Animal Enrichment Program Gives Discovery Zoo Dwellers a More Natural Life Experience

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

 

Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls,

splasher-and-diver

Splasher and Diver, North American River Otters in Their Firehose Hammock

why are the animals playing with trash?

 

Well, what’s one person’s trash is another animal’s treasure! Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls…why are the animals playing with trash?

In addition to making sure the animals in the zoo have food, water, and clean habitats, zookeepers also provide enrichment for the animals under their care.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA represents more than 200 institutions which meet the highest standards in animal

Malcolm and King Eastern Box Turtles with Browse

care, provide a fun and educational family experience and dedicate millions of dollars to scientific research, conservation, and education programs. This means that even though the Discovery Zoo is not nearly as big as the Cincinnati or Columbus Zoo, the animals receive the same quality of care that they would at a larger institution.

The AZA defines enrichment as: “a process for improving or enhancing zoo animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioral biology and natural history. It is a dynamic process in which changes to structures and husbandry practices are made with the goal of increasing behavioral choices available to animals and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors and abilities, thus enhancing their welfare. As the term implies, enrichment involves the identification and addition within the zoo environment a specific stimulus that the occupant wants or needs but which was not previously present.”

This is basically a long and complicated way of saying that zookeepers provide our animals with activities to promote their natural behaviors, and to keep them mentally and physically active. Life in the wild is really tough, and animals spend all their time fighting to survive. Most animals spend around 80% of their time foraging for food! Finding food isn’t easy, predators often spend hours stalking their prey, and sometimes they aren’t successful. Many herbivores eat plants that are low in nutrition, so they have to spend most of their day grazing.

Animals in the zoo don’t have to worry about predators, disease, finding food, drought,  or natural disasters. Since life in the zoo is a little easier, zoo animals usually have more free time than they would in the wild, and zookeepers try to fill up this free time by providing their animals with enrichment. Enrichment can be almost anything; mulch, rearranging logs and rocks, scents, snake skins, puzzle feeders, and paper bags are just a few examples of enrichment done at the Discovery Zoo. When providing animals with enrichment, zookeepers take into account the natural history of that animal, or how it lives in the wild. For example, bat-eared foxes have great hearing to listen for insects digging under the ground, so keepers will put crickets and mealworms in paper bags full of hay. The foxes use their huge ears to listen for the bugs and then tear into the bags for their reward.

patience-sloth

Patience Sloth with Browse and Diet on a Skewer

When building exhibits, enrichment will often be built in. In our meerkat exhibit, one of the big termite mounds actually has a network of tubes inside that we can put crickets into. The tubes are like a maze and make it so the crickets take a long time to get out, so they’ll drop out randomly throughout the day. This is a great way to keep our meerkats active since they’ll investigate the termite mound many times during the day to see if any more crickets have fallen out. Wild meerkats spend their days foraging for insects, rodents, and other animals, so feeding them in this way helps them to express that natural behavior.

A good enrichment program tries to stimulate all of the animal’s senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and sound. At the Boonshoft Museum, we provide our animals with a variety of different scents; spices, fruit extracts, and even scents from other animals. We play bird calls and other nature sounds for a lot of our animals, and our screech owl Houdini even called to a recording of a screech owl. Something we do for a lot of our animals is put their food in a puzzle feeder or a toilet paper tube. The animal will use its sight and smell to investigate the object, and then use touch to get the food out.

luther-agouti

Luther Agouti Investigating a Snake Skin

Enrichment isn’t limited to animals in zoos, you can also enrich your pets at home. Commercially available puzzle feeders are a great way to slow down a fast eater or to keep your dog busy when you’re away. Catnip is a great example of scent enrichment that can be used for cats at home, and your cat may even like other spices that are in your kitchen. Whenever giving an animal enrichment, it’s important to research and make sure that it is safe for the animal.

Join us at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery on Saturday, February 18 for our first-ever Enrichment Day from 10am-4pm. See our Discovery Zoo residents get some awesome enrichment, learn more about enrichment at activity tables, and meet some of our ambassador animals! Do you love an animal in the Discovery Zoo? We will have enrichment “Valentines” with presents you can get for your favorite animal!

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dramatic Impact on the Sciences and Space Travel

By Michael L. Sampson

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

There is an interesting story told about how actress Nichelle Nichols, famous for playing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, was influenced by Dr. King. Nichols had begun her career in show business singing with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She believed the Broadway stage was her true calling until an unforgettable encounter with King convinced the talented actress to remain on the popular sci-fi show.

Nichelle Nichols as “Lieutenant Uhura” in the original Star Trek television show. fuzzyundertones.com

After informing Gene Roddenberry of her intentions, she directed her steps towards Broadway. Roddenberry was the brilliant creator and producer of the Star Trek series. Before leaving, however, she had a historic moment during a chance conversation with the noted civil rights leader. During the 1960s, there were no other Black females on television in non-stereotypical roles. Lieutenant Uhura, as the communications officer for the Starship Enterprise, became a role-model for African Americans. In addition, her unique Star Trek portrayal was an inspiration for women and other minorities.

King, an avowed Trekkie himself, explained to Nichols that she could not give up her positive presence on the award-winning television show. He exclaimed, “You can’t, you’re a part of history!” To Dr. King, her presence was influential, inspiring a generation of young people to shoot for the stars.

Thanks in large measure to her trailblazing television role, Nichelle Nichols gave hope to many that careers in space exploration and the sciences were dreams that were achievable. She became a successful recruiter for both NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AMA (Analytical Mechanics Associates).

The first woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, and the first African American woman in space, astronaut Mae Jemison, were both recruited by Nichols. She also recruited Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator.

Other African American space pioneers include Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford the first African American in space; Joan Higgenbotham, who has flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for over 12 days in space; Dr. Ronald McNair, who was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Stephanie Wilson, a flight engineer logging over 42 days in space where she operated her ship’s robotic arm.

Dr. King’s vision was a gentle nudge that continues to pay dividends for all of humanity. As we educate and utilize the skills and abilities of all, we confidently blast-off to a place “where no man has gone before.”

View the interview when Nichols recalls her conversation with Gene Roddenberry and the encounter with Dr. King.

Delightful Stocking Stuffers at Discoveries Gift Shop

The Boonshoft Museum’s Discoveries Gift Shop is the perfect place for doing your upcoming holiday shopping. We all share that person or two on our list who are just hard to shop for. You rack your brain, time and time again, with little success as you search for playful, educational Stocking Stuffers. What the doctor ordered is a shopping trip to the fun and unique gift shop at the Boonshoft Museum.

The Discoveries Gift Shop offers special, one-of-a-kind gifts designed to entertain and

dinotruck

Dino Transporter Truck

challenge young minds at the same time. Your young Einsteins could be playing with Carded Science Kits, Boxed Arrowheads and Shark Teeth, and reading books that make them think. Discoveries Gift Shop carries books about lots of scientific topics. Have a son or daughter who is curious about robots? How about that nerdy young mad-scientist with a thing for chemistry, destined to turn your house into a smoking ash heap?

 

At the top of this year’s under $10 Stocking Stuffers list sits the Ty-Beanie Babies, Beanie Boos, and Teeny Ty’s, as well as Carded Science Kits and a variety of die-cast toys, including a Dino Transporter Truck. The Pocket Volcano, Tornado Tube, and Lemon Clock are all bargains at $4.99; but you just HAVE to sample the Astronaut Ice Cream (yes, it is a thing!); and we really don’t want to forget the Jumbo Dino Hatch Egg.

handwarmermug

Hand Warmer Mugs

For the adult geeks in the mix, choose from among gifts under $15, like the charming Hand Warmer Mugs that come left or right-handed, Birthstone Soap Bars (betcha didn’t see that one coming!), a Fox Mug, and Salt and Pepper Shakers. There’s the Woodpecker Stapler, a cute Otter Tape Dispenser, and some quirky, colorful socks. The socks are adorned with images of either a Tyrannosaurus-Rex, or our beautiful planet Earth, or a selection of many other designs that I’ll bet you won’t find anywhere else!

Discoveries Gift Shop has lots of items of interest for explorers of all ages. If you still can’t decide, purchase a gift card and let those fussy folks choose their own gifts.

If any of these Stocking Stuffer gift ideas sound like winners to you, the Boonshoft Museum’s Discoveries Gift Shop is where you need to be this holiday season. Also, don’t forget to let us know you are a member to take advantage of your 10% to 20% discount! The Boonshoft Museum’s Discoveries Gift Shop will be closed as always on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
Wintogreen_Video

Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

Summer is a Great Time to Be a Member!

We’re counting down the minutes until summer begins and we bet you are too. There’s so much to do: plan your vacations, summer camps, family outings, activities, and more. The list could go on forever, even though the summer season is only three months long. If your goals is to have some great summer family experiences that keep the kiddos happy — and probably more importantly, keep you under budget — check out a Dayton Society of Natural History Membership!

New and current Members can maximize their Memberships this summer with so many things to do, see, and experience in just three short months:

memberguidesummer

The cost of a Museum Membership, transportation, and snacks (because everyone needs snacks!), can get you an entire summer of entertainment, family memories, and fun.

Here are some Dayton Society of Natural History summer highlights you won’t want to miss (bonus: everything listed below is either FREE for Members or Museum Members receive a discount).

New Exhibitions: Both the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery & SunWatch will welcome new exhibitions this summer. On June 4 the Amazing Butterflies opens at the Boonshoft Museum and Johnny Appleseed opens at SunWatch later on during the summer season. Members enjoy a special sneak preview of Amazing Butterflies from 9:00 a.m. – Noon on June 4 before it opens to the public.

Special Events: From Movie Nights at the Museum to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow hosted at SunWatch by the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, there are some stellar events that you won’t want to miss this summer, here are some of the highlights:

Fort Ancient: Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 19, Nature Hike on July 9, Archaeology Day on July 16.

SunWatch: Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow on June 25-26, Kids’ Days throughout the summer.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Movie Nights at the Museum (A Bug’s Life in June and Frozen in August), Red White & Boonshoft on July 4, and our Meerkat Mob’s Birthday on July 30.

To learn more or purchase a Membership, visit www.boonshoftmuseum.org.

 

 

 

5 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day This Friday!

A recurring theme both at the Boonshoft Museum and our sister sites, SunWatch and Fort Ancient, is conservation. We conserve artifacts and specimens, and we teach children and families about our natural resources and how we can best preserve them. On Earth Day, we are all acutely aware of the impact that humanity has on our planet and its inhabitants, some big (like the Polar Bears at the Columbus Zoo) and some small (like Patience, the Boonshoft Museum’s Two-Toed Sloth).

image

Two-Toed Sloths just like Patience face habitat loss due to deforestation of the South American rain forests.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the effort requires to slow down the effects of deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, but the Museum is committed to making sure that everyone, through small changes, has the ability to make a HUGE, positive impact on our environment–and what better way to kick-off a year of “green” living than by celebrating Earth Day on April 22!

Here are 5 simple things you can do that will have a big impact on our environment:

  1. Actively Educate – By attending events like the Boonshoft Museum’s Earth Day Celebration and Super Science Saturday, your family will learn about our natural resources, like the Miami Valley Aquifer, in addition to how we can use science to conserve, preserve, and sustain our natural resources. Most of our special conservation days are included with regular admission or free to the public, so be sure to check our Calendar frequently for upcoming events!
  2. Be a Good Steward – One of the most critical challenges to the world today is climate change. The change in climate affects the world’s ecosystems and has a ripple effect to which humans are not immune. Climate change affects our food sources and the economy. To be a good steward of the environment, try to save energy in your household. Simply turning the lights off when you leave a room, keeping your house a few degrees warmer during the summer, and unplugging electronics when you leave for school and work can collectively have a large impact on your energy usage and wallet!
  3. Purchase With a Purpose – You can shop smart and help fight deforestation by using sustainable alternatives to products that use Palm Oil and are created with recyclable materials. Palm oil is a key contributor to rain forest deforestation and can be found in common household items and food, like candy and cereal—even makeup. Opt into purchasing certified recycled products and support companies that use sustainable practices. Click here to view a list of companies that are dedicated to saving the environment.
  4. Plant for Pollinators – Between honey bees, bats, and butterflies, millions of dollars worth of crops and food are cultivated each year. With one in every three bites of food being indirectly or directly a result of honey bee pollination, something has to be done about their dwindling populations. Many of our pollinators are at risk due to habitat loss, so the best way to combat that is to create a pollinator-friendly place in your back yard! Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, a flowering plant that can easily be planted in your back yard. You can also opt for a bat house or plant a bee friendly garden. Some honey bees are often confused with wasps, so if you have a nest that you wish to remove, ask a professional if it is a honey bee hive and if it is contact a local apiarist (beekeeper).
  5. Get Active – If it’s a beautiful day and you need to run errands, consider riding a bike instead of taking your car. Not only does Dayton have some of the best bike trails regionally, biking to work is a green alternative to a car commute and it keeps you healthy! The burning of fossil fuels from motor vehicles creates both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, both of which affect our atmosphere and add to changes in climate.

Just doing these 5 simple things can help save our environment and its inhabitants! Learn more tomorrow during our Earth Day Celebration!

Falcon Chicks Are Here!

Dayton and Daniel’s eggs hatched!  On Sunday afternoon one chick was visible in the nest.  Later Sunday evening a second chick hatched.  If all progresses normally, the chicks will be the same size as their parents within six weeks.  At this link you can see images of how fast the chicks will grow:

http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

During the first 24 hours after hatching the chicks will use energy from the remaining yolk sac that they had while still in the egg.  Within a day the female will begin feeding the chick.  The baby chicks eat the same food as their parents, mostly birds brought to the nest by the male.  The female will tear tiny pieces using her beak and feed them to the chicks.

In this image you can see one of the parents eating a meal just outside the nest box to the right side of the image while the oldest chick sits in the nest box.  Within hours of this meal a second chick hatches.  The chicks are called eyases and, like most babies, they eat a lot.  They will double their weight in only six days!

mealtime

In order to hatch from the eggs the chicks used a sharp tip on their beak called a beak tooth to pip out of the shell.  A special muscle also developed while in the egg along the back of the neck that assists the chicks in hatching called the hatching muscle. Some of the egg shells are still visible in the nest with a reddish brown outside and white on the inside of the cracked shell.  This year incubation went a little longer than estimated.  Even though the eggs are laid days apart they typically synchronize to hatch around the same date.  In this image from around 8 p.m. Sunday two chicks peak out from the adult peregrine.  The babies cannot thermoregulate well until about 10 days old so the parents continue to sit on them to keep them warm.

two chicks 3b

 

Updated on 4/20/16 at 10:00 a.m.

Update

Surprise! A new chick was born! There are now three Falcon chicks as of this morning.