Wednesday Roundup: Bees, Bears and Bizarre Facial Hair

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Ocean View—The health of the ocean is on everyone's mind right now, as we watch crews desperately trying to save the wildlife and waters affected by the recent Gulf oil spill. Today, the National Museum of Natural History launched the Ocean Portal, an interactive site where visitors can dive into ocean issues like the spill with video, photos and other activities. The museum collaborated with 20 other organizations around the world to create the site. But the news isn't all dismal—visitors can also watch scientists as they take surveys of wildlife on a remote Island, explore how life began in the ocean, or go on an Antarctic expedition.

Fly With the Bees—Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute recently launched a study to track the blue-green orchid bees by gluing tiny transmitters onto their backs, and then following their routes as the creatures pollinated rare flowers. The results of the study are featured this week on Science at the Smithsonian. One of the findings? While most male bees stay close to home, they will on occasion make impressively longer trips to areas farther away: One of the bees involved in the study crossed the Panama Canal, flew 5 kilometers (about 3 miles), and returned just a few days later.

The Dangers of Flash Photography—Recently, visitors have wanted to know why you can take a picture of just about anything at the National Museum of American History, but not the Star Spangled Banner. Over at Oh Say Can You See, one of the museum's education specialists, Megan Smith, explains why the flash of a tiny camera bulb is so damaging to the delicate flag (which was meant to be used for about five years, but has lasted nearly 200!)

Smokey the Bear, Former National Zoo Resident—As the Bigger Picture tells us, the real-life Smokey was born in 1950 at the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico home until a massive fire roared through the forest and destroyed much of its wildlife. Rangers found little Smokey clinging to a burned tree, the blog says, with badly burned feet and hair. He was nursed back to health and in June of that year was given to the National Zoo, on the condition that his life be dedicated to fire prevention. Smokey lived at the National Zoo until 1976, but his story (and image) still live on to warn us of the dangers of forest fires ("Only you can prevent forest fires!")

Bizarre Facial Hair—In "Mustaches of Note," an ongoing feature by the Archives of American Art blog, we're introduced to Elihu Vedder, a man best known for his illustrations in 1884's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. But thanks to a 1910 photograph of Vedder with a bicycle, maybe he'll be well known for his mustache—which, if the picture is any indication, extends far past the man's face. And in case that isn't enough to keep you entertained, the blog also runs features on other kinds of facial hair, too.

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