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Structure, Structure, What's Your Function?

insects on display in a museum.

Utah’s extraordinary landscapes are home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals. The way a living thing looks, its structure, affects how it survives and functions in its environment. Using our Life gallery, learn more about the relationship between structure and function from the microscopic to the ecosystem level. Practice scientific skills and deep exploration through activities about desert plants, seeds, and the ever-charasmatic squirrel. The provided activities were designed with 3rd-5th grade students in mind but can be adapted to other grades.

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Virtual Field Trip of Life

Join a Museum educator and a mycologist to learn more about the amazing structures and functions that plants and animals have to survive in Utah habitats. Use observation skills to discover animals that live in different habitats and dig in to the adaptations of the porcini mushroom.

Explore Life


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Cacti and Desert Plants

Compare and model the structures and functions of hot and cold desert plants.

Start Exploring
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Soaring Seeds

Make and test a seed to determine which design disperses best.

Get Building
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Nuts for Knowledge

Use scientific skills to discover more about the squirrels in your neighborhood.

Become a Scientist


Q&A with Biologist Dr. La'Shaye Cobley

La’Shaye Cobley is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She received a PhD in Biology from the University of Utah. Her dissertation focused on the study of plants as environmental biomonitors, using their leaf chemistries to tell stories about atmospheric pollution. She received a BA in Biology and Africana Studies from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. La'Shaye is currently an Air Pollution Specialist with the California Air Resources Board, where she helps the state clean the air through strong regulations grounded in science.

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What's it like to be a scientist that studies leaves? Where do plants get their food from? (No, it's not burgers!) Learn more about our guest Dr. Cobley, like her favorite plant and why!

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How can leaves and soil tell us about where a plant gets their nutrients? Do seasons affect what we can learn from a tree? What's it like being a biologist in the middle of city? All these questions and more answered by our expert biologist Dr. Cobley.

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Where can plants get their nitrogen from? How does city pollution affect what nitrogen plants consume? How can scientific research push policy changes and improve people's lives? Dr. Cobley answers student questions and shares what it's like for her as a biologist.

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