Story written for the Florida Museum of Natural History

Before the summer of 1916, there was still debate about whether sharks could kill humans.

Most people were not even sure if a shark could bite a human. One of them was New York multimillionaire Hermann Oelrichs, who offered a $500 reward in 1891 for anyone who proved a shark attacked a human. That prize would be worth nearly $13,000 today.

But this July marks the 100thanniversary of events that ended the debate.

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Story written for The Palm Coast Observer

On Christmas Eve in 2001, an ill young woman visited a jewelry store in Tennessee with her family to pick out a blue topaz ring. Little did she know that the man who sized that ring would become her husband and fellow pastor in a town called Palm Coast, Fla., 12 years later.

The young woman was Kimberly. The now 35-year-old was born in Washington, N.C., to a churchgoing Pentecostal family. Upon graduating high school, she attended Beaufort Community College and went on to become a hair stylist.

But her plans were put on hold when a series of unfortunate events befell her.

In January 2000, she was hospitalized for flu-like symptoms, which later turned out to be thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP. The disease, which doctors attributed to bacteria from the floods of Hurricane Floyd, is a blood disorder that affects the platelets and damages organs.

The illness hit her with full force. Her kidneys were failing and her liver was shutting down. Her entire body was hemorrhaging.

“They did not think I was going to live,” she said. “I didn’t have any platelet count.”

To combat the disease, doctors proceeded to perform a plasma exchange, which meant giving Kimberly transplanted platelets.

But she relapsed.

Read more here.


Story written for the Gainesville Sun

Since she was about 10 years old, Lenora Floyd had wanted to go to law school.

But the road was not paved smoothly.

Floyd, 26, was born in Gainesville and raised in Williston. She grew up as one of six children in a trailer that she says was surrounded by crime.

Her father was a janitor and her mother a bus driver. Her brother became a drug dealer and, eventually, a user, she said.

“That was not what I wanted,” Floyd said.

And because her brother frequently was mired in the criminal justice system, she said, an interest in law sparked within her. Coupled with this dream were her parents’ encouragement and hard work, and soon Floyd pursued higher education.

She graduated from the University of Florida in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville in 2012 and opened a firm, Williston-based Lenora Floyd, P.A., in December.

But before she met success, Floyd met Larry McDaniel.

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Story written for The Palm Coast Observer

She may have braved the island with her tough exterior and outdoor skills, but soft-hearted Twila Tanner is now involved with an entirely new kind of survivor.

Tanner, 50, is known for being the first runner-up during the 2004 season of “Survivor: Vanuatu,” but she has now focused her attention to “Give Kids the World,” a national charity that grants the last wishes of children who have terminal illnesses. Her focus is on its Florida-based programs.

She moved to Bunnell two years ago and now works for the city of Palm Coast on a swale crew, where she spends her time working outdoors.

But before she came down South, she made her way in the Midwest.

Tanner was born in Osceola, Iowa, where she lived for 14 years She then relocated to Marshall, Mo.

One night, she was surfing television channels and discovered “Survivor.” She was hooked.

“I was always telling my friends: ‘One day you’ll see me on that because I can do that,’” she said.

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press releases

Professors receive international biology award

Release written for and distributed by the Florida Museum of Natural History

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida Museum of Natural History professors have received the 2016 Darwin-Wallace Medal from the Linnean Society of London, considered one of the top international awards given to researchers studying evolutionary biology.

Distinguished professor, Florida Museum curator and University of Florida Biodiversity Institute director Pam Soltis and Doug Soltis, distinguished professor in the Florida Museum and the UF department of biology, received the award today from Linnean Society President Paul Brakefield at the group’s headquarters at the Burlington House in London. The Soltises are principal investigators in the Florida Museum Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics and researchers with the UF Genetics Institute.

“This is an incredible honor, particularly that Doug and I were selected as joint recipients,” Pam Soltis said. “We are humbled by this award and that colleagues consider us worthy of it.”

Read more here.

‘Museums for All’ program strives to increase access for low-income visitors

Release written for and distributed by the Florida Museum of Natural History

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Beginning today, the Florida Museum of Natural History is offering reduced admission to low-income guests as part of a nationwide program to encourage museum visitation and accessibility for families from all socioeconomic groups.

Guests who present a valid electronic benefits transfer card may enter the “Butterfly Rainforest” and featured exhibition for a reduced fee of $3 per adult as part of “Museums for All,” an initiative of the Association of Children’s Museums and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“We hope this program will expand access and provide meaningful connections to science in our community,” said Darcie MacMahon, Florida Museum exhibits and public programs director. “If we can inspire one young person to follow a career in science or one family to experience learning together in a new way, we will consider this program a success.”

Read more here.

New ‘Frogs’ featured exhibit opens Jan. 28

Release written for and distributed by the Florida Museum of Natural History

Hop into the musical and multicolored world of anurans, commonly known as frogs and toads, and gain a new appreciation for the beauty of these vocal amphibians this spring at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Beginning Jan. 28, 2017, Florida Museum visitors will be able to get up-close and personal with big, loud and even poisonous frogs in the museum’s new featured exhibit “Frogs! A Chorus of Colors.”

Showcasing various species of live frogs and toads, “Frogs” is the most advanced traveling frog exhibition in the country. Guests may view tree frogs, bullfrogs, horned frogs, giant toads and dart poison frogs.

Read more here.