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National Museum of Natural History

The Museum is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs.

NMNHThe National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs. Opened in 1910, the green-domed museum on the National Mall was among the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to house the national collections and research facilities. Since opening, the main building on the National Mall has grown to the size of 18 football fields, and now houses over 1000 employees and more than 126 million NMNHnatural science specimens and cultural artifacts.

Whether looking at the history and cultures of Africa, exploring the effects of climate change on earth’s plants and animals, describing our earliest Mammalian ancestor or primate diversity around the world, examining ancient life forms, or exploring the beauty of rare gemstones and meteorites, the Museum’s exhibitions educate and enlighten millions of visitors each year. All the Museum’s research and exhibitions relate to climate change in some aspect. Climate change is at the heart of our work.

Through its research, NMNHcollections, education and exhibition programs, NMNH serves as one of the world’s great repositories of scientific and cultural heritage as well as a source of tremendous pride for all Americans.


Web Virtual Tour of the Museum
Follow the arrows or use the interactive map to go on a virtual tour of the Museum. Explore room-by-room and get close-up views of objects and exhibits.
Web Virtual Tour of the Sant Ocean Hall
Dive in and discover all there is to see and do in the Museum’s newest exhibition, the Sant Ocean Hall.
Web Take the Ocean Friend Challenge
Are you ready to become an Ocean Friend and help protect the ocean? You can get started by taking these steps and then printing an official certificate from the Smithsonian when you’re done!
Web Tale of a Whale Lesson
In this lesson plan, students in grades 4-12 meet Phoenix --a North Atlantic Right Whale and the ambassador for the Sant Ocean Hall. Through her story, students connect to the broader issues, like climate change, facing this endangered species.
PDF Educator’s Guide to the Sant Ocean Hall
Engage your students in the search for evidence to address their own questions with guided preparation for their visit to the Sant Ocean Hall. Activities are differentiated for students in grades 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Connections to National Science Education Standards and Ocean Science Literacy Principles are included.
Web Forces of Change Program
Nearly every scientific and social issue confronting us today involves change: climate change, ecological change, cultural change. What forces drive these changes? How do we - and all life on this planet - adapt to these changes? Come and explore the answers to these and other important questions with us in this interactive web site.
Web Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely
The Arctic’s climate has been changing. Spring thaws are earlier. Fall freeze-ups are later. Sea ice is shrinking. Explore the Arctic’s changing climate, and discover what these changes mean for the Arctic—and the rest of the planet.
Web Take A Ride on the Climate Rollercoaster
The Arctic’s climate has changed many times during the past 20,000 years since the end of the Ice Age. Some of these changes have been slow, while others seem to have occurred quite rapidly. Ride the Climate Rollercoaster to explore the Arctic’s deep climate history.
Web Caribou and Climate Interactive
Play the Caribou interactive and explore how climate change impacts Arctic caribou populations. Learn how scientists are trying to better predict future impacts.
Web Eyewitnesses to Arctic Climate Change
Only recently has the full extent of changes in the Arctic come to light as polar residents and scientists have begun to share their knowledge and expertise. Meet the residents of Sachs Harbour, Canada, as they relate their eyewitness accounts of Arctic climate change.
Web Sea Ice Depletion from 1979-2005
The last decade has seen the greatest reductions in sea ice since the advent of satellite records in the 1970s. This animation documents the dramatic sea ice reduction from 1979-2005.
Web Meet Archaeologist, Dr. William Fitzhugh
Meet Smithsonian archaeologist, Dr. William Fitzhugh and learn how he uncovers clues to past Arctic climates through his excavations. Explore how cultures responded to changing climates in sometimes surprising ways.
Web Atmosphere: Change is in the Air
This virtual exhibition explore earth’s atmosphere. Many chemical compounds form, break apart, and reform in the air we breathe. Most of these atmospheric reactions occur naturally, but human activity also influences them. Chemical interactions in the air have the potential to undermine the delicate balance of life on Earth. Take a look at the impact people have had on the atmosphere.
Web Meet Paleoclimatologist, Dr. Scott Wing
Learn how paleoclimatologists (scientists who study ancient climate) like the Smithsonian’s Scott Wing explore earth’s ancient atmosphere through fossils.
Web Meet plant physiologist, Dr. Bert Drake
Meet Dr. Bert Drake, plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center near Annapolis, Maryland, has studied plant responses to carbon dioxide under controlled conditions, longer than anyone else.
Web Atmospheric Change Timeline
Explore the Atmosphere Change Interactive Timeline and learn how people have been affecting the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years.
Web Dig It! The Secrets of Soil
Explore the science and importance of soil. Soils affect clean water and clean air, fresh tomatoes and fine wine, dams and dry basements, subway tunnels and superhighways, fields and forests, wildlife and weather. Learn how soil scientists analyze soils and become a soil explorer!
Web Wise Soil Management
We are soil. Our bodies are built from nutrients that plants mine from fields and pastures and we take in with each bite of food. Learn about the risks to soil health including pollution, climate change, and erosion, and explore how to protect soil fertility.
Web The Big Picture Soil Game
How well do you understand the soil beneath your feet? How about soils thousands of miles away? Soils around the world are at risk from climate change and human mismanagement. Test your soil knowledge in this fun game and learn about the global impacts of soil.
Web Meet Soil Ecologist, Dr. Pat Megonigal
Pat Megonigal is one of many scientists at the Smithsonian Institution who study soils to understand topics ranging from soil critters to climate change to ancient cultures. He enjoys working and playing in swamps and marshes, some of the “dirtiest” places on Earth.

Resources Suggested by Scott Wing:

Scott WingClimate Change Online Conference presenter Scott Wing, Curator of Fossil Plants, Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History, has shared the following resources to complement his session on “Looking Forward by Looking Back: What Does the Fossil Record Say About Climate Change?”.

Web Mississippi to Montana: Plants Danced to Climate’s Quick Tune
Web On the road in Wyoming: The Secretary’s travel journal
Web PETM: Unearthing Ancient Climate Change
Web Thomas Nash Photographs of Big Horn Basin
Web Warm swarms
Web Back to the future: The earth warmed considerably some 55 million years ago. What does that tell us about our current climate dilemma?

Articles by Nancy Knowlton on Coral Reefs:

Nancy KnowltonClimate Change Online Conference presenter Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the National Museum of Natural History, has shared the following articles which she has written or co-written. The resources complement her session on Coral Reefs: Impacts of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification on Aquatic Ecosystems.

PDF Coral Reefs
This article is a short primer on coral reefs. It outlines the basic biology and conservation issues for reefs, and is written for people that are not coral reef scientists. It was published in Current Biology, Vol. 8, No. 1, R18 .
PDF Shifting Baselines, Local Impacts, and Global Change on Coral Reefs
This article focuses on local and global threats to reefs and offers comparisons of reefs with and without large human populations for the purpose of understanding the impacts of climate change and acidification. It was co-authored by Jeremy B. C. Jackson and published in PLoS Biology Biology, February 2008, Volume 6, Issue 2, e54.
PDF The Future of Coral Reefs
This piece, which is somewhat more technical that the articles above, explores all major threats to reefs. It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 8, 2001, vol. 98, no. 10, 5419–5425.
PDF Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
This article by Hoegh-Guldberg, et al., which is more technical in nature, focuses specifically on the impact of greenhouse gases on coral reefs. It was published in Science, December 14, 2007, vol. 318.