Latest Posts

Antarctic Meteorites that Hail from Mars

Who would think that a rock found in remote, freezing Antarctica, could be useful for studying Mars? In fact, teams of geologists congregate in Antarctica to find meteorites, some of which originated on Mars. Although meteorites fall all over the Earth, the cold, dry conditions of the South Pole are ideal for preserving them....Read more
Scientists finding a meteorite in Antarctica. Photo by Katherine Joy, University of Manchester, Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program.

Why Do We Collect Parasites?

Who would keep a collection of parasites? Believe it or not, the United States government has been collecting parasites for a hundred years. The collection, recently acquired by the Smithsonian, now numbers more than 20 million parasites. We keep parasites because they are a priority for research related to our well-being....Read more
Tags: parasite
Pickled parasites in the vast collections of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are now managed by the Smithsonian.

Stumbling Upon a New Species of Giant, Woolly Rat

How would you feel if you encountered a rat almost three feet long? Smithsonian’s Dr. Kristofer Helgen was overjoyed. The rat was discovered by Kris and other members of a BBC expedition team in a remote volcano in Papua New Guinea. They named it the Bosavi woolly rat, after its thick fur and its home on Mount Bosavi....Read more
Tags: mammal, DNA, species
The Giant Woolly rat was discovered in 2009 in a Papua New Guinea forest. Photo by Kris Helgen, Smithsonian.

A Unique Field-Trip Opportunity for Title I Middle Schools

For a limited time this spring, Google is providing financial assistance to make field trips to the National Museum of Natural History possible for middle-school students from Title I schools in the D.C. area. For teachers interested in bringing their class or entire grade to the museum for a field trip, this is a unique opportunity to do so....Read more
Students handle real human bones in Q?rius during a Field Trip Day Sponsored by Google in 2015. Photo by Fiona Wilkinson, Smithsonian.

Can You Stop a Volcano?

Two D.C.-area teens and former Smithsonian interns, Camile and Luís, recently returned in search of answers to their questions about volcanoes. They met with geologist Dr. Ben Andrews, who studies volcanic processes, from the storage of magma to eruption....Read more
Luís and Camille learn about a piece of cave rock during their behind-the-scenes visit with Geologist Ben Andrews. Photo by Adam Blankenbicker, Smithsonian.

How Do Environmental Toxins Affect Your Bones?

Did you know that you look the way you do because of the environment you grew up in? Of course, the genes you inherited from your parents play a role in your appearance — genes for height, bone structure, hair, eyes, or dimples. But scientists who study bones are finding that environment matters, too....Read more
Tags: bone, toxin
Skeleton parts from the Smithsonian's physical anthropology collection. Smithsonian photo by Jennifer Renteria.

Quarry Geology: Following a Volcanologist to the Field

I recently had the opportunity to travel with five geologists to unique sites around the country to understand more about the diverse geologic history around us. We were observing rocks and landscapes to reveal evidence of what happened in Earth’s past. Each of these geologic sites was located at an active rock quarry, which provided unobstructed views of large rock faces and samples that we could collect to look at more closely....Read more
Active pit at White River Quarry in Enumclaw, Wash. The dark rocks on the bottom are old basalt lava flows, and the upper, lighter layer is formed of more recent deposits of volcanic ash. Smithsonian photo by Don Hurlbert.