In addition to the teaching, research, and service that we do at the university, sometimes we get the opportunity to do fun projects with broader audiences.
Our science communication goal is to bring a more open museum to both traditional and non-traditional museum audiences using digitization and collections. Strategic use of 2- and 3D media allow me to connect people to specimens that they would be otherwise unable to access. Major projects toward that goal are summarized here.
At the University of Florida, Natasha partnered with an educator at a local, Title I elementary school in Gainesville, Florida to implement an after-school program that incorporates math, science, and museum specimens to widen that bottleneck. The program, called Supersized Life, aims to improve students' grasp of exponents by integrating scientific objects with quantitative problem-solving.
The use of 3D printing also allows students to access biological objects, such as tardigrades, viruses, and fossilized small mammal molars that are normally inaccessible because of their microscopic size.
Natasha helped build Fossil Roulette, a smartphone app and then a microblog, to approach one limitation faced by most museums: far more specimens are in the collections than can be put on display. Working with the collections manager of Non-Vertebrate Paleontology and the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, they developed strategies and two platforms to provide accurate, engaging, and concise commentary on eye-catching fossils. New entries are on indefinite hold, but all entries can be found here.
Student Research Exhibit
As a team, Paul Morse and Natasha designed and executed the Fall 2015 installation of a rotating exhibit highlighting student research at the Florida Museum of Natural History. They focused on how 3D technology is changing both research and broader applications of paleontology. Posters installed as part of the exhibit are entered into an annual competition which is judged in part based on the quality of the exhibit design as a whole. Posters from the installation won both of the prizes awarded that year.
Natasha co-led a team to design and execute a week-long interactive exhibit as part of the celebration of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s 100th anniversary. Within the exhibit, they continued a successful tradition of interacting with the public through live preparation of Florida fossils. They supplemented that strategy with live processing of digital specimens of some of those digital fossils. Visitors also learned and interacted with us as they measured 3D prints of fossilized shark teeth and use them to estimate the body size of the largest shark that ever lived.