South Florida Museum Weekly News: Upcoming events, programs and more

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New York Students Take a Virtual Field Trip to Meet Snooty and his Pals!
Students from Kathie Santa Maria’s Class in Tonawonda, NY Visited the South Florida Museum’s Manatee Aquarium via Skype – and donated $250 to “Carrie’s Match for the Manatees”
Director of Living Collections Marilyn Margold sits on the Aquarium’s dock, speaking with children in New York state during their “virtual field trip.”


Kathie Santa Maria has a special love for manatees. She transferred this interest to her students at Holmes Elementary School in Tonawanda, NY. The students have learned all they could about manatees – and developed a special fondness for Snooty. 


Students ask questions and see the manatees via an iPad held by the Museum’s Curator of Education, Samantha Sprague.

Last Tuesday, May 13, Samantha Sprague, Curator of Education at the Museum, worked with Ms. Santa Maria to have a special internet “conversation” between her class and Snooty via Skype. Sprague has facilitated this process for the students before. They were able to see Snooty and ask questions of the Museum’s Director of Living Collections Marilyn Margold. Of these experiences, Sprague said “Sharing the Aquarium experience with our guests is always fun, but when the manatees swam past the tiny iPad screen for the first time that day, the squeaks and squeals of the excited students made all of our hearts jump. I think even Snooty and the other boys heard them!”



Sprague continued, “Each student has carefully prepared questions for our Aquarium staff, and taking turns they got the chance to hear their questions answered while having the iPad screen all to themselves. Despite the distance, it was clear these students experienced an intimate and memorable connection with our manatees.”


As a special component to the project, Santa Maria visited Snooty at the Museum nearly a year ago on Monday, June 17, 2013. Museum and Aquarium staff gave Santa Maria a behind-the-scenes tour and she was able to meet the big guy, Snooty, face-to-face. Santa Maria was also given the opportunity to observe Snooty’s biannual physical, where she watched as he was weighed, measured, examined and – Snooty’s favorite part – scrubbed and massaged. Her students were delighted as Santa Maria waved at them from the Snooty Cam. 

Kathy Santa Maria visited Snooty in June of last year as part of her efforts to teach her students about manatees.

This is Ms. Santa Maria’s third year teaching her class about Snooty and manatees. In 2012, the children, who stay with Santa Maria for second and third grades, collected whatever spare change they could find to raise about $60 as a donation for Snooty’s care – as well as the young manatees currently in rehabilitation in the Aquarium. In 2013, the students were able to more than double their money to $129. This year, the children raised more than $250 for Snooty and his pals. That $250 will feed all three manatees currently in the Museum’s care for one day. 


Summer Smith from Bay News 9 asks the students about the money they raised for Snooty and the manatees. Visit Bay News 9 here to read their coverage of the event here. 


What Ms. Santa Maria’s class didn’t know was that these funds would actually be doubled this year by a very special fundraising effort currently underway at the Museum. “Carrie’s Match for the Manatees” turned these students’ $250 donation into more than $500 for the Museum’s Manatee Care Program. The class hooted with delight after being told that their donation had been doubled. That money will now be enough to feed Snooty, Ace and Myakklemore for TWO days, instead of one.  


Museum supporter Carrie Yearwood has very generously offered to match all donations to the Museum’s Manatee Care Program up to a total of $40,000. The resulting $80,000 will go toward food and care for Snooty, Ace and Myakklemore, the two rehabilitation manatees staying with Snooty. The South Florida Museum launched “Carrie’s Match for the Manatees” in conjunction with the 2014 Giving Challenge and is continuing the Match into the summer months. “This is the perfect time to support the Museum and double the good,” says Museum Executive Director Brynne Anne Besio. “I love the fact you can double your impact, give manatees in need a second chance and help take care of Snooty, all at the same time.”


The three manatees will eat almost 75,000 lbs. of romaine lettuce and vegetables this year at a cost of nearly $75,000, and life support costs (electricity and water) total $55,000 annually for the Aquarium. The total Aquarium budget exceeds $280,000 annually. Since very little state or federal funding is available for the Museum’s Manatee Care Program, we must rely on caring people like Carrie Yearwood, Kathie Santa Maria and her students, and the 73 people who helped make this year the most successful Giving Challenge yet for the Museum… and there’s still time for additional help from you!

ALL gifts made to “Carrie’s Match for the Manatees,” up to a total of $40,000, will be matched. All donations to the South Florida Museum are tax deductible. If you have any questions about “Carrie’s Match,” please contact Development Director Martha Wells at (941) 746-4131, ext. 35 or [email protected]



Film Fridays Screening this Week – True Grit 


Friday, May 23 at 6 pm
 The South Florida Museum is pleased to present 
Film Fridays, our exciting film program presenting the best movies you’ve (n)ever seen – most Fridays at 6 pmDon’t forget to join us early 

for our selection of beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks available for purchase. Please note: the theater may be cold, sweaters or jackets are recommended.  


Current Series: “Recycle, Remake, Reboot” – Storytellers have been reusing material for centuries, retelling the same narratives and revisiting the same characters in oral traditions, written word, theater, and, yes, in filmmaking. This series examines the stories that we choose to tell time and again – from adaptations of classic literature to reboots of popular film series and remakes of earlier classics. Join us to see the same old stories evolve in new and wonderful ways. 


This Week’s Film:

True Grit (2010) Rated PG-13, 109 minutes. Jeff Bridges had big boots to fill after John Wayne’s iconic performance as Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of True Grit. And he did it with a “Duke”- worthy growl and saunter all his own. This version retells the story of a tough U.S. Marshal who helps a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer in the dangerous Indian territory.



Museum Members – $3

Non-Members – $5

Paid reservations required; please RSVP by clicking here or call us at 941-746-4131, ext. 17. 

Please arrive promptly: Pre-purchased program seats will be held until 5 minutes prior to program start time ONLY, at which time they may be released for re-sale.


Future Films in the Series:  

May 30: Mansfield Park (1999) Rated PG-13, 112 minutes. 

June 6: Star Trek (2009) Rated PG-13, 126 minutes.

June 13: No Film Fridays screening this week.

June 20: The Magnificent Seven (1960) Not Rated, 127 minutes. 

June 27: The Wizard of Oz (1939) Rated G, 102 minutes. 

(Click here for more information and reservations.)  


Sponsored in part by


Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. 


Coffee: The World in Your Cup
in the Museum’s East Gallery
Join us for the Exhibition Reception
next Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 pm



South Florida Museum presents Coffee: The World in Your Cup, an exhibition that tells the story of one of the world’s most widely traded commodities and how it has affected cultures, economies, and environments across the globe. On view from May 27, 2014 to August 29, 2014, Coffee explores the environmental and social impacts of the coffee industry and recommends ways for consumers to make socially and environmentally responsible coffee purchases at the grocery store or in a coffee shop. (Please note: the exhibition will not be open this weekend as previously advertised due to a delay in shipment delivery. We apologize for any confusion. The exhibition will open on Tuesday, May 27 with the Exhibition Reception to follow on Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 pm.) 


The Exhibition Reception will include a free coffee tasting, the DaVinci’s Gelato food truck featuring a selection of gelato varieties including a scrumptious espresso flavor (for purchase) and live music in a delightful coffee house / bistro setting. The reception is free to Museum Members and $5 for non-members (click here to RSVP). Visitors will be welcome to browse the exhibition and speak with Museum staff about the exhibition and related upcoming programs. Light refreshments will be provided in addition to a cash bar. 


Learn about the impacts of caffeine, the world’s most commonly-used drug, on your body, discover coffee’s early controversial reputation as a “revolutionary drink,” and consider the culture that surrounds coffee in the twenty-first century. Photos, maps, text, selected artifacts, audiovisual presentations, and hands-on demonstrations help visitors explore the fascinating world behind the coffee we drink. 


Coffee: The World in Your Cup has been organized by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington. 


Join us for the Coffee Exhibition Reception:  
Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

(Free for Museum Members / $5 Non-members)
Click here to RSVP or call 941-746-4131, ext. 17




Get a ‘Sneak Peek’ at The Mall at University Town Center
and Support the Museum!
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
(the night before the center opens)

Tickets: $100 each – 
100% of the ticket price will benefit the South Florida Museum 


Be the first to shop at The Mall at University Town Center! 

The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota will be western Florida’s newest retail development.  Ten local non-profits, including the South Florida Museum, will benefit from the Sneak Peek of The Mall at University Town Center with 100% of the ticket sales going directly to the organization of your choice. Tickets are $100 each (fully tax deductible) and may be purchased from the Museum by calling Laurie Voight at 941-746-4131, ext. 17.


Taubman, in conjunction with Benderson Development is developing the 880,000 square foot, two-level enclosed regional shopping center, opening to the public October 16, 2014.  Anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Dillard’s, the Center is located at the S.W. quadrant of I-75 and University Parkway, the most heavily traveled interchange in the trade area. For more information about The Mall at University Town Center, visit them online by clicking here.


Other participating non-profits include: All Faith’s Food Bank, Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota, Circus Arts Conservatory – Sailor Circus, Florida Studio Theater, The Food Bank of Manatee, Girl’s Inc., The Manatee Players, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and Nate’s Animal Rescue. For more information about the Museum’s sale of these limited “Sneak Peek” tickets, click here.


The evening will include: 

  • Continuous Entertainment
  • Complimentary Food and Beverages throughout the Center
  • Complimentary Valet Parking
  • Receive a $20 gift card from The Mall at University Town Center upon check-in!
Contact Laurie Voight for tickets and information at
or 941.746.4131, ext 17.

(Tickets are nearly gone and are expected to sell out quickly.)



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In This Issue:
New York State Elementary Students’ Virtual Field Trip with Snooty
Film Fridays
New Exhibition Opens Next Week
Tickets to Sneak Peek of The Mall at University Town Center
Museum Hours
Program Calendar
Meteor Shower This Weekend!
Museum Store
Welcome Sam Richardson
Volunteer Central
Snooty Cam
Museum Affiliations

Hours and Info

Current Museum Hours:

Tuesday through Saturday:
10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: Noon to 5 pm
 (Closed Mondays until July)

2014 Admission Prices:

Adults – $18
Seniors (65+) – $16 
Children (4-12) – $14  
Children 3 and under – Free with paying adult
Museum Members – Free
(click here for details)
Active Military / Florida Teachers – Free with proper ID
Combo Tickets are also available for the South Florida Museum and the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition, click here for more information.

For more info, call 941-746-4131, ext. 0 or visit


2014 Certificate of Excellence Winner
Have you rated the South Florida Museum on TripAdvisor yet?Click here or the image above to visit the Museum’s TripAdvisor page and read our reviews – or submit your own! 


Events & Programs Calendar
Click here to view our upcoming calendar of events and programs. Call 941-746-4131, ext. 17 for more information.
Upcoming May Programs:
Stelliferous Live – Wednesday, May 28 at 7 pm: Explore the night skies and astronomy with Jeff Rodgers. Click here to purchase tickets.
EXHIBITION RECEPTION – Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 pm: Coffee: The World in Your Cup featuring coffee tastings, gelato for sale, refreshments, cash bar and entertainment. Click here to RSVP.


Click here for a full schedule of public program events and for more information or call 941-746-4131, ext. 17 for info or to RSVP for any program.


Meteor Shower This Weekend

According to current weather reports, it looks like the skies will be clear overnight this Friday, which is a good thing. There’s a new meteor shower which should appear in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, May 24. If you choose to look to the night skies to see something interesting – aim to set your alarm for 3 am, when the shower should be at its peak, and take a look to the northwestern skies for the next hour or so. 


According to the Museum’s Planetarium Director Jeff Rodgers, some experts predict that we might get more than just a meteor shower, but a meteor storm with more than 1000 meteors per hour. Then again, what with Comet 209P being small, it may not have left much dust, and we might just get a meteor shower with, say, 200 meteors per hour. Or it could be an absolute dud. These things are hard to predict with any certainty, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed!  


You can read more about where to look and what you might see in this month’s edition of Jeff Rodgers’ Stelliferous Blog by clicking here


Let us know what you see during the shower and share your photos with us on Facebook!


Get Your Star-Gazing Gear at the South Florida Museum Store!

Does the meteor shower or new Planetarium technology have your astronomy curiosity piqued? Check out the wide variety of astronomy tools, toys and activities in the Museum Store! We offer everything from star charts to space shuttle replicas to glowing stars for your bedroom ceiling… everything the budding astronomer needs!


And of course, don’t forget to browse all of the other great adult and childrens’ apparel, games, art, toys, and astronomy, history and science accessories that you’ve come to love. 


The Museum Store is open during all normal Museum hours (see above), no admission required.


For more information or to place an order, call the Store at 941-746-4131, ext. 28, email [email protected] or visit  


Please Join Us in Welcoming
Sam Richardson to the Museum Staff

Sam Richardson joins the South Florida Museum as our new Annual Fund Manager. A native Kansan, Sam graduated with a degree in history from the University of Kansas. He brings over 10 years of museum and public history experience, including positions in visitor services, education, collections management, membership and development. Prior to moving to Tampa, Florida with his wife Stephanie and English bulldog Henry, Sam was Interim Executive Director for the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation in Frankfort, Kentucky. 


Working in the development office has allowed Sam to meld together his knowledge and enthusiasm for history, arts and culture and his expertise in building donor relationships – helping the Museum secure essential resources to serve students, educators, researchers and Museum visitors. 


Sam Richardson can be reached at 941-746-4131, ext. 11 or by email at [email protected]


Volunteer Central

Current Museum Volunteer Needs:


Museum Docents – Would you like to lead curious learners across time and place to reveal the secrets of early Florida? No experience necessary. We will train you in Museum content, learning techniques and crowd control. Must have desire to work with children and adults and be able to climb stairs and stand for extended periods of time. Hours are generally M-F 9:45 am to 12:30 pm. Volunteers may choose any days and times that fit their schedule.


Aquarium Manatee Care – Volunteer manatee handlers assist staff with general husbandry care and support for the Aquarium’s resident (Snooty) and rehabilitation manatees. Duties include food prep, creating environmental enrichment devices, assisting the dive spotter and feeding the manatees. May include participation in animal transportation and physical exams as well as plant collection.


Office Support – Assist in the fulfillment of Museum memberships or in the archiving and organization of marketing materials and data. The desire to work with computer-based programs or paper filing and archiving, attention to process and detail are needed. Available days and times range Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. Volunteers may choose the days and times that fit their schedule. 


For more info, contact 941-746-4131, ext. 17 or [email protected].


For more information about volunteer opportunities at the Museum, click here


Snooty Cam graphic
Watch Snooty via the Snooty Cam

Check on wild manatees released from the South Florida Museum and other rehabilitation facilities at


South Florida Museum Memberships and Affiliations:






Staff List – 
Click name to email or call us at 
(941) 746-4131

Brynne Anne Besio  

Executive Director, ext. 18
Jack Balkan
Facility Director, ext. 26 

Marilyn Margold

Director of Living Collections, ext. 20 


Jeff Rodgers

Planetarium/Education Director, ext. 22 


Martha Wells

Development Director, ext. 35

Matt Woodside

Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator, ext. 37  


Tiffany Birakis

Assistant Curator of Exhibitions & Collections, ext. 16


Ellen Ferraro 

Visitor Services Manager, ext. 29 


Susan McCarthy

Program Coordinator, ext. 13


Scott Odell

Maintenance Technician, ext. 50


Annual Fund Manager, ext. 11


Jessica Schubick
Communications Manager, ext. 14


Curator of Education, ext. 31 
Administrative and Development Coordinator, ext. 17

Kris Williamson

Museum Educator, ext. 12

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The South Florida Museum’s Mission: To engage and inspire learners of all ages; we protect, interpret and communicate scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world, and our universe.

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