Conserving the Collections

The extensive scientific collections of the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science are utilized by scientists and researchers all around the world. As catalog databases of the collections and their inventories are constantly being built and updated, they are also made more accessible. Increased use of these collections needs to be balanced with conservation efforts to ensure they exist for future generations. Unfortunately, some materials used to store specimens have become outdated and require replacement to best preserve the museum’s collections.

Rows of metal cabinets house the mollusk and bird collections at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.

Current Conservation Methods

In the mollusks collection, specimens are preserved either as the dry animal-made shell, or as the entire body and soft parts of the animal in alcohol. The bird collection specimens are preserved as study skins (a specialized taxidermy for research), but also have preserved tissue samples in alcohol, spread wings, skeletons, and traditional taxidermy.

Currently, the collection is stored in specimen trays that are made of paste board wrapped in paper. Depending on their age, some trays may or may not be made out of archival quality material. However, new archival boxes can still endure changes in chemistry when they come into contact with wooden drawers that exist in many cabinets. These wooden drawers could release harmful acid vapors and change the chemical composition of the storage materials. When these materials touch specimens they can cause the chemicals to breakdown, recrystallize, and destroy the specimens, according to Alex Kittle, Senior Collections Manager of Mollusks.

Archival boxes are often laid with unbuffered paper to help protect specimens
Mollusks in archival boxes are stored in trays
Yellowing spots on this shell indicate Byne’s disease, a decay of calcium carbonate and acidic vapor.
Toucans and hornbills stored with unbuffered paper
Fuzzy coating on the left egg indicates decay from Byne’s disease
Fuzzy coating on the egg indicates decay from Byne’s Disease
Damage to these butterflies are indicative of pests

Plans for Improvements

Improvements needed to the collections have been addressed. The collections would benefit from plastic boxes made of a stable plastic and more archival specimen trays. There are regular updates to materials that contain specimens, but there can only be so much done each year. Changing the cabinets the specimens are currently housed in could also prevent any concern of pest damage, and make a world of difference in improving long term conservation. Fortunately, all of the study skin collections are already in new cabinets with metal drawers and archival materials.

Conservation of data is another important concern of collections management. In certain bird species with a fatty diet, oil can seep onto identification tags, remove ink, and make them impossible to read. Additionally, beetles and other pests will feed on organic materials like feathers and introduce harmful microorganisms to specimens. Having up-to-date powder-coated steel cabinetry with a total seal to keep pests from the collections is vital for conservation, according to Ashley Kempken, Collections Manager of Birds. The collections team has also implemented a freezer treatment protocol to kill potential pests on collections objects after they have been used by researchers or in exhibits.

Natural acidity and chemicals can also impact the conservation of specimens. Correct storage of specimens requires using the appropriate archival containers, as chemical reactions from storage materials can easily damage collections over time. Researchers can use methods such as a pH pen to spot check acidity in materials that hold specimens.

#IfThenSheCan: The Exhibit

Meet Ronda Hamm, Arlyne Simon, and Mercedes Taylor, three remarkable women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

These statues were originally part of #IFThenSheCan – The Exhibit which debuted in Washington, D.C. in 2022, and featured an astounding 120 3-D printed statues celebrating women in STEM. They are on exhibit at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science through the end of February 2024.

Seeing is believing, and that’s what this exhibit is all about. When girls see women in STEM careers having fun, they can imagine themselves in those roles too. By supporting women in STEM, we’re working together to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, making the world’s future stronger.

Learn more about these three incredible STEM-ists by scanning the QR codes in the exhibit and visiting our Research Headquarters for videos about them. This exhibit is connected to our What a Scientist Looks Like outdoor banner exhibit, which also includes If/Then Ambassadors as well as several local STEM-ists.

3D printed statues of scientists Arlyne Simon, Mercedes Taylor, and Ronda Hamm. The statues are orange and have some texture because of the printing.

The IF/THEN® Initiative seeks to further advance women in STEM by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers. From protecting wildlife, discovering galaxies, fighting superbugs, to choreographing robots, these STEM innovators were selected  through a rigorous process that identified them as leaders in their fields. Lyda Hill Philanthropies partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to select and manage the AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassador program designed to empower high-profile role models to inspire middle school girls.

#IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit is a physical manifestation of this goal, created in part with inspiration from a 2016 study led by former Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios which found that the 10 largest U.S. cities publicly displayed fewer than a half-dozen statues of real women. #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit is the largest 3D-printed project of its kind and made history for the most statues of women ever assembled. The exhibit has been experienced in-person by more than four million people in the U.S. since 2020.

IF/THEN is an initiative designed by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers. All STEM innovators were selected through a rigorous process that identified them as leaders in their fields with a commitment to inspire the next generation. All were chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to serve as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors: high-profile role models for middle school girls.

Full STEAM Ahead

New program for ages 10+

All aboard for scientific discovery focused on STEAM Innovation designed for around middle school age 10+. Explore how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math are interconnected through hands-on activities, creative thinking, problem solving, and more!

Coming up on Monday, February 19:

Tiny Wonders of the World: Explore the small, smaller, and smallest: Insects, Microsopy, and Atoms! Journey through scientific discovery as we explore various STEAM based experiments, awe-inspiring demonstrations, and interactive activities.

One Day Workshops

  • Monday, February 19
  • Friday, March 29
  • Wednesday, April 10

Pre-registration required. $60/DelMNS members; $70/non-members; $7/before or after care; $12 before AND aftercare per day.

Spring Break: Nature’s Laboratory

April 1-5, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Join us for an action-packed week exploring the thrilling world of science in Nature’s Laboratory! Journey through scientific discovery as we explore various STEAM based experiments, awe-inspiring demonstrations, and interactive activities. This workshop will facilitate excitement and wonder for the spectacular world of science.

Pre-registration required. Single day price $60/DelMNS members; $70/non-members; $7/before or after care; $12 before AND aftercare per day. Purchase five days and get a $10 gift certificate to the Museum Store.

Summer: Full STEAM Ahead Workshop: Science Spectacular (Ages 10+)

June 17-21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Journey through scientific discovery as we explore various STEAM-based experiments, awe-inspiring demonstrations, and interactive activities. This workshop facilitates excitement and wonder for the spectacular world of science. This workshop is geared towards higher education learning, which may not be suitable for younger age groups.  

Pre-registration required. Full week price: $290/DelMNS members, $325/non-members. Extended care available, $7/before or after care; $12 before AND aftercare per day.

Thousands of Mollusks added to the museum’s scientific collections in 2023

Mollusk collections often stem from exploration, whether on a global or local scale. Personal collections frequently find their way to museums, especially when accompanied by available data. Our holdings have recently expanded with two significant acquisitions.

During the past summer, Kathryn Eickhoff-Smith generously donated the Read family collection, comprising approximately 10,000 marine and land snail shells from worldwide origins. This collection embodies the collecting endeavors of sisters Ella Howard Read (1845-1914) and Clara Anne Read (1850-1928) from Massachusetts.

While they didn’t gather the snails themselves, they likely acquired or traded for these shells through connections to their family’s involvement in whaling operations in New Bedford. These shells, treasured for their beauty and novelty, were showcased in exquisite custom-made cabinets, a common practice of that era. The specimens were transported back to the museum still in the cabinet drawers by Mollusk Senior Collections Manager Alex Kittle (pictured below) who drove to Naples, Florida to pick up the collection last fall.

The Read sisters’ father was associated with the Willimantic Linen Company, and many of the smaller shells were stored in boxes produced during the latter half of the nineteenth century with the company’s logo. The image below shows the label on one of these small boxes.

The second collection originates from Laura Zeller, a longstanding shell collector based in the Baltimore area. Comprising 210 lots of tiny specimens, this collection primarily features specimens from the United States, Thailand, and other distant locations.

The next step for both collections involves matching the shells with their respective data. While the Zeller collection benefits from an index and notecards, the Read family collection presents a greater challenge, potentially requiring collaboration with other museums to piece together details such as possible collection dates. 

Community Read

In 2024, we again join local libraries and community partners for the eleventh year of the Longwood Gardens’ Community Read — a program designed to encourage reading for pleasure and start a conversation. For the upcoming year, we offer a variety of programs to enjoy these amazing selections.

The Secret Garden

In the children’s book, The Secret Garden, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the characters discover a secret all their own.

The Last Garden in England

In the book, The Last Garden in England, by Julia Kelly, we follow multiple women over time who come to appreciate the same garden.

Both books are available for purchase in the museum store!

Mobile Museum Outreach Program

In the children’s book, The Secret Garden, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the characters discover a secret all their own.

As part of the Longwood Gardens Community Read Program, the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science comes to you. This program is great for organizations such as libraries, daycares, after-school groups, and classrooms.

Who doesn’t love a secret? The Secret Garden will come to you with one of our educators. Learn to love the outdoors through this interactive hour including an interactive book reading, a scene-setting 10×10 tent, and plenty of touchable specimens. Be prepared to get dirty hands!

$150 per program, maximum 25 participants.

Events

Paint, Prattle & Pinot

Saturday, March 23 | 6 p.m.

Literature and art lovers, join us for this fun
and relaxing evening among old and new friends as we discuss Last Garden in England. We’ll take it up a notch by creating a garden-themed painting led by Jess Myers, scientist and artist. Art supplies, a light snack, and one glass of wine are included, additional beverages available for purchase.
Pre-registration required by March 19, 2024. Ages 21+ only. Maximum 25 participants.

$40/DelMNS members, $55/non-members

Canvas, Conversations & Chamomile

Wednesday, April 24 | 1 p.m.

Seniors, join us as we discuss The Last Garden in England while painting your own work of art related to the book. Jess Myers, a scientist and artist, offers her painting and nature expertise. Even if you didn’t read the book, join us for lively conversation, creating a work of art, and tasty nibbles. Pre-registration required. Pre-registration required.

$30 per person

Fairy Tale Saturday

Saturday, April 27 | 10 a.m.

Dress up as your favorite fairy tale character and join Ms. Ofelia (dressed as a character herself) for storytime, followed by a variety of themed activities throughout the museum, including a floral craft, a blooming science experiment of color, a bug identification station, and more. Preregistration suggested.

$3/DelMNS members, $17/non-members (ages 3 and up), $7/non-member toddlers (ages 1-2). Price includes admission for the day.

Artistic Safari: The Howard Pyle Studio Group’s Plein Air Adventure

On exhibit October 21, 2023-January 23, 2024

Join us for the Art Loop on Friday, November 3 from 5-7:30 p.m.

Since its founding in 1935, the Howard Pyle Studio Group has played a vital role as a hub for artistic growth and collaboration in the Brandywine Valley, honoring the legacy of American illustrator Howard Pyle. Workshops, classes and events create a supportive environment fostering learning and camaraderie among member artists.

Painting en plein air, or in the open air, offers artists an authentic way to capture nature’s true beauty. The presence of diverse creatures in these landscapes adds depth and interest to the artwork, but they don’t stay still for long!

To overcome this challenge, the museum becomes an invaluable substitute en plein air location for
Studio Group members. Here, carefully recreated natural settings inspire creativity, allowing artists to skillfully depict diverse species on canvas.

About the Artists

My art includes natural and urban landscapes, from the Brandywine Valley and the Southern Appalachian mountains. Whether painting en plein air or the studio, I enjoy combining a variety of natural shapes and elements from nature and other sources. It has been a special pleasure to paint in the Museum of Nature and Science.

Betsy received a BA in Math from the University of Delaware but turned to art shortly thereafter and studied with many local artists. She has been an exhibiting member of the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts and is a member of the Studio Group Inc. and the National League of American Pen Women Inc. She has held many offices including president and treasurer.

She has participated in juried shows at Chester County Art Association, Pen Women Biennial Shows, Pen Women National Biennial, Holly Branch of NLAPW in Dover, Biggs Museum of Art in Dover, DE, Delaware Art Museum – as part of the Studio Group Show, and other local venues and received awards.

She specializes in landscapes and portraits.

Painting in the morning or middle of the day has inspired great opportunities each season. Carol continues her impressionistic / expressive style of painting in oil and acrylics. Lovely weather or stormy warnings allow for the changing of the color palette. Carol sets out for en Plein Air invitationals throughout Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Beauty of the destinations are reflected in paintings from Chestertown’s – Paint the Town, Brandywine Conservancy, Historic New Castle’s gardens, Bryn Mawr, Kuerner’s Farm, Brandywine River, Laurel Preserve and farmer’s markets. Recently, the artist received an award for ‘Winter Eventide’ in the Artist Magazine’s January 2023 issue. ‘Sunflowers & Blueberries’ was selected as the international cover for the Pen Woman publication.

The artist engages in a series of painting invitationals by: Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painting Association, Historic New Castle Plein Air, Brandywine River Museum, Delaware Museum of Nature & Science, Land Arts Events (Brandywine Conservancy), Chadds Ford Historical Society, Brandywine Valley: Children’s Beach House, Blue Streak, Unionville Arts Gala, Barbara Moore Fine Art Gallery, River Arts in Chestertown, and the Opera House Antiques & Rodney Pratt Framing & Gallery.

A graduate of Moore College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Science, Philadelphia; Graduate credits at University of Delaware and Tyler School of Art; Towson University, Masters of Secondary Education. Former Executive Director for the Cecil County Arts Council and educator for students of all levels. Received accommodations as a Board of Certified Professional Educator. A member of the Howard Pyle Studio Group and the National League of American Pen Women, Diamond State Branch.

I paint because I don’t know how to live without painting. I have been painting ever since I can remember. It is my therapy, my escape, and my world. If I don’t like the world I am in, I can paint a new one for myself. I paint anything; I paint things that connect to me that I feel drawn to – they have a personality, a story, or they just speak to me. I need to capture them on canvas. I am an acrylic painter, but I am always enthusiastic to learn something new. My process is to first make a mess on my canvas, with loads of energy, throwing paint on it and then cleaning it up. While I am cleaning I create my art. I paint with loads of energy and excitement. I do approach the canvas with an idea of what the final painting will look like, but if the painting decides it doesn’t want to go that way I am open to creating a new painting. Some paintings I leave messy. Some paintings I polish. I allow the painting to tell me how it wants to be finished. Every painting is a growth moment for me.

Lithography is my medium.  It is the physical labor of graining the stone, drawing on the stone, and printing to produce an edition of prints that resemble what was drawn, only richer and deeper.

My college education began at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, culminating with a BFA from The Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, MD, where I studied drawing, painting, and developed into printmaking.   I continued my study of lithography for over 25 years at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, where I now monitor the lithography and etching studios, as well as continue my studies with Tamarind master printer, Peter Haarz.   I am a member of the National League of American Pen Women and the Howard Pyle Studio Group, where I have enjoyed the camaraderie and support of fellow women artists, writers, and musicians.

I love nature and animals and am always looking around me for inspiration. Drawing to me, is about relationships of tones and lines and how they are inked and transfer to beautiful printmaking paper.

Karen Kuhrt is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA degree. She studied photography with Minor White and painting with Fred Meyer. Karen is a member of the Howard Pyle Studio and the National League of American Pen Women and has a painting in the Pen Women’s permanent collection in Washington, D.C. Her favorite subject matter is landscape, and painting the gardens at Mt. Cuba is always a treat!

My oil paintings express the play of light and shadow on the architectural forms that make up our towns and cities. Having worked and studied as an architect, I am fascinated by the relationship between our built environment and the landscape. I find inspiration in the unique character of our towns in the Delaware Valley and seek to interpret these views in a colorful perspective.

Chester County artist Kathy Ruck’s paintings reflect a strong sense of composition, color and light. Her attention to detail and skilled media technique draw the viewer into the scene.

Working out of her home studio in Landenberg, PA, Kathy paints the beauty of the surrounding areas of Chester County, PA and northern Delaware. She works primarily in watercolors, but also enjoys pastels, oils and gouache.

“I believe that in today’s hectic world it’s important to fill your home with art that will relax your mind and lift your spirits,” says the artist.

Kathy exhibits her work in local juried art shows, having won several awards for her paintings.  Private collectors and corporations own her paintings. Kathy has been commissioned to create paintings for corporations and institutions including DuPont, PNC Bank, Wilmington University,  Wilmington Flower Market Poster and Yellow Springs Art Show Poster. She is a former president of the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts, and a member of the Howard Pyle Studio Group and a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society.

Roberta is a Delaware representational fine artist who enjoys painting landscape and figurative subjects. She works in studio and in Plein air using a variety of mediums but most often works in oil or pastel.  She was raised by parents who were both artists and can’t remember a time when she didn’t love creating art!

Roberta attended college at the Pratt Manhattan Center, and Long Island University where she studied; Illustration, Art Education and Fine Art. She was also honored to be awarded a full scholarship from the Art Students League of New York where she studied; Life drawing, painting and portraiture.

She has worked in the fields of, Illustration, textile design, advertising and art education. In recent years her primary focus has been creating a body of work that is more representative of her personal feelings, impressions and vision of the world around us. This is strongly influenced by her faith and appreciation for nature. Her work has been featured in numerous shows in the area. She is a member of the Art Students League, the Howard Pyle Studio group, and more recently the Painters Folly Studio group.

Painting for me is a way to express the joy and beauty of the world, using light and color to capture a moment in time. My childhood passion for the outdoors and nature are brought into my paintings. The uplifting feeling that nature provides is expressed in every brush stroke, the warmth of the sun, the cool of the shade, the majesty of the trees and the serenity of the sky. Painting in the studio gives me the opportunity to perfect the techniques that I have studied over the years. But even in the studio, I am drawn to the outdoors, the light and promise of another day.

To learn more about the Howard Pyle Studio Group, visit howardpylestudio.org

Holidays at the Museum

Celebrate the season with a variety of holiday events! Unless noted, pre-registration required; events may sell out. Fees include museum admission and activities.

Gingerbread House Creations

Sunday, December 3 | 10-11:30 a.m.

Engineer your own confectionary creation building a pre-baked gingerbread house kit and decorating it with a variety of edible goodies from the candy buffet.
For families with children ages 3 and up. Pre-registration required by 11:59 p.m. on November 17. $35 per gingerbread house kit (must purchase at least one kit in order to participate in event). After kit purchase: free for members, $14.50 for non-members, $4.50 for non-members ages 1-2.

Breakfast with Santa

Saturday, December 9 | Current seating at 10:30 a.m.

Ring in the holiday season with breakfast with family, friends and Santa himself! Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, coffee and juice. After breakfast, participate in various holiday-themed activities and explore our gallery exhibits including the new traveling exhibit, Mindbender Mansion.

Pre-registration required. $10/members, $5/members ages 1-2. $24/non-members, $14/non-members ages 1-2. Vegan and gluten-free options available.

Roaring into the New Year featuring live birds from Animal Behavior & Conservation Connections

Sunday, December 31 | 10 a.m.-noon

Celebrate the New Year with live bird presentations and celebratory activities including a science-related ball drop!

Pre-registration is requested. Special price for the day: $3/members, $17/non-members ages 3 and up, $7/non-members ages 1-2. The museum closes for the day at the end of the event.

New bird species discovered through scientific collections

Natural history collections are full of surprises, with scientists updating what is known about different species and uncovering new ones.

Dr. Matthew Halley, Assistant Curator of Birds, is the lead author of a recently-published paper that splits the Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus fuscater) into seven different species and four subspecies — including a newly-described species from eastern Panamá: the Darién Nightingale-thrush (Catharus arcanus).

Photo of Matthew Halley by Jenna McCullough

These genetically distinct populations live in secluded mountain rainforests in Central and South America and began to diverge from each other nearly three million years ago.

The species look very similar to an untrained eye. To document their differences, Dr. Halley and his team sequenced DNA from multiple populations, studied physical features like plumage color, iris color and bill color, and analyzed differences in their vocalizations.

Dr. Halley shared the findings on his Twitter (now X) account. Read on for a summary, along with some of the figures from the paper:

This figure shows the geographic distribution of the C. [fuscater] complex in Central and South America. Lines point to type localities. The variation in shapes denote sampling locations for different molecular data. Shape size is correlated with the number of samples (1–3).

The C. fuscater complex (Turdidae) is composed of several disjunct populations that inhabit cloudy mountain rainforests, ranging from Costa Rica to Bolivia. These birds are diabolically shy and more often heard than seen. Their song is a series of sweet, musical whistles.

The research identified 10 genetically distinct populations that have been evolving independently for multiple glacial cycles. Molecular clock suggests most lineages diverged in early Pleistocene / late Pliocene— ancient lineages with independent evolutionary trajectories.

This figure shows taxonomic variation in the structure of ‘punctuation calls’, visualized in RavenPro 1.5 (Cornell University), recognizing three groups based on shared acoustic structure: (Type 1) pulsed/rippling: C. [f.] hellmayri, Undescribed 1 (now C. arcanus), C. [f.] mirabilis; (Type 2) long/sinuous: C. [f.] sanctaemartae, C. [f.] fuscater, C. [f.] berplepschi; (Type 3) short/simple: Undescribed 2 (now C. o. tenebris), C. [f.] opertaneus, Undescribed 3 (now C. b. nebulus), C. [f.] mentalis.

Populations were divergent in the acoustic structure of three different call types, which are presumed to be innately acquired (i.e., not learned), and there were subtle differences among populations in song structure, which is presumably learned.

This image is a side view of polychromatic adult plumages in C. [f.] mentalis (from left to right): 1, FMNH 433742, a ‘grey’ male with enlarged testes; 2, FMNH 433738, a ‘brown’ male with enlarged testes; 3, FMNH 364458, a ‘brown’ male with testes not enlarged; 4, FMNH 433740, an adult female with an enlarged ovary. Adults of both colour types (FMNH 433742, 433738) were collected at the same site in November
2001.

Halley traveled to the American Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Museum of Natural History to study their C. fuscater specimens, and borrowed specimens from the Field Museum, LSU Museum of Natural Science, and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, bringing them to the museum to look at sexual and age-related differences in plumage color.

This image shows ventral and dorsal views of the adult male plumages in C. b. berlepschi, C. b. caniceps, C. o. tenebris ssp. nov., C. b. nebulus ssp. nov., and C. mentalis.

With a large sample of study skins assembled under one light source (flat panel LED), subtle differences between populations, difficult to appreciate in the field, became easier to notice — Halley scored this variation by comparing the specimens to published color standards.

The taxonomic revision splits the C. [fuscater] complex into seven species, of which one is newly described, and four subspecies, of which two are newly described (C. opertaneus tenebris, C. berlepschi nebulus). New English names were proposed for each species. The seven species are:

Talamanca Nightingale-thrush (Catharus hellmayri) – monotypic – Northern mountains of Costa Rica (Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles, Tenorio) to west-central Panama (Parque Nacional Santa Fé, Veraguas). (Photo: alchetron.com)
Darién Nightingale-thrush (Catharus arcanus, sp. nov.) – monotypic – E Panama, endemic to Serranía de Majé and Serranía del Darién, from Cerro Azul in the west, to Cerro Tacarcuna in the east
Pirre Nightingale-thrush (Catharus mirabilis) – monotypic – Endemic to Cerro Pirre, Darién province, E Panama. (Photo: ML 242929041)
Cordilleran Nightingale-thrush (Catharus fuscater) – polytypic – (1) C. f. sanctaemartae, endemic to Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, NE Colombia; (2) C. f. fuscater, Sierra de Perijá of Venezuela, N and E Andes of Colombia and Venezuela. (Photo: ML 206115721)
Trans-Andean Nightingale-thrush (Catharus berlepschi) – polytypic – (1) C. b. berlepschi, W Andes in Ecuador; (2) C. b. caniceps, W Andes in Ecuador, S to NW Peru; (3) C. b. nebulus, ssp. nov., E Peruvian Andes. (Photo: ML 38468741)
Antioquia Nightingale-thrush (Catharus opertaneus) – polytypic – (1) C. o. opertaneus, NW and Central Andes in Colombia, S to Napo, Ecuador; (2) C. o. tenebris, ssp. nov., Río Chinchipe watershed of N Peru and SE Ecuador
Cochabamba Nightingale-thrush (Catharus mentalis) – monotypic – S Peru, east of the Río Apurímac, E to Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Note: Monotypic species are not divided into subspecies. Polytypic species can be divided into at least two subspecies.

Halley, M. R., Catanach, T. A., Klicka, J., and J. D. Weckstein. 2023. Integrative taxonomy reveals hidden diversity in the Catharus fuscater (Passeriformes: Turdidae) complex in Central and South America. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society zlad031. LINK

If you are unable to access the paper and would like a copy, please email Matt Halley.

Learn more about Dr. Halley’s research projects and publications on his website.

World of Discovery series returns

The World of Discovery series is back at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.

Join us for the World of Discovery lecture series at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science. This fall, we welcome scientists from the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment to present an in-depth look at the pioneering research impacting the future of Earth’s ecosystems.

The Complex Past and Future Trajectory of Coral Reefs

Wednesday, November 8 | 7 p.m.

Coral reefs have long been recognized as the “rainforests of the sea,” with fantastic biodiversity and ecological importance. However, they represent a paradox between the long-term success and resilience of evolution and growth over millions of years and an incredibly fragile ecosystem that is losing a global race against climate change and a host of local threats. This presentation will introduce several aspects of the science behind how coral reefs have been so successful, how they are threatened, and how some scientists are racing to understand what can be done to slow and manage the loss of this critically important ecosystem.

Mark Warner is a Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy at the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of Delaware. He studied marine biology at Northeastern University and the University of Georgia (UGA), where he received his bachelor’s degree in zoology and doctorate in ecology. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in plant biology at UGA, he joined the faculty of the University of Delaware in 2001. He is a Fellow of the International Coral Reef Society and has studied the ecological physiology of reef-building corals for over 30 years in many western and eastern Pacific locations, the Andaman and Red Sea, and the Caribbean.


Past events

Exploring the hidden lives of sharks

Wednesday, October 11 | 7 p.m.

Sharks capture the public’s attention like no other species, as demonstrated by the popularity of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” and the frequency with which stories of sharks “lurking” in local waters grab headlines. However, despite the great public interest in sharks and the important role they play in marine ecosystems, these animals remain misunderstood and challenging to study. Learn how new research is shedding light on the biology and ecology of sharks and how scientists are using cutting-edge technologies to view the hidden lives of sharks and aid in the conservation and management of these iconic predators.

Aaron Carlisle is an Assistant Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware. He has studied the biology and ecology of fishes for the last 20 years, largely focusing on elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) and pelagic fishes (tunas, billfishes).

Mindbender Mansion

Can you solve the puzzle?

Enter the wonderfully puzzling world of Mindbender Mansion, an eclectic place full of brainteasers and interactive challenges guaranteed to test the brain power and problem-solving skills of even the most experienced puzzlers.

Guests to this fun and quirky mansion are invited to join the Mindbender Society by gathering hidden clues and secret passwords scattered throughout the various thematic rooms of the house. The clues and passwords are revealed by solving select brainteasers and group challenges.

Visitors are encouraged to think outside the box and collaborate with their fellow mansion guests to meet individual and group challenges, which include manipulating a tilt table, keeping up with trays on a conveyer belt, and disco hopscotch spelling.

Mindbender Mansion is incredibly engaging for all ages and generations as grandparents, parents, and children learn from each other to solve the 40 brainteasers and five group activities.

Mindbender Mansion is on exhibit through May 12, 2024

Mindbender Mansion was produced and is toured by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, Oregon, and is sponsored locally by Bank of America.