Happy Earth Day

nasa

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 Penguin Keeper Shares South African Experience

IMG_0307GREENSBORO, NC — Shannon Anderson, lead penguin keeper at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), spent 10 days in South Africa assisting with the rescue, rehabilitation and release of seabirds at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).Anderson’s participation was part of SANCCOB’S Animal Professional Experience, an exchange program for penguin keepers wishing to apply their husbandry knowledge in order to assist with the conservation and welfare of wild penguin populations. Her experience was sponsored by the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant, funding which offers GSC staff the opportunity to pursue a conservation or research project.

Anderson worked side by side with the organization’s bird rehabilitation staff and volunteers, practicing her current skills and learning how to care for sick, injured, oiled, and abandoned African penguins and other seabirds. Most of her time was spent working in the chick rearing unit, where she was responsible for as few as eight chicks and sometimes as many as 23. There, her responsibilities were preparing and administering food and medications – which included tube feeding chicks four times each day – as well as cleaning the pens and reporting welfare checks.

DSC_4057_edit

Anderson says she learned a lot during her time at SANCCOB. The autonomy of the work reiterated how capable she is at husbandry and affirmed the depth of knowledge she has about African penguins. She enjoyed the opportunity of working with wild penguins, which was far different from her zookeeper work. Anderson says, “It was very different working with wild birds. We were encouraged to be rough. There was no talking. We didn’t handle the birds. You didn’t caudle them, you pushed them to meet milestones to keep them on track with their development and growth. In the end, the chicks were going to rejoin the colony and they had to have the skills necessary to survive. We didn’t want them to get imprinted or they’d just end up needing additional human intervention.” Anderson says that this approach has proven successful for SANCCOB, which boasts an 85% success rate of returning birds to the wild following admission.

Anderson’s experience in South Africa greatly contributed to the conservation of wild birds in her care, but it also gave her new knowledge that she was able to apply at the GSC. Shortly after she arrived home in late December, Anderson found a compromised egg in one of the nest boxes. By following SANCCOB’s protocols regarding incubation, humidity, temperature, and timing, she was successfully able to hatch the chick using sterile forceps and precise timing. All the skills applied to make sure this chick survived, she learned during her time in South Africa. She also took the skills learned from working in SANCCOB’s ICU unit to create a new diet for an ill bird, leading to that bird’s quick recovery. Anderson will admit the confidence to take the lead and use those skills also had something to do with her time at SANCCOB.

Anderson was one of three staff members who received project funding through the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant program. The GSC’s staff can apply for funds to support research projects, conservation work or relevant professional development. Applicants must submit a written application, provide a presentation to the research committee and, if funded, present a program recap to the GSC’s board and staff.

The GSC has long supported SANCCOB via its annual Tuxedo Trot, a 5K and Kids’ Fun Run designed specifically to raise funds for endangered African penguins. The event, which has raised $50,000 since its inception in 2013, will return on Saturday, April 27, 2019. More information about the event can be found online at http://www.tuxedotrot.com.

Lindsey Zarecky, VP of Conservation & Research at the GSC said, “The GSC Research Committee was thrilled to send Shannon to assist with a conservation organization we have supported for years. We receive thank you letters, photos, progress reports, and field updates from SANCCOB, but to see the glow in the eyes of someone who got to experience wild penguin conservation makes our 5K fundraiser so much more meaningful.” When we asked Shannon what her major takeaway was from this trip she said, “In our hearts, zookeepers want to do this, we want to make a difference, and that is why we work with animals. But you never know if you will actually get a chance to use your skills. This trip just made everything worthwhile.”

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

pic 1

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”.

pic 2

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

pic 3

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.

pic 4

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!

Brews & Bubbles: Beer Tasting for Conservation

The Greensboro Science Center is hosting Brews & Bubbles, its annual beer tasting fundraiser, on Friday, April 12, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at greensboroscience.org. Prices are $40 for GSC members and $45 for non-members, with 100% of proceeds supporting local and global conservation initiatives. Last year, the event raised $16,000 for conservation.

Each Brews & Bubbles ticket includes beer samples from participating North Carolina craft breweries, a souvenir tasting glass, hors d’oeuvres, and live music from Bev & Dave Gudeand a brand new act featuring Carri Smitheyand The Good Watts. Capacity is limited and the event tends to sell out, so GSC event planners recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

Brews-and-Bubbles-FB-event

Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation & Research, says, “Money raised from Brews & Bubbles impacts conservation projects around the world. Funds were used for projects including establishing an assurance population of freshwater mussels here, sending a zookeeper to help with African penguin conservation, and increasing work on coral reef restorations.”

 

Species Sampling: Crayfish

In late January, with temperatures hovering in the low 30s, a team of GSC staffers took to the streams to identify crayfish. Why, you might ask, would you wait for such a cold day for this particular project? We, the marketing department, had the same question as we were unceremoniously dragged from our heated office spaces to document the activity. According to our fearless leaders, Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation and Research, and Brena Jones, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, digging up crayfish is actually one area of research that lends itself to a winter excursion. The lack of new growth present at this time of year makes it easier to spot crayfish burrows and holes in the streambed.

Lindsey Crayfish Research DSC_7165

We know what you’re thinking… crayfish aren’t all that exciting. We thought so, too, initially. But read on! We’re going to share some truly fascinating factoids about a species present in our own backyards.

The first step to identifying crayfish, we learned, is locating them. Crayfish are burrowers. They are categorized based upon their habitat preference as primary burrowers (meaning they spend most of their time in burrows), secondary burrowers (meaning they are more often found in streams than burrows), or tertiary burrowers (meaning they are only found in burrows during breeding season). In order to find the animals, our team walked slowly through the stream, lifting rocks and looking for movement and searching for raised mounds that could indicate the presence of a burrow.

Lindsey Crayfish Research DSC_7132

Once the crayfish were found, the real fun began. Each animal was first identified by looking for several characteristics that distinguish one species from another. When it comes to pincher claws on a crayfish, size matters – for identification purposes, of course. The fat pinchers of the Cambarus are relatively obvious when compared with the long, narrow pincher claws of the Procambarus. Since crayfish can regenerate their claws, a tip Brena had for our team was to always look at the bigger claw for better accuracy.

Lindsey Crayfish Research DSC_7195

In addition to pincher claw size, the width between the lines on top of the animal’s carapace (or top shell), the presence or absence of spines on the carapace, and the pointiness or bluntness of the rostrum (which is a fancy word for the space between the eyes) can all be used for identification purposes. With that being said, there are a lot of undescribed species of crayfish in North Carolina, which can make identification challenging!

Lindsey Crayfish Research DSC_7183

Once the species was identified, some – ahem – personal information was also collected and recorded, such as the overall size and the sex. Males, Brena showed us, have an extra set of swimmerets, rigid in nature, on the underside of their tail. Each animal was also given a gentle squeeze. Pardon the scientific terminology here: a “squishy” crayfish may have recently molted. A shed exoskeleton means a growing crayfish!

Now, on to the big questions: why, exactly, are we digging up crayfish? Well, scientists, including the GSC’s own Lindsey Zarecky, are studying the effects of urbanization on wildlife. The recent sampling of species performed in our stream will establish a baseline for comparison as our facility continues to grow and expand. Knowing what the ecosystem looks like before, during and after construction will help scientists understand how to find a balance between continued development and maintaining native wildlife populations. The ultimate goal is to discover how to create a scenario where everyone wins – both humans and wildlife alike.

Pajama Jam Tickets On Sale Now

Pajama-Jam-Image-for-Solar-TreeTickets are now on sale for the Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) annual family-friendly conservation fundraiser, Pajama Jam. The event will take place on Saturday, March 30, 2019. 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.

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.

Conservation Creation: Animal Valentines

At the Greensboro Science Center, one of the most important things keepers do for our animals is provide them with enrichment. Enrichment is defined as “improving the quality of”, and we apply that principle to the lives of our animals. Two of the primary things to keep in mind with providing enrichment are: provide the animals with choices; and stimulate natural behaviors, both physically and mentally.

Enrichment can be created in a variety of ways, depending upon the type of animal it’s intended for. For example, penguins have excellent eyesight, so providing them with brightly colored decorations in their exhibit can spark their curiosity and encourage them to investigate their habitat. As another example, it’s enriching for our fishing cats when keepers scatter their diets throughout their habitat so that they have to forage like they would do in the wild.

For pet owners, there are many ways to provide enrichment for the animals (dogs, cats, birds, etc.) in our homes without breaking the bank. Check out some of our DIY enrichment ideas below, or get creative and see how many different ideas you can come up with!

What you’ll need: Cardboard or paper materials from your recycling bin + your pet’s favorite treats (we’re using Cheerios)!

1

Enrichment Item 1: Forage Box

Step 1: Place your treats in the middle of a piece of paper, then crumple the paper into a ball. Make as many of these as you would like.

2

Step 2:  Place your treat-filled paper balls in a small box (like a shoe box), then give the box to your pet and watch them forage through to find their treats. For an added challenge, only put treats in a few of the paper balls so that your pet has to investigate more thoroughly.

3

Enrichment Item 2: Treat Tubes

Step 1: Make a small paper ball and stuff it into one end of a toilet paper or paper towel tube.

4

Step 2: Place some of your pet’s treats into the tube, on top of the paper ball you just made. Next, place another paper ball on top of the treats. You can give your pets the tube at this point, or continue on to step 3 for an added challenge!

5

Step 3: Fold the outsides of the tube inward so that your pet has to manipulate the tube more thoroughly to reach the food. This will be especially useful for birds or high-energy dogs. Give the enrichment item to your pet, or hide a few of them around the house for your pet to find!

6

Please remember: Every animal may interact with enrichment items differently.  For safety, items should be monitored to ensure your pet’s safety.