I am frog. Hear me roar!

June 16th, 2017
By Radha Krueger

i am snek memeThe Florida Snake ID Guide on our site is incredibly popular, and looking at the Google Analytics for this section of the site is like a weather report and holiday report. The better the weather, and the more free time people have, makes visits to the ID Guide goes up.

It makes sense. If there are more people outside doing yard work or walking in parks or hiking, there’s more chances of almost stepping on a snake. Which prompts the “Oh my lord, what WAS that?” response. Which leads people to our ID Guide.

Over the winter I started working on the Florida Frog Calls guide, and just recently I’ve seen that visits to this page seem to reflect the amount of rain we’ve gotten across the state. More rain equals active frogs. Not going to lie, even I’ve pulled out my phone while I’m sitting on my back porch because some frog I’m not familiar with started grunting from the creek.

Google Analytics, frogs and rain stats

Visitation to the frog calls page was flat during the dry season, but rose when it started to rain, and spiked when a popular Florida Facebook page shared the page link.

Facebook, frog calls share

Authentic Florida on Facebook shared the frog calls page link on June 16th.

And to kill two (completely metaphorical) birds with one stone, I popped in to Google to take a screen shot of the visit stats, and the page visits were spiking again. I tracked it down to a Facebook page sharing the frog calls guide. And that really brings me back to my own call, if I was a frog. “Social media. Social media.”

Social media is a powerful tool for outreach. You never know what is going to resonate with people, but if you think about what is relevant to peoples’ lives, you can provide some assistance, inspiration, or information that will help them. And if someone finds something of value, they’re likely to share it. Which is pretty much the whole goal of what we do here. Educate and inspire people to care about their natural world.

I’ll settle for tiny high-fives right now. Tiny froggy high-fives. (Because snakes can’t high-five.)

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When Twitter Won’t Vroom

May 19th, 2017
By Radha Krueger

Twitter Outtage

I drive a 16-year-old car and I know there will come a day when I get in to start the car, saying my prayers to the car gods (Tom and Ray Magliozzi), and hear the engine whir-whir-whir and fail to vroom. Fortunately, my car started this morning, but all for naught since I got to work and couldn’t get a whole lot done.

Twitter is failing to vroom today. Okay, it got going and now it keeps stalling at the lights. Social media outtages happen, and we all know computers can be cranky sometimes. But Twitter going down or sputtering along today is not awesome.

We just launched a new site for our upcoming exhibit to celebrate our 100th birthday: Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum

The goal is to use the site to reveal the objects that will be in the exhibit one collection at a time. This first week is highlighting our Herbarium, and I was trying to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts about these objects for the full upcoming week. It’s more efficient that way. Plus:

  • #EndangeredSpeciesDay is today
  • UF Entomology kicks of #UFBugs Bug Week Saturday
  • Monday is #BiologicalDiversityDay
  • Tuesday is #WorldTurtleDay
  • (Oh, man! I just remembered that I missed #Butterfriday again. Yoinks!)

I know, right? The busy life of a social media science geek!

To be fair, I do use a post-scheduling tool (Hootsuite) from time to time. But I do like to see what’s trending, double check Twitter handles, etc. So when Twitter is stalled out at a light, I get a little cranky.

Well, le sigh! I’ll just click ‘refresh’ until Twitter magically reappears.

#ObjectsofWonder Twitter Chat

March 17th, 2017
By Radha Krueger

When an institution like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History invites you to join them for anything, the correct answer is “Ohmy GAWD, yes!” Especially when it’s a Twitter chat for their #ObjectsofWonder campaign to talk about great specimens and artifacts in museum collections around the country.

Snakes skins

A 17.5 foot python skin compared to native species of coachwhip, Florida Indigo and a rattlesnake. Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

With a list of museums, a file of images and notes, and about 30 tabs of possibly relevant info opened on my web browser, I started watching Twitter the morning of the chat. Which was good because people started to chatter about things they expected to see and I got to pull some additional images and info last minute (*cough cough gators cough*).

The hour-long chat was a blur. I felt like I was playing three pianos at once. I had to accurately post info and photos, on topic and spelled right (in 140 characters or less), while trying to keep up with other museum’s #ObjectsofWonder posts, and also keep up with the comments on my previous post, AND scan for ways to cleverly interact with other museum’s posts, AND search for related images and making sure to watermark our new logo on images on the fly, AND also field questions/comments from non-museums. Three pianos.

It was a lot of fun bantering with other museums and Twitter users. And museum folks are definitely punny people. It took an hour of follow up after the chat to make sure every question or comment was responded to. I’m sure many of these museums have multiple people contributing to their Twitter channel, while we have little ol’ me. I look forward to meeting the people behind the Twitter handles one day.

Here’s the list of museums that officially participated, and their Twitter handles:

Museum Handle
Cincinnati Museum Center @CincyMuseum
Florida Museum of Natural History @FloridaMuseum
NC Museum of Natural Sciences @naturalsciences
North Carolina Historic Sites @NCHistoricSites
Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry @SDHNMD
The Rockwell Museum @RockwellMuseum
San Diego Natural History Museum @SDNHM
Denver Museum of Natural History Museum @DenverMuseumNS
Natural History Museum LA County @NHMLA
Cleveland Museum of Natural History @goCMNH
National Anthropological Archives (NMNH) @anthroarchives
Smithsonian National Museum of American History @amhistorymuseum
Smithsonian Libraries @SILibraries
Smithsonian Archives @SmithsonianArch
Biodiversity Heritage Library @BioDivLibrary
Smithsonian Affiliates @SIAffiliates
Recovering Voices, National Museum of Natural History @RecoverVoices
Smithsonian @Smithsonian

Here are most of the images I used either as original posts, or as responses to others’ posts.

All the Social Things!

February 17th, 2017
By Radha Krueger

Why do we have two Facebook pages?

Okay, yes, that’s a valid question. Because ALL THE THINGS!

Facebook all things meme

No, really, it is a good question, and I can only answer that with another question. Why a Facebook page and a Twitter page and an Instagram page and a Pinterest profile? (Because text doesn’t quite reveal tone of voice, this isn’t a jerky question or tone.)

We have a Twitter page because there are people on Twitter that are not on Facebook. Or people who would rather follow a museum on Instagram than on Facebook. Or people want to connect with the museum on Pinterest.

“Okay, yes, we get that,” you’re saying. “But why two pages on the same social media channel?” And you would be correct to keep poking me about that.

Twins from The Shining

We can agree that the Museum needs to exist on many social networks in order to reach a broader variety of people who like a variety of interaction avenues. We like having as many friends as possible.

And the reality is that someone interested in bringing the family to exhibits and events at the Museum might not be interested in the mitochondrial DNA testing of an obscure fern family. Or maybe they will. They can choose.

But we have so much going on here at the Florida Museum, that we can’t possibly fit it into one Facebook feed. So instead of wearing out our welcome, we’re separating our news into two different themes. Our friends and fans can choose what kind of cool things they want to hear about, and don’t get a fire hose of info.

Dog with sprinkler

Unless you like the fire hose of info. In which case, by all means, follow both of our Facebook pages (main & science), our Twitter feed, our Instagram account, and our Pinterest profile. We’re also on YouTube, and we’re looking hard at Google+, Snap, and Reddit. Enjoy the fire hose!

#MuseumSelfieDay 2017

January 19th, 2017
By Radha Krueger

Yes, #museumselfieday is a real thing. And it’s a great way for museums to show they have a fun side. Some art museums could really use a day to let their hair down and giggle over their exposed bits and pieces for once.

Here at natural history museums, the reality is that we’re always having fun (in between doing serious science of course). This is just an excuse to admit we take goofy pictures already. Anyone who’s spent a rough day in the field has learned to laugh at themselves. So for one day out of the year we get to post fun selfies on social media and call it work 🙂

Here’s a selection of selfies from around the Florida Museum yesterday:

A Better World For Women and Fishes

November 15th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Guide to Reptiles, Amphibians and Fresh-water Fishes of Florida, by Archie Carr and Coleman Goin. University of Florida Press, 1955

Guide to Reptiles, Amphibians and Fresh-water Fishes of Florida, by Archie Carr and Coleman Goin. University of Florida Press, 1955

For well over a year, Florida Museum scientists and ichthyologists have been working on a new book—a guide to the freshwater fishes of Florida. It might never outsell The DaVinci Code and be made into a blockbuster movie, but it is going to be remarkable.

You see, most scientific fish photos are of dead specimens, and there’s a vast difference between living and dead fish. Not just for the fish themselves.

So our intrepid team has been paddling and wading through the many waterways of Florida to catch and photograph live fish. The pictures are significantly different than previous fish guides, even though the system of photographing them is challenging. You can read more about this elsewhere though.

My reason for bringing this up isn’t just that we’ve improved our methods for cataloging and conveying scientific information. Times have changed, and our old Florida fishes guide book is out of date. It’s actually the ‘Guide to Reptiles, Amphibians and Fresh-water Fishes of Florida’ (by Archie Carr and Coleman Goin. University of Florida Press, 1955). Yes, go back and read that—1955.

So besides the fact that the old book is mostly text with a few illustrations and photos, and we know much more about the fishes in the state, and we now have a new range of non-native species to deal with—the whole world has change a LOT since 1955. Especially the scientific world. And women in the scientific world.

This is an excerpt from the book’s preface to remind you how far we have come in the scientific community:

“Of all of our debts, our greatest one we owe is to Olive Brown Goin. There is no real justice in her exclusion from co-authorship, unless it be the already overlong citation our title will impose on bibliographers of the future. Mrs. Goin has typed every part of the manuscript through at least two stages of development, copying at times from atrocious hand script, and has had a hand in nearly every phase of the assembling and tending of the manuscript through the press. Mrs. Carr has been helpful too, but her services have been pretty much what you expect of a wife; indexing, testing keys, making coffee—things like that. We are grateful for them both, but we really must apologize to Mrs. Goin for leaving her name off the title page.”

I’m sure Archie and Coleman deeply appreciated the many hours of help their wives gave towards their work. But this was a different world. Women struggled for the right to be considered scientists. Especially here in the Southern US. Can you imagine Olive’s life if she was starting out a career today? It’s not all sunshine and rainbows yet, but you can believe her name would be right there on the books and papers with her peers.

Not to harp on life in the ‘50s scientific community. But it IS a different world now. Different for women and fishes. So it’s about time for a new book.

The Orange & The Flashlight

November 10th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Every Kid is a Scientist

Let's Read bookFor my first few school-age years, my mom tried homeschooling us kids. Mostly because we moved so much. It was less disruptive, I suppose. I think it was also that we were hippies.

I remember the day this whole reading thing clicked. Everything about it. We had a big, beat-up hardbound copy of “Let’s Read” and after many days and weeks of letters and sounding it out and staring at squiggles, my brain jumped on the squiggles being the shapes of words.

Science was another thing entirely. We usually lived in the country, so we learned by being turned out into the woods and hills and ravines, and being told to come home before full sun down. Our parents, and the parents of friends, and neighbors took us all on nature walks (hippies), and talked about the things we saw. Scrub pines and mushrooms and deer tracks and gopher tortoise holes. The life cycle of maggots, why there were more baby bunnies in the spring, and how there could be seashells in the rocks we found. Most importantly, how everything worked together. The very observable essence of biodiversity, before that was ever a word I knew.

Observational science, the things you can see from looking at the natural world, has inspired fledgling scientists from day one. But the bigger stuff takes some creative explaining. Like why the sun crosses the sky the same way every day, or why the moon goes from a big fat marble to a silver eyelash.

For this my mom did what parents and teachers have been doing for decades… live demonstrations on scaled-down objects on hand. On this day she found an orange and a flashlight, and we closed ourselves into the silent darkness of our linen cupboard. She showed me how the ‘earth’ spun, and how the light only illuminated one part of our orange world at a time. She popped the plastic cuff off the end of the flashlight and showed how our bumpy orange earth spun in a circle every year around the sun, which definitely wasn’t the naked bulb of one of Dad’s work flashlights that he would be mad if we broke.

Orange & tennis ball solar system

I asked about the moon and she ran out of hands. I ended up holding the sun while the moon, a balding tennis ball, began to turn around the earth, which awkwardly turned around the sun. An eclipse happened. And then the moon fell out of the solar system and the sun burned my forehead as we shuffled around to retrieve our heavenly sphere.

I ended up with a red thumbprint sized burn on my face, and the flashlight never quite popped back together again. The earth went back to being citrus, and the moon went back into the toy box. But just for a little while my mom and I were astronauts, watching the earth and the moon dance in limitless nothingness of outer space.

I Would Like to Science Please

October 26th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Like most kids growing up in our area, I was brought here to the Florida Museum repeatedly, and often subject to science and natural history. Sadly, I continued to believe I would grow up to be a mermaid.

When that career failed to pan out, I got a small college degree (very, very tiny degree) and leaped out into the real world like a glorious trout attempting to cross country ski. It was clearly not smooth sailing, but I persevered and eventually fell into this thing called the internet that swooped up everything in its path in the mid ‘90s.

Science Penguin memeAfter what feels like 100 years rambling, I stumbled upon a job here at the Museum. I can’t tell you how thunderously my heart was beating with excitement to walk up to this old building again. Everything that was that awkward little girl with extra knees and messy hair… okay, still that awkward girl… but it all comes back to me when I walk in to work every day.

Including that childlike sense of wonder and awe. The monstrous awareness of how huge the known universe is, and how amazingly everything seems to fit together down to the most infinitely tiny particle. Like the most complicated cuckoo clock ever conceived of by the most insane Swiss engineer.

Now part of my job is to walk around this building and poke my head into the collections and ask how things work and why things are the way they are. I’m sure it’s bound to be tiresome to our scientists and researchers, who have to stop and answer silly questions whenever I wander in.

Which is why the Science Penguin is my spirit animal. Every time I step into a collection or meet with one of our scientists, I feel like this little goofball, flapping its happy flippers, wanting to science.