July 29, 2013

BioSteel Safari Day One: Corn Palace

We are on our way to Utah to pick up a taxidermied genetically engineered goat named Freckles (more on that later) and decided to stop at the “World’s Only Corn Palace” in Mitchell, South Dakota.

The Corn Palace has served as a shrine to US corn production since 1892. The exterior of the palace features elaborate murals created from countless multicolored ears of corn. The murals change with each passing year and respond to major changes in the nations history, but generally celebrate Americana, industrialism and Christian themes.

The palace houses a large gymnasium that is generally used to present exhibits celebrating innovations in industrial corn production and to sell corn-themed wares.

Posted by: Rich @ 4:31 pm Bookmark and Share


February 21, 2012

Grand Opening Press Release

******** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ********

CONTACT: Rich Pell
February 21st, 2012

The Center for PostNatural History announces the Grand Opening of its permanent exhibition facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 2nd, 2012 at 6PM at 4913 Penn Ave. The Center for PostNatural History (CPNH) is dedicated to the research and exhibition of lifeforms that have been intentionally altered by humans, from the dawn of domestication to contemporary genetic engineering. The CPNH presents the postnatural world through diorama, taxidermy, photography and living exhibits, from engineered corn to Sea Monkeys to modified Chestnut Trees to BioSteel™ Goats.

According to CPNH Director and Curator, Richard Pell, “The Center for PostNatural History serves as a jumping-off point for thinking about how people shape the living world around them. Humans have been slowly domesticating plants and animals for thousands of years and during the last 35 years we’ve begun altering the DNA of organisms in very specific ways. A good portion of the living world is in a sense a cultural artifact reflecting the desires, needs and fears of human society. The CPNH is a place to explore that idea.”

Lead Scientific Advisor, Lauren Allen says, “The CPNH is an ideal venue to experience the intersection of humanity and biological sciences.”

The CPNH also hosts postnatural exhibits by guest researchers. “We are currently displaying a poster series produced by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy which catalogues the diversity of genetically modified fruits and vegetables that are available in the US and European Union,” says Pell. “In May we will debut an exhibit about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault produced by a group of American and Norwegian researchers who spent several weeks visiting the worlds largest repository of domesticated food crop seeds.”

The Center for PostNatural History will be open Sundays 12-6 and for select events. Appointments may be made by contacting the CPNH at (412) 223-7698, or by email: rich@postnatural.org

Center for PostNatural History • 4913 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15224 • rich@postnatural.org • www.postnatural.org

Posted by: Rich @ 11:19 am Bookmark and Share


February 15, 2012

Nature Magazine Interview

Thank you to Jascha Hoffman for publishing this interview with the CPNH in Nature Magazine!

Posted by: Rich @ 4:51 pm Bookmark and Share


December 21, 2011

Grand Opening: March 2nd, 2012

The Center for PostNatural History is pleased to announce that on March 2nd 2012, we will be officially opening the doors of our 4913 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh location to the public.

Check back for more information soon!!!

Posted by: Rich @ 7:26 pm Bookmark and Share


May 5, 2011

Cultivated, Invasive and Engineered: PostNatural Plants of the Appalachian Region

Cultivated, Invasive and Engineered:
PostNatural Plants of the Appalachian Region

Friday May 6th, 6PM
4913 Penn Ave. Garfield

Featuring guest Ethnobotany Consultants: Amanda Vickers, Steve Gurysh and Ben Mckee.
Research Assistants: Rachel Wagner, Mary Tsang, Ann Stone, Maurielle Saums, Liz Rudnick, Julie Mallis, James Krahe, Marisa Hughes, Charlotte Gilmore, Cristina David and Harrison Apple.

Additional works by Harrison Apple, Marielle Saums and Julie Mallis.

Curation of PostNatural Organisms: Rich Pell

Posted by: Rich @ 1:08 am Bookmark and Share


April 18, 2011

Pittsburgh Location Opening Soon!

Work continues on the Main Office of the Center for PostNatural History at 4913 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Center will house a temporary exhibitions room, a permanent exhibitions room and specimen collection and exhibition areas. The CPNH will be open select events during the summer of 2011 with a grand opening date to be set in the autumn of 2011.

Posted by: Rich @ 1:50 am Bookmark and Share


December 26, 2010

Bug Ate Bugs: In Memorium

The tale of WT.Derm.ate1-10, affectionately known as “Ringo” around the CPNH offices, has come to a conclusion. Ringo’s tiny body was discovered in a state of permanent stasis in late-November. Cause of death unknown. Gender never identified. It will be entered into the “Peculiar Interest” collection due to its early diet consisting exclusively of genetically modified mosquitoes. A reference will also be added to the “Invasive Species” collection as Dermestid beetles are considered to be invasive in western Pennsylvania.

Here we include a stereoscope photo taken of Ringo in the weeks prior to its untimely passing. You’ll need a pair of those red/blue glasses that may have been included with a 3-D novelty book or DVD you have purchased in the past. Red side goes over your left eye.

WT.Derm.ate1-10 "Ringo" Dermestid Beetle (stereoscopic)

Posted by: Rich @ 5:58 pm Bookmark and Share


October 25, 2010

Bug Ate Bugs: A developing story

Assumptions of specimen WT.Derm.ate1-10′s death were premature. After being left in a glass case over the weekend, it was noticed that WT.Derm.ate1-10 had shed its skin and molted. A clear sign of “still alive and kicking”. Furthermore, it had taken on a striking and lovely red color in the process. Since this character is now the living embodiment of more than half of the CPNH’s transgenic mosquito collection, it was decided to let it stay and live out its existence here. Dermestid beetles have historically played a dual role in the life of Natural History museums. One is as resident bone cleaner. Colony’s of dermestid are maintained my museums for their ability to eat all the flesh off of the bones of incoming specimens. The other role is as a feared invader capable of infesting the softbodied specimens of the collection and at times even going on to finish off the bones themselves.

Not knowing what this particular dermestid prefers to eat (other than desicated mosquitoes) we have been providing options. A piece of dried chicken seems to have gone over the best, while the stink bug remains untouched. A GloFish™ was largely ignored for its nutritional value, but was discovered to have a novel use as a shelter (shown below).

Posted by: Rich @ 11:04 am Bookmark and Share


September 15, 2010

Bug Ate Bugs: An Entomological Initiation Rite

This specimen of Dermestid beetle (ID’d by Lauren Allen) was collected from within the storage box containing the genetically modified mosquito collection at the Center for PostNatural History. A cursory examination of the now-empty box reveled an unsettling pattern of empty pins, barren of any of the mosquitos that were so carefully collected from Dr. James lab at UCI just one year prior. Attached to the top of the box was the little fellow you see posted here. It measures 1/8″ when relaxed and eventually grows into a black beetle famously used by Natural History Museums to clean the flesh off of bones, but also feared by Natural History Museums for getting into the fleshy portions of the collections and dining on irreplaceable animal skins.

Since it ate its way through most of catalog numbers CPNH.2009.1 thru CPNH.2009.10 (thankfully 4 of these were checked out at the time), we are tentatively assigning it catalog number CPNH.2010.3 with a name of WT.Derm.ate1-10. This is a special case as the beetle itself is not considered postnatural. However, since its entire diet over the course of its short life consisted of genetically engineered mosquitoes, it has earned a place in our collection through raw, frustrating, tenacity.

External reference:


Posted by: Rich @ 11:23 am Bookmark and Share


August 18, 2010

Report: Preserving Zebrafish Specimens in EtOH

“We” are trying an experiment to see if we can successfully preserve Zebrafish (Danio rerio) in 70% Ethanol (EtOH).  I am saying “we” because I consulted Rich several times over the phone throughout the experiment.  So far, the newly dead FLK1:GFP specimens (who carried out their entire lives in service to exhibits at the Exploratorium) are looking pretty official in their new specimen jars.  The reason this is an experiment is because usually specimens are “fixed” in formalin before they’re transferred to EtOH for long-term storage–we skipped that step, to see if avoiding carcinogens like formalin is possible.  I documented the process with our consumer-grade point-and-shoot camera (so please excuse the snap-shoddy photography).

The setup. One of the lab techs put the fish in clove oil for me this afternoon, so they died peacefully.

FLK1:GFP Danio rerio - this one is a lot better looking than the other one; photo taken immediately after I injected it with 70% EtOH (to preserve the insides)

FLK1:GFP Danio rerio - this is the bigger, but less pretty specimen. I'm pretty sure this one is female, and has been a breeder for quite some time; she was sick and her tail was busted before she died, that's why we euthanized her.

This is the stuff we use to kill the fish "humanely"

Captured in time...


Posted by: lba @ 10:25 pm Bookmark and Share


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