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The Academy Of Natural Sciences Of Drexel Universi

series: Drexel Interview

air date: 3/21/13 2:00 PM

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is a popular museum on Philadelphia's cultural boulevard and the oldest natural history museum in America. The first part of this two-part series focused on the Academy's public role as museum and educational institution. In this, the second part, also taped on-site, scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences discuss its collections and its role as a center for scientific research. Paleontologist Ted Daeschler, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Zoology and Vice President of Systematics and Library, displays Thomas Jefferson's personal collection of fossils, presented to Jefferson in 1808 by explorer William Clark. Daeschler notes that the Academy holds some 18 million fossil specimens. He also displays the focus of his current research, the skull of a lobe-finned fish found in the Canadian arctic, one of the first limbed animals and a key piece of evolutionary history--a bridge between fish and mammal. Entomologist Daniel Otte, Curator of Entomology and an expert on crickets and grasshoppers, speaks of describing new species of crickets and notes that there are many species of insects that remain undescribed. A highlight of Otte's presentation are the beautifully detailed drawings from his books on North American grasshoppers. Ending the segment, biogeochemist David Velinsky, Vice President of the Academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research, discusses the pioneering work on stream health of ecologist Ruth Patrick, the scientist for whom the Center was named. Velinsky also speaks of his current and controversial research on the ecological problems resulting from natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. This episode features video of display cases filled with fossils, seashells, giant insects, birds, and other specimens from the Academy's "library of life," as well as shots of its famous dinosaur skeletons.

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