Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact: Leigh Kish
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (0), 412.526.8587 (C)

January 27, 2012


Winter Programs at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the Environmental Research Center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Rector, Pennsylvania…Don’t hibernate; take a hike! Discover winter animals and explore snowy habitats through nature walks, lectures, and other programming at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Every weekend, naturalists and scientists lead opportunities for families to discover nature and all its wonder. Many of Powdermill’s programs, detailed below, are free and do not require registration.

Powdermill is located in Rector, Pennsylvania, 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh amidst the rolling Laurel Highlands, and is home to winter-blooming witch hazel, migrating juncos, and many other wild winter creatures. Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems is anchored at Powdermill, making it the world headquarters for studying the biodiversity of the mid-Appalachian region. 

Nature Center 

Inside the nature center, harken back to warmer weather. The sound of running water emanates from the indoor Living Stream exhibit showcasing the aquatic fauna found in Powdermill Run. Calls and songs of local birds can be heard through an interactive avian exhibit wall. Discover some of the wildlife of our region in the museum’s dioramas. The nature center is a showcase of environmental sustainability, design, education, and research. Take the self-guided sustainability tour around the building to learn about its features. A small gift shop is available in the nature center and is full of gifts for the nature lovers in your life. Admission to the nature center and its exhibitions is always free. Nature Center hours are:

November 16–March 31
Wednesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon –4:30 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday, closed
April 1–November 15
Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon–4:30 p.m.
Monday, closed

Special Event! The Great Backyard Bird Count 

Saturday, February 18, 9:30 a.m.
Free; no registration required

This annual nationwide four-day event taking place February 17–20 engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds. Come to Powdermill on Saturday, February 18, to join with other birders in the area. Together, you’ll create a real-time snapshot of birds across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. Whether you count on your own or at Powdermill, the event’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps scientists better understand migration patterns, changes in climate, and the effects of disease on species. Learn more here:

Free Family Nature Hour 

Saturday, 1 p.m.
Free; no registration required 

Scientific Lecture Series 

Sunday, 1 p.m.
Free; no registration required

Enjoy a scientific lecture series given by naturalists, scientists, and researchers from Powdermill Nature Reserve and Carnegie Museum of Natural History as well as special guest speakers. Talks are geared toward adults (unless otherwise indicated) and last between 30 and 60 minutes in the Parker Room of the Nature Center. For more information call Senior Environmental Educator Joe Stavish at 724.593.6105.

The Nature of Winter
January 22
Learn how animals and plants have adapted to life in the cold.
Animal Tracks for All Ages
January 29
Winter is a great time to explore the tracks and trails left behind by our winter animals. This family-appropriate lecture uncovers the often overlooked animal prints found in the snow and mud. Discover the similarities and differences of some common Pennsylvania animals found at Powdermill and in your own backyard.  


Pennsylvania Owls
February 5, 19

The first of local birds to nest, owls breed and lay eggs during the winter. Discover what adaptations these raptors have to help them survive the cold. Learn what species may be nesting in your backyard and discover the sounds and calls of these nocturnal creatures.
Winter Tree Identification
February 12, 26
Even though most trees have dropped their leaves until spring, identification can be done through examination of the leaf and flower buds and bark. Learn techniques for identification of some common backyard and forest trees.
Vernal Woodland Pools
March 4, 18
Every year hundreds of amphibians, insects, and reptiles utilize seasonal woodland pools as breeding sites. Discover all that can be found at your local woodland pool. After the indoor lecture, take a guided tour of a Powdermill vernal pool to see what life may be active in late winter.
Early Signs of Spring
March 11, 25
From flowers to insects, birds to mammals, learn the early signs of spring throughout western Pennsylvania and uncover some of them on the trails of Powdermill.

NEW! Family Overnights at Powdermill  

Friday, 6:30 p.m.–Saturday, 9 a.m.
$40 per person, including chaperones; payment required 4 weeks in advance
Recommended that children be at least 5 years old
One adult chaperone required for every 5 children
Contact Group Visits at 412.622.3289 or to register.
Limited to 40 participants

Explore the nocturnal habitats of Powdermill Nature Reserve! Discover the amazing nightlife of local insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals. Most activities take place outdoors, so please dress for the season and wear comfortable walking shoes. Flashlights are appropriate, but not required.

March 16: Winter's End
Explore the world of the wood frog: Each year hundreds of wood frogs visit the seasonal pools at Powdermill to breed and lay eggs. This only happens during one week of the year. If conditions allow, this overnight allows a glimpse into this remarkable event. Discover the amazing nocturnal habits and adaptations of Pennsylvania owls. Head outside and try to call in some local owls on the trails. 
April 20: Spring Life at Powdermill
Birds, flowers, and frogs:  Spring is a noisy season—birds call in the early morning and the frog chorus lasts through the night. Understand what frogs and birds are doing on the trails and in your own backyard. Find early flowers that are already in bloom.  

Hiking Trails 

Black Birch Trail and Sugar Camp Trail are open dawn to dusk, daily. The Black Birch Trail is located behind the nature center, while the Sugar Camp Trail entrance is located across the street from the nature center. Entrances to the trails are marked by wooden sign posts.  


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,