Museum & Archaeology Center

Army Ants March into New Exhibition – UConn Today

“The seven four-foot ants crawling along the entrance to the Biology/Physics Building on North Eagleville Road are not a cause for alarm; instead, they invite visitors to follow them inside to view “Be Our Guest: An Exhibit on the Complex Society of Army Ants and Their Guests.”

The exhibit is the first public introduction to the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection, which is considered one of the premier collections of its kind in the world. It consists of more than two million specimens, field notes, and other material from research conducted by the late Carl Rettenmeyer, a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from 1971 to 1996, and his wife Marian. The exhibit opens to the public on Sunday, April 30 from 1 to 5 p.m., and continues Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Read the entire story by Kenneth Best here: Army Ants March into New Exhibition – UConn Today

Marine biologists and UConn alumni discuss penguin rehabilitation

By Marlese Lessing - UConn Daily Campus

Marine biologists and UConn alumni, Josh Davis, Laurie Macha, and Eric Fox
Marine biologists and UConn alumni, Josh Davis, Laurie Macha, and Eric Fox discussed African penguin conservation in a lecture hosted by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Songqing Zhao/The Daily Campus)


Marine biologists and University of Connecticut alumni Josh Davis, Laurie Macha and Eric Fox spoke about African penguin conservation on Saturday in a lecture hosted by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.

‘From Poultry To Penguins: What Came After UConn’ highlighted the duties and research of Davis, Macha and Fox, who all are involved in the Mystic Aquarium’s African penguin colony as well as the current colonies down in South Africa.

The three animal science majors attributed their success to their experience at UConn. In particular, Macha said, a poultry science class she took gave her valuable experience in handling birds, understanding their physiology and formulating diets for the colony.

Davis emphasized how the skills he learned in university help him today.

“We don’t think we would be able to do today without the experiences we learned at UConn,” he said.

Macha, who graduated from UConn in 1987 with a bachelor's in animal science and received her master’s in 1991, is the Supervisor of Pinnipeds and Penguins at the Mystic Aquarium. Macha is in charge of the current penguin colony and helps train the birds so that they can be safely fed, handled and exercised.

One of the reasons that the penguin colony is so important, Macha said, is because of the rapid decline in African penguin populations. Currently, there are less than 50,000 African penguins alive in the wild, a 70 percent decline in their numbers since 2000.

“They could very well disappear in our lifetime,” Macha said. “It’s a very grave situation.”

Threats such as predators, pollution, a reduction in food due to climate change and oil spills all lead to penguin deaths. In South Africa, Macha said, the penguins are sometimes seen as pests, and nesting areas have been destroyed to make way for new housing developments. Currently, the African penguin is on the Endangered Species List.

Oil spills in particular are highly fatal to penguin colonies, Macha said. In 2000, an oil spill around Robben Island, which houses one of South Africa’s most prominent penguin colonies, left over 19,000 surviving birds in need of cleaning and rehabilitating, Macha said.

One of the most devastating effects of oil spills on the birds, Macha said, is the fact that crude oil destroys the red blood cells of penguins once ingested, leaving them anemic. The oil can be passed on to their chicks as well when the parents regurgitate food for their young.

Macha went to South Africa and assisted in rehabilitating the penguins, she said. The trip was the beginning of a partnership between Mystic and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, who helped organized the penguin rescue.

The organization collaborates with Mystic on the current penguin populations in the wild, tracking the breeding habits and growth cycles through a program called Earthwatch. Mystic aquarium also provides data from their own penguin colony as a baseline for penguin health in the wild, Macha said.

Those who attended the show said they enjoyed the variety of knowledge the lecturers had to present.

“I think it was a good lecture,” said Britt Barry, a New London resident who graduated from UConn herself in 1987. “I brought my daugher and her friend. I thought that it would be a good idea for her to see what UConn students did after [they graduate]. I liked the range of topics they talked about.”

Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at She tweets @marlese_lessing.



Museum & Archaeology Center: Fall of Fun and Discovery


Don’t miss out on a number of natural history and cultural history day trips, workshops, field learning programs, and presentations this Fall with the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and Connecticut Archaeology Center, part of the Office of Public Engagement at UConn. For registration information visit or call 860.486.4460.

2016 Fall Museum Programs and Activities

Community Event: Hammonassett Festival
Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 1, 10 am to 5 pm – Guilford, CT

Join the Museum and Archaeology Center and the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA) at the Hammonassett Festival and explore Connecticut’s vibrant natural and cultural history. The Festival features authentic Native American arts and crafts, music, dance and food, live wildlife shows, museum outreach programs, environmental exhibits, and the ever-popular New England Atlatl Championship. Multiple performances each day will include award-winning recording artist Arvel Bird as well as the Native Nations Dance Troupe led by Erin Meeches. Allan Saunders, a member of the Mohegan Tribe, will lead an opening blessing and smudging ceremony each day at 10:30 am. The 2016 Hammonasseett Festival will take place at the Guilford Fairgrounds due to planned construction at Hammonassett State Park.

Mysterious Mushrooms
Connie Borodenko, Connecticut Valley Mycological Society 

Saturday, October 8, 10 am to 11:30 am – Union, CT
Advance registration required: $20 ($15 for Members & Donors)

Discover the startling, colorful, sometimes delicious, and sometimes deadly, world of mushrooms and fungi with mycologist Connie Borodenko. Bring a basket and paper bags for gathering these denizens of the shadows during the first part of the program. Then learn about the fascinating world of fungi as we discuss the findings with our mushroom expert. This hike may be challenging for some and will include hilly areas.

Archaeology Field Workshop–Learning The Basics
Mandy Ranslow, Professional Archaeologist, Friends of the Office of State Archaeology
Sunday, October 9 am to 11:30 am – UConn
Advance registration required: $20 ($15 for Members & Donors)

What happens at an archaeological dig? Learn about the science, field techniques, tools, and ethical aspects of archaeology from professional archaeologist Mandy Ranslow. Participants will be part of a real archaeological field crew, doing hands-on fieldwork at an ongoing historic house excavation at UConn. Findings at the site add important information to our understanding of Connecticut’s rich historic past.

Connecticut Archaeology Fair
Saturday, October 15, 10 am to 4 pm
South Reading Room, Wilbur Cross Building, UConn, Storrs

Free with a suggested $5 donation for ages 18 and over.

UConn’s Department of Anthropology, the Office of State Archaeology, and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and Connecticut Archaeology Center at UConn hosts the 2016 Connecticut Archaeology Fair. Celebrate Archaeology Month and learn about the many UConn archaeological investigations going on around the state and internationally. Local archaeological societies, historical societies, and universities will have displays highlighting past and current excavations and research with opportunities to see and touch real artifacts! Lectures and kid-friendly activities will take place throughout the day. Have questions about archaeology? There will be archaeologists on hand to provide answers. Whether you have a passing interest in archaeology or you want to find out how to become more involved, there will be something for everyone.

Walktober: Canterbury’s Historic Captain John Clark Property
Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, Emeritus State Archaeologist, Ellen Wilson, Canterbury Historical Society
Friday, October 21, 1 pm — Canterbury, CT
Advance registration required. FREE for adults and children ages 10 and above.

The John Clark property in Canterbury features a stunning white historic mansion, stone walls, and idyllic landscape. After a brief architectural discussion with Ellen Wilson of the Canterbury Historical Society, Emeritus State Archaeologist Nick Bellantoni will lead a walk to the Quinebaug River, exploring the area’s geology, history, and indigenous culture. Native American artifacts will be on exhibit. This activity is part of the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor’s “Walktober.” The walk is approximately one-mile to the river and back and is moderately strenuous. The rain date is October 28, 1 pm. Space is limited. Please register by calling Ellen Wilson at 860.546.9346 beginning September 15.

Special Series: Exploring Connecticut’s Towns–Canterbury!
Ellen Wilson, Canterbury Historical Society
Saturday, November 5, 10 am to 12 noon – Canterbury, CT
Advance registration required: $20 ($15 for Members & Donors)

Nestled in Northeast Connecticut's beautiful "Quiet Corner", Canterbury comprises a rich mix of historical tradition, a wide variety of tradespeople and small businesses, unique ecological features, and beautiful vistas. Originally part of Plainfield, in 1703 the Town of Canterbury was officially established on the west side of Quinebaug River when its settlers grew tired of crossing the river for church services.

This Old House Magazine named Canterbury the “Best Old House Neighborhood in Connecticut.” The tour will focus on Canterbury’s National Historic District. Centered around the Canterbury green, the architecture of the easily walkable historic district comprises a small index of 18th and 19th New England building styles, with Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian examples, including the so-called “Canterbury style.” Within this same compact area is a house where Benedict Arnold was a student, a restored 19th century one-room district schoolhouse, and the Prudence Crandall Museum—the nation’s first academy for girls and young women of color, and home of Connecticut’s official state heroine. We’ll end our visit to Canterbury with a snack by the blazing kitchen hearth fire of an 18th century house on the green.

From Poultry to Penguins! What Came After UConn
Laurie Macha, Josh Davis, and Eric Fox, Mystic Aquarium
Saturday, November 12, 3 pm – Biology/Physics Building, Room 130, UConn

Mystic Aquarium staff Laurie Macha, Josh Davis, and Eric Fox all began their careers working with endangered African penguins shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut with Animal Science degrees. Through activities such as oil spill cleanups, rehabilitation work, and interactive programming all three have been integral in Mystic Aquarium's African penguin conservation efforts both in Mystic, Connecticut and abroad in South Africa. They will share the paths they took to their careers and why their work is so important to a species threatened with extinction. 

The Botany of Thanksgiving
Dr. Pamela Diggle, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UConn
Saturday, November 19, 1 pm – Biology/Physics Building, Room 130, UConn 

In the eyes of a botanist, the year’s biggest meal is a celebration of the plants in our lives: the potatoes, carrots, cloves, lettuce, celery and sage, and of all the holiday foods that people savor, from stuffing to cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie. Turkey may be the star of the day, but the plants on the menu give it that extra oomph. Thanksgiving’s plants are just doing what we all do: making a living, setting something aside for a rainy day, and looking for love. It’s the strategies that particular plants employ in those pursuits that make them delectable. Explore the biology of the plants we eat, what makes them so delicious, and role of that deliciousness in the lives of those familiar plants.

Connecticut’s Early European Settlers–Year 2 Excavations 

Dr. Brian Jones, State Archaeologist, Museum of Natural History, UConn

Saturday, December 10th, 3 pm – Biology/Physics Building, Room 130, UConn

At ongoing archaeological digs the past two summers, archaeologists unearthed rich data about Connecticut’s early colonial past. Join Dr. Brian Jones, Connecticut’s State Archaeologist who led these excavations, and discover what these recent archaeological explorations in Windsor and Glastonbury tell us about Connecticut’s earliest European settlers.

The American Museum of Natural History, New York City
Saturday, December 17
Advance registration required: Bus Fee $60 ($50 for Members & Donors)
Departing from Storrs, CT and Cromwell, CT
All ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Explore the world's largest natural history museum, the American Museum of Natural History. It is one of the world's preeminent institutions for scientific research and education, with collections of more than 32 million specimens. Special temporary exhibits include The Titanosaur, Dinosaurs Among Us, and Crocs. The spectacular permanent exhibits feature dinosaurs, world cultures, gems, minerals, animals of the world, biodiversity, and the Hayden Planetarium. This is also a festive time to visit NYC in all its holiday splendor!

The bus will leave Storrs at 8 am and have a second pick-up in Cromwell at 8:45 am. The bus will depart AMNH for Connecticut at 4 pm. Please arrive and be prepared to board the bus prior to departure times. Admission to the Museum is not included and should be paid at the door or online. For a preview, and prices for admission packages, go to the AMNH website

Historic Archaeologic Dig Covered in Podcast: Grating the Nutmeg, The Podcast of CT History

13. DISCOVERY! CONNECTICUT'S MOST IMPORTANT DIG EVER!Take an earwitness journey to the 1659 John Hollister homesite on the Connecticut River in ancient Wethersfield, and join the archaeologists, graduate students, and volunteers from many walks of life as they uncover one of the richest early colonial sites ever found in Connecticut.

State Historian Walter Woodward brings you with him on the last day of the dig as for a first hand account of what they’re finding at this amazing site, and what it means for understanding our early history. Hear from State Archaeologist Brian Jones, Lori Kissel, Scot Brady, Glenda Rose, Dick Hughes, Fiona Jones, Mandy Ranslow (president of FOSA – Friends of the Office of State Archaeology)  and others about their epic archaeological adventure.

You’ll also find companion photographs of the site at the Connecticut State Historian’s Facebook page (please like) and the Connecticut Explored website (please subscribe to the magazine).

Find the podcast.
Read more here.