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With Breathtaking Pictures, Citizen Scientists Help Map Auroras

Smithsonian Magazine

In October, 2011, Elizabeth MacDonald from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center noticed a spike in Tweets about the dazzling show put on by the aurora borealis, according to a NASA press release. It got her thinking—what if she could add geolocation data to all those social media hits and collect them in a single database?

Enter Aurorasaurus—a project that ground truths the aurora forecasts put out by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

MacDonald and a few colleagues launched the project the next month and began signing up citizen scientists on its website, asking them to keep tabs on when and where they experienced the ethereal glow of the northern and southern lights. Now, a new paper published earlier this month in the journal Space Weathershows that the project is improving how researchers predict when and where skygazers can view that midnight glow.

After a large geomagnetic storm that hit the Earth around St. Patrick’s Day 2015 and few other smaller events, MacDonald and her team found that 60 percent of the 500 Aurorasaurus participants observed the dancing lights outside the range of visibility predicted by the Space Weather models. Researchers are using the data to produce a more accurate forecast engine.

Most current aurora forecasts are based off measurements of solar wind by NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer Satellite, according to Betsy Mason at Since the satellite is so close to Earth, however, it only offers about an hour’s warning before geomagnetic events. The Aurorasauraus data won’t improve early detection, but NASA says over time it will help researchers understand how to predict when and where geomagnetic events occur and how intensely those events affect the earth.

In fact, Andrea Tapia, a professor of information science at Penn State and a member of the Aurorasaurus team, tells Laboratory News that she is investigating ways of using the network of citizen scientists as an early warning system for geomagnetic events. “We can watch the sun much more accurately than we can predict its effects on Earth 93 million miles away,” Tapia says in a press release. “Our goal is to collect new data from citizen scientists and crowdsourcing to allow actionable, up-to-the-minute understanding of auroral activity.”  

But all of that is still a ways off. Until then, the project is mainly a great boon for sky watchers, with participants like Chris Ratzlaff in Calgary and Jason Grustra creating beautiful images while collecting data.

“The short term vision for Aurorasaurus is to become an interactive hub for aurora enthusiasts at the intersection of citizens and science,” MacDonald tells NASA. “Long term, this engaged community can be sustained and evolve together—and the tools can be expanded to be useful in other disciplines within our technological society.”

With Humans Away, Animals in National Parks Are Having a Ball

Smithsonian Magazine

As people stay home, animals have national parks almost entirely to themselves.

At the end of April, the Yosemite National Park Facebook page shared a video sharing the events of the last month. The video shows foxes, deer, bears and a bobcat wandering the park. Some were unusually close to the roads and other infrastructure that are usually populated with visitors. The appearance of animals in usually busy areas might prompt changes in how the space is used when the park reopens.

“As you get people off trails and reduce the amount of human activity and movement in some of these rural-urban areas, wildlife really seem to key into that,” says Montana State University wildlife researcher Tony Clevenger to Discover magazine’s Leslie Nemo.

Elk have been spotted using sidewalks in Canadian towns like Banff, near Banff National Park, CBC reports. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, park ranger Richard Sowry spotted lions napping along the road, per the BBC. And bear sightings have increased near Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel.

“It’s not like they aren’t usually here,” Dane Peterson, who works at the hotel, told the Los Angeles Times in April. “It’s that they usually hang back at the edges, or move in the shadows.”

The presence of humans can impact animal behavior in substantial ways, Kaitlyn Gaynor, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, tells Discover magazine. Her research shows that human activity, including hiking, seems to have pushed mammals, including coyotes and deer, to become more nocturnal than they are when humans aren’t around. And roads, when used frequently, cut up national park habitats, so without traffic, animals can safely cross the road to reach food, shelter and mates.

The change could be especially beneficial to bears that are now emerging from winter hibernation and looking for food. In Banff National Park, bears forage south-facing hillsides for snacks, which often leads to conflicts with tourists on the same sunny hillsides, Discover reports.

"Probably the wildlife are really rapidly getting used to having a place to themselves and using areas closer to where people would normally occur but are not found now," University of Alberta biologist Colleen Cassady St. Clair tells CBC. "So I think the big surprises are going to come when those areas reopen."

Gaynor tells Discover that human-wildlife conflicts will probably increase once shelter-in-place orders are lifted and people return to the parks. People are supposed to give national park wildlife a wide berth, exemplified by television reporter Deion Broxton’s reaction to an approaching herd of bison in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone normally opens on the first Friday in May, but this year the park remains closed with plans for a staged opening, Ruffin Prevost reports for the Billings Gazette.

Clevenger tells Discover that visitors are the primary conservation concern for the protected habitats—the National Park Service saw record numbers of visitors in total in 2016, with 330 million visits across the United States national parks. Wildlife cameras and GPS collars that were already in use before shelter-in-place orders were declared may reveal new parts of the parks that need added protection, Gaynor tells Discover.

"A lot of the animals that are known to be urban exploiters, as they're sometimes called, are really tremendously flexible in their behavior," St. Clair tells CBC. "They're masters of observing changes in their environment and they respond to them really quickly."

When parks open up again, St. Clair says, “We should be ready to cut [the animals] some slack and to use extra precautions and just double down on all the things we know we should do."

With This Smartphone Microscope, You Can Play Soccer and Pac-Man With Microbes

Smithsonian Magazine

Left. No, right. Wait, a little more to the left again. Go for it, go for it! Score!

This excited chatter could easily take place during a rowdy game of foosball, but it could also be the banter of students testing a new learning tool that mixes the thrills of the gaming world with microbiology. With LudusScope, live microbes turn into players in a soccer match or Pac-Men in a maze, which the students direct with the use of LED lights.

The open-source, 3D-printed, smartphone-integrated microscope is the brainchild of Stanford engineer Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, who developed the device in a quest to find new ways for students to interact and learn about the microscopic world that surrounds us. The inventor has been working to this end for some time, having patented an earlier setup that uses different single-celled organisms and a different stimulus.

Until now, microscopy was a sit-back-and-watch-type of activity, Riedel-Kruse explains. “You can look through a microscope and see,” he says. “But you can’t really interact with what you see.”

The LudusScope is a simplified microscope, consisting of a base that holds the sample slide. The microscope’s lenses and a bracket for viewing through a smartphone are both attached to the upper arm of the device. Once the smartphone is attached, the user opens an app. Through one view, students can measure individual microbes and track their movement.

But Riedel-Kruse and his team didn’t stop there. Not only is the sample slide illuminated from behind like many standard microscopes, but four LEDs also surround the LudusScope slide. Users can control these LEDs using an attached joystick. Add some light-sensitive microbes—Euglena, for example, which are robust and easily purchased from school supply companies—and you can actually interact with the tiny creatures. The games are basic—a Pac-Man-like game or microbe “soccer”—but allow the students to try their hand at directing a hoard of eukaryotes to do their bidding.

The name LudusScope comes from the Latin word Ludus, which is associated with games, play and school. The scope combines the engineering skills of instrument building with real-life microbe play. Teachers—or anyone interested in a little DIY microbiology—can 3D print the parts to the microscope using downloadable plans. Students can then assemble the device themselves. The final step in assembly is clamping a smartphone on top of the microscope, lining the phone’s camera up with the microscope’s eyepiece. This way, multiple students huddled around the screen can simultaneously view the larger-than-life microbes.

The team tested the scope with focus groups of both teachers and students, with the device meeting overall approval, says Riedel-Kruse. While most teachers said they would use the games to generate initial excitement, or act as a stopgap for students to play with while others finish their work, many thought the interactive components, such as measuring or tracking microbes, of the scope, as well as the possibility for students to build the device themselves were the most attractive features.

That’s likely because these games tip slightly too far to the “fun” side of the tricky balance required for successful instructive games, explains Lee Sheldon, educational game writer and designer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Sheldon was not involved in the project, but read about the LudusScope. He has developed a wide range of educational games and written several books on the topic of gamifying learning.

These game hybrids must somehow meld the world of math, science or history with the fast-paced, all-consuming experience of a video game, he explains. “It’s not an easy balancing act.”

The LudusScope is part of the growing trend of “gamifying” education. Since video games made their first appearances in homes across America during the 1970s, they’ve grown by leaps and bounds both in complexity and abundance—with the industry now valued somewhere around 1.8 trillion dollars. And as increasing numbers of students spend hours or even days adventuring through virtual worlds, educators hope to tap into the thrill of these games in their classrooms.

But this burgeoning field is still new. Game developers and educators alike are trying to figure out how to successfully gamify education. Oftentimes, explains Sheldon, these new games focus too much on extrinsic rewards—leaderboards, points, new hardware. “But what really involves the player and what really gets the students to learn without realizing it are intrinsic rewards,” he says.

These types of rewards involve teamwork and collaboration and require more than a gold star for doing a good job. “They’re not just the top dog on the leaderboard,” he says. The students are building skills as well as developing a desire to improve and succeed together.

“We get [extrinsic rewards] all the time,” he says. “We get paid for a job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we liked the job. The intrinsic reward makes it fun and makes it worthwhile. [It] creates a good, powerful emotion in the people that are involved.”

LudusScope is in its early days of development, and it is a first step to shift learning about the microscopic world from observation to actual interaction. The team is now working with an educational game company in hopes of making their games even more worthwhile and fun for future players. They are also ensuring that LudusScope aligns with Next Generation Science Standards—state-developed K-12 science content standards.

The authors also encourage others to improve upon what they have already created. “We put this paper out with all the building plans,” says Riedel-Kruse. “We hope that other people just pick this up and develop it further for their own needs and publish their modifications online.”

Sheldon, too, sees many potential applications for LudusScope.

“I’ve never found a subject matter that cannot be taught with a game,” he says.

Witness a Real-Life Wild West Buffalo Roundup

Smithsonian Magazine

Dust kicks up on a hill in the distance. The pasture vibrates, taking the abuse of thousands of feet stamping into the ground. A crowd on the other side of the range feels the energetic air and cheers in approval. The first cowboy crests the hill, snapping his whip in the air, rearing back on his horse and hollering into the wind. Three more join him, yelling and cracking whips into the widening dust cloud. A buffalo charges through the dirty mist. The leader of the pack runs down the hill with 1,300 more buffalo behind him. The crowd screams in excitement.

Every fall, this scene is repeated in South Dakota’s Black Hills during the annual Buffalo Roundup, when about 60 volunteer cowboys and cowgirls ride across the 71,000-acre range, funneling the American Bison herd into pens for vaccinations and herd maintenance before the winter season arrives. The roundup is part of a larger event with an arts and crafts festival, live entertainment, and meals. Custer State Park, where the buffalo roam, was originally founded as a game preserve in 1914, with 36 buffalo on a protected range to prevent overhunting and loss of habitat. By the 1940s, the buffalo population grew to more than 2,500. A range management plan—the Buffalo Roundup—had to be instituted to keep control of the herd and its health. The first roundup was in 1966. 

American Bison—named the national mammal earlier this year—haven't always had such booming numbers as they do here at Custer State Park. They were once nearly extinct from overhunting, but conservation efforts boosted the population to the current roughly 500,000 bison throughout the country. Custer State Park’s herd is one of the largest—second only to the herd at Yellowstone.

The Buffalo Roundup unofficially begins at 6:00 a.m. when a caravan of cars makes its way through Custer State Park to the viewing area. A pancake and sausage breakfast at 6:15 kicks off the festivities. The parking lots close at 9, and then you’re stuck until the entire herd is safely in the corrals, at about noon. Observers can either walk or take the shuttle bus to the viewing areas—the two hilltops overlook the corrals and the pasture the buffalo have their final charge through. When the show is over, most attendees eat an on-site lunch, then head out to the art festival.

Sometimes the roundup takes much longer than anticipated. Last year, the buffalo proved hard to catch. As soon as they’d arrive at the gates of the corral, the herd would linger for a moment, then about-face and run back up the way they came. The riders would turn and go after the buffalo, starting the entire process over again. Last year the herd tricked the riders four times. Each time, the crowd hollered and laughed in a joyous frenzy. It’s always more fun for the crowd when the buffalo tease the cowboys, one volunteer rider told

Over the following four days, crews maintain the herd. They administer vaccinations to new-to-the-herd buffalo, brand the calves, check for pregnancy, and select about 200 to be sold at an auction in November. It’s all part of a management plan to keep a healthy balance between animals and available range. 

“The annual roundup and working event is the one time each year that we handle the herd,” herd manager Chad Kremer tells “The size of the herd must be managed so that the forage resource in the park is not overgrazed.”

When the roundup isn't in full swing, the buffalo live and graze year-round in Custer State Park. Kremer's responsibility extends throughout that entire time—he maintains the herd population, runs the park's annual auction, participates in the roundup and monitors the herd's health. About 14,000 people each year gather in the park to watch the show and, thanks to Kremer, get a little education about bison safety.

“There’s the selfie movement,” he told the Grand Forks Herald last year. “People want to get a picture, and they think they have to be within five or six feet. They’re big, and they’re furry, and they look kind of cumbersome, but they can run 35 mph, and I’ve seen that bull that weighs a ton jump over a five-foot fence.” Translation: Don't get too close to the buffalo, unless you're a trained rider.

Want to come see one of the nation’s largest buffalo herds in action? This year’s event is September 30.

Wodarch's introduction to the study of conchology : describing the orders, genera, and species of shells : with observations on the nature and properties of the animals and directions for collecting, preserving, and cleaning shells

Smithsonian Libraries
"W. McDowall, printer"--Verso of t.p.

Frontispiece signed: E.A. Crouch, lithog.; other plates signed: J. Mawe.

Three leaves of letterpress are "explanation of the plates."

Plates are hand-colored.

Errata: p. [iv].

Also available online.


SCNHRB copy (39088013476858) with pencilled bibliographical markings on front free endpaper.

SCNHRB copy has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Purchased from the Alice E. Kennington Rare Book Fund.

SCNHRB copy half bound in green calf and marbled paper boards, gilt-decorated spine, red leather spine label with title in gilt.

Wodarch's introduction to the study of conchology : describing the orders, genera, and species of shells : with observations on the nature and properties of the animals; and directions for collecting, preserving, and cleaning shells / by J. Mawe

Smithsonian Libraries
"London: W. McDowall, printer"--Verso of t.p.

Plates accompanied by leaves with explanatory letterpress.

Frontispiece signed: Crouch lith., printed by Engelmann; plates I-VI signed: J. Mawe.

Plates are hand-colored.

Also available online.


SCNHRB copy (39088013486220) has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Bequest of S. Stillman Berry.

SCNHRB copy has [4] p. of publisher's advertisements bound-in at end.

SCNHRB copy has inscribed in ink on t.p.: Harriet Innes.

SCNHRB copy bound in original paper boards, spine rebacked with green cloth, original printed paper spine label; uncut.

Wodarch's introduction to the study of conchology : describing the orders, genera, and species of shells; with observations on the nature and properties of the animals : and directions for collecting, preserving, and cleaning shells

Smithsonian Libraries
Frontispiece signed: E.A. Crouch lithog.; plates I-VI signed J. Mawe.

Plates accompanied by leaves with explanatory letterpress.

Colophon: W. McDowall, printer.

Plates are hand-colored.

Includes index.

Also available online.


SCNHRB copy (39088013486261) has bookplate of William Healey Dall, Division of Mollusks Sectional Library. Stamped on front free endpaper and t.p.: Division of Mollusks Sectional Library.

SCNHRB copy has stamped on verso of t.p.: Smithsonian Institution National Museum Feb 20 1939 [acc. no.] 311205.

SCNHRB copy bound in recent green marbled paper boards, marbled edges; older green cloth spine, stamped in gilt at foot of spine: U.S.N.M.

Wodarch's introduction to the study of conchology: describing the orders, genera, and species of shells: with observations on the nature and properties of the animals; and directions for collecting, preserving, and cleaning shells

Smithsonian Libraries
"W. McDonall, printer ... Gough Square"--P. [6] (2nd group).

Frontispiece is signed: E.A. Crouch lith.; printed by W. Day; J. Mawe, 149 Strand.

Also available online.


SCNHRB copy 39088010383586 has bookplates: Alfred Wallis, Esq., F.R.S.L. ... Heavitree, Exeter; Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Purchased from the Cullman Endowment; pencil autograph of a former owner is on front free endpaper: Gertrude H. Wallis, June 4, 1916.

SCNHRB copy has some pencil and ink notes, apparently made by booksellers, on front free endpapers.

SCNHRB copy has old brown paperboard binding with ms. ink spine label.

Wolbachia modification of sperm does not always require residence within developing sperm

Smithsonian Libraries
Wolbachia are maternally inherited intracellular bacteria known to manipulate the reproduction of their arthropod hosts. Wolbachia commonly affect the sperm of infected arthropods. Wolbachia-modified sperm cannot successfully fertilize unless the female is infected with the same Wolbachia type. A study of spermatogenesis in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis reveals that Wolbachia are not required in individual spermatocytes or spermatids to modify sperm. In N. vitripennis, Wolbachia modify nearly all sperm, but are found only in similar to 28% of developing sperm, and are also found in surrounding cyst and sheath cells. In the beetle Chelymorpha alternans, Wolbachia can modify up to 90% of sperm, but were never observed within the developing sperm or within the surrounding cyst cells; they were abundant within the outer testis sheath. We conclude that the residence within a developing sperm is not a prerequisite for Wolbachia-induced sperm modification, suggesting that Wolbachia modification of sperm may occur across multiple tissue membranes or act upstream of spermiogenesis.

Wolf Tracker

Smithsonian Magazine

In the summer of 2005, Austrian-born field biologist Gudrun Pflueger set out on a quest to find the elusive Canadian coast wolves. With only an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 wolves inhabiting the dense forest along some 15,500 miles of shoreline, she scoured the coast of British Columbia by boat and foot in hopes that the rivers, bubbling with salmon during the spawning season, would draw the wolves into her view. Just before the end of her six-week expedition, she experienced her longed-for encounter. A small pack of wolves spotted her in a field, crept up close to her as she lay passively in the grass and ultimately accepted her presence, staying close for about an hour. Pflueger— the focus of a Smithsonian Channel documentary titled "A Woman Among the Wolves"—talks about her forays into the wild and her unique connection with wolves.

What first drew you to studying the Canadian coast wolves?
My interest in wolves started mainly because I heard about a wolf research and education organization [Central Rockies Wolf Project] based out of Canmore in the central Canadian Rockies. I wanted to support them so I sponsored or bought a partnership for one of their radio-collared wolves. If you do that you get an update about what your wolf is up to, where she's traveling and what she's experiencing. Suddenly I got this update that even if she was in a national park, wolves face high human-caused mortalities. Wildlife is under pressure because more and more people move to wild places. I actually introduced myself to this organization, and they hired me as a volunteer for snow tracking the Kootenay National Park wolf pack. I loved it so much that I decided that I'd like to make that my career. Since I was just about finished with my master's degree in biology in Austria, I thought once I'm done, I'll return to Canada and try to find another similar wolf research project. It happened that I met Chris Darimont, who leads the Coastal Wolf Research Project. He said he was just establishing a new wolf project, and the rest is history. 

What makes them such an elusive pack?
First of all, the access. As a human, getting into their landscape and environment is already hard. But that's our problem. The forest is very thick, and they spend most of their time in the forest. They come out, however, along the beaches when there's low tide and along the rivers, mainly when the salmon run. They very rarely have human contact. Just in the last years, some sport hunters and outfitters moved into this area because wildlife turned out to be pretty easy to hunt or to shoot. Outfitters just went along the shorelines with their boats and shot from the boats and that made them [the wolves] very, very vulnerable and also very spooked by boats. They learn very quickly. They're social animals. They live in a pack, and if someone has a bad experience, it gets passed on to other individuals and other generations pretty quickly. That was really a high threat they started to encounter because they were pretty naïve to human hunting.  The Raincoast Conservation Society bought the hunting outfitter license off the local outfitters. So the conservation society—and this is unheard of worldwide—is now also a big outfitter in Canada. Of course, they won't shoot wolves and bears.

Can you describe what it took for you to get to the area of B.C. for the film?
It's one of the wildest areas in the whole of Canada, and surely along the whole coast of North America. There are no roads and very few small native communities that are all just accessible by boat or by small float planes. Since I was working in this area already for three summer seasons, we started to think: what's the best way to travel around to find wolves? We have to be mobile. The captain of the sailboat we hired was a long-term friend and supporter of our wolf research so for me it was a no-brainer to ask him.  We went with maps, and just by looking at certain topographies you can kind of predict, okay, this could be a potential wolf site, this could be a potential estuary where salmon spawn.  We contacted lots of local people—local river walkers and the local communities—because the people who live there are the most connected to the land.

Image by Gudrun Pflueger. Just before the end of her six-week expedition, Gudrun Pflueger experienced her longed-for encounter. A pack of wolves surrounded her in a field and began to play. "I always try to find better words, but all that I can come up with is calm and just very wonderful," says Pflueger. "They just accepted me." (original image)

Image by Matthey Film Production. In a remote estuary on the northern coast of British Columbia, Gudrun Pflueger howls to attract coast wolves. On learning how to mimic the "eerily beautiful" howl, Pflueger says, "Mainly [I'd practice] when I was by myself in the car driving along the highway when no one can listen." (original image)

What was your average day like on the trip?
They were long days. Especially when we found some wolves, we got up around 4:30 a.m., had a quick breakfast on the boat and then went on land and set up a blind. Then there was lots of waiting. Then during the days we did lots of traveling, just hopped off in high amounts of bays and rivers to check for any kinds of wolf signs.

Why is it important to make human contact with the wolves?
I highly believe that due to all our technology—remote cameras, satellite, collaring, DNA samples—we get a very good theoretical idea about wildlife but the good old classic observation of what we actually study is getting less and less. It's a worldwide trend. Observation is very time consuming, and time is money. Nowadays, we want to have data right away and in high concentration. But I really think that good observation of our animals is still a very important and necessary part of understanding them so we know what they need, why they need it and to make good decisions on how to protect them and their habitats. It's especially interesting in a very social animal like the wolf.  There are some sociologists who state that the social behavior of wolves is even closer to that of the human than that of the primate.

Was this your longest foray into the wild looking for the coast wolves?
I always came back to some kind of hut or park warden cabin. The longest I've camped out was five months, but every second week, I'd come out to get groceries or gas and stuff. To really get in tune with nature, it takes me a few days. The longer you are uninterrupted, just in the rhythm of nature, the easier it is to become in tune and pick up and see more and smell more and just open all your senses. When you are returning in the evening to a civilized place, it kind of slows this process down a bit.

And all you bring for protection is insect repellant and pepper spray?
I believe that if you carry around a shotgun or a gun, you approach it with the wrong mindset. We have a saying in German, which translated word for word is something like "The tone you shout into the forest, it echoes back." So if you carry around a rifle, it means ‘I am ready for fighting you.' I am sure that animals pick that up and approach someone with a rifle more aggressively than an unarmed, harmless person.

How close had you gotten to a coast wolf prior to this trip?
Two to three times actually I surprised wolves while I was walking on their wolf trails. Again, it's a very dense forest so we kind of ran into each other. It's always by surprise. That was the big difference with the film because I was sitting in the open and they saw me from a distance and decided to come towards me.

Watch this video in the original article

How did you feel lying in the field with the wolves surrounding you?
I always try to find better words, but all that I can come up with is calm and just very wonderful. I felt like I was just lying in the air, that it was ok, that whatever happens now it's okay. The situation kind of carefully evolved. It was always their decision to come closer and closer. They didn't rush. They took their time. They tried to smell me. They tried to figure out with all their senses what I was and what I was for them — if I was harmful or harmless. They never showed any sign that they would even remotely consider me as prey.

Their approach towards me was a very new situation. Even for them this was a very new situation. They really kept their structure. The younger wolves stayed behind and came later on—basically, when they got the green light from the alphas. So it was really interesting to see and to document how they started to relax and to play beside me even when I sat upright. They just accepted me. They know when they have to spend the energy running away, chasing something away or threatening something. In this case, they decided it was not necessary to spend their energy on dealing with me.

Did you go into this thinking that you could be risking your life?
Some things like that you just can't plan for. It just happened. The cameraman and his soundman were far away. They were on the other side of the river beyond the fringe of the forest so the wolves didn't know there were more people there. They told me afterwards that they started to be uneasy and had thoughts like what if something goes wrong in the next second, we are too far away to help her in any way. For whatever reason, it was never in my mind.

What do you hope people take away from the film, "A Woman Among Wolves?"
I hope I give them a realistic image of the wolf. At the beginning [of the film], you see wolves attacking bear and chasing caribou. In the last century, most everywhere it was the big bad wolf, threatening whatever is ‘civilized.' It was a very dark, negative image. Just in the very last decade, suddenly wolves took on another image; they became a symbol of freedom, grace and diminishing wild places. So positive attributes. But the wolf itself is an animal, and it doesn't care about all that. We tend to categorize things in good and bad; nature doesn't.

I have to ask. How did you learn how to mimic the wolf's howl?
A wolf howl—and you can ask anybody who's ever heard one—gives you goose bumps. It still gives me goose bumps. I'm not sure what it is, if it's the frequency or just the tone. It's eerily beautiful.

With other research colleagues you kind of talk about what's the typical characteristics of the wolf howl. So mainly [I'd practice] when I was by myself in the car driving along the highway when no one can listen. It's bizarre and kind of ironic.

Woman Dressing

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Woman observing flowers

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Woman with back to observer playing samisen

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Woman's Linen Skirt (Mosi Chima)

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
"Late 19th century. Linen. The skirt is blue and the waistband and the tying string white. Chima may be long or short, narrow or wide requiring fewer or more pleats, lined or unlined and varicolored, depending upon the prescribed styles associated with certain occasions, seasons and age of the wearer. A dress skirt can have gold-leaf stamped decorations along the hemline (Kim, 1988b: 482 for style variations). This wraparound skirt has a full-length opening and overlaps on the left side, with only a small amount of the material tucked into the waist band. Hough makes the curious observation that: "The appearance of this garment has led Korean women to say that they dress like western women." Bernadou Field Notes 123 "... Tch'ma [chima] or dress of blue cotton stuff. This is put on like a long apron, the strings taken around the waist and fastened behind. In walking, the folds are generally gathered by hand and tucked under the waistband." Collected in Seoul. Ref: Hough Korean Catalog p. 449; Bernadou Field Notes 123" [from: "An Ethnography of the Hermit Kingdom: The J.B. Bernadou Korean Collection 1884-1885", Chang-su Cho Houchins, 2004, number 34]

Women and the Way of the Pedal-empowered

Smithsonian Magazine

Facing the Void: Ellee Thalheimer stands before a high pass near Sampeyre, Italy after an ascent of several thousand feet.

Four months ago, upon arriving in Sofia, Bulgaria to begin a two-month bicycle tour, I met a Ukrainian man named “Slav” at my hostel. Like me, he was an avid cyclist and chronic adventurer and had toured alone through much of Europe. He knew the regions, roads and mountains of Bulgaria like corners of his own backyard. He had pedaled, as well, the entire rim of the Mediterranean Sea, even requiring a tank escort as he skirted the shore of Algeria. Slav’s favorite thing to say about this North African nation was, “Algeria is not touristic. It’s terroristic.” He said so about once per hour.

Slav lived at the hostel. An environmental and social activist, he worked daily to promote bicycle travel in and around Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. He helped lead a critical mass bike ride every Thursday night through the streets of downtown, and each afternoon he led tourists on guided bike rides to the city’s chief attractions. In doing so, Slav pulled in a slight income and managed to sustain one of the most inspiring, freewheeling lifestyles I’ve encountered.

Funny thing was, this man happened to be a vehement opponent of, as he put it, “the emancipated woman.”

“Why must a woman pursue a career?” said Slav, who was 35 and had already been divorced twice. “A man is the hunter, and he provides for his family. A woman takes care of the house, cooks, cleans, watches children. It was that way for thousands of years. Why change now?”

“You ride a bike,” I pointed out. “Ancient hunters didn’t. Do you hunt?”

He admitted he did not. I posed him another question: “What if a woman wanted to go bike touring with you?” He frowned.

Long ago in America, biking did help bring about emancipation (sorry Slav). Civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony observed this in 1896 when she said that “(bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” And this year, two books came out in which the authors discuss the bicycle’s historical role in the empowerment of women: It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn and Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy. (Since the cold, wet and wintry season of armchair adventuring is upon us, I’ll soon review these books in some detail.)

Today, more pedal-empowered women than ever are avid bikers. In Amsterdam, New York City, San Francisco, Rome and beyond, women zip soundlessly and nimbly through the streets. They take the lane, merge left to turn, assert their rights as commuters, flip on flashing lights for night riding and blissfully bypass one of society’s nastiest illnesses: the traffic jam. The most intrepid of these women sometimes pack luggage onto their bikes and tour the world. As they pedal, the bicycle charges them with strength, spirit and independence.

In Portland, the thriving bicycle culture teems with thousands of women—31 percent of the cycling populace by one recent count. Among them are two prominent writers and cyclists who are further pushing the bicycle revolution: Elly Blue, a journalist with Grist who has authored a remarkable online series exploring the social and economic value of bicycles, and Ellee Thalheimer, a yoga instructor and writer who has been laboring by pedal and pen to promote the thrilling and rewarding experience of bicycle touring.

Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance: Thalheimer fixes a flat with the composure of a yogi.

This, I decided, I had to hear more about, so recently I spoke by phone with Thalheimer, whose personal website even states, “Bike touring is one of my favorite things ever.”

I asked her why.

“There’s just something about putting all your bags on a bike and riding off and being open to experiencing whatever the road brings you that day,” she said. “It teaches you to be open to the world in a new kind of way.”

Thalheimer’s first bicycle tour was a north-to-south Pacific Coast run with her dad about a decade ago, immediately after college. She fell in love with the lifestyle, kicked into high gear and has since toured extensively—in South America, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States. One of her most rewarding journeys of all was her three-month solo ride throughout Italy in 2008, the research end of a book project for Lonely Planet. She loved the nation north to south, credits Italy as being the place “where I learned to really love food,” and remembers Sampeyre in the Alps as one of the most beautiful places she’s ever seen.

“I don’t usually cry when I see pretty things, but when I got to the top of that pass in Sampeyre, the view was just insane,” she said. “It was so beautiful I almost couldn’t believe it.”

She had to come down, though, and eventually go home, but Thalheimer is almost as thrilled by parts of Oregon. She especially loves Crater Lake and the surrounding country, she says, “but eastern Oregon has really captured my heart. The people are as friendly as they get, the land is beautiful, with mountains and some really hard climbs.” (Thalheimer is marked by a personality trait common to many cyclists: In her words, “I love feeling exhausted.”)

To extol the virtues of her home state as seen from a bicycle and to encourage others (“who might be on the fence about bike touring,” she says) to get on their own bikes and go, Thalheimer is now wrapping up a guidebook about cycle touring in Oregon, a project she’s been researching for years. The book is due out this spring. Asked whether she’s at all reluctant to tell the world about her favorite places, she said, “I love seeing other cyclists when I’m traveling. When two cycle tourists meet somewhere in the middle of nowhere, you immediately have something in common with that person, and you connect in a way that you never could in an urban area.  Anyway, if we ever had a glut of cycle tourists in remote areas, I think the world would be a better place.”

Millions of us agree. I do, and probably so does Slav, who sings the gospel of bicycle touring and building a bike-friendly society in Sofia. It’s a beautiful melody he croons—except the part where he envisions leaving women at the sink elbow deep in dishwater. No matter, because many women have already left him in the dust.

Women in Science Receive Less Grant Money Than Their Male Peers

Smithsonian Magazine

A new study published in JAMA reveals a significant gender disparity between the size of research grants awarded to projects led by first-time investigators. As Andrew Jacobs writes for The New York Times, researchers from Northwestern University report that on average, the National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.) doles out an extra $41,000 in grant money to applications listing men as their principal authors.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Alison Bowen, the Northwestern team analyzed some 54,000 N.I.H. grants awarded between 2006 and 2017. Based on this data, the scientists found that female applicants received a median grant of $126,615, while men received an average of $165,721.

Such gaps in funding place women at a disadvantage from the earliest stages of their careers, study co-author Teresa Woodruff explains in a statement.

“With less federal funding, women can’t recruit the same number of grad students to work on their research or buy the same amount of equipment as their male counterparts,” Woodruff says. “A funding disadvantage in the formative years of a woman scientist’s career can be especially handicapping because research shows that it is likely to snowball over time.”

Inside Higher Ed’s Colleen Flaherty points out that the researchers only compared first-time grant applicants who were at similar stages in their careers. At the time of application, both male and female principal investigators boasted a median of two published articles per year across two separate research areas. These articles were cited by other scientists in the field an average of 15 times.

“It means women are working harder with less money to get to the same level as men,” Woodruff tells The New York Times’ Jacobs. “If we had the same footing, the engine of science would move a little faster toward the promise of basic science and medical cures.”

Gender-based funding differences persisted when the team broke down grants by institution: As Francie Diep reports for Pacific Standard, women scientists from the so-called Big Ten universities—a group of 14 public schools centered in the Midwest—received first-time N.I.H. grants worth $82,000 less than their male peers. At the Ivy League level, the gap in funding was closer to $19,500—a smaller but still notable disparity. Finally, at the top 50 N.I.H.-funded institutions, Reuters’ Lisa Rapaport observes, women received a median award of $93,916, while men received $134,919.

Overall, female scientists’ award amounts only outpaced men’s when it came to R01 grants, which Inverse’s Sarah Sloat notes support health-related research. On average, women applying for R01 grants received $15,913 more than men.

In a statement, N.I.H. representatives said the agency is “aware and concerned about differences in funding patterns between women and men in science.” Citing a Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers as evidence of its commitment to redressing the field’s gender imbalance, N.I.H. further told Inside Higher Ed’s Flaherty that it would co-fund a study dedicated to the issues raised by the Northwestern research.

Speaking with Reuters, Carrie Byington, dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, outlines several explanations for the gender funding gap: Overarching differences in salary could be at play, as personnel costs constitute a significant portion of grant budgets. “If women are paid less than men, the overall budgets might be smaller,” Byington, who was not involved in the study, explains.

Rosemary Morgan, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who was also not involved in the study, posits that women scientists could be requesting less money than men. It’s also possible, however, that women ask for comparable amounts but simply receive smaller awards.

“Each [scenario] reflects gender bias in the system—in either the ways in which women are brought up to ask for less or the system not seeing their work as equal to that of men’s,” Morgan tells Reuters.

“This matters for patients as researchers tend to research areas that are relevant to them—with women more likely to research issues related to women’s health,” Morgan concludes. “If female researchers are receiving less funding then the issues that female researchers are studying are receiving less money.”

Women's Week Program Participants During International Women's Year, 1975

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Original film available in SIA Acc. 11-009.

Featured in the "Torch," September 1975.

Caption from "Torch": International Women's Year 1975 was observed at the Smithsonian during "Women's Week" August 4 through 8. Guest speaker at the opening program was Dr. C. Dolores [sic] Tucker, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (above left), who was introduced by T. Ames Wheeler, SI Treasurer. 'Even though the road is rocky, personal experience has taught me that perseverance is the only way to wear down those rocks,' Dr. Tucker said in the course of her address, adding 'I'm certain that the antiquated attitudes with which you have had to contend will gradually become a thing of the past.'

With Dr. C. DeLores Tucker, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (second from left), and T. Ames Wheeler, SI Treasurer.

Women: Art: Houston

National Museum of American History

Won-de-tów-a, The Wonder

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wood Shelters Our Planes

National Air and Space Museum
Offset Lithograph: Black and white illustrated print with a white border, promoting wood use and production for hangars. A hangar with trusses and walls is shown under construction with stacks of lumber in the foreground. Two U.S. Army Air Forces planes fly overhead. Construction workers and a truck are shown at work on the ground. Artist signature reproduced at upper left, "Rochon Hoover."

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

Copyright Disclosure for Orphaned Works

Whenever possible, the museum provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in its records and other texts related to the collections. For many of the images in this collection, some of which were created for or by corporate entities that no longer exist, the museum does not own any copyrights. Therefore, it generally does not grant or deny permission to copy, distribute or otherwise use material in this collection. If identified, permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the museum. It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when copying, distributing or otherwise using materials found in the museum's collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected materials beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Users must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.

If you have any more information about an item you've seen in the Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection, or if you are a copyright owner and believe we have not properly attributed your work to you or have used it without permission, we want to hear from you. Please contact with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.

View more information about the Smithsonian's general copyright policies at

Wooden Bow

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
This object is on loan to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, from 2010 through 2022.

From card: "With cord."

Source of the information below: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge website, by Aron Crowell, entry on this artifact, retrieved 5-15-2014: Bow Some early Western observers in the Aleutian Islands, such as Tolstykh in 1764 and Merck in 1790, believed that the bow and arrow were unknown to the people and that all hunting was done with darts and harpoons. Others, such as Cook in 1778 and Veniaminov in 1823-34, observed that bows were used for hunting land animals and birds, as well as for warfare. Elders remember that wooden bows like this one, reinforced with sinew, were occasionally used even in the 20th century for bird hunting. From Elders' discussions of the hat in 2003 (see web page cited above for the full entries) with Mary N. Bourdukofsky, Vlass Shabolin, Maria Turnpaugh and Daria Dirks (Tanadgusix Foundation) at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 4/07/2003-4/11/2003. Also participating: Aron Crowell and Bill Fitzhugh (NMNH) and Suzi Jones (AMHA). When [my father] ran out of [shotgun shells] he used a little bow and arrow like that, "just for emergencies," he used to say. - Mary Bourdukofsky

Wooden Bowl

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

"There is a circular, 37cm-diameter carved wooden bowl (Figure 71e) ... Provenience: 'Paiutes,' USNM 14452." Fowler and Matley (1979). p. 76

“Southern Paiute, Southern Utah” is a distinction observed by Fowler and Matley (1979) when specific band identification was not possible. “Southern Paiute. Southern Utah refers in general to the bands that Powell encountered in southern Utah and the Arizona Strip (that portion of present-day Arizona north of the Grand Canyon), i.e., the Kaibab, Uinkarets, Unkakaniguts and Shivwits.” [see: Fowler and Matley (1979), p. 5-6]

Culture attribution per Fowler and Matley (1979)
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