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! 

Volunteer Spotlight – Linda W.

Linda W. has been a dedicated volunteer with the Greensboro Science Center since October of 2016. She got her start in the Zoo Docent program, and by the fall of 2017, Linda was adding to her range of experiences. “In addition to being a Zoo Docent, I am also a Tier 2 Docent. This allows me to work with Keeper Carolyn in the Discovery House in animal husbandry, as well as to participate on two socialization teams. I also mentor new members and am a current Animal Encounter Team member,” Linda says.

Volunteer Spotlight | Linda Woodruff

With a wide variety of roles to choose from, Linda is quite the regular at the GSC. “Depending on my schedule, I try to volunteer twice a week — sometimes more.” With that additional time, Linda has pursued advanced programs with us. Individuals who are interested in our advanced programs must be active Docents who have volunteered with either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months and have exceeded their shift minimums. Linda applied and interviewed for each program before being chosen.

A native of Lubbock, Texas, Linda recalls how she became so involved at the GSC. “A few years ago, when I worked in Greensboro, I discovered the GSC and would visit during my lunch hour, just to ‘de-stress’ and enjoy all of the exhibits and animals. I was so impressed with the passion and knowledge of the Docents and their enthusiasm about the Greensboro Science Center that I knew at some point, I wanted to become a volunteer.” Since then, Linda has accrued over 340 volunteer hours at the GSC.

When asked what Linda appreciates about our volunteer program, she stated, “It is amazing and geared to all individuals, regardless of age or background. The flexibility to create your own schedule allows each volunteer to commit to just the basic requirement or to take it to the next level and beyond, depending on the areas that excite and interest you.”

Although Linda has progressed to where she gets to spend time behind the scenes of the GSC, she still finds the core reasons for volunteering satisfying and fun. She says, “Engaging with the public during my Docent shift is especially rewarding. I have met people from several different states and countries and even got to try out my limited Norwegian vocabulary with some children from Oslo.”

In reflecting on her time in the Volunteer Program, Linda mentions, “I can honestly say that I have never encountered such a ‘welcoming’ facility and group of people where all staff members are eager to make you a success in your volunteer endeavor.”

For us here at the GSC, we are proud of and grateful for our volunteers, like Linda, who dedicate so much of their personal time to the education of our community and conservation of our world. Linda adds, “Looking back on the short two years I have been volunteering at the GSC, it is a certainty that I have benefited much more in relation to the time I give each month.”

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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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

We all know what a Solar System is, right? It’s a collection of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other smaller bits (all held together by the gravity between them) that circles around a star — in our case, the Sun — that stands at the center of the whole thing. So, a solar system is where we live. But where does our solar system “live”? What happens when we zoom out and see the effect of gravity at a much larger level?

Our solar system and at least 100 billion other star systems are part of a larger grouping, also held together by the gravity between them, called a GALAXY. And just like the planets of our solar system tend to orbit in a flattened disk or plane around the sun, all the billions of stars that make up our Galaxy orbit the center in a highly flattened disk. In fact, our galaxy is pretty much as flat as a pancake; it’s disk is 1,000 times longer across from side to side than it is thick from top to bottom! If we could zoom out from our galaxy, the “Milky Way,” and see it from afar, it would look like a huge pinwheel or whirlpool of stars, which is why ours and many others are called SPIRAL GALAXIES.

There are something like 100 billion visible-to-us galaxies in the universe. When we look at them, each one is quite literally “a galaxy far, far away.” They are so far away that the light we see from them, traveling at a speed of nearly 6 trillion miles per year, takes millions of years to reach us. Because of that, we see each galaxy “a long, long time ago” — not as it is today, but as it was when its light first started the journey through space to get to us.

For the first time ever, the GSC now has a powerful new telescope which, outfitted with a sensitive video camera, lets us view live, real-time images of distant galaxies from right outside our front doors! Watch for us to offer public viewings in the months ahead. In the meantime, here are are some actual views of galaxies with our new scope…

May the Force be with you.

Happy Earth Day

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Photo courtesy of NASA.gov

1969 was our first walk on the moon with the Apollo 11 mission and the first chance for us to see Earth as a big blue planet from space. At the same time, global powers were struggling in the Vietnam War and the environment was suffering, with large cars driving on leaded gas and corporate progress (without a lot of the regulation we take for granted). After a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California this same year, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded the idea of a national teach-in about the environment, set for April 22, 1970. This quickly became a bipartisan success story; thus, Earth Day was born. Earth Day 1970 gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.

By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Today, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

The fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency as the ravages of climate change become more evident every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day by taking steps, big or small, on a personal or professional level. We’ve only got one Earth – how are you protecting its future?

Find your local Earth Day event here.

 

GSC Volunteer Receives 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award

by Kelli Crawford, Volunteer Coordinator and Curator of Collections

In partnership with The North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, The Volunteer Center of Greensboro has presented the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award to 10 recipients from Guilford County. The Greensboro Science Center is thrilled to announce that longtime volunteer Linda Kendzierski is among those honored. This award recognizes citizens who have shown concern and compassion for their neighbors by making a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service. The award was created in the Office of the Governor in 1979.

Linda has been a volunteer at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) since 2011. When people talk about volunteer impact, they usually are quick to sum it up in terms of the hours they dedicate to their service. While the 3,000 hours Linda has selflessly served at the GSC are no small feat, they pale in comparison to what she has done during that time. Linda is a champion for the GSC, for conservation and for volunteerism.

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The GSC team surprised Linda with news of her award on April 1.

When I first started at the GSC as an intern seven years ago, I referred to Linda as a social butterfly. She had so much enthusiasm and energy when she joined the program, but there wasn’t an outlet for it just yet. Enter me, a young new volunteer coordinator who didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Volunteers like Linda presented an opportunity, because they wanted to do so much (and I wanted to give them the ability to do more), but I knew I couldn’t do it overnight. Through many conversations over the years, Linda has been a sounding board. She has been a source of good ideas and opinions as well as the heartbeat of our volunteer program. If I need to know how a change is being perceived by our volunteers, I always know I can go to her. She has helped shape our program. Along the way, she has helped shape me into the volunteer coordinator I am today.

As our social butterfly, Linda connects people like nobody else can. She is good at breaking down barriers that can sometimes exist between staff and volunteers. She is well-known by her peers and our staff. Part of that is because of how often she volunteers, but it is also because Linda is never afraid to ask a question nor reach out if she needs something. She always introduces herself to her fellow volunteers and isn’t stingy about sharing her email address. When we have events coming up, Linda likes to take the lead to organize them. From National Zoo Keeper Week celebrations to a surprise for our housekeeping staff, holiday social potlucks, birthday parties for staff members… you name it, Linda has planned it. She loves to bring people together.  

Linda is always taking care of someone – a family member, a friend, a foster animal that somehow finds a permanent home with her. She is such a caring person and always wants the best for those around her. It is what makes her such an amazing mentor for volunteers who are new to the GSC – she makes them feel at ease. Linda is a natural educator. Her genuine love for our animals and for the GSC is clear in every interaction she has with our guests. The fact that she has volunteered in almost every volunteer program we offer makes her an asset here. It is truly inspiring to watch Linda “in her element”, and we know our mission is in good hands when Linda is on shift. Linda loves her behind-the-scenes time with our animal staff, but she also values the impact she can make in her daily conversations with our guests. What a wonderful example for new volunteers to follow!

For all of these reasons, when Linda came to us a few years ago and sheepishly asked if the GSC would agree to host a business meeting for about 20 zoo and aquarium volunteers, the answer was an easy one. Within a matter of hours, I was able to let her know that our management team had given us the thumbs up to pursue it. Shortly thereafter, the request morphed into hosting a regional conference for almost 200 people. Again, the answer was “yes.” Our management team would not have agreed had Linda not proven herself to be such a talented and amazingly organized volunteer. We had never hosted a conference of this size before, but we knew Linda could handle this responsibility.

What did the conference entail? During the multi-year planning process, Linda was an absolute rockstar. Amping up her drive, she told me that she had finally found was she was looking for. The experience helped her understand more of the behind-the-scenes business logistics that volunteering with us in an animal capacity hadn’t always given her. She reached out to multiple facilities to arrange pre- and post-conference tours, negotiated tour bus contracts, hotel contracts, vendors agreements, speaker details, volunteer-led sessions, and more. It was a truly impressive undertaking.

The impact of Linda’s efforts was especially impressive. In October of 2017, the GSC hosted the Regional Conference for the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents and Volunteers (AZADV). The seven-day conference was attended by 266 volunteers representing 58 AZA facilities. The conference raised $10,069 for the Silvery Gibbon Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to save gibbons and their habitat. Linda received a standing ovation from her peers at the closing banquet.

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Linda received a standing ovation at the AZADV closing banquet.

Linda has proven that she is an amazing ambassador for the GSC. Beyond that, she is an ambassador for volunteers. She truly believes that no volunteer is “just” a volunteer. Their efforts are to be valued and they have much to share with one another. Through her work with AZADV, Linda is championing this cause. The GSC, our community and Linda’s fellow volunteers are so lucky to have her driving energy and determination behind them. Linda is now the Director of Public Relations for AZADV, and we are excited to see what she does in that role. It is the perfect fit for such a dedicated, accomplished volunteer as she!

All those recognized will soon receive a certificate with an official Governor’s Office seal, an original signature from Governor Roy Cooper, plus a gold pin with the inscription: North Carolina Outstanding Volunteer.

Conservation Creation: April Showers

In some way or another, we are all connected by water. Water is not only necessary for our survival, it makes our lives better in countless ways! To name just a few examples, water is used for our plumbing systems, growing the plants that become our food, and keeping our boats afloat so that they can transport goods all over the world. We even use water for recreation: when we kayak, swim or visit water parks! It’s safe to say that water is one of our most important resources.

So, how does water connect all of us? Through the water cycle! When the Earth heats up, water evaporates and begins to collect in the clouds. Once the evaporated water begins to cool, droplets form and return to Earth in the form of precipitation (think rain or snow). You can learn more about precipitation and weather in the GSC’s Weather Gallery on your next visit!

To see what the water cycle looks like in action, follow the steps below for this month’s Conservation Creation activity, Storm in a Cup.

What you’ll need: A glass, a small container, blue food coloring, an eyedropper, shaving cream, and water

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Step 1: Fill the glass with water, leaving about 1-2 inches at the top for the “cloud”. In the small container, mix water and blue food coloring. The resulting blue water will be your “rain”.

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Step 2: Add shaving cream to the glass of water, filling to the rim. This will form the “cloud”.

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Step 3: Use the eyedropper to drop blue water into the center of your cloud. It may take a while for the rain to break through the shaving cream, but once it does, your cup will resemble a storm.

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For an additional lesson, see how long it takes for all of the water in the cup to turn blue. This can serve as a model for pollution!

Since all water is connected through the water cycle, it’s important for us to do all that we can to keep our water clean. You can learn more about how to get involved in keeping our water clean through the City of Greensboro Water Resources website!