The Q? Blog

This scanning electron microscope image shows fungi making bead-like minerals (elemental selenium). Image from Carla Rosenfeld, Smithsonian.
This scanning electron microscope image shows fungi making bead-like minerals (elemental selenium). Image from Carla Rosenfeld, Smithsonian.

Not Just Menaces, Microbes are also Mineral-Making Machines

A microbe is a tiny organism, microscopic in size. We often think of microbes as menaces, such as pathogenic bacteria or fungi that cause disease. In fact, microbes are also necessary for life because of their impacts on the distribution of essential nutrients in ecosystems. Nearly every element on this planet is affected in some way by microbes. And, microbes are found in just about every habitat on Earth , ranging from the depths of the ocean...Read more

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February Events in Q?rius: Sand Creatures, 'OrKID' Festival, Invasive Species, and More

Did you know that thousands of microscopic species live between sand grains on beaches around the world? Or that elephants, lions, and camels used to live in North America? Or how you can help combat invasive species? Come to Q?rius this month and see the tiny sand dwellers through a microscope, contemplate returning some large mammals to our continent, and learn more about invasive species. And don’t miss the OrKID festival when you can see,...Read more
Tags: fossils, ocean
The 'OrKID' Family Festival on Feb. 21 will feature some activities in Q?rius and other places in the Museum. Photo by Ian Chalmers.

They Had the Guts: Local Youth Experiment with Gutskin — Yes, that's Right, Gutskin

A group of local teens and tweens got crafty with hog intestines at a recent art workshop in Q?rius. Inspired by the ingenuity of those living in the Arctic who for generations have used gutskin from marine mammals to make parkas, bags, windows and more, workshop participants crafted their own special creations to take home. Participants in the “ Do You Have the Guts? " workshop in December listened as expert Igor Krupnik , curator of Arctic and...Read more
Tags: arctic, teens
A boy shows off his hog-gut art at the 'Do You Have the Guts?' workshop. Smithsonian Institution photo.

Immersive Science Programs for Homeschool Students at Q?rius

Many students learn science best through hands-on experience. We know it can be difficult for homeschoolers to find such immersive science programs, so we are now providing several options for local D.C.-area homeschool students. Two of the options feature our staff-led Q?rius School Programs , in which museum educators provide students with a chance to both see and participate in the science happening at the Museum. The six school programs are...Read more
Museum educator Nicole Webster guides students in the school program “Reefs Unleashed.” Photo by Don Hurlbert, Smithsonian Institution.

Webcast Extra: Rusty Russell Answers Your Questions about Plant Collections

What does studying plant DNA tell scientists? What is the oldest specimen in the Smithsonian’s National Herbarium? Here’s a hint: It’s over 500 years old! Want to know more? Check out the video above. If you tuned into our Jan. 15, 2015, live webcast with Botany Collections Manager, Rusty Russell, then you know that we learned about the National Herbarium at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Rusty answered viewers’ great...Read more
Smithsonian's Rusty Russell shows off a table full of objects from the plant collection at the National Herbarium.

Foraminifera: The Best Fossils Come in Small Packages

If you haven’t seen foraminifera yet, no need to feel left out. Most people haven’t seen a foraminifer (or foram), or don’t realize they’ve seen one, because they’re so tiny. Forams are ocean organisms that live in all marine environments, from the tropics to the poles. They are so abundant (thousands per square centimeter) that their little shells pile up as sands on the ocean floor as they die. Foram shells record information about the...Read more
Colorful shells of forams on a coral reef. Image by Pamela Hallock, University of South Florida

The Tales that Plants Can Tell

They are silent and stationary, but scientists look to them to tell stories about what happened in the past. Because plants are all around us, and specific in their needs, they are great indicators of ecosystem change. Just as an animal might move to a different place if conditions get rough, plants must adapt. Unfortunately, habitat changes are happening more rapidly than in the past and plants cannot adapt as quickly. The ash-grey Indian...Read more
Ash-grey Indian paintbrush plant in Southern California. Image by Gary A. Monroe, EOL via CalPhotos, CC-BY-NC.

January Events in Q?rius: Feed Jellyfish, Explore Coastal Ecosystems, and More

We're showcasing a variety of topics to kick off the new year, including fungal spores, baby fish, and jellyfish and their kin. You can also hear archaeologist Torben Rick discuss how humans impact coastal biodiversity and how digging into the past can help us manage ecosystems today. Make a resolution to join us for a January event! Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and take place in Q?rius, the interactive science learning space on...Read more
Archaeologist Torben Rick studies how humans have affected biodiversity over time in California's Channel Islands. He discusses "Coastal and Island Biodiversity - Tracking Human Influences" on Jan. 13. Photo by Torben Rick.

My Three Years as a Science Intern with YES!

At age 14, I was already skinning a small desert rodent and a panther at the National Museum of Natural History. I gave my first tour of the Museum's mammals collection to a group of college students, even though I was only in ninth grade. At 15, I was working on molecular biology with the Museum's Botany Department . At 16, I worked alongside Smithsonian scientists on a research project never done before: obtaining the entire genome of the...Read more
Tags: teens
YES! interns Melissa (left) and Tho prepare rodents in the mammal collection during Melissa’s first year in the program. Photo from Smithsonian Institution.

Webcast Extra: More Answers to Your Questions About Birds

Welcome to the first “Smithsonian Science How” video blog! If you tuned in to the Dec. 11, 2014 live webcast featuring Smithsonian ornithologist Dr. Helen James talking about bird extinctions, you know that the show’s awesome viewers from classrooms across the county were typing in questions fast and furiously. You might say the questions were flying! As it turns out, we received way more excellent questions than there was time for Dr. James to...Read more
Smithsonian's Dr. Helen James and Maggy Benson during a live Smithsonian Science How webcast

December Events in Q?rius: See Your DNA, Dino-fy Yourself, and Learn How We Chart the Seafloor

It might be getting cold outside, but science is HOT in Q?rius! Teens can learn how dinosaurs evolved over time to survive, and then make their own dinosaur-like armor in the “HumanOsaurus: Dino-fy Yourself!” workshop. Visitors of all ages can create necklace pendants made of their own DNA and hear real-life experts share their research into topics from epigenetics to urban forests and seafloor mapping. Unless otherwise noted, all events are...Read more
Dana Clark gets ready to deploy the CTD tool (which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth) from the deck of the NOAA ship Fairweather. Join her Dec. 17 to learn how NOAA charts the seafloor. Photo from NOAA.