Johnson City Press Friday, July 3, 2015


Invaders and allies: Microbes featured in fossil site exhibit

September 15th, 2011 12:08 pm by Rex Barber

  Learn all you ever wanted to know about microbes at the Gray Fossil Site beginning Saturday.

“Microbes: Invisible Invaders … Amazing Allies” will be on display at the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site from then until May.

“It’s going to be one of our first forays into doing health-related type exhibitry,” said Jeanne Zavada, director of the museum.

The new exhibit will feature “lots and lots” of hands-on activities with colorful, bright, interesting displays and takes on microbes, Zavada said.

“And for those who are unfamiliar, a microbe is like a bacteria, a fungus, just an organism you can’t see typically with just your eyes,” Zavada said. “You have to use a microscope.”

Microbes are the smallest forms of life on Earth and were first discovered in the 17th century. In 1683, Dutch merchant Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, who made microscopes as a hobby, detected “wee animalcules” in scrapings from his teeth. More than 200 years would pass before scientists would establish the relationship between microbes and disease, ETSU said in a release on the exhibit.

Dr. Fred Hossler from the Quillen College of Medicine is supplying some of the art for the exhibit. Zavada hopes that because the microbe exhibit will be available at the museum for seven months rather than the typical 12-14 weeks for most exhibits, other departments and schools at ETSU, especially in the health fields, will get involved with the microbes.

“I hope to get the College of Public Health involved where they’ll be doing health screenings out here,” Zavada said. “There are tons of things we can do with this exhibit.

“And I thought spanning the academic year, this would be a wonderful opportunity for students, K-12 students as well as college students, to come and sort of, you know, hone their knowledge on these wonderful and exciting little organisms that may make us sick but they also protect us,” Zavada said.

Zavada has secured funding from a donor to bring all the fifth-graders in Kingsport and Sullivan County schools to visit the site while the microbe exhibit is there.

“They will be doing hands-on activities throughout the museum and plus spending some great time in that exhibit,” Zavada said.

For more information on new programs or exhibits at the Gray Fossil Site, visit www.grayfossil   or call the museum toll free at 866-202-6223. The fossil site and museum is located 1.8 miles from Exit 13 off Interstate 26 in Gray and is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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