The Age of Mammals and Ice Comes to Life at the Boonshoft Museum

By MACKENZIE ENGLISH

The Boonshoft’s newest exhibit, The Age of Mammals and Ice, takes families back into the past to visit the animals of the last Ice Age.  Here we can see how some of the largest land-dwelling animals would have looked and moved about if they were still around today.  We also can see how the places they lived looked different than they do today.  It is not every day that you can come to a museum to see extinct animals come to life!

My favorite of these Ice Age mammals is the Doedicurus from South America.  Imagine a car-sized armadillo walking through your back yard eating all of the vegetables in your garden.This mammal did not have to worry about too many things trying to eat it because of the thick armor it wore all over its body.  It also had a large bony mass at the end of its tail that could be used as a club.

Museum Guests Enjoy The Age of Mammals and Ice Exhibition

The wooly mammoth and smilodon  (saber-toothed tiger) both lived here in Ohio.  The wooly mammoth is a cousin of the elephant that lived in the grassy tundra of the Ice Age.  They would have used their large tusks to scrape away snow and ice to look for grass to eat.  The saber-toothed tigers would look for any animals they thought would make a good meal, which included the wooly mammoth.

Ice Age Wooly Mammoth

One of the largest land mammals to ever live was the Baluchitherium.  This large mammal was closely related to the rhinoceros but lacked the horn found on the head.  Found in Eastern Europe and throughout most of Asia, they would have eaten any vegetation they could find.

Also found in the exhibit is the wooly rhinoceros.  These rhinos were slightly larger than modern-day rhinos and were covered in a wooly fur, much like the wooly mammoth.  This fur would have helped them to stay warm as they lived in the cold tundra of northern Asia and Europe.  Their closest living relative today also happens to be the smallest rhino, the Sumatran rhino.

Not only do we have on display some of the largest mammals that once roamed the planet, but we also have one of the largest birds.  The Gastornis, or Terror Crane, was a large flightless bird found in Europe.  It took a long time for scientists to determine if it ate meat or its vegetables but now it is believed to be a vegetarian.  This comes from the lack of hooked claws and a lack of a hook on the beak, which would suggest consumption of meat.  So think of it as a very large chicken.  It probably would taste like one too.

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!

 

I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

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.

Travel The World Without Leaving the MidWest!

DMNH_1958_Roberts Pump Building location at 251 E. Second Street, 1941-1958

The Dayton Museum of Natural History, 1958

While we’re only pretty sure that time travel isn’t an actual “thing” yet, the next best option for aspiring explorers may just be to visit a Museum!  From ancient artifacts and rare oddities to countless extinct specimens of animals that no longer roam the world, you can find a wide variety of history from across the globe at your local Natural History Museum.  Many Daytonians remember the Boonshoft Museum as the Dayton Museum of Natural History, when its cornerstone was its vast Collection of artifacts and specimens.  What many may not know is that our Collections remain a crucial aspect of the Boonshoft Museum today, as many of these items can be found in current exhibits, while the rest are maintained for future use and research.

With 1.7 million artifacts and specimens, there is something for all ages and interests to explore. Some of the most popular items include rare prehistoric fossils, skeletal remains of animals that existed during the Ice Age (Mammoth, Dire Wolf, Saber-Toothed Cat), gorgeous handmade jewelry, meteorites, Native American textiles, mummy remains, historic weapons, ancient pottery, and even a shrunken head.

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Map of the origins of all of our Collection’s pieces, click to enlarge.

Taking a tour of our Collection is literally a trip through time and across the world—which means our staff always jump at the chance to take a tour in order to familiarize them with the Museum. “Each time there is a good number of new staff, you can count on our Curators to host a tour of our Collection. I go every single time because there is always something I haven’t seen and it gives me the chance to experience things that I won’t ever see except for maybe in a book. Our Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, for instance, is extinct, but we have one in our Collection and it is special every time I see it, in addition to all of the other pieces of local and world history,” noted Erika Asher, Development Assistant at the Boonshoft Museum.

So, tell your friends and family to get ready to embark on a world tour through time, except you won’t need to pack a bag or cross an ocean. For the first time, we are opening our collection vaults to the public for extensive, behind-the-scenes tours. These tours are guided by our knowledgeable curators and available to small groups of up to eight people. Tours last 90 minutes and vary between $150-$200, depending on the number of people in your party. All proceeds from the private tours go to the preservation of our artifacts and the Boonshoft Museum’s mission.

You can learn more about the Museum’s Collection here.

You can start the process of booking a Private Tour here.

You can get a jump start on your “world travels” by seeing where all of our artifacts come from by clicking here.

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.

Sky’s The Limit For Spruce, Cypress, Willow & Sequoia!

All four falcon chicks have fledged!  Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have taken their first flights without any reports of trouble.  Daniel is working hard to bring food to the juveniles wherever they are perched.  At this age they are not skilled hunters and still depend on their parents to provide meals and will vocalize loudly if they need food or assistance from their parents. Go this website to hear what the vocalizations of a peregrine falcon sounds like:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/sounds

Within the next few weeks they will be able to capture food on their own.  The young peregrines are difficult to tell apart from their parents but can be seen perching on the Liberty Savings Tower or nearby buildings in downtown Dayton.  This is the first time Dayton and Daniel have raised four chicks.  At this time Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have passed many hurdles and this nesting season can be considered a success.  With the state delisting of the peregrine as a threatened species in 2015 the young peregrines are now part of the success story of the recovery of the peregrine falcon population in Ohio.  The Dayton nest is part of a sample monitoring program in Ohio and data from the FalconCam will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife including the continued presence of the pair at the Dayton nest, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs hatched, and the number of offspring that fledge.  As long as none of the young peregrines need human assistance they will stay in the area until the end of summer.  When the youngsters have enough skills they will leave Daniel and Dayton to find their own territories and hopefully one day raise young of their own.

FalconInFlight

The FalconCam stream will be turned off soon but if any significant events occur they will be posted.

A special “thank you” to our sponsor for their support with the 2016 Falcon Cam season.

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