Volunteer Spotlight: Pat G.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Pat G.

Pat is an Aquarium/Zoo/Tier 2 Docent who has been volunteering at the GSC since February 2014.

Even though Pat lives in Virginia, she makes time to volunteer 2 to 3 times a week. She “loves marine life” and has “always wanted to work in a zoo” so she feels like at the GSC she gets the best of both worlds in one place.

Pat will willingly admit to anyone that she has been afraid of snakes her whole life. It used to be so bad that her husband had to cover up pictures of snakes in a newspaper for her to be able to read it! When she first started at the GSC she “couldn’t even walk down the hall past the [Herp Lab] windows or go near the snake enclosures in Discovery House.” Slowly, she reached a point where she could at least stand in front of the snake enclosures in the Discovery House so she could talk to visitors. She became brave enough to touch one now and then.

Pat G

Pat holding Stripe in the Herp lab.

When the Herp Lab was put into the zoo rotation she was worried, but knew she could handle the turtles. With some encouragement from the volunteer staff, she began to slowly work with the snakes. After several training sessions with Stripe, Pat was able to actually hold him on her own for several minutes! She was so proud that she brought her husband to the GSC to surprise him with her progress and showed him how her feelings had changed towards snakes. She says that “I educate every day about the animals that live here and at the same time I was educated too.”

In her own words, “This truly is a great place to volunteer. I get to live my dream, handle some really sweet animals, and meet a lot of nice people. This place has made a big difference in my life.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Leslie B.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Leslie B.

Leslie is an Aquarium Docent who began volunteering at GSC since August 2015. Leslie has been a regular aquarium docent since she started. She tries to volunteer two to three times a week as she is looking for a way to combine giving back to the community, education and her love of animals.

“Volunteering at the GSC is an ongoing pleasure for many reasons. There is a kinetic and contagious joy between people and animals, especially children who get to see and touch sea life for the first time. The wonder and excitement is palpable almost every time I volunteer. I find it very rewarding to let visitors know the names and details of the animals and their environments. My time at the GSC is very pleasant thanks to the Staff who are very approachable and working with other friendly and cooperative docents.”

Leslie - Memphis pic

When asked for a memorable volunteer moment, Leslie spoke of seeing Memphis, the Giant Pacific Octopus, come out from hiding for the first time after his much anticipated arrival into the aquarium. “I find meaningful memories to take with me after each volunteering session and look forward to more enriching volunteer adventures at the GSC.”

Veterinary Care for Green Sea Turtles

The animal care team is happy to report that the four green sea turtles being rehabilitated at the Greensboro Science Center are settling in nicely to their temporary spaces. These turtles were among the hundreds rescued off the North Carolina coast, cold-stunned after a sudden drop in water temperature. The GSC, along with other aquarium facilities, are housing and rehabilitating the turtles until they can be released back to the Atlantic.

Rehabilitation of sea turtles is a multi-faceted effort. It involves proper veterinary care, diet, behavior monitoring and adequate, but not too much, human interaction. Cold-stunned symptoms are similar to those of hypothermia. Since turtles are reptiles, they cannot regulate their body temperature. When the ocean temperature dropped from their preferred 70 degrees to close to 50 degrees, the turtles were left in cold shock. Their heart rate dropped so their circulation slowed down, and they became lethargic and able only to float in the water. This reaction to cold causes their breathing to become irregular, and as a consequence, susceptible to pneumonia, and unable to maintain proper buoyancy in the water. The four turtles at the Center are being treated with a prophylactic antibiotic to prevent diseases onset by the cold. We are happy to report they have received their final dose of antibiotic, which they were receiving every 72 hours since they arrived at the GSC six days ago.

Sea Turtles Receiving Veterinary Care

The GSC vet has been monitoring the health of the sea turtles. The turtles were examined upon arrival to make sure their overall body condition was good. He looked over their flippers and carapace, or shell. By moving their flippers, our vet could assess the condition of their joints. He examined their eyes, mouths and tongues to make sure their mucus membranes were healthy.

Sea Turtle with BarnaclesHe also looked at their “barnacle load.” Barnacles, often seen on boat hulls and piers, are crustaceans, related to crabs or lobsters. They float in the water as juveniles, attach themselves to something, secrete a substance to create their hard calcite outer layer and spend the rest of their lives as sessile (immobile) filter feeders. Most are harmless to their host; however, the amount of barnacles on a turtle can be a sign of their health. Healthier turtles tend to have fewer barnacles.

The turtles have been steadily getting stronger and have responded well to the antibiotics. While that particular treatment is complete, they will continue to be monitored until they are released.

FLL Trash Trek Experiment

This is a guest post from the Brick Busters, one of our FIRST LEGO League Robotics teams:

We are the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Robotics team #3124 Brick Busters from the Greensboro Science Center. Each season for FLL, we build and program a robot to compete on a mat, as well as create an innovative solution project. This season, the FLL theme is Trash Trek, which means we were supposed to create a solution to an issue that is trash or recycling related. As a team, we decided to focus on finding a solution to Styrofoam.

Styrofoam (Aka plastic 6 or expanded polystyrene foam) is a petroleum based plastic made from a styrene monomer. Polystyrene is a lightweight material that is often used as a packing or insulation material because of its insulation properties.  Styrofoam is less-expensive and better for packaging than paper so it is widely used. Most recycling centers, including the City of Greensboro location, do not have the capabilities to recycle styrofoam. Therefore a lot of styrofoam ends up in landfills after we are done with it, which is very bad because it is nonbiodegradable. There are 57 chemicals used during the creation of styrofoam and there is potential for some of these to end up in the environment if not disposed of correctly.

In September, we saw several news articles about mealworms eating styrofoam.  We decided to test this and use it to develop a solution to styrofoam ending up in the environment.  Our solution is to use mealworms to eat the Styrofoam and create community centers with mealworms where we drop off our Styrofoam. We will use special containers, which people will put styrofoam in and drop them off at the community center. The Styrofoam will be eaten by mealworms which will turn half of the styrofoam to carbon dioxide.

Mealworms can live off a diet of Styrofoam with no major difference then when they eat a regular diet. When mealworms eat styrofoam, they can actually digest it, rather than it rot in a landfill for hundreds of years. The process is very slow though, so it would take a lot of worms to break down all the Styrofoam that needs to be broken down. The feces they create is safe and could be used as fertilizer for gardens.

Week 1

Before the worms were added to the bins

Before the worms were added to the bins

Counting the mealworms

Counting the mealworms

The initial containers with the mealworms

The initial containers with the mealworms

This is the week we put the mealworms into the 3 containers. We had one container for a block of packing styrofoam, one for a cup, and one for styrofoam plates. In each container, we put 150 mealworms in with the styrofoam and a sponge (water source).

All the worms we added were alive at the time and were eager to explore their new homes.

Week 2

Week 2

Week 2

Week 2

Week 2

The mealworms have begun to eat the styrofoam, however it is not a big amount. We carefully watched the worms over the week and realized the worms in the plate container were not eating and seemed to be starving. Our coach supplemented their diet with some cornstarch packing peanuts before changing their styrofoam out to a hot dog container.

In the block of packing styrofoam, the mealworms started to create holes in it. They could stick their heads in the holes, but that was about it.  They had also eaten some of the red lettering on the Coca-Cola cup.

Week 3

Week 3

Week 3

Week 3

Week 3

The mealworms have made some more progress since last week. This week there were clear holes going into the packing styrofoam and we think they started to burrow inside of it. The mealworms seem to be liking the hot dog container and were more lively that week. They have eaten some of it. The edge of the cup is a lot lighter, as well as the bottom.

You can see that there are several mealworms in their pupa stage now. They are moving on to the next stage of their development.

Week 4

Week 4

Week 4

Week 4

Week 4

The mealworms are still eating the styrofoam and it is clear the ones in the packing styrofoam block have burrowed inside. There are more worms in a pupa stage this week than there were in earlier stages. The hot dog container and the cup have holes in the them.

There are still a lot of worms in their pupa stage. We did have our first beetle this week. The first one we found one was deformed, with half of its exoskeleton missing. We are not sure if this is because of the experiment and the styrofoam nutritional content, but this happens in normal populations too.

Week 5

This is the last week of our experiment. There are a lot less worms in every container than there were the first week. We think some of the mealworms got trapped inside of the styrofoam block and could not leave as they developed. Also, some have gone through metamorphosis and become beetles; it is likely that they crawled into the bran control to find food once they became beetles.

All the containers show evidence of mealworms having eaten the styrofoam. In 5 weeks time, they ate some, but not a lot. We hypothesize that we would need to increase the number of mealworms in every container to see more breakdown. It may also be good to have more things in the environment than just styrofoam. Some alternative food choices may be good to prevent beetle malformations.

Watch this time-lapse video to watch mealworms break down Styrofoam:

Volunteer Spotlight: Katherine K.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Katherine K.

Katherine

Katherine volunteering in the Herp Lab.

“I’ve been volunteering as a docent once a week since March 2013, first in the zoo and then I added the aquarium and Herp Lab. I stopped working full time a few years ago and I was taught that if you have extra time, you give back to your community.  I love children and animals so the Science Center was a perfect fit!”

“I have many meaningful memories with one-on-one time with visitors.  I enjoy helping to make their visit to the Center more enjoyable by giving them information about the animals and learning about their favorite animals.  I was at the touch pool in the aquarium once and asked a young girl what her favorite animal was. She answered “anaconda”, not knowing that we had one on exhibit right behind her.  She had basically skipped the whole Amazon exhibit in her excitement to touch the sting rays, but would’ve have missed out on seeing her favorite animal!  I’m always happy when I can help make someone’s visit a little more special.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Janakee C.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Janakee C:

Janakee

Janakee volunteering in the Herp Lab.

“I have been volunteering continually for the Science Center since summer 2015, though I did volunteer in the summer of 2014 as an exhibit guide. Currently, I try to volunteer every week as a zoo docent. I was drawn to volunteering at the GSC mainly because of the incredible notion that there were all of these wonderful animals, many of them endangered, so close to me. The opportunity to interact with people, something I really enjoy, coupled with seeing (and even handling some of) the GSC’s animals every time really called out to me.”

“I have so many wonderful memories from volunteering, and that’s what makes it so rewarding. It’s great to see so many people, ranging from dads with their toddler daughters to groups of friends out to see everything the GSC has to offer. Things like hearing a little girl tell her mother, “I tired. I go inside now,” or by helping a little boy pet some goats, and then being thanked profusely by his grandmother. These encounters really help me appreciate the world as well as feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s day. Something such as hearing a woman looking at the gibbons and sincerely telling her friend, “That is truly beautiful,” reminds me that there are still people out there (in addition to our wonderful staff!) who care and who appreciate the beauty in the world around us. That, in itself, warms my heart and makes it sing in joy.”

Greensboro Science Center to Rehabilitate Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles

You may have seen the recent news about cold-stunned sea turtles being rescued off the North Carolina coast. Our colleagues at the North Carolina Aquariums were quick to step up and assist. Although many turtles have already recovered and been released back into the Atlantic, there are still a large number that need additional rehabilitation. The North Carolina Aquarium has asked the Greensboro Science Center to assist with a state-wide effort to help these turtles recover.

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Earlier today, we received 4 green sea turtles. Our aquarium and veterinary team will administer medical assistance as needed, provide them with a healthy diet, and monitor their recovery until they are strong enough to be released back into the ocean. The turtles will be housed behind the scenes of the aquarium during their treatment, and will not be on exhibit for visitors to view. We will, however, be sure to post updates along with photos and video on our social media channels so everyone can follow the progress of these endangered animals.

Facilities like ours work collaboratively with other aquariums, zoos, and state and federal agencies to help protect and preserve wild animals and places. Efforts such as this sea turtle rescue are possible because of well-trained aquarists, properly equipped facilities, and global conservation networks. While aquariums are known for providing visitors the opportunity to experience rare and exotic animals in a safe environment, a lesser-known fact is that they also contribute to global conservation efforts. The Greensboro Science Center is proud to be able to help rehabilitate these sea turtles as part of one such effort.