Greensboro Science Center Aquarist Participates in Prestigious Coral Restoration Workshop

Rachel-PR-BlogGREENSBORO, NC — Rachel Rodgers, coral aquarist in the Wiseman Aquarium at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), participated in a five-day coral restoration workshop at Mote Marine Laboratory in December, 2018. Rodgers’ participation was sponsored by the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant, funding which offers GSC staff the opportunity to pursue a conservation or research project.

The workshop was led by Dr. David Vaughan, President and founder of Plant A Million Corals and former Senior Scientist and Program Manager at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration. Workshop participants were exposed to the history of coral restoration (both land-based and ocean nurseries), coral reproduction and the future of restoring coral reefs in light of bleaching, or starvation, episodes occurring around the world.

The workshop offered hands-on experience in land-based micro-fragmentation and fusion coral restoration efforts. Participants learned how micro-fragmentation expedites the growth of corals. Using a specialized saw to cut very small pieces of coral, usually 1-5 polyps, the coral tissue is stimulated to grow, allowing scientists to clone at 25-50 times the normal growth rate. Clone fragments of coral recognize each other and fuse together to form large colonies. By implementing techniques such as micro-fragmenting and fusion, scientists and aquarists hope to bolster the resilience of reefs at local scales.

Workshop participants included coral biologists, conservationists and academics who have been doing coral fragmentation on existing reefs. As the only aquarist to participate, Rodgers brought valuable knowledge about land-based work to the team, including water quality, building of aquarium systems and coral husbandry. Now that the workshop is complete, Rodgers is excited to maintain relationships she built during the experience. She plans to continue collaborating with fellow participants so coral labs can be built all around the world.

“This workshop brought a lot of hope,” Rodgers says. “You hear ‘50% of coral reefs are bleached and 30% are dead’ and you begin to feel hopeless. But, when you have dedicated people learning to build reefs, there is hope for coral reefs.” This experience not only taught Rodgers techniques for restoring corals, but strengthened her passion for the work she does as well as drew her into a world of coral restoration opportunities.

Rodgers was one of three staff 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.

Lindsey Zarecky, VP of Conservation & Research at the GSC says, “The GSC research committee is thrilled to be able to offer this grant opportunity. There is such gratification in seeing the hope, passion and illumination in the eyes of staff who experience field conservation work and become re-energized to do what they can to conserve wildlife.”

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Living the Mission: GSC Staff Awarded Conservation & Research Grants

This year, the Greensboro Science Center provided staff a brand new opportunity to apply for what is known as the Conservation and Research Grant. This annual grant offers GSC staff the opportunity to pursue a conservation or research project. Eligible proposals can range from pursing a professional development opportunity, facilitating an existing field project (like mussel surveys or bat acoustic work), creating a conservation project (like a stream clean-up or butterfly garden), or taking on a new research question. After undergoing an extensive assessment by our staff Research Committee, this year’s recipients have been announced.

Shannon Anderson, Zoo Keeper: SANCCOB’s Keeper Exchange Program

Penguin DivingShannon will travel to South Africa to work with SANCCOB staff to refine her skills in bird care and chick rearing; Shannon’s knowledge and passion for penguins led her to pursue this program. On this trip, she’ll have the opportunity to work with field biologists, conservationists and sea bird specialists to expand her knowledge and will share her experience with staff at a presentation following her time in South Africa.

Rachel Rogers, Aquarist: Mote Marine Coral Restoration Workshop

coral 02Rachel, the GSC’s coral aquarist, has a passion for propagating and conserving coral species. At the workshop, she’ll learn the micro-fragmenting techniques used to propagate staghorn and elkhorn corals. She will also visit coral nurseries in the Florida Keys to gain knowledge on the best methods for growing and reproducing coral. She, too, will share her experience with staff at a presentation following the workshop.

Sam Beasley, Vet Tech: Sea Turtle Care Center at the South Carolina Aquarium

Sam Beasly | 36 | EditSam works alongside veterinarian Dr. Sam Young to care for the animals in our collection. Sam has a lifelong passion for turtles and rehabilitation of sea turtles. She will work with the vets and technicians at the Sea Turtle Care Center to rehabilitate sea turtles and care for injured turtles. There, she will learn new skills and receive hands-on training that will benefit her vet career. Sam will also be sharing with staff her experience when she returns.

We’re thrilled to have a team of staff who supports our mission of conservation by putting the “hands” in “hands-on.” Return to our blog in the near future for updates on the good works these team members will be doing!

Armadillo Burrows: A Great Way to Beat the Heat

Notes from the Field – in cooperation with Dr. Arnaud Desbiez of the Giant Armadillo Project

You may be familiar with the nine-banded armadillo or even the screaming hairy armadillo at the GSC – but did you know there is a giant armadillo? These giants can weigh as much as 70 pounds! Little is known about giant armadillos, but Dr. Arnaud Desbiez’s pioneering work on the Giant Armadillo Project is bringing to light the ecology and biology of these prehistoric-looking creatures. Since 2011, Dr. Arnaud and his team have spent hours seeking out giant armadillos. These unique animals are native to South America, where they spend their days foraging on termites and other insects, worms and spiders.

The Greensboro Science Center is a proud supporter of Dr. Arnaud’s work. His research in Brazil’s Pantanal has proven that giant armadillos are true ecosystem engineers. In other words, they’re organisms who create or modify habitat for the benefit of other organisms. In the case of giant armadillos, they build burrows that provide shelter and cool temperature for other species. Dr. Arnaud’s team uses motion sensing cameras to film burrow entry points. In this way, the team has observed more than 25 other species making use of giant armadillo burrows. Check out these amazing photos from the field that Dr. Arnaud and his team recently shared with us:

From top left: Crab eating fox, agouti, lesser anteater, nine-banded armadillo, ocelot

What makes these burrows such appealing spaces? They hover around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, while air temperature outside of the burrows can reach highs into the 90’s. The stable environment the burrow provides is appealing to the many species looking to get out of the hot sun. Given the large sizes of giant armadillos and the fact they cannot roll into a ball like other armadillos can, the burrows are large and have gaping entry holes well suited to animals of varying sizes. Giant armadillos are nocturnal, so other animals can stay overnight while the armadillos are away. Also, armadillos don’t remain in the same burrow for long; therefore, other animals can make themselves at home in the abandoned burrows.

Media Release: Brews & Bubbles Beer Tasting Conservation Fundraiser

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is hosting Brews & Bubbles, its annual beer tasting fundraiser, on Friday, April 20, 2018 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.

Brews-and-Bubbles-FB-event

Last year, the event raised $12,000 for conservation and this year, GSC officials hope to raise $15,000.

Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation & Research, says, “Funds raised last year supported conservation partners around the globe, helping to protect species including fishing cats, seahorses, Komodo dragons, sharks, monarch butterflies, lemurs, and penguins. Event proceeds also helped to support our local conservation partners, including the Piedmont Land Conservancy. We’re excited to provide a fun evening event that also raises money to help sustain some of the amazing work being done around the world!”

Each Brews & Bubbles ticket includes beer samples from participating North Carolina breweries, a souvenir tasting glass, hors d’oeuvres, and live music from Graymatter and duo Blind-Dog Gatewood & Abe Reid. Capacity is limited and the event tends to sell out, so GSC officials recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

Project Seahorse Announces iSeahorse.org

By Regina Bestbier, Research Biologist with Project Seahorse, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of British Columbia

Project Seahorse is delighted to announce the launch of our new, improved iSeahorse.org website – our pioneering citizen engagement tool who gathers information about seahorses while building a community of committed contributors that will be empowered to take action for seahorses and marine conservation.

Anyone can join. Whether you’re a diver, fisher, scientist, or just on a beach holiday, you can share your seahorse observations with a click of a button. If you’ve seen a seahorse in the wild, join iSeahorse.org or download the app to upload your seahorse observations and photos. You can also help us identify species, explore maps, beautiful photos, fun seahorse facts, and take action for seahorse conservation.

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Photo by Joshua Feingold/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Since we launched iSeahorse in October 2013, scientists from Project Seahorse and around the world have used this vital information to better understand seahorse behaviour, species ranges, and the threats they face.  Together, we use this knowledge to mobilize governments, policy makers, and ocean advocates to protect seahorses and the marine ecosystems they call home.

To date, almost 500 contributors have shared their 2400+ seahorse observations, and we now have information on 30 of the 43 recognised seahorse species.  The user-contributed observations on iSeahorse have also greatly expanded our knowledge of the known ranges of several seahorses – 15% of all iSeahorse observations are from outside of a species known geographic range!  We are also learning much about the depth ranges and habitat preferences of the species observed, which will contribute to conservation planning efforts in the near future.

We are building a community and alliance of citizen scientists, conservationists, experts and more, all working towards a common goal – to protect seahorses and expand our scientific knowledge of these mysterious and beautiful animals.  There are now ten long-term seahorse population monitoring projects established on six continents (North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia) and we have more than 25 seahorse experts and enthusiasts from 16 countries participating as iSeahorse National Seahorse Experts and program Ambassadors.  iSeahorse empowers users to take action and generate conservation change.   In fact,  the newly created 70 ha Marine Protected Area and seahorse sanctuary in Anda, Bohol, Philippines resulted from newly discovered seahorse populations reported through iSeahorse.

To learn more about Project Seahorse, iSeahorse and seahorses, and to get involved, visit projectseahorse.org and iseahorse.org.

The Komodo Dragon SSP and Dragon Conservation

By Don Boyer, Komodo Dragon SSP Coordinator

The Komodo Dragon SSP (Species Survival Plan) was established in 2002. The current AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) captive population has grown to more than 126 dragons maintained at 63 AZA institutions. We are very proud of the overall success of the program. Through the active participation and hard work of member institutions, funding support from these institutions also has been instrumental in aiding wild Komodo dragon conservation in Indonesia. The Greensboro Science Center is an active supporter of the conservation fund.

Adult Komodo on Komodo Island

Komodo dragons, exotic and fascinating in their own right, are nearly unparalleled in their ability to connect people with a strong conservation message. The wild population is estimated to be approximately 2500 animals. Current threats include global climate change, anthropogenic disturbance such as habitat alteration and poaching the dragon’s prey base. To help support the survival of these impressive lizards in the wild, the Komodo Dragon SSP maintains a conservation fund. That fund supports important and ongoing field research for long-term dragon conservation. During the past several years the steering committee has voted to approve funding to the Komodo Survival Program (KSP), a small non-governmental conservation organization that was established in 2007.

The main purpose of the KSP is to conduct monitoring activities to determine the population status of dragons, document any threats and recommend appropriate conservation measures to the Indonesian Government. Their work has provided important data in regard to demography, recruitment, dispersal and other vital information on the ecology of these magnificent reptiles. They have also worked very diligently to create community awareness of dragon ecology and conservation and the importance of the species in their ecosystem.

carying traps

Dissemination and training

The AZA institutional funding has made possible a significant amount the KSP work and helped to provide a sound foundation for future monitoring of the dragon population within the Komodo National Park by their rangers. The KSP team is training the National Park ranger staff in the scientific monitoring methodology and teaches them an in depth understanding of dragon biology ecology. The KSP is also directing on conservation efforts for the more vulnerable dragons outside of the protected areas on the Island of Flores.

The SSP fund remains a viable resource to continue this valuable conservation work. The bulk of the contributions come from AZA Zoos. The collective donations to this fund have enabled the import/export of dragons for program purposes.  Institutions have been able to satisfy the USFWS endangered species permit requirements for the enhancement through regular contributions to the fund. Most importantly the funding support to the KSP has filled significant gaps in their research funding and enabled infrastructure repair to ranger stations, the production of multilingual guide books with accurate dragon biology information and provided a science based long term population monitoring of the iconic species.

Conservation Partner Spotlight:  Fishing Cat Conservancy

Last year, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) donated $5,000 to the Fishing Cat Conservancy (FCC), an Arizona-based nonprofit organization whose mission is “to promote the long-term survival of fishing cats in the wild through public education, capacity-building, and community-based research and conservation.” Part of the GSC’s mission is to support global conservation efforts, and with two fishing cats in our care, supporting the FCC is of great significance to us.

We recently reached out to FCC’s president, Ashwin Naidu, for updates from the field. Here’s what he shared:

  1. We enabled a ‘community-managed’ monitoring program for fishing cats, wherein the training we provided to our field team and community members is translating into them sharing their knowledge with the local people and tribal communities that live next to fishing cats and their habitats. Now, these local people and tribals are taking an interest in protecting their backyard wetlands, mangroves, and locally endangered species like fishing cats and smooth-coated otters.
  2. We educated close to 1,000 school children in various government schools and local people in villages located next to mangroves (especially mangroves outside protected areas). We talked about the importance of protecting fishing cats and mangrove ecosystems for the benefit and long-term survival of local communities.Santosh_FCC_EduProg_SchoolKids_SAM_Apr2017 (1)
  3. We constructed a solar-powered Conservation Education Center, which is currently two cottages as it stands, to be openly used by the local community and visitors to educate about fishing cats, mangroves, and wetland biodiversity and support efforts to study and protect them. More information and photos about this are in a recent post on our Facebook page.FCC_CEC_SolarPanels_Aug2017
  4. We presented and shared all our data to date on fishing cats occurring outside protected areas (esp. in mangroves in revenue lands) with the Krishna District’s Vigilance Department. This Department is now looking into getting revenue lands with mangroves established as protected areas.
  5. From our partners, Gal Oya Lodge in Sri Lanka, we obtained a new record of fishing cat near the Gal Oya National Park – outside its known (mapped) range in Sri Lanka.

We are proud to support Ashwin and the FCC. With $0.25 from each general admission ticket sold earmarked for donation to our general conservation fund, our visitors make supporting these efforts possible…so thank YOU!ARao_FC_TrackCasts_Apr2017_FCC (1)