3rd Annual Miami Underwater Festival

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Miami is all about water. We are surrounded by it, with the Everglades, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic bordering Miami on three sides. People visit our city to not only see the water, but to get in the water – and if they’re very lucky, they might just get to see what’s happening under the surface. At the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science’s 3rd Annual Miami Underwater Festival, visitors were able to do just that, without even getting wet!

Presented by Everest Capital and festival chairs Shelly and Marko Dimitrijevic, with additional support by Maria Isabel and David Schwedel, the Miami Underwater Festival was held in celebration of global World Oceans Day, and included three days of marine related programming in two locations, including the Museum and – for the first time ever – Knight Plaza at Museum Park, site of our brand new Museum facility!

On Thursday, June 5, over 100 guests gathered at the Museum for a VIP kick-off soiree. Attendees were the first to view the new “Under the Sea” exhibit, featuring selections from the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Annual Underwater Photography Contest. Before making their way into the planetarium for a selection of world-renowned marine films by BLUE on Tour, the touring arm of the world-renowned BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and signature Finlandia vodka cocktails, including the Blue Coconut Crush, Underwater Grapefruit Crush and the Friendly Fire Coral. Following the films, there was a special keynote presentation by Dr. Michael Heithaus, Executive Director, School of Environment, Arts and Society at Florida International University.

On Saturday, June 7, guests enjoyed a full day of actives at the Museum, including a variety of beautiful underwater films showcasing marine conservation and sustainability, featuring BLUE on Tour. Additional highlights included a discussion with acclaimed worldwide photographer Zach Ransom, a special virtual tour of Florida International University’s underwater laboratory, Aquarius, a meet-and-great with local diving stars Billy Catoggio and Mitch Herne of the popular TV show “Scuba Nation,” a workshop series with coral expert Dr. Diego Lirman of University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), and for those not of faint heart, shark dissections.

Guests continued to make a splash later Saturday evening at a special evening program, co-sponsored by COSEE Florida. The event included the premiere of “Raising Shrimp” by Fish Navy Films with filmaker and founder Dr. Ted Caplow, along with a a selection of short films curated by Beneath the Waves Film Festival.

The festivities continued at the Museum on Sunday, June 8, along with an exciting outdoor fair at Knight Plaza in Downtown Miami, sponsored by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA), DWNTWN Miami and The Miami Herald. Have you ever seen a water-powered jetpack? Visitors to the festival did, as they watched a man from Aquajet Miami “fly,” powered by water, more than 30 feet above the surface on the Bay. Visitors who might have never seen in person the beautiful coral reef that is right off the Florida coast actually participated in creating their own “coral reef” out of recyclable materials, in a community art project with local artists Kerry Phillips and Regina Jestrow. Pour in a scavenger hunt around the plaza, string trio performances by the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, and a sneak peek of Adrienne Arsht Center’s H2OMBRE summer show, and you wind up with an ocean of fun for everyone.

And this is Miami in the summer after all, so the Better Chip, ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water, Gilly Vending and Nestle Coffee Mate kept everyone refreshed and – of course – hydrated!

Photo Credit: World Red Eye

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Feel the Force: Hurricanes and Other Hazards 2014

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Are you ready for hurricane season? It’s all about preparedness. The Patricia and Philip Frost Museum of Science invited visitors to learn the science behind hurricanes and other powerful weather hazards at its popular annual event, “Feel the Force: Hurricanes and Other Hazards.” Held on Saturday, May 31, 2014, the eve of the first day of hurricane season (hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30), over 1,000 visitors enjoyed weather–related actives and learned safety tips from the experts, with the help of sponsoring partners FIU International Hurricane Research Center, Miami-Dade County Emergency Management, and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT).

From a busload of actives with Weather on Wheels, to delicious fare courtesy of Cheeseburger Baby food truck, there was certainly something for kids of all ages. The Museum’s theatre hosted the world premiere of the new hurricane theater show, “A Hurricane Carol,” along with a special appearance by Owlie from NOAA’s Young Meteorologist Program, provided by PLAN!T NOW. Kids became TV meteorologists in the Hurricane Broadcast Center provided by Miami Dade College, and interacted with Tsunami Tim for a wave of entertainment and exciting weather science. Also in attendance were weather experts such as real Hurricane Hunters, Curt Sommerhoff of Miami-Dade County Emergency Management, Max Mayfield of WPLG Local 10 ABC, and Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center. Not to be missed were interactive demos and activities by the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, including the famous “Make a Cloud in a Bottle” demonstration, and interactive, disaster-themed storytime featuring characters from Miami-Dade Public Library.

Check out real footage from the event!

Don’t get caught in the storm this hurricane season! Be prepared for hurricane season. And stay tuned for Feel the Force 2015!

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MUVE Family day

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The Curious Vault 009: Pre-Columbian Collection Assessment

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introRecently in the Curious Vault a selection of ten stone figurines were given a careful second look. They are simple human figures, male and female, beautifully small and precise. To the untrained eye, they may not appear like much, but they represent some of the oldest pieces of human history in the collection of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, but more importantly all of the Americas. They are from ancient Valdivia and date from some time around 3500 BCE – 1800 BCE. Valdivia is a coastal Ecuadorian culture re-discovered in 1956. When figurines like these were first discovered they were thought to be the oldest pottery in the Western Hemisphere.

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But uncovering this was not easy. We needed the help of a specialist.

The Curious Vault has many tentacles, tributaries, and arms that go in different directions, representing different types of academic research. The scope of the collection includes a large part of the full span of zoology, geology, and human history. From time to time parsing the various elements is a necessary form of housekeeping. This is particularly true now, in gearing up for the big move to the new state of the art facility downtown. Also, updates in technology and fresh scholarship could lead to unknown discoveries.

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Occasionally there is no expert on staff so outside help is required. The first collection assessment on the list was a review of the near 400 pre-Columbian artifacts. Like the Valdivian figurines, “pre-Columbian” typically refers to the native cultures before European contact of the Caribbean as well as North, Central, and South America. For this project the Museum reached out to Dr. Traci Ardren, of the University of Miami Anthropology department and her team of experts.

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traci 4The largest part of the collection is Mayan, comprising nearly one third of the collection. This is where Ardren and her team made the most incredible discovery of the collection. There are six Classic Maya (600-900 CE) ceramic vessels in excellent condition.

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Of particular interest is a fairly plain but beautiful bowl, the mouth of which is lined with Primary Standard Sequence style of Maya writing and can be definitively linked to one of the most famous ancient kings, named Wak Chan K’awiil of Tikal. It was most likely used for the drinking of foamy chocolate drink, a standard practice of Mayan elite. According to Ardren, King Wak Chan K’awiil “led a series of ultimately unsuccessful but very ambitious military campaigns against his rivals during the sixth century. These battles are well documented in hieroglyphic inscriptions from across the southern Maya lowlands.” She goes on further to explain that due to this link to this very prominent and remembered sovereign that the pieces surely merit further study and possible publication, so experts beyond Miami will know about it.

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Perhaps these vessels are what links visitors to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum to the kings of Mayan yore. Chocolate is still a great indulgence thousands of years later. But now it’s easily affordable and not only made for kings. It’s sometimes hard to imagine the lifestyles and culture of men and women who died long ago through the ancient objects they’ve left behind. But, from the treasures found in the Curious Vault, we know they liked and even revered a good cup of hot chocolate.

Ardren’s findings showed that approximately 15% of the artifacts are South American including the Valdivian figures as well as some ancient Peruvian objects. A similar number are Central American, mostly from Costa Rica, including a collection of tripod bowls and even a numerous ocarina whistles, which were commonly used for entertainment.

There are sixty-four pieces of stone and beads made of jade, obsidian and other minerals. Placing gemstones such as these is difficult because many of the New World civilizations coveted them and they could be from anywhere. About thirty objects were not pre-Columbian and of more recent manufacture, including tourist art and replicas – sometimes these types of things are good for hands-on education. The Curious Vault, after all, is primarily an educational tool. Allowing young children access to replica pre-Columbian artifacts gives them the feel of what these ancients themselves may have once held.

But it seems that some free hot chocolate would be even more fun! Maybe the next time these artifacts go on display, the Curious Vault team will spice up your trip with a classic Mayan brew. Nothing says fun like holding a mysterious statue and drinking chocolate.

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The Curious Vault is an online cabinet of curiosities featuring objects from the collection of the Miami Science Museum, presented by writer Nathaniel Sandler and Kevin Arrow, Art & Collections Manager. For more information, email karrow@miamisci.org.

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What a difference 1 day, 100 volunteers, and 11,000 sea oats make!

On Friday, May 30, three hundred travel and tourism professionals representing Tourism Cares, a service organization that mobilizes members of the travel industry to destinations in need, gathered in Miami to volunteer their time and energy to restoring three ecologically and culturally significant sites on Virginia Key: the Miami Marine Stadium, Historic Virginia Key Beach, and Virginia Key’s North Point.

The volunteers were split among the sites: some worked to remove debris from the Miami Marine Stadium, a relic venue that has hosted musical acts from the Miami Philharmonic to Jimmy Buffet. Others planted coastal hammock plants in an area adjacent to the Historic Virginia Key Beach, once the only designated African American beach in Miami. The third group trekked to the North Point of Virginia Key, a coastal area that has been a dumping site for decades. The North Point is a natural oasis in close proximity to both the densely populated urban environment of Miami and the fertile seagrass beds of Biscayne Bay. This unique site is home to a broad diversity of habitats; within North Point’s 17 acres, beach, dune, freshwater wetland, hammock, and mangrove habitats all coexist.  Virginia Key North Point is also a nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles.

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As the Port of Miami is dredged to make way for increasingly larger ships, the dredge material has been piled on the beach at North Point. For the last three months, Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MuVE) at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has been working with Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) and the City of Miami to remove invasive vegetation, such as pervasive Australian pines and an invasive dune plant called scaveola to clear excess fill from the beach, and to grade the remaining material into a natural dune. Since May, three loggerheads turtles have laid their nests, paying scant attention to the newly transformed beach. Our efforts to level the beach while removing unruly invasive plant roots and stabilizing the sand with native dune plants should attract more of these charismatic animals to the site.

Tourism Cares volunteers jump-started the process of recovering the bare sand with stabilizing sea oats, planting nearly 11,000 individual sea oats! We will continue this task throughout South Florida’s rainy season, collaborating with volunteers from local schools, businesses, and the general public.

More than 2,000 Tourism Cares volunteers have donated more than 20,000 hours at sites across North America. Says Tourism Cares CEO Mike Rea, “The travel and tourism industry consistently set the standard for businesses giving back.”

If you’d like to help reclaim nature on the North Point of Virginia Key this summer, please sign up to receive email updates from MUVE.

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Volunteers from Bavaria, Germany (about an hour outside of Munich). This was an important experience for them because they live in the area of the Bavarian Forest, the largest forest in Europe. They have a connection with nature at home and wanted to cultivate that connection for themselves and their clients while abroad.

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Upward Bound Awards Ceremony 2014

On Saturday, May 24, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science celebrated its Upward Bound Math Science Program with an end of the year culmination and awards ceremony for its 2014 students. Upward Bound, one of the U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO programs, provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits, specifically in science, math and technology related fields. At the ceremony, students were recognized for their participation in the program and presented multiple video, photo and live demonstrations on their work throughout the program.

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A highlight of the ceremony, five female seniors from the Upward Bound program received college access, cash awards on behalf of the Tania Madfes Memorial Fund. Established in 2013, the fund honors the memory of a gifted mathematic and science educator, Tania Madfes, who worked tirelessly to increase the representation of girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

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Alexander King, Senior at Northwestern High School, receives a JPMorgan Chase Recognition Award for $5,000 presented by Gillian Thomas, President and CEO at Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, and Judy Brown, Senior VP of Education at Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. The award presentation took place during the Museum’s Upward Bound Awards Ceremony held on Saturday, May 24, 2014. King joined the Museum’s Upward Bound program with the dream of pursuing a career in medicine. This fall, he will attend FIU Honor’s College to pursuer a career in the zoological sciences. JPMorgan Chase supports the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science through efforts aimed at providing students the opportunity to acquire STEM skills that can help them build careers.

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Gillian Thomas and Alexander King

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THIS WEEKEND – Miami Underwater Festival!

Make a splash! This weekend the Museum is hosting a two-day celebration of everything marine. But there is a second part to this celebration – on Saturday the event will be held at the current Museum we all know and love (3280 S. Miami Ave), and on Sunday, it will be our first public event held at the site of our upcoming Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (1103 Biscayne Blvd)! (Special marine programming will continue at the Museum on Sunday as well).

Check out the flyers for more information, and click here, or on the images below, to find out even more!

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MUVE and Tourism Cares

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Ransom Everglades Senior High Gets MUVE-ing!

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It’s that time of year for high school seniors. Final exams. Prom. Planning for college. Saving your environment. The last one may not be on everyone’s list, but thankfully, it is on the list of many students at Ransom Everglades Upper School. South Florida coastal habitats are under constant threat from urban development and climate change, and they are also vitally important to coastal populations – both human and animal, and both above water and underwater. At the intersection of all this is mangroves. Mangroves help buffer the full power of hurricanes on coastal communities, and provide essential animal habitats. Last week, for a Senior Service Day, 140 students did their part and joined an event with the Museum’s MUVE project (Museum Volunteers for the Environment). They spent their day replanting mangrove propagules on Virginia Key that had been previously grown and displayed as an eco-art project during their senior year. Other students at Virginia Key North Point paved the way for further environmental restoration by clearing the invasive scaveola dune plant and other human debris that keep native plants from growing freely.

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There is one more creature who will be particularly thankful for these efforts, in addition to all the plants, animals (and humans) who call this place home, and depend on it for survival. Virginia Key Beach is a loggerhead turtle nesting area, so the big machinery sometimes used to clear big areas of invasive species like Australian Pine can’t be used here. Students were careful to steer clear of nesting sites, as they helped to restore our unique south Florida landscape by hand.

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Next up! MUVE will team with Tourism Cares for an event in which volunteers will take the next step, planting native sea oats on the coastline that the Ransom Everglades students helped clear for them.

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Q?RIUS in Miami

“Have you ever been inside the crater of a non-active volcano?” The Shenandoah Middle School class erupted with excitement, as Elizabeth Cottrell, a volcano geochemist from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) answered their question during the Q?RIUS LIVE Science Webcast that aired across the country last week.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (Frost Science) is always on the lookout for opportunities and partnerships to enhance our fabulous programs. As a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate Museum, Frost Science found one such opportunity through NMNH, with the goal of delivering an enhanced scientific experience for students in Miami-Dade County. Q?RIUS is a new experimental learning space at NMNH where teens can encounter real Smithsonian scientist’s research and explore, touch, and smell the collection zone. This zone has over 6,000 pieces of real specimens that visitors can interact with.

Since the entire country cannot experience Q?RIUS for all its glory, the National Museum of Natural History has created LIVE science webcasts that schools, homeschool groups, families, and anyone with internet can tune in to and learn more about the research that Smithsonian scientists are doing.

Michelle Beumer, Frost Science’s Public Programs Manager, traveled to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in April to learn more about Q?RIUS and the strides its making with teens in both the digital and physical space. Through a digital field book, teens can collect badges by completing assignments that take them through the research of real Smithsonian scientists, and while Michelle was there she watched the production of the Q?RIUS webcast in the studio at NMNH. Michelle will visit the Washington D.C. again this June for the 2014 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference to speak about Frost Science’s unique approach to bringing the webcasts to schools.

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Michelle Beumer (right), with Q?RIUS host Maggy Benson, investigating a coral artifact in the Q?RIUS studio

For one of these webcast events last week, Michelle and Angela Colbert, Frost Science Science Curator, brought a local University of Miami Geologist, Arash Sharifi (a.k.a. “Arash, the crazy rock digger”), along with some play dough, shells, and plaster of paris, to Shenandoah Middle School, to give students a taste of the life in the times of a geologist. After learning the tricks of the trade for geologists, the students watched the LIVE science webcast from the comfort of their classroom. Swimming with the ideas of taking a trip to the center of the Earth, the student’s question was answered during the webcast.

Join the Q?RIUS crew on June 5th to learn about Climate Change through the next LIVE webcast!

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Michelle Beumer and Angela Colbert of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, at Shenandoah Middle School for the Q?RIUS event

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Students use play dough to mimic geological formations and processes

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Some of “Arash the crazy rock digger’s” treasures

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