Greensboro Science Center To Remain Closed Through April 30, 2020

In a continued effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) will remain closed through April 30, 2020. In addition, the GSC will reduce onsite staffing and initiate an “essential staff only” operating plan effective March 24, 2020. Essential staff are primarily those responsible for the health and wellbeing of the GSC’s animals.

GSC leaders are in daily contact with Association of Zoos and Aquariums, American Alliance of Museums and Association of Science and Technology Centers officials so organizations can learn from one another and understand how our nation’s accredited zoos, aquariums, museums and science centers are also coping with COVID-19. In addition, regular communication the GSC’s Board of Directors and city partners allows the entire team to remain in the loop as we collectively work to get through this crisis together.

GSC CEO, Glenn Dobrogosz, says, “Our staff and animals are doing fine. But, to ensure the highest safety for our team and follow even stricter social distancing standards, the GSC will carefully move into a daily routine focused 100% on our animals and the dedicated curators, keepers and aquarists who care for them every single day.”

“Our world, nation, state and city are facing unprecedented challenges,” Dobrogosz continues. “But, when COVID-19 passes and we beat this invisible killer, Greensboro and our nation will spring back to life. The GSC’s staff and board are committed to the economic and marketing power of science-based tourism to help bring visitors back to our city’s streets, restaurants and cultural attractions.”

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Preparing for Winter: Reptiles & Amphibians

The Greensboro Science Center is home to a number of reptiles and amphibians, including four awesome Aldabra tortoises! Although they live at the GSC all year long, during your winter visit, you won’t see these guys out and about in our zoo.

As cold-blooded animals, Aldabra tortoises need warm weather to stay healthy. When temperatures dip below about 60 degrees, they remain inside their blockhouses where the temperature is maintained at a toasty 80 degrees and where they have access to heat lamps and UV lamps.

You probably notice in your very own backyard that you don’t see turtles, snakes, frogs, and the like during winter. Many of these animals hibernate during the colder months. If you see one around as the temperatures begin to cool, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. If the animal is in an unsafe location, you can move it to a brushy area where it can burrow and hide. To help local reptiles and amphibians, you can create brush piles in your yard where they can stay warm and safe through winter!

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. 

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

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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.

 

Conservation Creation – iNaturalist + Monkey Madness

If you’ve been to the Greensboro Science Center or any other zoo or aquarium, you’ve probably seen many animals with a “Conservation Status” listed on their exhibit signage. These statuses range from ‘Extinct’ to ‘Least Concern.’ ‘Extinct’ means that there are either no more instances of that animal left in the wild, or that the ones remaining have no chance of reproducing. ‘Least Concern’ means that this animal is abundant in the wild and that there are currently no concerns revolving around its population numbers. Scientists have many ways of determining how many animals of a species exist in the wild – methods ranging from recording calls in the forest or tagging animals in the ocean to be tracked with innovative technology.

While these methods can give us an idea of what animal populations look like, there are many situations in which a population doesn’t fit into a specific category. For example, you may see an animal that is listed as ‘Data Deficient.’ This means there isn’t enough information to determine what their population realistically looks like. This applies to many ocean animals, since they can be difficult to track due to the ocean’s vastness. There are other instances where an animal can be listed as ‘Least Concern’ overall, but still be vulnerable in certain areas. This is why it’s important to be mindful of wildlife when you encounter it, regardless of an animal’s conservation status.

Now, for an activity! This month, instead of a craft, we’ll be sending you on an adventure! All you will need is a smartphone or tablet and the spirit of a biologist. Start by downloading the app, iNaturalist. This is a free app for Apple and Android that will allow you to track local wildlife and help scientists learn about the animal populations near you! Learn more about the app by visiting inaturalist.org.

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Once you have downloaded the app, you can begin your adventure! You’ll be taking photos of the plants and animals you find. If you already know what you’re looking at, you can identify it yourself on the app. If you don’t know what you’ve found, however, other users of the app can help you figure out what it is.

By participating, you’ll be helping scientists to learn about the plants and animals near you, giving them insight on what needs to be done to help and protect these beings. You can use iNaturalist anywhere you go – including your home, a vacation spot or one of Greensboro’s beautiful parks. Now… break out your safari hat and begin your journey as a Citizen Scientist!

Want more conservation? Get hands-on at the GSC! During July 2019, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 & 2:30, join our educators at the howler monkey exhibit to learn about these monkeys and how they’re being affected by habitat loss. While there, you can make a seed bomb – made from seeds of local plants – to take home to enrich your local wildlife habitats! 

Conservation Creation: Terrific Turtles

Ever wonder what the difference is between a turtle and a tortoise? To answer this, you must first know that all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. This is because all tortoises and turtles belong to the Testudine family, meaning they are reptiles with a hard shell. However, turtles break off into other smaller families (dependent upon their traits). The most obvious difference is that tortoises only live on land, while turtles will spend at least some of the time, if not a majority of their life, in the water. Another distinguishing characteristic is that tortoises are herbivores (vegetarians), while turtles are omnivores, eating both plants and living creatures like insects.

While there are several differences between tortoises and turtles, one thing they have in common is their need for protection. Due to their hard outer shell, these animals are well equipped to protect themselves from the natural predators who see them as a potential meal. However, they are not prepared to save themselves from human threats (like habitat loss). This is why it is important to make sure that we don’t disturb wild turtles or tortoises when we see them and make sure to keep pets like cats and dogs inside so that they don’t become a potential predator for one of our shelled friends. We can also help by being cautious drivers. Many turtles have an internal homing sense and desire to stay close to their original home. This sometimes means crossing roads to find food or potential mates, then returning home. If you do see a turtle in the road and want to help, make sure that you move them to the side they are trying to get to, and only do this if you are safely able to do so.

Now… for some fun! This month, we will show you how to use bottles to make a turtle bank! If you want to take an extra step to help turtles and tortoises, consider donating to the following organizations, which we also support here at the Greensboro Science Center:

The Orianne Society: Nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of reptiles, amphibians, and the lands they inhabit.

The Turtle Survival Alliance : Nonprofit dedicated to conserving struggling turtle and tortoise populations through a variety of techniques including breeding programs and habitat protection.

 

DIY Steps

What you will need: plastic bottles, scissors, glue, fun foam or craft felt, a marker, craft supplies of your choice, and an X-ACTO knife or sharp blade (using adult assistance).

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Step 1: Using the X-ACTO knife, cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle, then use scissors to smooth out the edge.

Step 2: Place the bottom of the plastic bottle on top of your foam or felt, then use your marker to trace a circle around it.

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Step 3: Use your marker to draw a tail, a head and feet on to the circle, then cut out your turtle shape.

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Step 4: Put glue on the rim of the plastic bottle bottom from earlier and place it on top of your turtle base. Allow it to dry.

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Step 5: Use your X-ACTO knife to make a small slit in the bottom of your turtle.

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Step 6: Get creative! Add your own decorations to your turtle’s shell. If you use glue to adhere your embellishments, make sure to allow everything to dry before using your bank. You can also use your creation to store small household items such as buttons, screws or headphones!

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