Continuing Our Education

We recently sent our VP Conservation & Research, Lindsey Zarecky, and one of our Herp Keepers, Audrey Stallings, to an ATAG (Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group) Amphibian Field Research Course. The course was taught by eight NC- and AZA-based instructors and attended by 18 participants ranging from researchers and keepers to amphibian enthusiasts. The course focused on amphibian field research techniques, with participants spending time in the field (including the Sandhills, the NC Zoo, Boone, and Grandfather Mountain) everyday for the duration of the course.

Zarecky and Stallings shared with us a few highlights of what they did during the program:

  • Audrey Weighing a SalamanderWe learned how to use PIT (passive integrative transponders) tags. These are similar to the microchips our pets have. Each tag has a unique number so that when scanned, you can ID the individual.
  • We learned how to use VIE (visible implant elastomer) – a brightly colored, non-toxic material that is injected just below the skin layer. This technique is very useful when it comes to headstarting; when all the tadpoles from a particular year’s egg masses hatch and complete metaphasis into a frog or toad, you can place a particular color on those frogs’ legs. Then, you release the frogs. The next year, you select a different color for the next generation, and so on. This makes it so that when you go out into the field and find frogs, you’ll know the year they were born based upon their VIE.
  • We learned amphibian radio tracking techniques. Unlike other animals, amphibians respire through their skin, so it’s not feasible to place a conventional radio tag onto their bodies. Therefore, we made them small belts using monofilament, a very small and flexible tubing, plus the radio tag. The frog wears this tag like a belt buckle (but with the buckle on its back). To test our knowledge, two radio-tagged frogs were released on NC Zoo’s grounds, then we had to use telemetry equipment to locate them.
  • Probably one of the most fascinating techniques we learned was eDNA – the process of collecting water samples and using the sloughed-off amphibian DNA present therein to identify whether a particular species was present in the water. From collecting the samples, to extracting the DNA, buffering it, and even running the polymerase chain reaction technique, it all happened streamside with the use of a backpack eDNA kit.

Zarecky and Stallings learned about each of the nearly 100 species of amphibians that live here in NC, as well as some of the major diseases that can affect them. There was even a test in which instructors laid out 52 specimens that participants then had to identify! Not only were they expected to identify many amphibians by sight but by listening to their vocalizations, too.

Learning how to ID Amphibians

We’re very proud of our staff for continuing their education! Participating in programs like the ATAG workshop ensures that GSC is able to further its mission of conservation and research while offering you, our community, the best science education programming possible.

How Your Small Change Has Made a Big Difference

Each time someone visits the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), they’re supporting wildlife conservation! Twenty-five cents of each general admission ticket is dedicated to conservation efforts. Upon purchasing tickets, guests receive a token that allows them to direct their donation towards one of the three conservation projects represented on our Coins for Conservation machine. The GSC’s Conservation, Sustainable Practices and Research Committees come together to select the organizations and species represented. Over a six-month period, guests have the opportunity to use their tokens to select the organization they would like their $0.25 to support. After that time, three new organizations are selected for representation.

We’re excited to announce we have completed our first six months of the Coins for Conservation program. The following funds were raised in support of species conservation:

Funds Raised: $10,000

oceanaEstablished in 2001, Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused on ocean conservation. Oceana seeks to find practical solutions to restore our world’s oceans. While not focused on one species, the organization influences decisions to address many ocean issues, including over-fishing and shark finning.

Komodo Dragon Species Survival Plan: Conservation Fund
Funds Raised: $7,000

komodoEstablished in 2007, the Komodo survival plan exists to research and monitor populations of Komodo dragons in the wild in order to conserve the species and its habitat. The organization educates locals about Komodo dragons as well as trains Indonesian conservationists to assist with population management and habitat conservation.

North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Funds Raised: $6,000

ncEstablished in 1992, the NC Coastal Land Trust conserves natural areas to enrich the coastal community as well as educates visitors about land stewardship. One such natural area is the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, which was formed through a partnership with the City of Wilmington. The park is open to the public; visitors can learn about carnivorous plants, including the Venus Flytrap. The Trust has a dedicated Venus Flytrap fund whose purpose is to sustain and manage this rare plant.

To learn about the three projects currently being represented, visit the Coins for Conservation webpage.

NEW Animal Encounter Program Coming to the Greensboro Science Center

Opportunities to meet and engage with animals up close have always been favorite experiences for visitors at the Greensboro Science Center. They’re also some of the favorite experiences for our staff and volunteers to facilitate each day. Our Ambassador Animals—small mammals, birds, reptiles, and bugs—interact with children in our on-site school programs and off-site outreach programs as well as in daily encounters with visitors in the Discovery House and Herpetology Lab.


Beginning September 5, our staff and volunteers will be preparing for a new type of Ambassador Animal program. Starting in early 2018, volunteer members of our Animal Encounter Team will provide opportunities for visitors to meet animals at scheduled times throughout the day. Those encounters will continue to take place in Discovery House and the Herpetology Lab. You may also encounter an Ambassador Animal out in Jeansboro Junction or in the Zoo Plaza. When you arrive each day, you can view the schedule for encounter times on the doors of the Herpetology Lab and Discovery House, as well as the sign leading out into the Zoo where you normally find the listing for Keeper Talks. Scheduled talks with our Keepers in the Zoo and our Education Staff in the Aquarium will continue to take place daily.

These new scheduled Animal Encounters will help the Science Center team better record the appearances our animals make each day and make sure they get days off. We appreciate your patience as our team works together to bring you this new program later this year. In the meantime, although opportunities to touch our furry and scaly friends will be limited, our staff and volunteers will still be available to teach you about them and help you discover the wonder of our natural world.

New Program Coming to the Greensboro Science Center Volunteer Program

Since 2013, the volunteer program at the Greensboro Science Center has grown by 43%:  from 579 volunteers in 2013 to 830 in 2016!  That growth necessitates changes to ensure a more positive experience for our volunteers.  A new change is coming to the volunteer program which will allow us to better serve the volunteers who participate in the program as well as the visitors who benefit from it.

The Center has traditionally operated three summer volunteer programs:  Animal Ambassadors, Exhibit Guides, and Teacher’s Assistants.  Starting in Summer 2018, the Center will operate one summer-only program, the Teacher’s Assistant program.  This program will continue to serve 75 teens each year, with recruitment starting in March.  As always, returning Teacher’s Assistants will be given first priority to gain admission into the program.  Any remaining spots will be filled with new candidates who apply and interview.  That program will start in June and continue through the month of August.

You may be wondering what that means for our Animal Ambassador and Exhibit Guide programs.  At the end of this summer, the two programs will merge to create one new program:  Museum Ambassadors.  The upcoming Museum Ambassador program will combine the best of the two existing programs, with input from current teens about the areas in which they most enjoy volunteering.  This new program will operate year-round, requiring candidates to make a 6 month commitment in order to participate—just as Zoo and Aquarium Docents do currently.  In making this commitment, these teens will benefit from increased exposure to our daily operations as well as continued mentoring from Zoo and Aquarium Docents.  Eventually, they will take on the role of mentor themselves as new volunteers join the program.

So what will Museum Ambassadors actually do?  These teens will rotate through different exhibits, likely to include Friendly Farm, the Aquarium Touch Tank, Destination Dinosaur (and later Prehistoric Passages), Jeansboro, SciPlay Bay, Health Quest, a cart in the Herpetarium, and Coins for Conservation (a favorite of many of this summer’s teens).  Teens will be volunteering on their own as well as alongside other Museum Ambassadors or Docents.  The program will operate on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the school year, as well as on Guilford County Schools workdays and during breaks and holidays.  Museum Ambassadors will complete two, three hour shifts per month.  Shift times are 9:45-1:00 and 12:45-4:00.

The implementation of the Museum Ambassador program is a big change, but one that we feel will be highly positive for our volunteers and our organization.  The target age for Museum Ambassadors is 13-17, meaning that 13- and 14-year-olds will now have three, as opposed to only one*, opportunity to join the Center’s volunteer program.    This change also means that Museum Ambassadors will benefit from smaller training classes in which they’ll receive more individualized attention as opposed to our current summer on-boarding frenzy during which 200 teens join the volunteer program at once.

The Museum Ambassador program will launch in September with a maximum of 55 teens from Summer 2017.  Following a few months of running the new program with current teens, the first new recruitment will take place in January 2018, with a training class scheduled for March.  Those volunteers will make a six-month commitment of March through August.  Another training class is slated for July, with recruitment beginning in May; their six-month commitment will be July through January.  Current teens will be given first priority for training classes, as we understand that some of them may be unable to continue this fall due to sports or extracurricular activities.

Our teen program exists to develop young leaders, with an emphasis on science and conservation.  This new Museum Ambassador program is a great next step in continuing to provide those opportunities.

Please direct any questions or concerns to GSC Volunteer Coordinator Kelli Crawford,

*The Docent program will continue to operate year round, with openings for candidates who are at least 15 years old.

DIY Science: Light Maze

With spring in full swing, we thought it was a good time to shine some light on an experiment involving plants! Today we are making a plant maze!

For this project you will need:

  • Shoebox with a lid
  • Several pieces of cardboard
  • Extra cardboard
  • Bean sprout, or a seed (corn and beans work really well for this)
  • Scissors
  • Masking Tape
  • Damp soil
  • Flowerpot or cup small enough to fit in the shoebox when you close the lid


Start this experiment by cutting a small round hole, about the size of a quarter, at one end (one of the short sides) of a shoebox.


Next, cut  several pieces of cardboard, and tape them to the inside of the box, creating a winding path through the inside of the box. The pieces should be the same depth as the shoebox, but slightly shorter in width. You only want the light to pass through narrow openings you create with the gaps between the cardboard “maze”. Any other stray light may confuse your plant. Use plenty of tape to block out light in the cracks.

Put the seed or sprout into the flower pot, and cover it with moist soil. Water well, but do not flood the seed.

Place the flowerpot on the opposite end of the shoebox, away from the hole. Cover the shoebox with the lid and put it in a sunny place, with the hole facing the light.


Finally, close the lid and set your shoe box in a sunny area. Make sure to check on your plant’s progress every few days to record what happens!

What’s going on?

Plants need light, water and carbon dioxide to produce food. When you place obstacles in the sprout’s way, it will find a way around the obstacle (in this case cardboard) to find the light, even without muscles!  The process of growing towards the light is called phototropism, and is controlled by a plant hormone known as auxin. The hormone auxin is formed in the top of a plant and then spreads itself out evenly into all the cells of the plant. This hormone tells plant cells to grow longer. However, if the light does not come from above, auxin will move toward the side that is not lit. This hormone buildup will result in the plant bending toward the light, as you will see from your experiment.

Remember, it is important to note that an experiment uses a variable (something that changes) to answer a question. To turn this demonstration into an experiment, you have to change something! Check out these questions to get you started:

  • Will different plants grow at the same rate in the same conditions?
  • Does the brightness of the light going into the box make a difference in how fast the plant grows?
  • How tight a turn can a plant make?
  • How many turns can a plant make?
  • Can you make your plant grow down?

Give it a try and let us know how your experiment turned out on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages using the hashtag #gscscience!

Volunteer Spotlight(s): Mary S. and Lacy M.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Mary S. and Lacy M.


Mary S.

I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center as an Animal Ambassador since June of this year.  I volunteer at least twice a month where I work at the Friendly Farm, the Touch Pool, the Aquarium cart, and the Herpetarium Cart.  

I visited the Science Center for many years as a child, and I have always loved seeing the animals and learning new things. When I heard about volunteer opportunities at the GSC, I was very excited because I have had many positive experiences at the Science Center. I have volunteered for many different organizations, so I thought I’d give volunteering at the GSC a try, and I have loved it so far!

Volunteering is fun and rewarding for me because I have gained new knowledge about animals, shared this knowledge with others, gained social skills, and met new people. Volunteering with the GSC is a fun way to help people and gain experience with animals.

Lacy M.

I have been volunteering for a really long time with different organizations, but I have been volunteering with the Greensboro Science Center since June 2016.

I volunteer a lot throughout the year, and I volunteer with the Greensboro Science Center, Autism Unbound, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

I have always loved to volunteer, and I spent a lot of time as a child at the Greensboro Science Center, so when I found out that I was eligible to volunteer here, I was so eager to apply. I am so thankful that I am a volunteer at GSC and I would love to continue working in the future.

A meaningful memory that I have at GSC is when I was at the Aquarium Cart and I was teaching a big group of kids during the summer. They were all so interested in the artifacts and what I had to say, and I really appreciated it. It made me feel like I was special and that I truly belong here at the GSC.

Something that always makes me laugh at the Greensboro Science Center is when I am at the Herp Cart and I see people get scared when they walk in because of the rattlesnake sound. Even I get scared sometimes.

Watching people smile and learn things from me is really rewarding to see. To feel that I am impacting other people’s lives makes me feel really significant and valued. Working around the different animals is really fun as well and I hope to continue to work with them. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to work at GSC; this has been a life changing experience for me.  

Mary Slade and Lacy were the 2016 recipients of the Emerging Volunteers Award for the Volunteer Center of Greensboro. Along with their recognition, they received a $250 check that they donated to the Volunteer Program at the GSC. The money will be used to add new artifacts and activities to the Animal Ambassadors Aquarium and Herpetarium Carts.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jisoo K.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Jisoo K.


I have been volunteering since October of 2014, and because I currently attend high school, I volunteer mostly on Saturdays. I try to volunteer in the Aquarium at least one time every week. I started to volunteer because I wanted to have the opportunity to interact with many different types of people, which I knew I would have the opportunity to do at the GSC. In addition, when it comes to anything related to science, I am infinitely curious, always seeking to learn more about anything that I can. The Greensboro Science Center, with the museum, the zoo, and the Aquarium gives me the chance to explore my curiosities. 

One of my favorite things about volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center is answering questions. I try to answer any questions that I am asked thoroughly and in an interesting way. I also love staying near the fishing cats and talking about them during my time volunteering in the aquarium. I love volunteering, and hope that I continue to have many rewarding experiences through volunteering in the future.