Interior Banner for Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Ants of New England

Lecture and booksigning with Aaron Ellison


Ecologist Aaron Ellison (of the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA) and co-authors have  just completed the new Field Guide to the Ants of New England (Yale University Press), the first user-friendly regional guide devoted to the diversity, ecology, natural history  and beauty  of the “little things that run the world.” Lavishly illustrated with more than 500 line drawings and  300 photographs, Ellison’s guide introduces amateur and professional naturalists alike to more than 140 ant species found in the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada.


Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Lecture and booksigning with David Quammen

Friday, October 19, 6:00 pm

Science author David Quammen explored how a litany of pandemic diseases like Ebola, SARS, and Hendra share a single pattern: they are transmitted to humans by bugs that originate in wild animals.


Collecting Invertebrate Animals Around the Globe

Lecture by Gonzalo Giribet

Thursday, October 4, 6:00 pm

Harvard biologist Gonzalo Giribet, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at Harvard’s MCZ, conducts fieldwork in remote and exotic areas from S. Australia to the Amazon, studying invertebrate organisms to help assemble the evolutionary tree of life. Co-sponsored by the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).


Science on Ice

Author talk with Chris Linder

Saturday, SEPTEMBER 22, 2:00 pm

Oceanographer and award-winning photographer Chris Linder recounted his four polar expeditions to remote and extreme environments of the Arctic and Antarctica.


Fungus Fair

A family festival

Saturday, October 20, 11:00 am - 4:00 PM

Harvard students, faculty, and museum educators learned how scientists collect and study mushrooms, examined an array of fungi specimens from the field and lab, and participated in kids’ activities.


The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Lecture and booksigning with Steven Pinker

Wednesday, October 24, 6:00 pm

To mark the paperback edition of his bestseller, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker discussed why violence has been diminishing for millennia and and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence. 


The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail

Author talk and booksigning with W. Jeffrey Bolster


Since the Middle Ages, the Atlantic Ocean has shaped the lives of people who depend upon it for survival, and just as surely, people have shaped the Atlantic. W. Jeffrey Bolster, history of science professor at the University of New Hampshire and a professional seafarer,  took us through a millennium-long environmental history of human impact upon one of the world's largest ecosystems. In his new book, The Mortal Sea (Harvard University Press), Bolster traces the effects of fishing, from its medieval origins to the advent of industrialized fishing in American waters in the twentieth century, and where that trajectory has brought us today.


Woodlands and Waters, Forests and Faucets: A Look at Massachusetts’ Woods, Water Bodies, and Water Supplies for the Boston Metro Area

Lecture by Betsy Colburn, Harvard Forest

THURsday, NOVEMBER 15, 6:00 pm

Betsy Colburn, Aquatic Ecologist at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA, investigates how forests affect the water cycle: streamflows, groundwater, floodwaters, wetlands, and clean water for human uses.  In this talk, Dr. Colburn looked at how major changes in land use have also changed the sources of water for metropolitan Boston, and going forward, how bold proposals for future forest conservation and land use have important implications for life in eastern Massachusetts, as well as in the rural central and western areas. 


Forest Invaders: How Invasive Species are Reshaping the Wooded Landscape of New England

Lecture by David Orwig and David Foster

Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 19, 6:00 pm

Ecologists David Orwig and David Foster, from the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA, discussed their ongoing research and efforts to address the destructive effects of non-native invasive species such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, Asian longhorned beetle, and others. Cosponsored by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Birds of Paradise:  Exploring a Wonder of the World

Lecture and booksigning with Tim Laman

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 6:00 pm

The Birds of Paradise are one of Earth’s most exceptional and yet little-known treasures. National Geographic photojournalist Tim Laman, (along with collaborator Ed Scholes), has amassed the first modern collection of these birds--recorded in stunning photographs, videos, and audio. In 2011, Laman completed the mission to photograph all 39 species of this incredibly diverse group in the wild, undertaking 18 expeditions to 51 different field sites across the New Guinea region. Laman discussed these exciting scientific discoveries and images  and the technologies he used.  


Members Event

with Kenn Kaufman

WEDNESDAY, October 17, 7:00 pm

Renowned birder Kenn Kaufman discusses his new Field Guide to Nature of New England (Houghton Mifflin).


Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins

Lecture and booksigning with Maddalena Bearzi

Friday, October 26, 6:00 pm

In her new book (co-written with Craig Stanford), biologist Maddalena Bearzi examines how apes and dolphins, although distantly related, share a remarkably parallel evolution toward complex intelligence and behavior – and what this may reveal about the cognitive development of homo sapiens.
Cosponsored by Harvard University Press.


Arachnophilia: Adaptation, Survival and Reproduction in the
Spider Kingdom

Lecture by Marashetty Seenappa 

Monday, August 13, 5:00 pm

With nearly 40,000 species described worldwide, spiders are one of the most dominant and adaptable life forms on earth. But spiders face an array of new challenges to their survival, including agricultural pesticides, the loss of forest cover,  and urbanization. In this illustrated talk, biologist Marashetty Seenappa of Bangalore University discussed the evolution and biodiversity of arachnids, with a special focus on the spiders of India.


Living Light: The Art & Science of Bioluminescence

An evening of ideas and performance at Harvard University that highlighted the beauty and importance of bioluminescence, and addressed the critical need for ocean conservation

Tuesday, July 31, 6:00 pm

Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic; J. Woodland “Woody” Hastings, Paul C. Mangelsdorf, Professor of Natural Sciences, Harvard University; Aqua Borealis, a performance by Kristin McArdle Dance Company

Science: Prof. J. Woodland Hastings, a pioneer researcher in the world of bioluminescence and circadian biology, looked at how marine organisms like dinoflagellates, jellies, and bacteria produce biological light.

Art: KMD performed Aqua Borealis, a dance of traveling biolumes, rainbowed sculpture and liquid-light, inspired by deep-sea exploration and marine organisms that use light and movement to communicate in the ocean.

Passion: Dr. Sylvia Earle has led more than 60 ocean expeditions worldwide culminating in over 7,000 hours underwater. Named by Time Magazine as the first “Hero for the Planet," she received a TED award in 2009 and launched the Mission Blue Foundation, which aims to establish marine protected areas around the globe.


Discovering Your Inner Oddanimal

Family Program with Jef Czekaj

Sunday, August 12, Noon

Jef Czekaj, noted Oddanimalogist and author of children's books Cat Secrets and Hip and Hop, Don't Stop!, came for an afternoon of art and exploration. Jef read from his books, discussed his "research" in the field of Oddanimals, and led participants in a fun drawing and brainstorming activity to discover new Oddanimals.


Evolution in a Toxic World: How Life Responds to
Chemical Threats

Lecture and booksigning with Emily Monosson

Thursday, August 16, 6:00 pm

Toxic chemicals: They have shaped our bodies, our world, and all life around us. Today, species are rapidly evolving in response to toxins like PCBs, dioxins and pesticides. Emily Monosson, adjunct professor at UMass Amherst and author of the new book, Evolution in a Toxic World (Island Press), discussed how life on Earth survives in the face of increased amounts of both age-old and new synthetic chemicals in our environment.



Author talk and booksigning with Kim Todd

Saturday, August 4, noon

In her newest book, science author Kim Todd explores the complex history, biology, and literary tradition of the sparrow. From the Sparrow War of the late 1800s in the United States, (a battle over the sparrow's introduction which climaxed at Boston Common), to the recent mysterious decline of house sparrows globally, the sparrow has been at the center of the invasive species debate for over 150 years.


The Grand Diversity of Fishes: Form, Function, and Evolution

Exhibition re-opening lecture by George V. Lauder, Prof. of Biology and Curator of Ichthyology in Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology

Thursday, May 31, 6:00 PM

In this talk to celebrate the re-opening of the museum’s Fishes gallery, George V. Lauder, Professor of Biology and Curator of Ichthyology in Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, discussed the remarkable adaptations of fishes and looked at some of the cutting-edge fish research that is currently happening at Harvard.

Watch this lecture on the Video Page


Young Scientists! Discovering Nature in your Own Backyard

Family Program with Loree Griffin Burns

Saturday, June 16, 11:00 am

Scientist and author Loree Griffin Burns has practiced citizen science in her own backyard, coordinated events in her community, observed events from Central Park to central Mexico, and has now written about these experiences in her new book for young readers, Citizen Scientists.


What If? Alternative Histories of Science

Special event with Anne Harrington, Andrew Berry, David Jones, Roberto Lalli, Kevin Harrington, Raj Sivaraman, and Rob Crean 

Friday, APril 20, 7:00 pm

Imagine that phrenology, the 19th-century study of mind by measuring bumps on people’s heads, had turned out to be true? Or that Darwin hadn’t been invited to go on the voyage of the Beagle? Now imagine historians in discussion with stand-up comedians on these subjects, and you have “What If…?” Moderator Anne Harrington and guests Andrew Berry, David Jones, Roberto Lalli and comedians Kevin Harrington, Raj Sivaraman, and Rob Crean improvised alternative histories of science.


Watch Out for Vulture Vomit and Other Adventures in Bird Watching

Family Program with Bill Thompson III

Saturday, MAy 26, 2:00 pM

A presentation by Bill Thompson III,  author of the new Peterson Field Guide, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America (Houghton Mifflin). While other field guides might overwhelm kids who are new to birding, The Young Birder’s Guide was created with help from Thompson’s own son and daughter and their elementary school classes.


Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves

Film Screening and Discussion: Emily Driscoll and George Buckley

Saturday, MAy 12, 2:00 pm

In conjunction with the new exhibition, Mollusks, the museum screened Shellshocked, a new documentary by Emily Driscoll. The film follows efforts to prevent the extinction of wild oyster reefs, which keep oceans healthy by filtering water and engineering ecosystems. Due to overfishing and pollution, much of the world’s wild oyster reefs have been declared “functionally extinct.”
Photo by Valter Jacinto.


The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources

Author talk and booksigning by Michael Klare

Saturday, APRIL 21, 2:00 pm

In his newest book, The Race for What’s Left, Michael Klare, Five College Professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, described a world facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion—from oil to coal and natural gas, copper and cobalt, water, and arable land. 


Learning From Insects: How Our World is Shaped by Bees, Ants and Other Social Insects

A Dialogue and Booksigning with Thomas Seeley and Bernd Heinrich

Tuesday, April 3, 6:00 pm

To celebrate the publication of Harvard University Press’ collection of its best essays in Entomology, A World of Insects, Thomas Seeley, Biology Professor at Cornell University, and Bernd Heinrich, Professor Emeritus at the University of Vermont, discussed their research and why it’s critical that we study and learn from insects. Moderated by Professor Naomi Pierce, Curator of Lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Image from A WORLD OF INSECTS: THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS READER edited by RING T. CARDÉ and VINCENT H. RESH appears courtesy of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2012 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.


The Social Conquest of Earth

Lecture and booksigning by Edward O. Wilson

Thursday, APRIL 12, 6:00 pm

Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus at Harvard, has dedicated much of his 60 years in biology to the study of social insects. In his latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth, he turns his focus to another successful organism—humans—and addresses three fundamental questions of religion and philosophy: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Wilson addresses many fields—mathematics, human genetics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary biology—to explain the origin of humans and our domination of the Earth’s biosphere. 


New Directions in EcoPlanning Annual Lecture
A Great Green Cloud: The Rise and Fall of the City of Elms

Lecture by Thomas J. Campanella

Thursday, March 8, 6:00 pm

Thomas J. Campanella, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the University of North Carolina, explored elm culture in the U.S., and how our love affair with this giant nearly brought it to the edge of disappearance. 

Watch this lecture on the Video Page.


Why Evolution is True and Why Many People Still
Don’t Believe It

Lecture by Jerry Coyne

Wednesday, May 2, 6:00 pm

Jerry Coyne, a professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and author of the seminal book, Why Evolution is True, is one of the world’s most eloquent defenders of evolutionary science in the face of legal, religious, and cultural opposition. In this talk, Coyne explored the multifarious evidence for evolution, why Americans are so resistant to accepting the theory, and what can be done to make the country more evolution-friendly.
Photo by Paul Merideth.


Evolutionary Medicine at 20: Not yet Mature, but on the Way

Lecture by Randolph Nesse

Thursday, March 29, 6:00 pm

Randolph Nesse, Director of the Evolution & Human Adaptation Program at University of Michigan, is one of the nation’s foremost researchers in the emergent field of Darwinian medicine—the application of modern evolutionary theory to the understanding health and disease.

Watch this lecture on the Video Page.


From Democratic Consensus to Cannibalistic Hordes: The Principles of Collective Behavior

Lecture by Iain Couzin

Tuesday, February 28, 6:00 pm

Why do billions of locusts suddenly break into motion? How do ants carry heavy loads and march with orderly precision along densely packed trails? How do flocks of birds and schools of fish select their navigators? And how do we—humans—make decisions as citizens, drivers, and numerous other social situations? Learn about the major contributions Iain Couzin, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton, has made to understanding the dynamics and evolution of collective animal behavior.

Watch this lecture on the Video page.


The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century

Author talk by D. Graham Burnett

Sunday, March 11, 2:00 pm

D. Graham Burnett, Professor of History at Princeton, discussed how 20th century scientific research and environmental awareness has led to an appreciation of whales as highly evolved, complex mammals critical to marine ecosystems and deserving of regulatory protection. 


Paleo Planet: A Look at Life in the Past

Family Festival

Saturday, March 3, 9:00 am-5:00 pm

Travel back in time to explore the amazing world of dinosaurs, Ice Age mammals, trilobites, and other fossils. Consider how the planet itself has changed over time. Investigate human ancestors through fossils. Meet Harvard scientists and hear about their research. Examine rare specimens, search for clues about the past in common fossils, and make your own models. This festival is appropriate for all ages with more than a dozen different activities appealing to different ages.Paleo Planet is made possible in part with support from Cambridge Trust Company.

Photo by Nate Dean.


The Biology and Evolution of Mollusks

Exhibition opening lecture by Gonzalo Giribet

THursday, February 16, 6:00 pm

From tiny snails to the giant clam (Tridacna gigas), mollusks are the most diverse and widely distributed family of marine invertebrates. Professor Gonzalo Giribet, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at Harvard’s MCZ, discussed how scientists are decoding the Mollusca genetic family tree to learn how they’ve adapted, survived, and thrived since the pre-Cambrian era, and to explore the potential benefits of mollusks from medicine to human health, and other fields. 


Digging for Mastodons: Discovering an Ice Age
World in the Colorado Rockies

Family Program with Kirk Johnson

Sunday, February 5, 2:00 pm

Paleontologist Dr. Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science share the latest news about Snowmass Village, the massive site in the Colorado Rockies where he’s leading a team that has recently unearthed a treasure trove of over 5,000 fossils of Ice Age animals—including mastodons, Columbian mammoth, Jefferson’s ground sloth, giant bison, camels, and other species. 
Photo by Charles Mayer.


The Origin of Cellular Life

Lecture by Jack W. Szostak

Wednesday, February 1, 6:00 pm

Jack Szostak, a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Distinguished Investigator at Mass. General, described how efforts to design and build very simple living cells are testing our assumptions about the nature of life, generating ideas about how life emerged from the chemistry of early Earth, and offering clues as to how modern life evolved from its earliest ancestors.
Photo by Jussi Puikkonen.

Watch this lecture on the Video page.


Strange New Worlds: From Meteorites in Antarctica to the Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System

Lecture and booksigning by Ray Jayawardhana

Wednesday, January 18, 6:00 pm

Renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana, University of Toronto and current Radcliffe Institute fellow, gave a lively talk on cutting-edge science of today’s planet hunters, the prospects for discovering alien life, and the debate and controversies at the forefront of extrasolar-planet research.