Volunteer Spotlight: Meredith D.

Meredith D. has been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over a decade! When Meredith first became a volunteer in August of 2008, she spent her time in the area of the GSC that focused on enriching the experiences of our youngest guests. Meredith says, “I started out in the Kids’ Alley playroom for 6 months. Then, at the encouragement of our former Volunteer Coordinator, I signed up to cross-train and volunteer as a Docent in the Herp Lab and Zoo.”

As time went by and the GSC continued to expand, Meredith wanted to get more involved. She says, “After the SciQuarium (now Wiseman Aquarium) opened, I was cross-trained and worked in there, the Zoo and Herp Lab on alternate weekends. Now, I just volunteer in the Wiseman Aquarium, which has worked out really great.” As one of our most inquisitive Docents, Meredith has a passion for learning about the various animals and exhibits at the GSC so she can help educate the public.

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When thinking back on what drew her to the GSC, Meredith recalls, “I have always wanted to volunteer at the GSC, and I have always loved rocks and animals and kids.” Meredith found the transition from visitor to volunteer to be a smooth one, adding, “[The GSC] is a socially inviting place to work, which for me is important because I have autism and require accommodations and understanding from co-workers, which is very difficult to obtain in many ‘traditional’ work settings.”

Meredith’s success as an Aquarium Docent is a point of pride for both Meredith and the GSC’s Volunteer Department, as she took on the responsibilities of a volunteer knowing she would have to advocate for her needs and adapt to a constantly evolving organization. In turn, our staff have taken cues from Meredith to learn her needs and support her growth. We’ve been thrilled to see her journey at the GSC.

In the 10 years she has been volunteering, Meredith has been able to witness and be part of the changes at the GSC. In reminiscing on some of those changes, Meredith says, “I miss the rock and mineral gallery and some of the staff who have left.” Although not an exhibit at this time, the GSC is currently exploring options to exhibit rocks and minerals again! And, in thinking further back, Meredith remembers one of the funniest moments she’s encountered as a Docent. “A guest once told me that she thought the fur on the golden lion tamarins looked like Donald Trump’s hair.”

Although Meredith has faced some obstacles in her life that others have not, she has always committed to doing the best possible job at the GSC. She takes every shift seriously and strives to learn from each experience. Meredith still finds volunteering as fun and as rewarding as she did ten years ago: “I enjoy the people, the kids and the exhibits. And, having autism, it gives me the ability to have a set routine to benefit other people’s lives.”

We couldn’t be more grateful for Docents like Meredith, who strive every shift to not only enrich their own lives, but the lives of our guests. Meredith is nearing the 2,000-hour milestone as a volunteer at the GSC. Our team can’t wait to give her the button she’ll wear proudly when that day comes!

 

Why We GSC: Featuring Sarah H.

Meet Sarah H., the GSC’s Curator of Aquatics. Her job is to help develop a vision for the department and ensure that the Aquatics team has the tools and knowledge they need to accomplish their jobs.

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Sarah’s story is an especially interesting one. She worked here for a short while about six years ago, then left for five years – but ultimately decided to come back. When we asked her what drew her to return, she had this to say:

I’ve been very fortunate to work at three different facilities and even luckier to find a place I can call home.

After six years in the aquarium field, I was looking for a challenge. The idea of helping the Greensboro Science Center bring a bit of the ocean to a landlocked city seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Shortly after helping to open the GSC’s aquarium back in 2013, I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at a world-renowned facility – an opportunity that, had I turned it down, I would have wondered about it the rest of my life. So I made the difficult decision to leave the GSC to reach for a dream.

However, I found I missed those intangibles that made the GSC feel less like work and more like home. After five years away, I made a much easier decision to come back to the opportunities that awaited me here.

I am proud to be a member of the Greensboro Science Center family and am excited to create a new dream with Greensboro’s only public aquarium.

Octopus Eggs and the Story of Senescence

If you’ve visited the GSC in the last couple of weeks, it’s likely you’ve heard from a staff member or volunteer that our Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) recently laid eggs. While this is very exciting news, it also means that the end of our female’s life cycle is drawing near.

Our Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO) has been here for about one year, weighing 9 lbs. at the time of her arrival. As of May 2018, she weighed 30 lbs. and stretched 6 ft. from arm tip to opposite arm tip. We can estimate from these numbers that at the time of laying eggs, she weighed around 40 lbs. Though ours is slightly below the average weight (around 50 lbs.) for GPOs, she’s very healthy. It’s always difficult to determine the age of an octopus, but we estimate her to be roughly 2.5 years old.

The average lifespan for a GPO is about 3 years, near the end of which they enter a stage referred to as senescence. Senescence occurs at the end of a mature octopus’ natural life; this is a roughly month-long period in which they mate. GPOs are one of many octopus species that are “semelparous,” meaning they reproduce once and then die. Salmon are another example of a marine species that does this. Senescence is characterized by several things, including loss of appetite, retraction of the skin around the eyes, laying and brooding of eggs (in females), uncoordinated movement or undirected activity (in males), and the appearance of white lesions on the body.

The process of laying eggs can be taxing on the female octopus, unfolding over the course of approximately a week. Eggs resemble grains of rice on strings, woven together to create a holdfast that attaches to a hard surface. The female octopus will lay eggs in her den (in which she’ll spend a good portion of her time) and prefers to attach them to an overhang. Brooding of the eggs occurs for five months to a year, during which time the female will aerate and clean them until her body succumbs to the stress of this process. During the brooding process, an octopus will start to lose her appetite and refuse food – all due to hormonal changes in the body. This leads her to becoming anorexic during the egg-guarding period – losing between 50-71% of her body weight – eventually leading to her death.

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As all Giant Pacific Octopuses are wild-caught, it is unknown if the eggs are viable. Mating can occur early in life, with the female holding on to the spermatophores deposited by the male until she is mature and ready to use them. To date, only one successful rearing attempt has been recorded in captivity, occurring in 1986. This one male (who came from a population of 200 individuals from approximately 20,000 eggs) lived to 38 months. The process of keeping him alive was heavily labor intensive, requiring 6-8 hours per day for feeding and fastidious cleaning during the first 9 months of his care.

As for us, we’re excited for this opportunity to learn more about how Giant Pacific Octopus females behave while caring for their eggs and will be recording our observations extensively.  Though we are not likely to have viable eggs, we’re excited to share this unique stage with all of you as the Greensboro Science Center experiences our first female octopus’ life cycle completion. Please feel free to find a volunteer or staff member during your next visit to ask questions. We look forward to seeing you.

Source: AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (AITAG) (2014). Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.

Media Release: Shark Week Coasts into the Greensboro Science Center

GREENSBORO, NC — The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week from Monday, July 23 – Saturday, July 28 with crafts, education stations and games from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. daily. In addition to ongoing activities, including coloring pages, temporary tattoos and photos with Finny (the GSC’s shark mascot), each day of the week will be themed around a unique educational opportunity. Daily themes are as follows:

Shark WeekMonday, July 23
Munch, Munch Monday
Learn what sharks like to eat and how they snag their snacks!

Tuesday, July 24
Toothful Tuesday
Test your shark smarts with a round of “Myth or Tooth” trivia!

Wednesday, July 25
Wonders Wednesday
Explore sharks’ super powers – like their ability to detect electricity!

Thursday, July 26
Thoughtful Thursday
Discover the importance of shark conservation: Why do we need sharks, and how can we help them?

Friday, July 27
Freaky Friday
Learn about the strangest and most unusual sharks in the sea!

Saturday, July 28
Supreme Saturday
Find out which sharks are the biggest, fastest, oldest, and more!

The GSC’s aquarium is home to four species of shark: sandbar sharks, blacktip sharks, bamboo sharks, and blacknose sharks. Sharks have been selected by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) as a signature species for SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction). SAFE focuses the collective expertise of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to save signature species by increasing direct conservation spending as well as increasing work in the field and within zoos and aquariums, and through public engagement. Shark Week is one example of the GSC’s involvement in this vital conservation effort.

Shark Week activities are included with general admission to the Greensboro Science Center. General admission is $13.50 for adults ages 14 – 64, $12.50 for children ages 3 – 13, and $12.50 for seniors ages 65+. Children 2 and under and Greensboro Science Center Members are free.

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The Greensboro Science Center is a premier family attraction in North Carolina that offers the state’s first accredited inland aquarium, a hands-on science museum, an accredited Animal Discovery Zoological Park, a state-of-the-art OmniSphere Theater, and SKYWILD, an animal-inspired treetop adventure park. The GSC is also NC’s only dually accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AAM (American Alliance of Museums) science attraction – an honor only 14 attractions in the nation can claim. The Greensboro Science Center is located at 4301 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit www.greensboroscience.org.

Fishing Kitten Born at the Greensboro Science Center

MEDIA RELEASE

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is excited to announce that Tallulah, its female fishing cat, has given birth. On Thursday, February 15, Tallulah delivered two fishing kittens, one of which was stillborn. The second kitten, however, has been observed moving about and nursing. If all continues to go well, GSC guests and media can expect to see the kitten on exhibit in about three months.

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Tallulah and her mate, Mako, have been recommended for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) since 2014, in cooperation with Mako’s owners, the Lionshare Educational Organization (LEO) Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut. This is the first successful fishing cat birth at the GSC and one of only a few successful fishing cat births in the United States this year.

Senior Keeper Rachael Campbell says, “Mom and baby appear to be doing well. From the video monitors, we can see the baby nursing and getting lots of grooming from Tallulah. We’re always cautious with new babies and new moms, so we’re trying to be as hands-off as possible. As long as we continue to see positive signs, we will let them be.”

Campbell says she doesn’t see any signs of stress from Tallulah when she is cleaning the exhibit, but the pair has a good relationship and the cat is comfortable with her.

“Tallulah is not comfortable around people she doesn’t know,” Campbell says, “so my relief keepers have noticed her being a bit more vocal.”

Keepers will continue to keep their distance until the kitten is about 30 days old. At that point, Campbell says she may begin to handle the kitten if Tallulah is comfortable with the separation. Because Tallulah tends to become stressed around strangers, the GSC’s veterinarian will not check the kitten until it reaches six to eight weeks of age.

Once it is around three months old and can easily move around, get in and out of the water, jump, climb, etc., the kitten will move onto exhibit. If the kitten is a female, she will continue to live with Tallulah until placed in another facility. If the kitten is a male, he will be separated from his mother once he reaches sexual maturity, which typically happens at the year and a half mark.

The GSC will continue to update the public on the kitten’s progress on the organization’s social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

GSC Gift Guide: Memberships

Looking for the perfect gift idea that’s fun for the whole family? How about a full year of free Greensboro Science Center admission?!?! A GSC membership offers just that – and much more.

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For as little as $32.40 per person (including tax), a membership truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only will it give your loved ones a full year of exciting, memorable, and educational visits to the GSC, they’ll also receive lots of discounts — including discounted admission for their guests, discounted OmniSphere Theater and SKYWILD tickets, discounts in the gift shop and cafe, and discounts on birthday parties, classes and camps!

Members will enjoy exclusive invitations and previews of new exhibits and OmniSphere shows. They’ll also receive information about how to get involved in citizen science programs, be the first to learn about upcoming GSC projects, and get exclusive peeks at what happens behind the scenes of the GSC in our member-only e-newsletters.

If your loved ones enjoy traveling, the savings will go even further! GSC members receive free or discounted admission to over 300 Association of Science-Technology Centers and over 150 Association of Zoos and Aquarium facilities, giving your loved ones the chance to explore amazing science centers, zoos and aquariums all around the country (and world!) for a fraction of the cost.

Click here to see the complete list of member benefits and to purchase a gift membership online.

If you’re a boss looking for a great gift for your employees (or an employee looking to encourage your boss to give you an awesome, experiential gift!), you’ll want to check out our Business Membership program.

Business memberships include GSC membership cards in the company’s name for employees to use. During their visit, employees using the business membership will also receive discounts in the gift shop and cafe. It’s a great way to show your employees your appreciation while supporting science education!

Click here to view business membership levels and to download a business membership order form.

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a family or for your employees, the GSC has a membership program that’s right for you!

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill L.

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.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Bill L:

Bill L.

I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for 1.5 years.  I typically volunteer on weekends, special events and whenever the Volunteer Department sends out an SOS call.  When I retire, I plan on spending more time at the Science Center.  I currently volunteer as a Docent in the aquarium.

I have worked with animals most of my life and it has brought me great joy, especially turtles and birds.  I also enjoy public speaking.  Working in the aquarium has allowed me to do both at the same time.

I have three goals each time I volunteer:  To engage, to enlighten, and to entertain.  I want our guests to enjoy their experience and to walk away with a new appreciation of animals.  I believe that increasing people’s interest in animals is the key to successful animal conservation.

At the end of a shift, I go home tired and happy!