Nature Research Center

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The Nature Research Center encourages visitors to engage with and become a part of the ongoing research at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Naturalist Tables

Small Design Firm developed two completely custom interactive tables for the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Visitors to the museum are invited to pick up actual specimens from the museum collection and place them on to the table surface. When the table reads the tagged specimen, video projection from above reveals activities and field guide information pertaining to the specimen.

There are over a hundred available specimens, ranging from mounted insects and preserved amphibians, to mammal study skins and bird skulls. Housed in the Naturalist Center, these tables use a combination of capacitive touch technology and RFID tracking to create a truly unique, hands on, research experience.

Weather Station

The Storm Central desk features three stations at which visitors can track a hurricane or make their own weather forecast. Each day live weather data is displayed along with helpful tips from WRAL meteorologist Greg Fishel. Visitors use this information to enter what they think the weather will be like the next day. Upon completing a forecast, visitors can then compare their forecast to WRAL’s.

The Tracking activity provides an introduction to the anatomy of a hurricane and explores the multitude of factors that contribute to their unpredictable nature. Greg Fishel keeps the visitor updated with a day by day report of the location and intensity of the storm. This information is then used to plot where the storm will hit next and whether it will increase or decrease in severity. This interactive demonstrates that, while tracking a hurricane can sometimes be difficult, gathering and sharing the most accurate data is crucial to keeping the public safe and informed.

Nearby, a model of a weather station shows how meteorologists collect data in the field. Using a touchscreen, you can bring up webcams and current weather conditions from five locations around the United States. The thermometer will show the correct temperature in Alaska, the humidity in Puerto Rico, the precipitation on Mount Washington in New Hampshire and the air pressure in Raleigh. A real wind gauge will even spin to show the wind speed and direction at each station. Here you can learn about the different instruments used to measure the weather and see some extreme weather right in front of your eyes.

Touchscreen Interactives

The Nature Research Center encourages visitors to engage with and become a part of the ongoing research at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Several interactive touchscreen applications were developed by Small Design Firm to help facilitate this interplay.

On the first floor of the Research Center, an embedded touchscreen acts like a window into the surrounding streambed scenery. At this station, visitors become researchers by collecting macroinvertabrates and tallying their populations to determine water quality. Get your hands “wet” and collect some water bugs!

On the third floor, geologists are trying to determine what may have left trace fossils on a slab of rock over 500 million years ago. A touchscreen allows visitors to navigate high resolution photography of the surface of the rock, discovering fossils along the way. Video projection from above illuminates key features on the surface of the adjacent slab specimen.

On the same floor, visitors are again asked to take on the role of scientist when analyzing the DNA of several species at the Natural History CSI interactive. By using DNA barcoding, visitors discover the true identity of a species. They learn how modern science is used to solve real mysteries every day.