the south of the modern Chesapeake and a long curved seacoast bowed westward toward the Appalachians, arcing northeastward to a second cape where New Jersey's Pine Barrens lie above sea level today.The fossil record at Calvert Cliffs indicates that the climate might have been similar to that of the coast of Georgia. It was a feeding and calving ground for many extinct marine mammal species. One can't walk very far along the shoreline beneath today's towering cliffs without finding a fragment of bone from one of these species. Very often, whole skeletons emerge from the cliffs. Paleontologist Steven Godfrey and colleagues from the Calvert Marine Museum, acting on a tip from an amateur fossil collector, excavated much of an extinct whale, including the skull which, when packaged in protective plaster, was so heavy a Navy helicopter from the Patuxent Naval Air Station was engaged to hoist it for conservation at the museum.I imagined a pod of these ancient cetaceans, steaming across the ancient, shallow Calvert Sea. Some were baleen whales, which filtered tiny organisms from concentrated plankton blooms in the sea; others were toothed whales, predators of abundant, smaller species.The stratigraphy of this area was laid down long before the birth of today's Chesapeake and the several similar coastal estuaries that preceded it as sea level rose and fell with the passage of time. The present Bay has incised through and eroded modern shorelines to expose deep history. Beneath the Pleistocene beds, which cap the cliffs, are the exposed layers of increasingly older Eastover, St. Mary's, Choptank and Calvert formations.Another participant on the field trip, Lauck "Buck" Ward, then curator of paleontology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsburg, said that the beginning of the 50-million-year-old Nanjemoy formation lies just below surface deposits in Northern Virginia.The surface upon which rainfall lands is close enough to ground level here that downward percolation recharges or replenishes an underground reservoir of water bearing this name. This is an aquifer-a layer of permeable sands and gravels, confined between layers of water-impermeable clays, which slopes downward toward the East and South, dipping hundreds of feet beneath the ground. Along and beneath the Chesapeake in southern Maryland, 50-odd miles away, the aquifer is the source of water for many municipal and drinking water wells. It is frightening to look at the actual recharge fields for the Nanjemoy and other aquifers of the region as they are now covered with impervious surfaces and leached full of the contaminants of human development.Ward pointed out the Aquia formation, which is 60 million years old, in a lower layer of sediments. It is another aquifer, also feeding modern wells at different locations.My wife, Nancy, and I were intrigued by his knowledge of the basin's Coastal Plain and Piedmont, and Ward agreed, to meet with us later that year, in mid-November, for a tour back in time. We met him with his skiff at Fairview Beach on the Virginia Potomac, and took off.With the strata of ancient sediments tilting downward toward the modern ocean, material of much greater age is exposed here than at Calvert Cliffs. We nosed ashore, literally landing on what was once the floor of the shallow Paleocene sea roughly 65 million to 56 million years ago. We waded across a pavement of much larger Turritella snails-the distant ancestors of those seen on the Bay front, these up to 5 inches long. There were also different, very large oyster fossils. Some individual shells were 8-by-9 inches, and grew lying flat on their backs. Ward said that the frilled edges of the oyster's rapidly expanding bill-where the shellfish's living mantle was generating new shell-could be as wide as an inch. These protruding foliose processes helped to prevent the shellfish from sinking and being smothered in softer, alongshore sediments.Farther up the river, we came in to shore again. Beyond the next Point was Aquia Creek, where historians believe Smith, during his 1608 explorations, sought out the Indian mine of "spangled scurf" which he derided, but the councillors at Jamestown sent back to England, hoping-in vain-to find some precious metal.Here, on the beach downstream of Aquia, we found many sharks' teeth, symbolic of an era rich with life that supported top predators. This must have been a coastal area, because we found evidence of characteristically "warty" crocodile bones, and strangely, the fossilized coprolites (feces) of these reptilian predators preserved through millions of years in ancient muds.This was all 65 million to 56 million years ago. Ward said that much of this ancient world survived the great Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event within this period that suddenly ended the age of dinosaurs. There was yet another event, he said, perhaps 50 million years ago which pounded scores of species out of existence.I thought this must have been the bolide-likely a comet or asteroid mass-which struck the lower Chesapeake near Exmore on what eventually became Virginia's Lower Eastern Shore about 53 million years ago. It was an astounding ecological disaster, hurling immense bomblike missiles outward as far as the Patuxent, each of which deeply cratered the earth, and created tsunamis of debris and water. Ward said that after this event, there appeared to be only 15 or 16 species of mollusk remaining in this geographic region from the whole fauna.Next, we drove 50 miles to the Doswell Quarries being excavated by Martin Marietta Corp. Here in what is an otherwise flat and sandy rural landscape was a great pit. I estimated that it was 1,000 feet long, 500 feet wide and 100-200 feet deep; perhaps 8.5 million cubic yards of schist had come out of there.Schist is not easily dated. It's a metamorphosed rock-melted and mixed like pudding beyond recognition of its Precambrian origins. We've all seen this crushed stone before, as a product known as "aggregate," blended into cement. It is the stuff of foundations, bridge piers and abutments all around the Bay and its cities.Millions of years ago, this rock was a hump in the sea floor of the Salisbury Embayment. Ward swept his arm south and west, indicating where this embayment lay, rich in those ancient times with marine life. He showed us the remains of a sperm whale that had been found nearby, buried in the former shallow seabed which covered the rock being mined today. Its jaw had protruded from a nearby embankment. He picked up part of a tooth: "If we marked off that 100-by-150-foot site, we might have 10 whales in there."And their predators: Ward used a geological pick to scrape away years of time at the contact between the interface of both the Aquia and Nanjemoy formations. Worm or crustacean burrows from one bed cut into the sediments of the other, millions of years greater in age. All of these marine materials lie atop, and in the way of mining the hard rock beneath. Ward looked at his excavation: "I don't think I've ever found one of these so large, he said, handing Nancy a 3-inch shark tooth. "This must have been a 20 foot shark."These were ancestors of the Chesapeake's immense signature prehistoric shark Charcarodon megalodon. Their fossils, Ward said, begin here in the Aquia, and are distinguished by side or lateral cusps (little sub-teeth on each side of the main point). The teeth increased in size and the cusps decreased as they evolved over time. Some of the Miocene sharks might have reached 43 feet in length. No such creatures survive today.The physical makeup of these fossils, almost crystalline in appearance, is unusual and seems less perfectly mineralized than the younger Miocene ones we are used to along the Bay. My own scrapings at the Doswell site revealed tiny, shark teeth weathered by rain and sunlight that easily crumbled in my fingers.Black stones in the deposit, Ward said, are phosphate, and these marl-like deposits-marl is rich in carbonate of lime-might well have been the "plaistering gypsum" that Thomas Jefferson, a forward thinking farmer the early 19th century, believed would restore Virginia's played-out agricultural soils. Marls elsewhere in the Chesapeake were among the first mineral fertilizers colonial farmers applied to their soils.What interesting links weave together among the deep past, historic times and the modern Chesapeake. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/159 Martinsville Museum Curator Elected to International Commission http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/159 Friday, 05 June 2009 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE - The Virginia Museum of Natural History says its curator of marine biology has been elected as commissioner. Friday, 05 June 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Godanriver.com By: The Associated Press Published: June 05, 2009 Updated: June 05, 2009 - 4:58 PM MARTINSVILLE - The Virginia Museum of Natural History says its curator of marine biology has been elected as commissioner of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The organization founded in 1895 is dedicated to achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals. Judith Winston was elected to the commission during a recent meeting. Winston joined the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville in 1992. She has previously served as research director and interim executive director.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/157 Tick Talk: THe Best Defense Against Illness is Identifying the Tick That Bit You http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/157 Sunday, 31 May 2009 12:00:00 EST Knowing your enemy is important in identifying possible illnesses if you have been bitten by a tick. Sunday, 31 May 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, May 31, 2009By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterKnowing your enemy is important in identifying possible illnesses if you have been bitten by a tick.Dr. David N. Gaines, state public health entomologist for the state Department of Health's Office for Epidemiology, presented a program on identifying ticks during the Bug Daze event Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.He told those gathered that there are only three species of ticks in Virginia that commonly bite people. As a result, the identification process is relatively simple."The Lone Star tick "is as common as dirt" in Virginia, Gaines said. "Of the ticks people send to me" for identification, Gaines said 99 percent are the Lone Star species. They are identifiable by a single white spot in the middle of the back of females.This species can cause a rash similar to the one associated with Lyme disease, Gaines said. In this case, the rash is called Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness, or STARI, he said."The American Dog tick, the largest of the three, is the second most common. It will feed on people or dogs "but not a whole lot of other mammals," Gaines said. Those ticks carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but their population may be declining due to medications for dogs which repel ticks, Gaines said of Frontline and others."The Black Legged tick, formerly called the Deer tick, is the "bad boy" of the three, because it can cause four different diseases, including one that is similar to malaria, Gaines said.The Black Legged tick also is the only species in the eastern U.S. that carries Lyme disease, a bacterial illness transmitted from the bite of an infected tick, he said.Infection is not likely to occur unless the tick has been attached to the body for at least 36 hours, according to the health department's Web site.However, the disease can be dangerous.It is characterized by a red rash that develops around the bite site, usually within 7 to 14 days. The rash slowly expands and can be up to 12 inches in diameter. It does not itch but usually is accompanied by general tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pains, according to health officials.If improperly or untreated, Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, neurological problems and/or heart problems, even weeks or months later the bite occurs, the Web site stated. The disease is more likely in late spring and early summer months, but it can occur during the fall and winter, according to the health department's Web site. Dogs, cats and horses also can get become infected. After a bite from the Black Legged tick, it may be advisable to take an antibiotic as a precaution to help prevent Lyme disease, Gaines said. Otherwise, he advised not taking an antibiotic unless symptoms develop. To help reduce or prevent exposure to ticks, health officials recommend: "Avoid potential tick infested areas such as tall grass and dense vegetation. "Walk in the center of mowed trails."Keep grass mowed and underbrush thinned in yards."Eliminate the living spaces of small rodents around homes."Wear light colored clothing so ticks are easier to see and remove and tuck pant legs in socks and boots."Conduct tick checks every four to six hours while in a tick habitat."Apply tick repellents that contain up to 50 percent DEET on adults and less than 30 percent DEET for children."Ask a veterinarian to recommend tick control methods for pets. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/155 SCI-KIDS: Lichen is Proof that Nature is Alive http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/155 Tuesday, 26 May 2009 12:00:00 EST If you come across a rock in its natural setting, you will likely find it covered by lichens, proof that nature is alive. Tuesday, 26 May 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Richmond Times-Dispatch By: E-AN ZEN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Published: May 26, 2009If you come across a rock in its natural setting, you will likely find it covered by lichens, proof that nature is alive.What are lichens? Lichen is not a single organism, it is made up of two parts: a fungus (mushroom is a familiar example) and either green algae or blue-green algae.These two parts have a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship. The fungus provides the housing. The algae provide the nutrients through photosynthesis. The threadlike chains of cells that form the body of the lichen can grow into rock crevices, leak organic acid that dissolves minerals, and provide additional nutrition.DNA studies have shown that fungus is so different from plants (trees, grass, flowers, and such) that biologists have put it in a separate kingdom. Plant and fungus kingdoms are in the domain of Eucarya (the animal kingdom belongs here also). Algae belong to the domain of Bacteria. Lichen, therefore, consists of members of two different domains, and neither is a plant.Crustose lichens grow on rocks, making them appear polished.We can't see their undersides because crustose lichens are so tightly bound to the rock. Lichens are nature's pioneers in breaking down rocks. Crustose lichens, because of their efficient pairing with the rock, are super-pioneers.Crustose lichens often provide spectacular colorful displays like modern abstract art.Much of the coloring of lichens result from their biochemistry, but humidity in the area can make a difference. Dark crustose lichen growing on an exposed rock surface might turn bright yellow in crevices where higher humidity persists even under a hot sun.Foliose lichens have undersides that are more easily detached from the rock. Common, green-gray foliose lichen found growing on rocks in the mid-Atlantic region is Flavoparmelia baltimorensis. A closely related species, F. caperata, prefers tree trunks. They are both flat lying, and the individual body is a few centimeters across.In the Potomac River gorge near Washington, lichen biologists Mason Hale and his coworker James Lawrey measured the rate of growth of different lichens One crustose lichen, Lecanora, grows less than 1 millimeter per year. F. baltimorensis grows faster at a few millimeters a year while F. caperata grows even faster.The use of the size of lichen patches to estimate age of exposure of a rock is called lichenometry.On your walk, look for another foliose lichen, Umbilicaria, on rocks. It is dark gray to brown, a few centimeters across, and is fittingly described as "over-fried potato chips." Human footfalls crush the holdfast that ties the lichen to the rock. Over time, this lichen found along the Potomac River, has gone from common to rare; now found only where people do not frequent.Virginia science Standards of Learning: K.9; 1.8; 2.5; 4.5; LS.5; LS.7; LS.9; BIO.5. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/154 Merging Missions- PAA, VMNH Join Forces on Educational Garden http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/154 Sunday, 24 May 2009 12:00:00 EST A $5,000 Smithsonian grant will help Piedmont Arts Association and the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) create an educational garden. Sunday, 24 May 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, May 24, 2009 By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer A $5,000 Smithsonian grant will help Piedmont Arts Association and the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) create an educational garden to nurture interest in art and the natural world. The two institutions plan to transform more than half an acre on the corner of Starling Avenue and Market Street into a living natural history lesson and outdoor art display, said Tina Sell, director of exhibitions for Piedmont Arts. The garden, tentatively named the Piedmont Art and Natural History Garden, will be filled with native plants that "have some tie to Virginia's history," Sell said. Work is slated to begin this summer, with help from the city, the Master Gardeners and other community partners. The historic oaks and other trees will remain on the land. The plan is "to keep a lot of the existing landscape and enhance it," Sell said. Once the garden is in place, Sell said, VMNH will offer nature-based programs that focus on plant identification and other topics, while Piedmont Arts will provide art programs there. "We'll be putting some sculptures and art stations there" and "hopefully anchor that Starling Avenue location as a cultural destination," she said. Sell said she has already contacted a few artists about commissioning sculptures for the garden "to make it a place to really find inspiration in making art." Part of the inspiration for the project came from "Transitions," an upcoming Smithsonian photography exhibit by Robert Creamer that will launch in July at Piedmont Arts, Sell said. Creamer's work involves "very organic images" of plant life and other natural elements. VMNH also recently began their exhibit "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden," which deals with the natural resources and history of Lee Memorial Park in Petersburg. "I was thinking, Wouldn't it be nice if the two entities (Piedmont Arts and VMNH) could link on this?'" Sell said. Sell said she found out Wednesday about the Smithsonian grant but was not expecting an answer until June, "so we're already ahead of the game." The first step is continuing to find community partners, she said. "The idea is, any organization could perhaps take ownership of a small portion of the garden bed and have a sign that says, "˜This part is maintained by'" a certain organization, Sell said. "The hope is that volunteerism and participation will make it that much more of an interesting place," she added. Most of the preparation work will take place in July and August, "as we start to lay out the beds and figure out where everything's able to go," Sell said. The Master Gardeners and other gardening groups that wish to participate will help with planning and planting, she said. A later phase of the project will look at replicating historic produce gardens, "like in Williamsburg," Sell said. She envisions students growing vegetables and selling them at the uptown Farmers' Market. "I'm hoping it will be an incredible experience," Sell said of the garden. "I think it could continue to grow and engage people of all ages." Hopefully, she said, by the time the Transitions exhibit opens July 10, there will be a display showing what the garden will look like when it is finished. However, to Sell, "finished" is a relative term. "We hope that this project almost never has an endpoint," she said. "We hope it will continue to grow and continue to gain partnerships and involvement." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/153 Martinsville Museum Debuts New Exhibitions http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/153 Friday, 22 May 2009 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE, Va. - The journey begins in a Parisian crypt, circa 1400s. A doctor peers from behind a spooky birdlike mask, surrounded by four walls of bones. Friday, 22 May 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Star Exponent.comBy: Catherine Amos | Media General News Service | The Daily Progress Published: May 22, 2009 MARTINSVILLE, Va. - The journey begins in a Parisian crypt, circa 1400s. A doctor peers from behind a spooky birdlike mask, surrounded by four walls of bones. The mask, with its long, dark beak and beady black eyes, was once considered required equipment to keep doctors safe from The Plague. By filling it with herbs, it protected them from foul-smelling odors. The following rooms and panels in the Virginia Museum of Natural History's newest exhibition depict the universe of microscopic organisms, both good and bad. Visitors can learn about the evolution of pandemics throughout the centuries and across the globe, from the bubonic plague to smallpox, as well as the healthy bacteria in foods like yogurt. The exhibition, called "Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies," officially opened Saturday and features interactive displays for both children and adults. It will run through Sept. 13. Visitors can follow the story of the polio vaccine, the iron lung, penicillin and the post-World War I flu pandemic. "It's really timely," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at VMNH, "with the swine flu in the news. Another museum cancelled and we took advantage of it, so it was really perfect timing." Another display, "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden," also opened Saturday, and details the natural resources and history of Lee Memorial Park in Petersburg. "Garden" will run through Jan. 10, 2010, and features 80 original botanical watercolors painted by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall in the 1930s as a part of a public works project for Petersburg. Forty paintings are now on display, which museum staff will rotate out in September with the remaining 40 paintings to avoid overexposure to light. "They're really rare," Barber said. "Really high quality. We just thought it was a good way to emphasize that we're the state museum of natural history." From colorful cartoons depicting mutating microbes to black lights illuminating magnified 3-D images of viruses, "Microbes" brings to light the mysterious world of microscopic organisms. Giant neon green cells hang overhead hands-on activities. One display compares healthy microbes to the defense of a castle - paralleling mucous to a moat - stopping invaders in their tracks. "It should be a pretty fun exhibit," Barber said. "It's designed so if someone wants to go through quickly they can. But if they want to linger, there are layers to the exhibit." The museum also features its permanent exhibitions, "Uncovering Virginia" and the "How Nature Works" gallery. Displays recreate six research sites in Virginia where VMNH scientists work, spanning 300 million years of natural history, from dinosaur tracks to whale vertebrae. Info box: What: "Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies" and "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden" Where: Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville When: Now through Sept. 13 for "Microbes;" through Jan. 10 for "Garden" Cost: $9 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for seniors and children. The museum's "summer stimulus program" gives a discount of $2 off each category now through Sept. 13. Information: Visit vmnh.org or call (276) 634-4141   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/152 In Midst of Swine flu Scare, Museum Opens Exhibit on the Harms and Helps of Bacteria http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/152 Monday, 18 May 2009 12:00:00 EST The journey begins in a Parisian crypt, circa 1400s. A doctor peers from behind a spooky birdlike mask, surrounded by four walls of bones. The mask, with its long, dark beak and beady black eyes, was once considered required equipment to keep doctors safe from The Plague. By filling it with herbs, it protected them from foul-smelling odors. Monday, 18 May 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Godanriver.com By: Catherine Amos Published: May 18, 2009 The journey begins in a Parisian crypt, circa 1400s. A doctor peers from behind a spooky birdlike mask, surrounded by four walls of bones. The mask, with its long, dark beak and beady black eyes, was once considered required equipment to keep doctors safe from The Plague. By filling it with herbs, it protected them from foul-smelling odors. The following rooms and panels in the Virginia Museum of Natural History's newest exhibition depict the universe of microscopic organisms, both good and bad. Visitors can learn about the evolution of pandemics throughout the centuries and across the globe, from the bubonic plague to smallpox, as well as the healthy bacteria in foods like yogurt. The exhibition, called "Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies," officially opened Saturday and features interactive displays for both children and adults. It will run through Sept. 13. Visitors can follow the story of the polio vaccine, the iron lung, penicillin and the post-World War I flu pandemic."It's really timely," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at VMNH, "with the swine flu in the news. Another museum cancelled and we took advantage of it, so it was really perfect timing."Another display, "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden," also opened Saturday, and details the natural resources and history of Lee Memorial Park in Petersburg. "Garden" will run through Jan. 10, 2010, and features 80 original botanical watercolors painted by Bessie Niemeyer Marshall in the 1930s as a part of a public works project for Petersburg. Forty paintings are now on display, which museum staff will rotate out in September with the remaining 40 paintings to avoid overexposure to light."They're really rare," Barber said. "Really high quality. We just thought it was a good way to emphasize that we're the state museum of natural history."From colorful cartoons depicting mutating microbes to black lights illuminating magnified 3-D images of viruses, "Microbes" brings to light the mysterious world of microscopic organisms. Giant neon green cells hang overhead hands-on activities. One display compares healthy microbes to the defense of a castle - paralleling mucous to a moat - stopping invaders in their tracks. "It should be a pretty fun exhibit," Barber said. "It's designed so if someone wants to go through quickly they can. But if they want to linger, there are layers to the exhibit."The museum also features its permanent exhibitions, "Uncovering Virginia" and the "How Nature Works" gallery. Displays recreate six research sites in Virginia where VMNH scientists work, spanning 300 million years of natural history, from dinosaur tracks to whale vertebrae. If you go• What: "Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies" and "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden"• Where: Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville• When: Now through Sept. 13 for "Microbes;" through Jan. 10 for "Garden"• How much: $9 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for seniors and children. The museum's "summer stimulus program" gives a discount of $2 off each category now through Sept. 13.w questions: For more information, visit vmnh.org or call (276) 634-4141.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/151 Tiny Microbes Get Big Spotlight- New Exhibit at VMNH Opens Saturday http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/151 Friday, 15 May 2009 12:00:00 EST Imagine being sick and having to trust a doctor wearing a penguin mask to treat your illness. Friday, 15 May 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, May 15, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterImagine being sick and having to trust a doctor wearing a penguin mask to treat your illness.That may be hard. But bubonic plague sufferers in the 17th century had no other choice.Doctors treating those patients wore wooden masks with beaks much like a penguin's. Scientists thought the plague was caused by breathing harmful gases emitted from the ground, and doctors put flowers, fragrant spices and perfumes in the mask's beak to shield them from patients contaminated with those gases, a new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History shows."Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies" runs through Sept. 13. It will take museum visitors on an interactive journey to learn about how microbes both sustain life on Earth and harm our health - and perhaps even threaten our existence, according to museum Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.It is one of two new temporary exhibits at the museum.Bubonic plague was characterized by painful swelling and body sores that caused the body to turn black when they burst. Doctors now know the so-called "black death" - people often died within a week or two of being infected - was caused by germs, the microbes exhibit shows.Microbes, which are the smallest forms of life on Earth, include germs.The exhibit includes histories of a variety of diseases caused by microbes, both past and present. It also shows how researchers and others worldwide have tried to fight diseases.For instance, a model of an iron lung used to treat polio patients during the early 20th century is on display. The lung was a cylindrical chamber patients lay flat in, some for the rest of their lives. Air pressure variations inside the chamber forced air in and out of the lungs of paralyzed polio victims.The exhibit details how the flu helped bring an end to World War I. During an outbreak in the United States, soldiers who happened to be infected traveled overseas, got sick and transmitted the flu to Europeans, many of whom died. So did more than 500,000 Americans and Canadians, the exhibit notes.A videotape relates the history of penicillin, regarded in medical history as the first wonder drug. Although it was developed in 1928, penicillin was not mass produced to treat bacterial illnesses until 1944, the exhibit shows.While some microbes can cause illness, others sustain life or are nutritious, it mentions. For example, microbes include bacteria in soil that turn nitrogen into nutrients for plants, which emit oxygen that animals and plants need.Microbes also include bacteria that turn milk into yogurt, the exhibit points out, as well as help yeast make bread and turn fruit juice into wine.The other new exhibit, "Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden," runs through Jan. 10. It focuses on the natural history of Lee Memorial Park in Petersburg and contains 80 original botanical watercolor paintings of flowers and plants in the park, painted by artist Bessie Niemeyer Marshall during the 1930s.Forty of the paintings will be displayed through September, and then the other 40 will be shown, said Barber. Paintings of plants now on exhibit range from roses and violets to lilies and even skunk cabbage.The paintings were discovered in a paper portfolio found in the 1990s in a nonfunctioning rest room at the Petersburg Public Library that was used for storage, according to Barber.Lee Memorial Park opened in 1921, but scientists have found prehistoric fossils there dating as far back as 330 million years. Posters in the exhibit discuss fossilized remains found of algae, mollusks, whales and sharks - which reveal that the land where Petersburg is now used to be under the ocean - and discuss aspects of the park and Marshall's life.Pfizer Inc., a drug manufacturer, is sponsoring the microbe exhibit, which was produced in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.The garden exhibit is on loan from the Wilcox Watershed Conservancy and the Petersburg Garden Club.Both exhibits will open to the public on Saturday and can be viewed during regular operating hours at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville. Regular admission prices will apply.Several exhibits related to Virginia's natural history are permanently on display. Barber said the museum currently has more on display than ever before in its 25-year history."With the exhibits we have, I think we're going to attract a diverse crowd" in the months ahead because there is something for everyone to enjoy, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/150 TGIF Series Enters 15th Year http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/150 Monday, 27 April 2009 12:00:00 EST The 15th season of the TGIF Concert Series kicked off Friday night to warm weather and hundreds of people of all ages gathering uptown. Monday, 27 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, April 27, 2009By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterThe 15th season of the TGIF Concert Series kicked off Friday night to warm weather and hundreds of people of all ages gathering uptown.The Bridge Street parking lot was full of activity as the sun set. People danced or relaxed in beach chairs as the band Paradox rocked the audience with a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover. There was plenty of pizza and cold beverages to enjoy while friends visited with one another.In the crowd, Shane Painter, an attorney who recently moved back to the area from Raleigh, N.C., said TGIF is "a fun, cheap event with live music. It's a great time to get out and enjoy the weather and have fun in your hometown."?Slow dancing in front of the stage were Donna and Chris Harvey. As fans of Paradox, "we go wherever the band goes," Chris Harvey said. The couple has attended TGIF "many times," he added."I love the music. We always enjoy it," Donna Harvey said.Michelle Coulson and her boyfriend, Andy Ross, lounged in lawn chairs as they listened to the music.Meanwhile, Ross's 5-year-old daughter, Kristan, seemed to be enjoying her first TGIF concert. Kristan and Coulson's daughter Gracie, also 5 years old and the daughter of David Coulson, laughed as they played with colorful batons their parents bought at the event."It's something nice to bring your family to," Michelle Coulson said of TGIF. "I love it. I come here all the time."?It was a scene organizers could only have imagined 15 years ago, when the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA) started the TGIF tradition.Since its first summer concert season in 1994, the audience has grown from a small following to an average 700 to 1,000 people per show."I'm pleased with the crowd. With it being the season-opener, you always worry about the first night out, but from the turnout it's obvious the community embraces this," said MURA Executive Director Lee Probst.This is Probst's first TGIF season as executive director, and she said she is proud to be a part of it in a milestone year.TGIF is "a community event celebrating music and being uptown and enjoying the beautiful weather," Probst said. "It adds some excitement. Especially in an economy like this, it's very reasonable, quality entertainment."?Concerts are held starting at 7 p.m. every fourth Friday from April to September. Admission is $4 for most of the shows, and kids 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult get in free.The "premiere" events, which draw up to 2,500 people, showcase larger bands, Probst said. This season's premiere nights will feature dance music from Caspar Band on June 26 and beach music from Band of Oz on Aug. 28. Admission for those shows is $7.Ticket sales raise funds for MURA and other nonprofit organizations that provide volunteers to staff the event, Probst said.Volunteers from the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation helped with Friday's concert. Other groups volunteering this year are the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martinsville-Henry County, Charity League of Martinsville and Henry County, Gateway Streetscape Foundation and Martinsville-Henry County Mental Health Association.Sharon Shepherd of the MURA planning committee has worked the events for 11 years. But even before she started volunteering, she attended the concerts from the early days."The very first TGIF they ever had was basically just the committee members and their spouses," Shepherd recalled."Without a doubt, it has grown throughout the years," she said, but one thing has stayed the same: "It's always been a good, fun time."?Shepherd used to live in West Virginia and was introduced to TGIF through her sister in Martinsville."I used to plan trips down here to visit around the TGIF weekends," she said.Drawing visitors uptown was the original idea behind the concerts, said Gail Mitchell, the MURA board's second president, who was involved with the organization from its beginning."We were looking for a way to promote the uptown area because people said they didn't have enough things to do," Mitchell said. At the time, she said, Roanoke and Danville were holding similar Friday night events.TGIF started small, Mitchell said, adding she "had no idea" it would grow as it has."I don't believe our total attendance was over 1,000 the first year," she said. "I just hope it continues. I hope it gets bigger and bigger."?In the beginning, there were no paid sponsors and no outside volunteers. By the third year, Mitchell said, "we realized as it was getting bigger we had to have nonprofits," and so they started to involve other organizations."We've gotten real good cooperation from other groups," she said. "Volunteers are getting sparser, though - that's the main problem."?The expense has gone up, as well. It cost about $250 to book bands in the beginning, but that has increased to $1,000 to $2,000, she said.Early on, some people objected to the idea of concertgoers drinking beer uptown, but Mitchell said the event has stayed safe and family-friendly."I think the biggest compliment to the organization is we never had an incident," she said.Debbie Hall, MURA's executive director from 1998 to 2000, said the concert series has "grown substantially over the years and developed its own following."?Hall called it "very gratifying" to see TGIF celebrate its 15th anniversary."It has established itself as a fun family event," she said. "The fact that it has been here for 15 years is indicative of its success. I think it's a good example of a lot of different folks in the community coming together and working together to put on a great event."?For more information on TGIF, call Martinsville Uptown at 632-5688 or go to its Web site, www.MartinsvilleUptown.net. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/148 Protection of Resources is Outlined http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/148 Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Education, design and cooperation, along with regulations, are needed to protect natural resources. Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Thursday, April 23, 2009 Education, design and cooperation, along with regulations, are needed to protect natural resources.That was the message that Jay Gilliam, master trainer for Virginia Save Our Streams, brought to the 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards Program on Wednesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Well-designed regulations are important for a sustainable natural resources policy, Gilliam told the 60 people attending the program. And while a lot of people and groups are working on education, "we have a long, long way to go," he said. Also, good design can avoid problems such as runoff that can threaten the environment, he said.But the hardest thing to achieve may be cooperation, he said."People need to be willing to sit down at the same table" with others on the opposite sides of issues "and be willing to solve the problems," Gilliam said.Gilliam became interested in water quality issues in 1990 when a development would have created a discharge into a Rockbridge County stream where he often played with his 3-year-old daughter. When he investigated, he found no one knew whether the stream actually was as clean as he had thought.He became involved with Save Our Streams, which taught stream monitoring techniques, and became a trainer for the program. In 1996, he created the Virginia Save Our Streams organization, and since then, he has worked in 75 Virginia counties and learned about Virginia's 13 river basins."I am convinced that to deal with problems, you have to find ways to collaborate," Gilliam said.That also is the theory behind roundtable groups the state has created in several areas, he said. The roundtables bring together representatives of business, industry, agencies, colleges and grassroots groups to foster communication and tackle issues.In the 75 to 80 water-monitoring training sessions he conducts each year, Gilliam said he always tells participants how important they are in solving environmental problems. Local people and stakeholders "will get things done," he added. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/149 Jefferson Awards Presented- VMNH Honors Six Recipients http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/149 Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History honored businesses, groups and individuals at the 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards on Wednesday. Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, April 23, 2009The Virginia Museum of Natural History honored businesses, groups and individuals at the 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards on Wednesday.The award recipients were recognized for their contributions to and support for natural science. The recipients ranged from a professor emeritus of biology to a local quarry and a veteran volunteer.The awards and recipients were:"¢ Dr. Cleveland P. Hickman Jr., professor emeritus of biology at Washington and Lee University, who received the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science. This award is presented to an individual who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history, according to Judith Winston, curator of marine biology at the museum. Winston presented the award.Hickman taught biology at Washington and Lee from 1967 to 1993, has written three biology textbooks and has conducted extensive research in the Galapagos Islands since his retirement."¢ Anne Boschen Wright, coordinator of life sciences outreach education at Virginia Commonwealth University, who received the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. That award is presented to a Virginia educator who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history, environmental and science education in either the formal or nonformal sectors.Wright's work has included training programs for students and teachers as well as research, according to Debbie Lewis, director of development at the museum, who presented the award."¢ Boxley Materials Co., which received the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award, presented to a corporation that has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia, through contributions to research, science education or other relevant programs of the museum. It was accepted by Charles Craddock, superintendent of Boxley's Fieldale Quarry.James Beard, director of research and collections at the museum, presented the award and told of the 20-year relationship between the quarry and the museum. The quarry has welcomed school groups and teachers to foster education, and it also is a good steward of the environment, he said.Beard especially recognized Boxley's donation of a 6-foot stromatolite, the first intact one found in Virginia, and its help in getting the piece to the museum from Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry."¢ Ward Littlefield, who received the William Barton Rogers Individual Award, which is presented to an individual who has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia through contributions to research, science education or other relevant programs of the museum.Littlefield, who is retired, has volunteered at the museum for about 20 years, helping in the archaeology lab as well as in the field, according to Elizabeth Moore, curator of archaeology, who presented the award. Littlefield told the 60 people present that he understands "work deters the ravages of time on the mind, the body and perhaps the soul."Â�"¢ The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), which received the Matthew Fontaine Maury Distinguished Service Award, presented to an individual or corporation that has provided exemplary service in the development of VMNH. The award was accepted by Brian Williams and Jennifer Doss of DRBA.Dr. David Jones, a VMNH board member and founder of the Trout in the Classroom project locally, described the extensive work done by DRBA since The Harvest Foundation approved a grant that led to its work here. Included are creating a new system of rivers and trails, taking over the Trout in the Classroom project, creating Smith River kayak access points, creating heritage projects and more. DRBA has "promoted the ideas of the Virginia Museum of Natural History," Jones added."¢ The Martinsville Bulletin, which received the Noel T. Boaz Director's Award, selected by the VMNH executive director. It is presented to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions, through volunteer efforts or financial support, to enable the museum to be a more successful institution and to secure its future as a great museum benefiting all citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia.Interim Executive Director Gloria Niblett noted that since the museum began in a former school building in 1984 and through the opening of its new building on Starling Avenue, "The Martinsville Bulletin has played an important and necessary role in its overall success" through its news coverage. She praised the Bulletin's "fair, accurate and invaluable coverage, which culminated in this recognition."Â�The Bulletin has covered all types of events, research, education and other aspects of the museum and has recognized VMNH's role as the state museum of natural history, Niblett said.The award was accepted by Bulletin Editor Ginny Wray. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/147 And They're Off... Earth Day 5K Run http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/147 Sunday, 19 April 2009 12:00:00 EST More than 90 runners get off to a fast start at the Earth Day 5k on Saturday morning near the former Druid Hills Elementary School. Erica Wingo was the top female finisher while Martinsville High School student Teryn Martin was the fastest in the men's competition. The race was sponsored by Henry County Parks and Recreation, Martinsville Leisure Services, Activate Martinsville-Henry County, the YMCA and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Sunday, 19 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, April 19, 2009More than 90 runners get off to a fast start at the Earth Day 5k on Saturday morning near the former Druid Hills Elementary School. Erica Wingo was the top female finisher while Martinsville High School student Teryn Martin was the fastest in the men's competition. The race was sponsored by Henry County Parks and Recreation, Martinsville Leisure Services, Activate Martinsville-Henry County, the YMCA and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/146 EDC Funds Cut 5%- County Trimming Most Agencies by that Percentage http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/146 Sunday, 12 April 2009 12:00:00 EST The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) expects less local funding in the new fiscal year that starts July 1. Sunday, 12 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, April 12, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) expects less local funding in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.Henry County's proposed fiscal 2010 budget reduces county funds to the EDC by 5 percent, from $500,000 in the current fiscal year to $475,000.The county is reducing funds to most outside agencies by that percentage as it tries to cope with a projected revenue shortfall of more than $1 million.EDC President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Heath said he also expects a 5 percent reduction in funds from the city.City Manager Clarence Monday, who could not be reached for comment, is scheduled to present a fiscal 2010 budget proposal to Martinsville City Council on April 21.The EDC is a public-private organization that works to recruit and retain business and industry. In addition to the county's $500,000, the EDC currently receives $400,000 from the city and $1 million from The Harvest Foundation, plus an allocation from the Chamber's Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG) based on how much it raises in the community.C-PEG is an affiliate of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.Due to economic slowdown, a 5 percent reduction in funding by the county and/or city would be "the prudent thing" for the localities to do, Heath said."We think we can handle that fine," he said, but he does not yet know how the agency will do that. The EDC's board will get a budget proposal in June.However, "we will have to tighten our belts," said Heath. "Like everyone else, we don't have any extra money" lying around.The county proposes funding 24 outside agencies in the new fiscal year - two fewer than in the current year. The two dozen agencies are set to get a total of $2,081,238, down from $2,168,425 in the current year.The Blue Ridge Regional Library system is the largest recipient of county funds. It is proposed to get $827,973 in fiscal 2010, down from $849,203 in the current year.That is only a 2.5 percent decrease. County Administrator Benny Summerlin has said he feared that reducing the county's allocation to the library system further could result in the libraries losing state funds."The state doesn't want localities to take their funding issues out on their libraries. It doesn't want localities to cut their libraries' budgets in order to balance their (local) budgets," said library system Director Hal Hubener.Hubener said the regional library system "expected some kind of cut" from the county, though, due to high unemployment locally."We will be cutting something" as a result, Hubener said. "I don't yet know what that cut will be," he said, adding that will be a library board decision.The board first will see whether other localities served by the Blue Ridge system reduce their contributions so the board will know how much it has to reduce its budget, Hubener said.Patrick Henry Community College's county allocation is proposed to drop by 5 percent, from $58,135 to $55,229. Ron Epperly, PHCC's vice president of financial and administrative services, said the college wanted the county to increase its funding since it now has more students from the county.PHCC operates in Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties and Martinsville. It determines each locality's share of its annual local funds budget based on how many students from the locality attend the college, Epperly said.Like the library system, PHCC needs to find out whether other localities plan to reduce their funds to the college before deciding how to make up any reductions, Epperly said.Still, Henry County's cut is "going to be a pretty substantial cut to us," he added.The county plans to reduce its funding for the Virginia Museum of Natural History from $30,000 to $28,500. If the cut is made, the museum will have to develop more educational programs in which it can raise revenue because the county's funds go toward such programs and the staff who conduct them, according to Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.The Henry County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the county's proposed fiscal 2010 budget at 7 p.m. April 20 at the county administration building on Kings Mountain Road. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/144 Merricks' Vote for Jobless Benefits Praised http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/144 Friday, 10 April 2009 12:00:00 EST An area lawmaker was commended Thursday for supporting a proposed expansion of unemployment benefits despite overwhelming opposition from his party that defeated the legislation. Friday, 10 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, April 10, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterAn area lawmaker was commended Thursday for supporting a proposed expansion of unemployment benefits despite overwhelming opposition from his party that defeated the legislation.Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, was praised by Gov. Tim Kaine during the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce's Annual Legislative Lunch. Kaine said he gave Merricks credit for having the courage to vote his convictions.The House's defeat of the legislation was largely because of the belief that employers would have had to pay more in taxes, according to published reports. Due to the defeat, the state will not receive an additional $125 million in federal stimulus funds.Merricks and Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, were the only Republicans in the House who voted in favor of the legislation. Marshall did not attend the luncheon, held at the Virginia Museum of Natural History."I see people who are hurting" because they are out of work, Merricks said, and as a lawmaker, "I try to do what is right, just and fair," even if it means breaking party lines.House Minority Leader Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, also praised Merricks for his vote, saying that breaking ranks from one's party is not easy. It shows courage and independence that is appreciated here, Armstrong added.Armstrong called the legislation's defeat "a mistake," especially for Henry County and Martinsville.With record unemployment locally, "if there was ever a time in which we needed an infusion of funding in this community," it is now, he said.The chamber of commerce was opposed to the legislation. Jay Edelen, its board of directors chairman, said the chamber is in favor of the federal government providing stimulus funds but with "no strings attached."Â�Chamber officials think stimulus funds should not be used "at businesses' expense," added chamber President Amanda Witt.According to a state Web site, Virginia is to receive about $4.8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.With the state having to make massive budget cuts in recent years due to revenue shortfalls, Virginia would be in worse shape than it is now without stimulus funds, said state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway.In Virginia, stimulus funds have "kept our economy from falling off a cliff," said 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Albemarle County, who also attended the luncheon even though he is a federal lawmaker.Perriello, who has been in Congress since January, said that during the short time he has been in Washington, he has seen a lot of partisanship there.Local officials and state lawmakers seem to work together better, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, he said.Armstrong said that although the parties disagreed over extending jobless benefits, relations between Democrats and Republicans in state government are not as bad as some people think."Sometimes partisanship in Richmond is talked to excess," he said.During the luncheon, Merricks noted that the General Assembly approved a bill he sponsored that lets economic development organizations extend performance agreements of companies if necessary.Giving firms more time to meet hiring and investment requirements of those agreements "keeps them here and keeps them in business," he said.In Henry County and Martinsville's case, "this is a hard-working, blue-collar community," Edelen said, and "we're working very hard" to retain jobs.Reynolds said that even though Virginia has economic problems, it is in a better position to overcome its problems than some other states.For instance, Virginia has been recognized as being the best managed state, and it was the only state to have two universities included in a Top 10 list of the best universities nationwide that recently was published, he said.Reynolds noted other positive things about Virginia, such as it currently having its lowest crime rate since 1971. He said the rate is "dramatically lower" than crime rates in surrounding states.Kaine said that despite high jobless rates locally, unemployment statewide is less than the national average, and Virginia's median income is higher than in many other states. "We've got many, many things to be proud of ... due to responsible leadership" in government, Reynolds said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/145 Kaine Vows to Aid Area http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/145 Friday, 10 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday vowed to put federal stimulus money to work for Henry County and Martinsville. Friday, 10 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, April 10, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterGov. Tim Kaine on Thursday vowed to put federal stimulus money to work for Henry County and Martinsville.According to a state Web site, Virginia is to receive about $4.8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Speaking during the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce's Annual Legislative Lunch on Thursday, Kaine said he expects to have some discretion over how about $2.5 billion of that money is spent.Kaine told about 175 people attending the luncheon at the Virginia Museum of Natural History that state officials will consider economic hardships when deciding where and how to spend stimulus funds."You've got my promise," Kaine said, "... that we're going to use dollars in this area." But before he can figure out how stimulus funds can be spent to the area's benefit, he must find out all of the federal government's rules on how the money can be used, he said.Kaine "cares deeply for this area," said Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville and House minority leader. He said that through working closely with Kaine, he knows the governor is committed to helping Henry County and Martinsville overcome economic problems.Virginia also is facing "a challenging time" due to the economy, Kaine said. The state expects revenues to drop about 7 percent this year because "our citizens and businesses are making less (money), so they are tightening their belts," he said.But some states are seeing revenue declines of 20 percent to 30 percent, and he "feels fortunate" to be Virginia's governor and not the governor of one of those states, he said.Also, Virginia's statewide unemployment rate has doubled during the past year, said Kaine.The "state rate can be deceiving," he said, because unemployment in some localities is much higher. He mentioned that the Martinsville jobless rate of 20.2 percent in February was nearly triple the statewide average of 7 percent.Kaine, a Democrat, expressed his anger over Wednesday's House of Delegates' rejection of a proposed expansion of unemployment benefits - as well as $125 million in stimulus funds to pay for it - mostly due to Republican opposition.Opposing lawmakers voted against the needs of people in their communities "who are suffering," he said.And, "when I feel that people are being treated unfairly, I get mad," Kaine said. He emphasized that jobless benefits are mainly for people who had no control over losing their jobs.Expanding jobless benefits would have cost employers no more than about one cent per day per employee, said Kaine. Despite what Republicans think, he thinks most businesses would be willing to shoulder that burden because "they care about employees who lose jobs through no fault of their own."Â�Kaine predicted that the economy will improve. He encouraged Henry County-Martinsville business leaders to be ready to take advantage of opportunities that come along once it does improve."I applaud the spirit" of area residents who are working together to try to improve the local economy, he said.One of those efforts, which was backed by state officials, was establishing the New College Institute (NCI), which opened in 2006. The state-supported school in uptown Martinsville enables area residents to take classes locally to earn bachelor's and master's degrees conferred by colleges and universities throughout Virginia.The State Council for Higher Education in Virginia is expected to decide in 2012 whether NCI should evolve into a four-year institution.While he was lieutenant governor, Kaine in 2004 first presented the idea of starting a public institution of higher education in Southside during a speech in Danville, recalled state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway.Kaine, along with members of his senior staff, visited the area on Thursday as part of his first Cabinet Community Day of 2009. He mentioned that this visit was the second time he has brought his Cabinet to Henry County and Martinsville during his term as governor.Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, reminded the state officials to "keep an ear close to the people" they serve. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/143 Governor Visits Martinsville and Henry County http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/143 Thursday, 09 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine spoke out Thursday morning in Martinsville against the "unfortunate vote" Tuesday in the House of Delegates. Thursday, 09 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, April 9, 2009 By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine spoke out Thursday morning in Martinsville against the "unfortunate vote" Tuesday in the House of Delegates that killed a proposed expansion of unemployment benefits. Kaine spoke while meeting with staff of the Martinsville office of the Virginia Employment Commission. He is visiting Henry County and Martinsville with his cabinet and staff as part of his first Cabinet Community Day of 2009. Virginia lost a potential $125 million in federal stimulus money Tuesday when the Republican-controlled House of Delegates rejected Kaine's proposed amendments to state unemployment laws. The changes would have expanded benefits for the first time to part-time workers who have lost jobs and would have doubled the period in which people can receive benefits while in retraining programs. "I just can't fathom the thinking behind it," Kaine said of the Republicans who voted against the bill. He added that retraining programs are vital to areas like Martinsville, where VEC Manager Barbara Redd said about half of VEC clients need to learn computer fluency and other new skills. "Rejecting training money is like saying, "˜We don't want our workforce to have greater skills,'" Kaine said. "This is not about an ideological battle. It's about people sitting around the kitchen table who have lost a job and are trying to figure out how to pay the bills," he said. After visiting the VEC, Kaine headed to Liberty Fair Mall to see The Starting Place, which offers classes and resources for parents of children from birth to age 5. It is run by Smart Beginnings of Martinsville & Henry County, a coalition of 15 organizations and businesses that aims to help parents provide for their children's social, emotional, physical and academic needs. During his visit, Kaine talked to a mother signing her son up for health coverage through the state FAMIS program and sat down with children playing in the age-appropriate play area. Kaine, who has been an advocate of early childhood programs, called The Starting Place "a very good model."? He praised "the way they've put all the services together and put them in the mall, which makes it convenient for folks."? Kaine then continued to the Virginia Museum of Natural History for the annual legislative lunch with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. Kaine is scheduled to visit Red Birch Energy and Martinsville Speedway this afternoon. He will be joined throughout the day by area legislators and officials. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/142 Geologist Supports Uranium Mining http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/142 Wednesday, 01 April 2009 12:00:00 EST A geologist from the Virginia Museum of Natural History said Tuesday he does not foresee major health or environmental risks from a proposed uranium mining operation in Pittsylvania County. Wednesday, 01 April 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, April 1, 2009 By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer A geologist from the Virginia Museum of Natural History said Tuesday he does not foresee major health or environmental risks from a proposed uranium mining operation in Pittsylvania County. Dr. Jim Beard told the Martinsville Rotary Club that he hopes a state study will allow mining to proceed at the Coles Hill deposit in Chatham. With 119 million pounds of untapped uranium ore worth about $10 billion, the deposit is believed to be the largest trove in the country and the seventh largest in the world. The Virginia Commission on Coal and Energy voted in November to study whether uranium can be safely mined there. No uranium can be mined in Virginia unless the General Assembly lifts a 1981 ban. "Uranium has this aura of horribleness around it, but it's not that toxic," Beard said. "I would have no objection to living a mile from that mine myself," he added. "I think the risks are going to turn out to be small."? Beard said he thinks the state "is proceeding in a responsible fashion" by doing the study. "If they determine it should be mined, I think it should be mined," he said. "I hope for the sake of Virginia, and Southside Virginia in particular, that it works out."? Beard said uranium mining would create an important domestic source of energy for the United States. "The energy potential of that mine is 100 times the total potential of offshore drilling" for oil off Virginia's coast, he said, adding that the uranium's potential equates to one-fourth of the country's oil reserves over the next 15 to 20 years. "If we're going to have some energy stability in this country, we have to make some choices," he said. Nuclear power is "the wave of the future" and already is widely used in Europe, Beard said. "This is an opportunity for Southside Virginia to move forward in an industry that will be very, very important in the 21st century," he said. Beard said there is "certainly a problem with the waste" created from using nuclear energy, "but everything has a cost."? He added that there is "not a huge volume of waste from nuclear power. I think that's a solvable problem."? One of the biggest concerns is whether contaminants from the mining will leach into groundwater. "I don't think it will be a problem," Beard said, because he said the ore minerals are stable. Mining opponents have expressed concern that communities downstream of the mine could experience serious water contamination, but "no way is that going to happen," Beard said. Another concern is whether mining would release radioactive dust into the air. "Airborne dust is going to be a problem with any mining operation, not just uranium," Beard said. Radon already is escaping from this deposit, he said. More radon probably will be dispersed if mining begins, he said, "but it's going to be so dispersed, I'm sure it won't be a problem."? The mine would be roughly the scale of the quarry in Fieldale and would entail some of the same disruptions, with "trucks and blasting," Beard said. "You can't say everything's going to be rosy and perfect" near the mine site, he said. "But there's very little disruption for a lot of good."? In uranium mining, ore is taken out of the ground and processed into yellow cake. The substance does not become dangerous until it is enriched, Beard said. The Martinsville Rotary Club has heard opinions from both sides of the uranium mining issue. Past speakers have included a geologist from Virginia Uranium Inc., the company formed by families whose land sits above the uranium, and the head of Southside Concerned Citizens, an organization that opposes the proposed mining operation. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/141 Animals Delight Guests- At Annual Trade Show http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/141 Wednesday, 04 March 2009 12:00:00 EST Several exhibits at the annual trade show, organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, pertain to animals. Wednesday, 04 March 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, March 4, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterAnimal lovers will find plenty to see and do today at Fast Track 2009.Several exhibits at the annual trade show, organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, pertain to animals.Infinity Acres Petting Ranch has exotic live animals at its booth. The animals included an 8-month-old pig and a baby goat, as well as a coti mundi - a Central American species that resembles a raccoon with a long nose - and a sugar glider, a tiny marsupial found in Australia that has large eyes.Rick Steere, owner of Infinity Acres, said he and his wife, Laura, bring their animals to the trade show because "we want people to know how much we love our animals."Â�They are not the only ones who love their animals. Their exhibit constantly was surrounded by visitors - adults and children alike - at the trade show for VIP Night on Tuesday."Parents seem to enjoy them (the animals) as much as their kids," Steere said.The SPCA of Martinsville and Henry County has a couple of cats and several dogs at Fast Track 2009. While the cats are in cages, volunteers often walk the dogs, which are gentle, through the crowd at the show.SPCA Marketing Director Chase Inman said each of the animals is available for adoption at the trade show. Each has been spayed or neutered, she said.The Virginia Museum of Natural History's exhibit features a large lion, but it no longer is alive. The lion is part of the museum's collections."He's gorgeous," said Carolyn Seay, the museum's special events manager. She added that a lion is "the ultimate specimen of natural history" because "he's the king of the jungle."Â�Seay said having animals on display is important in educating people about them."You can talk about it all day long," but people tend to be more interested when they can see part of natural history up close, she said.Not all of the unique exhibits at Fast Track 2009 focus on animals.The Horsepasture Rescue Squad's exhibit features a device that administers chest compressions to people needing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, freeing up emergency medical technicians to do other lifesaving tasks."It's the best in patient care," and Horsepasture is the first rescue squad in the county with training to use the device, said squad member Jack Edwards.Among other unique exhibits are one by the Nelson Automotive Family that features a 2009 Cadillac CTS and a restored 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle, and a Hand-n-Hand Companion exhibit featuring a bed, washing machine, stove and clothes rack.The latter exhibit is designed to show that Hand-n-Hand provides services such as helping people in need change bed linens, prepare food, wash their clothes and get dressed.A record 139 businesses and organizations are participating in Fast Track 2009, which is open to the public from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the old VF/Bassett Walker complex off Rives Road. Admission is $3. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/140 'Furniture Cluster' Plans Detailed http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/140 Monday, 23 February 2009 12:00:00 EST The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has announced new developments in plans for a "furniture cluster" uptown. Monday, 23 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, February 23, 2009By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has announced new developments in plans for a "furniture cluster" uptown."We are very proud to announce that the old Globman's building (now Martin Plaza) is going to be a one-stop furniture galleria or outlet," said EDC Tourism Director Debbie Robinson.Event details still are being planned, but the furniture cluster is scheduled to be unveiled May 28-31 during a weekend of celebrations."We want to involve the entire community and county" and "hope the citizens will really embrace this," Robinson said.Tim Martin, whose family owns the plaza, said the cluster will encompass all three floors of the building. Mainly outlet furniture will be sold, with a center gallery of goods that can be ordered through The Showroom across Church Street.The Hooker Furniture and Lane Furniture outlets already located near Martin Plaza will be part of the cluster, and "Bassett Furniture is moving in with us" this week, Martin said.Other companies that also have agreed to sell there include Leathertrend, Taylor King, Century Furniture and KAS Oriental rugs. Seven other companies still are in the works.The existing businesses on the Main Street side of the Martin Plaza building will stay, Martin said, along with the As Is Outlet on Church Street.The EDC is in discussions with other potential partners, Robinson said."The door is open" to other furniture manufacturers that want to join in, Robinson said. Organizers also want the cluster to offer rugs, lamps and other accessories that will complement home furnishings.With "tremendous cooperation" from the Martin family, Robinson said renovations are starting to prepare the three-story building to become an anchor store for uptown. The Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA) also is involved with the plans, as are city officials.The EDC has been working on the furniture initiative for more than a year and a half, said EDC Marketing and Recruiting Director Leigh Cockram, and the group hopes it will be a "sparkplug" for revitalizing uptown."Really, the goal of this whole furniture initiative is just to drive more traffic to the uptown area," Cockram said."We realized Martinsville and Henry County needed to find something that makes us unique," and officials decided to focus on furniture because of the area's manufacturing legacy, Cockram said.Once the furniture cluster is established, other businesses hopefully will locate around it, Robinson said."We feel like if we can get these anchor locations up and going, that will spark the interest of other entrepreneurs," she said.The EDC is working with the Southern Virginia Artisan Center to showcase the art of woodworking and furniture making, she said. Other partners include local historians, who are "working with us on development of some interpretive panels focusing on furniture history" that could be displayed at the furniture outlet or other uptown locations, Robinson said.Also in the works from the EDC tourism department is a strategic marketing campaign, Robinson said, including a revamping of the www.visitmartinsville.com Web site to include photo galleries and fact sheets.Representatives of the Virginia Tourism Corp. visited the area recently and are "helping us fine-tune our marketing," she said. "We hope to eventually put together day trip itineraries and weekend trip itineraries" of area attractions, tying together cultural arts, racing, hiking trails and more.Also, an advisory committee dealing with marketing the area is being formed with local public relations staff and representatives from various businesses, she said. The first meeting is scheduled for next week."We want to find out who our target audience is ... and find out ways of leveraging our dollars" to collaborate and save money, Robinson said.The committee hopes to include "anybody impacted by tourism," she said, such as the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Piedmont Arts Association, the Artisan Center, Patrick Henry Community College, Philpott Lake, Martinsville Speedway, restaurants and lodging establishments. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/139 Search Set for VMNH Director http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/139 Sunday, 22 February 2009 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History plans to hire a new executive director by August. Sunday, 22 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, February 22, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History plans to hire a new executive director by August.The museum's board of trustees on Saturday decided to begin advertising the position in March. Job interviews will be conducted in June and July with intentions of offering the position to a suitable candidate by Aug. 1.Board members reasoned that if the advertisement is placed next month, it might not appear in some museum trade journals until May.The position also will be posted on a Web site advertising state government jobs in Virginia. People interested in the job will have to apply online.Earlier this month, former executive director Tim Gette left the Martinsville museum to become executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas at San Antonio.Gette is from Texas, and his wife remained there for the five years he was in Martinsville.Gloria Niblett, the Virginia museum's director of administration and services, is serving as its interim director.The advertisement that board members agreed upon shows that the person hired must have skills expected of executives and knowledge of all aspects of museum operations, as well as excellent leadership and communication skills.Board member George Lyle of Martinsville said the ad will mention that the highest salary the museum can afford to pay a new executive director - at least in the foreseeable future - is a little more than $105,000 per year.That is what Gette was earning when he left. The position's salary has been frozen due to state budget problems.By mentioning the salary, Lyle said, board members will not run the risk of seriously considering an applicant and then finding the person no longer is interested because he or she thought the pay would be more.Within the museum profession, he said, "a lot of people wouldn't want to take a salary reduction to work here."Â�The museum board is developing two additions to a list of the executive director's "core responsibilities."Â�One addition pertains to the director's involvement with the board of the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation, a private entity that raises funds to support the museum."We want to have a balance of responsibility," Lyle said, so the director does not get preoccupied in the work of a private volunteer organization instead of the public institution that employs him or her.The museum is state-funded, but its foundation eventually may become "the tail that wags the dog if it gets a lot of money," said board member Philip Sprinkle of Martinsville.Yet since the foundation works solely to benefit the museum, there should be a "tight link" between the two, said board Treasurer C. Novel Martin III of Roanoke.The job announcement says the director's position includes "significant fundraising responsibilities."Â�The other addition would specify criteria for bonus pay. A draft presented to the board says that bonuses should be based on state guidelines for executive management with consideration of successful completion of job responsibilities.Board member Mervyn King of Martinsville said the criteria should state that "your bonus is for going above and beyond expectations."Â�"I'd like to see some motivation" to earn extra pay, he said. "People work when there is motivation."Â�But if a director does not receive a bonus when one is considered, that does not necessarily mean he or she has done a poor job, King said.Board member Oliver Flint Jr. of Alexandria suggested specifying "every dollar and cent" of bonus pay to which a director may be entitled.Board chairman Pam Armstrong of Martinsville said board members will consider the issue during the next couple of months and develop criteria that can be voted on at their May 2 meeting.Under state law, the museum's director cannot receive an annual bonus of more than 5 percent of his or her salary, Armstrong said.Also Saturday, the museum board learned that:"¢ Museum attendance from October through December was 8,480 people, which was 27 percent under projections.As a result, income from admissions was 13 percent below projections, said Niblett. She did not say how much income was received during the period.She attributed the drop to economic conditions.As a result, the museum has reduced operating hours for its box office and store, plus working hours for coffee shop staff, Niblett said."¢ Nominations are being accepted until March 27 for the foundation's 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards.The awards honor individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science and natural science education.The awards ceremony will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. April 22 at the museum."¢ The foundation's 25th anniversary gala will be held May 2.The foundation has embarked on a campaign to raise $5 million. So far, it has received $3.4 million in pledges, according to officials. It hopes to collect $4 million in pledges by the day of the gala. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/195 New Director at VMNH will Work to Keep Things Fresh http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/195 Tuesday, 17 February 2009 12:00:00 EST A museum should always be evolving so it can attract repeat visitors as well as new ones, according to Joe Keiper. Tuesday, 17 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, February 17, 2010By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterA museum should always be evolving so it can attract repeat visitors as well as new ones, according to Joe Keiper.Long-term exhibits are fine, he said, but ultimately "you do not want things to be permanent" so visitors do not see the same historical specimens over and over again, losing interest in the museum in the process.Keiper, who began his new job as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) earlier this month, said museums should strive to regularly develop new exhibits, as well as interpret artifacts in current exhibits in new ways "so people have something new to touch, to see and to read."Â�When that happens, they are more likely to visit a museum frequently and support it financially through admission fees and donations, he indicated.Keiper said he wants to find ways for VMNH visitors to "dig a little deeper" into exhibits to learn more about natural history topics that they find most fascinating. Someone looking at a particular exhibit would be able to delve into it at different degrees, depending upon his interest in it, he said.He also wants to hear from area residents so they can "give their input" into ways the museum in Martinsville can remain enticing to visitors.VMNH is Virginia's official natural history repository and draws visitors from throughout the state and beyond. Keiper intends for the museum to develop new methods - one possibility he gave is new festivals - that will convince people in other areas to drive perhaps a few hours to the museum.Keiper still is learning about the area. He said that Henry County-Martinsville may not have as many attractions as larger places where other museums of VMNH's stature are located. But it has more features than many localities of its size, and the ones it has are unique, he said.Mentioning the museum, Piedmont Arts Association and opportunities for recreation along the Smith River and local trails as examples, he added that the area is "a good place to come and spend a long weekend."Â�"My mouth is watering" for those recreational opportunities, Keiper said, noting that he is an outdoors enthusiast.He said the museum must work with local government and tourism officials to promote the community to tourists.Still, Keiper said he recognizes that due to Martinsville's distance from more heavily populated areas, such as Richmond or Tidewater, "we are going to be serving primarily a much more local audience" than museums in larger cities.For that reason, he said VMNH must continue placing a lot of emphasis on being involved in the community, such as taking part in science and natural history learning activities in local schools.A SCIENTIST AND AN ADMINISTRATORKeiper, 41, previously was director of science and curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. He said he was somewhat familiar with VMNH through its scientists' research.VMNH has an "undeniable" reputation among natural historians as an institution that does quality research, he emphasized.He was happy with his job in Cleveland and was not looking for another. But he found out about the VMNH director's job opening and was intrigued. The more he learned about the museum, the more "I got excited," he recalled.Among things he found exciting, he said, was VMNH's move into its modern building on Starling Avenue three years ago, the museum's presence and role in a small community and the progress it has made since opening in 1984."There are not many successful museums that are only 25 years old," said Keiper, who was born in Germany but grew up in New Jersey.He decided to apply for the VMNH job, he said, because "it is a refreshing opportunity to help this institution" grow and prosper.Keiper received a bachelor's degree from Bloomfield College, a master's degree from Slippery Rock University and a doctorate in biology from Kent State University.In Cleveland, he became known as the "bug guy" due to his extensive interest in, and knowledge of, insects.Keiper speaks enthusiastically about basically everything, from his new job to his new co-workers to his ideas for VMNH. But he really gets excited when he starts talking about bugs.He noted, for example, that there are roughly 20,000 species of flies, and "all have a unique role in nature."Â�And, yes, he can identify every species.But "I can't do it by sight" all the time, he admitted - he uses reference books when necessary.His bug knowledge has enabled him to participate in more than 30 homicide investigations, such as when police discovered insects on decaying corpses. He said he is willing to help local law enforcement officials if needed.He plans to give a local lecture on insects at some point in the future.As a scientist moving into administration, Keiper said he knows his job as VMNH's new director will "take me away from the lab bench" as he handles other aspects of museum operations, such as fundraising.But whenever he can, he plans to visit VMNH scientists in their labs and talk to them about their work, maybe lending a hand if he has time."I want to keep my finger in" science being done at the museum, he said. The more he knows what is happening at VMNH, the better he can promote the museum and its work, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/138 Economic Priorities Aired http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/138 Wednesday, 11 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe got an earful of ideas - from job training to infrastructure to education. Wednesday, 11 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, February 11, 2009 By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe got an earful of ideas - from job training to infrastructure to education - Tuesday during an economic roundtable at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. McAuliffe, who chaired Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, is one of three Democrats seeking the party's nomination for governor this year. Tuesday's roundtable was one of a series of similar events McAuliffe is holding around the state to seek ideas about how to improve Virginia's economy. About 20 people gathered at the museum to discuss the local economy with McAuliffe, who probably asked more questions of participants than they asked of him. An issue that came up early and often during the roughly two-hour discussion was the need for job training in the area's work force. John Parkinson, president and CEO of Drake Extrusion, told McAuliffe that his company recently posted an ad for eight job openings and received more than 200 applications in response. Despite the response, "I'm not sure we'll get eight appropriate people," Parkinson said. Drake had to "immediately discard more than half" of the applicants because they didn't have the required education, Parkinson said. Other applicants could not pass a drug screening test, he said. "We need to be upgrading the education of our incumbent workers," Parkinson said, echoing the words of Kim Adkins, executive director of the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board. If work force training is not addressed, "the businesses that do come can't continue to grow," Parkinson said. "It's a real challenge for us at this time."? Rhonda Hodges, dean of continuing education and work-force development at Patrick Henry Community College, and Nolan Browning, vice president of academic and student development there, said PHCC works to meet those needs for existing businesses. However, Browning said, that can be difficult because it is hard to get updated data on what companies need. Program offerings should be matched better with businesses' needs, Browning said. "So if there is a layoff, we know the type of training (workers need) and where the jobs could go."? Parkinson commended PHCC for its help with training when Drake located in the area 13 years ago. But more should be done, Browning and Hodges indicated. "Some is funding; some is collaboration and communication," Hodges said of what needs to happen. As he did throughout the meeting, McAuliffe, 52, took notes about the ideas and issues raised. Scott Kizner, superintendent of Martinsville Schools, and Curtis Millner, Iriswood District representative on the Henry County School Board, stressed the importance of preschool through 12th-grade education in developing a qualified work force. Kizner said Martinsville's high rates of unemployment and teenage pregnancy make the needs greater here. It doesn't make sense that some parts of the state, such as Alexandria, spend about $20,000 per student each year while Martinsville and Henry County have only between $9,000 and $10,000 per student per year, he said. Those figures include local, state and other sources of funds. "The expectations are the same for a child born in Falls Church (as they are here), but the opportunities are not the same," Kizner said. Although McAuliffe said he does not want to raise taxes, Kizner suggested that a "very targeted tax" might be a way to help the school systems. McAuliffe said creating income by creating jobs is a way to bring in revenue without raising taxes. One way to help localities do that would be by eliminating the Dillon Rule, a legal concept that strictly limits the power of local governments, placing it with state government instead. "We need (to give) more authority to the localities," McAuliffe said. As governor, he could not eliminate the rule, but "I certainly could curtail parts of it, I think."? McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the issue is not necessarily a partisan one, but he is committed to seeing a Democratic majority in the General Assembly, which he said would help with curtailing or eliminating the rule. Several speakers, including Parkinson, Iriswood District Supervisor Paula Burnette and local businessman Ronald A. "Skip" Ressel Jr., talked about the importance of completing the four-laning of U.S. 58 and constructing Interstate 73. McAuliffe said he is an ardent supporter of the "shovel-ready" 58 completion because of its potential to connect Virginia's ports with the nation's heartland. He also expressed support for I-73, although Ressel and others pointed out that that project is not shovel ready because, among other things, there is a disagreement about what route the interstate should take through Henry County. The project also is being held up by a lawsuit. Other speakers stressed the importance of small businesses and said more money should be made available to help them get established and expand. James McClain of Southwest Virginia Gas urged the streamlining of governmental resources dedicated to work-force training, and Barry Dorsey, executive director of the New College Institute, said it is essential that the institute be allowed to continue evolving into a stand-alone, four-year college. Numerous other ideas were shared during the discussion. Afterward, McAuliffe said he and his staff will compile the ideas they hear statewide into a "business plan for Virginia" that will be released in the coming months. "We picked up probably 20 great ideas" Tuesday, he said, mentioning job training as one that stood out. McAuliffe, who said this was his fourth trip to the area since September, said he is committed to campaigning in Southside and plans to open a campaign office in the region. If he is elected governor in November, he said he would "be back a lot" and would continue to hold meetings similar to the roundtable. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/137 UR Students Visit Area, Volunteer http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/137 Monday, 02 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Sadie Beaver never had spent much time in a small community before she visited Henry County-Martinsville on Saturday. Monday, 02 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, February 2, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterSadie Beaver never had spent much time in a small community before she visited Henry County-Martinsville on Saturday.Beaver, who is from St. Louis, Mo., was one of 16 University of Richmond juniors in the Bonner Scholars program who came to the area to talk with educators about differences in teaching in rural and urban areas.They also performed volunteer service while they were in town, doing some minor renovations to a room at the Community Storehouse in Martinsville.The room is going to be named in their honor."Everyone here's been so ... thankful for our service," Beaver said. "They're so welcoming. Everybody seems to know everyone" else.Beaver, who is majoring in business with a concentration in marketing, said she eventually might consider taking a job here - if she can find one that is appropriate for her education and experience.Bonner Scholars is a program at 27 colleges and universities nationwide that, according to its Web site, gives scholarships to students who are interested in performing community service work and have financial needs.The scholars must do at least 40 hours of community service work monthly, and 280 hours during the summer. In return, they earn stipends to help pay college expenses such as tuition, textbooks and room and board.The U of R students toured the Virginia Museum of Natural History and then met with local teachers and principals at the Dutch Inn. They later visited Piedmont Arts Association, where they talked with Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson, New College Institute Executive Director Barry Dorsey and Henry County Schools Superintendent Sharon Dodson.As a Bonner Scholar, "you're expected to do some cumulative program" during the school year focusing on a specific topic, said Zachary Ferguson, who was the only Martinsville-area student among the scholars.The students chose education as their topic because it is of interest to them.Ferguson said his mother, Robin, is an assistant principal at Patrick County High School and helped to organize Saturday's activities.One difference between schools in rural and urban areas is that class sizes in rural areas sometimes are smaller, Ferguson said. That is because urban areas sometimes have teacher shortages, which results in larger classes, he said.With smaller class sizes, teachers can get to know their students better and spend more time with each student, he indicated.But if a teacher is talented, he or she "might can do more things (to help students learn) even if there is a shortage of resources," Ferguson said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/135 Naturalist Program To Explore Virginia's Beauty http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/135 Sunday, 01 February 2009 12:00:00 EST One week, you might learn about the nearly unpredictable weather raining down on Mount Rogers. Sunday, 01 February 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: TriCities.comBy: Joe Tennis | TriCities.com Published: February 01, 2009  ABINGDON, Va. - One week, you might learn about the nearly unpredictable weather raining down on Mount Rogers.The next, you could be face-to-tail with a salamander.Then come the trout, swishing through mountain streams like the Straight Branch on the outskirts of Damascus.All this - plus field trips to the marshy Well Fields Park of Saltville - could be yours if you sign up to become a Virginia Master Naturalist.This Virginia Master Naturalist program, similar to Virginia Master Gardeners, instructs volunteers on how to become better stewards of the land surrounding them, especially in the Appalachian Mountains."We had about 27 students who went through the class last year," said Steve Lindeman, the president of the Holston River chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists.Lindeman, for one, knows the value of keeping creeks clean and not chopping down every tree you see. By day, Lindeman serves as the land protection program manager for The Nature Conservancy's field office in Abingdon.Other times, you might find him in a field, volunteering to build a trail.It's all part of being a protector of plants and a cheerleader for all things green."Everybody involved in it is a volunteer," Lindeman said. "And we're hoping we're going to get another 25-plus students trained as naturalists who can work as volunteers in agencies throughout this part of the commonwealth."Class sessions include talks from various officials and experts, like Kevin Hamed, who teaches biology courses at Virginia Highlands Community College."We have multiple teachers," Lindeman said. "Generally, we have two or so instructors each night."Angie Watland graduated from the Virginia Master Naturalist program last year and now serves as the outreach committee chair for the Holston River chapter.Watland praised the various volunteer instructors, saying, "What's so cool about this program is it's a mix of conservation scientists and your next-door neighbor whose interest is in birds and gardening and bats."Regular course sessions are held on Thursday nights at the People Inc. office in Abingdon at 1173 W. Main St.Then, every other Saturday, Lindeman said, field trips go to places like Saltville's Museum of the Middle Appalachians or the Buller State Fish Hatchery, near Adwolfe, in Smyth County. "We try to find sites that are not five hours away," Lindeman added. "And we have plenty of great sites locally."At the end of the course, participants are encouraged to attend the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally, held in May."We sort of neatly encapsulated the naturalist rally at the end of this program," Lindeman said. "If folks go to that, the cost of the tuition pays for them to go and automatically get their eight hours of advance training."Participants do not need to be Virginia residents, but volunteer projects must occur in Virginia.Partners in the program include Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. YOU SHOULD KNOWWhat: Virginia Master Naturalist ProgramWhere: Abingdon, Va.When: Classes are held on Thursday nights, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Feb. 19 to May 7, with some Saturday field trips planned.Cost: $75Info: (276) 676-2209Web: www.holstonrivervmn.orgE-mail: awatland@tnc.org   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/136 Getter Set to Take on Texas- VMNH Director Leaving for Home State http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/136 Sunday, 01 February 2009 12:00:00 EST There are stories that Tim Gette wants to share about his home state of Texas Sunday, 01 February 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, February 1, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThere are stories that Tim Gette wants to share about his home state of Texas.That is why he is moving back there after nearly five years as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in Martinsville.His last day will be Wednesday.Gette has been named executive director of the Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The museum promotes the culture of Texas and strives to help visitors understand how that culture has affected the state's residents, according to its Web site.Texas is a big state, one that "was its own republic" many years ago, Gette said, so it has "a lot of history." It also has a lot of wealth."We have so many ... stories we can tell," he said, ranging from the tales of folk heroes and life stories of presidents who came from Texas to describing how abundant resources such as oil and natural gas are produced.The Institute of Texan Cultures opened in 1968. Gette, 62, said he will take over its leadership at a time when the university's new president has set a goal for the institute to evolve into a world-class museum.VMNH has grown tremendously under Gette's leadership. In 2007, it moved from a former elementary school on Douglas Avenue into a new facility on Starling Avenue five times as large as the school building. The new museum has high-tech exhibits that are more modern than ones they replaced."That was a monumental project," said VMNH Board of Trustees member George Lyle. He praised Gette for being able to oversee construction and moving collections all the while he managed day-to-day operations.The number of visitors at VMNH has grown from about 21,000 to about 53,000 people per year since the new building opened. Visitors at the new facility have come from across the nation and throughout the world.Gette said the Texas museum gets about 200,000 visitors annually.Lyle said Gette has boosted VMNH's membership and fund-raising abilities, as well as "built a strong relationship with Richmond and cemented that relationship" with state officials and other state agencies.It puts the museum in a much better position for the future, Lyle indicated."So much of what I've done here (to help VMNH grow and develop) is what I'll be expected to do" in Texas, Gette said.One of his duties will be figuring out how the institute can use the vast amount of vacant land surrounding it, he said.Overseeing the Texas museum "will take all of my experience here and build upon it," he said. "It will be a great challenge."Â�It was an opportunity that he could not turn down. He said he understands he was chosen from about 60 applicants.Gette sought the institute job upon hearing of the opening. As a Texan, he is highly interested in the culture that the museum promotes.He also wants to return to Texas to be closer to his wife, Kristi, who is math curriculum coordinator for the Arlington (Texas) School District. She chose to remain in Texas because her job benefits would not transfer to Virginia, he said.The couple has commuted a lot during the past five years. Either Gette flew to Texas, or his wife would take a plane trip to Martinsville, once a month.Gette joked that he has gotten to know the American Airlines employees at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., so well that they no longer charge him a check-in fee for his luggage.A Texan in VirginiaGette was in the Air Force and worked in aviation and as a journalist before starting his museum career. He worked for museums in Texas before coming to Martinsville.He said that throughout his life, he has enjoyed learning about history and visiting museums around the world.Even when he went to a museum he had previously visited, "I would always find something new and exciting" to remember, he said.Gette was searching for a job as executive director of a museum when the VMNH post became vacant in 2004. He said he has enjoyed working there.But he mentioned one disappointment."We haven't gotten the corporate (funding) opportunities that I would like to have had," Gette said, indicating that may be due to industry leaving the area in recent years.Many companies prefer to donate money to institutions their employees - and their employees' families - can easily use, he said. That is one reason why it is important for VMNH to increase the number of outreach programs offered elsewhere in Virginia, he emphasized.VMNH is "a fun museum" to work at and visit, Gette said, noting that it is "the only museum in Virginia to cover all of the various elements of natural history."Â�The museum's focus, he added, is "to tell the story of Virginia's natural history in context with the rest of the world."Â�Two elements of nature - trees and squirrels - are what Gette will miss most about the state.When someone from another part of the nation drives around Virginia, the person has "to be in wonder at the number and size of trees here," he said.Trees in Texas are not as tall as those in Virginia, which are "as high as you can see," said Gette. In fact, some of the trees in the Lone Star State seem like shrubbery compared to those in Virginia, he mused.The squirrels in Southside are bigger and fatter than those in Texas. That is because acorns and vegetation that squirrels eat are more plentiful here because there is more rainfall in Virginia than in Texas, Gette said.Gette aims to visit VMNH in the future. He has a sister in Woodbridge, so it is likely he will stop by on trips to see her, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/134 Photo Contest Seeking Area's 'Points of Pride'- Fourth Year for Bulletin Contest http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/134 Sunday, 25 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Readers are invited to submit their photographs of the most scenic spots in Henry County and Martinsville. The photo chosen as "Best of Show" will be featured on the cover of the Martinsville Bulletin's Progress Edition on March 1. Sunday, 25 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Sunday, January 25, 2009 "Points of Pride" is the theme of the 2009 photo contest sponsored by the Martinsville Bulletin.Readers are invited to submit their photographs of the most scenic spots in Henry County and Martinsville. The photo chosen as "Best of Show" will be featured on the cover of the Martinsville Bulletin's Progress Edition on March 1."This is the fourth year we have held the photo contest, and we expect the same terrific turnout we have had in the past to continue," said Bulletin Chief Photographer Mike Wray. "The photos submitted in the past have shown that our readers have many things to be proud of in Henry County and Martinsville, and they have the photographic skills to capture those scenes." Previous submissions ran the gamut from Philpott Lake (the 2006 winner) and the Smith River (the 2008 winner) to the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building and scenic pastures (the 2007 winner) and vistas, Wray said."Every year we have been impressed that readers found new things to photograph to capture the beauty of the area," he added.The winning entry will be determined by a panel of area officials, and Bulletin employees will vote on an "Employees' Choice" photo. All entries will be exhibited in the Bulletin's booth at the Fast Track 2009 trade show.Photographs must be of scenes in Henry County or Martinsville taken in the past 12 months. Only amateur photographers may enter, and they are limited to three entries each.Entries may be electronic or prints, and they must include written permission for the photos to be published in the Martinsville Bulletin.All entries must be in the Bulletin's News Department by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18.A full list of rules and a coupon to include with entries appear on Page 7-C of today's Bulletin. Questions may be addressed to Wray or Bulletin Editor Ginny Wray at 638-8801 after 2 p.m. weekdays. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/133 SCI-KIDS: Oaks Shed More Acorns This Past Year, But Why? http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/133 Tuesday, 20 January 2009 12:00:00 EST This fall, some oaks in parts of southern Virginia produced huge numbers of acorns. Such an event is known as a "mast year." The word "mast" comes from the Old English word "maest," which means the nuts of trees that drop to the ground. During a mast year, the nuts accumulate in unusually large quantities. Many city streets and lawns were covered with acorns. Tuesday, 20 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Richmond Times-DispatchBy: NANCY MONCRIEF SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT | Times-Dispatch Published: January 20, 2009This fall, some oaks in parts of southern Virginia produced huge numbers of acorns. Such an event is known as a "mast year." The word "mast" comes from the Old English word "maest," which means the nuts of trees that drop to the ground. During a mast year, the nuts accumulate in unusually large quantities. Many city streets and lawns were covered with acorns.But mast years only occur every two to six years, and most individual trees do not produce large numbers of acorns in consecutive years. Why are there so many acorns one year, and so few the next?Scientists aren't sure of the cause. Some think external factors such as environmental conditions are the main reason oaks periodically produce very few acorns. For example, a late freeze might kill most or all of the flowers on a particular oak species in a certain area.Others believe that high numbers of acorns followed by extremely low numbers can be explained by internal mechanisms. An oak tree spends a lot of energy to produce a large number of acorns. So it is difficult to produce heavy seed crops year after year without a break.Whatever the cause, many scientists believe that the mast cycle is an evolutionary adaptation of oak trees in response to seed predators. Birds such as jays, woodpeckers and turkeys, along with mammals including mice, chipmunks, deer, bears and squirrels, feed heavily on acorns during autumn. The population size of seed foragers often increases in response to an abundance of acorns. Some studies have shown that the number of individual animals increases as much as seven times after a mast year.If oaks always produced large numbers of acorns, the populations of seed predators would continually expand over time. The trees would be in a never-ending race to produce more seeds than the predators could eat.Some of these animals -- white-tailed deer -- also eat oak seedlings. Therefore, high populations of deer would threaten the young offspring of oaks as well as their seeds.In years when acorns are scarce, fewer animals survive the winter to reproduce. This causes a decrease in the populations, and fewer animals are alive to eat acorns in later mast years. As a result, more acorns become seedlings, ensuring survival of the oaks.Virginia science Standards of Learning: K.6; K.9; 1.4; 1.7; 1.8; 2.5; 2.7; 2.8; 3.5; 3.6; 4.5; 4.8; LS.8; LS.9; BIO.9.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/131 Area Residents Are... Headed to See History http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/131 Sunday, 18 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Forty-five years ago, Rev. Thurman O. Echols Jr. was arrested as he fought for civil rights in his hometown of Danville. Sunday, 18 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, January 18, 2009By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterForty-five years ago, Rev. Thurman O. Echols Jr. was arrested as he fought for civil rights in his hometown of Danville.On Tuesday, he will be in Washington, D.C., to witness something he fought for come to fruition with the inauguration of the nation's first black president.Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton, will leave for Washington with two busloads of people from the church at midnight the night before President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office.Echols said he never has attended a presidential inauguration before, but he wanted "to be present, to be a part of that historic moment."Echols was part of another historic moment as a teenager. On June 10, 1963, "little did we know that we were making history," he said.On that day, "Bloody Monday," Echols had just turned 16 when he led 60 high school students in a civil rights march to the steps of the Danville courthouse. He and two others were arrested, as were his parents for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Police beat the remaining protesters with nightsticks and turned high-pressure hoses on them.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Danville twice that year, and Echols saw him speak both times. He never met King, but the civil rights leader's words still resonate."Martin Luther King Jr. once said he had a dream that one day his four children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," Echols said. "I think we have seen that coming full circle with (Barack) Obama being elected."Obama has connected the generations" and shown that "people of all races can work together," he said.Echols and the other bus-riders do not have tickets to Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony, but "we're going to try to get as close as possible," he said.Tickets to the ceremony were hard to get, but Tony Millner and Mersdesea Shelton landed a pair through 5th District Rep. Tom Perriello's office. Members of Congress were in charge of distributing the 240,000 tickets and were flooded with requests.Millner and Shelton said they planned to leave for the city today and stay with a friend who lives a mile from the Capitol Building."I feel great" about going, said Millner, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "I can tell my grandkids and great-grandkids that I was there.""I'm very excited," Shelton said, especially because she and her cousin Nancy Preston volunteered with the local Obama campaign. "We really enjoyed every minute of it."Campaign volunteers"We worked very hard" to elect Obama, said fellow campaign volunteer Alfred Hairston, who will be driving one of the buses leaving from Moral Hill to attend his first inauguration."I did a lot of knocking on doors for Perriello and Obama," Hairston said. "It just goes to show if you get out there and vote, anything can happen."Â�The bus will arrive in Washington around 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said. Roads into the capital will be closed to personal vehicles, but buses will be allowed to park at RFK Stadium. People can then take the Metro to the day's events.Hairston said he is "a little nervous" about traffic from the estimated 1 to 2 million people expected to attend the inauguration.Regardless, he added, "it's going to be real interesting. I hope it'll be a wonderful evening."Another volunteer was not old enough to vote for Obama in November, but she still did her part to help elect him. Now, 15-year-old Rebecca Moore and her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Moore, will get to see that work pay off.Rebecca spent the summer making phone calls to potential voters, her mother said. Because of that, "she really wanted to go (to the inauguration). She's so excited, she just can't stand it," Elizabeth Moore said.The two were scheduled to drive up Friday and stay with friends outside the city, where Elizabeth Moore lived for 12 years. This will be the first inauguration for both, "even though I lived there," she said. "I always figured I could stay home and watch it on TV and be warm."However, this year is different because "it is such a unique inauguration, such a big change for our country," Elizabeth Moore said. "It'll be an adventure for sure."Part of historyThis is the first time many local residents will attend a presidential inauguration. Most said the significance of Obama's election prompted them to go this year.Myla Hairston said she "never had the desire to go to one before.""I really don't like crowds and don't like traveling," Hairston said, adding that she is "not all that interested in politics."However, Obama's election makes this inauguration different, she said."Just the fact that I'm going to be there at this historical event is awesome," Hairston said. "I'm really looking forward to it."Hairston, a nurse at Memorial Hospital, plans to drive up today and stay with a sister in Maryland, just across the border from Washington.Now, the problem is deciding what to wear. Hairston will attend an Africa-themed inaugural ball at the Gaylord Hotel in Oxon Hill, Md., on Tuesday night with her sister and brother-in-law, a Maryland state senator.Obama has been invited to the ball, Hairston said, and she has heard there is "a real possibility that he will attend.""I'm hoping I get a little glimpse," she said.Even though she will be near the nation's capital Tuesday, Hairston will watch the inauguration ceremony on TV from her sister's house."I didn't have any interest in going to the swearing-in ceremony," she said. "It's down at the (National) Mall, it's going to be really crowded, and you're going to be watching it on big-screen TVs anyway."People without tickets to the ceremony will gather on the Mall, where jumbo TVs will broadcast the event.Hairston said she plans to watch the parade in person and probably go to the Martin Luther King Day events Monday, as well."I know it's going to be cold. I've got all the appropriate clothing items so I can stay warm," Hairston said. "I'm just praying that it doesn't do any snowing or icing."Husband and wife Sonny and Juanita Richardson made plans to attend more than a year ago, but they said they would not have gone if Republican candidate John McCain had won.When Obama first announced he was running for president, their daughter Pamela Greenfield asked her parents if they wanted to go and made reservations.Obama's victory shows that "all things are possible with God," Juanita Richardson said, adding that it fulfills Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream."A change has come, and the dream has come true, also. This is not just for black people; this is for all colors," she said.The couple will drive up Monday, meet their daughter and other relatives and stay in Alexandria."I can't explain in words how excited I am," Juanita Richardson said. "I'm looking forward to a joyous time, just to witness this great event."And though they do not have tickets to the ceremony, she has a goal for the trip."I plan to get a picture with Obama," Juanita Richardson said.Pastor Alan Preston of Refuge Temple Church will have a bus of 25 to 30 people heading to Washington on Tuesday. It will be the first inauguration for most of them, he said."Now that we're having the first African-American president, we feel that we should go and celebrate with him," Preston said.They will leave in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, stay for the swearing-in and leave Tuesday afternoon to try and beat the traffic, Preston said.Martha Holland, who is going to the event with a tour group out of Greensboro, has traveled to an inauguration in the past."I've always voted Democratic, but I went up for George H.W. Bush just to see what the inauguration was like," Holland said. "Of course, it was nothing like this is going to be."When Obama won the election, she said there was no question that she would attend."I just love Obama. I haven't been this interested in a candidate since Bobby Kennedy," Holland said. "I'm just thrilled to death, frankly. I couldn't stay away."Â�Husband and wife Claude and Ann Hobson are going with another Greensboro tour group, but they made up their minds to go before they knew the election results."We were going, regardless of whether (Obama) won," Claude Hobson said, because "we'd never been to an inauguration before."Their day trip will involve "watching the ceremony, the parade, and whatever is taking place," he said. "We're excited. I think it'll be interesting to see." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/132 Perriello Repeats His Oath Throughout 5th http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/132 Sunday, 18 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Nearly 70 supporters and local elected officials gathered Saturday evening to watch the ceremonial swearing-in of 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Sunday, 18 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, January 18, 2009By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterNearly 70 supporters and local elected officials gathered Saturday evening to watch the ceremonial swearing-in of 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.After Perriello, D-Albemarle, took the oath of office from Rev. Tyler Millner, attendees gave him a standing ovation with cheers and whistles."I ask you to witness this oath and hold me accountable to it every day I am in office," Perriello said. "I belong to you."The event was one of several ceremonial swearing-in events held throughout the district this weekend, recreating his official swearing-in to his first term in Congress Jan. 6 in Washington D.C."People wonder why we bother to do this ceremony," Perriello said. "But in the original Constitution of the United States, the House of Representatives was the only office directly elected by the people."Because the House always has been "the people's House," he said, "it is important to me that I take this oath in front of the people of the 5th District."Perriello urged residents to view the economic recovery plan posted on the House Web site and to share their concerns with him."Please send me your comments and ideas," he said. "Please continue to consider our offices open to you, and who knows - maybe sometime we'll have an office here in Martinsville."When it comes to the country's economic problems, "there are no quick fixes," he said. "If we do not invest in infrastructure, education and work force development, we're not going to see this turn around."Before Perriello took the oath, Del. Ward Armstrong, Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson and Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. also spoke.Armstrong said the museum was an "interesting" location for the ceremony because "this building is steeped in the past, yet here we are on this day, looking straight to the future."Even with the "great economic troubles" facing the country, "I know you are up for the challenge," he told Perriello.Lawson encouraged Perriello to "fight hard to give us the resources we need to continue improving our infrastructure, supporting our schools and growing our economic base so that we will once again have an abundant supply of high-quality jobs ... and a diverse work force of talented people ready to fill those positions."In turn, Lawson said, local officials promise to "make certain that you are aware of our needs" and to be "responsible and proactive stewards of the resources you bring to us."Reynolds, a member of Perriello's transition team, said the congressman has "made a deliberate effort to let Martinsville know that he is aware of its needs" and supports "a vision and plan that helps to revitalize our economy and community."Reynolds praised him for "working toward solutions" and making "jobs and economic growth his first priority."  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/130 BREIEFS: New Near You (Martinsville) http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/130 Friday, 16 January 2009 12:00:00 EST A dump truck driver involved in a head-on collision that killed three people has been sentenced to one year in prison. Friday, 16 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: RIchmond Times-DispatchBy: | Times-Dispatch Published: January 16, 2009Louisa A dump truck driver involved in a head-on collision that killed three people has been sentenced to one year in prison. Jerome J. Booker Jr., 38, was sentenced this week after pleading guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter in Louisa County Circuit Court. Booker was sentenced to 15 years, with all but one year of that term suspended. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rusty McGuire said Booker also is barred from having a commercial driver's license for the rest of his life. Booker's truck hit a van head-on on U.S. 15 on July 17, 2007, after he swerved to avoid a pickup truck that had stopped to make a turn. Three people in the van were killed.Chesterfield The Board of Supervisors this week significantly lowered application fees for recreational facilities and at-home businesses. The Planning Department fees were increased in July as a way to collect a higher percentage of the department's processing costs. But the increase of $3,100 -- from $2,200 to $5,300 -- weighed heavily on some smaller would-be businesses and community associations. On a motion by Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy A. Jaeckle, the board on Wednesday night unanimously reduced the fees for at-home businesses and recreational facilities to $1,000 each, which is below last year's original figure.Petersburg Thelma Jefferson, president of the Peabody High School National Alumni Association, presented a $2,000 check to Peabody Middle School on Wednesday during the School Board meeting. The money is for the "continued restoration of Peabody Middle School and the educational welfare of the Peabody Middle School students," Jefferson said. The alumni association had previously donated $18,000 to the middle school.Hanover For the second time, the Hanover County Planning Commission approved last night a proposed project that calls for construction of nine homes in the county's Brown Grove area, including two homes to be built by Hanover Habitat for Humanity. The commission had endorsed the proposal last year but the Board of Supervisors sent it back to the commission for further review after a number of neighbors complained. The other seven homes will be built by Hometown Realty. The proposal will go back to the supervisors for a vote next month.AROUND THE STATEMartinsville Gloria Niblett has been named interim executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Her appointment by the executive committee of the museum's trustees follows the recent resignation of Timothy J. Gette as executive director. Gette's last day is Feb. 4. Niblett is a native of Martinsville and a graduate of Averett University. She currently serves as director of administration and services and has been employed at the museum for 20 years.Winchester A Frederick County man who pleaded guilty to killing four members of a family in October 2006 has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Circuit Judge John Prosser gave Jessi Ashton Jephson, 22, three consecutive life terms plus 58 years Wednesday. Jephson was charged in the fatal shootings of Amanda Orndorff, 19; her 23-month-old son, Christopher; her father, Samuel Orndorff, 60; and her nephew, Travis Putman, 17. Deputies found the bodies in two houses in northern Frederick. Jephson pleaded guilty in September to three capital murder charges, four firearms charges and two grand larceny charges.-- From Staff and Wire Reports http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/129 Interim Executive Director Appointed at Virginia Museum of Natural History http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/129 Wednesday, 14 January 2009 12:00:00 EST With the recent resignation of Timothy J. Gette as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Executive Committee of the VMNH Trustees has named Gloria Niblett as interim executive director. Gette's last day at VMNH is February 4, 2009. Wednesday, 14 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLSBy: VMNH News Release | WSLS 10 Published: January 14, 2009MARTINSVILLE, Va. (January 14, 2009) - With the recent resignation of Timothy J. Gette as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Executive Committee of the VMNH Trustees has named Gloria Niblett as interim executive director. Gette's last day at VMNH is February 4, 2009.A native of Martinsville, Virginia, Niblett currently serves as director of administration and services at VMNH, and has been employed at the museum for 20 years. Her current position involves responsibility for administering daily museum operations, including management of fiscal, purchasing, human resources, budgeting and planning, contracting, security and building operations.Niblett graduated from Averett University, magna cum laude, with associate's degrees in accounting and business management, and a bachelor's degree in business administration. She is also a graduate of the Virginia Executive Institute, and is certified as a Virginia Contracting Officer, a Virginia Construction Contracting Officer, and a Professional Public Buyer. Niblett also graduated from the Virginia Risk Control Institute.Niblett previously served as procurement manager at VMNH and accounting manager at National Homes Corporation in Martinsville, Virginia. Niblett is a member of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing and the Virginia Governmental Purchasing Association. She has served on the membership committee of the Virginia Governmental Purchasing Association for 11 years."I am honored to step up to this duty as interim director during this transition period," Niblett said. "With support from a professional and dynamic staff, we as a team can accomplish the task.""Gloria Niblett's education and 20 years of experience with the museum made her the obvious choice to fill the interim director position," said Pamela A. Armstrong, chairman of the VMNH Board of Trustees. "She has worked hand-in-hand with Tim Gette and Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant, making the daily decisions and planning that have contributed to the museum's success. She is a native of Martinsville and we are fortunate to have someone of her caliber accept this temporary position as we work through the process of hiring a new VMNH executive director.""I am very pleased that Gloria Niblett has been appointed by the VMNH Executive Committee and that she has agreed to serve as interim executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History," said Timothy J. Gette, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "Gloria has been an invaluable asset to me during my five years at VMNH and she is an exceptionally talented individual. VMNH is fortunate to have someone like her on staff to step in while the board completes its search."Niblett's appointment by the Executive Committee of the VMNH Board of Trustees will be presented for confirmation by the full VMNH Board of Trustees at the group's February meeting. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/128 Institute of Texan Cultures Gains New Leader http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/128 Tuesday, 13 January 2009 12:00:00 EST The University of Texas at San Antonio's (UTSA) Institute of Texan Cultures has hired Timothy J. Gette as the museum's new executive director. Tuesday, 13 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: San Antonio Business JournalSan Antonio Business JournalDate: Tuesday, January 13, 2009The University of Texas at San Antonio's (UTSA) Institute of Texan Cultures has hired Timothy J. Gette as the museum's new executive director.He will begin officially on Feb. 9. Gette worked previously as the executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History , a position he held since March 2004. Gette is replacing John L. Davis, who recently retired."Our search committee embarked on a comprehensive review of outstanding local and national candidates and agreed overwhelmingly that Tim's experience leading state and private museums makes him uniquely qualified to take the university's museum to the next level," says UTSA Vice President for Community Services Jude Valdez.The search committee examined more than 60 candidates following a national search.One of Gette's major focuses will be the implementation of the university's 2016 strategic plan, which involves the museum playing an even more prominent role in the areas of education and community outreach.Gette is not new to the museum world or the state. A native Texan, he also previously served as chief operating officer of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and director of operations of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/126 Dino Day, New Exhibit, Draw Crowd http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/126 Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:00:00 EST The third annual Dino Day festival at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday attracted many people - including some area residents - who never had visited the museum before. Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, January 11, 2009By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe third annual Dino Day festival at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Saturday attracted many people - including some area residents - who never had visited the museum before.Sandra Turner of Ridgeway brought her 4-year-old daughter, Samantha, to the museum to see the dinosaur exhibits."I like the dinosaurs with the sharp teeth and little feet," Samantha Turner said with a smile."It's an adventure for her to get out and see new things," Sandra Turner said."Children love our Dino Days," said Carolyn Seay, the museum's special events manager. "They're intrigued by dinosaurs.""They probably know as much about dinosaurs as our scientists," she laughed.Sandra Turner added that she thinks the museum is beautiful. She said that before Saturday, she simply had not had time to drop by for a visit.Museum visitors saw life-size models of dinosaurs, some of which move and make noises, and learned about the prehistoric creatures by watching a film and attending an educational play performed by Carlisle School students.However, Aric Lawrence, 5, of Martinsville, said he was fascinated by all of the natural history detailed at the museum."What a great asset to the community," said his mother, Mary Lawrence, who was another first-time visitor. "I like the way everything is explained. And, you can touch things."Aric's father, Rich Lawrence, said he was impressed that museum exhibits focus on Virginia's natural history.The museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It spent most of its history in a former school building on Douglas Avenue but moved into a spacious new building on Starling Avenue in early 2007.Executive Director Tim Gette said Dino Day attracted people from as far away as the Roanoke Valley and Northern Virginia, plus North Carolina."Whoever thought five years ago you would see people coming from miles around to go to a museum in Martinsville," Gette said.Officials have said the new building is luring visitors from farther distances to the state's natural history museum than the old building did.While the festival focused on the dinosaur exhibits, visitors could stop by exhibits on various aspects of natural history.The main purpose of the festival was to lure people to the museum so they "hopefully will have a good time," said Marketing Associate Zach Ryder.Also during the festival, the museum's newest exhibit was unveiled. It is a 500 million-year-old stromatolite discovered in June at the Boxley Materials Blue Ridge Quarry in Bedford County.A stromatolite is a mound produced in shallow water by mats of algae that trap mud and sand particles. It gets larger over time as more and more mats grow on trapped sediment layers, according to museum officials.Five hundred million years ago, Bedford County was closer to the ocean than it is now, museum officials said.The stromatolite discovered at the quarry is 5 feet 8 inches in diameter and weighs 4,050 pounds. It is one of the best stromatolites ever discovered and will be on permanent display at the museum, according to Assistant Curator of Paleontology Alton Dooley."We're extremely fortunate to find this" at the quarry, said Bill Hamlin, vice president of aggregate operations at Boxley. "We are glad for it to be displayed ... where lots and lots and lots of people can see it." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/124 Dino Day Festival http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/124 Saturday, 10 January 2009 12:00:00 EST This spectacular family festival features exhibits, games, food and fun activities for visitors of all ages. Saturday, 10 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: Americantowns.com Date:Saturday, January 10, 2009Time:10:00 am to 4:00 pmVenue:Virginia Museum Of Natural HistoryAddress:21 Starling AvenueMartinsville, VA 24112View mapFrom:Virginia Museum Of Natural History This spectacular family festival features exhibits, games, food and fun activities for visitors of all ages. Specimens on display at the festival included an Allosaurus skeleton, a skeleton of a 14 million year old baleen whale - Eobalaenoptera - suspended from a towering 40-foot ceiling, an animatronic model of a Triceratops, a display of a Syntarsus dinosaur with its prey, a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, a recreated Phytosaurus, and dinosaurs bones and other fossils collected at actual Virginia Museum Of Natural History research sites around the world. A skeleton of a Pteranodon suspended from the towering 40-foot ceiling of the museum's Harvest Foundation Great Hall now greets visitors to the Museum. The specimen has a 20-foot wing-span, it is diving toward visitors standing on the bridge overlooking both the Museum's lobby and The Great Hall. Pteranodons lived around 89 to 70 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, and was one of the largest types of pterosaur - flying reptiles - with a wingspan of up to 30 feet. Pteranodon had toothless beaks, similar to those of modern birds. The creatures were reptiles, but not dinosaurs. However, dinosaurs and pterosaurs may have been closely related, and most paleontologists place them together in the group Ornithodira, or "bird necks". All Day:Dino Dig Pit - Strap on your goggles and grab your tools to search for "dino fossils" in the Dino Dig Pit. Jurassic Jeopardy Game - Attention teachers encourage your students to visit the Museum on Dino Day! As part of the dino-mite activities during the festival, the Museum host a Jurassic Jeopardy game for students. All Day:Dino Crafts - Make your very own dino crafts during Dino Day. All Day:Learn about Virginia Museum Of Natural History Expeditions - Learn about how you can take part in exciting Virginia Museum Of Natural History Expeditions. The Museum offers numerous opportunities for the public to take part in excavations in Virginia, Wyoming, and other locations. Find out what it takes to become a Paleontologist! All Day:Vertebrate Paleontology Lab Information - Virginia Museum Of Natural History staff and volunteers will be on hand to explain the work being conducted in the Museum's Elster Foundation Vertebrate Paleontology Lab. The Lab is viewable to visitors through large windows that offer a glimpse into the important work done by Virginia Museum Of Natural History scientists and volunteers. All Day:Special Dino Films - Don't miss the CineMuse film "Walking with Dinosaurs: A Time of Titans" in our high-definition ****** Furniture Theater! 2 p.m:Fossil Identification - Bring in your fossils and have them identified by Virginia Museum Of Natural History curators! From dinosaurs to whales, Virginia Museum Of Natural History scientists can help you identify your fossils. All Day:Costumed Dino Characters - Have your picture taken with 'Cera' the Triceratops and friends. A Special Dino Day Play - Students from Carlisle School will present the play "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and her Amazing Learn More Machine: Dinosaurs." Join Dr. Brilliant as she uses her 'Amazing Learn More Machine' to travel back in time to 150 million years ago to study dinosaurs. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/125 Museum to Unveil 500 million-year-old Specimen http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/125 Thursday, 08 January 2009 12:00:00 EST If you've ever wanted to see something that is 500 million years old, you won't want to miss Saturday's Dino Day festival at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The third annual festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the first event in the museum's yearlong 25th anniversary celebration. Thursday, 08 January 2009 12:00:00 EST News Article: GoDanRiver.comBy: By Lisa Snedeker Correspondent | The News & Advance Published: January 09, 2009MARTINSVILLE, Va. - If you've ever wanted to see something that is 500 million years old, you won't want to miss Saturday's Dino Day festival at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The third annual festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the first event in the museum's yearlong 25th anniversary celebration.The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, was founded on Aug. 28, 1984, as a private, nonprofit institution and became an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1988. Saturday at 10:30 a.m., the museum's newest exhibit - a 500 million-year-old stromatolite specimen - will be unveiled. The specimen's discovery in Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry in Roanoke in May 2008 garnered national attention, according to museum spokesman Ryan Barber."This is a really big deal," he said.A stromatolite is a mound produced in shallow water by mats of algae that trap mud and sand particles. Another mat grows on the trapped sediment layer, and this traps another layer of sediment, growing gradually over time. Stromatolites can grow to heights of a meter or more. They are uncommon today, but their fossils are among the earliest evidence for living things. The stromatolite, which measures more than 6 feet in diameter, is one of the most complete in the world and will be permanently on exhibit at VMNH.Festival-goers can also see life-sized skeleton casts of prehistoric creatures, watch scientists unlock the past and take part in a variety of games and activities, including becoming a scientist for a day. Many of last year's crowd favorite activities return this year, including the "Dino Dig Pit" where visitors can use paleontology tools to uncover fossil casts, and a special dinosaur-themed play presented by local students. The play, which will be presented by the Carlisle School Players, is titled "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and Her Amazing Learn More Machine: Dinosaurs," which was co-written by Mary Catherine Santoro, a librarian at VMNH."Over 2,000 visitors have taken part in our first two Dino Day festivals and have left very happy," Carolyn Seay, special events manager at VMNH, said in a release. "Dinosaurs always pique children's interest, and getting to see museum specimens that normally aren't available to the public makes for a special visit to the museum."Other attractions and activities include the museum's costume mascot "Cera" and her other dino friends, fossil identification, dinosaur-themed crafts for children and special dino films in the museum's Hooker Furniture Theater. VMNH staff and volunteers also will be on hand to explain the work being conducted in the Museum's Elster Foundation Vertebrate Paleontology Lab. Specimens on display at the festival include an Allosaurus skeleton, a skeleton of a 14-million-year-old baleen whale; Eobalaenoptera, suspended from a towering 40-foot ceiling; an animatronic model of a Triceratops; a display of a Syntarsus dinosaur with its prey; a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull; and a recreated Phytosaurus. Dinosaur bones and other fossils collected at VMNH research sites around the world can also be seen. Admission is $9 for adults; $7 for senior citizens and college students; $5 for children and youth 3 to 18; members and children under 3 receive free admission.For more information about the Dino Day festival, visit the museum's Web site at www.vmnh.net or call (276) 634-4141. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/123 SCI-KIDS: We All Can be Champions of Marine Conservation http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/123 Tuesday, 23 December 2008 12:00:00 EST Aristotle, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Charles Darwin, John Steinbeck, the Showa Emperor and Sylvia Earle. What did these famous people share? Tuesday, 23 December 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Richmond Times- DispatchBy: JUDITH E. WINSTON SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT | Times-Dispatch Published: December 23, 2008Aristotle, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Charles Darwin, John Steinbeck, the Showa Emperor and Sylvia Earle. What did these famous people share?At one time or another, they all shared the same research laboratory. This laboratory is so big that even had they all been working in it at the same time, there would have been plenty of room. The laboratory they shared is the ocean. All of them, at one time in their lives, were marine biologists.Marine biology is the study of living organisms in the ocean, seas and estuaries (brackish water). It is a field almost as vast as the ocean itself. It covers every type of biology from ecology to taxonomy to molecular genetics, providing the research involves a marine plant or animal.Aristotle, the ancient Greek "Father of Natural History," described more than 60 kinds of fish and marine invertebrate animals.Jacques Cousteau, one of the inventors of scuba diving, also made films that popularized marine biology and conservation worldwide.Charles Darwin presented his first scientific paper at an Edinburgh student natural history society, on his study of the larvae of the bryozoan Flustra (a microscopic colonial invertebrate).The writer John Steinbeck collected marine animals with his friend marine biologist Ed Ricketts on a joint expedition to Baja California. Steinbeck later described his journey in a book, "The Log from the Sea of Cortez."The Japanese Emperor Hirohito was a marine taxonomist, as well as a ruler. He published scientific papers on a group of colonial marine invertebrates called hydroids.Sylvia Earle, perhaps best-known for setting deep-diving records, has studied seaweeds, as well as dolphins and whales. She also has been chief scientist of NOAA. In 1995, Earle published a fascinating autobiography, "Sea Change, a Message of the Oceans."Our planet is 70 percent covered by ocean water. As Earle makes clear in her book, how we treat this part of our heritage, now and in the future, will have an enormous impact on our species and the planet.Maybe we all can't become marine biologists, but we can be champions of marine conservation. And if you do decide to study marine life as a career, there's still lots of room in the lab. So come on in -- the water's fine!Virginia science Standards of Learning: 3.6; 5.6. Virginia history and social science Standards of Learning: CE.12. Judith E. Winston is curator of marine biology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/122 VMNH: Cuts Covered- Earlier Steps will Absorb Latest Loss http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/122 Sunday, 21 December 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History faces a fiscal 2010 budget that is nearly $100,000 less than the current year's under funding cuts proposed Wednesday by Gov. Tim Kaine. Sunday, 21 December 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, December 21, 2008By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -The Virginia Museum of Natural History faces a fiscal 2010 budget that is nearly $100,000 less than the current year's under funding cuts proposed Wednesday by Gov. Tim Kaine.However, cost savings from layoffs, reduced hours and other measures the museum implemented in response to October budget reductions should be enough to absorb the additional cuts, museum Executive Director Tim Gette said."We took a pretty large hit earlier in the year," he said Friday. "We had anticipated these cuts, and fortunately the reductions we made earlier in the year were enough."Kaine's proposal places the museum's budget for fiscal 2010, which will start in July 2009, at $2,661,503. The current year budget, or fiscal 2009, stands at $2,756,535 after the reduction two months ago.This reflects a total cumulative budget reduction of $479,559 over the 2008-10 biennium, according to the governor's budget proposal.In October, Kaine ordered the museum to reduce its budget by 10 percent, or $314,106. In response, four employees - a curator, receptionist, graphic artist and facilities supervisor - were laid off immediately, and a fifth unfilled position was eliminated."You always hate to lose budget money or staff, but unfortunately in economic times like this, it was the only way we could do it," Gette said. "I don't think the governor had any choice."Other cost savings were realized by closing the museum Sundays and Mondays and on all state holidays. Previously, it was open nearly every day, closing only for Christmas and Thanksgiving.Starting in January and continuing through the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2009, staff will be on furlough one day a week.The museum became closed to the public on Mondays, but staff continued to work that day, "using Mondays as a day to continue our move process" from the former museum building on Douglas Avenue, Gette said."We're trying to mothball Douglas as best as we can, to save on utilities and things like that," which "was part of our savings plan," he added.Phone service to the Research and Collections Center on Douglas Avenue was eliminated in October. That building, where the museum formerly was housed, now is used to store museum collections.Also, cell phone service was discontinued, and discretionary spending on supplies, travel, training, repairs and equipment was cut unless absolutely necessary. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/121 Perriello: No More Blank Checks- U.S. Should Learn From Crisis, Bailouts http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/121 Thursday, 11 December 2008 12:00:00 EST The United States should use the economic crisis to figure out ways to ensure a similar crisis does not occur in the future, once this one is over, according to 5th District Congressman-elect Tom Perriello. Thursday, 11 December 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, December 11, 2008 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe United States should use the economic crisis to figure out ways to ensure a similar crisis does not occur in the future, once this one is over, according to 5th District Congressman-elect Tom Perriello.A lot of problem-solving is necessary, Perriello told the Fieldale-Collinsville Rotary Club on Wednesday.That includes finding ways to prevent more industries from having to seek bailouts from the federal government, he indicated."We can't keep doing blank-check bailouts," Perriello said, mentioning he thinks that is much the same as rewarding companies "for bad behavior."?But while he is opposed to bailouts, he was glad to see Congress take more time to negotiate a proposed $14 billion automobile industry bailout package than it did to develop the recent $700 billion bailout for the financial sector.Taking a few weeks to consider the auto industry bailout helped lawmakers prepare a better plan, said Perriello, a Democrat from Albemarle County."We saw the sky didn't fall down," he said, indicating that a bailout was not needed immediately to keep automobile makers from going out of business.Following the Nov. 4 election, the Virginia State Board of Elections certified Perriello as the winner of the 5th District congressional race by 745 votes over six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode Jr., R-Rocky Mount.Goode has formally requested a recount, which is scheduled for Tuesday.About 315,000 votes will have to be retabulated. Then the results will be sent to a three-judge panel in Albemarle for certification the following day, said Jessica Barba, communications director for Perriello's campaign.However, Perriello already is in the process of setting up his Washington office, and he is scheduled to be sworn into office Jan. 6.He plans to immediately get to work with other lawmakers on preparing an economic recovery plan requested by President-elect Barack Obama.Obama will be administered his oath of office Jan. 20. He wants that plan to be on his desk in the Oval Office the following day, Perriello said.But in the meantime, he said, "the economy is horrible, and it's probably going to get worse" before it gets better.Whatever recovery plan is presented to Obama, Perriello said he wants it to include relief aimed at small rural localities such as Henry County-Martinsville.Perriello, who frequently visited the area during his campaign, said helping the area recover will remain "a top priority for me" as a congressman."This community has been hit harder than most" by economic problems, he pointed out.He wants the recovery plan to put money into the hands of consumers and investors, as well as provide more credit to small businesses, he said."This is not a time to be raising taxes on anyone," he emphasized.Perriello said he will push for funding for work force development efforts and construction of Interstate 73. Economic developers have said the interstate, which is to run through Henry County, would help the area lure companies that would produce new jobs.The Fieldale-Collinsville Rotary Club was the first Rotary club that Perriello visited as a candidate. He said his visit to the club Wednesday was his first Rotary club visit as the 5th District's presumed new congressman.Also during his visit to the area Wednesday, Perriello toured the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/120 Ideas Shared at Meeting on Public Bus http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/120 Tuesday, 09 December 2008 12:00:00 EST People looked over a proposed bus route and shared suggestions for additional stops Monday night at a public information meeting about the transportation service that will launch in Henry County and Martinsville next month. Tuesday, 09 December 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, December 9, 2008By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterPeople looked over a proposed bus route and shared suggestions for additional stops Monday night at a public information meeting about the transportation service that will launch in Henry County and Martinsville next month.When the Piedmont Area Regional Transit (PART) system starts in January, people will be able to travel to a number of high-traffic locations for a $1 fare. Children under 6 will ride for free.The 14-passenger bus, which will be accessible to disabled people and others, will run two routes in a loop through the county and city from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.Representatives from the county, city, state and RADAR of Roanoke, the nonprofit organization that will manage the public transportation system, answered questions and sought feedback from attendees Monday night. Comments will be taken into consideration when officials finalize the bus route in the coming weeks.Henry County Planning Director Lee Clark said most of the questions he had heard Monday night dealt with the bus schedule and deviations from the route."We've had a few requests for service that's well outside the proposed routes," Clark said, adding that funding is the main barrier to adding more service."This is meant to serve the citizens. ... It's a quality of life service for folks, so if we can come up with the funding, we'll do it," he said.Assistant City Manager Leon Towarnicki said there "seems to be some interest in a pass system" that could be used for multiple rides, instead of paying the $1 in exact change every time riders board the bus.The idea will be investigated, Towarnicki said.One suggestion came from Dick Ephgrave, representing the Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County board of directors, who requested that the bus service add a stop at the Grace Network food pantry on Commonwealth Boulevard."We think a lot of our clients would certainly be able to take advantage of that bus route," Ephgrave said, adding that the organization will start surveying clients right away to gauge their interest and submit the results to Clark.However, he said he was confident the route alteration would help many of the roughly 91 people Grace Network serves every day. People who use a food pantry cannot afford cars, he said."There's a lot of need in the community," Ephgrave said. "Especially with the Adult Day Care right next door, this would be a good decision."The current proposed bus route travels from Hooker Street to Commonwealth Boulevard, bypassing the block near Hooker Field where the food pantry is located. Ephgrave's suggestion would have the bus go up Chatham Road and turn onto Commonwealth at Hooker Field instead."I drove it in under four minutes," Ephgrave said of the detour.Henry County Supervisor Paula Burnette of the Iriswood District suggested, "If they're going to do that for Grace Network, we need to look at the Community Storehouse on Cleveland Avenue."Burnette said a public transportation system "has been requested for a long time," and once more people learn about it, "I'm expecting the response to be really positive."City council members also attended the session."We need mass transit," said council member Danny Turner. "This will be an opportunity for people in the community who cannot drive."Jeannie Frisco came to the information session representing Activate Martinsville-Henry County to encourage officials to provide a place on the bus to secure bicycles.Curtis Andrews, RADAR executive director, said it should be "pretty feasible" to install a bike rack on the front of the bus.Andrews said overall he heard "very positive feedback" Monday."The problem is, we have one bus and a fairly large area to cover, and everyone wants it to stop at their door," Andrews said. "Hopefully, down the road we can expand the program."Designated stops will be made four times daily under the proposed route and will target major retail areas, industrial parks, college campuses, medical practices and governmental offices.People certified under the Americans with Disabilities Act will be able to request that the bus deviate from the route within three-quarters of a mile to make pickups or dropoffs when it does not hinder the bus' regular schedule, officials said.Angie Feazelle of the organization dis-Abilities Unlimited said she thought the three-quarter mile deviation will help those with disabilities. However, Feazelle said she would extend part of the route."The main thing I don't like (about the route) is that it doesn't go far enough down Starling Avenue," Feazelle said.Otherwise, she said, "I really like it. I hope and pray it'll be a huge success and that we'll quickly get another (bus)."Samantha Griffith, independent living coordinator with the Henry County-Martinsville Department of Social Services, said DSS is "excited about this."Â�Having a local bus service would mean foster youth older than 18 could be placed out of foster homes and get experience living independently. Youth can stay in foster care until age 21, Griffith said."We want to give them the skills they need to live on their own, and transportation is a huge barrier," Griffith said.(Don't know if you want to include details on the stops... This info also ran in the advance story and the one Thanksgiving Day:)The planned route starts and ends at Walmart. Proposed stops in Henry County include StarTek, the Dutch Inn, Collinsville Shopping Center, the YMCA, Walgreens, the Henry County Administration Building and Courthouse, Hanes/Sara Lee, Hollie Drive, Patrick Henry Community College, Liberty Fair Mall and the Social Security office.The proposed Martinsville route includes National College, Womack Electronics, the municipal building and Henry-Martinsville Social Services, Blue Ridge Regional Library, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Spruce Village, Carilion Medical Center, Food Lion on Brookdale Street, Virginia Employment Commission, Memorial Hospital, Liberty Fair Mall and the Social Security office. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/119 Council Lists Priorities for Assembly and Congress http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/119 Wednesday, 26 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Martinsville City Council endorsed staff recommendations for the city's legislative agenda, including one on restructuring local governments, during its meeting Tuesday night.  Wednesday, 26 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, November 26, 2008 By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer Martinsville City Council endorsed staff recommendations for the city's legislative agenda, including one on restructuring local governments, during its meeting Tuesday night.The city listed its priorities for the 2009 General Assembly session and Congress, many of which deal with budget issues.Council members first discussed the city's draft agenda at a joint meeting with the city school board Monday night. During the meeting, city attorney Eric Monday suggested the council be more conservative in its requests to the state legislature because of the tight budget.The council's revised plan requests a state commission be appointed to look at restructuring local governments in Virginia. This does not necessarily mean lifting the 1986 moratorium on annexation by cities, Monday said, but the commission would examine local governments in other states for potential use in Virginia."The state has to find a way for cities to expand their revenue base without incurring the enmity of counties," Monday said.The agenda also requests additional funds to accommodate the Henry-Martinsville Social Services department, whose current building has been plagued by space and maintenance issues.The council also asks the commonwealth to fully fund its obligations to constitutional officers and 599 funds, which support police departments, and to leave fire and rescue squad assistance funding intact.State priorities for transportation include urging the Commonwealth Transportation Board to reach a final conclusion on the I-73 corridor. In the short term, the legislature is urged to upgrade portions of U.S. 220 that would overlaying I-73 to interstate standards and continue to prioritize U.S. 58 improvements. The agenda for Congress also lists these priorities.On the state agenda, the council endorses rapid development of the Trans-Dominion Express passenger train service, a corridor that would connect cities in Virginia. The agenda requests that this service include a route from Lynchburg to Danville.Council's plan also encourages the state to enact a long-term capital funding formula for future transportation needs.Under education, the council endorsed the agenda proposed by Martinsville City Schools on Monday and expressed support for the education priorities adopted by Henry County. Monday said county and city priorities are similar.The council plan opposes enacting unfunded mandates by the state and expresses continued support for funding the New College Institute. If there must be funding cuts, the council requests that these be minimal because the college is in "a critical stage of growth and development," Monday said.The list also asks the state to maintain current funding levels for economic development incentives and the Virginia Museum of Natural History; support development of a multiuse trail across southern Virginia; enhance localities' authority to address blighted properties; and include Mayo River State Park on the state's list for future capital funding.The agenda for Congress includes inviting 5th District Congressman-elect Tom Perriello to locate a district office in Martinsville.Under transportation, the federal agenda opposes any changes in the Amtrak Crescent service, which runs from New Orleans to New York and is the only route that comes near Martinsville. The closest station is in Danville, but there has been discussion of moving the route further east, Monday said.The council also prioritized encouraging Amtrak to provide motorcoach transfer service between Danville and Martinsville.Other federal priorities listed by the council were: request $3.72 million to redevelop brownfields extending from the former Sara Lee site along Aaron Street to Rives Road; request $6.25 million for elimination and redevelopment of blighted areas in the city; request special federal incentives for businesses locating in regions, such as Martinsville, that have experienced job losses greater than 5 percent; and extend high-speed broadband service throughout southern Virginia, especially to rural areas. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/118 Center May Bring Visitors to Caroline http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/118 Monday, 24 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Hoping to teach Interstate 95 travelers that there's more to do in Caroline County than stopping briefly for gas, officials Saturday opened their new visitors center. Monday, 24 November 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Fredericksburg.comDate published: 11/24/2008BY CHELYEN DAVISHoping to teach Interstate 95 travelers that there's more to do in Caroline County than stopping briefly for gas, officials Saturday opened their new visitors center.Those venturing past the truck stops to the $2.6 million center, located at busy Exit 104, will learn that Caroline is the birthplace of famous racehorse Secretariat, the location where a prehistoric whale skeleton was found, the new home of the Virginia State Fair, and the place where John Wilkes Booth was killed."This is going to be a great asset to Caroline," said Floyd Thomas, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. "We're right on the busiest interstate in America. If you really didn't know, we're just a gas stop. We're trying to make Caroline more of a destination."The visitors center was nine years in the planning and building, as the county sought private sponsorships and slowly amassed the money to pay for the 7,000-square-foot building, which also houses the county's Department of Economic Development and Tourism.No tax money went into the project; it was funded entirely by grants, gifts and donations."This center is the physical address that gets people to Caroline and sends them to the right direction, the right event," said county Economic Development Director Gary Wilson.A highlight of the center is the replica--hanging in front of tall windows that face the road--of the skeleton of a Miocene-era whale discovered in 1991 at the Martin Marietta Quarry in Caroline.The whale lived 14 million years ago, when Caroline County was covered by the Atlantic Ocean.The display also includes a board of information about the whale and prehistory in Caroline, as well as some other fossils from the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Those fossils include the jawbone of a young horse, probably about the size of a large dog, that also lived about 14 million years ago and probably washed out to sea when it died.The center also has brochures, maps and interactive displays to tell visitors about attractions in Caroline and elsewhere in Virginia.Signs will soon go up on the interstate to direct travelers to the center.Chelyen Davis: 804/782-9362Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/116 Virginia Museum of Natural History Names Curator Emeritus http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/116 Tuesday, 18 November 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has named retired curator Lauck "Buck" Ward as its first curator emeritus. Tuesday, 18 November 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Roanoke TimesMARTINSVILLE -- The Virginia Museum of Natural History has named retired curator Lauck "Buck" Ward as its first curator emeritus.Ward had served as curator of invertebrate paleontology at the museum for 19 years before he recently retired. The museum announced his appointment Monday.Executive Director Tim Gette said he hopes the museum can attract other retired scientists from other museums and universities to continue their work at the Martinsville facility as curator emeritus.Ward joined the museum in 1989 and previously held positions with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maryland Academy of Sciences and the Virginia Department of Agriculture.-- Associated Press http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/117 Museum Names First Curator Emeritus- VMNH Taps Buck Ward http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/117 Tuesday, 18 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Tuesday, 18 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, November 18, 2008The Virginia Museum of Natural History has named retired curator Lauck "Buck" Ward as its first curator emeritus.Ward served as curator of invertebrate paleontology at the museum for 19 years before he recently retired. He also has been the director of the VMNH paleontological field trips and is a cenozoic mollusk specialist, according to the VMNH Web site.The museum announced his new appointment Monday.The curator emeritus positions are non-salaried appointments that recognize the important contributions to the Virginia Museum of Natural History that have been made by curators who have rendered many years of service before retirement, according to the VMNH Web site.Curator emeritus appointees continue their contributions to VMNH and their academic disciplines through service to the scientific and museum community. Criteria for appointment as curator emeritus include evidence of leadership in or service to the institution, community and professional discipline, along with evidence of involvement in professional organizations and scholarship, the Web site states.Curator emeritus appointments are awarded by the museum's board of trustees upon the recommendation of the museum's executive director.Executive Director Tim Gette said he hopes the museum can attract other retired scientists from other museums and universities to continue their work at the Martinsville facility as curator emeriti."I am very pleased that Dr. Lauck Ward has accepted this appointment as the first curator emeritus at VMNH and will continue to be an important resource to the museum although retired," Gette said. "It is my hope that Dr. Ward is only the first curator emeritus and that VMNH can attract other retired scientists from other museums and universities to come to Martinsville and continue their research and writing at the Virginia Museum of Natural History."Ward was appointed as the museum's curator of invertebrate paleontology in 1989, having previously held positions with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maryland Academy of Science and the Virginia Department of Agriculture. He has a bachelor's degree in biology from Frederick College and a master's degree and doctorate in geology from the University of South Carolina. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/115 New Creature Soars at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/115 Friday, 14 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Friday, 14 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, November 14, 2008By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterA Pteranodon skeleton is wasting no time "diving" into its new home at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Workers from Research Casting International of Ontario, Canada, together with VMNH scientists and other staff, installed the cast of the massive creature Thursday."This is the only one on exhibit in Virginia," Dr. Alton "Butch" Dooley, paleontologist at the museum, said during the installation process.The specimen, which has a 20-foot wingspan, arrived at the museum in a Penske moving van. Wires were used to suspend the ancient flying reptile from the 40-foot ceiling of The Harvest Foundation Great Hall of the museum.It is angled to appear as though it is diving toward visitors standing on a bridge overlooking the lobby and the Great Hall.The angle "gives it the kind of look it might have had after spotting a fish in the water and then diving down to scoop it up," Dooley said of the fish-eating reptile.The newest addition joins other specimens on display in the Great Hall, including the Eobalaenoptera, which lived about 14 million years ago, and Allosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur that dates back 140 million years."I'm excited about the Pteranodon. It is the piece I thought was missing," said Tim Gette, executive director of the VMNH. "This gives us air, land and sea" representations.Visitors walking onto the bridge will be virtually face to face with the skeleton, and youngsters likely will enjoy standing on the bridge to have their pictures taken with the diving Pteranodon in the background, Gette said.The Pteranodon lived around 89 to 70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period and was one of the largest types of pterosaur - flying reptiles - with a wingspan of up to 30 feet.With toothless beaks similar to those of modern birds, the creatures were considered reptiles, but not dinosaurs. However, dinosaurs and pterosaurs may have been closely related, and most paleontologists place them together in the group Ornithodira, or "bird necks," according to a release from VMNH.The cast on display at the VMNH was constructed from skeletal remains discovered in Kansas, and some species have been found in Nebraska, Dooley said.In life, the Pteranodon likely lived near coastal regions and possibly nested near the coastline, Dooley said.Besides a massive, razor-sharp-looking beak, the Pteranodon also had three-fingered claws about halfway up each wing.The three fingers were functional and likely used for holding onto rocks and trees or when walking, Dooley said."They are thought to have walked on all fours," he said, adding that the wings themselves were considered fourth fingers.Based on jaw structure, the creature also likely had a "throat pouch" similar to that of a pelican, Dooley said. Creatures such as the pelican and albatross probably bear the closest resemblance to the Pteranodon, he added.When first discovered, the Pteranodon was considered the largest of the pterosaurs, Dooley said. With later discoveries of larger skeletons, it now is considered in the medium category.Based on the rather small stature of the bones, Dooley estimated the creature weighed "30 pounds or so."Given the massive wingspan and impressive skeleton, "it's outrageous, but it's not much more heavy than a Thanksgiving turkey," he added. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/114 Speaker Offers Energy-Saving Tips- Mountaintop Removal Mining also Discussed at Forum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/114 Monday, 10 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Helping the planet can be as simple as a trip to the hardware store. Monday, 10 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, November 10, 2008 By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer Helping the planet can be as simple as a trip to the hardware store, a speaker told attendees at the Garden Club of Virginia's 50th annual conservation forum Friday.Jeff Barrie, filmmaker of the award-winning documentary "Kilowatt Ours," shared tips for saving energy and money with about 180 people Friday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History."This could be one of the greatest energy solutions in America, and it's $12 a bucket," Barrie told the audience, holding up a small container of duct sealant.Sealing leaky ducts around a house saves energy that is wasted during heating and cooling, he said, and it is one of many simple ways people can reduce their use of coal power.It takes six tons of coal to power the average Virginia home each year, Barrie said."Imagine if every home in Virginia cut coal usage in half - we're talking millions of pounds of coal," he said.The problem of global warming is real, Barrie said, but "the solutions are just as real and tangible."Conservation is important because the mountains of Virginia and other Appalachian states literally are being destroyed to power American homes, speakers said during the forum, called "Mountaintop Removal and Coal-Fired Power: What Every Virginian Should Know."One way to conserve is swapping regular light bulbs for compact fluorescents, which use 80 percent less electricity and last much longer than incandescent bulbs, Barrie said."It's simple, and it works," he said.Some people are concerned about the mercury content of the bulbs, he said, but the amount is "tiny; enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen," whereas a new coal-fired power plant would emit 72 pounds of mercury a year.Plugging appliances into power strips and turning the strips off when not in use can save the average home 500 pounds of energy a year, Barrie said."As long as electronics are plugged into the wall, they are drawing current 24 hours a day," whether they are on or off, he said. The power strips cut off these "phantom loads," he added.One basic rule of thumb is, "When you leave a room, turn it off," he said.Other energy-saving tips are available in Barrie's film and on his Web site, www.kilowattours.org.Barrie's presentation wrapped up the forum after representatives from the Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards talked about mountaintop removal mining's harmful effects on people and the environment. They also spoke against a proposed coal-fired power plant in Wise County in southwestern Virginia.Mountaintop removal is a mining method where "instead of taking the coal out of the mountain, they take the mountain off the coal," said Mary Ann Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's mountaintop removal campaign.To extract the coal, mountains are systematically blown up, and valleys are filled in with tons of resulting spoil, including trees, rocks and plants.So far, the process has obliterated 473 mountains, including 29 in Virginia, and more than 1,000 miles of streams have been buried, Hitt said.There are a few jobs generated by mountaintop removal, but the economic benefits are short-term, she said."When the coal is gone, jobs are gone," she said, adding that the process leaves behind a polluted, decimated area that cannot attract new industry.Of Dominion's proposed power plant in Wise County, she said, "We do not need it. Through energy efficiency, we could save enough energy equivalent to 10 Wise County power plants."Mountaintop removal has affected more than 25 percent of Wise County. Hitt showed the audience satellite footage of the affected areas from the Web site www.ilovemountains.org.Three Wise County residents from the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards gave firsthand accounts of what it is like for people living near mountaintop removal sites.Kathy Selvage said she was inspired to act when a mining company "decapitated" one of the mountains in her community.Living next to such a mining site means that "dust invades your home, even though the windows are shut and locked," she said. "It's a ghastly sulfuric kind of smell ... It permeates your taste buds."Sirens, explosions and truck traffic continue 24 hours a day, "which makes for many sleepless nights," she said.Selvage said she hoped leaders would replace the "old 19th-century energy policy" with a "new, green Virginia economy with new green job opportunities from investments in wind and solar" power.Former mine inspector Larry Bush called mountaintop removal "one of the most destructive, devastating practices I've ever seen."Bush said he lives within a quarter-mile of a mine site, where "you can't even tell what color your vehicle is" and "people are held captive in their own homes" from all the dust and debris in the air."The people in these communities are suffering. We feel we've been abandoned by our legislature," he said.Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards President Pete Ramey, a retired coal miner and mine foreman and the district chaplain for the VFW, also spoke.Ramey said protecting the environment is a spiritual cause and means taking care of God's creation."What is done to the environment affects us all," he said. "The resources on Earth are here for us to use, but they are being misused."Karen Jones of the Martinsville Garden Club, who co-chaired the forum, said she was "thrilled" with the event's attendance."I love the fact that we ended with some very practical information that we can use to save kilowatt hours as well as money," Jones said. "The museum did a beautiful job."The event ended with the presentation of two Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale Awards for Conservation, given to Robert G. Burnley of Richmond and Stan Breakell of Roanoke. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/113 A Monkey's Uncle http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/113 Thursday, 06 November 2008 12:00:00 EST It always surprises me that Rick Howell is so concerned about global warming. Last week, in his Liberal Agenda he listed this as one of the serious challenges we face. Thursday, 06 November 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Bedford BulletinBy John Barnhart It always surprises me that Rick Howell is so concerned about global warming. Last week, in his Liberal Agenda he listed this as one of the serious challenges we face. Mr. Howell is a good evolutionist who believes he's a monkey's uncle, many times removed, of course. I've noticed, from some summertime editions of his column, that his reading goes beyond English translations of the works of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles. Therefore, I think its safe to assume that he's read, at the very least, articles in general interest newspapers and magazines, some things about paleontology and geology. The things that he's read should tell him that the earth's climate has changed many times and human activity had nothing to do with these. Go back 20,000 years, for example, and much of North America was covered by continental glaciers. They came as far south as what today are the northern tier of states in the U. S. Big hairy elephants roamed Virginia. Mastodon skeletal remains have been found in various places at sundry times in the Commonwealth. Thomas Jefferson, aware of these, wondered if the Lewis and Clark expedition might find some still living during their exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Humans had nothing to do with the global warming that melted the glaciers. Some think that they may have had a hand in the demise of the big hairy elephants and other Ice Age megafauna, we may have eaten them faster than they could reproduce, but the climate change was totally natural. Go back 100 million years or so and just about everything was different. The mountains would have been different. Virtually all the animals roaming about no longer exist. Large areas of the middle of the continent were covered by a sea and the climate was quite different. That is all long gone and humans had nothing to do with that climate change. We hadn't been invented yet. Go back far enough and there would have been nothing in this area that any of us would even remotely recognize. Does Mr. Howell remember the stromatolite found in the Boxley Quarry last summer? Stromatolites are formed by mats of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria. These microbes have chlorophyll and produce oxygen via as a byproduct of photosynthesis. They also secrete carbonate minerals which, mixed with any sediment that gets mixed up with the bacterial mat, form layers of stone. Living stromatolites are not common today. They are only found in places that creatures that would eat them find inhospitable. This includes tidal flats and highly saline environments. Paleontologists and geologists from the Virginia Museum of Natural History say that the area where the quarry is was a tidal flat 500 million years ago when that stromatolite was growing. The shore would have been to the west. Deep ocean water, not mountains, would have been to the east. They also said that the tidal flat could have been 10 miles wide. Tides would have been pretty dramatic because the moon was much, much closer to the earth then. Even the night sky would have been unlike anything we see today,with an enormous moon rising over the eastern horizon. A true believer in evolution, like Mr. Howell, shouldn't be concerned about climate change. From his evolutionary point of view, the climate has changed in the past and will change in the future. Seriously thinking that we can prevent that from happening is just hubris. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/112 Visiting Not So Lost Worlds http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/112 Friday, 31 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Visitors entering the Great Hall get greetings from Allosaurus Rex. Friday, 31 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Newsadvance.comBy: SUSAN PUGH | New Era Progress Published: October 31, 2008Visitors entering the Great Hall get greetings from Allosaurus Rex.A. Rex - or at least the cast of the dinosaur's 160-million-year-old skeleton - stands at the entrance to the Great Hall of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, a 25-foot long presence.With a head that seems all jaw studded with pointy teeth and a somewhat T-Rex-shaped body, A. Rex looks the very part of the fierce predator he (for argument's sake) would have been. But an apple-sized calcium deposit on a foot bone and another on a rib offer evidence of broken bones, which suggests A. Rex took his fair share of abuse.Behind him is a more peaceable being. It's an Eobalaenoptera, ancestor of today's blue whale. Eobalaenoptera lived 14 million years ago when much of eastern Virginia was at the bottom of a shallow sea. The whale's skeleton was found in the Carmel Church quarry in Richmond. Its cast is now suspended from the hall's 40-foot ceiling where it seems to swim endlessly through air.These creatures emerge from the millennia in a $28 million brick building with walls of windows and brushed aluminum trim. It houses the state's natural history museum - an affiliate of the Smithsonian, no less - in the heart of Martinsville.Location, locationThat the museum is in the Southside city instead of in Richmond, the state capital, has to do with a group of scholars and people who shared an interest in natural history. They founded a museum in Martinsville in 1984 and housed it an old school building. At that time, the museum was privately run by The Boaz Foundation."It blossomed out of that," says Debra Lewis, director of development.The museum's location also has to do with the late A.L. Philpott, then-speaker of the General Assembly and a native of nearby Bassett. When the museum needed public support, he sought to have it designated a state agency. That came to pass in 1988.Fast-forward two decades, and the museum has brand-new digs - 89,000-plus square feet - to allow for state-of-the-art exhibits and the proper climate control and storage for its specimens, all 22 million of them.Most specimens are used for research rather than exhibition, adding to the body of knowledge. Research is part of the museum's mission, so it also houses a research library and sponsors field research sites.Bones to pickOn one side of the Great Hall, a wall with windows gives a view into a room where specimens sit in wooden sandboxes on tables. It's the vertebrate paleontology lab."Normally, this is something that would be behind closed doors," says Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs.One box holds a skull with a long jaw shaped roughly like the prow of a ship. It's that of another baleen whale, and it, too, came from Carmel Church.On other tables are bones of nearly every description, from vertebrae as big as fists to ribs shaped like boomerangs, plus countless bone fragments.A man stands over a mass of compacted earth. Here and there, you can see a bone jutting out or impacted in the sediment. The man uses dental tools to pick away dirt, teasing artifacts from millennia-long hiding places.Not far away, there's another lab. This one's for archeology, and like its counterpart, windows let visitors see inside.At the windows, there's a display of objects found in our own backyard. Take, for instance, the projectile points, or what most of us probably and not always precisely call arrowheads, from 3,500 B.C. to 1,500 B.C. There's also a mortar and pestle, as well as pots - mundane objects of daily life thousands of years ago.SightingsAcross the Great Hall, past A. Rex and beneath Baleen, a hallway leads to some of the museum's exhibit galleries. The museum has three galleries that house eight permanent exhibits.There are exhibits about the museum's research sites around Virginia that uncover the past, piece by piece. Throughout exhibits areas, some specimens stand unprotected by Lucite; the signs say, "Please touch."Most of the exhibits' displays incorporate some form of interaction. Push a button in one, for instance, and images on a wall-sized screen will morph to show what the area around Grundy would have looked like millions of years ago. Animated ancient animals move through forests, animals whose fossils became the coal we now dig out of the ground in that area.Another display shows what Virginia would have been like during the Ice Age, when mastodons and giant ground sloths inhabited the countryside instead of cows and sheep. The footprint of a giant sloth is painted on the floor to measure your foot against.In the hall leading to the galleries, there's a theater that shows high-definition films - Discovery Channel, PBS and other shorts on science and nature. The current movie, "Wild New World: Land of Mammoths," uses digital effects to depict life 14,000 years ago when wooly mammoths, muskoxen and humans roamed North America.There's yet another area to check out, one for shows. Right now, it's "Tusks! Ice Age Mammoths and Mastodons," and it will be up until Jan. 4.It includes a cast of Dima, a wooly mammoth. The 44,000-year-old baby was found in Siberia, preserved in permafrost; Dima still has tufts of fur on his heels.Somehow, the Ice Age seems a little closer, even on a day when the temperature outside requires, at most, a jacket.Present tenseWalk out to the Great Hall, past A. Rex and Baleen and through double glass doors to the Paleo Café. There's Seattle's Best on brew and wifi service for a rapid return to 2008.If you're going WHAT: The Virginia Museum of Natural HistoryWHEN: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5:30 p.m. SundayWHERE: 21 Starling Ave., MartinsvilleADMISSION: $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and college students, $5 for children and youth. Free for children younger than 3 and members.INFO: The next show, ‘Darwin: Evidence & Evolution,' runs Feb. 7 through April 23. Call (276) 634-4141 or visit www.vmnh.net http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/111 Museum Taking Stock of Wilson Park Species http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/111 Friday, 17 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Several Virginia Museum of Natural History employees met in J. Frank Wilson Park recently to conduct an eco-survey that kicked off a park inventory project. Friday, 17 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, October 17, 2008 By KAREN THOMPSON - Bulletin Staff Writer Several Virginia Museum of Natural History employees met in J. Frank Wilson Park recently to conduct an eco-survey that kicked off a park inventory project. The VMNH has decided to make a list and collect pictures and samples of the various species in the park, according to Robin Jensen, youth education coordinator and green initiative coordinator at the museum.The museum is working with the Virginia Master Naturalist Program to inventory the species found in Frank Wilson Park, Jensen said. However, "anybody who is interested" is invited to join them, she said.The museum plans to create a brochure detailing some of the species in the park, and Jensen said officials also want to create an online database featuring pictures of samples discovered.Dr. Richard Hoffman, curator and director of the Research Department, spoke to the employees about techniques used to inventory insects. While collecting samples by hand is effective, he said, it often is slow and tedious. He discussed other methods of collecting insects that are easier and can collect more species."We're just kind of learning" about inventory, Jensen said.Two methods Hoffman suggested are light traps and pit-fall traps. In light traps, a black light is suspended above a bucket. Insects flock to the light and fall down, where they are trapped inside. Hoffman said that this type of trap is so effective, a column of insects will form around it as "thick as water."The other method, pit-falling, involves digging and placing a bucket filled with formaldehyde and antifreeze into a hole. After the trap is camouflaged, insects unsuspectingly crawl into it and become trapped. Researchers can then return to the trap and collect species. These traps can be left for days or even weeks and can collect numerous insects.Other techniques include sweeping nets in tall grass to collect species; digging under fallen logs and branches; and closely inspecting the bark of trees for insects that may live there.The group also began work on an inventory of trees. The trees in the park are first marked by a GPS unit. Their leaves and bark are studied to identify the species, said Jensen. Then, the tree's circumference and height are measured to estimate the age of the tree. Heights are estimated using a tool called a tangent height gauge and different equations.The inventory will be an on-going process, and Jensen said the museum hopes to involve members of the community and schools in the work. In addition to inventorying insects and trees, the VMNH also will list flowers, fungi and mammals that live in the park.For more information, contact the museum at 634-4141.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/108 Martinsville Police to Lose $37,610 http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/108 Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST The Martinsville Police Department will lose $37,610 under state budget cuts ordered by Gov. Tim Kaine last week, officials said Tuesday. Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, October 15, 2008By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Martinsville Police Department will lose $37,610 under state budget cuts ordered by Gov. Tim Kaine last week, officials said Tuesday.City Manager Clarence Monday announced the department will lose that amount in state-reimbursable "599" funds during Tuesday night's Martinsville City Council meeting.Monday did not say what percentage of the police department's budget that represents or what cuts might be made.Kaine's plan orders 570 layoffs statewide and numerous budget cuts to deal with a $973 million state revenue shortfall this fiscal year.It is too early to tell what effect the cuts will have on the city budget, Monday said."No decision has been made," and "staff is evaluating the total impact of the reductions," Monday said. After the numbers are crunched, staff will make recommendations to the council, he added.Other concerns from the state budget reductions include the loss of utility revenue and raises for constitutional officers, Monday said.The Virginia Museum of Natural History was ordered to reduce its budget by 10 percent, or $314,106, and eliminate five positions. To conserve money, the museum will close on Sundays and Mondays, as well as all state holidays, beginning Oct. 19.The museum is a large facility, Monday said, and because of the closings, "we know we'll lose money on utilities," but the impact to the city is still being calculated.Under Kaine's plan, raises for state employees are delayed until July 1 from Dec. 1. The city had built money into the budget to cover the raises and was anticipating getting that state revenue from Dec. 1 to the end of budget year, Monday said.However, there may be opportunities in the budget "that could offset all of that," Monday said. "You always have revenue that you did not anticipate and did not budget for."One unanticipated source of revenue is the city's portion of a class-action lawsuit, he said. The city received $51,514.44 from the Carolina Transformer Pro Rata distribution, which will go into the fund balance.Finance staff will have to weigh unanticipated revenue such as that with the state revenue shortfalls to determine the net effect for the city, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/109 Travel Log: Martinsville- What is it that makes Martinsville feel like a hometown? http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/109 Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST New to the Martinsville area? Considering staying in town for a while? Or are you just stopping by for the weekend to enjoy the race like most fans this weekend? Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: NASCAR.com New to the Martinsville area? Considering staying in town for a while? Or are you just stopping by for the weekend to enjoy the race like most fans this weekend? One way to meet new faces while in town is Martinsville's Lunch on the Run. It's designed for locals to interact and become part of that family atmosphere that so defines the quaint little town in Southern Virginia. And it's good for the heart, too. The group walk begins at 12:05 p.m. Thursday at the Uptown Trailhead on Franklin Street. It's a perfect example of how Martinsville provides opportunities not just to succeed in career and life, but to intertwine those with the folks that surround you. Martinsville's slogan is "A city without limits," and by breaking down the social fences that keep the citizens from making new friends, the city is indeed progressive in fostering a family feel. Also: March's edition of Travel Log: Martinsville Area Attractions     AttractionWeb site Bluegrass at the Rives http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?attrID=54035 de Spot http://www.despotforart.com/ Infinity Acres Alpaca Farm http://www.infinityacres.org/ Lunch on the Run http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?attrID=50538? Martinsville Historic District http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/VAmainstreet/mrt.htm Moravian Trail http://www.myhenrycounty.com/sally-burns/trek.html Patrick Henry Monument http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?attrID=48725 Smith River Trout Fishing http://www.saw.usace.army.mil/philpott/smith_river_fishing.htm Uptown Martinsville Farmers Market http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/M12415 Editor's Pick   Virginia Museum of Natural History -- It was a time when mastodons, shoveltuskers, spiraltuskers and gomphotheres all roamed North America. The Ice Age. Check out some of the fossil discoveries and research of these creatures in TUSKS!: Ice Age Mammoths and Mastodons. This special exhibit is at the Virginia Museum of Natural History until January. LaNita88 -- The Ville! Whenever I get the opportunity to go home to Martinsville, I always have a list of restaurants that I must go to! El Ranchitos (or Mi Ranchitos which is closer to the track) -- BEST Mexican food anywhere. I live in Texas and I have lived in California. I have even been to Mexico! El Ranchitos is the BEST! Their frozen margaritas are major league YUMMY too! Najjars -- awesome pizza! The steak and cheese hoagies are the bomb! That is also the second-best place to buy a Red-Eye (the bowling alley would be the best place). Friday's -- this is not T.G.I. Friday's, it is a sub place. Awesome club sandwiches! Pig-R-Us- it is all about barbecue! Some other great places: The Dixie Pig and Garfield's Chicken in a Basket. As for the Martinsville hot dog ... do not get me wrong because the hot dogs at the track are GREAT and very cheap compared to food at other tracks. The best hot dogs are at the local convenience stores around the county. My favorite is The Village Market. So if you are looking to experience the local flavor, check out one of these restaurants! grpjr -- The only limits I know of is how big of a cooler you can take in. The little six-packers just make me thirsty.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/110 2008 Archaeological Society of Virginia Annual Conference a Success for Museum, Community http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/110 Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Nearly 100 participants attended the 2008 Archaeological Society of Virginia's Annual Conference at the Virginia Wednesday, 15 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Burrellesluce.comPosted by Zachary Ryder in October 15th 2008MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Nearly 100 participants attended the 2008 Archaeological Society of Virginia's Annual Conference at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville from October 9 to 12, and left with a positive impression of both the museum and the Martinsville and Henry County community. "Many of the participants came from the urbanized northern Virginia region where they may not always be used to the hospitality that smaller areas like Martinsville offer," said Dr. Elizabeth Moore, curator of archaeology at VMNH and lead museum official for the conference. "Visitors were very complimentary on the level of service they received and the friendliness of the people at the local hotels, restaurants and the museum. The conference was a huge success for both the museum and the community." Held in conjunction with the Council of Virginia Archaeologists, the conference began on Thursday, October 9 - focusing on the first volume of the Virginia State Plan for archaeology - and continued through the weekend with a series of paper presentations, poster sessions, exhibits, a book room, an awards presentation and banquet. The society also conducted a business meeting to propose topics requiring membership approval and to elect officers and board members. A field trip to the Bassett Historical Center was also held Friday morning, as well as behind the scenes tours of the museum and its new special exhibit "TUSKS! Ice Age Mammoths & Mastodons". This year's meeting also included an announcement of the formation of the Patrick Henry chapter of the ASV that will serve the Martinsville/Henry County area. The chapter's first meeting was held in the museum's Archaeology Lab Tuesday evening. During discussions about where this year's conference would be held, organizers said the museum felt like a perfect fit. Dr. Michael Barber, state archaeologist for Virginia's Department of Historic Resources, said he believes the museum was an excellent location because of its ability to accommodate a large number of people and because of the interest level among the conference's participants. "It's wonderful to meet where professionals work," said Barber, referring to the museum's six curators who work in a variety of scientific fields, including archaeology. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/107 Deeper Cuts http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/107 Monday, 13 October 2008 12:00:00 EST The Chatham Diversion Center - known for years as Camp 15 - will soon be closed. Its employees will fill vacancies at other state prisons Monday, 13 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Burrelesluce.com By PUBLISHED BY THE EDITORIAL BOARDPublished: October 13, 2008 The Chatham Diversion Center - known for years as Camp 15 - will soon be closed. Its employees will fill vacancies at other state prisons and its inmates will be transferred to underused diversion centers around the state. At the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, a 10 percent state budget cut will hack nearly $700,000 out of the budget. The Institute will cut administrative staff and leave some positions unfilled. "... I will work diligently to ensure that this budget reduction will not impact our work here more than is necessary," said Liam Leightley, the Institute's new executive director. Want to visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville on a Sunday? To trim 10 percent from the museum's budget, Sunday and Monday hours will soon go the way of the dinosaurs. The museum will also fire employees, close on state holidays and make other reductions. As Virginia's economy slows down, the economic activity taxed by the state - employment, retail sales and home purchases - brings fewer dollars into the state's treasury. Virginia budgets two years into the future, and if spending wasn't cut, the state would end the current biennium with a $2.5 billion deficit. Since that can't happen, state agencies are cutting their budgets - some for the third time in a year. "We will continue to examine every government expenditure for performance and efficiency, but we will have to look at new ways of doing things and ask ourselves hard questions about all of our programs," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a news release. "No one would wish for a crisis like this, and as we move forward, there will be more difficult choices to make. But we should embrace the opportunity to critically evaluate how we're spending taxpayer money, and whether every program is delivering the results people deserve." A budget crisis is an opportunity to examine what the state spends money on and how the government can be more efficient. For the state employees who will lose their jobs - Kaine announced 570 layoffs last week - it's a bitter pill to swallow. Those state workers that didn't lose their jobs could see planned raises delayed if not eliminated. Once the economy improves, many of the cuts now being made will be restored. But others will be permanent, resulting in a smaller, leaner and smarter state government. "These are not easy decisions. Somewhere you have to ask yourself this question: Is this program a core service of the Commonwealth of Virginia?" Delegate Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said. "These are dire times. This is the beginning, and I don't think we've seen the end." What the state government will look like at the end is anyone's guess. But faced with making tough choices, the state government we have will rewrite the definition of what is essential government services. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/105 BREAKING NEWS; Kaine Orders Layoffs, Cuts Statewide- Virginia Museum of Natural History faces $314,000 cut http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/105 Thursday, 09 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday ordered 570 layoffs, cut college funding by at least 5 percent and postponed state employee raises from next month until next summer. Thursday, 09 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, October 9, 2008 By FROM BULLETIN AND AP REPORTS -RICHMOND - Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday ordered 570 layoffs, cut college funding by at least 5 percent and postponed state employee raises from next month until next summer.As part of the spending reduction plan to meet the fiscal 2009 shortfall, the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville was asked to cut its current budget by 10 percent, or $314,106, according to a news release from the museum.To accommodate the reduction in state funding, the museum is eliminating five staff positions and will be closed to the public on Sundays and Mondays, as well as all state holidays. The closings will begin on Sunday, Oct. 19, the release said.The museum will make other reductions as well to trim its budget.The austerity moves Kaine ordered Thursday are intended to cope with a state budget in which tax collections will be at least $2.5 billion short of previous estimates.The cuts are the deepest in at least five years and come in the midst of a worsening global economy. Kaine projected that revenues for the current fiscal year which began in July will be about $973 million short of their targets. For the fiscal year that begins next summer, the shortfall is estimated at more than $1.5 billion.To balance the current budget, Kaine will pair savings - which include the layoffs and spending cuts - with other steps, including $400 million in cash from the state's reserve fund.Check back with the Bulletin for more on this developing story. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/106 State Budget Cuts Hit Southside http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/106 Thursday, 09 October 2008 12:00:00 EST Proposed budget cuts call for a 10 percent reduction in the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research's budget Thursday, 09 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: godanriver.com By: Media General News Service | GoDanRiver.com Published: October 09, 2008 2 p.m. update: Proposed budget cuts call for a 10 percent reduction in the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research's budget along with closing the Chatham Diversion Center - costing 20 jobs. 1:30 p.m. update: The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville has been asked to cut its current budget by 10 percent. Five jobs will be lost and the museum will close on Sundays, Mondays and all state holidays. The new closings begin Oct. 19. The reduction is a part of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's spending cut plan to meet the 2009 fiscal year shortfall. A press release said the budget cut will amount to roughly $314,000. Cuts will also call on the museum to put all employees on furlough from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2009, resulting in a loss of pay for one day each week, per employee, according. Plans call for the museum to cut discretionary spending on supplies, travel, training, repairs, and equipment purchases. Cell phone service and phone service to the Research and Collections Center will be discontinued, as well as a reduction in the museum's cleaning service. Original story Virginia will lay off 570 people immediately and will leave 800 unfilled jobs vacant to make up for a budget shortfall of $2.5 billion, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced this morning. Pay raises will also be delayed to state employees, who could lose the raises altogether if economic conditions continue to worsen. Also, the governor is going to take $400 million from the state's rainy-day fund. Kaine yesterday announced he's cutting spending in his Cabinet offices by $1.4 million. The state employs 116,000 people. Their compensation costs Virginia taxpayers more than $5 billion a year. In addition to the layoffs, frozen positions and delay in pay raise, Kaine's biggest cost-reductions measures include reductions of 5 or 7 percent to colleges and universities, and restructuring Department of Corrections facilities, which would involve closing some older facilities. "I know that the layoffs associated with these cuts come at a challenging time for state employees, and I regret that they are necessary," Kaine said today. "I have instructed the Virginia Employment Commission and our Human Resources Department to help those state employees who are laid off through this difficult transition." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/103 Virginia Museum of Natural History Wins Exhibit Award http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/103 Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History's special exhibit "Wonders of the Deep: Marine Mollusks" is a 2008 winner of the Southeastern Museums Conference Exhibition Awards for best exhibit with a budget of up to $25,000. Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLSBy: Virginia Museum of Natural History News Release | WSLS 10 Published: October 08, 2008The Virginia Museum of Natural History's special exhibit "Wonders of the Deep: Marine Mollusks" is a 2008 winner of the Southeastern Museums Conference Exhibition Awards for best exhibit with a budget of up to $25,000.Exhibitions submitted to the SEMC Exhibition Competition are judged in the areas of design and fabrication, exhibit publications, educational and evaluative programs and the ability of the exhibit to support the museum's mission or goals.Displayed in the museum's Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall, the "Wonders of the Deep" exhibit details several important topics related to marine mollusks, from life cycles and fossil records to diversity. It also explains how these marine creatures have influenced cultures for centuries and gives visitors information about starting their own collection. With VMNH specimens from the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains, from Massachusetts to Mississippi, the exhibit introduces visitors to species that range from the spectacular to the microscopic."It is a great honor for the Virginia Museum of Natural History to receive this prestigious exhibits award, particularly because the exhibit was developed entirely by VMNH staff," said Timothy J. Gette, executive director of VMNH. "The collaborative development of the exhibit was led by Jessica Davenport, exhibits and publications manager, who worked with Dr. Lauck Ward, curator of invertebrate paleontology, as well as staff from the department of education and public programs."The Southeastern Museums Conference is a networking organization for museums that serves to foster professionalism, mutual support, and communication, while increasing educational and professional development opportunities and improving the interchange of ideas, information, and cooperation. The Southeastern Museums Conference includes museums in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.The "Wonders of the Deep: Marine Mollusks" exhibit is on display at the museum until June 28, 2009. The museum's other current temporary exhibition, open until January 4, 2009, is "TUSKS! Ice Age Mammoths & Mastodons", sponsored by Virginia Uranium, Inc. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/104 Va. Museum Wins Exhibit Award http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/104 Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History is being recognized for its exhibit on marine mollusks. Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:00:00 EST New Article: Burrellesluce.comAssociated Press - October 8, 2008 MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Museum of Natural History is being recognized for its exhibit on marine mollusks. The Martinsville museum says its exhibit called "Wonders of the Deep" is a 2008 winner of the Southeastern Museums Conference Exhibition Award for exhibits with a budget of up to $25,000. Exhibits from throughout the Southeast are judged in areas including design, fabrication and educational programs. The exhibit, which is on display until June, details marine mollusk life cycles and fossil records as well as explains how they have influenced cultures. Specimens in the exhibit are from the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/102 New Museum Exhibit Features Ice Age Mammoths, Mastodons http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/102 Friday, 26 September 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History's newest temporary exhibit helps visitors learn about large elephant-like animals that roamed North America. Friday, 26 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, September 26, 2008 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer The Virginia Museum of Natural History's newest temporary exhibit helps visitors learn about large elephant-like animals that roamed North America during the Ice Age. "Tusks! Ice Age Mammoths and Mastodons" will open Saturday. The exhibit features 80 fossil specimens, artifacts and replicas of extinct animals.Most of the specimens are real, but do not feel cheated that a few are not."The casts were made so accurately that they can be used for scientific research," said Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing.The exhibit focuses on the period from 15 million years ago through the end of the last Ice Age - about 10,000 years ago - when elephant-like animals known as proboscideans lived in North America.Proboscideans were large beasts named for their long, flexible trunks called proboscises. They included mastodons, shoveltuskers, gomphotheres and spiraltuskers, as well as mammoths, which date back 4 million years.All of those animals closely resemble modern elephants, but their tusks are shaped somewhat differently.Technically, modern elephants also are proboscideans, information obtained from the Internet shows.Mastodons and mammoths are thought to have lived among the earth's first human inhabitants for thousands of years, according to museum officials.Barber said to his knowledge that ancient proboscideans were much like modern elephants in that they mainly ate leaves, plants and grasses.Due to their size, they could have been dangerous to early humans if they felt threatened, he said.Specimens include bones both large and small, as well as teeth and other remains of the animals. One tooth on display, from a Columbian mammoth, dates back about 15,000 years and is roughly the size of two walnuts.The exhibit also includes information on "Ice Age Neighbors" - animals that roamed the earth at the same time as the early proboscideans. They include species of turkeys, turtles, geese, bears and deer that are alive today.There is a sand pit in which children can dig up fossils.Two televisions show videos pertaining to the exhibit, and a film about the Ice Age is being shown in the museum's theater, Barber said.A free visitor's guide to the exhibit is available."It will help you notice things you might not notice" otherwise, said Barber.He said the museum wants visitors to take their time and study exhibits in detail, not just rush through in 10 minutes or so.Also available is a teacher's guide showing how the exhibit relates to the state Standards of Learning.Barber said many school groups from the Martinsville area and beyond are scheduled to visit the museum while the exhibit is there.He expects "Tusks!" to be a major tourist draw for the museum. Based on what the museum and similar institutions have found out over the years, he said, dinosaur exhibits are the most popular but exhibits on mammoths and related animals are "the next biggest thing" that attracts visitors."Tusks!" was developed by the Florida Museum of Natural History and is on display through Jan. 4. The exhibit is sponsored by Virginia Uranium, which is helping the Virginia museum pay the $30,000 cost to bring it to Martinsville, according to Barber. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/101 Editorial: Good Words for Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/101 Sunday, 21 September 2008 12:00:00 EST State Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant had reassuring words last week on the importance of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville to Gov. Tim Kaine's priorities. Sunday, 21 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, September 21, 2008State Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant had reassuring words last week on the importance of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville to Gov. Tim Kaine's priorities.Secretary Bryant said Thursday that Gov. Kaine is pushing to improve the environment throughout the state, and the museum is "front and center" in that effort since it focuses on nature and the environment.It remains to be seen whether that will translate into smaller budget cuts for the museum. All state agencies, including the museum, are preparing plans for cutting operating costs as requested by the governor because of declining state revenues. No one can expect it to be fully spared from the budget ax.But the secretary's words must be music to the ears of VMNH officials who have fought for decades to keep the museum going and then to get its new facility built and operating. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/100 State Official: Museum Cuts to be Smal as Possible http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/100 Friday, 19 September 2008 12:00:00 EST The state is committed to making sure any budget cuts imposed on the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville are as small as possible, according to state Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant. Friday, 19 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, September 19, 2008The state is committed to making sure any budget cuts imposed on the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville are as small as possible, according to state Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant.Gov. Tim Kaine is pushing to improve the environment throughout Virginia, Bryant said while visiting the museum Thursday. The museum is "front and center" in that effort, he said, because it is the only state agency fully focused on educating Virginians about nature and the environment.As a result, "we want any impacts (of budget cuts forced on the museum) to be as minimal as possible," he said.Kaine's administration recently ordered all state agencies - including the museum - to create separate plans for cutting their operating costs by 5 percent, 10 percent and 15 percent. The move came in response to slow economic growth statewide and a decline in state tax collections.The museum will have those plans ready for the state to consider by the Sept. 26 deadline, said Executive Director Tim Gette.Gette has "taken this museum to a new level," Bryant said, mentioning its move last year from a former school building on Douglas Avenue into a new, modern building on Starling Avenue five times the size of the old location.In Southside, the museum is "one of a kind" in terms of support it has received from both lawmakers and residents, Bryant said.As a result, he thinks the state will be permanently committed to providing the museum as much funding as possible, he said.Bryant was at the museum to speak to about 165 educators from across the state who attended the Virginia Environmental Education Conference.About 70 percent of those attending told museum officials they never had visited the Henry County-Martinsville area before, and many said they aim to return to the museum and bring their families, Gette said.Ryan Barber, the museum's marketing and external affairs director, said the conference was a great opportunity for people from elsewhere to see what the community has to offer visitors."Word-of-mouth is the best advertising we can have" for both the museum and the community as tourist destinations, Gette said.Bryant addressed educators at the conference on how Kaine intends to improve Virginia's environment.Land conservation is a major focus of the governor's effort. Bryant said the state loses about 60,000 acres a year to new development and about two-thirds of that is "land we don't want to lose," such as forests."Preserving open space is important," he said, so that a growing number ofVirginians can have plenty of room for recreation. He noted that the state's population has grown from about 4 million in 1960 to about 7 million and is expected to be about 8 million by the end of this decade.Since he took office in 2006, Kaine has preserved from development about 275,000 acres, Bryant said, predicting "we will meet a 400,000-acre goal by the end of 2009." He did not elaborate.Water quality also is important to Kaine, said Bryant, adding that the state has put forth money to help localities upgrade wastewater treatment plants to reduce potentially hazardous emissions.Agricultural runoff also concerns Kaine, he said, but that is "the tough one" (problem) to fix because "cows don't work like wastewater treatment plants."Unlike at sewage plants, someone cannot merely "flip a switch" to turn on a better-designed cow, he remarked.Bryant said the state is contributing funds to help farmers develop best management practices for their farms. Those practices include installing fences to keep cows - and their waste - out of springs and developing methods of raising crops that use less tilling than traditional methods. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/99 Indian Culture Takes Center State at Fest http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/99 Sunday, 14 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Most people see the kudzu vine as an invasive pest, but Nancy Basket wants them to know it can be turned into beautiful baskets, paper and even food. Sunday, 14 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, September 14, 2008By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterMost people see the kudzu vine as an invasive pest, but Nancy Basket wants them to know it can be turned into beautiful baskets, paper and even food.Basket demonstrated how to weave dried kudzu for a variety of purposes on Friday and Saturday during the 24th annual Indian Festival. Creating art and household objects from kudzu and pine needles is part of her Cherokee heritage, she said, which teaches respect for nature and using every part of the plant."You don't have to waste a thing," said Basket, of South Carolina. "Kids need to be taught that everything in their backyards can be used."In addition to basket weaving, split kudzu vines can be used to make cloth, the blossoms can be made into jelly and the roots into soap. Basket shares some kudzu recipes on her Web site, www.nancybasket.com.This was the first year the Indian Festival offered basket weaving and pottery demonstrations, organizers said.However, the festival, sponsored by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, was the final one. It will be replaced next year with a folklife festival.The new festival is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2009, and will include NativeAmerican culture along with "lots of new things from different cultures," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for the museum."With the diversity we have in the area, we thought it would be a good opportunity to bring everybody together," he said.Carol Webb of Ridgeway was surprised to hear the news. Webb attended the Indian Festival on Saturday, holding hands with her granddaughter Neelya Webb, 6, as they browsed the Native American goods for sale."I think they deserve their own festival," said Webb, who has attended the Indian Festival off and on for several years.Carolyn Seay, museum special events and facilities rental manager, heard from some festival-goers Saturday who were "very saddened" to hear that the festival will change, she said."I explained that it's nothing to be sad about - we're still going to see Native American culture, just a smaller version of this festival" with other groups represented, she said, adding that most people were pleased with that idea.Martinsville resident Jeff Mansour and his children Sophia, 10, and Samuel, 6, had a busy day Saturday. They started at the Bassett Heritage Festival in the morning and visited the car show uptown before going to the Indian Festival."That's one of the things we like about living here: there's a lot to do," Mansour said.Samuel said his favorite part so far was "the Indian dancing." Sophia agreed, especially "the man with the hoops."The Chickahominy Tribal Dancers and others demonstrated dances from different tribes, from a hoop dance to men's and women's traditional. New this year were performances from Mexica Explendor, an Aztec dance group headed up by Geraldine Acevedo, originally from Peru, and her husband, Jose, from Mexico."Everybody's been talking about the Aztec dancers," Seay said.The Acevedos and their children were slated to do a fire dance, but they had to change their program when the festival moved from outside of Martinsville Middle School to the indoor rain location at the former Bassett-Walker plant.But the Aztec dancers had plenty of other dances to perform. On Friday, the youngest Acevedos staged a ceremonial battle in Aztec warrior regalia."(The dance) is basically a legend about two warriors who fight for the life of the people," Geraldine Acevedo explained. "One falls, and the eagle takes his soul to be free."Wearing a shiny gold cape and elaborate feathered headress, Miguel, 8, fought his brother Enrique, 9. As the sound of drums echoed through the room, swords and shields clashed until Enrique fell to the ground.Their brother Luis, 13, wearing a skull mask, danced over the fallen warrior, and then the eagle, played by 13-year-old sister Leslie, carried his soul into the sky with a boost from her father.Patrick County resident Amy Conner said her children watched the dance and "loved it." Her son Logan, 4, sported tribal face paint and carried a wooden spear taller than he was."We've just been shopping and watching the dancers," Conner said. "I think (the festival) is great."Joyce Wray, who runs Crystal Raven pottery studio in Fieldale, demonstrated traditional methods of making ceramics using clay she dug from the Smith River.The pinch pot "is one of the earliest forms of making pottery," she said.To make one, Wray pinched a small piece of clay between her fingers and thumbs and rapidly formed it into a bowl shape.Coils or slabs of clay also can be used to make pots. However, the fastest way is the modern throwing wheel, she said."The kids have been fascinated with the wheel," Wray said.Wray also showed examples of finished ceramic pieces that she fired in a pit, just like ceramics were fired in the past. The shiny black color of one pot came from the smoke, she said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/97 Indian Festival Location Moved http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/97 Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:00:00 EST The 24th annual Indian Festival will be held Friday and Saturday at Resurgence Properties, formerly Bassett-Walker, at 405 Walker Road, Martinsville. Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinThursday, September 11, 2008The 24th annual Indian Festival will be held Friday and Saturday at Resurgence Properties, formerly Bassett-Walker, at 405 Walker Road, Martinsville.Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for the Virginia Museum of Natural History, sponsor of the festival, said the site was changed due to the wet conditions of the field at the original site at the Martinsville Middle School.Friday will be student day at the festival, in which area students will learn about Indian heritage and culture.The festival will be open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.This is the last Indian Festival to be held by the museum. Next year, a folklife festival is being planned http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/98 'Round Town' http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/98 Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Roanoke Greek Festival Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLSBy: WSLS-TV STAFF REPORTS | WSLS-TV 10 Published: September 11, 2008Roanoke Greek FestivalFriday though Sunday, September 12-1411 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and SaturdayNoon to 7 p.m. on SundayFood, entertainment, raffles, and moreWSLS will also have a tent set-uphttp://www.roanokegreekfestival.com/ Virginia Museum of Natural History's 24th Annual Indian FestivalSaturday, September 13thNoon to 5 p.m.Outside Martinsville High Schoolhttp://www.vmnh.net/news.cfm?ID=103 Anherst LIVE! -- CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER!Friday, September 12th6-9:30 p.m.Downtown AmherstDeer Creek Boys! will be playingAdults: $4, Children 11 and under: $1 Movies at LongwoodLongwood Park in SalemSaturday night"The Wizard of Oz" will be playingMovie starts at darkFree admission Frog's Dream RideRun for Roger "Frog" Legg who has Cerebral PalsyHis dream was to ride on a Harley Davidson with other bikers on a runPlan is to help Roger experience itSaturday, September 13thStarts at Colonial Downs in Vinton (rear parking lot)Ends back at Colonial Downs for a cook-out at 1 p.m.Free food and drinksFor more information: Rocky Lowe (434) 941-9200 or Billy Powell (540) 528-4122 Former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler performs at Roanoke CollegeSaturday, September 13th8 p.m.Tickets: $23 in advance, $30 at the door(540) 378-5125 or online at www.roanoke.edu/tickets http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/95 Water Moccain Suspected Near City's Late Lanier http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/95 Sunday, 07 September 2008 12:00:00 EST People living near Lake Lanier in Martinsville should be aware that an aggressive water moccasin may be on the prowl in their neighborhood. Sunday, 07 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, September 7, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterPeople living near Lake Lanier in Martinsville should be aware that an aggressive water moccasin may be on the prowl in their neighborhood.Local resident Travis Keith was driving along Root Trail on Saturday when he saw what he thought was a large stick in the road, but then he realized it was a snake. It moved into the grass, and he ran over it a couple of times with his truck before it slithered into a rocky, brushy area near the lake, he said.Keith said he first thought the snake was a copperhead, but "a copperhead would have scurried away" from the truck.He believes it was a water moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth. Water moccasins are poisonous.This snake, which Keith described as being about 3 1/2 feet long, dark-colored with stripes, struck four times at the truck's tires, he said.The water moccasin's head "was twice as big as (the diameter of) its body," he said, noting the size of its head was comparable to the size of the hand of a 6- or 7-year-old boy.And, it gave off a pungent odor after the truck ran over it, he said.According to information obtained from the Internet, a moccasin can emit a pungent secretion from anal glands at the base of its tail if it is agitated.Keith said he is sure what he encountered Saturday was a water moccasin. He said he is familiar with moccasins because was he stationed in the military in South Carolina, where they are common, and he is an outdoors enthusiast.He said he has seen a few moccasins in Henry County "but I never thought I would see one in the city."In a Martinsville Bulletin article June 1, Richard Hoffman, director of research and collections at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and a snake expert, said there are no cottonmouths in the area to his knowledge.The article also quoted Mark Duncan of Ridgeway, who said he was bitten by a cottonmouth near his home in April.The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Web site says the eastern cottonmouth, a large venomous semi-aquatic snake, never has been found north or west of Colonial Heights.However, the site states, "The nonvenomous northern water snake is often mistaken for the cottonmouth, but it has crossbands that are not wider at the ends, no vertical pupil, no pit on the face. The northern water snake can be identified by observing that the crossbands near the head of the snake do not widen at the ends. Also, when swimming, most of its body is below the water and only the head shows when motionless, unlike the cottonmouth, which swims with the entire body on the surface of the water." It is found throughout the state, according to the Web site.No matter what kind of snake it was, Keith said he wants people, especially near Lake Lanier, to know that aggressive snakes exist locally so they can protect their children from them.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/96 Before European Influence- Pre-Columbian and Aboriginal Art Come to PAA http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/96 Sunday, 07 September 2008 12:00:00 EST The exhibit "Animal Human Spirit: Images of Original Cultures" at Piedmont Arts Association (PAA) shows a taste of life in the Americas. Sunday, 07 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, September 7, 2008 By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor The exhibit "Animal Human Spirit: Images of Original Cultures" at Piedmont Arts Association (PAA) shows a taste of life in the Americas before European intervention changed the cultures.The exhibit features pottery and other works from the University of Virginia's Art Museum's Pre-Columbian collection. That collection includes works from a range of Pre-Columbian cultures, including the Maya, the Viscus culture of Peru and those of Western Mexico.The Pre-Columbian era incorporates the historical periods of North America, Mesoamerica and South America, before significant contact with the Europeans occurred in the 15th century. The era is named for Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, who first brought Europeans to the Americas.A collection of Aztec heads figurines from the Robertson Collection at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is included, as well as aboriginal art from Australia."If you take artifacts from indigenous cultures that predate contact with European colonists, you start to see similar design elements and themes," said Tina Sell, PAA director of exhibitions. "Contemporary works from cultures outside of European" influences, such as aborigines from Australia, have similar design elements as those from hundreds or even thousands of years ago from the Americas.That contemporary work is shown in "Dreaming of the Stone Country," eight paintings by Kunwinjku artists from the Northern Territory of Australia, now on loan from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection to PAA. The paintings depict ancestral stories from Western Arnhem Land.Commissioned by John Kluge in 1991, the paintings were made using natural ochres and pigments on archival paper. This style of painting resembles rock art that was produced in the region and dates back thousands of years."It is rare to see these images in the Western world," Sell said. Their basic design elements "date back to the origins of culture."Similar elements between the Pre-Columbian and the contemporary aboriginal works include ducks and armadillos, Sell pointed out. The effigies (sculptures and vessels) and paintings, old and new, "draw their images from their spiritual beliefs and everyday practices."The art "is really telling a cultural story," she said. It tells us about the identity of a culture, what the people did, its origin and what they believe happens to people after death.The Pre-Columbian collection includes necklaces from 600 A.D. The hand-created beads have been protected through the years.Most of the pieces are more than 1,000 years old. A human head effigy jar from Guatemala, for example, dates back to 600 B.C. to A.D. 250.There are figurines, dishes, a vase, jars, a whistle, a pot and an urn. A couple of items that look like clay statues probably doubled as musical instruments. They have holes in them, which may give them a function similar to a flute, but they also make rattling sounds when shaken."This was considered a high-security exhibit, and we were extremely fortunate to get it from U.Va." (the University of Virginia), Sell said. The items "were unpacked ... and immediately secured."The exhibit is intended "to present a diversity of the type of exhibits we are showing," Sell said."Animal Human Spirit: Images of Original Cultures" and "Dreaming of the Stone Country" will be on exhibit through Oct. 25 at Piedmont Arts, 215 Starling Ave., Martinsville. Admission is free. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/94 Budget Cuts Loom http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/94 Wednesday, 03 September 2008 12:00:00 EST The New College Institute and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville are bracing for possible state budget cuts. Wednesday, 03 September 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, September 3, 2008By BULLETIN, AP REPORTS -The New College Institute and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville are bracing for possible state budget cuts.Gov. Tim Kaine's administration on Tuesday ordered heads of state agencies to prepare separate blueprints for cutting their operating costs by 5 percent, 10 percent and 15 percent.The order was in response to a decline in state tax collections and steadily slowing economic growth in the state.Barry Dorsey, executive director of the institute, said Tuesday night that he had not yet received the order and was not aware that it was coming.Dorsey said he was aware that state budget cuts are possible. However, he said he understood from state officials that "their intent was to preserve the integrity of higher education institutions as much as possible."Therefore, he does not yet know if the institute will be affected, he said.The museum already knew the order might be coming and had prepared plans for reducing its spending by those percentages, according to Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs.Barber said the plans involve matters such as reducing the museum's use of energy and phone service. He added that departments were asked to look at other possible savings they might achieve, such as in buying supplies.Reached Tuesday night on his cell phone, Barber said he did not immediately have access to the plans.Tim Gette, executive director of the museum, could not be reached for comment.The mandated reductions represent the third round of state spending cuts imposed since last October.The administration warned in July that major sources of state revenue, including income and sales taxes, were not meeting projections on which the state budget is based.Tuesday's memo from Kaine's chief of staff, Wayne Turnage, was the first indication of how deep they might be once the full extent of the shortfall is known by the first week of October.On July 16, Kaine ordered most hiring frozen and an end to discretionary spending after alarming preliminary revenue figures for the fiscal year that had ended barely two weeks earlier.Out of a total general fund budget of $17.2 billion for the 12 months that ended June 30, the state finished with just $5.4 million to spare - a cushion of just a fraction of 1 percent.Continued discouraging results, Turnage wrote, "suggest even more strongly that we will not reach the revenue collections needed to support the current level of appropriation in fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2010."Over the past four months, sales tax collections have grown by only 0.8 percent, far short of the 4.9 percent growth forecast on which the two-month-old current budget is based.State income taxes withheld from paychecks have grown over that time by 1.6 percent, just one-fourth of the forecast rate of 6.4 percent growth. Income taxes account for nearly three-fifths of the state's total general fund, which supports such core services as public education, public safety and health services. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/93 Burton Makes Stop at Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/93 Wednesday, 27 August 2008 12:00:00 EST Turns out Martinsville Speedway isn't the oldest track in the area, not when the Virginia Museum of Natural History has dinosaur footprints on display. Wednesday, 27 August 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Wednesday, August 27, 2008 By JOHNNY BUCK - Bulletin Sports Editor Turns out Martinsville Speedway isn't the oldest track in the area - not when the Virginia Museum of Natural History has dinosaur footprints on display. NASCAR driver Jeff Burton learned that detail Tuesday while getting a tour of the museum. He was in town to promote the Oct. 19 TUMS QuickPak 500, a Sprint Cup race at the historic half-mile speedway where he kindled an interest in racing as a child. "It's really cool to come here to race. As a kid, I came here to watch cars race and became fascinated with racing because of that," said Burton, a South Boston native. "I think it's important to not only showcase the local race track, but to showcase what else is going on locally. And this (the museum) is something that's exciting. This is something that people need to know about and that people would want to come to." Burton got a tour of the facility from the museum's earth sciences curator, Jim Beard. Burton learned that 14,000 years ago, musk ox and sloths once roamed the part of Virginia where he grew up. "Bet you didn't know we had these in South Boston," he quipped to a reporter. He also discovered that the red clay that serves as a racing surface on so many area dirt-tracks was formed when iron-bearing minerals, often found in granite, weathered and broke down. "The stuff of legend," he said of the dirt - not his own career. Burton did talk about his career Tuesday afternoon, however, focusing primarily on the 2008 season. He currently ranks fifth in the points standings with just two races remaining before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is finalized. Martinsville is the sixth race in the 10-race Chase. "To be able to come race at Martinsville and be at a Chase race, that's a really cool deal," he said. "Because honestly, if you really think about the history of racing, this is what racing's all about. (It's) short-track racing, a lot of action, and you're going to be doing it with people racing for millions of dollars. And more importantly, they're racing for that cup." Speedway President Clay Campbell said Martinsville's continued inclusion in the Chase makes sense. "I think if you took the short track out, then you've got just superspeedways and the intermediate tracks," he said. "I think to really get a true champion - somebody that's good on all different tracks other than road courses - you about have to have a short track in there." Many drivers fortunate enough to make NASCAR's version of the playoffs will be chasing more than the Cup, however. They'll also be pursuing Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, two drivers with a combined 13 wins between them. Under the current points system, all 12 Chase drivers will have their points totals set to 5,000 at the start of the Chase. In addition, each driver will receive 10 bonus points for every race won during the regular season. "They have a head start, more of a head start than what we've seen in the past because of the new points structure," Burton said of Busch and Edwards. "When they started this new points structure, a lot of people said, "˜Well you're still not awarding the people that win; you're not awarding them enough.' I think that they'll second-guess that comment now, because you're talking about going into the Chase as much as 80 points ahead. Maybe even more. Still, Burton allowed that the format provides ample time for drivers to rise and fall in the points standings. "A 10-race schedule is a long time," he said. "I know it doesn't sound like many races, but when you talk about running the Cup races over a 10-week period, a lot of things change. And the hottest team when it starts may not be the hottest team when it ends." Burton, who considers the speedway one of his "home tracks" along with Richmond International Raceway, is hoping his team will get hot by the time Martinsville rolls around. "It's awesome that Martinsville's part of the Chase," he said. "It ought to be part of the Chase, because the racing's so intense. It's wild from start to finish. I hope to be a part of it; I hope to be a big part of it." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/92 'Giany Catfish' Another Legend http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/92 Monday, 11 August 2008 12:00:00 EST Q: I've heard rumors about catfish at Smith Mountain Lake near the dam (where they feed on debris sucked in by turbines) being as big as people, but I've never seen or heard from anybody who's turned up a fish that big. Monday, 11 August 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Roanoke TimesAugust 11, 2008By Tom AnglebergerQ: I've heard rumors about catfish at Smith Mountain Lake near the dam (where they feed on debris sucked in by turbines) being as big as people, but I've never seen or heard from anybody who's turned up a fish that big.-- Richard Riley, RoanokeA: This question intrigued me because somewhere deep in my memory I think I found the same giant catfish story -- but this one was from Claytor Lake.Turns out that these monster fish tales are all over. But the fish? Not so much."Every large reservoir I've ever worked on has reports of 'catfish as big as a man' that hang out in front of the intakes and eat everything that comes close to them," recalled Scott Smith, a fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.Yes, Smith knows the legend well."These giant catfish have all been 'verified' by 'scuba divers working on the dam,' " he recited.But then he goes and throws reality in our faces."Chalk this up to a fish version of an urban legend," Smith declared. "There are large catfish in SML and Claytor -- 30-45 pound range or so, and maybe a little larger. None would qualify as 'giant,' and they typically don't 'hang out' in front of the dams."By the way, the largest catfish on record in Virginia is a 95-pounder pulled out of the James in 2006.I've seen a picture of it, and it is disturbingly large; if you saw it in the water you might choose to call it "as big as a man," but it's probably closer in size to a fifth-grader.Q: I read a story recently about the fossil found in the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry. How deep is that quarry?-- Peggy Johnson, DalevilleA: This really was a neat story. Quarry workers found a giant stone bubble, 5 feet around. It turned out to be a 500 million-year-old lump originally created by algae. Scientists call it a stromatolite.The 2-ton bubble came from 250 feet deep, but the quarry itself goes 450 feet down, Boxley geologist Tom Roller told me.That's pretty deep. If the Wachovia Tower were built on the floor of the quarry, it wouldn't even come close to the top.Where has all that rock gone?Roads, bridges and foundations, explained Roller. "It is the major component in asphalt and concrete and is found on most all construction sites."While I had Roller's ear, there was something else I wanted to ask him. Can you dig a quarry anywhere you want? His answer: no."Depending on what area of the world you live in, good aggregate deposits may be hard to locate. For example: in the Roanoke area suitable deposits often have subdivisions on top of them; in central Virginia around Lynchburg there are complex formations and it is hard to find a large, homogenous deposit; in the Tidewater the bedrock is way too deep to make mining practical."The rock they dig at the Blue Ridge Quarry is called dolomitic limestone. Roller explained that this means it is not pure calcium carbonate limestone, but contains about 25 percent magnesium carbonate as well."The rock we mine has to meet stringent test criteria for hardness, soundness and other physical properties."As for the stromatolite, it went to the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.Note: Tune in next week for our summer edition of Ask the Readers. Maybe you're the one person who's got the information that someone else wants.If you've got a question, send it in to woym@roanoke.com or leave it on my voice mail at 777-6476 (please be sure to speak clearly and spell your name). I'll need your name, location and phone number or e-mail address.Look for Tom Angleberger's column on Mondays. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/90 Residents Have Opportunities to Fellowship, Grow And Just Relax http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/90 Thursday, 07 August 2008 12:00:00 EST The Reidsville Ministerial Alliance is planning a youth block party at the Jerusalem Holy United Church Park at Prince Williams and Jumper streets from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Thursday, 07 August 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: godanriver.com By: GODANRIVER STAFFPublished: August 07, 2008  Teen/Youth Block Party The Reidsville Ministerial Alliance is planning a youth block party at the Jerusalem Holy United Church Park at Prince Williams and Jumper streets from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday. "Our sincere desire is that our youth will accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and become active in their church and community. We all can agree that our community is in desperate need of strong young Christian leaders who are productive, willing and able to lead others," the Rev. Rosetta Badgett, block party chairwoman and member of the ministerial alliance, wrote to area churches. Michael Galloway, associate minister and member of the evangelism committee at Elm Grove Baptist Church, will talk about "staying in the race of life." Galloway's topic is based on 1 Corinthians 9:24, which talks about running the race of life with the goal of receiving the prize. Galloway believes his topic goes along with the mission of the block party. "It's an evangelism effort to try to reach the youth in our city," he said. "It's just a preventive measure to keep our youth focused and on the straight-and-narrow track." The Rev. Jamie Vaughan, minister of students at Baptist Temple Church, will speak to the young people about being part of a "dangerous generation." "We live in a society where our young people are looked down upon because of the dangers that they face. It's unbelievable the pressures that they face," said Vaughan. "At the same time, I want to encourage them to be a 'dangerous generation' for God. We want to encourage young people to take a stand with the armor that God has given them." Before Vaughan speaks, Baptist Temple Church's youth worship band, "Unworldly Right," will provide entertainment. A step dance team and praise dancers also are scheduled. The Rev. Ralph Watkins, vice president of the ministerial alliance, said a purpose of the block party is to let the young people "praise the Lord their own way." "We're trying to show the young people that they can enjoy Christ," said Watkins. He encourages all the city churches and youth to get involved with the outreach. "We're trying to reach the masses here in Reidsville, not just one ethnic group," he said. Vaughan believes Saturday's block party will "break down walls" demographically and bring the city to the realization that crime is a community wide problem, and it's not confined to one group of people or type of people. Badgett had a vision to do a youth block party two years ago. The goal is to reach out to the youth and get them involved in the church community. "We all can imagine the joy in heaven and here in our city if all of our youth accept Christ," she wrote. Saturday's event, including the food, is free. For information, call 342-9809. Second Friday Night Cruise-In The Second Friday Night Cruise-In in downtown Reidsville will feature The Not Dead Yet Blues Band, who will play in the Southwest Market Street lot. Several downtown shops and restaurants will be open. If you have a car 25 years old or older, join the EZ Street Cruisers Car Club in cruising around the block and showing off your wheels. The cruise-in begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 9. Bring a canned or nonperishable food item. The Reidsville Downtown Merchants' Association will donate the food to the Reidsville Outreach Center. Call the Reidsville Downtown Corporation at 349-1045. Cops & Riders Car Show Come out to the Eden Drive-In on Saturday for the Cops & Riders Car Show. Registration is from 8 a.m. to noon. Judging begins at noon, with prizes presented at 3:30 p.m. Trophies will be awarded in 25 car classes and five bike classes. The entry fee is $15 per car. Proceeds will benefit the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. Ribbon Cutting/Wine Tasting Reidsville Florist & Gifts will hold a ribbon cutting and wine tasting at its wine and gourmet shop at 119 S. Scales St. from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday. Owners Allen and Bonnie Purgason invite the community to celebrate the new addition - wine - to their shop. Family Yoga Class Julie Daniel is teaching a family yoga class at the Reidsville YMCA from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday. A storyteller will be a part of the class. The cost is $5 per person. The proceeds will be donated to Hospice of Rockingham County in memory of Roger Daniel. To sign up, call the YMCA at 342-3307. Concert in the Park Enjoy a concert at the Eden Kiwanis Amphitheater at Freedom Park in Eden on Saturday. The Almost Country Band will play from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The concert is free. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Night Catfish Tournament Lake Reidsville his holding a night catfish tournament Saturday at 7 p.m.; weigh-in is 2 a.m. The cost is $10 per person. For more information, call Lake Reidsville at 349-4738. Homemade Ice Cream Benefit The Madison Volunteer Fire Department will hold a homemade ice cream sale from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost will be $3 per bowl or two bowls for $5. All proceeds from the sale will go to fund the 100-year celebration in 2009. Take Two The Virginia Museum of Natural History will have a Family Fun Friday, featuring family-oriented activities from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday. The topic is summer plants. The Virginia Museum of Natural History is at 21 Starling Ave. in Martinsville, Va. Staff writer Miranda Baines can be reached at mbaines@reidsvillereview.com or 349-4331, ext. 35. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/91 Group Completes Projects, Improves Fairy Sone State Park http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/91 Thursday, 07 August 2008 12:00:00 EST In the blazing heat of midsummer, a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) group is hard at work at Fairy Stone State Park, completing projects to improve and maintain the park grounds. Thursday, 07 August 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, August 7, 2008 By KAREN THOMPSON - Bulletin Staff Writer In the blazing heat of midsummer, a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) group is hard at work at Fairy Stone State Park, completing projects to improve and maintain the park grounds. The YCC is a state-sponsored program, said Sam Jensen, a Fairy Stone Park employee who is in charge of the group this year. Groups generally consisting of 10 crew members and three supervisors are assigned to work at one of Virginia's 34 state parks, he explained.These groups remain at the park for three weeks, Jensen said. Fairy Stone's group arrived Sunday, July 20, and will leave Saturday.The Fairy Stone YCC group's lead supervisor this year is Lizzy Allan, who has participated in the YCC for seven years. "This program has been such a huge part of my life," said Allan, a recent graduate of Penn State University.The YCC group has nine girls between the ages of 14 and 17 and three female supervisors. Jensen said the park usually alternates groups, and last year it had a group of all boys. He anticipates that next year it will have an all-male group again.The crew members are from different areas in Virginia, although non-Virginia residents are eligible to participate in the YCC, Allan said. One supervisor, Katie Shrader, is from Michigan, she added.Jensen said he assigned work projects for the crew members as well as scheduled more educational and recreational programs for them. Other than assigning the projects and conducting classes, the park staff gives the YCC a chance to work independently."They (the park staff) have done a great job," Allan said. "They really address our needs quickly." She also said Fairy Stone "is a wonderful park."The crew members and their supervisors stay overnight in cabins at the park, although the group members joked that they spend little time in their bunks. Allan said the girls keep to a strict schedule, getting up at 7 every morning with lights out at 10 each night.The group has rebuilt some horseshoe pits, trimmed some trees and bushes and replaced signposts around the campgrounds. Its biggest project so far has been setting up trash cans around the camp, said Allan.The crew members had to dig several 2-foot deep holes, mix their own cement, and build and install the trash cans and blinds themselves, she said. She described it as a "major project" and a difficult but rewarding task.Future activities include cleaning and maintaining trails, Allan said, adding that soil erosion was a big problem at many sites. On Friday, the girls set up animal traps around the park, and then they attended a lecture about local wildlife and checked their traps on Saturday.The girls do have some leisure time, generally in the afternoons, when they can swim in the lake, explore other trails or just relax. Some leisure activities so far have included campfires and evening hikes, Allan said. On weekends, the group can leave the park and explore other attractions in the area.The YCC gives teens a chance to work outdoors, complete fulfilling and much-needed maintenance in state parks and meet people from different areas, Allan said. Jensen added that in addition to work and education, the program stresses the importance of individuality as well as cooperating in teams.That is Kelsey Arthur's favorite thing about the camp so far. Arthur, from Richmond and participating in the YCC for the second year, said she enjoys "working as a group" and getting the chance to "meet new people." The session is a great bonding experience that helps people learn to work as a team, she added."One of my friends did this," said Michele Parker, 15, from Midlothian, who is participating in the YCC for the first time. A friend recommended she join this summer, and Parker said she already is considering enrolling in the program again next year.For crew member Cara Kauffman, 16, from Churchville, the most rewarding aspect of the YCC is learning about conservation and environmentalism."I'm interested in taking this (program) as far as I can," said Kauffman, who is considering a career in conservation, possibly in parks, tourism and recreation.She said she will take part in the YCC again next year.While the YCC focuses on completing work projects, crew members also get the chance for education. For example, on Friday is that still the correct date?, the girls attended an interpretive activity about using GPS devices for geocaching.The group also will attend guest lectures, said Jensen. This year, he is in charge of scheduling these lectures from groups such as the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the local police department, which will teach a self-defense class, Jensen explained."We keep them busy," he added.While they stay at Fairy Stone, crew members are state employees. At the end of the session, they will receive a $500 stipend, while supervisors receive $1,500, Allan said. She jokingly added that she worked for the YCC "in lieu of a summer job."For more about the YCC and its history, visit its Web site: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/ycc.shtml. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/89 Mom Was Right: Eat Your Vegetables- To avoid dementia, speaker says http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/89 Friday, 25 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Eat your vegetables, and plenty of them. Friday, 25 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Friday, July 25, 2008 Eat your vegetables, and plenty of them. That was part of Dr. Gary H. Oberlender's advice for reducing the risk of dementia during a talk Thursday evening at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.About 100 people attended "Dementia: What Is It and How We Can Reduce Our Risk," part of the King's Grant lecture series offered at the museum in conjunction with the "Amazing Feats of Aging" exhibit.Oberlender, a consultant in geriatric medicine, outlined causes and risk factors for cognitive (mental) impairment in seniors, compared the different types of dementia and gave recommendations to "maintain your brain."Above all, he emphasized, "It ain't always Alzheimer's."Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain that causes two-thirds of dementia cases, Oberlender said. Patients lose key intellectual abilities such as memory, calculation, language, judgment, orientation and personality. There is a progressive decline in mental function, though most patients are not physically affected until late in the disease.Most patients see the onset of the disease after age 70 to 75, and it does not appear to be connected with family history, Oberlender said.The Alzheimer's Association suggests staying physically, socially and mentally active to prevent the disease, because "If you don't use it, you'll lose it," he said.Alzheimer's is thought to show up more in women and in people with higher IQs, Oberlender said, "so you smart women, start eating lettuce."He spoke at length about the role nutrition may play in preventing dementia."As a physician, I believe nutrition hasn't been given enough emphasis in modern medicine," he said.A 2006 study in the medical journal "Neurology" showed that people who ate four or more servings of fresh vegetables a day had a 38 percent slower mental decline, he said.Also, a 2005 study in "Alzheimer's and Dementia" found a 66 percent lower incidence of Alzheimer's when people took 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, and a 63 percent lower incidence of the disease with more than 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B-6.Four hundred micrograms of folic acid is equal to "five or six servings of fresh fruit, or two or three big salads a day," Oberlender said.Fresh vegetables and fruits have the most benefit, he said, but flash-frozen produce is "almost as good." Canned, overcooked and processed foods do not have as much nutritional value."Go organic when it's possible," Oberlender said, adding that the long-term effects of chronic exposure to toxins in food are not known.People should also eat more food with omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild-caught coldwater fish, almonds, sunflowers and flax seeds, he said, and drink moderate amounts of red wine.Even people who eat a balanced diet should take a multivitamin, two to three grams of fish oil and 500 to 1,000 mcg of folic acid per day, he added. People also need 15 to 25 minutes of sun exposure several times a week to ensure they get enough vitamin D.Dementia is one cause of cognitive impairment, but it is certainly not the only one. There are many factors that can cause problems with memory and brain function later in life, Oberlender said.Depression is one factor common in seniors, but it can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are not typical, Oberlender said. "In seniors, depression can show up as cognitive dysfunction. The person may not even feel depressed," he said. "It's absolutely critical for doctors to evaluate for depression in seniors."Stroke, hardening of the arteries and thyroid problems can cause mental impairment, as can side effects from prescription drugs. Alternatively, a person who cannot hear well may be misinterpreted as not understanding or remembering conversations.Oberlender noted that many doctors use the diagnosis "probable Alzheimer's" because of uncertainty and the disease's overlap with other forms of dementia. After the lecture, many people remained to ask questions of Oberlender. Local attorney Robert Haley was one of them."A lot of my clients are caretakers for seniors, so I try to get as much information on these issues as possible," Haley said. "It was a great seminar and a great speaker."Also among the audience were some employees and 24 residents from King's Grant. "The lecture was certainly relevant to many of our residents and staff, and it was a benefit to the community at large," said Resident Services Director Becky Farrar."You could see the interest in the audience."The next lecture in the series will be "Senior Navigator" by Ben Garrett of the Virginia Department for the Aging, held from noon to 1 p.m. July 30 at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/88 Physician's Council Holding Retreat Here http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/88 Friday, 18 July 2008 12:00:00 EST A group from the Virginia Chapter of the American College of Physicians is holding a retreat in Martinsville today and Saturday. Friday, 18 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, July 18, 2008A group from the Virginia Chapter of the American College of Physicians is holding a retreat in Martinsville today and Saturday.It is the first time the chapter council's summer retreat "has been held at this end of the state," said Dr. Ben Lewis of Martinsville, treasurer of the Virginia chapter.Council members voted to meet here, he said, with the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Martinsville Speedway being "the big draw."The 126,000-member American College of Physicians is the largest specialty medical society in America, with chapters in every state as well as all the Canadian provinces, Central America, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil and Japan, according to its president, Dr. Jeffrey P. Harris of Winchester.Each state chapter has a governor and council, and that is the group meeting here. Harris said 20 to 30 members of the council are expected to attend today's business session and Saturday's planning meeting at the museum, as well as a dinner at the museum.Also today, members will tour the speedway.Among the subjects to be discussed at the council meetings are plans for the annual state meeting, competitions the chapter sponsors for medical students and patient education efforts, Harris said.The national organization seeks to be the major voice for internal medicine in the United States, he said. Fifty-five percent of its members are general internists, and the rest are subspecialists, he added.Internists are physicians who specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults, according to the college's Web site. They are the major providers of primary care in this country, it states.Internists are especially trained in the diagnosis of medical problems, care of complicated illnesses and caring for patients with more than one disease. They also specialize in health promotion and disease prevention, the site states.There are 11 general internists in the Henry County-Martinsville area, according to Lewis.Chapter members are located throughout the state, and their meetings are held in various areas, Harris said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/87 A Hands-On Experience http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/87 Monday, 14 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Just what do they do at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research? Monday, 14 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinBy: DENICE THIBODEAU | GoDanRiver Just what do they do at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research?A dozen participants in the Governor's Fellows Program were able to tour the facility on Thursday, see what researchers are working on and learn what the overall goals of the organization are.The Governor's Fellows are students who just graduated from college, or are working on graduate degrees, who have been chosen spend the summer in the governor's office, learning how the state government works. Part of the experience is touring areas around Virginia.On Thursday the group toured the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, including its education center and research facilities. They had lunch and a tour at Martinsville Speedway before heading to the Institute.Jerry Niles, interim director at the Institute, told them the Institute was created in 2003 as an economic development effort to combat the loss of textile and tobacco industries. He said that the partnership between the state and local governments made the project possible."What goes on here is driven by the local needs and supported by the state," Niles said. "Then, when you bring in higher education entities as partners - Virginia Tech, Averett University, Danville Community College - you get even more responsiveness to the community."Ellen Bass, with the Institute Conference Center, said the center is just one component of what is done at the Institute to help with economic development."We are tasked with going outside the area to bring in groups to use our facility," she said. "By doing that, they're staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants; that is how the conference center is trying to help with the economic transformation in Southside."Bass said the conference rooms have state-of-the-art electronic equipment, allowing teleconferencing and video conferencing, with a touch-panel that controls everything from the blinds and lights to the electronic equipment.Different size conference, meeting and event rooms are available, as are snacks, meals and banquets through the on-site catering service.What are they researching?The research facilities have four main areas they are focused on: agriculture, polymers, robotics and motorsports.Deborah Morehead, director of communications and public relations, said these areas were chosen because they already had a base in the region.In agriculture, the Institute's scientists are exploring alternate crops for tobacco on farms in the area. Research studies include switchgrass for biofuels, strawberries, orchids and a type of fir tree that can be grown in this area as a Christmas tree crop.With automobile racing in both Martinsville and Alton, a state-of-the-art motorsports testing facility was designed. VIPER (Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering & Research) explores way to improve vehicle performance at its main facility at Virginia International Raceway. It also gives students a place to study various aspects of motorsports, including vehicle design and testing.Polymers are used in many manufacturing facilities, and more than 50 companies that used polymers already existed in the area when the Institute was created. The researcher have created improved products for some of those companies and are currently working on an improved "bullet-proof glass" that is actually made of layers of polymers that could make the final result "ballistic-proof."In the robotics area - called JOUSTER, for Joint Unmanned Systems Test Experimentation and Research Site - researchers work to create robots that will run on land, air and water and send data back to its base. The topographical data such robots can find could help in planning almost any development project, but could have military use as well. If unmanned robots can be developed to go into the battlefield, returning data about explosives or enemies, lives could be saved.The Institute also has an educational arm, which offers various training programs for members of the community as well as access to online degree programs through several universities.To find out more about the Institute's programs and research, visit their Web site at www.ialr.org.Contact Denice Thibodeau at dthibodeau@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7985. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/86 New Grads Tour Southside- Governor's Fellows on Track http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/86 Friday, 11 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Taking laps around the Martinsville Speedway at high speeds in an official NASCAR pace car on Thursday was an experience that some recent college graduates from across Virginia may never forget. Friday, 11 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, July 11, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterTaking laps around the Martinsville Speedway at high speeds in an official NASCAR pace car on Thursday was an experience that some recent college graduates from across Virginia may never forget.The graduates are part of the 2008 Governor's Fellows Program sponsored by Gov. Tim Kaine. They toured the speedway and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville as part of a daylong visit to Southside.They seemed just as impressed with the pace car's driver as they were with the speed and tire-squealing on sharp turns. The driver, dressed not in racing gear but a suit and tie, was speedway President Clay Campbell.Jamie Atkinson, a recent graduate of Christopher Newport University from Prince William County, got out of the car with her tongue dangling from her mouth."It was absolutely amazing, exhilarating!" said Atkinson. She said that she previously had not been a NASCAR fan, but "I am now!"Brian Chigbinski of Salem, who recently graduated from The College of William & Mary, said the ride was "pretty sweet." (That means "nice" in modern lingo.)Speedway Public Relations Director Mike Smith joked that he would let Campbell discuss the fellows' rides with "the risk management people."The Governor's Fellows program lets recent college graduates interested in pursuing careers in public service observe state government operations and learn about characteristics and attractions of various parts of the state.Amber Amato, director of the program, said much of the discussion in Richmond nowadays among state officials is related to the burgeoning areas of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads."It's important to remember that other parts of the state are just as vital," she said.None of the approximately 15 Governor's Fellows who took part in Thursday's visit were from the Henry County-Martinsville area.Amato is from Dinwiddie. This was her first visit to the area, and she was just as excited as the fellows.Looking out the window after she rode an elevator up to a speedway VIP suite, Amato, who is not much older than the fellows, remarked that the elevator indicated it was the third floor, but "we're super high up."The way the suites are built above the grandstands, the suite level actually is about 12 stories up, speedway Marketing Director Karen Parker told her."Places all over the country would do back flips to have something like this" speedway due to its economic impact on the area, Campbell told the fellows.He said the speedway contributes about $30 million annually to the local economy. That includes not only sales of race tickets, but also money that racing fans from elsewhere spend in the community on things such as meals, lodging and shopping, he indicated.Some NASCAR fans arrive at the speedway in campers up to a week ahead of the races, and they buy gas and groceries here, he noted.Earlier Thursday, Amato and museum staff found it hard to lure the fellows away from the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville."It's great when visitors don't want to leave," said museum Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber."The museum is amazing," said Monica Gray of Staunton, a recent University of Virginia graduate. She was especially fascinated by sea shells and marine life exhibits that show "how they make our pretty pearls."It is interesting to see how the museum is "reaching out to young minds in the area," Chigbinski said. "It's great to see this kind of facility here" in a small community.Museum Executive Director Tim Gette said staff members at the state-funded museum hope the Governor's Fellows go back to their hometowns, tell people about the museum and its exhibits and encourage people to visit."We do everything we can to spread the word about this museum ... and bring visitors in," he said.Chigbinski said he is looking for a job in either state or federal government, or working for a political campaign. He said that by visiting the museum, he was able to learn about the operations of a state agency in a way that he could not experience in the classroom.Gray, Atkinson and Chigbinski all said that Thursday's trip to Southside was their first visit to Henry County and Martinsville, and they were impressed by the community."Everyone I've met has been nice and friendly," Gray said."I didn't know a lot about Southside, but it's a nice place," Atkinson said. It seems to have a lot of open spaces, she said, "but there's a lot to do here.""Martinsville is booming," added Amato. "It's tremendous."Upon leaving the speedway, the Governor's Fellows traveled to Danville, where they visited the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/85 State Official: Scammers Target Older Residents http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/85 Wednesday, 09 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Many con artists and scammers consider older people to be the "perfect victims" for their crimes, a state official told local seniors on Tuesday. Wednesday, 09 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, July 9, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterMany con artists and scammers consider older people to be the "perfect victims" for their crimes, a state official told local seniors on Tuesday.Jennifer Aulgur, director of the TRIAD and Citizen Outreach program at the Virginia Attorney General's Office, cited several reasons for that.Older people who are lonely because they have no friends or relatives nearby may reach out to anyone who is friendly with them, not realizing that someone is trying to swindle them, said Aulgur.Seniors may not realize that they should call the police - or they might be embarrassed to call - if anyone tries to defraud them, Aulgur said.Also, among swindlers, "there is a perception that all seniors have a ton of money" in their retirement years, she said.Aulgur was the keynote speaker for "Who Has Their Hands in Grandma's Wallet?" The program, sponsored by King's Grant and held at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, covered frauds and scams affecting seniors.Everyone may find her advice practical, though.A frequent scam she discussed pertains to home improvements.Aulgur said shady contractors will come to a house, tell the resident that they have materials left over from another job they have done in the neighborhood, such as painting or driveway paving, and offer to do work at that home if the person pays them cash on the spot.People should not do business with a contractor without having a contract, Aulgur said. The contract should specify all work to be done - as well as any guarantees and promises made by the contractor - in writing, she said.To find out if contractors are licensed or have complaints lodged against them, call the Virginia Board for Contractors at (804) 367-8511 or the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs at (800) 552-9963.People using the Internet to buy products and services should use credit cards, not debit cards, because "there is greater recourse if something goes wrong," Aulgur said. For instance, credit card purchases are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, and it could be easier to get your money back if a person gets the card number and makes fraudulent purchases with it.Credit card, checking account and Social Security numbers should not be given, either by phone or the Internet, to anyone soliciting business whose true identity cannot be easily determined, Aulgur pointed out.When doing business on the Internet, she said, do not give such information unless the Web site is secure and reputable. The site is secure if it has either a yellow lock icon on the browser's status bar or a Web address that begins with "https:" - the "s" stands for secure.In playing sweepstakes, do not pay to collect any winnings. Aulgur said that legitimate sweepstakes do not require anyone to pay insurance, shipping and handling fees or taxes on winnings.Furthermore, state law prohibits people from having to pay to collect prizes they have won, she said.Do not play foreign lotteries, either through the mail or by phone. It is against federal law, and "your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none," Aulgur said.To help prevent identity theft, Aulgur said, "Don't carry your whole life in your pocketbook" or wallet. Think before you leave the house and then carry only the cards and documents you need on that trip. Leave the others at home.Other tips she gave for preventing identity theft include:"Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call, and shred documents to be discarded containing such information."Take Social Security numbers off your checks if possible, and write checks with ink that cannot be washed off the check. Pens with such "indelible" ink can be bought at many department stores and office supply retailers."Mail bills either at the post office or from blue postal boxes around town. Never put bills in your mailbox at home because thieves may rummage through the box, according to Aulgur."Check credit reports for free each year by calling (877) 322-8228 or going online at www.annualcreditreport.com."Immediately report evidence of identity theft to financial institutions.The TRIAD and Citizen's Outreach program is designed to protect Virginia's older residents from negative forces such as crime, according to Bill Garrett, executive director at King's Grant.Aulgur said that seniors are welcome to call her at (804) 786-9516 if they have needs for which they think she can be of assistance. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/84 Two-Ton, 500 Million-Year-Old Fossil of Stromatolite Discovered in Virginia, U.S. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/84 Friday, 04 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Virginia Museum of Natural History scientists have confirmed that an approximately 500 million-year-old stromatolite was recently discovered at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry near Roanoke, Virginia. Friday, 04 July 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Science DailyJuly 4, 2008Virginia Museum of Natural History scientists have confirmed that an approximately 500 million-year-old stromatolite was recently discovered at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry near Roanoke, Virginia. This specimen is the first-ever intact stromatolite head found in Virginia, and is one of the largest complete "heads" in the world, at over 5 feet in diameter and weighing over 2 tons.Stromatolites are among the earliest known life forms, and are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past.A stromatolite is a mound produced in shallow water by mats of algae that trap mud and sand particles. Another mat grows on the trapped sediment layer and this traps another layer of sediment, growing gradually over time. Stromatolites can grow to heights of a meter or more. They are uncommon today but their fossils are among the earliest evidence for living things.The oldest stromatolites have been dated at 3.46 billion years old. They were discovered in 1999 in Western Australia, near the town of Marble Bar.The Boxley stromatolite was discovered by Boxley employees in a pile of loose rock they were moving. The curious shape of the "rock" initiated a call to Tom Roller, Boxley's professional geologist, who immediately suspected it to be a stromatolite. Scientists from the Virginia Museum of Natural History traveled to the quarry to evaluate the discovery and confirmed it to be a stromatolite.The stromatolite has been donated by Boxley to the Virginia Museum of Natural History, where it will be displayed in the coming months.Although fragments and sections of stromatolites are fairly common, it is very rare for a whole stromatolite head to be collected intact. This specimen is particularly unusual because the top surface of the head is very well preserved."The exquisite preservation of the surface of this stromatolite will allow museum scientists a rare opportunity not only to look at the stromatolite itself, but also to look for other organisms that may have been living on our around it," said Dr. James Beard, assistant director of research and collections for earth sciences, and curator of earth sciences at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/82 Rare Fossil Called 'Phenomenal'- It arrives at VMNH for study, future exhibit http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/82 Thursday, 03 July 2008 12:00:00 EST It has not gotten around much in 500 million years, but a six-foot stromatolite moved Wednesday from its Cambrian-age resting place near Roanoke to Martinsville. Thursday, 03 July 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, July 3, 2008 It has not gotten around much in 500 million years, but a six-foot stromatolite moved Wednesday from its Cambrian-age resting place near Roanoke to Martinsville. A truck delivered the recently discovered fossil to the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) from Boxley Materials Co. It is the first intact stromatolite found in Virginia and is unusually large, said Alton "Butch" Dooley, assistant curator of paleontology at VMNH.The six-foot fossil was discovered May 13 at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry by a loader operator. Richard Benge was moving a pile of stone to a rock crusher when he noticed a rock that looked like a large turtle, said Bill Hamlin, vice president of aggregate operations at Boxley Materials. Benge moved the stone aside for safekeeping and went about his business.The company geologist was called to look at the bizarre figure to determine what it was. "For the next several weeks, a lot of pictures went back and forth with different educational institutions," said Hamlin. Boxley called VMNH, where Dooley is a paleontologist.At that time, Dooley was in Wyoming on a dinosaur dig. "I wasn't too excited about it" at first, he said. "These things are found all the time."However, when he saw the stromatolite in person, he was amazed. It is "pretty rare to get a complete one," Dooley stated, let alone one that is six feet across. "I couldn't believe how complete it is and how big it is."Ninety-nine percent of stromatolites are not found intact but rather seen as a cross section, he said. The biggest Dooley has seen was three feet across, he added.Hamlin said, "We find little itty bitty stromatolites all the time, but to find one this big that's 500 million years old is pretty phenomenal."Dooley explained that a stromatolite is "an algal mat" which is based on "single-celled algae, essentially bacteria, that grow in colonies on the sea floor." The top surface of a living stromalite is sticky and traps mud and dirt, building up layer after layer, which forms into a dome shape.Since there still are some living stromatolites today, they can aid in the study of the fossils, Dooley said. They can be found in "Australia, the Bahamas and a few other places." Stromatolites now live in intertidal zones, between the low tide and the high tide marks."Without the living ones, we probably wouldn't be able to figure out what these things are," Dooley said. By studying the size, shape, surface and geological setting of both living and fossilized stromatolites, scientists can document changes that have happened to these algae colonies over time, he added.There has been evidence collected from stromatolite fossils that indicates that they may have lived in a broader range of places on the ocean floor before certain factors, such as possible predators, caused a change in their living locations, he said.The surface of this recently discovered stromatolite has stress fractures from stone movement over time. There also are a few lines that Dooley plans to examine more closely because they could be trace fossils. "We usually look at the top for trace fossils," he stated, noting that a trace fossil is a fossil left behind on a fossil from a different organism.Dooley said Boxley "showed good foresight" and is committing "a real public service to make sure everybody gets to enjoy this thing."Boxley "could just as easily have ground this thing up and used it as road fill," but it had it examined and called the museum. He added that "a lot of neat finds like this probably never come to the light of day" because people don't realize what they are or what to do with them.Over the next couple of months, Dooley plans to analyze the stromatolite to learn about the geographic setting it was in as well as "to document how much it looks like living ones," he said.The museum will create a display around the the stromatolite within a few months, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/83 500 Million Year Old Fossil Makes History In Our Area http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/83 Thursday, 03 July 2008 12:00:00 EST History is being made in our of our local museums. Thursday, 03 July 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: WSLSBy: | WSLS 10 Published: July 03, 2008History is being made in our of our local museums.A 500 million-year-old fossil is at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. It's called a stromatolite, and it was found at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry near Roanoke.Live stromatolites are made up of algae and mud that survive in shallow water.Scientists say these fossils are common to find, but what makes this one so rare is that it's still intact.The size is also a distinguishing factor at over five feet across and weighing about two tons.Now, scientists say they have some work to do. "Looking over the entire top surface for any indication of other organisms that might have been eating the stromatolite or living on the surface. For stromatolites that are alive, it's a pretty common occurrence, so that might tell us a little more about what other organisms in the ecosystem may have been like," said Dr. Alton Dooley, with the museum. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/81 Quarry Workers Find a 2-Ton Fossil- The Virginia Museum of Natural History says the stromatolite was formed by algae some 500 million years ago http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/81 Tuesday, 01 July 2008 12:00:00 EST It looks like a turtle shell, or a mushroom top, or maybe even the remnants of a flying saucer. And it's coming soon to the Virginia Museum of Natural History: Tuesday, 01 July 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Roanoke TimeJuly 01, 2008By Jay ConleyBLUE RIDGE -- It looks like a turtle shell, or a mushroom top, or maybe even the remnants of a flying saucer. And it's coming soon to the Virginia Museum of Natural History: A rare fossil nobody expected to find in Botetourt County.Alton Dooley was working in Wyoming in early June, looking for dinosaur remains, when the paleontologist got a call that there was something interesting to check out back home in Virginia.But Dooley, who works at the Martinsville-based museum, wasn't too excited about looking at another stromatolite. Pieces of the mound-shaped rock formations, remnants of algae life dating back millions of years, are commonly found all over the world. So Dooley was pleasantly surprised by what has turned out to be a most uncommon find that was unearthed recently at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry off U.S. 460: a completely intact 2-ton, 5-foot-in-circumference stromatolite."I've never actually seen a stromatolite preserved this way before, and I've worked on a bunch of them," Dooley said Monday as the smooth, rounded object was unveiled to the media at the quarry.In 20 years of examining such fossils, "it's the first one I've ever seen where the top is preserved," he said.The fossil, which has been donated to the museum by the quarry, dates back 500 million years. It far surpasses the age of artifacts in the natural history museum's current exhibit of Virginia life forms, which go back 350 million years.Stromatolites are considered by some scientists to be the oldest life forms on Earth. Some found in western Australia in 1999 are thought to have been created by microbes 3.4 billion years ago. The mounds are formed in shallow ocean water by algae that trap mud and sand particles.The fossil at the quarry was found by a worker in a pile of boulders after they were blasted from a quarry wall."This one, we got lucky," said Jeff Perkins, executive vice president at Boxley Materials Co. "When we were down in our pile of stone doing what we do for a living, our loader operator stopped and moved it off to the side and called our geologist."Perkins said stromatolite remnants have been found in the quarry since it opened in 1917."What's rare about this one is how big it is," he said. "At first we thought maybe it was a turtle shell."The big rock should be on display at the museum's Martinsville headquarters in about 45 days after a special base is designed for the heavy object, said Tim Gette, the museum's executive director."It's a very significant find for us and a major addition to our exhibit," he said.On the Net: www.vmnh.net http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/77 VMNH Confirms Discovery of 500 Million-Year-Old Fossil http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/77 Friday, 27 June 2008 12:00:00 EST Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite. Friday, 27 June 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, June 27, 2008Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite.Officials at the Martinsville museum say the fossil was found at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry.The museum says in a release that fragments and sections of stromatolites are fairly common, but it is very rare for a whole stromatolite "head" to be collected intact.The specimen is the first-ever intact stromatolite head found in Virginia, and is one of the largest complete "heads" in the world, the release states.Officials say the stromatolites are among the earliest known life forms, and they are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/80 Another Rare Fossil Found http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/80 Friday, 27 June 2008 12:00:00 EST Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite. Friday, 27 June 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: WHSV.comScientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite.Officials at the Martinsville museum say the fossil was found at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry.The museum says fragments and sections of stromatolites are fairly common, but it is very rare for a whole stromatolite "head" to be collected intact.The specimen is the first-ever intact stromatolite head found in Virginia, and is one of the largest complete "heads" in the world.Officials say the fossils are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/78 Museum Confirms Discovery of Rare Fossil http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/78 Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite. Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite. Officials at the Martinsville museum say the fossil was found at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry.The museum says fragments and sections of stromatolites are fairly common, but it is very rare for a whole stromatolite "head" to be collected intact.The specimen is the first-ever intact stromatolite head found in Virginia, and is one of the largest complete "heads" in the world.Officials say the fossils are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/79 Museum Confirms Discovery of Rare Fossil http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/79 Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:00:00 EST Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite. Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:00:00 EST MARTINSVILLE, Va. -Scientists with the Virginia Museum of Natural History have confirmed the discovery of a 500 million-year-old fossil called a stromatolite.Officials at the Martinsville museum say the fossil was found at the Boxley Blue Ridge Quarry.The museum says fragments and sections of stromatolites are fairly common, but it is very rare for a whole stromatolite "head" to be collected intact.The specimen is the first-ever intact stromatolite head found in Virginia, and is one of the largest complete "heads" in the world.Officials say the fossils are important in helping scientists understand more about environments that existed in the past.Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/76 Machine at Martinsville Museum Will Age You http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/76 Wednesday, 04 June 2008 12:00:00 EST Did you know that the ocean quahog, an unassuming mollusk native to the Atlantic Ocean, has the longest recorded lifespan of any living organism at 220 years? Wednesday, 04 June 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: GoDanRiver.comBy: GODANRIVER STAFF Published: June 04, 2008Did you know that the ocean quahog, an unassuming mollusk native to the Atlantic Ocean, has the longest recorded lifespan of any living organism at 220 years? Or that the brain at 60 holds four times the amount of information than a 20-year-old brain?These are just two fascinating tidbits I picked up at the "Amazing Feats of Aging" exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, showing through Sept. 7.The carnival-themed hall is broadly divided into three themes: a focus on how different animals age, what we can do to age gracefully and how the brain ages.The "scariest" part of the exhibit, according to many a concerned fifth-grader from Woodlawn Academy in Chatham, who were on a field trip Thursday, is the digital-aging machine. By capturing a picture of your face and mapping out certain features, the machine forecasts what you will look like in 25 years."That's my grandmother!" cried Rosemarie Percario after seeing her projected 60-year-old self. Presumably, her grandmother is more than 25 years older, and so the "after" pictures are a little premature. I certainly hope so.Nickelodeon-style exhibit posts highlighted healthy-living choices that may help stave off those impending wrinkles.Some suggestions come as no shock. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Exercise. Floss, as plaque buildup can enter your bloodstream and cause serious health complications. Don't smoke.But the exhibit wasn't all boring prescriptions for how to avoid getting older. Because, not to be fatalistic or anything, you can't.Interactive elements like the "aging machine" make the exhibit very engaging, and good for getting kids to "learn in a fun way," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for the museum.A pin-ball type game allows players to battle "free-radicals" (that bear remarkable resemblance to ping-pong balls) - natural byproducts of biological processes containing a reactive form of oxygen - while informing museum-goers that consuming antioxidants naturally found in many fruits can help outside the exhibit walls.A few moms along with their fifth-graders got a kick out of what could be called the "generation-determination wall.""I actually owned that," Deborah Reynolds said to her son Lawrence, pointing to a Monkees album, which put her in the "at least 40 years of living" category.I easily picked out cell phones, definitely recognized Papa Smurf, but was a little stuck when it came to identifying the butter churner.That human brain of ours never fails to amaze me, and this exhibit pointed out a few things I didn't know.Humans are the longest-living land mammals, but definitely not the largest; the single most determinant factor in longevity, a display reads. Some scientists suggest maybe it has something to do with our brain capacities. (Maybe because we've developed so many miracle drugs?)The "brain-themed" part of the exhibit has information on memory, capacity and Alzheimer's disease. Statistics showing that airplane pilots, as they age, take longer to make decisions but usually make better ones, highlights how the brain works. You can even test your own skills with a computerized speed and accuracy test of 27 questions.The average response time for 18- to 29-year-olds was between 1 and 1.5 seconds. I clocked at 1.547, but scored 100 percent. So I'm just a tiny bit on the slow side, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it's because I'm just a little bit wiser.• Contact Sarah Arkin at (434)791-7983 or sarkin@registerbee.com. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/75 Archaelogists Unearth A Local Story From the Past http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/75 Thursday, 29 May 2008 12:00:00 EST BUCKEYSTOWN -- Long before there was a housing development here, there was a settlement of people who stayed probably no more than a couple of decades. Thursday, 29 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: FrederickNewsPost.comWritten By Karen Gardner News-Post Staff BUCKEYSTOWN -- Long before there was a housing development here, there was a settlement of people who stayed probably no more than a couple of decades.The Archeological Society of Maryland is excavating the story of those people through mounds of dirt. Charles Hall, the state archaeologist for the Maryland Historical Trust, is coordinating the dig that includes volunteers and professionals.The dig, at the Bishop Claggett Center south of Buckeystown, started last Friday and will conclude Monday. Volunteers can come for any or all 11 days the archaeologist are at the site.The site is on undulating land sculpted during the last Ice Age. Up a steep hill is the Claggett Center and in another direction is a new housing development.On Wednesday, day six, 13 people came to help uncover the past, one pot shard at a time. That past is some 750 years ago, about 1260 A.D., give or take a hundred years.Amateur archaeologists -- as many as 27 from 12-year-olds to senior citizens -- have come out to learn about the societies that occupied the site.They scrape pits with hoes and trowels, looking for bits of ceramics, arrowheads and spear points. The clay-like soil, just a few yards from the Monocacy River, has few rocks, so many of the objects unearthed are artifacts.The siteThe people who occupied the site in 1260 lived in the late Woodland age, 400 years before Europeans descended upon North America. They were dubbed the Mason's Island settlers, named for an island in the Potomac."The tribes here moved around a lot," Hall said. "These folks' ancestors were mobile."The Mason's Island clan, about 25 to 30 people strong, probably grew corn, beans and squash. Wild game would have made up the rest of their diet."We don't know what happened to those people," Hall said.Another group moved in about 100 years later. archaeologist call this group the Montgomery Complex. The Mason Island people made pottery out of crushed limestone, while the Montgomery people fashioned pottery out of crushed quartz.The Montgomery people may be the predecessors of the Piscataway Indians, a tribe that lived along the southern Potomac River when Europeans arrived, but Hall said that's debated by archaeologist."People always want to know what tribe is this, and we can't do that," he said. "Now we define ourselves in relation to others. Then we defined ourselves as ourselves."Calvin Swomley, of Buckeystown, discovered the site in 1964. He mapped 28 sites that may have contained settlements and collected boxes of artifacts.Each summer, the Archeological Society of Maryland chooses a site for an 11-day dig. This is the second year for the Claggett Center site.This year's goal is to dig deeper into the story of the Mason Island settlers.Last year, participants had to use shovels. This year, Hall was able to get a Bobcat to dig pits, and participants had nice, neat, 2 meters by 2 meters rectangles in which to dig.Barry Phelps of Frederick hoed one of the pits Wednesday. The dirt he gathered -- full of spear points, spear flakes and bits of bone -- would be shaken through screens. The artifacts will be cleaned, labeled in bags and taken to labs.The evidence is of more than cooking and eating."These folks had gardens," Hall said. "They wove textiles out of natural fibers and made elaborate pottery."Although textiles didn't survive, cordage textiles were used to make impressions on the pottery, and the impressions can clearly be seen.The settlementThe Mason Island settlers lived in small houses, more like sleeping huts, which were not barricaded. That was in contrast to a later group, the Kaiser Complex, which appear to have invaded their way east along the Potomac from the Monongahela River.The Kaiser clan, which lived on the Monocacy site in about 1400, used pottery made of crushed river mussel shells mixed with clay. This different pottery, along with evidence that their village was barricaded, has led archaeologist to believe the Kaiser group possibly pushed the Montgomery settlers out."This region was so rich in terms of hunting and foraging," said Joe Dent, an American University archaeology professor who organized the dig with Hall.The Mason Island settlers may have lived along the Monocacy during the summer growing season and left to hunt for food in the winter.One of their cooking sites dated to 1260 using radiocarbon dating. The shift from a hunter-gatherer existence to one that depended on farming changed the way we live, Dent said."Farming takes a lot of labor," he said. "Anybody can weed. With farming, populations become larger, and you need a labor force."The shift to farming also meant less leisure time. The last hunter-gatherer societies, recorded in the 1950s and '60s, worked about 15 hours a week, Hall said. That left more time for storytelling, for pottery making and other artistic pursuits.Rivers served as pathways for early Americans, Hall said, so it's not surprising that a settlement rich in artifacts would be found just a few yards from the Monocacy.In 1260, the trees that covered the rich land beneath would have been girdled, with a ring of bark removed. Fallen trees would remain, and planting would be done around the trees."It would have been a really surreal-looking landscape," Dent said.One of the excavated sites contained dark circles, indicating post holes. Those would have anchored either a cooking site or a sleeping hut.Arrowheads, spear points and knife points are common. Some were made of locally-gathered quartz, but others are rhyolite, a darker stone from the Catoctin Mountains.The excavatorsBenton Watson of New Windsor is taking vacation time from work to dig. "I find it very interesting, who was here before us," he said.George Evans of Walkersville is retired. Archaeology is his hobby. He also participates in digs at Monocacy National Battlefield and in Jamestown, Va. He was working Wednesday with Maxine Grabill, of Libertytown. They are members of the Monocacy Archeological Society, which is well represented on this year's dig.Also helping is Elizabeth Moore, curator of archeology for the State Museum of Natural History in Virginia and once a student of Dent's, who specializes in bone history. She is able to determine most of what people ate. The Mason Island settlers ate mostly deer and turtle, and a bit of wild turkey.Next year's field session will likely go elsewhere, although Hall said archaeologist may return in 10 or 20 years. By then, better tools and technology may reveal more of the story of the Mason Island Complex. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/74 Museum Features Age Exhibit http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/74 Monday, 26 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Dare to find out what you may look like in 20 years? Monday, 26 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, May 26, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterDare to find out what you may look like in 20 years.Stop by the Virginia Museum of Natural History's newest exhibit, "Amazing Feats of Aging," and put your face up to The Age Machine. In just a moment, your suddenly aged face pops up on a nearby monitor, wrinkled and sagging."I think it overdid it" a little with the wrinkles, Jarrett Sell of Martinsville said Thursday afternoon after he tried the machine. Still, "it was neat to see."?Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs, tried the machine. He wasn't angry at what he saw, but he wasn't pleased, either."It's a little scary," he admitted. "I was surprised at the number of wrinkles" and the sagging of his lower face. "At least I had all of my hair."?Don't take the machine too seriously, though. The machine simply places wrinkles and sags on faces where people are most likely to get them.Faces age differently, based on factors such as exposure to sunlight and how much a person has used alcohol and/or tobacco, Barber pointed out. Therefore, how a person looks on the monitor is not necessarily how the person will look a couple of decades from now.But does anybody really want to know how they are going to look in 20 to 25 years? Apparently, there are a few brave souls.Before the exhibit officially opened Saturday, a few school groups and others had sneak peaks."The first thing they said was they're not going to do that (look at their aged faces). Then they lined up to do it," said Barber.Many museum employees have used the machine - some maybe having succumbed to peer pressure, he laughed."Amazing Feats of Aging" focuses on science related to aging, with special emphasis on healthy aging, as well as how the brain and animals age.According to Barber, everybody eventually is affected by the aging of their grandparents, parents and themselves, so the topic should be interesting. Yet generally, the study of aging is important due to the rapid growth of the elderly population, impacts of choices people make in life on their health and discoveries constantly being made in the field of gerontology, he said.Aging is "a serious topic," he added. "I think the exhibit does a good job presenting it in a fun way."Barber said the museum wants visitors to realize that aging is unavoidable. Still, there are things people can do to age gracefully and reduce the effects of aging on their bodies.The exhibit has a carnival theme. Visitors can stop by specific stations, like they would game booths at a carnival, and take part in activities surrounding three main topics: "Mysteries of Aging Revealed," "The Amazing Aging Brain" and "The Wild World of Aging."One station says that a major factor related to aging is the loss of collagen, a protein that gives skin strength and resilience. Collagen loss also can cause hardening of the arteries, cataracts, stiff joints and other problems.Want to find out how old you are without looking at your birth certificate? Stop by a station that features items from several generations. Among them are a Smurf, a 45 rpm record, an eight-track tape, a small World War II poster and a "conversation tube" - perhaps better known as an ear trumpet.The more of those items you can identify, the older you are. But there is a consolation to being older, the display mentions: You have more knowledge and experience than younger people. (Feel better?)Other exhibit activities include:"Exploring the human body and learning which types of cells are younger and older than others. One station mentions that the body contains about 100 trillion cells, and each day, about 10 trillion of those cells are replaced, although certain cells are replaced more than others."Analyzing the human brain to learn how the brain's normal aging process differs from changes caused by Alzheimer's disease."Learning about the aging process of animals, including the giant tortoise that never seems to age."Amazing Feats of Aging" runs through Sept. 7 at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville. It is sponsored by King's Grant retirement community and the Southern Area Agency on Aging with support from the Alzheimer's Association and the Virginia Agency for the Aging Regular admission charges will cover the exhibit. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/72 Warner: Area Sets Example for U.S.- Chamber Holds Annual Meeting http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/72 Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:00:00 EST The kind of progress Henry County and Martinsville have seen in recent years is the kind of progress the United States needs for an economic turnaround, according to former governor Mark Warner. Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinThursday, May 22, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe kind of progress Henry County and Martinsville have seen in recent years is the kind of progress the United States needs for an economic turnaround, according to former governor Mark Warner.The national economy can rebound if the government and all Americans put forth the same amount of effort that area residents have given to rebuild the local economy following shutdowns in the textile and furniture industries, Warner told local business and government leaders Wednesday night.He was the keynote speaker Wednesday during the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce's 49th Annual Meeting and Leadership Recognition Dinner at Chatmoss Country Club."It seems like you're pushing the rock uphill" sometimes, but Henry County and Martinsville are making economic progress, Warner said.He recalled that with its manufacturing heritage, the community used to be Virginia's "economic engine" and "carried the state on its back in the 1950s and 1960s."Also, he recalled that while he was governor from 2002 to 2006, about 3,200 jobs were created in the community.In describing how the community has rallied to reverse economic troubles, Warner mentioned the effort put into launching the New College Institute, which aims to become a public four-year university.The time and effort involved in launching a higher education institution has not been seen much across the nation, let alone elsewhere in Virginia, during recent decades, Warner indicated.He also mentioned the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue, which has increased visitation at the museum and boosted local tourism-related economic development efforts, officials have said."You all deserve a round of applause ... and a lot of support" for efforts to revive the local economy, Warner said. "You've come a long, long way."?Warner, a Democrat, said candidly that like many area residents, he also is out of work and seeking a job - he is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner, R-Va.But forget about political party affiliations."To get our country fixed," he said, "first and foremost we have to stop being Republicans and stop being Democrats and start being Americans."?He added that he is tired of politics being driven by left-wing and right-wing extremists.Warner pitched a six-step plan to raise U.S. economic competitiveness. The steps include:"Changing the nation's energy policy. "It makes no sense," he said, that federal energy policy seems to be to borrow money from China to buy oil produced elsewhere in the world.He added that he thinks some of that money ends up in terrorists' hands.Warner voiced support for developing alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power and biofuels. He thinks the energy industry will be the major job-producing industry of the future."Emphasizing the need for education to strengthen the work force. Efforts to retrain jobless workers must be stressed, as well as efforts to provide the same quality public education for children statewide.A student in Martinsville or Henry County deserves the same quality of education as a student in burgeoning Fairfax County, he reasoned."Increasing government funding for research and development. The result of more research and development would be more innovation, Warner said.He said the U.S. ranks only sixth in the world in terms of money spent on research and development as part of the Gross National Product."Improving access to health care. Having approximately 50 million Americans without health insurance is "morally wrong," Warner said.He said that everyone involved in providing and financing medical care must work together to cut costs and make quality care available to everyone."Truth-telling about fiscal policy," as Warner described it.He said the equivalent of the "single worst tax increase" Americans face is "a dollar that continues to decline" in value.Financially speaking, he said the federal government must "get its house in order" so Americans do not leave long-term debt to their children."Developing a long-term plan to rebuild infrastructure throughout the U.S.Warner compared such a plan to the one President Eisenhower established in the 1950s to develop the interstate highway system. He mentioned that he supports the planned I-73 that is to be built through Henry County.Warner said that no matter who is elected president in November, he thinks "we are going to get a fresh start" at increasing the nation's prominence in the world economy.When the governor entered the country club's large banquet room, he immediately began walking from table to table, shaking hands and talking briefly with those attending the dinner.He received standing ovations before and after his speech, plus several rounds of applause during his speech.Jay Edelen, chairman-elect of the chamber's board of directors, presented Warner with a gift basket.Due to time constraints, the former governor was unable to attend the entire event. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/73 Chamber Awards Are Given http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/73 Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Two local businessmen were honored Wednesday by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate organization. Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, May 22, 2008 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterTwo local businessmen were honored Wednesday by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate organization, the Chamber's Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG).Gil Carter, an executive with Fidelity Bank, was presented the Fred Herring Award. Lance Heater, president of Southwest Virginia Gas Co., received the Chairman's Award.The awards were presented during the chamber's 49th Annual Meeting and Leadership Recognition Dinner, held at Chatmoss Country Club. Mark Warner, a former Virginia governor, was the keynote speaker. (See related story.)C-PEG raises private funds for economic development efforts. It presents the Fred Herring Award.Herring was a local businessman who died in 2001 after a long battle with cancer. He was "an extraordinary individual" and "extremely vocal in his love for the area," said C-PEG Chairman Jay Hervey.Carter "is no different," Hervey said. "He also believes that Martinsville-Henry County is an area where businesses and individuals should want to come" and where people should want to raise their families.The Fred Herring Award recognizes someone who has unselfishly given to the community through volunteerism and working for economic growth.Hervey mentioned Carter's extensive service to the chamber and C-PEG. He said that Carter will rotate off C-PEG's board soon but plans to stay involved with the organization's strategic planning process.Carter's "encouraging outlook on our organization has kept all of us extremely optimistic and focused," said Hervey.The Chairman's Award is presented by the chamber. It goes to the person whom the chamber's board chairman thinks has had the biggest impact on the organization during the past year.Heater, a former chamber board chairman, is a "very low key" person but has "high energy when it comes to something he believes in, such as the chamber of commerce," said current board Chairman John Parkinson.Parkinson said Heater "set goals for this chamber and has made sure that we were on a clear path to meet or exceed them.""His calm and methodical approach to goal setting and achievement of those goals" made him an excellent chamber leader, said Parkinson.Neither Carter nor Heater commented upon receiving their awards.Both Carter and Heater have been involved in other local organizations as well as the chamber, Hervey and Parkinson noted.During the annual meeting, Parkinson, chief executive officer of Drake Extrusion Inc., noted the chamber's successes during the past year.Fast Track 2008 was the chamber's biggest trade show ever with a record number of exhibitors and record attendance, he said. Chamber membership grew to more than 600 and there were increases in the number of graduates in adult and youth leadership development programs, he added.Parkinson said the chamber continues to help local businesses in any way it can. He pointed out that it is becoming more involved in efforts to make sure the local work force has skills needed for a transitioning economy."We have to help provide new skills for our existing work force," Parkinson said, "so they can help become productive members of our local work force for new and existing businesses."Parkinson said that during his involvement with the chamber in recent years, the community has seen many successes.Those include the establishment of the New College Institute, the Virginia Museum of Natural History's new building, the record of decision for the planned Interstate 73, the recruitment of RTI International Metals to Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park and the groundbreaking for a new soccer complex, he said.Those successes "are amazing for a small community such as ours," he said. "I believe they are responsible for creating a more positive attitude (among area residents and business leaders) and providing hope that this community will make a comeback in the years ahead."Chamber board Chairman-elect Jay Edelen said "e-commerce" could have an important role in the economic development of Henry County-Martinsville."The Internet is the great equalizer," said Edelen, founder and president of CoolKnobsandPulls.com, a locally based online retail hardware business that ships its products around the world. "It has fundamentally changed the way that the world does business."He cited several reasons why he thinks Henry County-Martinsville is well-suited for e-commerce firms. For instance, the area is located almost in the exact center of the East Coast, which means customers can get shipments in two days or less. And, by being in a small community, companies would see lower operating costs - such as taxes, wages and real estate prices - than they would in a big city, he said.Edelen said he aims for the chamber to emphasize the development of information technology in the area along with work force development."We've got to continue to hammer home the point" that businesses must invest in information technology and tools in order to succeed, he added.Hervey said that since it was launched more than 10 years ago, C-PEG has invested more than $800,000 of its own funds as well as raised almost $4.8 million in the community to support economic development efforts."We all have a vested interest to make Martinsville-Henry County an even better place to live, work and play," he said.C-PEG is trying to find ways to contribute to local small businesses, said Chairman-elect Guy Stanley."The private sector must invest in our future in order to keep this area vibrant," Stanley said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/71 Nature Program Funded http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/71 Thursday, 15 May 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History and The Harvest Foundation have announced a new initiative titled the Children and Nature Educational Network, in which nature will be used as an educational laboratory. Thursday, 15 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinThursday, May 15, 2008The Virginia Museum of Natural History and The Harvest Foundation have announced a new initiative titled the Children and Nature Educational Network, in which nature will be used as an educational laboratory.The Harvest Foundation has given the museum a three-year, $215,350 grant for the program that will offer children an interactive approach to outdoor learning and will complement what they learn in area schools."This is a unique concept," said Harvest Foundation Program Officer John Estes."The program and the partnerships that will be developed by the VMNH will be one of a growing number of efforts around the country that have a common aim of getting children and adults off the sofa and into exploring, learning about and appreciating the local natural resources."?VMNH has successfully developed community events that have enabled the public to take advantage of the museum's state-of-the-art facilities and exhibits. However, with the help of this initiative, the museum hopes also to shed light on how valuable a resource nature can be in education, according to a release from Harvest.Providing learning opportunities for children in an outdoor setting not only helps children appreciate the environment, but it also has been linked to helping them develop lifelong creative thinking skills as well as healthy and physically active lifestyles, the release states."Put simply, the purpose of the ... program is to provide more opportunities for children to learn, enjoy and just be outdoors," said Dr. Dennis Casey, director of education and public programs at VMNH. "Today, people are spending less time outdoors and many of the experiences are now electronic or virtual. Without real-world, outdoor experiences, the knowledge and experiences communities enjoy from natural spaces will not be passed on to future generations."This program is designed to not only provide new programming but also to tap into the many existing resources our community has to offer. And, as a natural resource agency, this project is a great fit. We will be able to participate in other efforts both statewide and on a national scale that are aimed at re-connecting children and nature," Casey said.The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Virginia Association of Museums and Heritage Preservation. It is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the commonwealth of Virginia.The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/70 Museum Foundation Presents Awards http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/70 Thursday, 08 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Three local residents and a local firm received Thomas Jefferson Awards on Wednesday from the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation. Thursday, 08 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Thursday, May 8, 2008 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThree local residents and a local firm received Thomas Jefferson Awards on Wednesday from the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation.George and Jean Adams of Martinsville received the Noel T. Boaz Director's Award. It recognizes people who have made significant contributions, either through volunteer efforts or financial support, to help the museum become more successful and secure its future.During an awards ceremony, museum Executive Director Tim Gette said the Adams have been "major supporters of our institution" since it opened in the 1980s.George Adams is a former city councilman and mayor. Gette said that in those roles, Adams helped area residents realize the value of having the state's natural history museum in the community.Without Adams' help, the museum might not be in Martinsville today, said Gette.Jean Adams has "spent an immeasurable amount of time and energy" to further the museum, including serving on its board of trustees for 10 years and helping launch the original Friends of the Museum group, he said.George Adams indicated he thinks his wife has done more to help the museum than he has. Speaking to men at the awards ceremony, he said humorously that usually "the wife does most of the work. We (husbands) simply back them up."?The Matthew Fontaine Maury Distinguished Service Award was presented to Suzi Kirby of Martinsville. The award recognizes a business or company that assisted the museum with its development efforts in an exemplary way.Maury, who lived during the 1800s and was from Fredericksburg, was known as the father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology. Pam Armstrong, vice president of the museum's board, said Kirby is a part-time employee of the museum who started volunteering there in 1984.Kirby is "a quiet unassuming woman who has given so generously" of her time, energy and courage to help the museum, Armstrong said."Working here has never been a job for me," Kirby said. "It's been a joy."?Tacoma Inc. of Martinsville, which runs local Taco Bell restaurants, received the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award. The award goes to a company that has shown significant support for natural sciences in Virginia through research, science education or other relevant programs.Rogers, whom Mount Rogers is named after, was the state's first geologist. He later founded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Tacoma funded a museum publication and provides other support, such as lunch for some school classes visiting the museum, officials said.Accepting the award was Cathie Carter, Tacoma's marketing director.Also receiving Jefferson Awards were:"James C. Firebaugh Jr. of Richmond, who received the William Barton Rogers Individual Award. The award is presented to a person who has shown significant support for natural sciences in Virginia through research, science education or other relevant programs.Firebaugh spent 23 years with the Virginia Department of Education, lastly as director of the Office of Middle and High School Instruction. He previously was a science teacher in Henrico County."Charles K. Jervis of Christiansburg, who received the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. The medal is presented to a Virginia educator who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history, environmental and science education. Jervis is "an innovator in the field of science education" who works at Auburn High School, according to Patricia Gaudreau of the Montgomery County Schools, who presented the award."Dr. Joseph C. Mitchell of Gainesville, Fla., who was presented the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science. The medal goes to a person who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.Mitchell, who has been a research associate with the museum since 1993, is "the embodiment of a Virginia naturalist" who has done research for 40 years on various animals including amphibians and reptiles, said Dr. Richard Hoffman, the museum's curator of recent invertebrates.Now, Mitchell is working on a reference book about snakes in North America, Hoffman said.The museum presents the Thomas Jefferson Awards annually. Though only two awards actually mention Jefferson in their titles, the museum considers all of the awards to be Jefferson Awards, said Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs.The museum named some of its awards after Jefferson because the former president was a major supporter of science and a statesman from Virginia, according to Barber.Dr. William M. Kelso, director of archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities' "Jamestown Rediscovery" project, was the keynote speaker for the awards ceremony.Kelso gave a short speech on the history of the Jamestown colony and its importance as the first permanent English settlement in North America.Remains of some of the settlers have been found, he pointed out, including a boy, a man who was the victim of a gunshot wound, and a man who was buried with a ceremonial spear.Kelso said that many Jamestown settlers were "astute military folks" and some were talented at glass-making, smelting iron and metallurgy. That contradicts some historians' thinking that settlers were lazy, he said.The awards ceremony included the unveiling of a plaque in the museum's library honoring current and past Jefferson Award recipients. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/69 VMNH Tracks Visits- Most are 300-mile radius http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/69 Sunday, 04 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Since it moved into a new building in March 2007, the Virginia Museum of Natural History has lured visitors from as far as California and Europe. Sunday, 04 May 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, May 4, 2008 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterSince it moved into a new building in March 2007, the Virginia Museum of Natural History has lured visitors from as far as California and Europe, according to Executive Director Tim Gette."We're getting visitors from all over the United States," Gette said, but most are from "within a 250- to 300-mile radius of Martinsville."?That is "our core audience" in terms of marketing efforts, he said."It shows our marketing plan is working," added museum board of trustees Chairman George Lyle.The museum has drawn many visitors from all over Virginia as well as from North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York state, Gette said.Yet "most of our visitors are either from Virginia or North Carolina," he said. He estimated that probably 75 percent to 80 percent of museum visitors are from those two states, but he did not have exact percentages Saturday.Many people who traveled from farther distances came to the museum as part of vacations in Virginia. Many of them became aware of the museum through packets of information on statewide attractions they received from the Virginia Tourism Corp., according to Gette.Gette said the museum also has seen people from out of town who used to live in the Martinsville area and came back to visit relatives, as well as more people from the Roanoke and Richmond areas than visited in the past.The museum does not track the impact its out-of-town visitors have on the local economy, such as which other attractions they visit and how much money they spend, he said.But he knows they visit other attractions. For instance, he has been told that visitors have stopped by the Artisan Center uptown after leaving the museum, he said.The museum has a kiosk in its lobby with information on various attractions in the area.Last spring, the museum moved into a new 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue that is five times as large as its previous location, the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue. The high-tech exhibits in the new museum building are more modern than the previous exhibits.Statistics show that between April 2007 and April 2008, the museum had 53,028 visitors. That is a 252-percent increase over the average April to March visitation of 21,074 people the museum saw in the old building during the past three calendar years. Average monthly visitation in the 2007-08 period was 4,419 people.The museum's total admissions income of $104,200 since April 2007 is a 492 percent increase over the average admissions income of $21,167 from the previous two April-to-March calendar years, statistics show.Total sales at the museum's gift store from July 1 through March 31 were about $47,534. The store averaged sales of only about $3,000 per year at the museum's former location, Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber told the museum's board of trustees Saturday.Board members were delighted to learn how well the museum is doing at its new location.Lyle noted that visitation has risen at a time when gasoline prices have increased, making it harder for people to travel. "Can we sustain this growth? I'm optimistic we can," he said.Vice Chairman Pam Armstrong, also of Martinsville, said she was hoping to see visitation double. But with a 250-percent increase, "I am so extremely proud of the museum," she said."We knew it would go up, but we didn't know how much," she said of the visitation.Lyle said "we really had no reference points" to gauge.Construction of the new building was a major milestone in the museum's history.Now, the museum is planning for another milestone: Celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.Barber will chair an anniversary committee, to be comprised of staff and volunteers, that will develop a series of commemorative events.In other matters, the museum board on Saturday:"Learned that a $150,000 cut in state funds imposed on the museum will largely be made up by not filling the position of former curator of vertebrate paleontology Nick Fraser.Fraser, who also was the museum's director of research and collections, left in December to work at the Royal Museum of Scotland in his homeland.The rest of the cut will be made up through "small things that add up," said Barber, such as energy-saving measures and taking out some phones at the Douglas Avenue building, where the museum still houses some collections."Approved its officers for the coming fiscal year.Armstrong will be chairman. Lee Lester of Martinsville will be vice chairman. Novel Martin of Roanoke will continue to be treasurer and LeAnn Binger of Petersburg will remain secretary."Learned the museum has received a 2008 MUSE Award for the Carmel Church exhibit in its "Uncovering Virginia" gallery.The award, presented by the American Association of Museums, recognizes the best in multimedia design of exhibits, Barber said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/68 Community News: VA Museum of Natural History receives award http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/68 Wednesday, 30 April 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History received a Silver MUSE award from the American Association of Museums during an awards ceremony held on April 27 at the Colorado Convention Center during the AAM Annual Meeting in Denver. The museum received the award for the interactive bone-bed in the "Carmel Church" exhibit located in the "Uncovering Virginia" gallery. Wednesday, 30 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: WSLS.com The Virginia Museum of Natural History received a Silver MUSE award from the American Association of Museums during an awards ceremony held on April 27 at the Colorado Convention Center during the AAM Annual Meeting in Denver. The museum received the award for the interactive bone-bed in the "Carmel Church" exhibit located in the "Uncovering Virginia" gallery. The MUSE Awards are presented by the Media and Technology Committee of the American Association of Museums, recognizing outstanding achievement in museum media and technology. Now in its 19th year, the MUSE Awards competition received almost 200 applications in 2008 from a wide variety of museums in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Past MUSE awards recipients include the Field Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Museum Victoria in Australia, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and more. The "Carmel Church" exhibit represents an active VMNH research site near Richmond that is a dense bone-bed of fossil whales, sharks, and other marine animals that lived 14 million years ago. The centerpiece of the award-winning "Carmel Church" exhibit is a reconstruction of the partially-excavated Carmel Church bone-bed, with numerous fossil remains, a monitor-and-track-wheel control panel in front of the reconstruction, and an overhead projection screen presented as if looking up from the seafloor. The control screen displays a navigable image of the bone-bed, which visitors can explore using a cursor designed to look like an paleontological brush. When a bone from the model is selected, a new screen appears with an information page about that bone. In keeping with the active research theme, the data are presented in a "field notebook" style, and the text is a font based on the lead scientist's handwriting. In addition, some of the specimens are only partly identified or listed as "unidentifiable" to emphasize the incomplete nature of the research. Four of the species in the bone-bed offer a special surprise. When a visitor selects the bones of a whale, shark, ray, and sea turtle, they trigger an animated silhouette of the selected species, swimming overhead, as if they were under the sea looking up towards the surface. The presence of more than 50 specimens representing 20 species in the reconstruction, with only about 10 percent of them activating an animation, keeps the visitor engaged and ensures that repeat visitors never have exactly the same experience. "I am very pleased that the museum, in cooperation with Cortina Productions, has received this prestigious award from the American Association of Museums," said Timothy J. Gette, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "Our state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits are the result of a collaborative effort involving VMNH scientists, educators, and other staff working with exhibit designers and fabricators. This award helps to place VMNH among the highest quality natural history museums in the nation." The "Carmel Church" interactive bone-bed and other VMNH multimedia components were produced in conjunction with Cortina Productions. For more information about "Carmel Church" or other state-of-the-art, interactive VMNH exhibits, visit www.vmnh.net. For more information about Cortina Productions, visit www.cortinaproductions.com. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/64 VMNH Presentation on the Science and Significance of Whale Project http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/64 Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST At a regular meeting of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Alton Dooley of the Virginia Museum of Natural History presented the science and significance of a proposed ancient twenty-eight foot Gray Whale fossil to be housed in the Caroline Visitor Center on Rt. 207 by late summer. Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFrom: Caroline County Board of SupervisorsRe: Miocene Whale Display/ Dr. Alton Dooley, Virginia Museum of Natural History presentation on the science and significance of Whale ProjectDate: April 23 2008Percy Ashcraft, County AdministratorAt a regular meeting of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Alton Dooley of the Virginia Museum of Natural History presented the science and significance of a proposed ancient twenty-eight foot Gray Whale fossil to be housed in the Caroline Visitor Center on Rt. 207 by late summer.Dr. Dooley, a paleontologist with the Museum who has been working at the Caroline Quarry site in Carmel Church, detailed a number of finds made in Caroline including the bus sized gray whale, Eobalaenoptera. Dr. Dooley characterized the Carmel Church site as the most important paleontological site in North America east of the Mississippi.Board of Supervisors Chairman, Floyd Thomas, invited Dr. Dooley to speak to the Board about the finds in Caroline to explain their significance and how Caroline could benefit from this unique opportunity.The Virginia Museum of Natural History has since the 1990s been working to extract a rare combination of land and ocean animal fossils dated between 12 and 14 million years ago. Another rare find is the most intact example of an early horse discovered in America known by its scientific name, Calippus regulus. Dr. Dooley pointed out that Caroline's historic association with horses extends further back than Secretariat. Caroline's first horses are 14 million years old.The Gray Whale, Eobalaenoptera, is only on display in Martinsville at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC also has a specimen, but it is not on display. When the whale project is funded, Caroline County will have the only other display in America. The project is anticipated to cost $125,000 and will be paid for by gifts, grants and private revenue stream not from the County General Fund. Staff pointed out that none of the cost of the Whale Project was to impact the General Fund in any way. A donation already has been pledged from the Litt and Kath Thompson Foundation for $25,000. The Thompsons are land owners in Caroline County and Mr. Thompson is a leading businessman in Virginia.Most of the cost of the project ($100,000) is for casting the bones in a light and durable material and attaching them to a metal armature for display. The actual bones are too rare to display as they would deteriorate under normal building conditions. The $100,000 includes the hanging of the Whale from the tower section of the new Visitor Center by a Canadian firm that specializes in prehistoric animal displays. The work will be overseen by the Virginia Museum of Natural History which controls the ownership of the skeleton. The remaining cost covers the expense of display structures and information panels that interpret the discoveries from the Carmel Church site.A cast of the limited horse remains, Calippus regulus, will be included in the project.The Whale display will be a permanent fixture while there may be a rotating display of other items continually found in the Carmel Church dig site.Chairman Thomas suggested rotating displays of the smaller finds in a proposed County museum to be located in Bowling Green as well as at the Visitor Center.Dr. Dooley made his presentation into a movie that will is available to the public and can be found here. Dr. Dooley will repeat the presentation in the future and specifically when Eobalaenoptera is displayed in the Visitor Center. Donations to the display will go to the Virginia Museum of Natural History and be tax deductible as the Museum foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non profit corporation. The Department of Economic Development and Tourism will forward donations to the museum and staff is available to brief potential donors about the project. Donors are encouraged to give as early as possible to allow for Eobalaenoptera to appear at the opening of the Visitor Center.In a Commonwealth proud of being the first English colony in North America 401 years old, Caroline can boast of being the most Pre-historic County in Virginia-14 Million Years Old.Eobalaenoptera offers Interstate travelers and Caroline residents a perspective almost never encountered in a similar venue, not one of miles, but of deep time and geological change that shapes the planet and its life. That perspective will be possible because of the support of the Board of Supervisors and Caroline community of the whale display project.Contact Information:Gary WilsonDirector, Caroline CountyDepartment of Economic Development & Tourism804.633.4074gwilson@co.caroline.va.us http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/66 County Hopes Whale Will Make Big Splash http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/66 Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Caroline Economic Development Director Gary Wilson wants to make a full-scale reproduction of a prehistoric whale found in Carmel Church the focal point of the county's new visitors center come August. Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST News Article: Fredricksburg.comBy COREY BYERSDate published: 4/27/2008Caroline Economic Development Director Gary Wilson wants to make a full-scale reproduction of a prehistoric whale found in Carmel Church the focal point of the county's new visitors center come August.The arrival of the 28-foot reproduction, however, hinges on raising $125,000 in donations. Wilson is working to solicit funds from corporations in Caroline to make the display a reality.He wants the lifelike skeleton to be the main draw for a mini-exhibit on the wealth of fossils found in Caroline. Many of them date back 14 million years--when the area was a seabed."I think if you're a traveler and you're driving along, you'll see it and say 'Wow! What is that?'" Wilson says of the whale.Wilson believes it could help draw more than 250,000 visitors to the center each year. That's close to 700 people for each day it's open.He's also pitching it as a good way for businesses to cash in on the traffic. Contributors' names will go on a plaque at the center, be included on brochures and get a listing on a county Web site."The faster we get [donations], the quicker we can get the whale in," he said Friday.While there is no hard deadline for donations, Wilson said the county is off to a good start. So far, he said, the project has received $25,000 from Caroline landowners Richard and Kathy Thompson.Alton Dooley, assistant curator of paleontology for the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, said the whale bones were unearthed in Carmel Church in 1991. Exploration has continued at the former commercial quarry operated by Martin Marietta Aggregates since, producing fossils of other land and sea creatures, he said.Dooley and his staff have identified 50 different species at the quarry, including whales, sharks, dolphins, marine crocodiles, stingrays, three-toed horses, tapirs and animals similar to deer.Last month, his team unearthed camel fossils. He said thousands of other specimens from the Miocene epoch were found, too, but have yet to be identified.And that's just from an area of about 3,000 square feet--roughly the size of a four-bedroom house."Probably something like two-thirds of land animals from this time period [discovered in] Virginia are from this site," Dooley said.The reproduction Wilson hopes to display is of an eobalaenoptera, what Dooley describes as a baleen or filter-feeding whale. Similar baleen whales include the humpback and blue whale.Fourteen million years ago, Dooley said, Carmel Church was under the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline extended a few miles past where Interstate 95 is today.He said the Caroline site has one of the densest deposits of fossil and skeletal material and one of the richest bone beds east of the Mississippi River. At other dig sites in coastal plains, Dooley said fossils are usually excavated quickly."Carmel Church is the only place where we can keep going back to the same spot over and over again and we're going to find more stuff," Dooley said.There are only two other fossils like this available in the country--one at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the other, not on display, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.Dooley said most fossils found are not complete skeletons. For example, the Carmel Church dig turned up parts of the whale's backbone, but not the entire animal.So Dooley's team will turn to other collections to mold the rest of the visitor's center model.The remaining $100,000 Wilson needs will go to pay a museum subcontractor to build the display model."Part of the skeleton is an exact replica, part of it is modeling based on the same species and parts like the tip of tail, we don't know what it looks like so we'll use the closest living species," Dooley said.Wilson said when he gets the reproduction and other smaller fossils, he wants to rotate exhibits periodically. In other words, keep the visitors coming in."It keeps everything lively and fresh," Wilson said. "What's the latest found is always a reason to come back and see the new thing."Corey Byers: 540/735-1976 Email: cbyers@freelancestar.com  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/67 Nature Preserve Dedicated- Ridgeway Park is 7th in Country http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/67 Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST The Richard P. Gravely Jr. Nature Preserve is "ready to be discovered" by local residents and tourists alike, according to Lindley S. Butler, a board member of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA). Sunday, 27 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, April 27, 2008The Richard P. Gravely Jr. Nature Preserve is "ready to be discovered" by local residents and tourists alike, according to Lindley S. Butler, a board member of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA).Butler made the remark while addressing about 50 residents attending a dedication ceremony at the preserve Saturday.The preserve, located on Eggleston Falls Road in Ridgeway, is a 75-acre tract bordering the Smith River, according to Jim Adams, chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors."It contains 1.5 miles of trails and an outdoor classroom facility to be used for nature studies. The land was once home to a 500-acre plantation in the 1800s and a thriving tobacco farm in the 1900s," Adams said of the county's first interactive trail."A man once cautioned me to learn all that I could from the oldest citizens I encountered, because if their stories are not recorded and preserved, they are forever lost," Adams said.Visitors to the preserve "will not only get the benefits of the beautiful park surroundings as they walk the trail, it also is an opportunity to learn of the history of the property," he said. "Preserving the beauty of this place is progress at its finest."The preserve is the county's seventh park and 19th recreation facility, said Roger Adams, director of Henry County Parks and Recreation.It features 1.5 miles of marked wooded hiking trails with more to come, an informational sign with a history and map of the facility, stations on the trail that identify the plants nearby, and a station identifying the Burgess family cemetery.It also has a gravel parking lot and a picnic shelter.Lindley Butler explained that the land once was the Burgess family plantation. R.P. Gravely Jr. later bought it and "fell in love with this land."Gravely wanted it to be a wildlife habitat and nature conservancy, Butler said. "And if Richard Gravely thought it was worth preserving," then Butler said he realized "it must be" saved for future generations.Gravely was an industrialist, civic leader, historian and archeologist. He had been president of Gravely Furniture Co., started by his father, R.P. Gravely Sr., and organized and was chairman of Henry County Plywood Co. before he retired.He helped organize a local archeological society and was instrumental in getting a grant to excavate a major Indian village in the Koehler section of Henry County and an Indian village at the site of the Blue Ridge Regional Airport in Spencer.Among many other interests and honors, he was named Virginia's Archeologist of the Year in 1984.After Gravely's death, the property became held by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, which sold it to Henry County. The county partnered with the Dan River Basin Association to create the preserve."The beauty is obviously apparent," Adams said, but it also took a lot of work and dedication to bring it to Saturday's event. He thanked Henry County Public Service Authority and Parks and Recreation staff for their help.Jennifer Doss, rivers & trails project manager for the DRBA, said the trail has the capacity "to tell amazing stores," but without the efforts of many, the stories may have remained silent.She presented awards to several, including Adkins Home Building, the PSA, Parks & Recreation, Martinsville Henry County Rivers & Trails, The Harvest Foundation which provided funding, and others."The driving force behind this project" was Lindley Butler and his wife, T Butler, of the Dan River Basin Association, Doss said.Lindley Butler also expressed gratitude to many who helped with the project, including County Administrator Benny Summerlin and Adams.They, along with other county officials and others involved, "embraced the vision and provided vital resources" to help the project reach fruition, Butler said.The preserve and other areas like the Smith River are all "part of our economic future," he said of the preserve. "It won't replace" the jobs lost, but it is a vital part "of our changing economy." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/65 Museum Celebrates Bug Daze http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/65 Monday, 21 April 2008 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History featured roach races, butterfly collections and an array of creepy-crawlies during its third annual Bug Daze family festival on Saturday. Monday, 21 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, April 21, 2008By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History featured roach races, butterfly collections and an array of creepy-crawlies during its third annual Bug Daze family festival on Saturday.Exhibits taught visitors about catching and identifying insects, with bug-related art, games and educational presentations throughout the day."It's a really good opportunity for the kids," said Judy Biedrycki of Stuart.She and her husband, Stephen, said they bring their sons to the museum every time it hosts a festival."I do not like bugs, but I like studying them," said Joshua Biedrycki, 9. "I touched a millipede. It's my favorite part so far."His brother, Jared, 7, chimed in: "I liked the scorpion the best."Most kids named the bug petting zoo as their favorite part of the event. There, brave visitors could hold a millipede or cockroaches. A scorpion, centipede and tarantulas could be viewed inside plastic terrariums but not touched.Shana Beirne, a graduate student in entomology at Virginia Tech, manned the bug table. She showed off the millipede to a group of several families."This is my baby. It's pretty," she said.Not everyone was convinced."Ew," said one parent."People say they're scared of bugs, and when I ask why, they say they don't really know," Beirne explained. "These won't hurt you. They can't even bite."Beirne, who keeps a small menagerie of bugs at home, wants to share her love of insects with everyone. Some of the museum-goers were more receptive than others."Kids are usually excited. The parents, not so much," she said. "I want people to experience things they've never experienced before."At first, Skye Mitchell, 6, daughter of Alecia Mitchell of Martinsville, seemed reluctant to touch the bugs. She took small steps to the table and cautiously peered into a terrarium holding a few giant cave cockroaches."Whoa, that one's huge!" Skye said. "They are kind of cute, I guess."Beirne tried to coax her into holding one."You can touch them if you want. They're friendly," Beirne said.Skye held out her hands and giggled as Beirne handed her one of the bugs. Then she declared, "I like roaches."Budding artist Kyle Flood, 10, son of Yvette Flood of Martinsville, gravitated to the art table to draw pictures of ladybugs and beetles."I think bugs are cool," Kyle said. "I touched a beetle and held the big millipede."The festival included the children's play "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and her AmazingLearn More Machine: Bugs," performed by the Carlisle School Players.For the grownups, the event featured presentations and a book-signing by Dr.Arthur V. Evans, research associate for the department of entomology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Evans talked about the bugs people love to hate in a presentation called "What's Bugging You?" and then signed copies of his book of the same name.For "CSI" television show fans, Dr. Ralph E. Williams presented "The Use of Insects in Crime Investigation," a talk on how forensic entomology can help solve crimes.Williams is a professor of entomology at Purdue University whose experience includes forensic entomology death investigation.The event was sponsored by the Jameson Inn and Chick-Fil-A. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/63 Panelists Share Their Successes With Preschool http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/63 Friday, 11 April 2008 12:00:00 EST With increases in state funding tough to come by, the preschool programs that are flourishing in the commonwealth are spearheaded by passionate local leaders who find ways to make their programs work, a state official said Thursday. Friday, 11 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, April 11, 2008By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff WriterWith increases in state funding tough to come by, the preschool programs that are flourishing in the commonwealth are spearheaded by passionate local leaders who find ways to make their programs work, a state official said Thursday."We wish we could offer more from the state level," said Kathy Glazer, director of the governor's Office of Early Childhood Development. But "it really is at the local level that these things happen," she said, referring to successful preschool initiatives.Glazer spoke to about 50 school officials, Head Start directors and others interested in preschool education during a regional discussion on "Solving the Preschool Puzzle" held at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Created by Gov. Tim Kaine, the Office of Early Childhood Development works to expand access to and coordinate Virginia's system of early childhood development programs, which serve children from birth to age 5. As part of the discussion, Glazer recognized panelists who have implemented successful local programs.Among the speakers were Carmala Shively, special education preschool coordinator for Henry County; Scott Kizner, Martinsville Schools superintendent; and Harry Davis, Martinsville's director of early childhood education.Shively discussed the county's efforts this year to blend special education preschool students and typical preschool students in classrooms. Through a new program called Partners, school officials added 21 typically developing children to special education preschool classes in seven schools, with no more than four typical children per special ed room, Shively said.By doing that, the school system did not have to hire additional teachers or add another classroom but could serve more students, she said.In the new program, a special ed classroom could have students who range from those with severe and profound disabilities to those who are advanced for their age, Shively said."With a wide range of levels, you have to make sure you have resources in place" to serve all the students, she said. In the future, the schools would like to offer more training for teachers to prepare them to work with children of various abilities, she said.Although the program has not been without bumps in the road - some special ed teachers struggled to handle "normal" energetic 4-year-olds, for example - overall it has been a success, Shively said.More than anyone, the children have benefited, she said."The students have learned the most of all," she said. "They have openly accepted one another."?As an illustration, she told the story of one of the blended classes that took a field trip to go bowling. When a special education student started crying, it took his teacher 20 minutes to calm him down, she said.However, when he started crying again, one of the "partner" students - a typically developing child in the class - approached him, began rubbing his back and calmed him down within minutes.Shively showed a photo of the two sitting on the floor of the bowling alley, one with his arm around the other.The program, which is funded by grants, state and local funding, is in its early stages. Eventually, Shively said the school system hopes to offer only preschool, rather than separate tracks for typical and special ed children.Kizner and Davis discussed Martinsville's decision in the last two years to add preschool for 3-year-olds to its existing program for 4-year-olds. The program for 3-year-olds receives no state or federal funding, but Kizner and Davis said it makes an amazing difference in the students' performance.Tracking test scores has shown that children who go through the school's preschool programs are more successful by the time they enter third grade, Davis said.Kizner also discussed the school's commitment to involving parents in the process through home visits and providing transportation for parents to attend meetings and be involved with their children's school.In addition to the local panelists, speakers from Tazewell County, Roanoke and Harrisonburg discussed successes they have had with preschool initiatives.Their stories ranged from blending Head Start and public school preschool programs to expanding services for students transitioning from preschool, whether it is private or public, to kindergarten.Glazer encouraged those present to learn from one another's experiences and continue to lobby legislators for funding and support for pre-kindergarten initiatives.Thursday's discussion was coordinated by Sheryl Agee, director of the United Way's Success By 6 program. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/62 VMNH Visits Soar- Visits up 250%, income rises 50% in year http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/62 Sunday, 06 April 2008 12:00:00 EST The number of people visiting the Virginia Museum of Natural History has increased more than 250 percent since the museum moved into its new building on Starling Avenue in Martinsville one year ago. Sunday, 06 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, April 6, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe number of people visiting the Virginia Museum of Natural History has increased more than 250 percent since the museum moved into its new building on Starling Avenue in Martinsville one year ago.Income from museum admissions has risen almost 500 percent during the past 12 months as a result of the visitation increase.Statistics show the museum has received 53,028 visitors since April 2007. That is a 252 percent increase over the average April to March visitation of 21,074 people the museum saw during the past three calendar years.The heaviest month for visitation was last April just after the new building opened. There were a total of 7,159 visitors that month, figures show. The next heaviest months were June and July, each with more than 6,500.Average monthly visitation was 4,419 people.The total admissions income of $104,200 since last April is a 492 percent increase over the average admissions income of $21,167 from the previous two April-to-March calendar years, statistics indicate.Average admissions income per visitor has risen from $1.01 for the past two years to $1.96. Tim Gette, executive director of the museum, said those figures are less than admission prices because they reflect visitors admitted for free as well as those who pay.Individual admission prices are $9 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and college students and $5 for youth ages 3 to 18. Museum members and children under 3 years of age are admitted free.Admissions income is used to pay for employees and programs the state does not fund, including educators, security staff and temporary exhibits, according to Gette.Temporary exhibits "are not cheap to bring in," he said. For instance, Alien Earths, which is on display until April 30, cost $40,000 for three months.The museum's 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue is five times as large as its previous location, the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue, and has more modern exhibits due to the extra space.As a result, museum officials expected a significant increase in visits after moving into the new building, Gette said.He thinks the momentum will continue for two main reasons - changing exhibits and the economy.While the museum has permanent exhibits pertaining to Virginia's natural history, its temporary exhibits mean there always will be something new to lure previous visitors back, Gette said.Amid the economic slump, Virginians are likely to stay closer to home when they go on vacation, he added. Some may come to Martinsville mainly to visit the museum, while others may come mainly to visit attractions such as Philpott Lake yet want to stop by the museum while they are here, he said.Since moving into its new building, the museum has lured visitors from throughout the United States and other countries, according to officials.Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber said the appeal may be not only its exhibits, but also the museum's emphasis on customer service.Gette said there are museum enthusiasts who travel the nation mainly to visit museums, especially those affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.Visitors from Virginia and elsewhere have been complimentary of the new building and its exhibits, including temporary exhibits, he said."When people leave here," he said, "they ask what's coming next and when it's coming." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/61 'Tub of bugs' delights students- Insects bring lessons to life http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/61 Tuesday, 01 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Fifth-graders at Rich Acres Elementary School got up close and personal with aquatic bugs on Monday, thanks to a presentation by Wayne Kirkpatrick, a volunteer with the Dan River Basin Association. Tuesday, 01 April 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, April 1, 2008By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff WriterFifth-graders at Rich Acres Elementary School got up close and personal with aquatic bugs on Monday, thanks to a presentation by Wayne Kirkpatrick, a volunteer with the Dan River Basin Association.This is the third year some Henry County students have participated in Trout in the Classroom (TIC), a program created by Trout Unlimited that aims to teach students about watersheds and the environment by raising fish at school.A tank of roughly 100 trout sits in fifth-grade science teacher Joanna Griffith's classroom at Rich Acres. Students have been taking care of the fish since they hatched from eggs in December and will release them into the Smith River on May 29."It's hard work, but it's very much worth it because the kids get so excited," Griffiths said.Some of the fish already have grown into fingerlings, the size they were when released last year. Only about 20 have died so far, according to Griffiths, which is an improvement from years past.Raising trout not an easy task, Kirkpatrick said. Their ecosystem requires a precise set of conditions."The trout require cold water consistently," he said. "You have to set the temperature on the chiller, keep the pumps and filtration functional, control the pH and ammonia levels and clean the algae."Griffiths does most of the cleaning, but the students handle everything else. Each morning, they take turns feeding the fish and changing water in the tank."They're very diligent about taking care of them," Griffiths said.Her classroom has one of 25 tanks sponsored by Dr. David Jones, a Martinsville orthodontist who brought the TIC program to area schools.This year, tanks can be found in schools in Martinsville and Henry, Patrick, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties, Rockingham County, N.C., Carlisle School and the Virginia Museum of Natural History.On Monday, Kirkpatrick talked to the Rich Acres students about water ecosystems. He brought a "tub of bugs" from a local stream to show the kids what their trout will eat after they're released into the wild."It's a real kid magnet," Kirkpatrick said.During the presentation, he picked different bugs out of the water and held them up for the children to see. A few students shrank back when he held out a cranefly larva for them to touch."Ew, what is that?""Is that a worm?""I'm scared. It's moving!"Eventually, the students grabbed tweezers and gingerly picked up the snails, worms and crayfish themselves.At first, Danica Rich, 11, daughter of Viola and Walter Rich of Martinsville, seemed reluctant to handle the bugs. But soon she declared, "This is cool."?Raising the trout helps students understand their connection to the ecosystem, according to Griffiths."Your watershed begins in your backyard," Kirkpatrick told the class. "We need to take care of our personal space so we do not pollute this water."?Jada Long, 11, daughter of Vanessa and Lorenzo Long of Martinsville, said she enjoyed learning about the bugs."I'm not a big bug person," Jada said. "But after I got over my fear of it, the crayfish was the best part."Several children named the crayfish as their favorite part of the macroinvertebrate menagerie."I liked the crawdad. He pinched me, but it didn't hurt," said Michael Cates, 10, son of Joy and James Shoemaker of Martinsville.The kids also looked at bugs through a magnifying glass and used a worksheet to identify them.Said Jada, "You learn something new every day." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/60 Participants Are Listed http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/60 Monday, 31 March 2008 12:00:00 EST Students participating in this summer's New College Institute internship program, as well as their college and internship site, are as follows: Monday, 31 March 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, March 31, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterStudents participating in this summer's New College Institute internship program, as well as their college and internship site, are as follows:"William Brown, George Mason University, Kimble Reynolds Jr.'s law firm."Courtney Clark, University of North Carolina; Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce."India Dillard, University of Virginia, Theatre Works."Evan Eggleston, Virginia Tech, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries."Alicia Fernandez, Virginia Commonwealth University, Rives S. Brown Realtor."Jessica Flanagan, Ferrum College, Henry County Schools."Jacob Foley, College of William & Mary, Thomas Insurance Agencies."Sara Foley, University of Virginia, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County."Ally Foster, Virginia Tech, Dr. Mark T. Mahoney."Alyssa Hodges, Liberty University, Virginia Department of Corrections."Aimee Kanode, Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service."Sarah Beth Keyser, Davidson College, Citizens Against Family Violence."Brandon Martin, Ferrum College, Mallard & Mallard CPAs."Christopher Martin, Radford University, J.G. Edelen Co."Paul Martin, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Prosthetics."Taura Motley, James Madison University, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County."Mary Pilson, Virginia Tech, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County."Camron Preston, Radford University, Piedmont Medical & Renal Associates."Sarah Rakes, Christopher Newport University, Virginia Museum of Natural History."Dyer Rothrock, University of Georgia, Commonwealth's Attorney's Office."Chip Scales II, Radford University, Henry County Schools."Racheal Tatum, University of Virginia, Martinsville Bulletin."Patrick Turner, James Madison University, CPFilms Inc."Jessica Wickline, Radford University, Henry County Schools."Paul Wiederholt, James Madison University, Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association.Interns were selected by a six-person committee that included Ruby Jones, assistant to the institute's associate director; Imogene Draper, a retired educator and administrator; Russel Gardner, a local land surveyor and associate at Barnett Commercial Realty; Lee Hagwood, a local minister and adjunct faculty member at Danville Community College; Angela Logan, education program officer at The Harvest Foundation; and Lucy Hart Paeden, college guide at Patrick County High School. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/59 Master Plan Has Six Phases, Maximum Cost of $5.4M http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/59 Wednesday, 26 March 2008 12:00:00 EST The Wilson Park Steering Committee on Tuesday accepted a concept plan for improving the park, prioritized phases for the improvements and decided to approach The Harvest Foundation for funds for some of the improvements. Wednesday, 26 March 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, March 26, 2008By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Wilson Park Steering Committee on Tuesday accepted a concept plan for improving the park, prioritized phases for the improvements and decided to approach The Harvest Foundation for funds for some of the improvements.If all the phases of this master plan were done with the highest quality materials, best practices and so forth, the cost would be up to an estimated $5,385,700. But some committee members said they thought the project could be done for less."Related costs, such as design fees, permitting, surveying and construction administration, are not included in this estimate," the master plan states.The improvements might have to be done over several years, depending on fund-raising. The committee's priorities for the phases of improvements are:"1: Area A - Building a grass amphitheater, stage area, concession building, rest rooms and a game plaza; widening the western entrance to the park from Church Street Extension, rerouting part of that existing road and widening and paving the road through the park, which would be opened to traffic; building paved parking lots and possibly a trail; and related or other items. The cost is estimated at up to $1,985,100."2: Area C - Construction of a skate park, a basketball court, roadside parking spaces, a connection (such as a trail) to Patrick Henry Elementary School property and related or other work. The cost is estimated at up to $863,600."3: Area B - Construction of "dinosaur park" (a children's playground area), a game plaza, a concrete trail, a parking area and related or other work. The estimated cost is up to $1,004,200."4: Area D - Construction/development of several woodland trails, a wooden pedestrian bridge, an outdoor classroom area, gardens and related or other work. The estimated cost is up to $354,900."5: Area E - Construction of a playground near Hope Street and related or other work. The estimated cost is up to $262,800."6: Area F - Construction of a connection to the Virginia Museum of Natural History property, including possibly a bridge or elevated walkway and elevator, and related or other work. The estimated cost is up to $915,200.An improvement that the committee decided to add to the project was a BMX pump course, which would have mounds of dirt for bicycling enthusiasts to ride.The course is not expected to increase the cost of the park improvement project because volunteers could do the labor. It would be south of the skate park.Tiffani Underwood, Martinsville city planner who presented the plan, said Wilson Park, which is owned by the city, would not be expanded. She added that the park would remain largely wooded, but she did not have an estimate of how much woods would be disturbed.Officials plan to meet with officials of The Harvest Foundation to see if the foundation would help fund improvements, especially in Area A. The committee also plans to explore possible sources of funding for other phases of improvements, including foundations, the state government and private individuals or groups.The city government has not budgeted for the park improvements, but the "city wants to be a part of this," perhaps through such things as providing labor, machinery or planning advice, Underwood said.Anderson and Associates, an engineering, architectural consulting firm of Blacksburg, developed the master plan after Wilson Park Steering Committee meetings and hearings were held.The committee plans to meet again on April 22. If Anderson and Associates has revised the master plan by then for the addition of the BMX pump course and if The Harvest Foundation has stated if it is has an interest in funding part of the improvements, committee representatives would update the Martinsville City Council on the plans at its meeting that night.The city council would have to approve the master plan and priorities. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/58 Study: I-73's Impact Would Be Huge http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/58 Wednesday, 19 March 2008 12:00:00 EST The planned Interstate 73 will have a huge economic impact on the Henry County-Martinsville area, a consultant has determined. Wednesday, 19 March 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, March 19, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe planned Interstate 73 will have a huge economic impact on the Henry County-Martinsville area, a consultant has determined.By 2025, the highway could support up to nine hotels, 11 gas stations, six fast-food restaurants and four full-service restaurants along its interchanges in Henry County, according to a report prepared by Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics.Exact locations of interchanges have not been determined.Those businesses should be able to create about 498 jobs and contribute about $48 million annually to the local economy by then, the study shows. The latter amount reflects money spent by customers as well as taxes and employee compensation paid by the businesses.Any company eventually opening a distribution center along I-73 would create about 200 jobs and have a yearly economic output of about $14 million by 2020, the study projects.Other firms that open or move plants to sites along I-73 also would create jobs and economic output attributable to the highway, the study shows.By 2020, the study shows, Henry County could be receiving as much as $208,753 in annual business/professional license fees from construction firms, as well as $916,418 in various taxes paid by service businesses.The study focuses more on the economic impact to the overall region in Virginia where I-73 is to be built than it does on Henry County-Martinsville alone. That region includes Henry, Franklin and Roanoke counties as well as the cities of Martinsville, Roanoke and Salem.Along that line, the study shows construction of I-73 will create more than 5,300 temporary jobs yearly in the region, as well as have a total economic impact of $490.1 million between 2012 - when the study anticipates the construction could begin - and 2020.The latter figure takes into account a ripple effect reflecting things such as money that contractors spend on supplies locally, services provided by site developers and designers and even products and services that construction workers spend money on while working in the region, said Chris Chmura, president of the economics/analytics firm.She estimated that more than 20 percent of the region's overall economic impact from I-73 would be in Henry County and Martinsville.The Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce presented the study's findings to the public Tuesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The Harvest Foundation and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission paid for the study.Findings of the study are "very encouraging news" for the area, said chamber President Amanda Witt.Martinsville City Councilwoman Kathy Lawson said the figures show I-73 will be "a shot in the arm for an area that has been hit over and over and over again with (economic) depression."The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has selected a roughly 70-mile route for I-73 in Virginia running from near Roanoke south to the North Carolina line and passing through Henry County east of Martinsville. While the interstate will not run through the city, it will be close enough to Martinsville for the city to directly benefit from it, the study says.Witt said the study focused on the route chosen by the CTB. She said the tobacco commission has a similar, yet less extensive, study on an alternate route proposed for I-73 that would take the highway closer to Martinsville.There is "very little difference" in the findings of that study, which was not discussed at Tuesday's presentation, and Chmura's findings, she said.Still, Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he was surprised that the alternate route study was not discussed, especially because the estimated $4 billion construction cost of I-73 in Virginia is "a lot of dag-gone money."Eventually, I-73 is to stretch from Michigan to South Carolina.Economic developers have predicted I-73 will help Henry County-Martinsville attract new business and industry. That is because interstates generally have fewer curves than most types of roads and do not have driveway connections that can slow traffic, causing a potential for accidents. Therefore, they are considered safer for large trucks used by businesses to travel on."Highways do make a difference in terms of economic growth," Chmura said.She pointed out that economic growth along I-81 has caused Harrisonburg and Winchester to grow so much that now they are considered by the state to be metropolitan areas.The Federal Highway Administration has issued a record of decision for I-73, clearing the way for the design phase.About $13.3 million, including roughly $8.8 million in federal funds, has been allocated for I-73 so far. However, the CTB has not yet committed to placing the interstate in its six-year plan for transportation projects.Projections in the study are based on assumptions such as no oil crises or economic recessions, which could cause motorists to travel less, occurring during the next decade and I-73 not being a toll road, which could lead to traffic along the interstate being less than expected.Preparation of the study involved examining lots of information pertaining to economic factors and highways. The information included studies of highways previously built and their effects on industry and economic differences among areas with and without major highways, the study indicates.Chmura's full report is available on the chamber's Web site, www.martinsville.com. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/57 Alien Earth Exhibit Open at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/57 Monday, 04 February 2008 12:00:00 EST If you're ready for an out of this world experience, you're in luck. Monday, 04 February 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWritten By Lindsey HenlyFebruary 04, 2008 If you're ready for an out of this world experience, you're in luck.The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville has opened a special exhibit called "Alien Earths."The exhibit is from the Space Science Institute in Colorado and explores the age-old questions - where did we come from and are we alone?The museum says the exhibit is its biggest to date."It's packed full of hands-on activities not only for kids, but for visitors of all ages," Ryan Barber said.The exhibit will be open to the public until the end of April. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/56 Tour Bus Reps Tour Southside http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/56 Sunday, 03 February 2008 12:00:00 EST The Henry County-Martinsville area put out the welcome mat on Friday in hopes that a visit by tour bus company representatives will bring them back. Sunday, 03 February 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, February 3, 2008 By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer The Henry County-Martinsville area put out the welcome mat on Friday in hopes that a visit by tour bus company representatives will bring them back for more. Representatives of four motor-coach tour companies visited the area as part of a tour of Southside Virginia. They said they were impressed with what they saw and could envision working to schedule tours to Southside either as a destination point or as part of larger tours.The group visited the Martinsville Speedway and ate lunch at Clarence's Restaurant in Ridgeway. It then visited Piedmont Arts, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the newly renovated Artisan Center, all in Martinsville.Friday night, the group was scheduled to travel to the Virginia International Raceway, between Danville and South Boston, and spend the night in that area.Previously, it had visited a historic park near Petersburg before traveling to Southside and visiting such attractions as South Boston Speedway, Bob Cage's Sculpture Farm, the Berry Hill ante-bellum mansion and estate, the North Theatre, the Tank Museum, a fine arts/historical museum, a farmers market, an outdoor amphitheater and "millionaires' row." And group members had a "period" breakfast, featuring cuisine around the time of the Civil War - fitting since Danville was the last Confederate capital.The group was scheduled to return to Virginia Beach on Saturday for the American Bus Association's 2008 Marketplace. That is a conference with about 3,500 travel and group tour industry representatives and tourism officials from across North America.At the Martinsville Speedway Friday morning, despite the rainy weather, the group's tour bus drove two laps around the half-mile track. Then speedway President Clay Campbell drove the tour group members two at a time in the pace car, traveling at 60 mph or so on the track. Campbell said the pace car can reach a speed of at least 130 mph.Accompanying the group were tourism directors David Rotenizer of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., Rosalee Maxwell of Danville and Linda Sheppard of South Boston-Halifax County.Campbell told the group about the history of the speedway, improvements to the track in recent years and details of its operation. It will seat about 63,000 people, has two large and two smaller races each year, has about 800 people on the payroll for large racing events and is family-oriented track, he said."We have a city within a city. Most places would jump through hoops to get a place like this," Campbell said.Years ago, officials estimated the economic impact of one race at $30 million, he said. And much of that money is spent in the community by race fans for such things as lodging, meals and shopping, Campbell said.Campbell thanked the group for coming and said the speedway generally gets 100 to 150 buses at a race, which saves an average of 25 or so parking spaces per bus.Campbell said he hopes the group's visit will translate into more visitors to the track through bus tours.The tour company owners or officials said that NASCAR racing, history, natural beauty and some other sights of interest could help attract tour groups to the area."It's neat to find interesting things you don't find in other places." said Lee Dahl of Brighton, Colo., owner of Leisure West Tours and Cruises.He said he could foresee possibly two different types of trips here: one focusing on the tobacco, history and historic mansions (possibly in connection with Christmas lights), and one for NASCAR fans.Ilene Berke of West Bloomfield, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, owner and operator of Berkley Tours and Travel Inc., also saw the area's tourism potential."My impression (of Southside) is absolutely fantastic," she said, adding that she was impressed with Danville's Tank Museum and other museums in the area, NASCAR racing, the friendliness of the people "and most of all, the beauty of the area.""Most definitely" she would bring people here, she said. Tom Brynan, vice president of Werner Coach in Phoenixville, Pa., said he thinks this area would appeal to tourists because of NASCAR racing, the region's history and the museums.Brent Johns, a Web designer for Treasure Valley Tours in the Boise, Idaho, area, puts tours together for his company and figures out whom he can market them to."It's some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen," he said of Southside.He added that he also was impressed by NASCAR racing, and he is putting together a tour to several NASCAR racetracks, including Martinsville. "We'll be here for a week," he said.Johns also said the history of the region, particularly tied to the Civil War, would help attract tourists.Rotenizer said that members of the tour group seemed to enjoy not only their visit to the speedway Friday, but the art exhibits, art classes and the VMNH exhibits at their other stops.He said the bus tour industry is changing and that baby boomers want to do things that are different or exciting. Some of the activities in this area, such as customized art classes, could be attractions for those people, he said.Tourism officials Rotenizer, Maxwell and Sheppard said that they are working together to promote the region."There is definitely interest, but competition (for bus tours) is tough," Rotenizer said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/55 "Alien Earths" exhibit at VMNH Takes Visitors Our Of This World http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/55 Friday, 01 February 2008 12:00:00 EST The newest exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History could be considered its star attraction. Friday, 01 February 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, February 1, 2008By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe newest exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History could be considered its star attraction.Alien Earths focuses on stars and other celestial bodies, as well as the search for life beyond the planet we inhabit.The exhibit opens today at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville and will be on display through April 30.There is a major correlation between nature and outer space: The origins of elements that make up the Earth, and even the human body, are traced to the development of stars, one component of the exhibit points out.Alien Earths was developed by the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. Topics covered by the exhibit include how what we know about life on Earth can help us search for life elsewhere in the universe, what type of intelligent life might be found in outer space and how to search for intelligent life.Interactive and multi-media presentations in the exhibit include:"Our Place in Space," which shows a representation of an area of outer space beyond the solar system that scientists now are studying."Star Birth," which provides information about various types of stars."Planet Quest," which shows the methods scientists are using to search for planets outside the solar system, and"Search for Life," which shows the techniques scientists are using to discover life beyond Earth - if it exists anywhere.Scientists so far have discovered more than 100 planets outside the solar system, but no evidence of life on those planets or elsewhere in space has been found, according to museum curators.The Milky Way galaxy where Earth is located is only one of many billions of galaxies believed to exist, and each galaxy is believed to contain numerous stars and planets, the exhibit states.Visitors to the exhibit will be able to, among other things, use an infrared camera to study ordinary objects, compare the sun's life cycle to those of other stars, put planets into motion around a star and explore microbes, which are perhaps the most abundant life form in the universe.They also will learn about the "building blocks of life" - atoms, molecules and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the latter of which stores and transmits genetic information in organisms.Exhibits include hands-on activities ranging from listening to strange sounds and deciding whether they were made by natural or intelligent life to making educated guesses on how many grains of salt are in various containers. The salt represents the abundance of stars in the universe."The exhibit should be popular with school groups" due to those activities, said Ryan Barber, the museum's marketing and public relations director.Alien Earths is sponsored by Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), which paid $5,000 toward the cost of bringing the exhibit to the museum.Kris Landrum, PHCC's public relations director, noted that both the college and the museum have missions to educate the public, but in different ways."It's academic, it's knowledge and that's what we're (the institutions) all about," she said of the exhibit. "And, it's fun."Together, the college and the museum paid $45,000 to bring Alien Earths to Martinsville for three months, said museum Executive Director Tim Gette.The expense is worthwhile, he said, to lure visitors to the museum and teach people - especially children - about the universe and life. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/54 Children Dig Dino Days at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/54 Sunday, 13 January 2008 12:00:00 EST About 1,300 people - many of them happy, chatty children - came face to face with some terrifying prehistoric beasts Saturday during the Virginia Museum of Natural History's Dino Days. Sunday, 13 January 2008 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, January 13, 2008About 1,300 people - many of them happy, chatty children - came face to face with some terrifying prehistoric beasts Saturday during the Virginia Museum of Natural History's Dino Days.Four-year-old Natalie Tollison of Ridgeway was so entranced by animated Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops displays that she went back to see the "terrible lizards" three times."She really likes those two," said her father, Michael Tollison, as Natalie inspected the display. She also was accompanied by her mother, Jane Pearson.And 5-year-old Patrick McKenna, who had traveled from Clemmons, N.C., with his father, Bruce, to see the exhibits, was proud of the fact that he had guessed the dimensions of a smaller dinosaur statute, frozen in the act of eating its decapitated prey."He enjoys it," said Bruce McKenna. Patrick said his favorite exhibit was the "allosaurus," the impressive large skeleton in the museum's main hall.While some adult visitors, including McKenna and Pearson, said they had expected just a few more exhibits at Dino Days, the younger children were enthusiastic about the exhibits and activities available.Michael Tollison said he felt it was the type of active experience children should get more often.Dinosaur displays at the event, including either fossils or representations, also included a T-Rex skull, Pterandons, Syntarus and Phytosaurus. Visitors also had a chance to watch through the glass of the museum's specimen room as Dr. Alton Dooley, a paleontologist and one of the museum curators, uncovered a dinosaur fossil and a whale fossil from their plaster.Downstairs in the museum's basement, there were lots of activities for the children, including a dinosaur matching game, crafts and a game where children attempted to "walk like a T-Rex," matching the giant's stride.But the "big hit," said Christy Deatherage, the museum educational coordinator, was the dinosaur dig pit, a sandbox where children were able to dig up wooden dinosaur "bones" and then put them together like a puzzle to form a skeleton."They can kind of become a paleontologist for the day," she said.Perhaps the most unusual activity was "Who Dung It.""That's all about poop," said Deatherage.In that game, images of coprolites, or fossilized dung, were projected on a computer screen and the children matched them to the animal that produced them. Deatherage also had some in a bag in her pocket to demonstrate to the children what they look like.Also part of the program during the Dino Days event was a short play about dinosaurs, "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and her Amazing Learn More Machine: Dinosaurs," which was written by museum librarian Mary Catherine Santoro and performed by Carlisle School students.Caroline Seay, museum event manager, said the Dino Days event went well. The final count showed it had drawn more people than last year's Dino Days, which had fewer than 1,000 visitors."It's been very successful," she said, especially with the children."Kid's love dinosaurs," she said. "They love hands-on activities."? http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/53 Looking Back at 2007: A Changing Community http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/53 Sunday, 30 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Like most years, 2007 was filled with good news and bad. But many area residents will remember it as the year that former Henry County sheriff H. Frank Cassell went to prison. Sunday, 30 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, December 30, 2007By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff WriterLike most years, 2007 was filled with good news and bad. But many area residents will remember it as the year that former Henry County sheriff H. Frank Cassell went to prison.Cassell is serving eight months in a federal prison for his role in a corruption scandal at the sheriff's office. He was one of 20 people indicted by a federal grand jury in the case.Cassell pleaded guilty on Sept. 11 to one count of making a false statement to a federal agent and was sentenced to eight months in prison. He began serving that sentence on Nov. 6 at the U.S. Penitentiary-Canaan near Scranton, Pa.The cases of most of the others were resolved in 2007, although former sergeant Robert Adams - the only person to stand trial in the scandal - has appealed his conviction on two charges.Other Martinsville Bulletin headlines throughout the year reflected changes taking place in the community, growing educational opportunities and crimes.One of the largest symbols of the future is grounded in the past. The Virginia Museum of Natural History's new $28 million facility opened with a sold-out gala March 30 featuring Gov. Tim Kaine.There were advances in education in the area. The New College Institute honored its first graduates in December, and all Martinsville schools were accredited for the first time this year. Patrick Henry Community College could receive a new motorsports/workforce development building if a proposed state bond package is approved by the General Assembly in 2008.To foster growth, land was added to the Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek industrial park and a new industrial park is being created south of Martinsville, near the North Carolina line. Also, the area's shell building was completed and is being marketed to prospective companies.But some industrial plants also closed. Ridgeway and Dutailier furniture companies shuttered their local operations. Plant closings by Bassett, Stanley and Hooker furniture companies reflected the continued decline of domestic manufacturing.Other companies expanded, including J.G. Edelen Co. and Blue Ridge Aquaculture. Gildan met its $7 million capital investment goal within 16 months of starting operations in Henry County and plans to exceed its projected 175 employees in three years. So far, it has 140 full-time employees and 100 temporary workers.The area lost three servicemen - Lt. Ryan Betton, Pvt. Daniel Fisher and Pfc. Rush "Mickey" Jenkins - all of whom died in the line of duty in the past 12 months.In addition, several people who have held leadership positions in the area died in the past 12 months. They include former Martinsville mayors Allan McClain and Francis West; former city councilman Bruce Dallas; Bill Adkins, local homebuilder and activist; and Ben Gardner, a local lawyer who was instrumental in creating the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.On Nov. 6, Henry County voters elected a new sheriff, Lane Perry; supervisor, T.J. Slaughter; and school board members, Joe DeVault, Betsy Mattox and Charles Speakman. A new sheriff, Dan Smith, and a new commonwealth's attorney, Stephanie Brinegar, were chosen in Patrick County. Republican Don Merricks of Danville was elected to represent the 16th House District in the General Assembly.Martinsville gained a new city manager, Clarence Monday, after Dan Collins resigned from the post to join the Virginia Department of Transportation in April. City Councilman Mark Anderson resigned because he is moving to Danville.Also in April, area students held memorial events and activities following the massacre of 33 students and staff at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/52 NCI, Museum Officials Please with Proposal http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/52 Tuesday, 18 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Considering the tough economic conditions facing the state, two local officials were pleased with the proposed state budget Gov. Tim Kaine announced Monday. Tuesday, 18 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Tuesday, December 18, 2007 By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS - Considering the tough economic conditions facing the state, two local officials were pleased with the proposed state budget Gov. Tim Kaine announced Monday. Kaine's recommendation to provide about $485,000 in additional funding in both 2009 and 2010 delighted officials at the New College Institute in Martinsville."I'm very pleased with the governor's recommendation," said NCI Executive Director Barry Dorsey.Kaine's budget proposes a general fund budget of $1,734,809 for each year, compared with a 2008 general fund budget of $1,250,000.Dorsey said agencies rarely, if ever, get the full amount they request, and Kaine recommended funding about 75 percent of the NCI board's request."That is an excellent recommendation on the part of the governor, and I think it shows his continued commitment" to NCI, Dorsey said.NCI is a state-funded institution that provides local access to third- and fourth-year courses needed for certain bachelor's degrees offered by colleges and universities across Virginia, as well as master's degree programs. It began educating students in September 2006.The institute has received $1.25 million from the state during each of the past two years, minus a $37,500 budget cut Kaine ordered this year due to state revenues not meeting expectations. The budget Kaine announced Monday would repeat that cut each year in both 2009 and 2010.Plans now are to "work very hard to hold" onto the increase Kaine requested while lobbying for a few more dollars, Dorsey said.The additional state funding is earmarked to fund one new position - an associate director for academic programs - and add more degree programs. The associate director would oversee NCI's economic development programs and be the equivalent of a vice president, Dorsey said.Kaine's recommended increase also would pave the way to create two full-time posts from the now part-time positions of recruiter and administrative assistant, Dorsey said.Several new degree programs are at the top of NCI's list of priorities, Dorsey said, but he does not yet know which would be added.NCI already committed to exploring an information and technology degree program with Radford University, and Dorsey said partnering with James Madison University to add an adult degree program, and possibly a master's degree in counseling, also is on a list of priorities.Funds from the Harvest Foundation also are critical to the success of NCI, Dorsey said. So far, the foundation has matched state funding provided to the institute.Tim Gette, director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said the museum "came out OK" in a "tough budget time."The governor recommended an additional $324,240 in state funding for both 2009 and 2010, which would bring the museum's general fund budget to $3,291,062 each year. That compares with 2008's general fund budget of $2,966,822, budget documents show.A portion of the increase, $84,971 each year in 2009 and 2010, restores funding that should have been included in the museum's base budget in the 2006-08 biennium, according to budget documents. The remainder is earmarked to adjust costs of salary and health insurance premium increases and changes in retirement and disability contribution rates, the documents show.Gette attributed the museum's success in attracting tourists to the area as "part of the reason" for Kaine's recommendation of additional funding. Since it moved to its new facility on Starling Avenue in March, the museum has seen its attendance figures increase and has attracted visitors from 33 states and eight foreign countries, officials have said.Citing a recent Boy Scouts sleepover that attracted youngsters from several areas of Virginia, Gette said the museum has worked hard to promote tourism.That the museum did not lose any funding in the proposed budget speaks to its commitment to draw tourists to the area, Gette said, and he also expressed appreciation for Kaine's support.For the Virginia Community College System, Kaine's budget shows general fund budgets of $425,932,024 in fiscal 2009 and $425,885,774 in fiscal 2010. It also has nongeneral fund budgets - for projects that colleges will have to raise money on their own for - of $609,421,938 for fiscal 2009 and $654,471,242 for fiscal 2010.When reached Monday afternoon, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) President Max Wingett said he had not yet been able to study the budget in-depth, and he declined comment.He said he plans to talk with a state official about the budget today.The system-wide budget includes $1.8 million in general funds in both 2009 and 2010 for career coaches, as well as a middle college program that helps young people who dropped out of high school earn GEDs and take college courses.The nearest middle college to Martinsville-Henry County is at Danville Community College, and Wingett said, "we need to start one" at PHCC.If lawmakers approve the $1.8 million, he said, PHCC "certainly would be applying for funds to start" a middle college.The budget also reflects $259,000 in nongeneral funds during the biennium for the construction of a storm water detention facility at PHCC. Wingett said the facility will be used to collect water runoff from future construction projects at the college. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/51 Sleepover Draws Boy Scouts to New Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/51 Monday, 17 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Boy Scouts from across the region recently took part in the Virginia Museum of Natural History's first Scout sleepover in its new facility. Monday, 17 December 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, December 17, 2007Boy Scouts from across the region recently took part in the Virginia Museum of Natural History's first Scout sleepover in its new facility.Thirty-seven Boy Scouts and 34 adults from Martinsville, Danville, Roanoke, Blacksburg, Troutville and Fincastle slept underneath The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall's view of the stars Nov. 30. Many bedded down beside an Allosaurus skeleton."Such a personal experience transforms children's feelings about natural history," stated Trina Stevens, Southside education coordinator at VMNH, in a news release.By taking part in the sleepover, the Scouts earned their geologist badges. Scouts participated in numerous activities, many using everyday products to recreate natural events. They made a volcano "explosion" using Alka Seltzer, observed the force of a geyser using Mentos and diet soda, and learned about plate tectonics using a Milky Way candy bar."The whole experience was wonderful," said Charles Aaron, an adult who attended the sleepover. "The children were very attentive and the excitement was electrifying. I'd highly recommend it."Such an experience also fosters understanding of the natural world, according to the release."In the unique setting of the museum, the experience of hands-on activities helped Scouts and adults alike gain a better understanding of the natural world," said Stevens. "This feeling of connection to the earth improves the learning experience."Scout sleepovers are offered throughout the year. Scouts can complete Try-Its, geologist badges or pin requirements through hands-on programs led by experienced VMNH educators.Each program includes a badge program, pizza dinner, evening snack and breakfast. The fee for the Scout Sleepover program is $40 per scout. One chaperone is required for every five scouts.To schedule a sleepover, or to request additional information regarding sleepovers and other Scout programs, call 634-4185 or e-mail discover@vmnh.virginia.gov. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/50 Henry County Students Sample Working World Through Program http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/50 Monday, 19 November 2007 12:00:00 EST About 60 Henry County Schools students participated in a job shadowing program designed to help them decide on future career paths. Monday, 19 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, November 19, 2007By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterAbout 60 Henry County Schools students participated in a job shadowing program designed to help them decide on future career paths.Primarily from Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, students ventured out into the working world last week, spending several hours at what they think may be their future professions.Tiffany Archer, Hannah Kassebaun and Sarah Wheeler tried their hand in the field of archaeology/anthropology and worked with Dr. Elizabeth Moore, a curator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Archer, 13-year-old daughter of Betty Boitnott and Dewey Archer of Martinsville and a middle school student, said the excursion was similar to what she expected.Kassebaun, 17, is the daughter of James and Maria Ayers and attends Bassett High School. During the several hours she spent at the museum, Kassebaun learned there is more to archaeology than digging in the dirt."There's so much stuff and you have to sort things" once a dig is complete, she said.There also is equipment to be loaded and unloaded, and students got a taste of that as well.Moore had hoped to take them on an actual dig near Fayette Street, but the weather did not cooperate, so students helped unload equipment that would have been used."We have mentors participating in the program (who) are really good at what they do," said Melany Stowe, spokesperson for the school division."Our mentors deserve more (credit) than they get," she said. "They give up an entire day to plan activities and implement (them) for our students."This year, many mentors may participate in the job shadowing program two days because the organization of the program has changed."For the past eight years, we have always scheduled" job shadowing on Groundhog Day, Stowe said. But inclement weather forced rescheduling of those events four years.So this year, F-C students participated in November and Laurel Park Middle School students will have job shadowing in April, Stowe said."We're also hoping the two-day event will enable more students to participate," Stowe said, adding that 100 students participated last year.The program's importance cannot be underestimated, she said."Most of the students have a wonderful experience and feel much more definite" about future plans, while others decide a particular field is not for them, Stowe said, "so it helps both groups."The job shadowing program begins in the eighth grade and continues through the 12th grade and the Senior Intern Program."Students have an opportunity to do this" job shadowing five times, Stowe said, but the intern program for seniors "is much more involved."One of the biggest benefits of the program is that students discover many career opportunities are available locally, Stowe said.There are only two students, both in the intern program, traveling out of the county to try careers, Stowe said. One student is interested in coaching professional soccer and another is interested in the television industry. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/42 Precinct 3 on Douglas Avenue http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/42 Tuesday, 06 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Precinct 3 in the city of Martinsville was listed in Sunday and Monday's editions as the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Tuesday, 06 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Tuesday, November 6, 2007 Precinct 3 in the city of Martinsville was listed in Sunday and Monday's editions as the Virginia Museum of Natural History.Ryan Barber, marketing director at the museum, wants to remind voters that Precinct 3 is at the old museum site at 1001 Douglas Ave., which now is known as the VMNH Research and Collections Center. The new museum building on Starling Avenue is not a precinct site.Polls in the city and elsewhere open today at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.Additionally, voters might see campaign workers at polls for write-in candidates. Although their names do not appear on ballots, write-in candidates can have workers at the polls to hand out literature, said Henry County Registrar Liz Stone."The literature must comply with sample ballot laws and be printed" on paper that is not colored white or yellow, she said.The handouts also must bear the name of the person authorizing the material, Stone said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/44 Museum Visitors Far-Flung http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/44 Tuesday, 06 November 2007 12:00:00 EST People from 33 states and eight foreign countries have visited the Virginia Museum of Natural History since its new building opened in March. Tuesday, 06 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, November 6, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterPeople from 33 states and eight foreign countries have visited the Virginia Museum of Natural History since its new building opened in March.Visitors stateside have come from as far as California, and foreigners have come from Canada, Mexico, Belgium, China, Ireland, England, France and South Africa, the museum's board of trustees learned Saturday."That's pretty cool," said Director of Development Nancy Bell. From July through September, the museum had 15,645 visitors. That is 22 percent of its goal of 70,702 visitors for the fiscal year that will end next June, said Executive Director Tim Gette.However, the 15,645 visitors equal 61 percent of the 25,698 visitors the museum averaged annually from 2003 through 2007 at its previous location in a former elementary school on Douglas Avenue, statistics show.The museum's new 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue is five times as large as the previous building and has more modern exhibits. As a result, museum officials have predicted it will lure many more visitors.In July, the museum received 6,144 visitors - the exact number that staff had predicted for the month. The museum had 4,486 visitors in August, 142 more than expected, statistics indicate.The 5,015 visitors in September were 1,138 fewer than expected, figures show. Officials did not speculate why.Projected monthly attendance figures were based on monthly attendance numbers since fiscal 2004, Bell said. Some months have higher anticipated attendance due to various factors, including holidays and school schedules, she added.Gette noted that visitors from out of town help boost the area's economy not only by paying museum admission fees, but also by fueling their cars at local gas stations, eating in local restaurants and staying in local motels.The new building is proving to be a popular destination for local events such as conferences, family reunions and wedding receptions.The museum budgeted $19,200 from the rental of its facilities this fiscal year. But as of Aug. 31, only two months into the fiscal year, the museum had earned $7,620 in facility rentals - 40 percent of the sum budgeted.In other matters Saturday, the board of trustees learned:"Membership in the museum is growing. It now has 711 members. Its goal is to have 1,000 members by the end of June 2008.There are various levels of membership for individuals. Members receive perks such as free admission for a year and invitations to members-only events and exhibit previews."Gette is overseeing the museum's reaccreditation process.The museum first was accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1994 and reaccredited in 1999. In a report, Gette said accreditation is a "seal of approval that brings national recognition" to a museum. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/45 VMNH Honors Departing Curator Fraser http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/45 Sunday, 04 November 2007 12:00:00 EST When you think of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, you think of Nick Fraser, museum executives and board members said Friday night. Sunday, 04 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, November 4, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterWhen you think of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, you think of Nick Fraser, museum executives and board members said Friday night.Fraser probably has been the museum's most visible employee, said VMNH board Chairman George Lyle, noting that his "charming accent" - he is Scottish - helped make him a popular speaker at community events."He's really put a personal face" to the science that the museum strives to promote, Lyle said.Board member J. James Murray Jr. of Charlottesville, who was on the search committee that hired Fraser 18 years ago, called him "the cream of the staff."Lyle and Murray made their remarks during a reception in honor of Fraser, the museum's director of research and collections and curator of vertebrate paleontology. He is leaving in December to become keeper of natural sciences at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh.Fraser has been third in command at the museum, behind Executive Director Tim Gette and Administration and Services Director Gloria Niblett."It has been a real honor" to work with Fraser, Gette said.In March, VMNH moved into a new building on Starling Avenue five times larger than its previous location in a former school on Douglas Avenue. The Scottish museum recently expanded and is in the process of remodeling its original building, Gette noted.Mentioning that Fraser was on a committee that helped develop exhibits for the new VMNH building, Gette said that Fraser has "an opportunity to start (the process) all over again" with the Scottish museum.Murray presented Fraser with a plaque featuring a large seashell. Gette gave Fraser a glass etching of the new museum building."We don't want you to forget" the Virginia museum, Gette said.Fraser said he will never forget.His 18 years at the museum have been "an exciting time," he said, adding that he; his wife, Chris; and two daughters, Hannah and Amy, are "going to miss everyone tremendously.""I certainly appreciate everyone's best wishes," Fraser said. "Don't fear - I'm sure we'll be back from time to time."Gette said he hopes VMNH and the Scottish museum can collaborate on projects in the future.Richard Hoffman, curator of recent invertebrates, will be interim director of research and collections until someone is hired to replace Fraser.The museum's board of trustees on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution honoring Fraser and gave him a standing ovation.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/46 Uranium Firm Seeks Study of Soil Samples http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/46 Sunday, 04 November 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will seek at least $180,000 from a firm that wants to analyze samples of the earth - collected in Pittsylvania County about 20 years ago - in the museum's possession. Sunday, 04 November 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, November 4, 2007The Virginia Museum of Natural History will seek at least $180,000 from a firm that wants to analyze samples of the earth - collected in Pittsylvania County about 20 years ago - in the museum's possession.The museum's board of trustees on Saturday voted unanimously to allow Executive Director Tim Gette to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Virginia Uranium Inc. The vote was taken after a short closed session called to discuss a legal matter.Virginia Uranium wants to do research on several "core samples of earth, rocks and other materials" the museum has dating back to the late 1980s, said board Chairman George Lyle.The firm wants to see how much uranium oxide, also known as U308, and other metals are in those samples, said Walter Coles of Chatham, founder of Virginia Uranium.The firm, Coles said in a phone interview, plans to ask the General Assembly to form a study commission to investigate whether uranium mining can be done "in a safe, environmentally friendly way."If lawmakers find mining can be done safely, the firm will ask them to lift a state ban on uranium mining that has been in place for 25 years, as well as to set up the regulatory framework to mine uranium, he said.Two large uranium deposits were found near Chatham about 25 years ago, and one is on property owned by Coles and his sister. They say the deposits are potentially worth billions of dollars, with uranium selling for $80 a pound, The Associated Press has reported.Uranium is a valuable rare metal used in the production of nuclear power. It has not yet been determined how much the museum will charge Virginia Uranium to have the core samples analyzed, Lyle said.He said, however, the museum will ask for a minimum of $60,000 a year for three years, as well as for analysis results to be shared with the museum.Also Tuesday, the trustee board learned the museum now has the largest collection of Virginia mammal specimens. It adopted a resolution officially accepting the collection.More than 16,000 specimens were transferred to the museum from the Virginia Commonwealth University Mammal Collection.About 95 percent of the specimens are of animals native to Virginia. Nearly 70 percent are rodents, while about 25 percent are shrews and moles.The collection also includes 50 of the 73 species of land mammals native to the state, Gette said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/47 Visitors Center Ready to Spread Word About Area's Attractions http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/47 Friday, 19 October 2007 12:00:00 EST NASCAR fans - or anyone else, for that matter - can race uptown to find out about attractions in Henry County and Martinsville. Friday, 19 October 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinFriday, October 19, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterNASCAR fans - or anyone else, for that matter - can race uptown to find out about attractions in Henry County and Martinsville.The visitor center at the Southern Virginia Artisan Center on West Church Street, across from Martinsville's Municipal Building, is now open. It is in the artisan center's gallery, which sells art and crafts made by area residents.It is the first center of its kind in the area, officials have said.The center's left wall is full of brochures about attractions across Virginia and northern North Carolina. The brochures are organized in terms of the region of the state they are in, such as Henry County-Martinsville, elsewhere in southern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Highlands, Tidewater and central Virginia.A flat-screen television provides news and weather information to visitors. Plans are to install a computer that will allow visitors to check their e-mail, said David Rotenizer, director of tourism for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).The visitor center is a joint venture of Patrick Henry Community College, which operates the artisan center, and the EDC. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.Pat McCain, an EDC associate, staffs the visitor center Tuesday through Saturday to answer questions from tourists. On Mondays, a college staff member is stationed at the visitor center, Rotenizer said.McCain and artisan center staff are cross-trained to answer questions about both local tourist attractions and art for sale in the gallery, he said.The front window of the artisan/visitor center currently has a display about the area's rivers and trails. Rotenizer said the display will change periodically but will focus on "things to see and do in our area."Many tourists get information from the Internet about places they plan to visit, yet a lot of people visit places on the spur of the moment and realize they need information once they get there, said Rotenizer, explaining the need for a visitor center.He said that people may come to Henry County and Martinsville to visit one specific attraction, such as the speedway, Piedmont Arts Association or the Virginia Museum of Natural History. But after they stop by the visitor center and learn about the various area attractions, they may decide to stay a day or two longer, he added.The longer they stay, the more they boost the local economy by eating in restaurants, shopping in stores and spending the night in motels, economic developers have said.Rotenizer said some NASCAR fans from elsewhere who are in town longer than just on race day remain close to the speedway, yet many venture out into the community to see the sights."People want to wander around and see what's going on," he said. "We (the visitor center) have to let them know what's here, what we have to offer."McCain and Rotenizer said area residents also can stop by the visitor center and find out about local attractions they may not have ever visited.Since the center began keeping records of visitors in August, about 300 people have stopped by. Visitors are asked to sign a registration book stating their names, where they are from and what prompted them to visit Henry County and Martinsville.People whose names were in the book Thursday were from as far as Pennsylvania and South Carolina.McCain said she likes talking with visitors about places they have been and things they have seen."I'm a people person," she said, "and you never know who's going to walk in and enlighten you."Efforts are under way to get the visitor center certified by the Virginia Tourism Corp. That would put the center on state-issued road maps and enable highway signs pointing the way to the center to be placed around Henry County and Martinsville, according to Rotenizer.Receiving certification involves displaying brochures from more than 50 other visitor centers across Virginia, which the local center already does.Other centers are displaying Henry County-Martinsville brochures, "which helps us get the word out" statewide about area attractions, said Rotenizer.State-certified visitor centers also must be open seven days a week. Rotenizer said PHCC and EDC officials are trying to figure out a way to have the local center open on Sundays. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/49 Park Improvement Ideas Shared http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/49 Wednesday, 10 October 2007 12:00:00 EST Area residents shared ideas for a revamped, revived J. Frank Wilson Park at a community meeting Tuesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Wednesday, 10 October 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, October 10, 2007By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff WriterArea residents shared ideas for a revamped, revived J. Frank Wilson Park at a community meeting Tuesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.The group listened to a presentation on the park from Kimberly L. Rennick, a certified landscape architect with the Blacksburg firm of Anderson and Associates, which has been hired to develop a concept plan for the park.She explained that there are many things about the park that make it unique, including its size, location and sloping topography.She did not rule out any suggestions, but she told the crowd of about 25 that the topography of the park would make things such as ballfields, that take large amounts of flat space, expensive because of the grading and filling required. She also pointed out that a stream that runs through the park must be considered.Rennick gave examples of amenities at successful parks around the country, ranging from walking trails to butterfly gardens.Following her presentation, most of those at the meeting split into small groups to brainstorm on ideas for the park. A spokesman from each of the group then spoke about its ideas.Suggestions tended to focus on preserving the natural beauty of the park and not on providing spaces for team sports, which are available elsewhere, several people pointed out. There were common suggestions, such as an amphitheater, walking trails, children's play areas and spaces for BMX (bicycle motocross) riding, as well as replacing the seldom-used tennis court with a skateboarding area.Andy Devault said a flat area near the Church Street side would be good for events such as TGIF, an uptown concert series. He also said his group was in agreement that some type of walking trail should be included.Devault, like many of the groups' spokesmen, said his group thought some of the park's stone shelters should be kept. However, he said the area around the tennis court should be replaced with a skate park to serve younger residents."There's one in every town," Devault said, adding that his group thought it is important to provide that kind of thing for young people. He also suggested a BMX track.Another woman who spoke said the park should have a "back to nature" feel. Her group suggested such things as a nature trail with signs that identify local flora and fauna, birdhouses, plantings to attract birds and butterflies and an amphitheater.Angela Morris agreed that it is important to "keep it very natural."Other suggestions included more entrances and exits and a trolley system to make the park more accessible to the disabled. One person suggested a "spray garden," an area that periodically sprays jets of water, to attract children.Chris Koumparakis of Ridgeway said the simpler the park is kept, the better it will be, and the park should work with the nearby museum, YMCA and churches. He said the city will have to close Oakdale Street, which runs between the YMCA and the museum and the park, and perhaps even buy the houses there to do so.Lois Christensen, executive director of Gateway Streetscape Foundation, said her group's suggestions included upgrading the bathrooms. She agreed there should be an area for bicycles and that the tennis court should be replaced with a skateboard park. Skateboarding would help attract young people to the area, she said."A lot of great ideas" were presented at the meeting, Rennick said, adding that her firm will take them into account when working on its plan.A second public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the museum to gather more public input.Tim Gette, executive director of the museum and chairman of the steering committee for the park improvement project, said he was happy with the public input at the meeting. He said he was pleased that there were several common ideas, such as the amphitheater and walking trails. The committee's goal is to make the park a community-oriented place that offers something for all age groups, he said.Before the public hearing, the steering committee met at the museum. Members heard a version of Rennick's presentation and discussed possible ideas for the park. Some of them were similar to the ones the public later volunteered, such as a nature walk with signs identifying plants and trees and an amphitheater.Committee members also discussed steering development away from the steeper, more residential Hope Street side and closing the middle section of Oakdale Street to traffic to make the park safer for pedestrians. Members said the museum, YMCA and local churches could help provide parking during events.Rennick told the committee that providing more vehicular access to the park also should be considered.She also told the committee the layout of the site lends itself to an amphitheater. Janette Brown, a department coordinator for Anderson and Associates, said the park and the stream running through it provide a "perfect opportunity" for outdoor classes on nature connected to the museum.Board members also seemed to agree with Rennick's assertion that adding ballfields at the park would take too much space and expense. Gette said the question boils down to whether residents want to preserve the natural beauty and "stately trees" or go in with a bulldozer and "flatten it all out."Committee member Bill Moore said he supports the idea of keeping as much of the natural beauty of the park as possible.Committee member Peter Calvert, executive director of Piedmont Arts Association, agreed with others that bringing more activity to the park would make it a safer, more family friendly place.He said he encourages residents to give their input on what they want to see at the park at the upcoming meeting.The steering committee also discussed the results of a Martinsville Bulletin online poll on the park in which 15,000 votes were cast. In the poll, more than 8,000 votes were cast to remove the basketball courts and almost 7,000 votes were cast for totally revamping the park. Board members agreed that removing the basketball courts could free space that could be better used.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/48 Babes in the Woods http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/48 Friday, 05 October 2007 12:00:00 EST "Camping is one of those times when it's okay to get dirty and wet, to laugh and not care," says Richard Carter, who volunteers with the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Friday, 05 October 2007 12:00:00 EST News Article: Washington PostBy Ann Cameron SiegalSpecial to The Washington Post Friday, October 5, 2007"Camping is one of those times when it's okay to get dirty and wet, to laugh and not care," says Richard Carter, who volunteers with the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.Getting out in nature, hiking, exploring in an electronics-free environment, telling stories around a campfire, then falling asleep to the sound of frogs and crickets help build lasting family memories. What better time to start than in October? Cool days and nights, no mosquitoes, uncrowded campgrounds and glorious fall colors all await you.Sam Jenkins, 5, began camping when he was 2 and has spent nights in Yellowstone National Park, along the Appalachian Trail and on Assateague Island. His dad, Jim Jenkins, a fifth-grade teacher in Purcellville, says: "Be ready to live in the moment. Don't have a firm schedule. Stop and see things kids are interested in."What is most memorable to your children may be quite different from your expectations.Maggie Chamberlain, 9, of Alexandria says of her family's year-round outings: "When we go camping, we get to see animal prints in the snow, herons, beautiful waterfalls and lots of stars. We also get to burp out loud and play with our pudding."What's not to love about that? The First Step: A Backyard Camp-OutAlthough some children are gung-ho for anything, others will need a bit of help getting comfortable enough to spend the night outside, away from the comforts of home. Darkness adds a new dimension to even the most familiar setting. Sounds are magnified, and the same crawly things that are ignored during the day may loom large in a child's imagination at night.One of the best ways for children (and fearful adults) to gradually work their way into the nighttime world of the outdoors is through a backyard camp-out. To enhance the feeling of being away from home, set the tents up facing away from the house. Take a night hike around the block. Turn off house lights and flashlights, let eyes adjust to the darkness and then talk about what you can see.Sing songs and tell stories, nothing too scary for the first outing.Finally, when you nestle into your sleeping bags, see whether you can identify the sounds of the night. Setting Out: Always Be PreparedChildren of all ages can help plan and set up a camping trip. The more they do to get ready, the better the chance they'll enjoy the outing, but match their assigned tasks to their age levels.For first outings, stick to within an hour or two of home. Try to go for two nights because it's nice to have one full day when you're not setting up or taking down the campsite.Pack light: This trip is about getting away, not taking everything with you. (For what to take, see Page 27.)Clothing: Remember, the weather can change quickly. Always take rain gear, two pairs of shoes and extra socks. Layered outfits will get you through most temperature changes. Pajamas are easier in a sleeping bag than nightgowns. Teach children to change all clothes before going to bed -- even underwear. Otherwise, body perspiration accumulated in day clothes can cause a severe nighttime chill. On cool nights, a cap will help retain body heat.Selecting your campsite: Most campgrounds are first-come, first-served, so arrive early to get the best selection and to help children familiarize themselves with the surroundings before dark. (See Page 28 for suggested campsites.)Help children check your site thoroughly for such sharp objects as sticks, rocks or broken glass before setting up your tent. Look overhead. Make sure there's no deadwood hanging above, ready to drop in the next breeze.Is there a large group nearby that might be loud until the wee hours of the morning? Quieter sites are usually toward the back of the campground.Some families with young children like to be close to the bathrooms; others find that location too noisy and too bright at night.Speaking of bathrooms: Restrooms can vary, from heated bathrooms with flush toilets to portable toilets to old-fashioned latrines. You may want to opt for the first on your initial trip, and be sure to let children explore the setup before urgency calls. Aim for low-impact camping: Following the mantra "take only photographs, leave only footprints. " Stick to existing trails and keep campfires small and confined to established fire rings. Take out whatever you bring in.The Tent Is Up. Now What? Time to Build a FireIt is more environmentally friendly to cook outdoors using a propane camp stove or a charcoal grill, but the art of building a fire is a good skill to have. Most campsites have established fire pits, but many parks prohibit collecting wood from the forest or even bringing your own, so check first.Be sure that long hair is tied back, loose clothing is reined and no running is allowed near the fire circle.Instead of using liquid fire starters, kids can make their own by scraping candle pieces with a carrot peeler. Then put a tablespoon of the shavings in the center of a square of wax paper. Fold two sides over the top and twist the ends to make a piece shaped like saltwater taffy.Keeping these and your matches in a waterproof container with a tight-fitting lid will help you get things going on damp days. I'm Hungry: No Foraging NecessaryKeep it simple. You might want to pack sandwiches or other no-cook meals for the first night because everyone will be more interested in exploring than in cooking.A simple breakfast can be made by dipping cinnamon bread in beaten eggs and milk, then frying over the fire. Skip the syrup; it's a mess to clean up.Lunches can be finger foods, such as vegetable sticks, celery stuffed with peanut butter or hummus, or cheese and crackers -- anything to provide nourishment without curtailing explorations.Look for other kid-pleasing meals that take little preparation and require little cleanup. You can double-wrap dinner (a chicken leg, potatoes, onions and carrots, or maybe a vegetarian packet) in foil and place it directly on the grill or in the coals. Use long-handled tongs to turn the packages periodically. Cooking times will vary, so you might want to test your recipe before leaving home.For dessert, try banana boats. Slice a banana through one side of the peel, pack with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows, then wrap in aluminum foil and place on the grill for about five minutes. Yum! You'll need a spoon for this one.Another option: Core an apple; fill with cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar. Wrap in foil and bake on coals. And, of course, there's always that perennial favorite: s'mores.Never store food in your tent, and caution kids about sneaking munchies into their sleeping bags or pockets, unless you want mice, bugs or other animals to pay you a nighttime visit. Oh, and if you want the grown-ups to be pleasant in the morning, don't forget the coffee. Sun's Out: Time to PlayAlthough summer is full of ranger-led programs and other activities at many campgrounds, fall is a time for quiet discoveries. Hiking just to enjoy the scenery is great, but for children, hiking with a purpose can avoid the "are we there yet?" syndrome and can enhance a child's powers of observation.Try an alphabet hike to see who can match the most letters to things along the way or a shape hike to hunt for natural triangles, ovals, spirals, etc. An oddities hike may interest older kids. They might notice a two-trunk tree, unusual tree bark, signs of animal gnawings or interesting animal tracks. All ages can enjoy a "look under" hike: Use a sturdy stick to peek beneath logs, rocks or leaves.At night, play a favorite board game by lantern light. Rain, Rain, Go Away: Don't Let It Dampen Your FunBe aware that some fabrics are prone to leaking when disturbed while wet, so it's important not to touch or pile things against the inside walls of your tent. A rain fly (a waterproof tarp suspended above your tent) will act like an umbrella, directing rain away from the top and sides.Cards, board games and books are family favorites, but rain doesn't have to stop activities. As long as there's no threat of lightning, pop on ponchos and go exploring. Where does the water go? What kind of bugs are out and about? Look for worms. Animal prints show up better in mud. What made the prints? Where was it going? Be Secure: Safety Comes FirstSecurity at the campground is synonymous with "using common sense." Be aware of your surroundings. Teach your children to be observant and to notice landmarks at the campsite and while hiking. Occasionally turn around to look at the trail behind you so it will be familiar on your return trip.If they should get lost, teach children to remain where they are and stay calm. Having a whistle and knowing the distress signal of three loud blasts may come in handy, but understand that signal is to be used only in a real emergency. Know where your children are at all times.Never feed or approach wild animals, no matter how cute. Observe them from a distance. (Bring the binoculars.) By observing patiently and quietly, your kids may catch a squirrel's hording for winter, an ant's industriousness or a bunny's timid exploration.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/43 Cheap Thrills: Museum Day- Get free admission on Saturday http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/43 Thursday, 27 September 2007 12:00:00 EST If you've been meaning to visit a particular museum but never seem to find the time, consider going on Saturday. Thursday, 27 September 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Roanoke Times Stephanie Ogilvie September 27, 2007 If you've been meaning to visit a particular museum but never seem to find the time, consider going on Saturday. If you go to smithsonian.com and fill out a short form (or if you're already a Smithsonian magazine subscriber), you'll get free admission to a long list of participating museums across the country on that day. In our neck of the woods, that means you'll save the $9 admission to Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest in Forest, $7 at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville or $6 at the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington.You should know that the admission card covers you and one guest, and only one admission card per household is allowed. For details and the entire list of participating museums, go to smithsonianmag.com/museum day. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/41 Museum to Raise Its Fees http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/41 Wednesday, 19 September 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will raise some of its admission fees next month to try to keep from losing revenue if its state funding is cut. Wednesday, 19 September 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, September 19, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History will raise some of its admission fees next month to try to keep from losing revenue if its state funding is cut.On Oct. 1, the admission fee for adults will increase to $9, while the fee for college students and senior citizens will increase to $7. Current prices are $7 for adults and $6 for college students and seniors.The admission fee for youth ages 3-18 will remain at $5, and children under 3 will continue to be admitted free.Museum membership prices also will not change. Memberships allow people to get into the museum for free, no matter how much they visit. Members also can get into the museum's five family-oriented festivals for free.An order that Gov. Tim Kaine recently gave state agencies to prepare plans to cut their operating budgets by 5 percent actually was given to secretariats overseeing the agencies, not to the agencies themselves, said Tim Gette, executive director of the museum.Gette said he is trying to find out from state Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr. how much the museum will have to trim its budget."I'm not overly concerned" about the order, he said. "I realize we'll have to give something, but I don't know what (amount) yet."Â�He called the higher admission fees "a pre-emptive strike" in terms of trying to make up any cut in funding.Gette said, however, that he envisions the worst-case scenario being the museum not being able to fill any positions that might become vacant.Kaine's administration has estimated that current budgeted revenues will be $641 million below expectations. State Finance Secretary Jody Wagner told House Appropriations Committee members Monday that a small number of layoffs among state personnel may be forthcoming. Gette said he does not foresee any layoffs at the museum.Museum staff members are optimistic they will be spared major budget cuts, he said, because "we feel the museum has been a real success story" since its new building on Starling Avenue opened in the spring.He said the museum's attendance and income have increased since the new facility opened. And the museum seems to be gaining prominence nationally - people from 21 states, some from as far as Wisconsin and New Jersey, attended the annual Indian Festival on Saturday, he said.As the museum's director, "I want to make sure we continue being a success," hence the need for as much funding as possible, he said.Executives with the New College Institute could not be reached Tuesday for comment on how Kaine's order might affect the institute. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/39 Celebration of Indian Heritage- Festival Wows Spectators http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/39 Sunday, 16 September 2007 12:00:00 EST In a neon green costume, Seth Adkins was hard to miss as he danced at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 23rd Annual Indian Festival on Saturday. Sunday, 16 September 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, September 16, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer In a neon green costume, Seth Adkins was hard to miss as he danced at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 23rd Annual Indian Festival on Saturday. The faster the drums beat, the faster he twirled, with the yellow feathers and multi-colored fringe on his costume swaying from the motion. "I used to do that a few years ago - a long few years ago," quipped Master of Ceremonies Powhatan Red Cloud Owen who, like Adkins, is a member of the Chickahominy tribe. Owen said that Adkins' dancing was "very flashy" and energetic. This was the third time Adkins, of Charles City, has visited the festival. "I like getting together with other Native Americans, listening to drumming, dancing and meeting new people," he said. Owen invited festivalgoers to join a friendship dance with the performers. "Just have some fun," he said. "It's a memory you can take home with you."? And many people did just that. Adults and children alike held hands as they danced around a circle in the field behind Martinsville Middle School. "It's very nice. There seems to be a diverse group of people" at the festival, said a first-time visitor, Carolyn Washburn of Sanford, N.C. She was attending a family reunion in the area and decided to drop by the event. A total attendance figure was not available Saturday, but museum staff estimated at least 1,300 people were at the festival by mid-afternoon. "It's a bigger crowd than what I thought it would be," said Tom Salkeld. He and his wife, Debbie, who are from the Staunton-Waynesboro area, were two of the many crafters selling their wares at the festival. It was their first visit. "There's a lot of children here" learning about Native American traditions, Debbie Salkeld said. "It's a good thing."? A grand entry procession began at noon Saturday. Assistant Chief Wayne Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe led a tribunal ceremony, and a powwow featuring Native Americans from Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland continued throughout the afternoon. Along with the Chickahominy, tribes taking part in the festival included the Monocan, Cherokee and Haliwa-Saponi. Festivalgoers learned about the differences in how Indians from Virginia and the Midwest lived. For instance, those from Virginia usually lived in huts while those in the Midwest lived in tepees. Two tepees were set up at the festival for visitors to look around in. The tepees were adorned with pictures of eagles, bears and other animals. A model of a Virginia Indian hut is on display in the "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" exhibit at the museum, according to Marketing Associate Zach Ryder. Children had their faces painted with Indian designs, and many food vendors were on hand with hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, sno-cones and other goodies. Arts and crafts for sale included jewelry, wood carvings and paintings, as well as flutes, drums and other hand-crafted musical instruments. A similar Native American festival was held Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. Museum officials said, though, they did not think it hurt attendance at the Martinsville event. Cindy Gray, assistant to museum Executive Director Tim Gette, mentioned that a busload of people came to the festival from Greensboro. "It's gone well," she said of the event. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/40 Celebration of Indian Heritage- Fesitval Wows Spectators http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/40 Sunday, 16 September 2007 12:00:00 EST In a neon green costume, Seth Adkins was hard to miss as he danced at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 23rd Annual Indian Festival on Saturday. Sunday, 16 September 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, September 16, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer In a neon green costume, Seth Adkins was hard to miss as he danced at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 23rd Annual Indian Festival on Saturday. The faster the drums beat, the faster he twirled, with the yellow feathers and multi-colored fringe on his costume swaying from the motion. "I used to do that a few years ago - a long few years ago," quipped Master of Ceremonies Powhatan Red Cloud Owen who, like Adkins, is a member of the Chickahominy tribe. Owen said that Adkins' dancing was "very flashy" and energetic. This was the third time Adkins, of Charles City, has visited the festival. "I like getting together with other Native Americans, listening to drumming, dancing and meeting new people," he said. Owen invited festival goers to join a friendship dance with the performers. "Just have some fun," he said. "It's a memory you can take home with you."? And many people did just that. Adults and children alike held hands as they danced around a circle in the field behind Martinsville Middle School. "It's very nice. There seems to be a diverse group of people" at the festival, said a first-time visitor, Carolyn Washburn of Sanford, N.C. She was attending a family reunion in the area and decided to drop by the event. A total attendance figure was not available Saturday, but museum staff estimated at least 1,300 people were at the festival by mid-afternoon. "It's a bigger crowd than what I thought it would be," said Tom Salkeld. He and his wife, Debbie, who are from the Staunton-Waynesboro area, were two of the many crafters selling their wares at the festival. It was their first visit. "There's a lot of children here" learning about Native American traditions, Debbie Salkeld said. "It's a good thing."? A grand entry procession began at noon Saturday. Assistant Chief Wayne Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe led a tribunal ceremony, and a powwow featuring Native Americans from Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland continued throughout the afternoon. Along with the Chickahominy, tribes taking part in the festival included the Monocan, Cherokee and Haliwa-Saponi. Festival goers learned about the differences in how Indians from Virginia and the Midwest lived. For instance, those from Virginia usually lived in huts while those in the Midwest lived in tepees. Two tepees were set up at the festival for visitors to look around in. The tepees were adorned with pictures of eagles, bears and other animals. A model of a Virginia Indian hut is on display in the "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" exhibit at the museum, according to Marketing Associate Zach Ryder. Children had their faces painted with Indian designs, and many food vendors were on hand with hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, sno-cones and other goodies. Arts and crafts for sale included jewelry, wood carvings and paintings, as well as flutes, drums and other hand-crafted musical instruments. A similar Native American festival was held Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. Museum officials said, though, they did not think it hurt attendance at the Martinsville event. Cindy Gray, assistant to museum Executive Director Tim Gette, mentioned that a busload of people came to the festival from Greensboro. "It's gone well," she said of the event. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/37 Museum Attendance up 300 Percent- On target to reach 70,000 goal http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/37 Sunday, 26 August 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has seen an approximately 300 percent increase in visitors since moving into its new building. Sunday, 26 August 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Sunday, August 26, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer The Virginia Museum of Natural History has seen an approximately 300 percent increase in visitors since moving into its new building on Starling Avenue in the spring, the museum's board of trustees learned Saturday. An average of 5,100 people visited the museum monthly in April, May and June, Director of Marketing and External Affairs Ryan Barber told the board. Based on comparisons to monthly figures from previous years, the average showed increases each month of about 300 percent, he said. Figures for months since June were not presented. "We're well on our way" to reaching the museum's goal of 70,000 visitors for the fiscal year that started July 1, Barber said. Barber acknowledged that 5,100 visitors each month for 12 months does not add up to 70,000 visitors. But with schools back in session, he expects the number of visitors to continue to rise, especially as school groups tour the museum, he said. Despite the increasing number of visitors, the Virginia museum is not luring as many people as the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Barber pointed out. It attracts about 300,000 visitors per year, he said. "But they're in Raleigh," he said, indicating that likely is why North Carolina's museum gets more visitors. Raleigh is North Carolina's capital and part of the burgeoning Triangle metropolitan area. So far, people from 21 states have visited the Virginia museum's new building, said Barber. Executive Director Tim Gette said the museum has seen quite a few visitors from South Carolina. Some have been from as far as California, he said. The new 89,127-square-foot building is about five times larger than an old school building on Douglas Avenue which the museum had occupied since it opened in 1984 as a private institution. The state took over the museum about four years later. A state bond bill covered the new building's $13 million cost. Visitors seem to like what they see at the new building. Out of 158 who answered a question about their "overall museum experience" on a survey taken from mid-May through mid-June, 130 gave the museum the highest possible rating. That equates to 82.3 percent, statistics show. The museum has received "overwhelmingly positive feedback" from visitors, said Barber. "Our goal is to continue that momentum." In other matters Saturday, the museum board: "Approved guidelines for renting space in the new museum building by people or organizations for meetings or similar types of events. Rentals will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis for events that do not endanger or inconvenience museum staff and visitors, guidelines show. Any obscene behavior would result in an event's immediate cancellation, according to the guidelines. "Learned that the museum foundation's $5 million capital campaign has received $3.3 million in pledges. Of that amount, $2.3 million already has been collected, said Director of Development Nancy Bell. The "Making a Lasting Impression" campaign is raising money to pay for the museum's new permanent exhibits. "Learned that Curator of Marine Biology Judith Winston has been elected president of the American Microscopial Society. She will be one of only a small number of museum professionals who have ever headed the society, Gette said. "Learned that the 23rd Annual VMNH Indian Festival will be held Sept. 14-15 at Martinsville Middle School. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/38 Fraser to leave VMNH: Curator to join Royal Museum in Scotland http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/38 Sunday, 26 August 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History's research and collections director is leaving to head the natural sciences division of a museum in Scotland. Sunday, 26 August 2007 12:00:00 EST Sunday, August 26, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History's research and collections director is leaving to head the natural sciences division of a museum in Scotland.Nick Fraser, who also is curator of vertebrate paleontology, has been named keeper of natural sciences for the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is leaving the Virginia museum near the end of the year, the museum's board of trustees learned Saturday.Fraser has worked at the museum in Martinsville for almost 18 years. He is its third highest-ranking administrator, behind Executive Director Tim Gette and Administration and Services Director Gloria Niblett.A native of Scotland, Fraser said he is looking forward to returning to his homeland. He said that Edinburgh, which is Scotland's capital, has changed greatly during the past 20 years, becoming more cosmopolitan.However, he said he now considers Henry County and Martinsville home and he will miss the community tremendously.He did not seek the job in Edinburgh. "They approached me" about the position, he said of the Royal Museum, and it seemed too good of a job opportunity to pass up.The Virginia museum moved into its new Starling Avenue building in March. The building is much larger, and has exhibits that are more modern, than the former location in an old school building on Douglas Avenue. In addition, the museum has seen a huge increase in visitors since the move.So "it was a very big decision" to leave, Fraser said.But the Royal Museum is embarking on a major transformation of its Victorian building into a more modern facility, its Web site shows.Fraser said what he will miss most about the Virginia museum is "working with a fantastic group of people." He aims to keep in touch with them and hopes to develop some collaborative research between the museums."Research is an international business," he said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to work with my colleagues" here in Virginia from time to time.Also Saturday, the board of trustees told Gette he is doing an excellent job as the museum's director and gave him a one-time 5 percent performance bonus.The decision was made after a lengthy closed session called to discuss a personnel matter.Gette is paid $101,143 annually. That would make his 5 percent bonus about $5,057. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/36 Museum, FAHI Partner for Archaeological Dig http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/36 Thursday, 23 August 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Fayette Area Historical Initiative have teamed up for an archaeological dig in an effort to learn more about the social lives of African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the museum said Wednesday in a news release. Thursday, 23 August 2007 12:00:00 EST Thursday, August 23, 2007 The Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Fayette Area Historical Initiative have teamed up for an archaeological dig in an effort to learn more about the social lives of African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the museum said Wednesday in a news release.The dig is taking place at the site of a planned civic center at the corner of Fayette and Market streets, with the permission of the city of Martinsville, the release said."Archaeology is about filling in the gaps in history," Dr. Elizabeth Moore, curator of archaeology at VMNH, stated in the release. "This is especially important in minority communities, where important information is often left out of the history books."Moore said she hopes to find artifacts from a dance hall, hospital and pharmacy that once stood on the site. Initial findings include broken glass, coal and factory debris.The Fayette area was once the center of the black community in Martinsville. Major events took place from the 1930s through the 1960s, such as the June German Ball. Big name stars, such as James Brown and Tina Turner, also performed in the area."The partnership between FAHI and VMNH on the archaeological dig at the corner of Fayette and Market streets will bring a spark of excitement and mystery into the community," Linda Dillard, founder and program coordinator at FAHI, said in the release. "This spark will create more interest in people, especially those that shopped, worked, worshiped, received medical care and partied (June German Ball) on Fayette Street. I also feel it will stimulate interest in individuals to participate with the dig, tell their stories, share artifacts and photos."The dig began Aug. 17 and is scheduled to go on until December. Volunteers are needed for a variety of jobs, including digging, sifting debris and general assistance, the release said. There is something for people with all levels of mobility, from digging to sitting in a chair screening dirt. In addition, the public can visit either the dig site or the FAHI Museum and bring historical photos to be scanned. FAHI Museum officials also will be recording oral histories. Visitors who wish to have a oral history recorded can visit either the dig site or the FAHI Museum. For more information about the dig schedule and how to get involved, contact Janet Roetken at 634-4171 or janet.roetken@vmnh.virginia.gov http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/35 X Marks the Fossil: Beachcombers Uncover Millions of Year of HIstory http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/35 Wednesday, 08 August 2007 12:00:00 EST Next time you walk along a sandy beach, look down. You might be walking over fossils millions of years old. Wednesday, 08 August 2007 12:00:00 EST New Article: Washington PostAnn Cameron Siegal Wednesday, August 8, 2007 Next time you walk along a sandy beach, look down. You might be walking over fossils millions of years old. Fossils are hardened remains, imprints or traces of plant and animal life that existed in earlier geological periods. They have stories to tell -- not with a voice, but in the clues they give us about what life, weather and Earth's environment were like long ago. Did you know that before there was a Chesapeake Bay, the region was covered by a warm, shallow sea that offered lots of nutrients and plants for marine life? Sharks, rays and whales lived and died in the area of today's Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. As the sea's waters receded, fish, birds and other animals became embedded in what are now cliffs lining the shore. Their soft tissue -- muscles and blood vessels, for example -- deteriorated, but hard parts including teeth and bones remain. The most common fossils found locally are sharks' teeth. However, it's not unusual to find crocodile teeth, whale bones and dental plates of rays. Look carefully as you walk in the sand at Breezy Point, Flag Ponds and Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and Westmoreland State Park in Virginia. Fossilized shark teeth from 12 million to 22 million years ago are right under your toes. In some places, you might brush sand away from buried shells to uncover an ecphora, the shell of a snail that lived 5 million to 12 million years ago. One species, the double-named Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae, is the Maryland state fossil. And what at first glance appears to be an ordinary scallop shell might be Virginia's state fossil, the Chesapecten jeffersonius, dating back about 5 million years. Lauck Ward became fascinated with fossils when he was 8. His family often vacationed in the Shenandoah Valley, where an 80-year-old resident took Ward, his brother and some friends on hikes, stopping often to point out signs of the past. Ward learned about trilobites -- extinct marine arthropods about 450 million years old that were the ancestors of many of today's insects. The fossils he found were embedded in shale, a thinly layered rock. These were life-changing outings for Ward. "It's like an idea that clicks in your head, then gets you seeking more information," he said. Now, 50 years later, he is the chief paleontologist -- a person who studies fossils -- at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. Any kid can have fun fossil-hunting. While 11-year-old Rose Hancock of St. Mary's County was collecting sharks' teeth near the water's edge at Breezy Point recently, others were having just as much luck yards away, in the dry sand. Kayla Hymiller, 6, of Carroll County found a three-pointed cow-shark tooth while running her hand along the sand near a piece of driftwood. "It was sitting right there," she said happily.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/34 Snakes Alive! Reptile Day draws 1.200 to new museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/34 Sunday, 29 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Hundreds of people came face to face with some of the most maligned, misunderstood and feared creatures on the planet Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History - more than 75 slithering snakes. Sunday, 29 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Sunday, July 29, 2007 By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff WriterHundreds of people came face to face with some of the most maligned, misunderstood and feared creatures on the planet Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History - more than 75 slithering snakes.But instead of grimaces of fear and shrieks of terror, there were smiles of delight and oohs and ahhs as young and old were able to touch snakes, turtles and other reptiles and also amphibians, see such exotic animals as a king cobra up close and learn about how the animals fit into the natural world."It was awesome," said Claire Vaughn, 10, of Martinsville, the daughter of Dawn Vaughn. Claire had just held a non-venomous corn snake in the museum's great hall, where a line of reptile based exhibits ran along the walls."It was kind of slick and a little bit bumpy," said Elizabeth Lazaro, 10, of Martinsville, the daughter of Debbie Lazaro. Elizabeth was there with Claire and also held the snake.Claire's brother, 4-year-old Matthew Vaughn, said everything was "pretty cool" except when he heard a rattlesnake rattle. That, he said, was a little scary.Ryan Barber, VNMH director of marketing and external affairs, said about 1,200 people attended the Reptile Day event, making it the museum's best attended family festival yet. He said people seem to either love or hate the snakes, but even those who are unnerved by them want to see them out of curiosity.And some of the people who hate the belly-crawling reptiles might have had their minds changed by the educators present at the event. Several gave information on displays in the great hall and five lecturers talked about snakes and other reptiles in a lecture hall.Snakes should not be considered a threat to man, Mark Kilby of the Luray Zoo, said in his presentation in the Walker Lecture Hall. His display of some of the most venomous snakes in the world drew a standing-room-only crowd."I don't want them to be our enemy," he said, but to live side by side with people who recognize both the dangers of venomous snakes and the need to leave them alone. "They're beneficial animals that actually are here to help human beings," he said.In fact, they do people a tremendous favor by keeping down the population of rodents that spread diseases to people. And if nothing else, if not for the snake in the Bible, people would all be naked right now, Kilby joked.In his energetic, often humorous lecture, Kilby displayed and talked about several snakes he described as "icons the venomous snake world."?Kilby showed a gaboon viber, a Mexican west coast rattlesnake, a cobra and a much larger king cobra, all of which coiled relatively calmly on a table in the lecture hall while Kilby handled and moved them around without any special protection or tools."They really don't want to bite," Kilby said, adding that snakes are shy and unaggressive.Kilby said he has not been bitten by a poisonous snake in his 41 years of handling them, although he was bitten by the first non-venomous snake he tried to catch because he approached it too aggressively.He said in his career of working with animals, he has been injured badly enough to be hospitalized six times, five from dog attacks and once from a horse.Kilby talked about the snakes as he displayed them. The cobra, he said, spreads its hood and rears up as far as four feet high to try and scare elephants and tigers. It also has distinctive markings on the back of its hood intended to scare mongoose into thinking the snake has eyes on the back of its head. Cobra are otherwise all but defenseless against quick, small predators, which are immune to its venom."Oh no, you've got an eye in the back of your head. Just like my mom," Kilby joked that the snake wants the mongoose to think.Although all of the snakes drew oohs and ahs, the king cobra was the star of the show. It had been confiscated from a man who kept it illegally as a pet, Kilby said.Though it has powerful venom, the king cobra kills its victims mostly be asphyxiation, Kilby said. And its victims mostly are other snakes, which is why its called a king cobra."You bite me, I'm feeding you to her," Kilby joked that he tells his other snakes.He wrapped up his presentation by answering several questions, mostly from the children in the audience who wanted to know about snakes' speed, potential size and deadliness, and where most people get bit. Kilby said most people get bitten from their thumbs up to their elbow in attempts to catch or kill snakes.Jake Abell, 12, son of Jerry and Kim Abell of Collinsville, was impressed by Kilby's presentation, saying he felt snakes "should be preserved for all time."?"You should appreciate snakes for what they do," he said, instead of trying to kill them.Josh Doss, 8, son of Brad and Tammy Doss of Collinsville, said he "learned not to mess with snakes. You should leave them alone." Museum Executive Director Tim Gette said it was encouraging to see the turnout at Saturday's event, especially the number of people from the Carolinas and the Roanoke area. It shows the museum can be a major attraction for Martinsville and Henry County, he said. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/33 Dinosaurs, Relatives Coexisted http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/33 Saturday, 21 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Scientists digging deep into a remote New Mexico hillside have discovered a trove of fossil bones that they say is evidence that dinosaurs and their early relatives lived side by side for tens of millions of years before the relatives slowly died off and left the dinosaurs to dominate the ancient world. Saturday, 21 July 2007 12:00:00 EST News Article: www.trib.comWritten By David PerlmanJuly 21, 2007Scientists digging deep into a remote New Mexico hillside have discovered a trove of fossil bones that they say is evidence that dinosaurs and their early relatives lived side by side for tens of millions of years before the relatives slowly died off and left the dinosaurs to dominate the ancient world.Until now, many scientists had thought that dinosaur "precursors" - perhaps their ancestors - disappeared suddenly long before the dinosaurs themselves rose to prominence, but the bones dug up by University of California-Berkeley paleontologists show evidence of a different story.The discovery of a wide variety of creatures all mingled together in layer upon layer of rocks dating from Earth's late Triassic period between 235 million and 200 million years ago, they say, shows that the strange relatives of the dinosaurs remained on the scene while the dinosaurs evolved into truly dominant creatures during the Jurassic period, between 120 million and 200 million years ago.Until now, many scientists have argued that the early close relatives of dinosaurs must have disappeared abruptly in an early "mass extinction" about 215 million years ago that has never been clearly explained. Others have thought that the true dinosaurs, whether carnivores or plant eaters, simply outcompeted their relatives for dominance in the ancient environment and quickly drove them to extinction.But the new findings show clearly that the disappearance of what noted Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian calls "the dino wannabes" was a long, very slow process.The scene of this latest dinosaur discovery is New Mexico's fabled Ghost Ranch - a modest cluster of buildings in a spectacular landscape of mountains, cliffs and canyons where Georgia O'Keeffe once lived and drew inspiration for her paintings from the red-rock mesas and the stark, bleached animal skulls strewn about the desert floor.Two of Padian's graduate students, Randall Irmis at Berkeley and Sterling Nesbitt, who is now working at the American Museum of Natural History, led the dig for the past two years, and have recovered more than 2,300 fossil specimens, from dinosaur thigh bones a foot long to microscopic fish scales. A report on the team's discoveries was just published in the journal Science.The fossils date from a time when all the continents of the world were massed into one "supercontinent" now called Pangea - long before the process of continental drift began splitting Pangea into separate land masses - and the fossil site was then located at the equator."This is the first time anywhere that we've found dinosaurs together with their closest relatives," said Padian, "and the dinosaurs obviously lived with those guys for a long, long time."Although Padian and his colleagues will not say that his wannabes are direct ancestors of the dinosaurs, Anthony Fraser, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, thinks that's possible.Fraser was not connected with the Berkeley fossil-hunters, but in an interview, he praised their work and the fossils they found. "Those guys are surely on their way to being dinosaurs," he said of the mysterious dinosaur precursors. "They're in the same lineage, at least, but we may never know who's an ancestor of what."Among Padian's wannabes - collectively known as "basal dinosauromorphs" - are the bones of a species that has never been seen before, but is clearly at least an early relative of the dinosaur. The team has named it Dromomeron romeri, and it may have been, according to Irmis, a two-legged animal and probably a swift runner.Another precursor relative puzzles the team completely because its fossilized remains are so fragmentary. It may be a long-gone creature named silesaurus, which was first identified when its bones were dug up in Poland about seven years ago. Researchers believe it must have been a large reptile about 7 feet long with a big, toothless beak, indicating it was probably a plant eater. "It's very bizarre," says Irmis of his team's Ghost Ranch find.Mixed with those fossils in the same rock layers are the bones of several species of small true dinosaurs, none much larger than 6 feet long, the team reports. Among them was one known as chindesaurus, a meat eater that ran swiftly on two legs, and another related to the carnivorous dinosaur coelophysis - both reminiscent of the much later velociraptors, the vicious pack hunters of "Jurassic Park." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/31 Dinosaurs Shared Earth with Older Animals, Study Shows http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/31 Friday, 20 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Dinosaurs, contrary to conventional wisdom, did not suddenly appear 220 million years ago and quickly dominate the world by out-competing and sending more archaic animals into extinction. Friday, 20 July 2007 12:00:00 EST New Artile: South Coast TodayBy William MullenThe Chicago TribuneJuly 20, 2007 12:00 AMDinosaurs, contrary to conventional wisdom, did not suddenly appear 220 million years ago and quickly dominate the world by out-competing and sending more archaic animals into extinction.Instead, according to new evidence published in Friday's edition of the research journal Science, the first dinosaurs were relatively small creatures who had to share the world with those more archaic animals for 15 million to 20 million years.Discovery of an archaic animal's fossil remains in the Petrified Forest of New Mexico's Ghost Ranch last year is causing paleontologists to rethink the path dinosaurs took to dominance.The fossil is not that of a dinosaur but a very close cousin, given the name by its discoverers as Dromomeron romeri (dro-MO-mer-on RO-mer-eye). It belonged to an archaic group of animals called "basal dinosauromorphs" - pre-dinosaurs that until now were thought to have gone extinct when dinosaurs first appeared a little more than 220 million years ago.What makes its discovery so remarkable is not the animal itself, but that the fossil bones of such a close pre-dinosaur relative have been found mixed in with fossil bones of true dinosaurs."This discovery is a very significant piece of work," said an admiring Nick Fraser, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, an authority on pre-dinosaur life who was not part of the discovery team."I think it answers some questions paleontologists have been seeking for a long time. It tells us that the appearance of dinosaur life in the late Triassic period (208 million to 220 million years ago) was not, as we previously believed, a sudden, abrupt event."The four principle scientists who designed and mounted the expedition that discovered Dromomeron are graduate students working toward their PhDs, including Nathan Smith, 27, a Crystal Lake native who is a University of Chicago PhD candidate and Field Museum research associate."These things aren't necessarily direct ancestors to dinosaurs," said Smith, who currently is studying some of the recovered Dromomeron bones at the Field."They are side branches of an ancestor. But finding them gives us a clearer idea of how the earliest dinosaurs evolved."Dromomerons, said Smith, were relatively fragile creatures about 2 feet tall that ran on their two hind legs. The fossils recovered so far are incomplete and without an intact skull, so the discoverers don't yet know if they were meat eaters or herbivores. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/32 Dinosaurs, Early Relatives Coexisted UC Team's Fossil Finds Shows Mysterious Precursors Stuck Around Longer Than Previously Thought http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/32 Friday, 20 July 2007 12:00:00 EST UC Berkeley scientists, digging deep into a remote New Mexico hillside, have discovered a trove of fossil bones that they say is evidence Friday, 20 July 2007 12:00:00 EST News Article: SFGate Written By David Perlman UC Berkeley scientists, digging deep into a remote New Mexico hillside, have discovered a trove of fossil bones that they say is evidence that dinosaurs and their early relatives lived side by side for tens of millions of years before the relatives slowly died off and left the dinosaurs to dominate the ancient world. Until now many scientists had thought that dinosaur "precursors" -- perhaps their ancestors -- disappeared suddenly long before the dinosaurs themselves rose to prominence, but the bones dug up by Berkeley paleontologists show evidence of a different story. The discovery of a wide variety of creatures all mingled together in layer upon layer of rocks dating from Earth's late Triassic period between 235 million and 200 million years ago, they say, shows that the strange relatives of the dinosaurs remained on the scene while the dinosaurs evolved into truly dominant creatures during the Jurassic period, between 120 million and 200 million years ago. Until now, many scientists have argued that the early close relatives of dinosaurs must have disappeared abruptly in an early "mass extinction" about 215 million years ago that has never been clearly explained. Others have thought that the true dinosaurs, whether carnivores or plant eaters, simply outcompeted their relatives for dominance in the ancient environment and quickly drove them to extinction. But the new findings show clearly that the disappearance of what noted Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian calls "the dino wannabes" was a long, very slow process. The scene of this latest dinosaur discovery is New Mexico's fabled Ghost Ranch -- a modest cluster of buildings in a spectacular landscape of mountains, cliffs and canyons where Georgia O'Keeffe once lived and drew inspiration for her paintings from the red-rock mesas and the stark, bleached animal skulls strewn about the desert floor. Two of Padian's graduate students, Randall Irmis at Berkeley and Sterling Nesbitt, who is now working at the American Museum of Natural History, led the dig for the past two years, and have recovered more than 2,300 fossil specimens, from dinosaur thigh bones a foot long to microscopic fish scales. A report on the team's discoveries is being published today in the journal Science. The fossils date from a time when all the continents of the world were massed into one "supercontinent" now called Pangea -- long before the process of continental drift began splitting Pangea into separate land masses -- and the fossil site was then located at the equator. "This is the first time anywhere that we've found dinosaurs together with their closest relatives," said Padian, "and the dinosaurs obviously lived with those guys for a long, long time." Although Padian and his colleagues will not say that his wannabes are direct ancestors of the dinosaurs, Anthony Fraser, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, thinks that's possible. Fraser was not connected with the Berkeley fossil-hunting team, but in an interview, he praised their work and the fossils they found. "Those guys are surely on their way to being dinosaurs," he said of the mysterious dinosaur precursors. "They're in the same lineage, at least, but we may never know who's an ancestor of what." Among Padian's wannabes -- collectively known as "basal dinosauromorphs" -- are the bones of a species that has never been seen before, but is clearly at least an early relative of the dinosaur. The team has named it Dromomeron romeri, and it may have been, according to Irmis, a two-legged animal and probably a swift runner. Another precursor relative puzzles the team completely because its fossilized remains are so fragmentary. It may be a long-gone creature named silesaurus, which was first identified when its bones were dug up in Poland about seven years ago. Researchers believe it must have been a large reptile about 7 feet long with a big, toothless beak, indicating it was probably a plant eater. "It's very bizarre," says Irmis of his team's Ghost Ranch find. Mixed with those fossils in the same rock layers are the bones of several species of small true dinosaurs, none much larger than 6 feet long, the team reports. Among them was one known as chindesaurus, a meat eater that ran swiftly on two legs, and another related to the carnivorous dinosaur coelophysis -- both reminiscent of the much later velociraptors, the vicious pack hunters of "Jurassic Park." All the fossils at Ghost Ranch are curious, if not bizarre, and among the varied mix are the remains of amphibians that must have looked like frogs crossed with crocodiles; beasts called "eagle lizards" with coats of heavy armor plates; and the four-legged evolutionary ancestors of today's crocodiles that are known to share a common ancestry with dinosaurs. All these and more have come from the cutaway side of a hill at Ghost Ranch called the Hayden Quarry, and the entire area around the site is marked by other quarries where other scientists have found hundreds upon hundreds of dinosaurs and their precursor relatives in different layers -- but never so abundantly and so clearly side by side. In fact, virtually all the Southwest, including much of New Mexico and Arizona, is underlain by rocks called the Chinle Formation, where sedimentary rocks were laid down by ancient rivers between 250 million and 200 million years ago. The Chinle Formation's rocks are a rich burial ground for countless groups of long-extinct animals -- including mammals, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and frogs -- and, pieced together, their bones will surely lead to more insights into the evolution of many modern animals -- including the "modern dinosaurs" alive today, known more prosaically as birds. Irmis kept field notes of the team's most recent work at Ghost Ranch, which ended only a month ago. "Relatively few people have concentrated on the origin of the dinosaurs," he wrote. "Where did they come from? How did they diversify? Why were they more successful than some of their early contemporaries? When did dinosaurs first get big?" These questions will continue to puzzle the team during next year's dig at Ghost Ranch, and for many years to come.   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/29 Museum Exhibits to Open http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/29 Sunday, 01 July 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History will open its permanent exhibit galleries to visitors on July 14. Sunday, 01 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Sunday, July 1, 2007 By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer The Virginia Museum of Natural History will open its permanent exhibit galleries to visitors on July 14. The exhibit galleries, "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Life" and "How Nature Works: Rocks," are undergoing final preparations and are the last pieces to allowing full access to the museum, which opened on March 31. The building has a temporary certificate of occupancy except for the permanent exhibit galleries, according to Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the museum. It also is working to meet the fire code, he said. As a result, the permanent exhibits have been opened for tours sporadically when they were not being worked on, Barber said. For instance, they were closed Friday, he said. That also is why the exhibits have not been promoted. "We couldn't just open it and let people wander through" the permanent exhibits while they were being worked on, he said. "They're more complex."? But by July 14, the museum expects exhibit work to be done to the point where tours will be available, depending on staffing. "If you come to the museum you will be able to come through," Barber said. Signs will be placed in the lobby and exhibit areas explaining the situation to visitors, he said. Also, VMNH staff members and volunteers will be stationed in the exhibit areas to explain where fire exits are and provide information about the exhibits, a museum release stated. The museum is working with the state Bureau of Capital Outlay Management and fire officials to fulfill all requirements for general public access to the permanent exhibit galleries, according to Barber and the release. The bureau had given the museum a list of its concerns, which the museum fixed, Barber said, explaining that the issues included such things as positioning of the sprinkler heads. The bureau then had "additional issues they wanted corrected. We are fixing those" now, he said. "We're working with the Bureau of Capital Outlay Management to make sure everything is covered," he said, adding that guidelines for several agencies had to be coordinated at the building. Also, the exhibit fabricators will be at the museum July 9 to determine any final work that is needed, such as touching up paint or repairing electronics, Barber said. "We don't want to open for tours until that."? Barber emphasized that there has been no danger at the building, despite the lack of a full occupancy certificate. "We wouldn't open it up unless we felt it was safe," he added. About the exhibits The "Uncovering Virginia" exhibit gallery features recreations of six research sites in Virginia where VMNH scientists and their colleagues have worked or are working. At each exhibit, there is a recreation of the site as it is today; a lab experience where visitors can examine fossil or archaeological evidence and use the same tools as scientists to interpret that evidence; and video animation. In the "How Nature Works: Rocks" exhibit gallery, landscape models reveal how the world is shaped by geological forces that are powered by the energy deep within the planet. Each display represents both a moment in Virginia's past and a corresponding process that is happening somewhere else on earth today. The "How Nature Works: Life" exhibit gallery demonstrates that almost all living things on earth depend, directly or indirectly, on the sun as their energy source. In the center of the gallery, a forest of botanical images reaches up toward a simulated sun, and visitors also will encounter several animal mounts. In addition to the permanent exhibits, visitors will have the opportunity to view the exhibit "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Today and Yesterday," which is open at the museum from June 30 to Jan. 20, 2008. The exhibit examines Virginia Indian history from Indian perspectives, and shows that Virginia Indian cultures today are vibrant and thriving. In The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall a 14-million-year-old baleen whale is suspended from the 40-foot ceiling and there is a cast of an imposing Allosaur. The Great Hall also gives visitors a chance to look inside the labs of the museum's scientists. In addition, the Hooker Furniture Theater, which features CineMuse high-definition cinema, shows a high-definition natural history video that runs throughout the day. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5:30 p.m. Members are admitted free. Admission is $7 for adults; $6 for senior citizens and college students; $5 for children and youth 3-18; members and children under 3 free. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/30 New Digs for Old Bones http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/30 Sunday, 01 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Occasionally, he uses his cane to point to spots on the dinosaur. The knot on its claw-like middle toe.  Sunday, 01 July 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Roanoke Times By Erinn Hutkin981-3138 MARTINSVILLE -- Occasionally, he uses his cane to point to spots on the dinosaur. The knot on its claw-like middle toe. The curved rib that did not heal properly after it was broken."Maybe he got in a fight," suggests Louis Judson, the museum educator working this afternoon in his bright blue vest. "Or maybe he was clumsy. Or both."Sometimes he uses his cane to point. Sometimes not. Either way, Judson spends the afternoon re-telling visitors the same joke.The fossil is a collection of black bones some call "Big Al," the remains of an allosaurus found in Wyoming. Now, 140 million years after dinosaurs stomped across Earth, Judson muses about what happened to the creature as its skeleton -- pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle -- stands in the lobby of Martinsville's new Virginia Museum of Natural History.In late March, the museum left behind the building it occupied since its 1984 inception -- an old elementary school. Now, it operates from a new, 89,000-square-foot site on Starling Avenue with glass walls, high ceilings and Big Al perched above the linoleum.At the old location, the museum averaged 25,000 annual visitors. By comparison, 70,000 people are expected to tour the new building during its first year. It's well on its way with a record 6,400 spectators in April and 4,300 in May. Even more are expected when the museum soon debuts its permanent exhibits.But the site is more than an upscale building with a new-car smell. The $28 million museum combines exhibits and working laboratories, making the whole experience more interactive.It's a combination not found at many museums, explained marketing associate Zachary Ryder. The site was deliberately designed to show the facility's eight curators at work.Three lab windows face the lobby, where visitors can look in and see scientists at work, cleaning fossils or piecing together an ancient whale jawbone. There are displays for kids, complete with games and buttons to push. There's a 30-seat cinema showing programming that could be found on the Discovery Channel. The museum also offers opportunities to travel with curators, such as a fossil dig in Peru."In the old building, research and exhibits were two separate things," said Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing. "This ... will bring the two together for the first time. ... This is the first time the public's getting an idea of all the discoveries going on."Inside the paleontology lab, Sarah Beth Keyser, a 19-year-old intern, works on fossils as a young boy barely tall enough to reach the window peeks inside. There are vertebrae on the counter. A dinosaur bone rests on a lab table. But on this day, Keyser's focus is sorting through sharks' teeth from an excavation site in Caroline County. A crusty swath of ash-colored earth rests in a plaster cast, where partially exposed teeth jut like rocks embedded in concrete. The staff is trying to figure out why different animal remains are in this section of sediment -- and what killed them.In the meantime, kids in the main room, or Great Hall, often wave to Keyser as she works, or shout questions through the glass."Are you a scientist?" they often ask.The lab next door holds the Scanning Electron Microscope, one of the most powerful on the East Coast. Curators use the tool for examining fossils. In the future, school groups will be able to connect to the SEM through the Internet to see it at work.And in the archaeology lab, curator Elizabeth Moore studies artifacts from prehistoric Indian villages found in Maryland, Pennsylvania and near the Roanoke River in Salem. A black countertop holds tiny, yellowed bones lined in rows -- bones belonging to pigs, sheep and chickens from a Maryland tavern where the founding fathers drank ale and griped about the British."Our Colonial ancestors chewed on ribs," Moore explained. "Lots of ribs."Months after moving, Moore still seems in awe of the building. The old schoolhouse lacked light, space and locked storage areas. Cabinets were stacked to the ceiling and the roof had a habit of leaking on objects."We've gone from being really crammed ... to being in this fantastic building," she said.Here, the Great Hall is a big, open space, a place where visitors snap pictures of a golf-ball-sized moon rock brought home from the Apollo 17 mission.Here, children such as Jackson and Nicholas Ward oohed and pointed to gems in tall glass cases -- turquoise and amethyst and a clump of calcite that blossoms like cauliflower."Doesn't that look like gumdrops?" mom Kristie Ward asked as she motioned to prehnite, a green rock whose crystals make it sparkle like sugar.The Roanoke family hopes to return when the permanent exhibits are open. For now, those displays lie nearly ready, blocked by a velvet rope.The soon-to-open exhibits will feature items curators uncovered from six sites across the state, showing how the land changed over time. The "Uncovering Virginia" display, for instance, explores geology and how the local climate resembled Alaska's during the ice age. A U-shaped mastodon tusk hangs high on the wall, above the fossilized footprint of a giant sloth. Mastodons bellow from an animated screen, and the sloth, standing on its hind legs, eats from trees. Although the area is limited to tour groups, Sebert and Judy Keiffer, along with their grandson, 8-year-old Lucas Fain, got to see the display on their 37th anniversary. Judy Keiffer joked she came with her "old bones," her husband, but got serious when talking about how Lucas enjoyed the exhibit."It should entice kids to be more interested in their environment," the Christiansburg resident said.In addition to the displays, the museum offers summer programs, sleepovers and Friday afternoon kids' activities.On this day, 8-year-old Zebedee Bousman stood at the activity table, eyes lowered and lips pursed as he colored a paper whale with a marker. Hovering above was the museum's whale fossil, 14 million years old and 30 feet long, hanging from the 40-foot ceiling. Zebedee drew a dot eye and a smiley face on his whale, then showed his parents, who cooed over his creation.Judson, the educator on duty, paced the Great Hall as the family left. He pointed to Big Al as visitors came and went. He showed off the fossil's deformed toe and once-broken rib and told the same joke, living proof that here in the museum, history repeats itself. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/28 Money Panel Tours New College, Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/28 Thursday, 28 June 2007 12:00:00 EST The state House Appropriations Committee could recommend more funding for the New College Institute (NCI) and Virginia Museum of Natural History in the future now that committee members have seen the facilities and work of those institutions up close, lawmakers indicated Wednesday. Thursday, 28 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Thursday, June 28, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe state House Appropriations Committee could recommend more funding for the New College Institute (NCI) and Virginia Museum of Natural History in the future now that committee members have seen the facilities and work of those institutions up close, lawmakers indicated Wednesday.Members of the committee's Capital Outlay Subcommittee visited NCI and the museum Wednesday morning while on a regional tour of state facilities.Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he hopes the House will try to increase funding for both NCI and the museum "now that the people on the money committee ... have seen where the money is being spent."Â�The museum is optimistic that the subcommittee's visit will result in more state funding, said Marketing and External Affairs Director Ryan Barber.Barber said the visit was "a good opportunity to show what the support of the commonwealth of Virginia has provided ... not just for the museum, but for Martinsville, Henry County and the entire region."Â�"We never know for certain" whether to expect increases in state funding, said NCI Executive Director Barry Dorsey. But having lawmakers see the institute's operations first-hand should improve the chances, he said.The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee work together to set funding levels for state institutions.NCI is receiving about $1.25 million in state funding in the new fiscal year, which will begin Sunday, while the museum is receiving about $2.9 million."I'm pleased to see we're able to make investments in things that are going to make significant changes in the future of this area," Del. Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, said of lawmakers."It's so exciting to see things we've talked about in Richmond come true," said Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester.As a new higher education institution, NCI "certainly is going to need more money," said Del. Algie T. Howell Jr., D-Norfolk. In the future, "I think we will appropriate more money for it."Â�"We'll see what we need to build on from here" to help the institute remain successful, said Del. Robert H. Brink, D-Arlington.With technology making it possible for students to take courses offered by colleges and universities without having to travel to those schools, "there is no reason why the New College can't work," Wardrup said.And if the institute stays successful, "we'll beef up funding for it," he said.NCI, which is on Courthouse Square uptown, began educating students last September, ahead of schedule. It provides students local access to baccalaureate and master's degrees conferred by colleges and universities elsewhere in Virginia.The institute is "a great idea" for people who "can't afford the rising costs of higher education," said Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke.Students pursuing four-year degrees can attend Patrick Henry Community College for their freshman and sophomore years, then complete degree requirements at NCI, all without having to leave home, Ware said."It's going to be very accommodating to young people who live here," said Howell.Brink said that NCI is important "to make sure there is a magnet" to attract people to Southside. Not only can the institute serve local students, he said, but also students from elsewhere, encouraging them to remain in Southside to work after they graduate.The institute had anticipated educating as many as 50 students during its first year of operation but is teaching about 100, officials have said."We've outgrown our space already" so the NCI building is being remodeled to create more classrooms, Associate Director Leanna Blevins told delegates.With state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology in its classrooms, "we can connect with anywhere in the world," added Charles Toothman, the institute's fiscal and human resources administrator.NCI's Dorsey went to Danville to ride back to Martinsville on the lawmakers' bus. On the ride back, he said, lawmakers told him they are "impressed with the progress we've made in a short period of time."Â�The Virginia Museum of Natural History became a state institution in 1988, having opened four years earlier as a private facility. Its new 89,127-square-foot building on Starling Avenue, which opened in March, is roughly five times as large as its previous location, the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue.A bond bill signed by former Gov. Mark Warner a few years ago is covering the new building's $13 million construction cost.Inside are laboratories with large windows letting visitors watch museum scientists at work, as well as elaborate, high-tech exhibits developed by a professional design firm.Many of the exhibits are designed to show "we don't have all the answers" to questions about natural history, said Jim Beard, the museum's curator of earth sciences. "We want (people) to investigate" science on their own.Wardrup took a long look at a periodic table of the elements that he found in a laboratory."I was trying to remember how many there were when I took college chemistry" versus the number of elements today, he laughed.Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, said the new museum location is "pretty amazing" compared with the previous facility, which he visited in 1997."I'm amazed at how history comes alive in this place," Del. Mamye BaCote, D-Newport News, said shortly after showing Wardrup an exhibit featuring fossils and shells found in the Chesapeake Bay region.Del. Robert Tata, R-Virginia Beach, admitted that he basically expected to see a bunch of stuffed animals on display at the museum. But he was "very impressed by what they're (scientists) doing here," he said, adding that the museum should lure tourists to Henry County and Martinsville.BaCote likely will be one of those tourists."I could stay in there all day and night," she said of the museum. "I'm going to have to come back."Â�Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, toured the college but could not make it to the museum due to commitments in Richmond, he said Wednesday. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/26 Attendance up at VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/26 Tuesday, 19 June 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History has seen attendance figures increase by thousands of visitors a month since it moved to its new home on Starling Avenue in April. Tuesday, 19 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Tuesday, June 19, 2007 By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History has seen attendance figures increase by thousands of visitors a month since it moved to its new home on Starling Avenue in April.With three new permanent exhibits opening soon, museum officials expect even more people to come through."Considering we're just barely into this new building, we're very happy with where we are," said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for the museum."We feel like it's going to grow," he said.The museum had a record 6,464 visitors in its opening month of April, 4,354 in May and expects a few thousand in June, Barber said.At its old location on Virginia Avenue, Barber said, the museum averaged about 2,000 visitors a month, including programs, events and education programs.Many people visiting the new museum come from out of state, Barber said, with some driving hundreds of miles just to see the museum."We feel like it's not only good for the museum, but good for Martinsville as well," he said.The museum hopes to unveil "three major, permanent exhibits" soon, Barber said.Construction of those exhibits should be finished at the end of this month, he said, although the museum also must obtain occupation certification from the state that will certify it safe to let visitors in the galleries. Barber said he expects the certificates to be awarded about that time.The three exhibits include "Uncovering Virginia," which highlights the research and the finds of the museum's curators; "How Nature Works: Rocks" and "How Nature Works: Life."?The exhibits include hands-on, interactive elements and multi-media, Barber said."It's not just bones behind a glass case," he said."How Nature Works: Rocks," for example, has a model volcano exhibit that people can walk through to learn about geological processes and the landscape of Virginia. It uses light and sound to represent lava flow. "How Nature Works: Life" features a model sun and several mounted animals, such as a moose and black bear with cubs, to demonstrate how plants and animals get their energy from the sun, Barber said.The designers of the exhibits have worked with museum curators for the last three years, using the latest technology and designs to create what Barber said will be "world class" exhibits. The exhibits would not have been possible in the old building because of space and other limitations, he said.The museum's most recent traveling exhibits, "Chinasaurs" and "Feathered Dinosaurs," have closed. A new exhibit that will run June 30 to Jan. 20 will take a look at the events of Jamestown from a unique perspective."Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" is an exhibit that worked with Virginia Indians to tell their story, including the story of Jamestown from the Indian perspective, Barber said."It's really significant this year because of the Jamestown (400th anniversary) celebration," Barber said.The museum also is garnering a good deal of interest in its education programs, some of which are held at the museum and some at other places. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/27 Museum Scientist Discovers Fossils of Unknown Reptile http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/27 Tuesday, 19 June 2007 12:00:00 EST A Virginia Museum of History scientist has discovered fossils of a long-necked, gliding reptile that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Tuesday, 19 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Tuesday, June 19, 2007 By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff WriterA Virginia Museum of History scientist has discovered fossils of a long-necked, gliding reptile that lived hundreds of millions of years ago.According to a press release and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Dr. Nick Fraser, director of research and collections and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Martinsville museum, found two fossils of the reptile in a 220-million-year-old sediment layer in the Solite Quarry in Saltville, straddling the Virginia-North Carolina line.According to the press release, Fraser said that although similar extinct gliding reptiles have been found, they have had much shorter necks and look more like modern gliding lizards."One of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet. They are preserved in a hooked posture, which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit, further emphasizing a lifestyle in the trees," Fraser said in the press release.The lizard probably fed on insects while it climbed trees and glided from tree to tree, the release said.According to the release, Fraser said the reptile, named Mecistotrachelos apeoros (which means "soaring, long-necked"Â�), probably is related to a group of extinct reptiles called the protosaurs, which also had long necks.The fossils Fraser discovered were not prepared by standard mechanical methods because of the nature of the sediments involved. Instead, the descriptions come from CT scans, a technique rarely used to describe new species, the release said.The work on the scanning was led by Tim Ryan of the Center for Quantitative Imaging at Pennsylvania State University."This is a really cool little reptile which was very difficult to see until we looked at the CT scans," Ryan said in the release. The other authors of the article announcing the discovery are Alton Dooley, also of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and Paul Olsen of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, who discovered the Solite Quarry site more than 30 years ago.The ongoing excavations at the quarry by the Virginia Museum of Natural History have been supported by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. National Science Foundation, the release said.Fraser could not be reached for comment Monday. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/25 Winged Victory for Va. Scientist http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/25 Monday, 18 June 2007 12:00:00 EST It's official: Not only is Pluto now a "dwarf planet," the category to which it was relegated last year, but scientists have determined that it is not even the largest of that new class. Eris, an object in the solar system's Kuiper Belt, is larger Monday, 18 June 2007 12:00:00 EST News Article: Washington PostMonday, June 18, 2007 Poor Pluto, Dwarfed AgainPluto just can't catch a break. It's official: Not only is Pluto now a "dwarf planet," the category to which it was relegated last year, but scientists have determined that it is not even the largest of that new class. Eris, an object in the solar system's Kuiper Belt, is larger. The discovery of Eris in 2005 and early estimates that it was probably larger than Pluto helped set off the controversy that resulted in Pluto's demotion from planet status. In a paper published in last week's issue of Science, California Institute of Technology astronomer Michael Brown has used precise calculations to show that Eris is 1.27 times the size of Pluto. If Eris is not a planet, the International Astronomical Union decided last year, Pluto cannot be either. The decision prompted one of the most spirited debates about astronomy in a long time -- countless schoolchildren protested Pluto's demotion to also-ran status. Pluto and Eris, which was formerly known as Xena, are now considered dwarf planets -- celestial bodies that have enough mass for their gravity to form them into nearly spherical shape but are small enough to be ruled, in gravitational terms, by other planets. Brown used data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to study the orbital movement of Eris's moon, Dysnomia, which allowed him to calculate Eris's mass. Scientists expect to find many other objects of similar size in coming years, which is why they decided it is impractical to call them all planets. -- Shankar Vedantam Winged Victory for Va. ScientistA scientist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History has discovered a gliding reptile that lived 220 million years ago and probably spent much of its time in trees. Two fossils show that Mecistotrachelos apeoros had a long neck and flaps of skin between its limbs and torso that probably allowed it to soar to neighboring trees, they report in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. It most likely ate insects and is probably related to the protorosaurs, a group of extinct carnivorous reptiles marked by long necks, researchers said. The fossils were excavated from the Solite Quarry along the Virginia-North Carolina border. The area was once the site of a lake, and many animal and plant fossils have been found in shale layers there. Because the fossils cannot be separated from the rock, researchers inspected them using CT scans, an X-ray technique normally used to create images of a patient's internal organs. "One of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet," said geologist Nicholas Fraser, director of research and collections at the museum, who found the fossils. "They are preserved in a hooked posture, which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit, further emphasizing a lifestyle in the trees." -- Christopher Lee Some Nerves Resistant to ColdExtreme cold is extremely dangerous. Cold's hazards begin at an organism's surface -- usually its skin -- which can freeze and cease to be pliable or watertight. Penetrating deeper, cold can alter the function of muscles and tendons, essential for locomotion. The body's core, where the most complicated physiology occurs, is also temperature-sensitive. Below a certain temperature, the brain, the heart and other vital organs begin to work erratically and eventually stop. So how does the body perceive life-threatening cold in time? The simple answer is that it senses extreme cold as pain that it will go to great lengths to alleviate by . . . getting out of the cold. But that is harder to achieve than one might think. Cold affects the chemical and electrical function of nerves, causing them to fire sluggishly, and eventually go silent. A message like "Danger! Danger! Extreme Cold!" would seem to be always on the verge of being blocked by the effects of cold itself. Katharina Zimmerman, Andreas Leffler, Peter W. Reeh and their colleagues at Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany explain in the current issue of Nature how the message gets through. All nerves cells have "voltage-gated channels" in their membranes that let sodium ions flow in and out quickly, a key event in nerve firing. Using rats and mice, the researchers showed that some pain-signaling nerves have a specific channel subtype called Nav1.8, which works even at very low temperatures. It makes the nerves almost completely cold-resistant. That channel is used for other purposes by coldblooded animals. Warmblooded animals employ it for a more specific purpose -- "to detect and avoid tissue-damaging levels of cold," the authors write. The new findings help explain why cold hands and feet can be extremely painful long after they have lost fine sensation or why they can even be felt at all. -- David Brown http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/24 June German Ball Preserves Part of Community's Heritage http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/24 Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. is not old enough to remember the June German Balls of decades ago that brought big name entertainers to Martinsville, plus thousands of people to hear them perform. Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, June 17, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterMayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. is not old enough to remember the June German Balls of decades ago that brought big name entertainers to Martinsville, plus thousands of people to hear them perform.Neither does the Rev. Tyler Millner Sr. remember the balls. Although he was living back then, his family "came from a rather strict religious tradition and we were not expected to be ball dancers," he recalled.His older brothers went, though.Now that the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) has revived the annual event, both Reynolds and Millner cherished being able to attend Saturday's ball at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Starling Avenue."We want to make sure we preserve something ... that's been part of our community's heritage," Reynolds said.Millner, pastor of Morning Star Holy Church, said he came to show support for FAHI and its efforts to help the community rediscover the importance of the Fayette Street area - a predominantly black neighborhood - to local heritage."Whenever you have an opportunity to celebrate the community, it's always a good thing," said Andy Parker, the Henry County Board of Supervisors' Reed Creek District representative now running for a state House of Delegates seat.The ball culminated numerous weekend activities that were part of the June German Festival 2007.The festival began Friday afternoon with the Today's Community Issues Forum, focusing on the economic development of the area, and the black community in particular, in Henry County and Martinsville. (See related story, 2-A.)Saturday, a Field Fest was held in a large field at the corner of Fayette and Market streets where the uptown sports complex will be built. It featured a large number of inspirational speakers and musical performers.One of the speakers was retired Air Force CMSgt. Grant S. Williams Sr., who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black pilots to serve in the U.S. military.Noting that people of various races were at June German Festival activities, Williams said the festival helps people see that everybody should be treated with respect and given opportunities to share their unique talents.Everyone should "treat each other as individuals and people of worth," said Williams, a Halifax County native now living in Hampton.The Field Fest seemed geared more specifically toward African-American culture than did other festival events, he said.It is important for everyone, not just black people, to know about African-American history, said Nathan Penn, an educational researcher who spoke during the Field Fest."History is the foundation of all of our education, and our education is the foundation of our future," Penn said.The June German Ball featured performances by jazz, blues and rhythm-and-blues artists, including Jewel Brown of Houston, Texas, who spent eight years as lead vocalist for the late jazz musician Louis Armstrong.Brown said she has attended the ball for the past three years since it was resurrected and it gets better year after year. Although she never got to attend the balls during their heyday many years ago, she noted that she has "heard a lot about them."?She keeps coming back, she said, because Linda Strange-Dillard, executive director of FAHI, is "trying so hard to restore what used to be" a major local event and a prominent local neighborhood, "and I want to help her do that."?Brown has visited the Fayette Street neighborhood each year that she has come to Martinsville. She has noticed the progress of revitalization efforts."It's gotten increasingly better," and she hopes to see the neighborhood improve even more, she said.Millner said he hopes to see a "modest museum" established in the neighborhood to showcase local history and memorabilia, as well as accomplishments made by local black residents. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/22 Ancient Gliding Reptile Discovered in Quarry http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/22 Wednesday, 13 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Paleontologists have discovered a new small gliding reptile in 220 million-year-old sediments in a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Wednesday, 13 June 2007 12:00:00 EST New Article: Fox NewsWritten By Dave MosherPaleontologists have discovered a new small gliding reptile in 220 million-year-old sediments in a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border.The new creature is named Mecistotrachelos apeoros, meaning "soaring, long-necked" and is about the size of a blue jay from head to tail."One of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet," said Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who discovered the two fossils. "They are preserved in a hooked posture, which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit. I'm convinced it was using its hind limbs for grasping branches."• Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Evolution & Paleontology Center.Fraser noted that the Triassic Period reptile, which was related to dinosaurs, probably fed on insects, scuttling up tree trunks and foraging on the way, before gliding onto neighboring trees.Two other reptiles with similar gliding membranes are known from the Triassic, but Fraser noted that they have much shorter necks and therefore are more like modern gliding lizards.The findings are detailed in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.The lineage of the ancient reptile is still unclear, but Fraser thinks it is related to a group of extinct reptiles with long necks called protorosaurs, or prolacertiformes- a group that includes the bizarre Tanystropheus, which toted around a neck longer than its body and tail combined."The length of the neck on these guys is really surprising," Fraser told LiveScience. "But what's even more interesting are the thick ribs near the base of the neck." He explained that such bones are indicative of beefed up muscles near the membranous wings."This would have given them much more maneuverability in the air than other gliders, even modern gliding lizards in the Malaysian rain forests," Fraser said.Fraser and his colleagues can't be certain, but they think the gliders they found were blown off course and into a nearby lake with a muddy, silty bottom that eventually became shale.Because the fossils formed in brittle shale sediments, Fraser and his team relied entirely on computed tomography scans, or CT scans, to study the specimens.The technology is typically used to create 3-D medical images of patients' bodies but in this case helped peer inside the shale to reveal the fossils."This is a really cool little reptile which was very difficult to see until we looked at the CT scans," said Tim Ryan of the Center for Quantitative Imaging at Pennsylvania State University, who led the scanning of the specimens.Fraser thinks the long-necked specimens may rewrite the books about flying dinosaur evolution."This is some of the best early evidence of strong aerial mobility," he said. "It's certainly something that will make us look more closely at the origins of flying dinosaurs." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/23 Ancient Reptile Glided on Air http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/23 Wednesday, 13 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Late Triassic dinosaurs might have looked up to see a tiny, long-necked reptile gliding by, according to a research team that has identified such a creature. Wednesday, 13 June 2007 12:00:00 EST News Article: Discovery ChannelJennifer Viegas, Discovery NewsJune 13, 2007 - Late Triassic dinosaurs might have looked up to see a tiny, long-necked reptile gliding by, according to a research team that has identified such a creature.The 220 million-year-old glider, Mecistrotrachelos apeoros, was probably a protorosaur, a group of ancient, long-necked reptiles that predated and later co-existed with dinosaurs. One member of this group, Tanystropheus, grew to 12 feet long, and half of that was neck.Its newly discovered relative, which measured just 10 inches long, once soared over what is now the Virginia-North Carolina border. Scientists found two specimens embedded in separate blocks of hard slate and shale-like stone at a site there called the Solite Quarry. Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History found the fossils, but he told Discovery News that he first thought they were bony fish tails."One day I was looking at the second specimen," he said, and "the sun radiated over what I thought were fish bones and I said to myself, 'This thing has a head and a long neck! It's a reptile!'"To better analyze the finds, Fraser and colleague Tim Ryan conducted a CT scan at Penn State's Center for Quantitative Imaging. The scan revealed the "greeny-brown" reptile had unusual feet and ribs, in addition to its long neck.Their findings are published in today's issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology."Reptiles typically have fairly long toes but, in this case, the feet are quite small," Fraser said. "They were also preserved in a hooked posture, so it is likely these were grasping feet belonging to a reptile adapted to arboreal existence."The specimens also showed thickening in their upper ribs, which indicates "a reasonable amount of muscle" was once attached there to control skin flaps resembling wings.The researchers doubt the reptile could flap these pseudo wings, but they do believe the muscles indicate the creature was no haphazard flier."It did not simply jump in the air from a tree on a wing and a prayer and hope to land on something soft," Fraser explained. "This reptile could maneuver and change direction while gliding."While its feet and muscles aided such air adventures, the reptile's long neck is the real scientific head scratcher, since a tiny skull attached to the end of a long neck is subject to substantial friction in mid-glide. Hans Sues, associate director for research and collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, was surprised when he first learned about the reptile's long neck. Most protorosaurs did not fly or glide, and most gliding reptiles didn't have long necks.But, he added, "that doesn't imply it wasn't a good glider. Even some snakes today can glide their long bodies over long distances."These flying snakes, all from the genus Chrysopelea, literally fling themselves from tree to tree while undulating their bodies to allow for somewhat smooth gliding. A closer living match to the newly identified gliding reptile, at least in terms of lifestyle, is Indonesia's flying dragon lizard, which folds out wing-like layers of skin attached to its movable ribs before gliding between trees up to 25 feet apart. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/17 VMNH Displays Moon Rock from Apollo Mission http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/17 Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST A moon rock now on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History was collected during the December 1972 Apollo 17 mission to the moon, giving new meaning to the term "traveling exhibit." Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinTuesday, June 12, 2007A moon rock now on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History was collected during the December 1972 Apollo 17 mission to the moon, giving new meaning to the term "traveling exhibit."Lunar Sample 72275, 6, will be on display until July 31. It was collected by Astronaut Gene Cernan at the foot of the South Massif Mountain Range on the moon during the final Apollo mission. The rock weighs 125 grams and is a fragment of the original 3,640 gram rock brought back to earth. This sample is a breccia, a common rock type found in the Lunar Highlands. At 3.9 billion years old, this breccia sample is older than 99.99 percent of all earth surface rocks.Scientific research is being conducted on the balance of this sample at NASA's Johnson Space Center and at other research centers around the world under a continuing program of investigation involving lunar samples collected during the Apollo Program.For more information about the exhibit, call 634-4141 or e-mail information@vmnh.virginia.gov http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/18 CT Scan Reveals Ancient Long-Necked Gliding Reptile http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/18 Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST The fossilized bones of a previously unknown, 220 million-year-old long-necked, gliding reptile may remain forever embedded in stone, but thanks to an industrial-size CT scanner at Penn State's Center for Quantitative Imaging, the bone structure and behavior of these small creatures are now known. Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Penn StateUniversity Park, Pa. -- The fossilized bones of a previously unknown, 220 million-year-old long-necked, gliding reptile may remain forever embedded in stone, but thanks to an industrial-size CT scanner at Penn State's Center for Quantitative Imaging, the bone structure and behavior of these small creatures are now known.The new gliding reptile is named Mecistrotrachelos apeoros meaning "soaring, long-necked" and was found at the Solite Quarry that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. The researchers report in the June 12 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that the "new specimens are embedded in a hard dolomitized dark gray, silty mudstone, and only faint impressions of the bones can be seen at the surface. Repeated attempts to remove the matrix using both mechanical and chemical techniques have been unsuccessful.""The fossils sit on sheets of stone less than a quarter inch thick," says Tim M. Ryan, research associate in anthropology and member of Penn State's Center for Quantitative Imaging. "The color of the bones is the same as the color of the surrounding matrix which makes preparation difficult."The specimens, which were found by Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, came to Penn State to be scanned on the specialized CT scanner."In some cases, with larger bones, we can see inside the bones," says Ryan. "However, we could not determine the exact morphology of all the appendages because smaller bones were difficult to resolve due to the size of the specimen."The specimens were scanned at a resolution of about one tenth of a millimeter or less. The researchers could determine that the feet were curved, indicating that the reptiles probably lived in trees.The resolution of the CT scan is largely dependent on the size of the object to be scanned. Because the researchers did not want to cut up the sheet of rock in which the fossilized glider was embedded, they gave up total resolution of all of the bones.Because this fossil has been identified and named from CT scan, one benefit is that the bones themselves have not been destroyed or even moved. Exact positioning of the bones removes any doubts about joint connections and position. Also, both the fossil specimens and the image data from the scan are preserved and can be reviewed and reanalyzed in the future.The scans presented to Fraser were not a perfect photograph of the two specimens, rather they were a set of thin slices that had to be processed to obtain information about the animals. Even then, no single slice contained the entire skeleton. Post-scan processing produced an amazingly clear, if somewhat flattened, image of a small reptile with a long neck and swept back wings.Gliding behavior evolved several times in reptiles and is present in the Indonesian reptile Draco.The National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation supported this work. Also the team included Paul Olsen of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, and Alton Dooley of Virginia Museum of Natural History. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/19 Ancient Gliding Reptile Found on East Coast http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/19 Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Paleontologists have discovered a new small gliding reptile in 220 million-year-old sediments of a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: MSNBCBy Dave MosherPaleontologists have discovered a new small gliding reptile in 220 million-year-old sediments of a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border. The new creature is named Mecistotrachelos apeoros, meaning "soaring, long-necked" and is about the size of a blue jay from head to tail. "One of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet," said Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who discovered the two fossils. "They are preserved in a hooked posture which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit. I'm convinced it was using its hind limbs for grasping branches."Fraser noted that the Triassic Period reptile probably fed on insects, scuttling up tree trunks and foraging on the way, before gliding onto neighboring trees. Two other reptiles with similar gliding membranes are known from the Triassic, but Fraser noted that they have much shorter necks and therefore are more like modern gliding lizards.The findings are detailed in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.The lineage of the ancient reptile is still unclear, but Fraser thinks it is related to a group of extinct reptiles with long necks called protorosaurs-a group that includes the bizarre Tanystropheus, which toted around a neck longer than its body and tail combined."The length of the neck on these guys is really surprising," Fraser told LiveScience. "But what's even more interesting are the thick ribs near the base of the neck." He explained that such bones are indicative of beefed up muscles near the membranous wings."This would have given them much more maneuverability in the air than other gliders, even modern gliding lizards in the Malaysian rain forests," Fraser said. Fraser and his colleagues can't be certain, but they think the gliders they found were blown off course and into a nearby lake with a muddy, silty bottom that eventually became shale.Because the fossils formed in brittle shale sediments, Fraser and his team relied entirely on computed tomography scans, or CT scans, to study the specimens. The technology is typically used to create 3-D medical images of patients' bodies but in this case helped peer inside the shale to reveal the fossils."This is a really cool little reptile which was very difficult to see until we looked at the CT scans," said Tim Ryan of the Center for Quantitative Imaging at Pennsylvania State University, who led the scanning of the specimens.Fraser thinks the long-necked specimens may rewrite the books about flying dinosaur evolution. "This is some of the best early evidence of strong aerial mobility," he said. "It's certainly something that will make us look more closely at the origins of flying dinosaurs."  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/20 Tiny, Winged Lizard Unearthed from Quarry http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/20 Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST An artist's interpretation of Mecistotrachelos apeoros is based on fossils found six years ago in Pittsylvania County Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Roanoke TimesBy Ruth L. TisdaleAn artist's interpretation of Mecistotrachelos apeoros is based on fossils found six years ago in Pittsylvania CountyNicholas Fraser almost missed it.After digging at the Solite Quarry near the Virginia-North Carolina border for several years, Fraser almost threw away the fossil bones of the only known long-necked gliding reptile in the world."I thought it was the bones of a fish tail," Fraser said. "When I went back through the notes I had gathered, I looked at it again and noticed a little head. I knew we had something then."Fraser's work is featured in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the fossils will go on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History beginning next month.The fossil is that of a small, long-necked, insect-eating reptile that lived 250 million years ago and became extinct 50 million years later, along with the dinosaurs.With a head an inch in length and a neck 2 inches long, Fraser said, the creature called Mecistotrachelos apeoros might be the ancestor of the extinct species Tanystropheus, an animal with a 6-foot-long neck whose fossil remains were found in Sweden.Because the Earth's continents were connected at the time of dinosaurs, Fraser said, it is possible the animal could have reached North America from faraway places."It's a really bizarre species," Fraser said. "It's not related to any other species from the dinosaur period. We are still finding out information." The Solite Quarry site, in Pittsylvania County, was made famous in 1975 when paleontologist Paul Olsen discovered insect fossils there from the Triassic period, Fraser said."This was the first of its kind because it came from the period when dinosaurs lived," Fraser said.Paleontologists eventually left the site, but to Fraser it was a scientific gem."I came to the museum just to excavate this site," he said. "A lot of people overlooked the significance of this site, but we've made a lot of strides since I've been here."With a grant from the National Science Foundation and National Geographic, Fraser said he and his team were able to find the fossil six years ago. Classifying the reptile fossil was difficult, he said, because of its fragility as well as its placement in the rock, said Alton Dooley of the museum."The bone and the rock were the same color, so we couldn't use traditional methods," Dooley said. "If we were to attempt to take the bone out, it would have broken and we would have lost the fossil."Dooley said the museum decided to use CT scanning, a medical imaging technology, to reveal the fossil in the rock -- an unusual technique in paleontology."This is probably one of the first times this method has been used," Dooley said. "Its success will allow us to be able to use it in the future."Dooley said the discovery has put the museum back on the map in the science world."We were already a name people knew of, but this gives us additional recognition," he said.Dooley said he and his team would continue to excavate the site in hopes of finding additional creatures."It's just what we do here." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/21 Prehistoric Gliding Lizard Discovered in U.S. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/21 Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Two hundred and twenty million years ago long-necked lizards spread their ribs and glided on winglike membranes through North American forests, according to a new discovery. Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00:00 EST Magazine Article: National Geographic Stefan Lovgrenfor National Geographic News June 12, 2007 Two hundred and twenty million years ago long-necked lizards spread their ribs and glided on winglike membranes through North American forests, according to a new discovery.Two fossils of the animal, called Mecistotrachelos apeoros ("soaring, long-necked"), were excavated at a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina state border. Dino-Era Bird Flew With Four Wings, Study Says (September 28, 2006) The lizard has a much longer neck than the few other gliding reptiles that have been found dating back to the Triassic period (about 250 to 200 million years ago).(See a picture of another gliding reptile, from 144 million years ago.) "This is a very different form of gliding reptile from what we've seen before," said Nick Fraser, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History who discovered the fossils.The study is reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Protorosaurs Among the gliding reptiles that have previously been found from the Triassic era are two specimens called Icarosaurus and Kuehneosaurus, which were found in New Jersey and the United Kingdom, respectively.Like the newfound species, these animals had elongated ribs, which supported gliding membranes-similar to modern-day Draco lizards found in Southeast Asia.A third gliding reptile from the Triassic period is called Sharovipteryx (previously known as Podopteryx, or "foot wing").Unlike the others, Sharovipteryx's main flight membrane was stretched between long back legs rather than its very short front limbs."We're not sure where [Mecistotrachelos apeoros] falls into things, but probably within a group of long-extinct reptiles called protorosaurs." Protorosaurs were part of an order of diverse, predatory reptiles that lived as far back as 280 million years ago.Study co-author Paul Olsen, a paleontologist at New York's Columbia University, sees the diversity of gliding mechanisms among prehistoric lizards as an indication of a golden age of species diversity. The newfound form of lizard "wing," he said is "emblematic of our growing knowledge of land animal diversity during the Late Triassic."We now know the Late Triassic was a time of stunning diversity all to itself, a high point before the fall-the mass extinction near the Triassic-Jurassic boundary," Olsen said.The new study was partly funded by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)Flat Rock Fraser found the first fossil back in 1994, but was unable to figure out what it represented because of its poor condition.A second fossil, discovered by Fraser eight years later, faintly showed a tail and a neck. But the second fossil was also in too poor a condition to prepare.Instead, the descriptions of the lizard had to be based entirely on CT scans performed at Pennsylvania State University.Even that proved problematic. The second fossil was "a strange object to CT scan because of its flat shape," said Tim Ryan, a research associate at Penn State's Center for Quantitative Imaging."CT scanners don't particularly like flat, oblong things. They much prefer cylindrical sorts of objects," Ryan added."It was a test of the scanner and our ingenuity that we were able to get decent data from it."The scanning revealed the bones of the lizard, and the scientists were able to reconstruct what the animal looked like.Robust Ribs Study leader Fraser said the gliding lizard's elongated neck would seem to complicate its flying ability."The neck was about 2 inches [5 centimeters] long, which is really long given the [length] of the animal"-only about 10 or 11 inches (25 or 28 centimeters)."Presumably it held its neck straight forward while gliding," Fraser added. The lizard also had unusual feet, which were preserved curled up in a grasping posture."We think that tells us something about its lifestyle-that this was an arboreal animal that scurried up trees while foraging for insects on the way, before gliding onto neighboring trees," Fraser said.Another interesting feature is that the first two to three of the animal's elongated ribs are very thick."If you are a glider, you want to keep your bone structure as light as possible, so it's quite unusual to have this thickened rib there," Fraser said."We think that it had pretty good musculature attached to those ribs ... and that it had much more control over where it went than the other Triassic gliders."   http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/16 College Alliance Praised- Earth science program may become a model http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/16 Wednesday, 09 May 2007 12:00:00 EST A partnership between the New College Institute (NCI), Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) and Radford University to offer area science teachers an endorsement in earth science could become a national model. Wednesday, 09 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinWednesday, May 9, 2007By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterA partnership between the New College Institute (NCI), Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) and Radford University to offer area science teachers an endorsement in earth science could become a national model."This is a red-letter day," Dr. Barry Dorsey, executive director of the NCI, said during a news conference held to announce the partnership."Virginia school systems and certainly the regional systems in Southern Virginia need additional teachers endorsed in specific science and math areas. The most critical need in science is earth science," he said.The unique partnership announced Tuesday "may well become a national model ... to help meet the needs of public schools. I think about what a great opportunity this will be. It's very likely we will have the best prepared earth science teachers in the state right here" in Martinsville and Henry County, Dorsey added.The New College will underwrite or partially subsidize the two-year earth science endorsement program "Dig in to Science!" using grants from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, Dorsey said.The series of five graduate courses will focus on Standards of Learning (SOLs) for grades five, six and nine, with classes that include minerals, rocks, river systems, slopes, glaciers, tsunamis, fossils and geologic time.Sessions will begin this fall at the New College with labs held at the museum. Participants also will take field trips to geological sites in Virginia.Some VMNH staff members will become adjunct faculty members of Radford and teach the classes, at least during the first part of the endorsement program.It is not known if instructors from Radford will travel to Martinsville to teach the second portion or if additional VMNH faculty will lead those classes.Radford President Penelope Kyle said NCI is a second home to her.Because she comes from a family of educators, education also is "near and dear to my heart. ... To be able to bring a program here to help teachers is something I'm proud of," Kyle said of the earth science endorsement program.Teachers participating in the classes will earn 20 credit hours that can be applied toward a graduate degree, Kyle said.Stephen Lenhart, chairman of Radford's geology department, will coordinate its participation in the program, which he said "will serve as a template," or model, for future endeavors.With room for other endorsements, Lenhart said, "we can foresee this template working many times over" in the future.When introducing Tim Gette, executive director of the museum, Dorsey said that facility's cooperation is critical to the project because it "brings resources and experts here that otherwise" would only be found in more populated areas."We are extremely pleased to be a part of this project," Gette said, adding "this is what a good museum is all about" with respect to working with other organizations and spreading knowledge.Museum faculty who will teach the classes include Dr. Nick Fraser, director of research and collections and curator of vertebrate paleontology; Dr. James Beard, curator of earth sciences; and Dr. Alton Dooley, assistant curator of paleontology.Virtually every time period is represented and "every major rock type" can be found in Virginia, Dooley said. He added that participants also will be taught how to present learning material to students."This is a unique project that's really not offered anyplace else," he said.Those interested in participating in the endorsement program are invited to an informational session from 4 to 6 p.m. May 30 at the museum.Participants are asked to e-mail etaylor@radford.edu to confirm attendance. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/14 New Museum Sets Record- First month's attendance is on track to goal http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/14 Sunday, 06 May 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History set a monthly attendance record in April as thousands of people came to see its new building on Starling Avenue. Sunday, 06 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, May 6, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe Virginia Museum of Natural History set a monthly attendance record in April as thousands of people came to see its new building on Starling Avenue.A total of 6,464 people visited the museum last month, Executive Director Tim Gette told the museum's board of trustees Saturday.He did not mention the previous record.About 30,000 people visited the museum last year. Because they think the new building will generate interest in the museum, officials have set a goal to lure 70,000 visitors in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.If the museum attracts as many people each month in fiscal 2008 as it did in April, it would exceed its goal by 7,568 visitors, calculations show.However, studies have shown the new 89,127-square-foot building has the potential to attract 80,000 to 140,000 visitors annually because its exhibits are of higher quality than those at its old location, the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue. The new building opened at the end of March. Its $13 million cost was paid through the Virginia Public Building Authority bond bill signed by former Gov. Mark Warner a few years ago.Gette said the museum has made "some very impressive achievements."?The number of students visiting the museum seems to be growing. Last month, a total of 1,033 students participated in 29 programs there.In comparison, a total of 493 students took part in 14 programs in April 2006, figures show."A lot of kids from North Carolina are coming to our museum" in school groups, some from as far as Thomasville, N.C., said Gette."We're closer to them than North Carolina's museum" of natural sciences in Raleigh, said board member Ervin Jordan of Charlottesville.Among other achievements mentioned by museum officials:"¢ There were nine rentals of rooms at the new museum building for various events since April 15.While he did not cite an exact figure, Gette said there are even more room rentals scheduled this month."We said we wanted this facility to be a community meeting place" and it is becoming that, he said."¢ The number of museum members had risen from about 280 three years ago to 637 as of April 17.Gette said the museum averaged two new memberships per day in April. He said the museum's goal is to have 1,000 members by the end of fiscal 2008.The museum has several levels of membership at different prices. Members get privileges that other visitors do not have. For example, someone with an individual membership, priced at $40, gets a year of free admission and a 10 percent discount on fees for lectures and programs, among other perks.Board member Daniel "Bud" Oakey of Roanoke cautioned museum officials against resting on their successes.Staff and board members must make sure the museum constantly grows in terms of its attendance, as well as the variety of programs and activities provided to visitors, he said.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/15 Editorial: VMNH honors well deserved http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/15 Sunday, 06 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Recipients of the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation's Jefferson Awards reflect the diverse talents that have made the museum a center of history, research and culture. Sunday, 06 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Sunday, May 6, 2007Recipients of the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation's Jefferson Awards reflect the diverse talents that have made the museum a center of history, research and culture. The awards, given at the 20th annual ceremony Wednesday, honored individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science and natural science education. Recipients were Dr. William M. Kelso, an archaeologist whose excavations in Williamsburg revealed it was the site of James Fort; Dr. Jeffrey Kirwan of Virginia Tech; Hooker Furniture Corp., a long-time supporter of the museum and other community efforts; Debbie J. Lewis, president of the VMNH Foundation and a tireless volunteer for the museum; Charity League of Martinsville & Henry County, which has long supported programs for underprivileged children and to improve education in the area; and Gael Marshall Chaney, who has volunteered at the museum since it opened in 1984. Each of these recipients has excelled in efforts that have had profound impacts on the museum, whether it was new discoveries in natural history, contributing or raising funds, volunteering their time or helping educate the public on the importance of natural history to mankind. In doing so, they have contributed to the creation of the state-of-the-art museum on Starling Avenue and have enriched us all. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/12 New Museum Called Part of Banner Year http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/12 Thursday, 03 May 2007 12:00:00 EST This year's opening of the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building is one of several events making 2007 special in the commonwealth, Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant said Wednesday. Thursday, 03 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinThursday, May 3, 2007By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterThis year's opening of the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building is one of several events making 2007 special in the commonwealth, Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant said Wednesday.This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the completion of a restoration project at the State Capitol and the 20th anniversary of the Jefferson Awards presented by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said Bryant, the keynote speaker at the museum's annual Thomas Jefferson Awards program and luncheon.The museum's mission is "to inspire everyone, especially Virginians, to experience, learn and marvel," he said.As Virginians, "we know we have a past in civilization ... that's worth learning and knowing about," Bryant told those attending the luncheon at Chatmoss Country Club.Society also has moved from the agrarian society of the past to an industrialized society and, more recently, into the information age. Computers represent the largest export of the state, Bryant said."We're evolving tremendously," he said, and with that evolution and the ensuing population growth, "we're seeing significant changes in our commonwealth.""Immigration is a hot topic ... but a good thing" for Virginians from Jamestown through present day, he said. "It has made our fabric the rich fabric that it is. ... (It) makes our quilt quite a unique pattern."In the book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," author Jared Diamond states that societies decide on success or failure because "we are in control. We do have options," Bryant said. "Our fate is quite literally in our hands." Iceland, Bryant said, is about the same size as Virginia. However, with 300,000 residents compared to the commonwealth's nearly 3 million in 2006, Iceland is a "very rural and very sparse country."As the leading exporter of optical medical equipment and with a 100 percent literacy rate, it also is a success story, in spite of its soil eroding into the seas, Bryant said."We can learn from that," he added. The museum "has an important role to play ... We have a lot to learn, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History has a lot to teach."  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/13 Contributions to Science, Education are recognized http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/13 Thursday, 03 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Six awards were presented during the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation's 20th annual Jefferson Awards ceremony on Wednesday. Thursday, 03 May 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinThursday, May 3, 2007By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff WriterSix awards were presented during the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation's 20th annual Jefferson Awards ceremony on Wednesday.The awards honor individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science and natural science education. Recipients were Dr. William M. Kelso, an Ohio native who received the Thomas Jefferson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science; Dr. Jeffrey Kirwan of Virginia Tech, who received the Thomas Jefferson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education; Hooker Furniture Corp., which received the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award; Debbie J. Lewis of Martinsville, who received the William Barton Rogers Individual Award; Charity League of Martinsville & Henry County, which received the Matthew Fontaine Maury Distinguished Service Award; and Gael Marshall Chaney of Martinsville, who received the Dr. Noel T. Boaz Director's Award.Dr. Nicholas Fraser, curator of vertebrate paleontology and director of research and collections at VMNH, said Virginia archaeology is Kelso's true passion.Although many archaeologists were convinced the original James Fort and its remnants were lost in the James River, Kelso fortunately "was not among that band ... ," Fraser said.Kelso began excavating in Williamsburg in 1994 and by 1997 announced that artifacts from James Fort had been recovered, he said.Since then, Kelso has "been able to put together an extremely clear" picture "of what life was like for many settlers," Fraser said, adding that Kelso is "truly an inspiration to aspiring archaeologists."?Kelso was unable to attend the awards ceremony, according to a statement read by Nancy Bell, director of development at VMNH."It is with deep gratitude that I accept" the honor, Bell read. "I'm deeply appreciative of this award."?Dr. Max Wingett, president of Patrick Henry Community College, presented the award for contributions to natural science education to Kirwan.Like keynote speaker Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Kirwan was familiar with Jared Diamond's book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." He talked about Diamond's concept of "landscape amnesia," which occurs when "generation after generation forgets what the landscape was like before them."?That becomes a problem because each generation "accepts a lower baseline of resources" than the generation before, Kirwan said. Preserving "natural history is probably the most important thing we do."?Lewis, president of the VMNH Foundation, presented the William Barton Rogers Corporate Award to Hooker Furniture for its "continued generosity to Martinsville and Henry County." She listed community efforts that had received support from Hooker.Larry Ryder, chief financial officer of Hooker, accepted the award.Tim Gette, executive director of VMNH and chief executive officer of the VMNH Foundation, presented the William Barton Rogers Individual Award to Lewis.A "passionate volunteer" at the museum, Gette said no task is too small for Lewis, whether setting a "gala table to outfitting a dinosaur."?Lewis said the museum staff, board of trustees and others "are very inspirational to me."?Dave Sweet, vice president of the VMNH Foundation, presented the distinguished service award to the Charity League. It was accepted by league President Cindy Edgerton.The club has sponsored a variety of programs designed to help support underprivileged youngsters since its inception in 1931, "and this organization's been helping children ever since," Sweet said. Most recently, the league donated $50,000 to the museum earmarked for classrooms, he said.In presenting the Dr. Noel T. Boaz Director's Award to Chaney of Martinsville, a volunteer at the museum, Gette said she "is the kind of friend who's content to work quietly yet tirelessly behind the scenes."?Chaney also is dedicated, having worked since the museum opened in 1984, he said."I'm extremely honored, but at the same time I have to feel humbled," Chaney said. "My efforts would have amounted to nothing had it not been" for the support of others.The VMNH "is a reality because somebody believed it was possible," Chaney said. "I'm so grateful to everyone who's made it possible. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and I thank God."?Norfolk Southern, PHCC, Virginia Tech, Memorial Hospital and the VMNH Foundation sponsored the awards luncheon, which was held at Chatmoss Country Club. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/10 Museum's past, present, future celebrated at gala http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/10 Sunday, 01 April 2007 12:00:00 EST A dream come true. The result of seeds planted years ago. A catalyst for the area's rebirth. Sunday, 01 April 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, April 1, 2007 By MICKEY POWELL AND GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff WritersA dream come true. The result of seeds planted years ago. A catalyst for the area's rebirth.Those were typical of the reactions to the new Virginia Museum of Natural History facility from some of the 500 people attending a sold-out gala there Friday night.The evening was a celebration of the near-completion of the $28 million facility that has been years in the making. Guests in tuxedoes, ballgowns and cocktail dresses mingled on the front patio, looking for familiar names etched in the tribute bricks below their feet and admiring the modern design of the building. Inside, tables were set up in the Great Hall and two other rooms. They had elaborate, tall floral centerpieces and formal place settings for the pheasant dinner.The evening was short on formalities. Gov. Tim Kaine, 5th District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds and Dels. Ward Armstrong, Robert Hurt and Danny Marshall all spoke briefly. They all congratulated the museum and those who had worked to make the new building a reality, and stressed its importance to Martinsville, Henry County and all of Southside.Debbie Lewis, president of the VMNH Foundation, noted that the organization has raised $3.3 million toward its $5 million goal to support the museum. She added that she is confident the goal will be reached.Throughout the party, guests talked about how impressed they were with the new building and how hard so many people had worked to make it a reality.Former Gov. Gerald Baliles, state Sen. Charles Hawkins and VMNH board member Bud Oakey all remembered how the museum arrived at this weekend's opening."It is the culmination of seeds planted years ago," said Hawkins, R-Chatham. If the area wanted to be a "major player" in the state, it needed a world-class museum and educational facilities, he said. The development of the museum, New College Institute in Martinsville and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville are steps in that direction, he added."This is the first piece in a greater puzzle," he said. As that puzzle is completed, "once again we will take our rightful place as an economic driver in the commonwealth."The museum began as a private facility, founded by Noel Boaz, formerly of Martinsville. It became a state agency during Baliles' administration.Friday, Baliles, a Patrick County native, recalled how he appointed board members who could help the museum grow and get its story out, and how any efforts to move the facility to more populous regions were doomed when Elizabeth Haskell of Martinsville became state secretary of natural resources under Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.Looking around the new building, Baliles said, "It took a long time, too long. But it's here and I'm delighted."Oakey is a former chairman of the museum's board who formerly was a lobbyist for the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce and the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. He recalled when Larry Aydlett, former director of the local chamber, and Tom Harned, then-Martinsville community development director, took him to Wilson Park behind the current museum and showed him the site's potential. But first, the old Martinsville General Hospital had to be torn down and the site cleared to make way for the museum, they said. It was his job to raise the money to make that happen, Oakey said, and he did.He also recalled the project's support among many in the General Assembly and the state's governors. Among the Southside legislators, "there was no R and D," he said, referring to Republicans and Democrats. All were united behind getting the new museum built, he said."I maintained for years that the research (being done at the museum) was world-class but we were not telling anybody. ... The museum was recognized all around America. Only Virginia didn't know about it," he said.Now, with the new building and with VMNH Executive Director Tim Gette telling its story, that has changed, he said.Haskell called Friday's gala a "world-class event for a world-class museum," adding that the facility has "come from a little private endeavor in an old schoolhouse to where we are today.""It's part of several exciting initiatives happening in Martinsville," including the New College Institute, Piedmont Arts Association and The Harvest Foundation-funded fieldhouse and soccer complex, she said. "It makes a critical mass of exciting ventures that show we're taking off in a new direction," Haskell said, adding that she expects the museum to attract people from throughout Virginia as well as surrounding states. Among the other reactions of some of those at the gala to the new museum were:"Hal Prillaman, businessman who served for years on local economic development boards: "For me, it's the biggest thing to happen to Martinsville since the Martinsville Speedway." It is a world-class facility that will attract people from all over the world."Hurt: "It's wonderful to see it all come together," and is important for education as well as tourism. In his six years in the House of Delegates he never thought the new museum would not be built. "My colleagues could see the big picture.""James D. "Nubby" Coleman, president of Rives S. Brown Real Estate: "Fifty and 100 years from now people will look back at this night" as the start of something great for the area."Eliza Severt, former Martinsville City Council member: "It's spectacular. It's the realization of a dream for Martinsville" and should be a "spark plug" for the area's rebound."Betsy Cole of Martinsville, who served 10 years on the museum board and now is on its advisory board: "This is one of Martinsville's proudest moments." A lot of people worked to make it happen and never gave up on the dream."Joe DeVault of Iriswood District, retired educator: "It's tremendous for the city of Martinsville and Henry County. It's going to be the forerunner of good things to happen.""Vince Stone of Martinsville, a museum board member: "It's gorgeous" and Gette deserves credit for seeing the construction through. "Former Miss Virginia Nancy Redd, who now lives in Los Angeles. "It's better than LA because it's our hometown.""Gwen Sowden of Martinsville: The new museum will draw people, and also will benefit Piedmont Arts Association, a block away on Starling Avenue. She volunteers at both."Martha Cooper of Martinsville: "It's fabulous. People who haven't been here cannot believe it's Martinsville.""Ervin Jordan of Charlottesville, a University of Virginia professor who is a member and former chairman of the museum's board: "The Commonwealth of Virginia should be proud" of the new building. When he first looked around inside, he recalled, "it was breathtaking. It was much better than what I had expected to see." He added that the state used Virginians' tax money wisely in constructing the building."Mary Sue Terry of Patrick County, former delegate and Virginia attorney general: "This facility will be a magnet for this community." She noted the tradition of local support for the museum and said, "The people of Martinsville-Henry County have been the load-bearers for this facility and will continue to be.""CeCe Johnson of Martinsville: "It's awesome ... surreal for Martinsville. ... I think it will be a drawing card" for the area."Jim Johnson, chairman of the Martinsville School Board: "I'd rather see it (the new building) here than in Richmond or Roanoke." He said there are "so many things that kids can learn from this museum," and he thinks it will help boost tourism in the area."Ron Ferrill, Martinsville city councilman: "This is what Martinsville is all about," and shows what can be done when people pull together. He noted that Gette has said the museum could attract retired scientists who could move to the area and use the facility, boosting its research and helping build the community. "It can't do anything but good" for the area."Leanna Blevins, associate director of the New College Institute: The building "looks very high-tech. It makes me feel like I'm in a more urban area" of the state. She added that "we are so blessed to have something of this magnitude in our backyard. What's next?""Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.: "What's not to like" about the building? "It will be a tremendous destination. I would think it will draw people from a long way" off from Martinsville."Eric Monday, Martinsville city attorney: "I think it's spectacular." He said that he is "no big fan of modern architecture," but he especially likes the building's large glass atrium."Barry Dorsey, director of the New College Institute: "It's a world-class facility." He said that school students will visit the museum on field trips, tell their parents about it, and then the children and their parents will visit together on weekends."Suzanne Lacy of Martinsville, a supporter of the museum since it opened in 1985: The new museum is "unbelievable," and will show people that this area is moving from a mill town to an intellectual area, she said. The late House Speaker A.L. Philpott, who supported the museum when others wanted it located elsewhere, "is the reason it's here. If it was not a state museum it wouldn't be here," Lacy said. "Now it's the bandwagon to jump on." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/11 It's Open! http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/11 Sunday, 01 April 2007 12:00:00 EST The new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue finally is open. Sunday, 01 April 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, April 1, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterThe new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue finally is open.It took more than two decades of wishing, convincing state officials of the need for a new building and to build it in Martinsville, waiting for the funding necessary for construction and then waiting for construction to be finished, state officials recalled Friday afternoon during a dedication ceremony.During a gala that evening, Gov. Tim Kaine called the museum's opening "a momentous occasion." He noted that the opening coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first colony in Virginia which was established by English settlers in 1607.The museum's opening was a long-awaited event in the state, Kaine said.State Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr. said the spacious, modern building "has now been brought to life."The 89,127-square-foot building is five times larger than the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue, which had housed the museum since it opened in 1985 as a private institution. It became a state institution four years later.Executive Director Tim Gette said the new building will enable the museum to display more of its approximately 22 million specimens of natural history. For that reason, the museum will become a must-see attraction not only for area residents, but for people from all over Virginia and elsewhere, he said.Museum researchers and curators "now have a world-class facility, one that is surpassed only by their talent," Gette said."This museum ... can stand up to any museum of its size, anywhere in the world," said Bryant."It is a Smithsonian-class institution," and it is "only fitting" that the museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., said Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville.Both museums promote innovation and scientific discovery through using the entire world for a research laboratory, said Alma Douglas, coordination manager for the Smithsonian.Having toured the new building, Bryant said what impressed him most was "the amount of educational space ... targeted to elementary (school) kids."He said the building will be "a long-lasting legacy" to Virginia's natural history since today's children will visit the museum and learn, and when they grow up, they will bring their children to the museum to learn, and so on."What it's all about is the next generation" of Virginians, Armstrong said.Kaine said the museum will help Virginians "understand our place in the cosmos."Educational studies show that "we, as Americans, are falling behind in science," said Del. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham. "This museum represents a commitment to the sciences."Children visiting the museum can learn about scientific discoveries directly from the scientists making the discoveries, which could inspire the children to become scientists when they grow up, Hurt said.It will be three or four weeks before all of the museum's exhibits are fully installed, Gette said. Until then, visitors can watch the final touches being made to the exhibits, he said.Exhibits at the Douglass Avenue location mostly were designed there, said Dr. Richard Hoffman, the museum's assistant director of biological sciences. Those in the new building have been designed by professional exhibit designers and feature modern electronic instructional tools, he pointed out."We've raised the bar in the art of museum exhibitry," he said.Permanent exhibits include "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Life," and "How Nature Works: Rocks." The museum also features special exhibits that will be on display for various lengths of time. Two on display at the old location that will resume at the new building on April 6 focus on dinosaurs that were native to China.George Lyle, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, noted that the museum had about 30,000 visitors last year. Studies have shown the new building has the potential to lure 80,000 to 140,000 visitors a year, he said.That will help the area's economic development by boosting tourism, Hurt speculated.Kaine called the museum "a spectacular economic development incentive.""The impact of this wonderful museum will be felt far beyond Martinsville," said Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville. He said the new building is "a symbol of what we can achieve" in efforts to revive the local economy.State Sen. W. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway, recalled that "we've had challenge after challenge" in making the new building a reality.Some lawmakers wanted to move the museum to the state capital, he said. Yet there were enough lawmakers who realized that "good museums do not necessarily have to be located in Richmond," Armstrong added.Fifth District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Rocky Mount, attributed construction of the new building to support the museum received from recent governors and the late House Speaker A.L. Philpott of Bassett.In terms of state funding provided through the governors, Goode said, "we didn't always get what we wanted from them," but at least the museum got enough "to keep the ball rolling."Bryant especially credited former Gov. Mark Warner. "He started it all" (the new building's construction) by signing the Virginia Public Building Authority bond bill a few years ago, the natural resources secretary said. The building's $13 million construction cost will be funded through the legislation.Still, "if this community had not been totally committed, we wouldn't be here today," Goode said.Through an ongoing fund-raising campaign, Lyle said, the VMNH Foundation so far has raised about $3.3 million in private donations toward its $5 million goal to help fund the permanent exhibits. That amount includes $1 million provided by The Harvest Foundation.Hoffman, who also is curator of recent invertebrates, came to the museum in the late 1980s. Referring to the opening of the new building, he said it seems like "my entire scientific career has been a prelude to this particular moment in time.""Our job now is to help the museum achieve its fullest potential" by helping Virginians learn about natural history, Lyle said.During the dedication, a commemorative plaque at the front entrance was unveiled.The choir of First Baptist Church, which is beside the museum, provided entertainment. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/8 Get Ready, Get Set... http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/8 Friday, 30 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Today is the day that the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the city of Martinsville have been anticipating for years. Friday, 30 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Friday, March 30, 2007 By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff WriterToday is the day that the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the city of Martinsville have been anticipating for years. A dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. will start the opening festivities for the new VMNH facility on Starling Avenue. The ceremony will be held outdoors, in front of the $26 million facility, and is open to the public.At the ceremony, a plaque will be unveiled that recognizes that the museum is opening during the same year as the 400th anniversary of Jamestown.In addition, state and local politicians, museum officials and representatives from one of the museum's partners, the National Geological Museum of China in Beijing, will take part in the ceremony.Gov. Tim Kaine will be present at a sold-out gala tonight at the museum.And Saturday morning at 9, the museum will open to the public."I think they (visitors) are going to be totally overwhelmed" when they walk through the doors and into the newest, most state-of-the-art facility of its kind in the area, said Tim Gette, the museum's executive director. Building crews scurried about the new facility toward week's end in a "last-minute flurry of activity" to put the finishing touches on the 89,127-square-foot museum, he said.People who think a world-class facility cannot exist in their own backyard should step through the doors on Saturday, when the museum celebrates its public grand-opening, and they will be amazed, Gette said.A 14-million-year-old, 30-foot long Eobalaenoptera skeleton, an ancestor of the modern whale discovered just north of Richmond, suspended from the 40-foot ceiling and a two-ton cast of an Allosaurus found in Wyoming greet visitors as they enter the focal point and main area of the facility, called The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall.Also in the Great Hall is the "Minerals: Near and Far, Fancy and Functional" exhibit housed in custom-made column display cases. The minerals on display are some of the rarest in the world. Some come from as far as Ontario, Congo, Mexico and Russia, and some come from just around the corner in Henry County, said Dr. James Beard, earth sciences curator at the museum. As well as VMNH specimens, collections from Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian Institution will be on display. The display cases were designed specifically for the VMNH by the Belgian company Mayvert, which has designed cases for other world-class museums such as the Louvre in Paris, Gette said. In addition to a high-tech lighting system that will make the specimens gleam and glitter, the cases feature a suction system that creates an airtight seal, which is vital to preserving the collections.Also on display will be the efforts of the museum's curators and scientists, whose work can been seen by visitors through walls of windows that look from the Great Hall into three of their labs. The labs, which will be "working labs" in which scientists will bring specimens from the field to the museum to study and work on, will be another part of the museum, rather than behind closed doors as it is in many museums, Gette said.It all "goes back to the philosophy" of what the museum wants to accomplish, he said. "We want to challenge young visitors who come to this museum," he said. "If (visitors) see scientists working, doing what they do, hopefully they will want to do that too."In addition to everything the Great Hall has to offer visitors, they will be able to see the feathered dinosaur exhibit on loan from the National Geological Museum of China and browse the more than 25,000 volumes in the museum library.The New Moon Cafe, in the back of the museum gift shop, will be open for the grand opening, and the Hooker Furniture Theater will show 15-30 minute educational films throughout the weekend. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/9 Old Stones, Old Bonesin a Brand-New Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/9 Friday, 30 March 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History opens Saturday with a wealth of fascinating fossils. Friday, 30 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Roanoke TimesThe Virginia Museum of Natural History opens Saturday with a wealth of fascinating fossils.By Mason Adams(540) 981-3149After years of construction, the new Virginia Museum of Natural History will open its doors to the public this weekend in Martinsville.Tim Gette, the museum's executive director, said the new building will help vault the museum to the same level as world-class institutions such as the Smithsonian."It is a museum that would be at home in any major city in the United States," Gette said.The 89,124-square-foot museum's permanent exhibits are still in the works and won't be open for another four to six weeks, but the public will have access to the museum's Great Hall, a room with 40-foot ceilings, a large whale fossil from Caroline County and the skeleton of an allosaurus, a Jurassic-era dinosaur that once roamed Virginia.The Eobalaenoptera whale fossil is about 14 million years old. The 140-million-year-old allosaur actually came from Wyoming, though there's evidence the meat-eating dinosaurs once roamed Virginia as well, said Nick Fraser, the museum's director of research collections and curator of vertebrate paleontology.Fraser said scientists have found extensive "trackways," or sets of impressions left by ancient animals, in Culpeper and in Pittsylvania County. They've found evidence of gliding reptiles and other ancient animals as well.In addition to the fossils in the Great Hall, visitors this weekend also will have access to three temporary exhibits:n Minerals: Near and Far, Fancy and Functional, which includes rocks from the museum's collection, as well as that of the Smithsonian.n Chinosaurs: The Great Dinosaurs of China.n Feathered Dinosaurs of China.The last exhibit includes a rare fossil that's only been displayed in London and Lisbon, said Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs."The feathered dinosaur shows the link between dinosaurs and birds and how they evolved," Barber said. "According to our scientists, it's one of the most important fossils ever discovered."Still to come will be six permanent exhibits that will include information on six Virginia dig sites, as well as displays on geology and biology and a rotating exhibit that will show off portions of the museum's extensive collection.In all, the new building cost about $28.2 million, with half a million coming from the city of Martinsville and $22.7 million from the state. The museum is holding a funding drive to come up with another $5 million; so far it has raised about $3.3 million, according to Barber.The official opening ceremonies kick off at 2 p.m. today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The museum itself will be open to the public starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.On the Net: www.vmnh.net  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/7 Museum's Celebration Ready to Start... Kicks off with Website launching http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/7 Tuesday, 27 March 2007 12:00:00 EST The Virginia Museum of Natural History's 100-hour celebration for the opening of its new facility will start Wednesday and conclude on Sunday. Tuesday, 27 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Tuesday, March 27, 2007 The Virginia Museum of Natural History's 100-hour celebration for the opening of its new facility will start Wednesday and conclude on Sunday.The launch of the museum's newly designed Web site is set for Wednesday, a press release from the museum said. That will be followed on Thursday with a member reception at the new facility on Starling Avenue to provide members with a first look at the museum.Members will see The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall and the Mr. and Mrs. L. Dudley Walker Lecture Hall, along with the library, VMNH Store, New Moon Café and Hooker Furniture Theater, the first site in Virginia to feature CineMuse high-definition cinema, according to the release. Members also will get a first look at state-of-the-art permanent exhibit galleries "Uncovering Virginia," "How Nature Works: Rocks" and "How Nature Works: Life."The museum will hold a dedication ceremony for the facility on Friday, with state and local legislators on hand. The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m., when a plaque will be unveiled announcing the opening of the facility, which coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Following the dedication, the VMNH Foundation gala will be held from 7 to 10:30 p.m. in The Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont Great Hall, the Mr. and Mrs. L. Dudley Walker Lecture Hall, the special exhibit gallery and the Hooker Furniture Theater. More than 500 guests are expected to attend, the release said.The museum opens to the public on Saturday. A Family Day will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and will feature activities and education programs for all ages.The exhibits "Feathered Dinosaurs of China" and "Chinasaurs: The Great Dinosaurs of China," which were open at the VMNH Research and Collections Center at 1001 Douglas Ave., closed temporarily on Sunday to be moved to the new facility. The exhibits will be displayed there from April 6 through June 17.From June 30 through Jan. 18, 2008, an exhibit called "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" opens at the museum, highlighting the history, culture and contributions of Virginia's eight Indian tribes. That exhibit will be part of the museum's role as a destination in the celebration of Jamestown's 400th anniversary.As an official Virginia Statewide Partner for the Jamestown 2007 commemoration, VMNH will host several events to promote Jamestown 2007 programs. VMNH was selected as a statewide partner based on its ability to support and advance tourism, improve economic development opportunities and enhance educational awareness, the release said."I am very pleased that the Virginia Museum of Natural History is a Statewide Partner for Jamestown 2007," VMNH Executive Director Timothy J. Gette said in the release. "We are playing a leading role in celebrating America's 400th Anniversary, especially as we prepare for the March 31 Grand Opening of the new, world-class VMNH facility, a top Jamestown legacy project." http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/6 Museum employees are happily busy ahead of weekend opening http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/6 Monday, 26 March 2007 12:00:00 EST On the outside, the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue looks completed, but inside, construction still is going on. Monday, 26 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, March 26, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff WriterOn the outside, the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue looks completed, but inside, construction still is going on.Late last week, exhibits were being assembled and furniture and restaurant equipment were being placed in the coffee shop. Electrical cords were strewn across floors and the smell of sawdust was in the air.In terms of construction, "we're going right up to the last minute," said Executive Director Tim Gette. But all of the work will be finished, he said, when the museum opens Friday with a dedication ceremony that is part of a "100 Hour Celebration" of opening events.He said the museum expects to receive its certificate of occupancy for the new building Tuesday.The 89,127-square-foot building is five times as large as the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue, where the museum has been located since it opened in 1984 as a private institution. The state acquired the museum four years later.The $13 million cost of the new building is being paid through the Virginia Public Building Authority bond bill signed by former Gov. Mark Warner a few years ago.Jim Beard, curator of earth sciences, said the opening of the new building seems like "a major life-changing event" since the staff has been striving for a new facility - one designed for museum use - for about 20 years.Museum employees are jubilant that the new building is a reality. Now, they are focusing on getting the public to enjoy what they already have started to appreciate as they move in."It's not good enough to have a great museum if people don't know about us," Gette said, noting that the museum is increasing its marketing efforts. Gette said the museum attracted about 30,000 visitors last year. Studies show that with the new building and high-quality exhibits, the museum has the potential to attract 80,000 to 140,000 visitors yearly, including more people from beyond Southside and southwestern Virginia.The new building should help people elsewhere in the state realize that the museum, though it is in Martinsville and not a large city such as Richmond or Norfolk, is an official state museum, Gette said."We are Virginia's natural history museum," he emphasized. "There is no other natural history museum in Virginia."Collections at the museum are "a record of the state's past, both human and nonhuman," said Beard. "These things no longer would exist if we (the museum) didn't exist."Gette estimated that the United States has about 100 natural history museums. But Nancy Moncrief, curator of mammals, estimated that less that 30 are state-sponsored museums.Some of those state-sponsored museums are run by universities and are more focused on educating scientists than on educating the public, Moncrief indicated.Because the Virginia Museum of Natural History puts so much emphasis on educating the public, staff said, its presence in Martinsville greatly enhances the local quality of life, which could spur economic development.Beard said the museum, together with the uptown historic district, Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI), New College Institute and a planned sports complex eventually are "going to make Martinsville irresistible" to companies. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/5 VMNH Poised to Open http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/5 Sunday, 25 March 2007 12:00:00 EST The world's newest - and therefore, perhaps the most modern - natural history museum is here in Martinsville. Sunday, 25 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, March 25, 2007By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer The world's newest - and therefore, perhaps the most modern - natural history museum is here in Martinsville.People who have seen the new Virginia Museum of Natural History building on Starling Avenue, both inside and out, have been astonished that such a modern building is located in a small city, not in a large metropolitan area, said Executive Director Tim Gette.Upon seeing the building, they surmise "we're not in Martinsville anymore," Gette said, paraphrasing Dorothy's comment in "The Wizard of Oz."?"This is a world-class facility," said Jim Beard, curator of earth sciences. "It looks like a museum. It feels like a museum."At 89,127 square feet, the new building is five times as large as the former Joseph Martin Elementary School on Douglas Avenue, where the museum has been located since it opened in 1984.That means more space not only for exhibits, but also larger, more modern exhibits, museum staff pointed out.In addition, "our collections will be more accessible" to visiting scientists, Gette said. Staff will be able to retrieve relics more easily, and there will be more room in which scientists can examine them.The new building, which opens Friday to invited guests and Saturday to the public, also is more technologically advanced than the old school building.For example, it has infrastructure that lets staff better control temperature and humidity levels inside. That is an important factor in preserving various types of relics, such as skin and tissue of ancient animals, said Curator of Mammals Nancy Moncrief.She recalled times in the past when cooling equipment shut down because the electricity failed, such as during thunderstorms. Not to worry anymore - when power failures occur in the future, an emergency generator at the new building will turn on automatically, she said.Beard noted that the new building has a sophisticated security system that will lessen the chance of theft or damage to collections. In the old school, he said, visitors often were able to wander into restricted areas, unintentionally for the most part.The museum has about 22 million specimens of natural history to protect, Gette emphasized.Just as having a state museum makes Martinsville unique among small cities, exhibits in the Starling Avenue building will make the Virginia Museum of Natural History unique among museums of its kind.In deciding on exhibits, Beard said, museum staff visited similar museums elsewhere and "we realized that we wanted to do things differently."So, the exhibits will focus on nature as it pertains to Virginia and processes of nature, not just on the appearances of natural things, he said."I think we are the first natural history museum that's tried to do it (focus on processes) on a dedicated basis," Beard added.Visitors generally will not be allowed to touch actual relics because they are extremely fragile. However, they will be allowed to touch some exhibits.Those that can be touched will have reproductions of relics. Yet the design firm that created the exhibits, Reich + Petch, reproduced relics in such fine detail that researchers could examine reproductions and come to the same conclusions as if they were to see the actual relics, museum curators said.Some of the exhibits will be designed in ways that allow visitors to interpret aspects of natural history for themselves.Scientists "don't know all the answers" to questions about Virginia's natural history, said Moncrief.Understanding of natural history constantly is evolving, Beard said."That is why when you ask a scientist a question, you never get a straight answer," he laughed. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/4 Education a Focus of Museum http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/4 Tuesday, 20 March 2007 12:00:00 EST While the Virginia Museum of Natural History already has a strong focus on education, the ability to further expand that focus will become a reality soon, a museum official said. Tuesday, 20 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Tuesday, March 20, 2007 By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff Writer   While the Virginia Museum of Natural History already has a strong focus on education, the ability to further expand that focus will become a reality soon, a museum official said.Dr. Dennis Casey, director of education and public programs at VMNH, said education is a major initiative of the institution. That is why the new museum will have two classrooms dedicated to education programs. "The new museum is much more educationally adapted," he said. The Virginia Museum of Natural History will hold its grand opening for its new building on Starling Avenue in Martinsville on March 31. It will replace the Douglas Avenue facility that has housed the museum since its inception in 1984.At the Douglas Avenue site, all programs must be done in a conference room. With the new classrooms, Casey said, the museum will be able to educate more people in a specifically designed setting.In addition to the classrooms, there will be a "consolidated place" for the museum's teacher resource center, Casey said. The center offers education kits which teachers can check out to use in their classrooms. Seven kits provide teachers with audio and visual material, teaching guides and technology resources that cover subjects such as fossils and insects, he said.Also, the new facility will include a distance-learning center. The "classroom connected by virtual space," as Casey describes it, will give the museum the capability to participate in and facilitate presentations. Eventually, the museum may be able to be broadcast to other museums, universities and schools via two-way video, he said. When the center is not being used for presentations, it will serve as a computer lab.One of the main ways that the museum strives to reach its goal of providing quality education to the community is by cooperating with area educators through the Education Advisory Committee, Casey said.The committee is comprised of teachers, administrators and faculty from schools in Martinsville and Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania counties. The museum meets with the committee any time new exhibits or educational programs are being considered."Communication (with the education community) is essential for us to be successful," he said. Not only is the museum able to help provide a higher quality of education for students by supplying the community with materials and personnel, such as curators, the education community can help the museum by providing input on exhibits and the learning experience at the museum, Casey said. It is largely because of the committee's role in planning museum exhibits and programs that VMNH can provide something other than "a canned museum experience," he said.The relationship between the committee and the museum presents "a very nurturing experience for both," said Betty Capps, a teacher in Patrick County schools. Capps, a member of the committee since last summer, said that before the museum asked her to be part of the group there was no representative from Patrick County. Because of her involvement with the committee, Patrick County schools now have access to information they previously did not, she said.The commonwealth provided $13 million for construction costs of the new 89,127 square foot museum, but "to have that kind of education in our home town" is invaluable, Capps said.People would have to go to "Virginia Beach or Richmond or four or five or six hours away to find the type of facility that we have here," she added.The mission of the museum stretches far beyond Henry and Patrick counties, however, said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at VMNH. The museum launched a major marketing campaign recently to "basically just let people know we exist and that we are "˜the' museum of natural history in the commonwealth," Barber said. The target area for the campaign is a 250-mile radius from Martinsville, which includes a little more than 27 million people, he added.In addition to the educational programs geared towards children, the museum also provides professional developmental programs for educators. This summer, the museum, along with the Virginia Department of Education and other state agencies, will once again sponsor the Virginia Science Standards Institute at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Casey said. The institute, which provides training and resources for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers, has taken place every summer since 1995. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/2 Museum to Offer Special Theater http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/2 Monday, 12 March 2007 12:00:00 EST The Hooker Furniture Corp. Theater at the new Virginia Museum of Natural History is so state-of-the-art that only a handful like it exist in the United States. Monday, 12 March 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinMonday, March 12, 2007By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff Writer The Hooker Furniture Corp. Theater at the new Virginia Museum of Natural History is so state-of-the-art that only a handful like it exist in the United States.When the museum celebrates the grand opening of its new Starling Avenue location on March 31, area residents will have one of only 16 CineMuse theaters in the United States and Canada in their own backyard.The CineMuse theater will seat 32 people and have a screen more than five feet tall and nine feet wide and a surround sound system that will blow people away, said Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs at the museum. Thirty-two seats is typical for museum theaters, he added.The sound system, screen and high-definition projector will combine to show 15- to 30-minute films to create an experience that, visually and audibly, will be hard to match at other media venues, said Dr. Dennis Casey, director of education and public programs for VMNH.Not only will the sound and video quality be top of the line, but so will the educational value of the programming selected to be shown in the theater, Casey said.CineMuse is a network of museums, universities and cultural centers that offers an extensive library of educational programming that can be shown in member theaters. More than 50 films were previewed by a group of educators, scientists and museum personnel. They evaluated the films based on educational content and appeal to different age groups, Casey said.From those, he said, four were picked that will be shown at the theater from the grand opening through sometime around the end of the summer.The films will be shown at times to target specific age groups. Two of the films, for instance, are part of the "Nature Scopers" series, which is a cartoon series aimed at young audiences. Those films will be shown Saturday mornings and at other times when children are likely to be at the museum, Casey said.Another film that will run at the theater is "Weird Nature-Devious Defenses," which explores natural defense mechanisms that organisms have developed through adaptations to their environments. The film, which Casey said was selected on the basis of the quality of the program as well as its family appeal, will be shown at various times during the day.The fourth film that will be part of the first rotation of programming was selected by the group because it is one of the "cornerstone" types of films and exhibits that the museum will build around, Casey said."Walking With Dinosaurs - A Time of Titans" is sure to be a family favorite at the museum, Barber said. The technology in the theater will create an experience that is hard to find elsewhere, he added."When dinosaurs walk, you're going to feel it, you're not just going to hear it," Barber said.Hopefully, the film will inspire children to "go out on their own, to feel like they're in power and to explore," he said. "All the questions have not been answered."?Perhaps, he said, children will be inspired to become a part of science and help solve some of those questions.Along with access to the vast library of films in the CineMuse network, being part of the network gives the museum the possibility of producing and distributing its own films about the work its curators do around the world, Barber said.Visitors to the museum will be able to view films at no additional charge to the museum admittance fee. Admission to the museum is $7 for adults; $6 for senior citizens (60 and older) and college students; $5 for children and youth 3 to 18; and free for members and children under 3.  http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/3 New Museum Already Spawning Businesses http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/3 Monday, 05 February 2007 12:00:00 EST A recent economic impact analysis said the new $26.1 million Virginia Museum of Natural History is expected to have a huge economic impact. Monday, 05 February 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin Monday, February 5, 2007 By JEFF WRIGHT - Bulletin Staff Writer   A recent economic impact analysis said the new $26.1 million Virginia Museum of Natural History is expected to have a huge economic impact on Martinsville and the surrounding area, and already two new museum-related businesses have been announced. New Moon Cafe, which will be located inside the museum and run by Martinsville resident Debbie Lazaro and Susan Palmer of Ridgeway, is slated to be up and running for the March 31 museum grand opening.The other business, Black Tie Valet, was created when VMNH Security Manager Tim King, of Martinsville, learned that a valet service was not available in the area, a service that could be needed at the museum's grand opening gala.The cafe, although not a part of the Starbucks franchise, will sell Starbucks products along with sandwiches and pastries. One of the draws to the space, said Lazaro, is that it will be accessible to community members and visitors without having to pay the admission to the museum. "We are really hoping that it just becomes a popular place, another activity that becomes an asset to the community, something that people can go to for leisure time," Lazaro said, adding that she hopes the cafe will become a popular spot for local workers to stop by for their morning coffee or for lunch.Lazaro said that she and Palmer had been looking for a space around Martinsville to run their business for a while, before they became aware the museum was looking for someone to start such a business there through a Bulletin article last summer. After submitting a proposal for what they could offer the museum, there were a series of interviews with museum personnel. "In the end they liked our enthusiasm for the project," Lazaro said. The cafe, which will rent the space from the museum, is responsible for purchasing all of the equipment needed to make the coffee and sandwiches, but the museum has provided tables, chairs and decorations for the area, Lazaro said. While museum officials began planning for the March 30 black-tie gala, which will introduce the new facility to local and state politicians, local leaders, general supporters of the museum and officials from VMNH partner, the National Geological Museum of China, they realized that there was something missing. Event planners wanted supporters to have access to a valet service for the gala, but there were no local companies which could provide such a service. "From the start it seemed like it was a bit challenging," King said of his effort to start a valet service, but the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and museum staff have been helpful and supportive, he added. Although King said his business is still in the planning stages, he expects it to be fully operational for the gala. King, who has been in the security business for 17 years, said he hopes that the gala will be a springboard for his business, which he hopes to expand in the future. Black Tie Valet is going to start by offering its service to the museum and then hopefully branch out to area hotels and country clubs, he said.An economic impact analysis conducted recently by the Atlanta-based company, Market Street Services, predicted that about 100 museum and spin-off jobs will be created as a result of VMNH operations, amounting to $3.8 million in salary and wages and $6.6 million in annual business revenue. Museum officials expect the new facility, which will open its doors to the public with its March 31 grand opening, to draw about 70,000 visitors in its first year. http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/1 'Dino Day' draws crowd to VMNH http://www.vmnh.net/news/details/ID/1 Sunday, 21 January 2007 12:00:00 EST Children climbed on the back of a plastic dinosaur outside the Virginia Museum of Natural History. They turned, smiled and their parents took their picture. Sunday, 21 January 2007 12:00:00 EST Press Release: Martinsville BulletinSunday, January 21, 2007By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff Writer Children climbed on the back of a plastic dinosaur outside the Virginia Museum of Natural History. They turned, smiled and their parents took their picture.Or they stared in wide-eyed wonder at a full scale, animated dinosaur model or dinosaur fossils from millions of years before they were born. They even looked at a well-preserved specimen of a dinosaur with feathers and, even if they did not understand its significance as a link between dinosaur and bird, they peered intently, took cell phone pictures and talked excitedly to their parents. These scenes was repeated more than once Saturday during the museum's Dino Day, a child-focused day of activities that drew more than 800 people for what museum staff said was probably its most popular festival event of its kind to date. It also was the last one the museum expects to hold at its old location on Douglas Avenue before the new museum on Starling Avenue opens in March."It went out with a bang," said Zach Ryder, a marketing associate for the museum. Although the day featured viewing of dinosaurs from China, the feathered dinosaur, a scavenger hunt and a "dino dig" in a sand box, the highlight of the day probably was two presentations by Don "Dino Don" Lessem, a paleontologist and author of books about dinosaurs.Dozens of children and their parents crowded into a museum conference room to watch Lessem, an affable, mustachioed man in a red plaid shirt, talk about dinosaurs, his experiences as a paleontologist and his work as a consultant on the movie "Jurassic Park."Lessem used humor and audience participation. He had children demonstrate how dinosaurs walk, with their legs underneath, and how that is different than lizards, with their legs spread out. He had children represent their favorite dinosaurs, and then placed them in a line across the room as sort of a living dinosaur timeline.To impart some perspective, he stood one boy on a chair to represent a vertical timeline of the history of the earth. Starting when the earth began more than 4 billion years ago and going up, the dinosaurs would have existed for only the segment of the timeline represented by the boy's head, he said. The time human's have existed only accounts for one of the hairs on the boy's head, he said, and the boy had short hair."Lots of the things you know about dinosaurs are wrong," Lessem told the audience. There was no brontosaurus, he said, and the flying pterandons and the swimming plesiosaurs were not dinosaurs because dinosaurs lived on land.But this is okay, he told the children. There is wrong information about dinosaurs because newer, more correct information is being discovered by paleontologists all the time.He asked the children if they knew why they might have eaten a dinosaur this week, and why that might be a good thing to do."I'll give you a hint. Because it tastes like chicken," he said, explaining that birds are what dinosaurs evolved into.He often mentioned his work consulting on "Jurassic Park," although he was quick to point out the movie was intentionally inaccurate in an effort to be more dramatic. The menacing movie velociraptor was smaller in reality, he said. He said the movie made the dinosaurs bigger because it could use human actors to act out and record the motions the dinosaurs made in the movie, such as jumping on a counter.His last demonstration was talking one young boy into licking a fossil known as a copralite, explaining paleontologists can feel the difference between fossils and rocks with their tongues.Some of the children were able to figure out what the copralite was."Dinosaur poop," said one girl brightly. "Yeah, it's poop," agreed another boy, which was followed with a chorus of "EEEEEEEEWWWW."Lessem explained that the copralite had been replaced by minerals and was not poop anymore.Tammy Moore of Martinsville attended the Dino Day with her children, Alex Grace and Jarrett."We really enjoyed it," she said. "My children love dinosaurs and this just allows them to learn more."Alex participated in Lessem's presentation, standing in for her favorite dinosaur in the timeline. She said she wanted to be "triceratops." Jarrett was more inclusive, saying "all of them" when asked what his favorite dinosaur was.One young boy who was interested in Lessem's presentation, participating and interrupting to answer questions, was Aaron McGavock of Roanoke."I've been interested in them (dinosaurs) since kindergarten," said McGavock, admitting he was only in second grade now.McGavock said he was impressed by Lessem's presentation."He's pretty cool," he said. "I think I want to do that when I grow up."?Christopher Snells, a student at Carver Elementary, participated in Lessem's presentation and was looking at some of the life-size animated dinosaurs after."They're interesting," he said. He pointed to a fossil dinosaur skeleton and how "you can see what kind of teeth they have" and other details about the animal and how it lived from the skeleton.Snells said he was also interested in being a paleontologist when he grew up.