Martinsville, Virginia


Science Talks at VMNH

The 2015-16 season of the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s “2nd Thursday Dr. Denny Casey
Science Talks” begins Thursday, September 10 at 6 p.m. when Dr. Denny Casey, VMNH director of education and public programs, presents "The universe and our only blue planet". Admission to the presentation is free.

This season’s series follows the theme, “From Cosmology to Conservation: Your world and your place in it.” During this presentation, Dr. Casey will explore what makes earth special, what conditions are needed for life, and how scientists are searching for life on other worlds.

“Earth is unique to other planets in our solar system in that it is the only one currently known to be able to support life,” said Casey. “The conditions necessary for sustaining life are complex and this talk will not only explain the conditions necessary to support life, but how these conditions guide our search for life on other planets.”

Dr. Casey has served as Director of Education and Public Programs at the Virginia Museum of Natural History since 2001 and currently serves as district director of the National Science Teachers Association for the region of Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. Additionally, Casey has served as an adjunct instructor at Hollins University, Mary Baldwin College and Virginia Commonwealth University. Casey has held a number of leadership roles in science education, including serving as past president of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers.

Dr. Casey earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech, a Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech, and a B.A. in Secondary Science Education, also from Virginia Tech.

The museum's "2nd Thursday Science Talks" take place on the second Thursday of each month through May 12, 2016. Attendance at each talk is free due to the generous contributions to the VMNH Discovery Fund. The presentations are delivered by VMNH curators, VMNH researchers, as well as VMNH research associates. Geared towards audiences with a keen interest in science, the presentations also increase awareness of the varied and unique scientific career paths available for local students.

All presentations are scheduled to take place from 6 to 7 p.m. at the museum. Date or time changes will be announced on the museum’s website at


2015-16 Series Schedule

Thursday, September 10, 2015
"The universe and our only blue planet"
Presented by Dr. Denny Casey, Director of Education & Public Programs, VMNH

During this presentation, Dr. Casey will explore what makes earth special, what conditions are needed for life, and how we are searching for life on other worlds.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
"DNA - The molecule of life"
Presented by Dr. Nancy Moncrief, Curator of Mammalogy, VMNH

In this presentation, Dr. Moncrief will explore the subject of evolution through the scientific eye of basic genetic concepts. Dr. Moncrief will also provide examples of how DNA is used as a tool in natural history research.

Thursday, November 12, 2015
"Our precursors: early plants and animals"
Presented by Dr. Dorothybelle Poli, Associate Professor of Biology, Roanoke College

During this presentation, Dr. Poli will navigate the evolution of plant life on Earth. How did early photosynthesis arise? How did it change the planet? What were the first plants on Earth? Find out the answers to these questions and more this November.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
"Dinosaurs and life thereafter"
Presented by Dr. Alex Hastings, Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, VMNH

This December, Dr. Alex Hastings will explore a time period often overlooked, when the dinosaurs first became extinct. Dr. Hastings will discuss dinosaur extinction, what took their place, and what the world was like after dinosaurs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016
"Biodiversity and your place in it"
Presented by Dr. Kaloyan Ivanov, Assistant Curator of Recent Invertebrates, VMNH

This coming January, Dr. Ivanov will examine the vast diversity of life on Earth. Why are there so many kinds of animal? What benefits are conveyed by biodiversity? These questions and more will be answered this January at the museum.

Thursday, February 11, 2016
"Archaeology: Virginia’s past cultures"
Presented by Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Curator of Archaeology, VMNH

The land that is now known as Virginia has been home to a wide variety of cultures for many centuries. During this presentation, Dr. Moore will discuss how past cultures have adapted to Virginia's changing environments, developing and adopting new plants and animals.

Thursday, March 10, 2016
"New perspectives on human evolution"
Speaker to be announced

When Charles Darwin publicized the theory of evolution, it sent shockwaves through the scientific community and changed the perspective of how early humans developed. As time goes on and new evidence is discovered, perspectives continue to change. During this presentation, the audience will learn about Hominids and early humans, as well as current research and new scientific perspectives of evolution.

Thursday, April 14, 2016
"How do we protect what we have?"
Presented by Tiffany Haworth, Executive Director, Dan River Basin Association

Our natural resources are vital to the survival and continuation of life on this planet. During this presentation, Tiffany Haworth will discuss conservation priorities and how they are determined, as well as what the current priorities in Virginia and the Dan River Basin are.

Thursday, May 12, 2016
"The importance of museums in the 21st century"
Presented by Dr. Joe B. Keiper, Executive Director, VMNH

Museums serve a vital role in new discoveries and past history. In this presentation, Dr. Keiper will discuss the traditional reasons to have museums, the decline of collections facilities, the tangible benefits of museums to societal problems, and how to best manage museums as we move forward.