Celebrating Life’s Milestones with the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, SunWatch, and Fort Ancient

AMANDA EGLOFF

As the holiday season wraps up and winter moves in, it is fun to reflect upon the many ways our members and their guests have shared their lives and celebrations with us here at the Boonshoft, SunWatch, and Fort Ancient.  Aside from daily trips to just be at the museum, members can rent any of our three sites to celebrate these special moments in their lives.

Birthday Parties:

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery hosts birthday parties on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm-3pm.  The generous birthday package starts with sharing the day at the museum with 50 of your child’s friends and family members and a private room for celebrating in.  Enhance your day by adding on one of our add-on options, like a private planetarium show or lego bin.  Is your child interested in animals and their welfare?  They can host an Adopt an Animal Party and sponsor one of our Discovery Zoo Residents.   And for the older child, a gift of the Junior Zookeeper experience or Adoption at one of our higher levels of sponsorship just might spark that lifelong love of veterinary science!

Make sure to get a jump on that birthday planning, because parties book 6-8 weeks in advance!

Wedding photo

Weddings:

One of the special things about being an institution since 1958 is that generations of children and adults have made their way through our doors.  Many of these children grow into adults with fond memories of their time here and want to incorporate that into their next big milestone, weddings!  The Boonshoft and Sunwatch are both excellent wedding venues for ceremonies and receptions.  Each wedding couple brings its own unique story to share with us.  Sometimes it’s the memory of a treasured family member who used to bring them here.  Some of our couples met each other here or shared an important experience here while dating.  The staff at the Boonshoft tries to tie in those special memories during your time here with us.  Whether it’s meeting up close and personal with Patience the sloth right before heading into your reception or rocking out to your favorite metal band in the planetarium, each of our weddings are memorable, to say the least!

Special Events:

When it comes to holidays, parties abound!  But you don’t just have to be celebrating the holidays to enjoy a good time at the Boonshoft, Sunwatch, or Fort Ancient.  From small training sessions to corporate family days and nonprofit events, the Dayton Society of Natural History has your next work event or large celebration covered.  Why spend the afternoon in a meeting or conference room when you could be talking about expense reports while watching otters play?  Bring your work family here and celebrate with us!

Amanda Egloff is the Rentals Coordinator for the Dayton Society of Natural History.

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Complete Your Holiday Shopping List at the Discoveries Gift Shop at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery!

ANGELA M. SHAFFER

Rocks

Are you still searching for the perfect holiday gifts for your friends and family? The Discoveries Gift Shop at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery offers thousands of educational, fun, and unique items for everyone on your list! Whether you’re searching for hands-on science and robot kits, striking rock and fossil specimens, colorful plush pieces, or even a Star Wars™ Death Star™ serving platter, we’ve got you covered!

Diecast and backpacksOur knowledgeable, friendly Guest Services staff is always happy to help you choose the perfect gift. Visit us anytime the Museum is open (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday); you may shop anytime in the Discoveries Shop without paying general admission.

Just in time for the busy holiday shopping season, here are some of our most popular items and staff favorites, organized by price. Happy holidays!

Stocking stuffers under $5.00

We have a plethora of fun stocking stuffers at affordable prices. A perennial favorite is astronaut ice cream, in delicious flavors like mint chocolate chip and cinnamon apple wedgeIce Creams. Other bestsellers include bright Ty™ plush clips for accessorizing backpacks and jackets, sparkling crack-open geodes and amethyst and citrine specimens, earthy rock and mineral dig kits, slimy Mars mud and Pluto plasma,  and slippery water snakes—all priced at $4.99 or less!

Stocking stuffers under $10.00

You’ll find lots to of unique plush pieces in the Discoveries Shop, and we carry several smaller pieces, including super-soft otters, meerkats, and sloths. If you’ve got a little one who loves to play with diecast toys, we’ve got those, too, including trains, police cars, planes, and tractors. You can fill a branded drawstring bag with rocks or magnet stones to give to a young geologist, or you can gift a robot claw to a young explorer!

Gifts under $20.00

Ty plushWe carry a wide variety of DIY science kits for less than $20.00, so stock up for all of the budding astronomers, paleontologists, and scientists on your list! Just in time the holidays, new Ty Gear™ plush backpacks are available in a variety of styles. You’ll also find ant farms, large plastic dinosaurs, mermaid-and fairy-making kits, and backpacks full of themed diecast toys!

Gifts under $50.00

For less thanTy Gear backpacks purses $50.00, there are several truly unique options in the Discoveries Shop. The Inclocknito and Spy Science Money Safe kits allow kids to keep their treasures safe, while our brand-new Scientific Robot kit offers many experiments and learning opportunities in one convenient package. Dinosaur table lamps offer a cool way to light up the night, and impressive pizza and space station playsets will bring hours of imaginative play to the creative kids on your list. And don’t forget the large Ty™ Beanie Boos™ and Beanie Babies™, which promise hours of colorful cuddling fun!

Adults

AdultWhat do you buy for the guy or gal who has everything? A Bigfoot action figure or scarf, of course, or perhaps Star Wars™ salt-and-pepper shakers or that Death Star™ serving platter! Pass the time by completing a puzzle featuring the periodic table of the elements or beautiful gemstones; keep the time with a cool galaxy-print (or, yes, Star Wars™-themed) wall clock. Cozy socks in a variety of fun animal designs help keep cold winter feet warm; cold winter mornings are made a little more bearable when hot coffee or tea is sipped from a handwarmer animal mug. And office work always goes a little faster when you have a woodpecker stapler or otter tape dispenser by your side.

Visit the Discoveries Gift Shop today and let us help you choose the perfect holiday gifts!

Angela M. Shaffer is the Senior Manager, Guest Services and Database Management at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

So You Want to See the Total Solar Eclipse This August

By JOE CHILDERS

Chances are you’ve heard that a rare astronomical event is happening on August 21; a total eclipse of the Sun.  Not only is it rare (there hasn’t been one visible from the Miami Valley since 831 CE), it is also spectacular!  Indeed, eclipse expert Fred Espenak,  who has been under the moon’s shadow more than twenty times, says “In rating natural wonders, on a scale of 1 to 10 a total solar eclipse is a million.”

 

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Total Solar Eclipse In France 1999   (Luc Viatour/wwwLucnix.be)

 

From Dayton this August we’ll see a deep partial eclipse—close, but no cigar.  We will get to see a total (or totality) solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, but if you’re impatient or don’t want to risk bad weather, you’ll want to travel down to Kentucky or Tennessee to see this year’s eclipse.

Here are three things you need to know:

  1. Do not expect to find a hotel, campground, or any other kind of accommodations whatsoever within driving distance of the eclipse path.

When it’s been forty years since the last American total solar eclipse, people who have been looking forward their entire lives to this got their reservations in early—up to three years ago!  So plan to sleep in your car, if at all.

  1. Do expect that traffic will be horrible that morning.

Everyone else who realized at this late date that there are no accommodations available will be driving in the morning of.  The eclipse happens around 2:30 p.m. or so in the afternoon, varying a little by location. You want to get into the path of totality many hours before that, lest you risk being stuck in traffic outside of totality.

  1. Do know that the eclipse is definitely worth taking a day off work, pulling the kids out of school, and putting up with nasty logistics to go see in person!

One cannot overemphasize how impressive a total solar eclipse is.  Photographs like this one do not do it justice.  Everyone has a limited number of opportunities to see a total solar eclipse in their lifetime, and everyone who sees one remembers it for the rest of their life!

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                        Solar Eclipse Map Across Kentucky                       (GreatEclipse.Com © Michael Zeiler 2014)

So my suggestion is this: plan to drive down in the pre-dawn hours of August 21, map out state highways that are less likely than interstates to be congested, and plan to see the eclipse from a box-store parking lot or a similar easily-accessed location.  But if you decide to stay in the Miami Valley, come on down to the Boonshoft Museum that day for all sorts of fun, eclipse activities for our partial eclipse!

Visit https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com for more on this topic.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Salutes International Migratory Bird Day

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

On Saturday, May 13, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). IMBD was established in 2000 to raise awareness about migratory birds and to encourage people to help protect their habitats. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated across the Western Hemisphere since many birds move between North and South America.Migration is the seasonal movement of animals from one area to another, and birds migrate to find better resources. Migration occurs on a large scale; all or most of the birds living in the area move as a flock. Of the more than 650 species of birds that breed in North America, more than half are migratory.

Birds migrate to find better food and nesting sites. Birds that live and breed in the Northern Hemisphere move south for the winter. Winters in the Northern Hemisphere are cold and there are not many sources of food available; like seeds, fruits, and insects.

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Bird-watching at the Boonshoft

Birds migrate south to escape the cold and find better food resources, and then return to the north to breed. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of growing insect populations, budding plants, and an abundance of nesting locations. Also, because of the earth’s tilt, days are longer in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere during the summer. Longer daylight hours mean that the birds can spend more time searching for food and feeding their chicks.

Not all birds migrate. For example, you probably see cardinals in your backyard in the summer and during the winter. Some birds migrate short distances, like moving across states. Around 350 bird species that live in North America migrate from the United States and Canada to wintering grounds in Central and South America.

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Migratory Birds In Winter

The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, which means they fly about 40,000 miles every year. The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. The average Arctic tern lives about thirty years, and will travel 1.5 million miles during its lifetime, the equivalent of a round trip from Earth to the moon over three times!

For more information on International Migratory Bird Day, check out http://www.birdday.org/.

Falcon Cam Update – April 21, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

The falcon eggs hatched!

On Saturday, April 15, egg shells could be seen on the ledge, but the female spent almost all her time on the nest preventing a view of what was beneath her. By Wednesday, we were able to get a good view of the chicks and all four eggs have successfully hatched!

shellstoside15April2017A

Falcon Shells to the Side

The chicks seem to be doing well, and both parents have been very attentive, feeding and keeping the chicks warm.  When they are not able to be seen they are safely tucked under the female.  She broods the chicks, keeping them warm with her body until they are about a week old and they can maintain the correct body temperature on their own

She has special featherless brooding patches that allow the warm skin of her body to press right up against the chicks and keep them warm.  This behavior is easy to see from above.  It looks like she is wiggling quickly back and forth, but she is snuggling her brooding patches down on the chicks.

FalconCam 2017

By LIZ TOTH

Did you know that the fastest animal on earth lives in downtown Dayton?  The peregrine falcon is able to fly at speeds over 200mph making it the fastest animal on earth!

The FalconCam provides an up close view, from hatching to fledging, of Dayton’s family of peregrine falcons.  From the first glimpses of the fluffy white chicks as they pip out of the egg to the drama of their first flights from the 23rd floor of the Liberty Savings Tower we get an insider’s view on the behavior of this fascinating bird.  Over the years the Boonshoft FalconCam has allowed the viewers to learn the details of family life that were previously unseen.  Watching the mother as she tears a freshly caught bird and puts it into the gaping beak of her young chick gives new meaning to the word “breakfast”.  While we enjoy watching the daily activities of the birds this information is being put to scientific use.  As soon as the eggs are laid biologists know that the pair is in good health and can get a count on the number of eggs.  2017 is the 16th year of the Boonshoft FalconCam.  The season started with wildlife biologists cleaning the nestbox in February and checking to be sure it is secure, stable and ready for the falcon pair.  One of the falcons was nearby and swooped and called loudly to show its displeasure of humans in its territory.  Because the falcon was moving so fast it could not be identified as having leg bands or not.
Falcon2017RoofB

Now that nesting season is underway little to no human presence is ideal near the nestbox. The door leading to the roof of the Liberty Savings Tower has a sign that is a reminder that the birds need privacy while nesting.

Peregrine falcons were added to the list of federally endangered species in 1970.  They became endangered through the use of a pesticide called DDT that thinned the shells of their eggs preventing them from hatching and a dangerous decline in the population.  Wildlife biologists have worked hard to increase the number of peregrine falcons and in Ohio the peregrine was removed from the list of state endangered species in 2015.  The recovery of the peregrine population has been a success but biologists must continue to carefully monitor the population.  The Dayton nest has been selected as one of the Ohio nests that will continue to be monitored.  Data collected from the FalconCam includes the continued presence of the pair, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs that hatch and the number of chicks that fledge.  The continued monitoring and data collection from the nest through the FalconCam will contribute to the success of this majestic species in Ohio.

To learn about the peregrines at other locations in Ohio visit the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s website.

Dayton’s own peregrine pair can be viewed on the Boonshoft FalconCam.

Questions about the FalconCam?  Email us at falcons@boonshoftmuseum.org

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.

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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!