Opened in 2012, the Nature Research Center is the Museum’s new wing. In these exhibits, you can explore not just what we know about the natural world, but how we know it—the tools, techniques, and real live scientists that study the past, present, and future of our planet. From meteorites to mammoths, from deep-sea submersibles to citizen science, the Nature Research Center brings it all to life, right before your eyes.
SECU Daily Planet
On the outside, it’s a scaled-down replica of our planet. But on the inside, the Daily Planet shows all of Earth’s glorious nature in fine detail. This three-story theater boasts a 42-foot-tall screen filled with colorful images, videos, and natural science information, sure to overwhelm your senses. Here you can also participate in presentations by guest speakers and scientists from the Museum’s own research labs. Click here for schedule.
Meet Stumpy, the Right Whale whose death made a difference for her species. Right Whales are critically endangered, with fewer than 500 left in the wild. When Stumpy was struck by a ship and died in 2004, researchers used her bones to show that ships need a speed limit within Right Whale protected habitats. New laws meant that fewer whales would die due to ship strikes.
What makes a scientist a scientist? You may be surprised to know you can contribute to scientific projects, even if you don’t have a Ph.D. Citizens around the globe are helping scientists by collecting and analyzing data—like watching birdfeeders, listening to whale songs, or searching through photos for signs of elusive wildlife. In this exhibit, learn about how to become a citizen scientist, find a project that fits your interests, and help make discoveries that make a difference.
Take a ride in our submersible thousands of feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, where researchers are studying signs of life on coral reefs. As a part of the expedition crew, you’ll see sights that most people only dream about, including schools of squid, curious crabs, and fields of milky-white coral. Learn how scientists collect data and specimens with complex instruments, all without ever getting your feet wet.
Our 10,000-gallon aquarium exhibit replicates a hardbottom habitat off the NC coast, complete with many native species and a few invasive ones as well. Here you can meet a Bonnethead Shark—a relative of the Hammerhead—as well as elegant angelfish, adorable pufferfish and more. You can also learn about the Red Lionfish, an invasive species with venomous barbs and a ravenous appetite, whose rapid spread through the Atlantic is threatening native species.
Here is your chance to get your hands on specimens and artifacts that are usually behind glass or locked away in collections cabinets. The Naturalist Center houses a large collection of real bones, fur, gems, minerals, fossils, and preserved specimens that you can examine closely. Take one of our special specimens over to the high-tech “magic tables,” for a more in-depth look at its range, natural history, habitat, and more! Click here for schedule.
What is biodiversity? How do you tell one species from another? And why does it matter? Learn about how scientists are counting up the diversity of life, where they’re finding new species, and why preserving species is important—to humanity, and to our planet.
Have you ever seen a snake get a checkup? Or watched a sloth get its teeth cleaned? Our Museum has enough small animals to fill a small zoo, and each one requires high-quality veterinary care. At the Window on Animal Health, you can watch as our staff of highly-trained vets perform both routine and extraordinary procedures on our animals. And thanks to a two-way intercom, you can ask questions and get immediate answers. You’ve never been to a vet quite like this before. Click here for schedule.
What’s the difference between weather and climate? What can trees and ice cores tell us about our past? How do meteorologists predict the future? Learn all this and more in this interactive exhibit. You can check the current conditions at weather stations across the US and view some of the tools and techniques scientists use to research our atmosphere. You can even predict the path of a past hurricane and compare your prediction to that of local weatherman Greg Fishel.
What does it take to become a scientist? Find out in this hands-on lab! Learn to take accurate measurements using flasks and beakers, study specimens up close with the microscope, and perform experiments to test your hypothesis. Did you know that algae can be used to make biofuel? That duckweed can help purify water? That fire ants form complex underground homes? Come see and do it yourself in this science lab.
Sure, our T. rex is impressive, even though it’s just a juvenile specimen. But paleontology isn’t just about dinosaurs! Here you can learn about the microscopic beginnings of life on our planet during the Ediacaran Period. See fossils of ancient predators from the Triassic Period, millions of years before dinosaurs evolved. And meet some of our Ice Age compatriots, mammoths and mastodons, who rose to dominance after the dinosaurs went extinct. How and why do we study ancient life? You’ll have to see these exhibits to find out!
Have you ever touched a stone that traveled through space for millions of years? You can in this exhibit! Learn about how different types of meteorites are classified and studied and what they can tell us about life on Earth. You can see fragments from Mars, pieces of asteroids, and even parts of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that landed in Russia in 2013.
Larger-than-life microbe models greet you in this exhibit, a rare opportunity to view life that’s normally too small for our eyes to see. On our planet, microbes outnumber humans by at least a trillion to one, so it’s good to get to know your smallest neighbors. In fact, we’re still learning how many microbes live on and in the human body, and how we rely on them to function.
Discover nature on a microscopic scale in this hands-on laboratory. Use the same tools and techniques that researchers use—try your hand at pipetting, train your eyes to use a microscope, or even isolate and analyze DNA. Here you can learn about cellular processes like photosynthesis and examine molecules that form the foundation of life.
Did you know that there is approximately 6½ feet of DNA packed into every human cell? It would take you more than 9 years to read aloud every letter in the human genome. The code is the foundation for all life, a blueprint for how to build proteins and make them work together to create, well, you. In this exhibit, you will find out how much DNA you share with other species, what makes an animal a “model organism” for research, and how DNA barcoding allows scientists to solve natural history mysteries.
How do scientists translate raw data from complex instruments into something they can see and understand? Learn all about it in the Visual World Lab! Use our computer stations to investigate techniques like augmented reality, GIS mapping, robotics, and computer programming. Hold a virtual dinosaur in your hand, watch our 3D printer create models before your eyes, or even participate in impromptu electronic experiments.