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.

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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!

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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.
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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,

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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.

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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!

 

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.

Careers In Curiosity: Party On, Jodi!

OutdoorWeddingRentalsThough it’s not your typical Museum career, our Rentals Manger, Jodi Rettig, certainly has a curious job at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Boonshoft Museum’s Main Exhibit Hall can be housing dinosaur eggs that are millions of years old one week and then be decorated to the nines for an elegant wedding the next.

From laying out schematics to programming personalized slide shows, Jodi uses science and math to be a success at her job, in addition to utilizing Museum technologies in order to create one-of-a-kind events for her clients. Read more about Jodi’s curious career below and then check out some tips she has to create both a special and casual event.

 


 

JodiMy position as Rentals Manager calls for many different skills, including planning and organizing, working closely with chosen vendors, and communicating with staff from the museum. I schedule tours to show potential clients around the museum, which helps show the museum from a whole new perspective. From using our climbing tower as a place for a band to turning Science On a Sphere into a moonlit area perfect for a bride and groom’s first dance, I truly enjoy making our clients’ happiest days come to life by customizing our spaces.

We regularly host weddings and corporate events in the Planetarium and use the screen in the Dome as a blank slate for the client to create, and I also love outdoor ceremonies and events in our Amphitheater in the spring and summer. Working with our clients and seeing their event turn into an unforgettable experience is hands-down the most enjoyable part of my job, especially because I visited the Museum as a child. Seeing my clients and their guests enjoy the Museum as much as I do is really fulfilling.

Here are Jodi’s top tips for planning and implementing both formal and casual events:

If you’re planning a wedding, holiday party, fundraising event, or prom, don’t forget to:

Email us or pop by during house of operation. Emailing or stopping by a facility are the best ways to stay in contact with your venue and vendors, especially around the busy wedding/holiday season. Many vendors and venues are dealing with several clients at a time, and the best way for us to keep track of all the details is through e-mail. This allows you and the vendor to have the paperwork needed to make a check list.

Research your vendors. It never hurts to ask about vendors, especially when it comes to choosing just the right DJ, caterer, photographer, and florist. At the Museum, we have worked with many vendors, and with a unique venue like ours, we are able to refer you to vendors that know our space and will best fit your budget.

Utilize your venue. If your event is in a unique space, it also never hurts to ask about using those aspects of your venue. We allow guests to incorporate programs and exhibits into their event quite often and because our spaces are so versatile, the possibilities here are almost endless. Yes, we can bring animals out for your guests. Yes, your guests can use the slide. Yes, we can create a program on our Planetarium, solely for you. Never be afraid to ask!

Navigate Your Guests! Accurate Driving directions are great to have as well as a convenient list of nearby hotels. Contact your venue for a map or driving tips that you can relay to your guests. It can save time and it ensures that everyone has a wonderful commuting experience.

Plan ahead! Avoid waiting until the last minute. It is very easy to do when you are coordinating an entire event and things may slip through the cracks if you aren’t organized. Having a timeline and a “to-do” list are great to have and to pass on to your vendors and venues. At the museum, we will have several staff members working on your event. Whether it is programming your personalized hashtag on our Science On a Sphere, pulling together songs for your custom Planetarium show, or displaying your slideshow over our Tidal Pool exhibit, but we always work from a list of vendor requests, so it is a good idea to get the venue and vendors everything they will need a few weeks in advance.

What about birthday parties, family reunions, and anniversaries? If you’re planning one of these events, remember to:

Book it early! It’s always a good idea to call a few months before your big occasion. Though smaller spaces may be more readily available than a full-museum rental, they still book quickly. This is especially something to keep in mind if you have a birthday to celebrate because you may not be as flexible about the date of your rental.

Make use of everything that is offered! At the Museum, we offer admission for all of our guests after your rental. Maximize their experience by passing out our programming schedule for your guests so they can see some of our planetarium shows or participate in a Do Lab program. Our Museum Mascot, Odyssey the Otter, can make his special appearance just for the birthday boy/girl and personal animal programs for your party are available for an additional, but budget-friendly, fee. You can also play music and a slide show for your party guests to see. Make it a moment your guests and birthday boy/girl will always remember!

Give it a theme! Birthday parties with themes work really well for planning invitations and decorations. For example, science, animals, and space themes all work really well at the Museum. The experience your guests will have at the Museum ties in perfectly with these themes.

Ask away! Again, never be afraid to ask questions. If you have an idea in mind, pass it by the venue contact, as we always work to tailor each event to the client’s individual needs.

Manage your guest list closely! Most birthday venues have a guest minimum and a guest maximum. This is for the safety of both the staff and the guests. A headcount of event attendees will also help you plan for what you’ll need to have as far as food, plates, and party favors – which keeps you from overspending and you can stick to your budget!

If you would like to learn more about booking a rental at the Boonshoft Museum or SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological park, click here. To email Jodi about booking a private event or rental click here.