Science Café – Conserving Nature’s Keystone: The Gopher Tortoise

On Thursday, March 5, 2020, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is hosting a free Science Café in its Science Advancement through Innovative Learning (SAIL) Center. Dr. Christopher L. Jenkins, CEO of The Orianne Society, will present Conserving Nature’s Keystone: The Gopher Tortoise. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the talk begins at 6:30 p.m. This event is free to attend.

The gopher tortoise is a prehistoric animal that still roams the Coastal Plain of the Southeast, but populations have declined to the point of endangered species status. These animals are critical to the success of the ecosystem as their burrows are used as a habitat for more than 300 other species. Without gopher tortoises, many of these species’ populations would decline as well.

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About the Presenter
Dr. Jenkins is the founding Chief Executive Officer of The Orianne Society. He also was the founding chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Viper Specialist Group and the Georgia Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. He has served in leadership roles in Partners for Reptiles and Amphibian Conservation and Gopher Tortoise Council. Dr. Jenkins has also worked with Wildlife Conservation Society, United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Massachusetts, University of British Columbia, and National Geographic. Dr. Jenkins received a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Massachusetts in wildlife biology and wildlife conservation, respectively. He received his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Idaho State University.

About The Orianne Society
Established in 2008, The Orianne Society is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the conservation of rare and imperiled reptiles and amphibians. Orianne promotes the conservation of these species through scientific research that informs on-the-ground conservation actions and managing habitats to promote robust reptile and amphibian populations. Currently, Orianne administers three large-scale conservation initiatives across the eastern United States, focusing on key landscapes that support high diversity and rare species: the Longleaf Savannas, Appalachian Highlands, and Great Northern Forests.

Pajama Jam Returns March 13

The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is pleased to announce that its annual family-friendly conservation fundraiser, Pajama Jam returns on Friday, March 13, 2020. This after-hours pajama party designed for families with children ages 12 and younger features crafts, games, live music by Big Bang Boom, face painting, and refreshments courtesy of Chick-fil-A. Attendees are encouraged to wear family-friendly pajamas to the event.

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Two ticket options are available for Pajama Jam:

Regular Ticket (includes event activities and light refreshments – nuggets, fruit and a cookie – from 6:00pm – 9:00pm)
• GSC Member (ages 1+): $10
• Non-Member (ages 1+): $12
• Under Age 1: FREE

VIP Experience (includes seated dinner – sandwich, fruit and a cookie – with the Chick-fil-A cows from 5:30pm – 6:00pm, plus event activities and light refreshments from 6:00pm – 9:00pm)
• GSC Member (ages 1+): $13
• Non-Member (ages 1+): $15
• Under Age 1: FREE
VIP Experience is limited to 100 guests.

Proceeds from Pajama Jam support the GSC’s conservation fund, which aim to preserve species and habitats through on-site programs, community awareness, field studies and fundraising for local and global conservation efforts. Tickets can purchased on the GSC’s website at: https://www.greensboroscience.org/conservation/pajama-jam/index.html.

Sumatran Tigers To Make Exhibit Debut Thursday, January 30

On Thursday, January 30, Sumatran tiger brothers Rocky and Jaggar are scheduled to make their public debut on exhibit at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC). From 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., the tigers will have access to their outdoor exhibit space as well as their indoor holding area. The animals may or may not be visible to GSC guests at any given time, as they will be able to choose where they would like to spend the day.

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The two-year-old brothers arrived at the GSC on Friday, January 10 from Florida’s Jacksonville Zoo. Since then, they have spent time getting to know their keepers and adjusting to their new surroundings. Over the last few days, they have been given opportunities to explore their exhibit space for short periods of time under close supervision of GSC staff. Animal care staff have determined that they are now ready to make their debut on exhibit for all GSC guests.

Carolyn Mikulskis, the GSC’s Lead Keeper for tigers, says, “It has been so much fun to work with the tiger brothers over the last couple of weeks. Getting to know their personalities has been amazing and I am so excited for all of our guests to get to see them! They are full of energy and are going to be an amazing addition to the Greensboro Science Center.”

Mikulskis continues, “With the boys only being two years old, we are going to get to watch them grow and mature here at the GSC. They are only about 180lbs right now and could grow up to 310lbs.”

The GSC’s tiger exhibit has gone through extensive renovations over the past two years. The original holding facility was completely rebuilt to support a breeding pair of tigers, which allows the GSC to actively participate in the Sumatran tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) in the future. The new building features four individual rooms that can be combined as needed to form larger rooms. This allows for a future denning space – as well as a separate area for mom and cubs if a breeding recommendation is received from the SSP.

The exhibit space itself has also seen significant changes. Waterfalls, bridges, rocks, scratching posts, climbing structures, shade structures and a cave have all been recently added. In addition to providing guests with a more aesthetically pleasing view, animal care staff hope these changes will provide the animals with plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

Rescued Sea Turtles Arrive at the Greensboro Science Center

The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) has admitted 11 cold-stunned sea turtles for rehabilitation in collaboration with the North Carolina Aquariums and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

A sudden cold snap along North Carolina’s Outer Banks cold-stunned 159 sea turtles last week alone. Since December 20, 2019, the North Carolina Aquariums have processed 225 cold-stunned sea turtles, leading coastal rehabilitation centers to seek help from fellow qualified institutions, like the GSC.

The GSC’s Wiseman Aquarium is housing 11 green sea turtles until they are ready to be released back into the wild. The turtles were transported from the coast to Raleigh by colleagues at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who are also assisting with rehabilitation efforts by admitting eight turtles of their own. GSC staff moved the 11 being housed in Greensboro from Raleigh to the GSC, where aquarium and veterinary teams will monitor the turtles, track their weight, and administer any necessary medical assistance.

Sarah Halbrend, the GSC’s Curator of Aquatics, says, “We are delighted to help support the NC Aquariums in our mutual goal of protecting endangered and threatened species. We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with like-minded facilities to rehabilitate these green sea turtles, allowing us to fulfill our role of promoting conservation through education and action. Our team is looking forward to the day we can release healthy green sea turtles back into the wild.”

While the rescued sea turtles will not be on exhibit for guests to view, the GSC will post updates with photos and video on its Facebook page so everyone can follow their progress.

Facilities such as the Greensboro Science Center work in collaboration with other aquariums and federal agencies to help protect and preserve wild animals and their habitats. Efforts such as this sea turtle rescue are possible because of well-trained aquarists, properly equipped facilities, and global conservation networks.

First Sensory Friendly Night of 2020 Scheduled for February 18

On Tuesday, February 18, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) will host its first Sensory Friendly Night of 2020. This after-hours event is designed specifically for guests with sensory-related challenges, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and their families.

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Martha Regester, VP of Education, says, “We want everyone to experience science adventures at the Greensboro Science Center, and we know that sometimes the noise, lights, sounds, and smells – and crowds – can be overwhelming. We are really excited to open our doors with a more relaxed night for families with someone whose autism or anxiety makes a visit more challenging during regular operating hours.”

Sensory Friendly Night tickets are free for GSC members and $5 per person for non-members ages 3 and older. Children 2 and younger are free. Tickets can be purchased on site at the GSC’s admission window the evening of the event. Tickets include admission to the GSC’s museum and aquarium, with special quiet and activity zones, games, and sensory backpacks available for loan. The zoo will not be open.

Guests are encouraged to visit the GSC’s website to access downloadable materials that will help prepare for the evening’s activities. Downloadable resources include a map that highlights locations of exhibits and activities as well as locations with sensory extremes, such as loud noises, unusual smells, and bright or dark lighting conditions. A printable photo board denoting the activities taking place throughout the evening is available so guests can build their own schedule prior to arrival. A social narrative is also online to prepare guests about what they can expect during their visit.

Additional Sensory Friendly Nights are scheduled for March 17, September 15, and October 20. 2020 Sensory Friendly Night events have been made possible by the Lincoln Financial Foundation. Special thanks goes to the University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program for GSC staff training as well as the Autism Society of North Carolina and Autism Unbound for their support of this program.

Volunteer Dive Program

The divers you see in our Shark Reef exhibit are staff members and volunteers with two things in common: they’re certified SCUBA divers and they’ve passed our rigorous assessment process.

Becoming a volunteer diver in our aquarium is a multi-step process. First, you must already be a certified SCUBA diver. You must also complete a dive physical and become CPR/AED certified.

Certified SCUBA divers interested in joining our dive program are encouraged to come to our informational meeting January 30, 2020 from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. to learn more about the program. After attending this meeting, prospective volunteers must fill out an online application. If selected, candidates will participate in an interview with our volunteer program manager, aquarium curator, and dive safety officer.

Divers who pass the interview must then participate in a skills evaluation at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. During this evaluation, our team will gauge participants’ comfort in the water as well as their fitness level. Skills are based on the standards set forth in our Dive Safety Manual (which is based on OSHA standards for commercial diver). The evaluation includes:

  1. A 400-meter swim (16 laps!)
  2. Towing a buddy 25 meters across the pool, unaided
  3. Retrieving a 10-pound weight from the bottom of the pool
  4. Treading water for 10 minutes
  5. Swimming underwater for 25 yards on one breath

Dive-Skills-Evaluation

After the skills evaluation, seven modules of classroom work are required before participants can actually get into the water for a checkout dive in our Shark Reef exhibit’s acclimation pool. During the checkout dive, divers will get comfortable in the water, check weights and practice emergency situations in a safe, controlled environment.

Dive-Checkout-Dive

Once comfortable with our equipment, divers will participate in a double dive in our 90,000-gallon Shark Reef exhibit. During this session, the volunteer will receive orientation and learn the rules of the road when it comes to working around animals before joining our dive safety officer in the water. Using a microphone system that enables the pair to communicate, the diver will have the opportunity to ask questions during this experience. This step can be repeated multiple times until the diver feels confident.

Dive-Skills-DoubleDive

At last, it’s time for the diver to enter the tank solo! The first time this occurs, the diver’s microphone is not active for communication with our guests. This enables the diver to focus on the task at hand. Solo dives can also be repeated until the diver is comfortable. Then, he or she can participate in the educational dive talk and communicate with our guests about the experience!

Dive-Solo-Dive

During each dive, a GSC staff member is stationed at the top of the exhibit. This person’s role is to control diver’s air, monitor time, ensure no lines are tangled, stay alert for any animal movements, and be an extra set of eyes for the diver. He or she is in constant communication with the diver. In addition, a member of our education team is in front of the tank when a diver is in the water to act as yet another extra set of eyes as well as provide information to our guests!

We are currently looking for 4 – 5 divers to join our program. If interested, please join us on January 30, 2020 from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. to learn more!

Tigers Return to Greensboro

On Friday, January 10, 2020, two-year-old Sumatran tiger brothers, Rocky and Jaggar arrived at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) from Florida’s Jacksonville Zoo. The pair is currently being housed behind the scenes as they acclimate to their new surroundings. An exhibit debut date has not yet been determined.

Jessica Hoffman-Balder, the GSC’s VP of Animal Care and Welfare says, “Rocky and Jaggar arrived safe and sound Friday afternoon. They did very well with transport and settled in quickly to their new home.”

VIDEO: Tigers arrive at Greensboro Science Center

The GSC’s tiger exhibit has gone through extensive renovations over the past two years. The original holding facility was completely rebuilt to support a breeding pair of tigers, which allows the GSC to actively participate in the Sumatran tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) in the future. The new building features four individual rooms that can be combined as needed to form larger rooms. This allows for a future denning space – as well as a separate area for mom and cubs if a breeding recommendation is received from the SSP.

The exhibit space itself has also seen significant changes. Waterfalls, bridges, rocks, scratching posts, climbing structures, shade structures and a cave have all been recently added. In addition to providing guests with a more aesthetically pleasing view, animal care staff hope these changes will provide the animals with plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

Rocky and Jaggar will spend the foreseeable future adjusting to their new home and keepers. They’ll slowly be granted access to the exhibit space to explore their surroundings while the GSC is closed. Once the animal care team is confident the animals are well adjusted and ready to meet the public, an official opening date will be announced.