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science-talks

2nd Thursday Science Talks

Next "2nd Thursday Science Talk" is November 10


“Matthew Henson: The first man at ninety degrees north latitude”
Presented by Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History

The next edition of the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s 2016-17 “2nd Thursday Science Talks” series takes place Thursday, November 10 at 6 p.m., when Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of VMNH, presents “Matthew Henson: The first man at ninety degrees north latitude”. Admission to the presentation is free thanks to the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation.

Henson reached the North Pole in April of 1909, an era of harrowing exploration. At that time, men traveled the globe in search of new specimens and artifacts, while exploring lands from the tropics to the desolate ice fields. However, 90 degrees north latitude had not yet been conquered.

Henson not only was the first man to the North Pole, he did so during a time when the work of African Americans was largely unrecognized. Keiper’s presentation will explore Henson’s life, his associate Commander Robert Peary, and the methods and science behind his early 20th century accomplishment at the top of the world.

"At the turn of the century, reaching the North Pole was to be done using traditional techniques of the Inuit, and Henson engaged in a tough struggle to be the first to reach it," said Keiper. "This presentation will not only bring to light such an extraordinary accomplishment that was mistakenly credited to his associate Commander Peary because Henson was a black man, but also discuss the science of how it was possible."

Dr. Keiper began his duties as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in February 2010. In addition to serving as executive director, Dr. Keiper serves as director of nature, science and planetaria for the Virginia Association of Museums. Before joining VMNH, Dr. Keiper served as director of science and curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

"2nd Thursday Science Talks" take place on the second Thursday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m., September through May. Attendance is free thanks to generous contributions of all sizes to the VMNH Discovery Fund. Presentations are delivered by VMNH curators, research associates and collaborating scientists. Geared towards audiences with a keen interest in science, the presentations also increase awareness of the varied and unique scientific career paths available for local students.



2016-17 Science Talks


Join us for the 2016-2017 2nd Thursday Science Talks series at the Virginia Museum of Natural History!  This year’s theme, “Pickled heads and pretty rocks”, highlights the purpose, importance, and relevance of scientific collections.

2nd Thursday Science Talks take place on the second Thursday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m., September through May.  Attendance is free thanks to generous contributions of all sizes to the VMNH Discovery Fund.  Presentations are delivered by VMNH curators, research associates and collaborating scientists.  Geared towards audiences with a keen interest in science, the presentations also increase awareness of the varied and unique scientific career paths available for local students.

September 8, 2016
“Why so much stuff?”
Dr. James S. Beard, Director of Research & Collections, Curator of Earth Sciences

Dr. Beard will discuss the purpose and importance of scientific museum collections, while highlighting the variety of natural history treasures in the vaults and on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

October 13, 2016
“Not just skin and bones: Lessons learned from collections of birds and mammals”
Dr. Nancy Moncrief, Curator of Mammalogy, VMNH

In this presentation, Dr. Moncrief will show some of the ways modern (non-fossil) vertebrates are preserved for scientific research.  She’ll explore the kinds of questions we can ask, and the sometimes surprising answers we get, when we use “old dead rats” as evidence.

November 10, 2016
“Matthew Henson: The first man at ninety degrees north latitude”
Dr. Joe B. Keiper, Executive Director, VMNH

Henson reached the North Pole in April of 1909, an era of harrowing exploration. At that time, men traveled the globe in search of new specimens and artifacts while exploring lands from the tropics to the desolate ice fields, but ninety degrees north latitude had not yet been conquered. Henson not only was the first man to the North Pole, he did so during a time that the work of African Americans was largely neglected. We’ll explore Henson’s life, his associate Robert Peary, and the methods and science behind his early 20th century accomplishment at the top of the world.

December 8. 2016
“Biodiversity conservation: The Virginia Natural Heritage Program”
J. Christopher Ludwig, Chief Biologist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

This presentation will feature biological inventory conducted by the Virginia Department of Conservation’s Natural Heritage Program. It will stress the importance of museum collections and herbaria that inform this inventory and provide crucial information in assessing the biodiversity conservation needs of Virginia’s flora and fauna.

January 12, 2017
“Dinosaurs and other dead things: How fossil collections teach us about evolution”
Dr. Alexander K. Hastings, Assistant Curator of Paleontology, VMNH

VMNH is home to millions of fossils from near and far, including everything from giant dinosaur bones to tiny clam shells. Each of these gives us important information about the environments of the past and how they all fit into a larger evolutionary setting.  Come and learn about the rich fossil archive of the VMNH and its wealth of fascinating new information about ancient Virginia and beyond.

February 9, 2017
“The E-files: specimens, pins, and spirits”
Dr. Kal Ivanov, Assistant Curator of Recent Invertebrates, VMNH

Biological collections are not only indispensable resources for studying Earth’s biodiversity but they also provide direct financial and social benefits to society. In his presentation Dr. Ivanov will focus on the building, maintenance, and uses of modern invertebrate collections and the crucial role they play in solving our society’s most pressing needs – from public health issues to global environmental change.

March 9. 2017
"From ancient battlefield to museum gallery: what archaeology can tell us about our past."
Dr. Mary Voigt, Professor Emerita, College of William and Mary (Dr. Voigt also serves as a VMNH Trustee)

Dr. Mary Voigt, Professor Emerita at the College of William & Mary, partnered with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia on a large project at Hasanlu in northwestern Iran. Dr. Voigt’s presentation will highlight the archaeological evidence for a city destroyed around 800 BCE. The finds from this city include beautiful artifacts made of pottery, glass, ivory and metal as well as the bones of people caught and killed in a fierce battle and fire that destroyed but also preserved. The most important aspect of this collection is that finds are accompanied by detailed excavation records. They are not just isolated artifacts, bones and other bits and pieces but material with a context that allows us to tell a story about the people who made, used and discarded these items.

April 13, 2017
“Plants orphaned like Annie: The importance and value of adopting and maintaining collections that lost their original home”
Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, Associate Professor of Biology, Roanoke College

VMNH houses several fossil plant collections that did not originally begin at the museum. They came from different places and about in different ways, but their importance is high.  These orphans may seem like a motley collection of individual pieces but together they are a valuable resource of evolution and modern scientific discovery! 

May 11, 2017
Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Curator of Archaeology, VMNH

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