Great Gourds!

What better way to celebrate fall than joining the Greensboro Science Center and The Fresh Market for a Pumpkin Palooza?!?!

For the 5th consecutive year, The Fresh Market is graciously donating pumpkins – and tasty pumpkin treats – for Greensboro Science Center visitors to enjoy during Pumpkin Palooza on Saturday, October 18, 2014. This event, which is free with general admission or membership, is filled with all kinds of fall family fun – from games and activities to entertaining animal enrichment and scrumptious snacks.

From 10:00am to 1:00pm, visitors will have the opportunity to watch our animals enjoy some pumpkin fun. It’s always amusing to see just what the animals will do with their pumpkins… play with them, crush them, eat them, swim with them, carve them (okay, maybe not)… Animals will be given their pumpkins at approximately the following times:

Lemur Enjoy Pumpkin Treat

Lemur Enjoying Pumpkin Treat

10:15am               Tigers
10:45am               Lemurs
11:00am               Tortoises
11:30am               Fishing Cat
12:00pm               Meerkats
12:30pm               Otters

Animals aren’t the only ones enjoying the autumnal action. Kids will have a great time playing pumpkin and Halloween-themed games like Bag the Bat, Pumpkin Bowling, Ring the Pumpkin, Black Cat Golf and more!

Black Cat Golf

Black Cat Golf

Temporary Tattoos

Temporary Tattoos

Both the young and young at heart can participate in face painting, hair chalking and receive temporary Halloween tattoos. Children will also be invited to make a pumpkin necklace to bring home.

We hope you can join us for this faSCInating fall festival! For more information about Pumpkin Palooza or to plan your visit, check out our website:

Breakfast In the Zoo

Picture this: Round tables draped with crisp white linens elegantly arranged around the zoo plaza… At the center of each table, clear glass vases filled with sand and bamboo shoots set atop glass mirrors… In front of each seat, special souvenirs to remember the day: a plush red panda and a copy of Faces of the Earth… In the background, birds chirping, gibbons cooing, howler monkeys howling, tigers roaring…

Sounds like the perfect start to an unforgettable Saturday, doesn’t it? On Saturday, September 20, 2014, Red Panda Day ticket holders will be honored with a special treat typically reserved for the most extraordinary occasions: breakfast in the zoo.

Tai Eating Breakfast

Tai Eating Breakfast

While relaxing in this serene morning setting, sample some savory and sweet treats from the breakfast buffet, including hot sandwiches from Biscuitville, fresh baked bagels from Bruegger’s, juicy, ripe fruit from The Fresh Market, yogurt, applesauce and cinnamon rolls. Hot coffee from Beans Boro, tea, juice, milk and water will also be provided.

This breathtaking breakfast is really just the beginning. After enjoying a meal, Red Panda Day guests are invited to participate in red panda themed games and activities, special behind-the-scenes tours (some of which have never before been offered), and enjoy the Greensboro Science Center for the remainder of the day, all while supporting a very worthy cause. All proceeds from Red Panda Day will be donated to the Red Panda Network to support Red Panda conservation. Tickets are $30/person for Greensboro Science Center Members and $40/person for non-members. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Take a Never Before Offered Tour!

Have you ever wanted to tour the tiger exhibit, visit the zoo’s veterinary hospital, cruise through the crocodile enclosure, or sneak a peek behind the scenes of Penguin Point? Well, now’s your chance! For the first time ever, the Greensboro Science Center is offering select behind the scenes tours as part of a very special event.

Peek Inside a Blockhouse

Sneak a peek inside some of your favorite animal exhibits!

One of these tours, many of which have never before been offered to the public, will be included with each Red Panda Day ticket. See for yourself the answers to common questions, such as: Where do the gibbons sleep? How do you keep crocodiles warm in winter? What kind of training can you do with maned wolves? How deep is the shark tank?

Each tour will be guided by GSC zookeepers who actually work with the animals living in the highlighted exhibits. Learn about what zookeepers do, which animals they care for, how they train their animals, what types of enrichment activities the animals enjoy, and so much more!

Enrichment Items

Keepers will show guests animal enrichment items – like this tire, enjoyed by our tigers!

The following tours are offered to Red Panda Day guests:

  • Tigers, Maned Wolves, Giant Anteater
  • Lemurs, Fossa, Javan Gibbons
  • Howler Monkeys, Vet. Hospital
  • Crocodile, Tortoises, Meerkats
  • Venomous Snakes, Crocodile, Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • Fishing Cat, Asian Small Clawed Otters, African Penguins
  • African Penguin, Amazon River Edge, Open Ocean

Tour capacities are limited, so purchase your Red Panda Day ticket early for the best chance of participating in the tour of your choice! Please note that tour participants must be 8 years old or older. Children younger than 8 years old can sign up to attend an animal meet and greet in lieu of a tour. Other restrictions apply. Click here for details.

Red Panda Day is Saturday, September 20, 2014. The event includes much more than behind-the-scenes tours… Guests will enjoy breakfast in the zoo, red panda themed games and activities, cool souvenirs, the awesome feeling that comes with supporting an important conservation cause, and admission to the Greensboro Science Center for the rest of the day. Tickets are $30/person for GSC Members and $40/person for Non-Members, with all proceeds being donated to the Red Panda Network. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

How to Attract Monarchs

A wonderful question on Facebook inspired us to talk to our horticulturalist about how to attract Monarch butterflies to your garden. Here is what she has to say:

Creating a space for butterflies is both a beautiful and incredibly rewarding hobby!

Plant specific species in full sun for nectar, include a variety of host plants such as milkweed for monarchs, and create enough ecological diversity through the addition of a few umbeliferous species to diminish certain pests without the use of harmful chemicals. I recommend including flowering Bee Balm or Bergamont, Native Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Liatris Purple Rocket Flower, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Daisies, Asters, Dianthus, Tickseed, umbeliferous species such as Fennel, Dill, Yarrow, or Tansy. Salvias, Sweet Alyssum, and Lantana are also beneficial. You can also include annuals such as Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos.

Netting Around Milkweed Seeds

Netting Over Seed Pods

Right now, many milkweed species such as Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca, and the Butterflyweed Ascpepias tubrosa, have flowered and are successfully producing their pods, which will dry and burst to release several seeds to the wind. You can place a protective netting over the pods in your garden to save some of these seeds. Other milkweed species include Whorled Milkweed Asclepias verticillata and Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata. Sowing your perennial flower seeds in the fall will provide them with the cold stratification they need to germinate well in the spring just as it occurs in nature. It is important to allow all wild-growing milkweed seeds outside of your garden to spread naturally where they will succeed and grow. You can purchase seeds from local native garden nurseries such as NC Botanical Gardens and others you can find listed here

Include an area with flat stones in the sun and an area for water puddling with a few “perching pebbles” where butterflies might take in water and minerals they need.

For more information about creating beautiful native gardens and habitat in North Carolina, visit: To learn more about how to help Monarch butterflies visit Monarch Watch. Every plant makes a difference!

It’s a Panda Party!

We mean red pandas… which aren’t actually pandas at all, but that’s a different story…

On Saturday, September 20, 2014, we’re celebrating International Red Panda Day with our very own red panda, Taiji! This isn’t your typical Science Center event… this is a truly unique celebration designed entirely around red pandas FOR red pandas, with all proceeds being donated to the Red Panda Network to help save wild red pandas and preserve their habitat.

What do we mean, an event designed around red pandas? Well, take, for instance, the activities…

Upon entering the Greensboro Science Center, each Red Panda Day guest – both kids and kids at heart – will receive a passport. Your mission over the next two hours: travel through the five countries that make up the red panda’s native range, complete each country’s activity, game or challenge and earn your Red Panda Ranger Badge.

Panda Patterns
Red pandas have very distinctive patterns on their fur. Use hair chalk to create a distinctive pattern of your own!

Red Panda Facial Markings

Red Panda Facial Markings

Predator/Prey Pong
Red pandas eat bamboo… earn one point. Snow leopards eat red pandas… lose one point. How many points can you score in Predator/Prey Pong?

Predator/Prey Pong

Predator/Prey Pong

Arboreal Obstacles
Red pandas spend most of their time in the trees and so, are adept climbers. Do you have what it takes to complete our arboreal obstacle course?

Red Panda Balancing Act

Red pandas have awesome balance… how about you?

A red panda version of the classic game, Memory… flip over cards two at a time and match the red panda’s range, habitat, food source, and more. How many turns does it take you to match them all?

Mystery Box
First, get a clue. Then, get a FEEL for the answer. Touch the items in the mystery box and see if you figure out the answer to our red panda riddles.

Of course, in addition to red panda recreations, Red Panda Day guests will also enjoy a delicious breakfast, special behind-the-scenes tours, sweet souvenirs, the chance to win prizes (like a red panda encounter!!!) during random drawings, general admission to the Greensboro Science Center for the remainder of the day, and that wonderful feeling that comes with the knowledge you are helping to save a species.

Tickets are $30/person for GSC Members and $40/person for Non-Members. All proceeds benefit the Red Panda Network.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Meet the Aquarist: Lyssa Torres

Although it’s National Zoo Keeper Week, we can’t forget about our team of aquarists! Without these dedicated professionals, the Carolina SciQuarium wouldn’t be the fascinating place our visitors know and love.

Lyssa Torres gave us the inside scoop about what it’s like to be an aquarist. She’s been in the profession for about three years and has been at the Greensboro Science Center for a little over one year. She has always loved the ocean and sea life, but what pushed her over the edge and made her decide to become an aquarist was a documentary on jellyfish.

Although there are no jellyfish in the SciQuarium (yet; who knows what the future holds?), Lyssa has plenty of other critters and chores to keep her busy. On a typical day in the SciQuarium, aquarists start the morning by checking all of the tanks. They take water samples, clean windows, test the water quality, prepare diets, feed the animals, clean filters, perform water changes, make salt water… it’s a pretty intense list!

And aquarists must know much more than just information about the animals they care for. They have to be proficient in things like plumbing, chemistry and animal medications as well.

Lyssa says the reward is worth it. She loves seeing an animal do well on exhibit, especially when it’s one she hasn’t taken care of before. She also enjoys watching the visitors’ reactions as they interact with animals.

Her favorite part of the job, though, as you might imagine, is getting wet. Whether she’s participating in dives or training the eagle ray, she loves being in the water.

Lyssa with Eagle Ray

Lyssa feeding the SciQuarium’s spotted eagle ray.

So, what’s the worst part of the job?

“Sometimes the cleaning can get kind of repetitive,” she said.

However, the rather mundane task of cleaning is all part of the job… A job which led to a pretty cool story to tell at parties…

“I was head-butted by a whale shark,” Lyssa said. She was feeding them from an inflatable boat as in intern at the Georgia Aquarium. Apparently, she wasn’t feeding them fast enough and one let her know in a rather intrusive manner!

As you have hopefully learned from this week’s blog series, our zoo keepers and aquarists are incredible individuals. They work hard – and play hard – and have some amazing stories to tell. Although National Zoo Keeper Week is coming to a close for 2014, please remember these folks any time you visit and thank them for the work they do to ensure the health, happiness and well-being of our animals.

Meet the Keeper: Lauren Irk

Lauren has worked as a zoo keeper at the Greensboro Science Center for about four and a half years. She knew early on that she wanted to work with animals, but didn’t want to become a veterinarian. The primary reason was that she didn’t want the responsibility of euthanizing animals. “It would be too hard,” Lauren said. “I would cry every time.”

So, she took her passion for animal care along a different route by enrolling in Davidson County Community College’s Zoo and Aquarium Science program. During the program, she became an intern at the Greensboro Science Center and, in her second year, was hired part-time by the Center. Since then, she has worked her way up and is now a full time keeper in the Center’s herpetology department.

Her primary responsibilities include making diets, feeding, administering medications when necessary and general cleaning. Although general cleaning does include the dreaded “scooping of the poop,” she did note that reptiles don’t go to the bathroom as often as mammals… which, um, we guess is a job perk…

But, to Lauren, the real perks are a bit different. She loves talking to kids. “They’re funny,” she said, “especially when they know stuff already.”

She also enjoys it when new animals arrive. It’s always exciting for her to have something different to work with – especially if it’s a new species.

“I like being a female in the reptile department,” Lauren said. It is typically a male-dominated field and people are often surprised to hear what Lauren does for a living. However, Lauren is surprised at the number of female counterparts she has in zoos across the country. So take heart, ladies, if your passion lies in pythons, you’re not alone.

Lauren with a skink

Keeper, Lauren, with one of her charges – a blue tongued skink.

While you might think the danger of a reptile keeper’s career lies in the rattlesnake, copperhead or Burmese python, don’t be fooled. The real threats are tortoises… “I’ve been stampeded by tortoises,” Lauren admits. “If there’s food, they will stampede. They’ll run you over for it.” (Note: no zoo keepers were harmed in the telling of this anecdote.)

Another interesting thing you might not know about a reptile keeper’s job is that they spend time training their animals. That’s right, they can be taught! The Center’s tortoises have learned to target and are now learning to pick up their feet when asked. And Maggie, the rhinoceros iguana, is learning to wear a harness.

All of the keepers in the herpetology department get along great, Lauren said. They each have specific jobs they do and specific animals to care for each day, but they also have a little time to have fun. While they do tend to goof off occasionally, one thing they always take seriously is the health and well-being of their animals.