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Frost Science

Favicon6 Weird and Funky Facts About Gopher Tortoises 6 Apr 2018, 2:20 pm

You’re probably fairly familiar with the humble tortoise—after all, it was a tortoise who handily beat the hare with its slow and methodical determination during Aesop’s infamous race.

But there’s so much more to this land-dwelling reptile than an ancient fable—and the gopher tortoise is no exception. A medium-size land turtle with large, stumpy hind legs, the gopher tortoise can be found in all 67 counties in Florida and are considered a “keystone species” because they are the backbone of their local plant and wildlife community. Without the gopher tortoise, the populations of more than 350 wildlife species that seek refuge or live in the burrows would be greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

Frost Science has four gopher tortoises that have all been rehabilitated at the museum. You can meet them on Tuesday, April 10 in honor of Florida Gopher Tortoise Day.

In celebration of this special day, here are six fun facts to help you get to know Florida’s only native tortoise.

  • The gopher tortoise has shovel-like front legs that it uses to build burrows in sandy soil as home and refuge. Some burrows have been recorded at more than 20 feet deep and 50 feet long!
  • Although it might be tempting to give these gentle creatures a home, Florida laws prohibit keeping them as pets. Gopher tortoises are considered a threatened species and should be left alone in the wild.
  • The gopher tortoise missed hanging out with the dinosaurs by a good five million years. They belong to a group of land tortoises that originated in western North America nearly 60 million years ago—the last dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago.
  • Unlike humans, female gopher tortoises are generally larger than their male counterparts.
  • Male gopher tortoises can get downright competitive when it comes to searching for a mate, often ramming into each other, pushing, bobbing their heads and even pooping.
  • Although they generally love to munch on leafy, low-growing plants and veggies, gopher tortoises are opportunistic eaters and will scoop up anything they can find including dead insects, small crabs and other carrion.

To find out more about gopher tortoises and Florida Gopher Tortoise Day, visit

The post 6 Weird and Funky Facts About Gopher Tortoises appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconRewind: A Look Back at Frost Science in March 2 Apr 2018, 4:52 pm

Spring is the season of new beginnings, and Frost Science was no exception to the forces of Mother Nature. Last month, we welcomed a new exhibition and experience to our campus, along with a special brain-focused member day and a stargazing session with our Young Patrons. Here’s the scoop:

The Debut of Design Lab: Engineering and Inventors in Residence Lab

In March, Design Lab: Engineering took over The Mechanicals space on the fourth floor of the West Wing for a year-long residency at Frost Science. The space has been a hit with visitors of all ages, as they step into the mind of engineer through various puzzles and challenges. The exhibition also features vintage iterations of everyday objects and explores how they’ve helped solve design challenges in the past. Towards the back, our dynamic Design Lab workshop has been putting our guests’ newfound knowledge to the test with challenging design dilemmas.

Over at the Knight Learning Center, the Inventors in Residence Lab has been keeping our resident scientists busy! Not only are they working on coral restoration and carcinogen detecting projects, but they’ve been fielding questions from our curious guests about their work and its future impact.

Spring Camp: Brainiacs

During their time off from school, we invited budding local scientists from kindergarten through fifth grade for a week-long exploration of one the human body’s most important organ: the brain! Campers not only explored the museum and Frost Planetarium, but they had the opportunity to build their own neuron, see neuroplasticity in action and even dissect a sheep’s brain. Summer Camp is around the corner, click here to learn more and register!

Member Morning: Train your Brain

Keeping with the gray matter theme, we invited members to put mind over matter during a special edition of Member Morning. From 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., they explored the museum without the crowds and enjoyed special brain challenges and games. After firing up their neurons, members mellowed out with a family-friendly meditation session courtesy of Innergy Meditation. They were also treated to early bird shopping hours at the Science Store featuring 20% off their entire purchase and a complimentary cup of drip coffee that helped rev them up for the rest of the day. Click here to learn more about upcoming Member Hours events.

Young Patrons Stargazing Happy Hour at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami

The stars shone bright as over 100 Young Patrons gathered at Yaku by La Mar for a Stargazing Happy Hour on Thursday, March 8. YPs sipped under the twinkling night sky and learned more about our solar system with Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, the Curator of Astronomy at Frost Science. Yaku served up their infamous namesake punch and guests ate a sampling of La Mar’s scrumptious bites.

Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD and NASDAQ Gift Announcement

On March 5, we announced two major gifts from Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD and NASDAQ. The $1.2 million gift from Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD will enable us to continue our ongoing programs while working together with Royal Caribbean on several initiatives that will extend beyond our walls, including community access support and habitat restoration. As part of this generous gift, our Aquarium’s Vista level was given a new name: Royal Caribbean Vista. NASDAQ’s $500,000 donation will support our daily operations and programs, including a number of the onsite interdisciplinary learning experiences.

There’s plenty more happening at Frost Science next month, too. Be sure to visit our calendar of events for more details on our schedule.

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They want to make corals more climate-change resilient, visit them at the Inventors in Residence Lab He is developing a carcinogen detector using a method known as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, visit him at the Inventors in Residence Lab Solve design challenges creatively in our Design Lab Workshop (Photo by Sergi Alexander / Eyeworks Production) Solve design challenges creatively in our Design Lab Workshop (Photo by Sergi Alexander / Eyeworks Production) Young Patron enjoying stargazing during happy hour event
He is developing a carcinogen detector using a method known as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, visit him at the Inventors in Residence Lab

The post Rewind: A Look Back at Frost Science in March appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconYouthAstroNet Takes Astronomy Education to Infinity…and Beyond 28 Mar 2018, 12:55 pm

While science fiction imagines wildly creative ways to explore the outer reaches of space, there is unique but entirely accessible technology available right now that provides the same opportunity: YouthAstroNet.

A Constellation of Community Partners

In early March, Frost Science partnered with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and presented the first YouthAstroNet workshop, which provided children with new tools to better understand the celestial objects in our universe. The museum also invited longtime community partner Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) to join the project. They then directed us to their 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project—a group that works with at-risk male youth to encourage positive futures through education. We had a subset of middle school mentees from Jose de Diego Middle School in County District 3 join us from that program.

An Out-of-this-World Experience

From libraries and schools to museums like Frost Science, all who participate in the project can tailor it specifically to their home organization. We decided that our version of the workshop would use the museum as a launching point to explore astronomy-focused themes.

We started our day with a thorough exploration of a guest favorite: “Feathers to the Stars.” There, our workshop participants explored interactive exhibits which reveal the story of flight—from dinosaurs to jet engine creation and ultimately, space exploration. This provided the perfect foundation to ask, “how else can we explore the universe?” To answer this question, we ventured to the museum’s rooftop.

On the solar terrace, we introduced our workshop participants to a high-powered telescope. During the lesson, they were able to experience how this important piece of technology functions as well as how to safely use it (for example, in the daytime, we use solar filters). Then, back in our Knight Learning Center, workshop participants discovered the wonders of spectroscopy by exciting seemingly invisible gases with high-powered electrical charges. The outcome? Unique color fingerprints that can help us determine what elements make up stars millions of lightyears away from us!

YouthAstroNet Participant

After laying down the foundation of space science, we moved into our pop-up computer lab. Each workshop participant was assigned a personal laptop computer that connected them to the YouthAstroNet portal. A longstanding project by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this online service invites students to access remote robotic telescopes, request images and then enhance them, revealing how digital manipulation can unveil new attributes of celestial objects we may not see with our naked eye.

Of the many pertinent ways the YouthAstroNet portal is special, my personal favorite is that it encourages children to play an active role in data collection and current research, making them, in effect, active 21st century citizen scientists. However, their celestial journey didn’t end at Frost Science—the following week, they had classroom lessons which allowed them to review themes presented in the workshop.

Paying it Forward

These types of community programs encourage people from Miami-Dade County and beyond to make a difference (and be an active participant!) in the world around us. Science is for everyone, and it’s our goal to make sure that people have the tools to cultivate their own STEM-based experiences after they leave our museum.

Stay tuned for more interactive opportunities as we head into spring!

For more information on YouthAstroNet, click here.

The post YouthAstroNet Takes Astronomy Education to Infinity…and Beyond appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconSaving South Florida’s Coastline One Reef at a Time 20 Mar 2018, 6:34 pm

Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems in the world, with over 500 million people depending on them for food, coastal protection and income from tourism. Florida is fortunate enough to have the only shallow reef in the continental U.S. near its coast, the Florida Reef Tract. This living structure is the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. At almost 360 miles long, it serves as South Florida’s first line of defense against flooding and storm surge, especially during hurricanes. Coral reefs act as a breakwater offshore, which means they reduce wave energy before waves hit the coast, reducing the negative impact on land. And not just by a little—scientists have found healthy barrier reefs can weaken wave energy by 97% and wave height by 84%!

As our oceans continue to warm and become more acidic, it is increasingly difficult for corals to thrive and provide sufficient protection for our coasts. Scientists estimate that less than 10% of the Florida Reef Tract is living coral, which can mean a lot less offshore help during extreme hurricane seasons. However, thanks to coral restoration efforts, researchers and citizen scientists are working avidly to increase these statistics.

Frost Science is partnering with the University of Miami’s Rescue a Reef (RAR) program to do just that. Designed to support coral reef research and restoration activities, RAR provides hands-on opportunities for recreational divers to participate in coral restoration efforts outside the walls of a laboratory, and in the field. Participants visit underwater coral nurseries off the coast of Miami to gather and maintain fragments of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), then help plant these new corals onto nearby reefs.

inventors in residence lab work with reef restoration

This partnership is one portion of Frost Science’s recently unveiled Conservation Program. The main objective of the Conservation Program is to engage Miami residents in habitat restoration. So far, Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE), under the leadership of Miami-Dade County, has engaged over 8,000 volunteers in restoring over 25 acres of coastal habitat. Soon, the program will be expanding its efforts underwater, with coral conservation and research.

In the Inventors in Residence Lab at Frost Science, Dr. Rivah Winter, Curator of Aquarium Content & Marine Science, and Dr. Andrew Baker, an Associate Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, are working to make nursery-grown corals more stress tolerant. Hardier corals, more able to withstand the planet’s warming oceans and frequent devastating bleaching events, would be a pivotal development in current coral restoration techniques. Their hope is to boost the corals’ thermal tolerance before they get outplanted onto nearby reefs so they are not the next climate change victims. Working with staghorn corals collected by RAR from the nursery, the coral team is running stress-hardening experiments in the Inventors’ Lab. Once they are ready, the stress-hardened corals will be planted on reefs off of Miami with RAR and monitored for success.

rescue reef header

To kick off these coral restoration efforts, Frost Science husbandry staff joined RAR for their first citizen science trip of 2018. With a team of experienced divers on board, RAR put the staff to work at their Key Biscayne Nursery maintaining and populating coral ‘trees.’ Coral trees are made of PVC pipes, allowing coral fragments to hang and receive enough water and nutrient flow. Frost Science divers attached three species of coral on a new ‘tree:’ finger coral (Porites porites), staghorn coral and elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata)—all useful in restoring complex, healthy reef communities. At the same time, other divers were removing algal and barnacle growth with wire brushes and gathering fragments of staghorn coral to take to the second site for outplanting.

The next stop was Diver’s Paradise Reef. Frost Science staff dove down into the Bay and put their underwater construction skills to the test. Using masonry nails and zip ties, they hammered and attached approximately 75 staghorn coral fragments to this wild reef. With air to spare, the team enjoyed the underwater site and even removed a long rope of marine debris entangled in the reef.

“We are thrilled with our day of coral restoration with Frost Science and look forward to building on this initial success,” said Rescue a Reef’s senior research associate, Dalton Hesley. We at Frost Science agree—it’s the start of a wonderful partnership and only the beginning of Frost Science’s dive into coral reef restoration.

You can watch our coral team in action at the newly-opened Inventors in Residence Lab from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., daily. The lab is located in the Knight Learning Center on Level 5 of the North Wing. For more information, please click here.

The post Saving South Florida’s Coastline One Reef at a Time appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconSee a Horseshoe Crab? Help It Out! 15 Mar 2018, 4:00 pm

Next time it’s low tide on the nearest sandy beach or shore, take a careful look down: you might see part of a horseshoe crab poking up out of the ground. Spring is peak mating season for horseshoe crabs, and biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are asking encouraging everyone (including you!) to let them know when you spot one using the new FWC Reporter application.

Horseshoe crabs mate year-round, and it is most common to see groups along the shore in March and April. To identify mating pairs, look for a smaller male on top of a larger female. Beachgoers will likely have the best luck spotting horseshoe crabs within three days of a full or new moon. The next new moon is Saturday, March 17.

According to the FWC site, horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest animals on the planet and can be traced back to 445 million years ago–that’s 200 million years before dinosaurs existed! Interestingly, horseshoe crabs aren’t crabs at all. They’re actually closer to arachnids, a group that also includes spider and scorpions. Their shell, although hard, is very sensitive to stimuli. And with 10 eyes, these “living fossils” are very sensitive to light.

Although they aren’t endangered, the number of horseshoe crabs is declining due to overfishing and loss of habitat. But you can help conservation efforts by reporting sightings of the horseshoe crab on the FWC app. These sighting reports provide important information about population distribution to the FWC.

If you see a horseshoe crab on its back, gently pick it up (holding both sides of the shell, never the tail) and release it back into the water. Simple actions like this help conserve this species and the many other species that depend on it.

To report sightings, you can visit and go to “Horseshoe Crab Nesting Activity” for the “Florida Horseshoe Crab Spawning Beach Survey” link. You can also download the FWC Reporter app on Apple or Android smartphones or tablets from the App Store and Google Play for free. You can also report findings via email at or by phone at 866-252-9326.

The post See a Horseshoe Crab? Help It Out! appeared first on Frost Science.

StarDate Online - Your guide to the universe

FaviconLyrid Meteors 21 Apr 2018, 1:00 am

A modest meteor shower should be at its best tonight. You need dark skies to see it — the glow of city lights will erase it from view. And even at its peak, the shower produces no more than a dozen or so meteors per hour. But the Moon won’t get in the way, so if you have good weather and a good viewing spot, it’s worth a look.

The Lyrid shower occurs at this time every year as Earth passes through a trail of comet dust — debris from Comet Thatcher.

The comet last visited the inner solar system in 1861, and it won’t return for almost three centuries. But each time it approaches the Sun, it sloughs off bits of rock and dirt. Over time, these particles spread out along the comet’s orbital path. When Earth flies through that path, some of the grains of material slam into our planet’s atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. They quickly vaporize, forming the glowing streaks of light known as meteors.

The shower is named for the constellation Lyra, the harp. That’s because its meteors all appear to “rain” into the sky from near Vega, Lyra’s brightest star. They can fly across any part of the sky, though, so you don’t need to be looking at Lyra to see them.

The best view comes after Lyra climbs into good view, after midnight. The Moon sets a little later, making the skies nice and dark. That will provide several good hours to watch the meteors — reminders of a comet that’s billions of miles from Earth.


Script by Damond Benningfield


Saturday, April 21, 2018
A good night for a meteor shower

FaviconLyrid Meteors 21 Apr 2018, 1:00 am

The Lyrid meteor shower should be at its best tonight. You need dark skies to see it. Even at its peak, the shower produces no more than a dozen or so meteors per hour. But the Moon is out of the way, so if you have a good viewing spot it’s worth a look.

FaviconMorning Mercury 20 Apr 2018, 1:00 am

The little planet Mercury just peeks into view in the dawn sky over the next couple of weeks. It’s hard to find, though, especially from more northerly latitudes.

Mercury is the smallest major planet in the solar system. It’s also the closest to the Sun. And it has the largest core in relation to its size — the core of iron and nickel makes up about two-thirds of Mercury’s diameter.

Earth and the other inner planets have much thicker layers around their cores. Since Mercury formed at the same time, from the same raw ingredients, that suggests it originally had thicker outer layers, too. If so, then something must have stripped much of those layers away.

One possibility is that the young Mercury was hit by another large object. The impact blasted much of the material in the planet’s outer layers into space. The same thing probably happened to the young Earth, with much of the expelled material forming the Moon.

But it’s also possible that Mercury never grabbed enough material to form thick outer layers — it’s always been about the same size it is now. Observations by a Mercury-orbiting spacecraft seem to support this idea, although they couldn’t confirm it.

Whatever Mercury was like in the beginning, you can see it now in the eastern sky in the early morning twilight. It looks like a fairly bright star. It’s quite low, though, so you need a clear horizon to spot it. The planet stands a little higher as seen from more southerly latitudes.

Script by Damond Benningfield

Friday, April 20, 2018
Building a little planet

FaviconMorning Mercury 20 Apr 2018, 1:00 am

The planet Mercury just peeks into view in the east at dawn sky over the next few days. It looks like a fairly bright star. It is quite low, though, so you need a clear horizon to see it. The planet stands a little higher as seen from southerly latitudes.

FaviconCrab Nebula 19 Apr 2018, 1:00 am

The Crab Nebula, which is the debris from an exploded star, stands close above the Moon this evening. It is an easy target for small telescopes. Its filaments of gas and dust resemble the outline of a crab.

ESOcast HD

ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO, the European Southern Observatory. Here we explore the Universe's ultimate frontier with our host Doctor J, a.k.a. Dr. Joe Liske.

FaviconESOcast 156 Light: Weird and Wonderful Dusty Discs (4K UHD) 11 Apr 2018, 6:00 am

New images from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope are revealing the dusty discs surrounding nearby young stars in greater detail than previously achieved. They show a bizarre variety of shapes, sizes and structures, including the likely effects of planets still in the process of forming.

FaviconESOcast 155 Light: Dead Star Circled by Light (4K UHD) 5 Apr 2018, 11:00 am

New images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other telescopes reveal a rich landscape of stars and glowing clouds of gas in one of our closest neighbouring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud.

FaviconESOcast 154 Light: ALMA Reveals Inner Web of Stellar Nursery (4K UHD) 7 Mar 2018, 6:00 am

New data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and other telescopes have been used to create a stunning image showing a web of filaments in the Orion Nebula. These features appear red-hot and fiery, but in reality are so cold that astronomers must use telescopes like ALMA to observe them.

FaviconESOcast 153 Light: First Light For MATISSE (4K UHD) 5 Mar 2018, 9:00 am

The new MATISSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) has now successfully made its first observations at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. MATISSE is the most powerful interferometric instrument in the world at mid-infrared wavelengths. It will use high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy to probe the regions around young stars where planets are forming as well as the regions around supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies.

FaviconThe movie ALMA — In Search of our Cosmic Origins (German) 28 Feb 2018, 8:07 am

HD - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

High-definition (HD) videos from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory feature the latest news on space and science findings from JPL and NASA. Topics include discoveries made by spacecraft studying planets in our solar system, including Mars, Saturn and our home planet, Earth. Missions also study stars and galaxies in our universe.

FaviconWatching the First Interplanetary Launch from America's West Coast 6 Apr 2018, 3:00 am

NASA's InSight will be the first interplanetary launch from America's West Coast. Residents in some of California's coastal communities could get a front row seat. Here's when and where to see it.

FaviconMars Report: March 30, 2018 30 Mar 2018, 3:00 am

NASA's InSight arrives at Vandenberg AFB and readies for launch, Opportunity uses its grinder for the first time in 300 sols, and Curiosity celebrates 2,000 Martian days on the Red Planet.

FaviconWhat's Up - April 2018 30 Mar 2018, 3:00 am

The Moon, Mars and Saturn form a pretty triangle in early April, The Lyrid Meteors are visible in late April, peaking high overhead on the 22nd.

FaviconNASA Mars InSight 29 Mar 2018, 3:00 am

NASA's next mission to Mars is weeks away from launch.

FaviconMars in a Minute: Are There Quakes on Mars? 28 Mar 2018, 3:00 am

Are there earthquakes on Mars? Or rather, "marsquakes?" And what could they teach us about the Red Planet? Find out more in this 60-second video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.