See to Believe Returns September 20, 2019

See To Believe 2019

The Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) annual gala, See to Believe, sponsored by First Bank, will take place on Friday, September 20 from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Each year, See to Believe is uniquely themed to pay homage to the GSC’s distinct experiences, exhibits and milestones.

Back by popular demand, gala guests will enjoy a variety of interactive games, including Giant Jenga, Pacific Plinko and Flaming-O Ring-O. Party goers will have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win memorable experiences designed to make dreams come alive – from a private dinner in the aquarium to animal feeding opportunities.

Attendees will be invited to dance the night away with high-energy dance band Fantasy and mingle in the aquarium to the soothing sounds of steel drums. Heavy hors d’oeuvres from Pepper Moon Catering, as well as a variety of premium beer, wine, champagne, and non-alcoholic beverages, will be available for guests to enjoy as they roam, discover and celebrate.

This year, gala attendees can support the GSC’s zoo expansion, Revolution Ridge, and help bring pygmy hippos to the GSC – and North Carolina – for the first time via the GSC’s “Fund the Need” effort. The pygmy hippopotamus is an endangered species with less than 2,500 mature individuals left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The GSC believes it is critical to participate in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan® for this species. Gifts given during “Fund the Need” will help in many ways, including building brand new exhibits and covering travel costs for new species.

See to Believe tickets and sponsorships start at $90 and are available online at greensboroscience.org/seetobelieve. Attendees must be age 21 or older.

Volunteer Spotlight: Marcia R.

Marcia R. has dedicated her time volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over four years. Over that time, Marcia has been trained in multiple programs.

“[I] work in the Zoo and Aquatic areas at least twice a month,” she says. Individuals who are interested in volunteering in more than one program must be active Docents who have volunteered with either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months. After that time, they have the opportunity to attend the training class for the opposite program.

Marcia may have been a new volunteer to the GSC in 2014, but she had plenty of experience volunteering at another facility. Marcia explains, “Prior to living in Greensboro, I resided in Maryland and worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (in Washington, DC) in the Entomology Department with numerous types of insects.”

Marcia R Volunteer DSC_5440

She may have had to switch gears a bit when she started volunteering at the GSC, but Marcia gained skills at the Smithsonian that have since benefited her here, adding, “While at the museum, I gave lectures on insects to groups of visitors from around the world. I loved working with the animals and visitors!”  

Since public speaking and interaction is such a big part of volunteering at the GSC, we’re especially grateful for the skills Marcia acquired at the Smithsonian.

Beyond public speaking and interaction, education and inspiration are two other key aspects to volunteering at the GSC. Our volunteers, like Marcia, have a strong desire to share knowledge while also instilling a passion for our natural world in our guests.

Marcia says, “While working at [the] GSC, I attempt to seek out visitors’ questions concerning the animal they are viewing, and hopefully [they] will continue searching for additional animal information after their visit.”

In reflecting on her four years at the GSC, Marcia recalls, “I was most fortunate to transfer my interests over to [the] GSC and to be a part of their ‘Outstanding Volunteer Program’!”  

We couldn’t agree more. As for us, we would not be able to do any of this if not for our volunteers, who commit so much of their time to the education of our community and conservation of our world.  Marcia has volunteered almost 450 hours at GSC, and we are proud to have her as part of our volunteer family.

 

Greensboro Science Center Announces 2019 – 2020 Conservation & Research Grant Recipients

The Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) Research Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of its annual Conservation & Research Grant. Each year, GSC employees are given the opportunity to apply for funds to pursue a conservation or research project. The 2019 – 2020 grantees are as follows:

Michael Motsch, Zookeeper

Project: Red Panda Network’s Zoo Eco Trip

The Zoo Eco trip allows keepers to track red pandas with the professionals who study and monitor wild populations. Michael, the lead red panda keeper at the GSC, will travel to Nepal in December to participate in this program. The experience will unite Michael’s passion for red pandas and his interest in their conservation via hands-on field work.

Sara Payne, Exhibits & Design Manager

Project: Human-Chimpanzee Conflict Awareness Project

The Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) works with primate conservation organizations across Africa. Sara will develop educational materials, including banners and posters, for Chimpanzee Trust, a PASA member, that will be distributed throughout the region to inform locals about human – animal conflict and emphasize the importance of primates.

Katie Ruffolo, Educator

Project: North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) Website Content- Species Profile Updates

The NCWRC is updating the herpetofauna species profiles on their website. Katie is combining her love of herptiles with her love for writing to assist the commission in creating profiles. She will travel across the state to meet with species specialists, gather information for their profiles, and write content that will appear on the NCWRC’s website.

Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation & Research, says, “We are excited to have such diverse projects submitted for this year’s grant cycle. The Research Committee is happy to support these unique and individualized projects.”

 

 

Studying Bats for Species Conservation

The Greensboro Science Center’s Conservation and Research department is actively involved in saving the seven bat species found right here in the Piedmont. Bats in North Carolina are insectivores, meaning they consume insects. Every night from late spring until early fall, you may see bats swooping through the skies, foraging for insects. They are a great, natural pesticide – which is just one of the endearing qualities that makes us want to protect them!

In 2011, researchers began to see signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) on hibernating bats in the mountains. WNS is a fungus that adheres to the bats’ skin, particularly their muzzles and wings. The fungus is an irritant that causes the bats to wake from torpor, or hibernation. The process of waking burns a lot of calories, so the bats are hungry, but in winter, there are no insects to eat to sustain them. Large numbers of bats have perished from WNS by burning up their fat reserves before their spring emergence. Some species of bats are more prone to WNS than others, so some species have seen a much more dramatic decline than others.

Researchers across the country, particularly in states impacted by WNS, want to know the abundance and diversity of bats. Researchers collect this information to help construct a long-term understanding of populations before, during and after WNS. It allows scientists to make more informed decisions to combat the disease.

In order to understand what species live here, we sample the population. Since bats use echolocation, we use ultra-sonic recording devices to record calls. We can then interpret the call to identify the species and discover whether they are foraging or navigating their environment. We also use mist-nets to catch bats and obtain diversity and abundance information. This allows us to not only know what species is present, but also the sex ratio, age, and overall health of our bat populations.

Mist-netting is a technique where you string a mist-net between tall poles mounted in the ground like flag poles. Mist nets range in size from 3 meters to 12meters and can be combined to reach up to 30 meters high. Nets are placed at sundown and remain until 1:00am, with researchers checking them every eight minutes. Bats typically go through two rounds of foraging, one at sundown and one just before the sun rises. Mist nets look and feel like hair nets and they are designed such that bats fly into them and safely fall into a net pouch. Researchers carefully remove the bat from the net and place them into a mesh bag.

Once we have a “bat in hand”, we can collect information, including weight (1), species (2), arm length (3), age (4), gender (5), and wing rating (6). Then, we place an ID band on its wing (7) and release it so it can continue foraging. All data collected from these outings are tracked by the state.

The combination of acoustic recordings and mist-netting gives us an understanding of our bat populations. This data allows us to look at trends over time and see how species diversity and abundance change in response to situations like WNS. From this information we can make informed decisions on maintaining bat roosts, including caves, bridges and forests. Wildlife is wild and we are here to guide decisions that allow wildlife to thrive! Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so we need as much data as we can gather before we make any decision that could alter the natural behaviors or species composition in a habitat.

It is thanks to years of data collection that we have seen a plateau in the decline of WNS-impacted species. It is encouraging to think the large scale declines are coming to an end. We have also seen juveniles of those impacted species, which gives us hope that species are trying to rebound. Bat work will continue to help researchers understand this unique mammal and to help protect their habitats.

Greensboro Science Center Vet Technician Responds to Flamingo Crisis

In May, the Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) Veterinary Technician, Sam Beasley, spent two weeks in Kimberley, South Africa, assisting with a flamingo crisis thanks to the GSC’s Conservation & Research Grant Program.

In January, the Kamfers Dam began drying up. As adult flamingos followed the dwindling water source, they left hundreds of eggs and hatchlings exposed to the elements. Through funding made available by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), locals in Kimberely South Africa built a large pen, complete with a makeshift dam, at the local SPCA where the abandoned hatchlings could be rehabilitated, then released.

Beasley, who was originally scheduled to use her grant money to assist with a sea turtle project, changed her plans to respond to this more urgent crisis.

Sam and Flamingo

Beasley says her day began at 7:45 each morning. She, local volunteers in Kimberley and a fellow volunteer from the GSC were responsible for feeding 600+ birds four times each day and misting them 3 times per day. In addition, they maintained water quality by conducting regular water changes on the dam and smaller pools, performed grounds maintenance both inside and outside of the pen and administered any daily medications.

The birds were primarily fed a flamingo red feed, in addition to duck pellets, dog food and additional supplements. Unfortunately, the flamingo red feed’s consistency had begun building residue on the bird’s beaks and feathers, at which time volunteers were instructed to begin cleaning all birds individually.  Manually removing the residue from the bills and bathing the birds occupied much of her time on site. Beasley says the sheer number of birds and the limited resources available made the situation extremely challenging. With one hose and no hot water on site, it took between 45-minutes and one hour to bathe just one bird.

The hard work did pay off when Beasley assisted in the release of 110 of those 600+ birds during her last two days in South Africa.

“I would do it over again any day of the week,” Beasley says. Thanks to her time spent in South Africa, she says she knows more about flamingos now than she could have ever hoped, which will be extremely beneficial when the GSC exhibits these birds in its Revolution Ridge zoo expansion (expected to be complete in 2020).

Busy Bees and Other Prominent Pollinators

Here at the Greensboro Science Center, we love all animals – big and small! One of our smallest residents is perhaps one of our most important: the honey bee.

Bees are social insects that live in colonies all over the world. These colonies consist of one queen, female worker bees and male drones. Worker bees, which make up the majority of the hive’s population, do all of the work – from gathering nectar to creating honey and building the hive. Worker bees have to be incredibly efficient because their lifespan is only around 45 days, which is much less than the lifespan of their queen, who can live up to 7 years! Drones are there only to help reproduce and keep the hive populated.

Honey bees are one of our most important pollinators. When they fly from flower to flower looking for nectar, pollen gets stuck on their hairy legs. When they are visiting other flowers, some of that pollen will fall off – and that is how those plants become pollinated. Through this process, we estimate that bees are responsible for pollinating plants that create 1/3 of the food that we eat here in the United States! Unfortunately, bee populations have been decreasing, which not only affects wildlife, but us as well.

You can help bees by choosing plants that they like for your gardens at home such as Purple Coneflower, Great Blue Lobelia and Goldenrod. You can also join us at the Greensboro Science Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30am and 2:30pm in August by our beehives in Friendly Farm to get a packet of seeds as well as help create a community beehive from bottle caps!

Fun Fact: Do you know what to do when you’ve been stung by a bee? Believe it or not, you don’t want to swat at the insect! When a honey bee gets crushed, it releases a pheromone that signals danger to other bees which causes them to swarm. When a bee stings, its stinger comes out so it cannot sting you more than once. Remain calm, brush the bee off and remove the stinger from your skin.

Now for an easy DIY way of helping bees beat the August heat!

Just like us, bees and other pollinators need water to stay healthy. You can help them by leaving trays of water out for them!

What you will need: A tray like a pie tin or small bowl, marbles or decorative stones, and fresh water.

Bee-Materials

Step 1: Place your marbles or stones into the tray.

Bee-Marbles

Step 2: Pour water into the tray so that the tops of your marbles or stones are just above the water. The idea is that they will give insects something to sit on so they can drink without risk of drowning.

Bee-Marbles-Water

Step 3: Place your tray somewhere in your yard for bees and other insects to stop and get a drink! If you don’t like insects near you or your house, you will want to place these somewhere that you won’t be bothered by them.

 

If you want to monitor your station to see who drops by, consider tracking your visitors with the iNaturalist app! You can read up on this app in our previous Conservation Creation blog. And don’t forget to get plenty of water yourself and stay hydrated in the summer heat!

Eury’s Story: Caring for an Aging Anteater

Since 2008, Eury has been one of the most charismatic crowd-pleasers in our zoo. 

If you’ve participated in a Zoo Trek, you may have experienced the shock of his 2-foot-long tongue snaking inside your sneaker. 

If you’ve accidentally dropped a little one’s shoe into his exhibit, you may have seen firsthand the catastrophic consequences of his inquisitive nature. 

And, if you’ve listened to a Keeper Talk featuring our beloved anteater, you may have heard him fondly referred to as a grumpy old man. Temperament aside, at 19 years of age, Eury is, in fact, considered “old.” 

In the wild, giant anteaters have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, while in captivity, they have been known to reach 20 years of age. As with all of our geriatric animals, our animal care staff has been working hard to help ease the side effects of Eury’s advancing age. 

Eury arrived at the GSC with an old hip injury. To compensate for the damage, Eury had naturally been bearing more weight on the uninjured side, which led to chronic arthritis in that knee. 

Eury---Hip

An x-ray of Eury’s old hip injury. The left side of the image shows the damage.

Eury---Knee

An x-ray of Eury’s damaged knee. The right side of the image shows the affected area.

To manage his pain, our team has been making adjustments to Eury’s habitat as well as administering medication as necessary. 

Inside the blockhouse (the indoor part of his exhibit), keepers are ensuring the kiddie pool he uses as a bed is full of a thick, comfy layer of pine shavings. Additional mulch is regularly added to the area  to create a soft surface for him to walk on. In the outdoor exhibit space, the yard is being tiered to create a more gentle slope, which will be easier for his old bones to navigate.

When it comes to medication, Eury receives a daily glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, a daily dose of meloxicam and two daily doses of both tramadol and gabapentin. In addition, he receives a glycosaminoglycan injection every two weeks. New to his care routine are daily cannabis oil treats.

Eury has also recently started acupuncture and cold laser therapy sessions, which he is handling very well. Dr. Tara Harrison, from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, visited the GSC in early June to assist with his first session. In addition to demonstrating the proper technique to our teams, she also brought along a group of her students to observe and participate. To keep Eury occupied while acupuncture was in progress, our animal care staff provided him with some of his favorite snacks. Eventually, those snacks ran out. While those assembled would likely give him the shirts off their backs, they opted for another of his best-loved enrichment items instead – the shoes off their feet (Eury is quite fond of investigating stinky shoes).

Eury-Acupuncture

For the last 3 years, Eury has been regularly evaluated by animal care staff using our quality of life assessment. During these assessments, Eury’s primary keeper and our veterinarian discuss Eury’s health, well-being, and current and potential treatments. For his most recent assessment, it was noted that, although Eury has chronic and severe arthritis, he is still maintaining himself (grooming, eating, drinking, keeping weight on, etc.) and he is responding well to the acupuncture and cold laser therapy sessions. 

Eury is a geriatric anteater and is experiencing some of the issues that come with advanced age, but he is still doing well and his keeper and vet will continue to monitor his quality of life and provide him with supportive care.