GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lights, camera, action! The Florida Museum of Natural History and Digital Worlds Institute invite the public to a free screening of the new animated short film “TreeTender 2” on Jan. 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The film seeks to inform viewers about the important role biodiversity plays in the health of the planet and demonstrate the value that comes from understanding the connections among all organisms. In addition to the premiere of the sequel, the museum will also be screening the original “TreeTender” movie and hosting a panel discussion on both films with their co-creators: Florida Museum curators Pam and Doug Soltis and Rob Guralnick, and Darius Brown from the Digital Worlds Institute.

Gaia and her companion interact with the control panel.
Gaia and CAaLVIN interact with the control panel in a scene from “TreeTender 2.” Animation and images produced by the Digital Worlds Institute, University of Florida.

Both film screenings and the panel discussion will take place at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. so guests will have multiple opportunities to view the short films and explore. Attendees are encouraged to visit the permanent exhibits, as the museum will be open for extended hours until 9 p.m.

The first film takes audiences on Gaia’s journey as she embraces the position of a TreeTender, a role responsible for taking care of the Tree of Life. Through impressive visuals and a compelling narrative, she begins to unravel Earth’s intricate web of life and the interconnections among all organisms within the Tree of Life.

“One of the key messages that we wanted to share through this movie series is that it’s not too late to reverse the situation for many species and for the planet as a whole,” said Pam Soltis, distinguished professor, Florida Museum curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics, and director of the University of Florida’s Biodiversity Institute.

“TreeTender 2” seamlessly continues Gaia’s voyage, exploring the connections among species. The sequel delves deeper into how understanding these connections offers hope for preserving Earth’s biodiversity. It highlights Gaia’s role in safeguarding ecosystems and promoting harmony between humanity and nature.

CAaLVIN uses his display feature to analyze the surroundings.
CAaLVIN the robot analyzes the surroundings in a scene from “TreeTender 2.” Animation and images produced by the Digital Worlds Institute, University of Florida.

“We wanted to find a novel way to reach the public and combine art and storytelling with science,” said Doug Soltis, a distinguished professor and curator at the Florida Museum.

The film was produced by the UF College of the Arts’ Digital Worlds Institute under the direction of Brown and was created collaboratively with the Soltises, Florida Museum curator of biodiversity informatics Guralnick and former museum post-doctoral researcher Ryan Folk, with funding from the National Science Foundation. The project aims to celebrate the diversity of all animals, plants and organisms through wonderful visuals that seek to link art and science together.

An audience gathers for a Q&A with panel members.
Museum visitors sit and converse with panel members after a film screening. ©Florida Museum/Jeff Gage.

“Our aim was to develop a way to share with the public the severity of the biodiversity crisis, the current accelerated rate of species decline and extinction, in a way that would resonate,” said Pam Soltis. “As a result, the Digital Worlds Institute’s graphic artists and storytellers worked with us to develop a storyline that we all really liked, which led to the original ‘TreeTender’ movie.”

Before the debut of “TreeTender 2,” the Florida Museum also invites the community to a free event, Ask A Scientist: Soltis Lab on Jan. 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors can ask Doug and Pam Soltis about the Tree of Life and learn more about how people are related to animals, plants and even microbes.

For more information on the film screening, visit For more information on the Ask a Scientist event, visit


Writer: Ashley Tisher,
Sources: Doug Soltis,; Pam Soltis,
Media Contact: Kaitlin Gardiner,