Ian Price

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An educator talks with children in the Michigan Science Center's Spark Lab

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An image from the Creatures of Light exhibit

August 14, 2016 Comments Off on Blog: Introducing Creatures of Light Views: 2519 Blog

Blog: Introducing Creatures of Light

We’re excited to announce our newest special exhibit, Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescencecreated by the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibit made its debut in 2012 and the curator John Sparks, an associate curator in the museum’s Department of Ichthyology, a professor in the museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, described his work on the exhibit in a series of museum blogs. Continue reading to discover what went into the making of this incredible exhibit.

Behind the Scenes of Creatures of Light
By John Sparks, from a Museum of Natural History blog

Every exhibition we produce is a collaboration between the Museum’s research scientists and the exhibition team, which includes writers, designers, artists, and media specialists. I’m the curator for this exhibition, which means that I oversee the scientific content and bring expertise from my research—in this case, on the evolution of bioluminescent signaling systems in marine fishes. Here’s my first dispatch:

Getting the Light Right

Workers use a spectrophotometer to measure the spectrum of emitted light

David Gruber and Amy Vlastelica use a spectrophotometer to measure the spectrum of emitted light. Photo courtesy of John Sparks.


Scientific accuracy is our top priority. Although it may seem trivial, getting the color (or wavelength) of the emitted light just right for this exhibition’s many models of bioluminescent creatures—fireflies, glowworms, siphonophores, and ponyfishes—is fundamental to accurately reproducing the diversity of natural light that organisms use for a variety of functions.

During one of our weekly walk-throughs in the Department of Exhibition’s studio, I snapped this photo of Museum Research Associate David Gruber (CUNY), who has been working with me on the exhibition, and one of the designers, Amy Vlastelica. They’re using a portable spectrophotometer, an instrument that measures the spectrum of emitted light, and an array of colored filters to find just the right combination to match the natural wavelength of bioluminescent light produced by each organism highlighted in the exhibit. As a result, visitors will be able to see the subtly dissimilar colors that different species of fireflies use to attract mates, as well as the myriad colors used by bioluminescent creatures across the tree of life.

Creatures of Light opens at the Michigan Science Center on September 24!

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