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.
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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!

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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.

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:

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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.

 

 

 

Four Eggs For Dayton’s Falcons

Dayton and Daniel have four eggs in the nest!  Peregrine falcons lay an average of four eggs in a clutch with each egg laid a few days apart.   Dayton laid her first egg on March 10.  This is earlier than in previous years, possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather.  Last year she laid her first egg on March 18.  Incubation of the eggs starts toward the end of egg laying and the eggs will synchronize to hatch around the same time.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.  Dayton started closely sitting on the eggs by March 14 so hatching could take place as early April 11.  For now Dayton spends all of her time warming the eggs and turning them.  She is observant of any dangers outside the nest but Daniel is nearby protecting their territory.  Occasionally he will come to the nest to relieve Dayton of her incubation duties and provide her with food.

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Click to view the Falcon Cam

The falcons can be observed wiggling on the eggs to press the bare skin on the chest, called the brood patch, down on the eggs to keep them warm.  In species where only the female incubates the eggs the male doesn’t develop a brood patch.  Male and female peregrines both have brood patches because they share incubation of the eggs.  If you watch the Falcon Cam you’ll see the adult peregrines rock side-to-side as they settle on the nest.  This rocking opens the feathers that have curled over the brood patch and puts their skin in contact with the eggs.

Dayton turns the eggs every hour or so during the incubation process.  Both parents will work to maintain the ideal temperature of 99.5 F. Occasionally, the eggs may be left alone for short periods, but one of the birds will always be nearby keeping a close watch over them.

Dayton and Daniel are typically very successful raising their chicks but sometimes the young peregrines run into trouble later on.  Recently one of their chicks from last year, a male named Harrison, was injured and needed help.  Harrison was brought to the Glen Helen Raptor Center where he spent time recovering from wounds on one wing.  Harrison made a full recovery and was able to be released in Springfield in a territory not already held by other peregrines.  To learn more about Glen Helen Raptor Center go to this link:

http://www.glenhelen.org/#!raptor-rehab/clog

STEM Skills: Everyone Needs Them.

It’s not a secret; here at the Boonshoft Museum, we love all things Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and our goal is to inspire children and their families to do the same. While we’re in the business of engaging our guests with STEM education that will hopefully spark a lifetime of commitment to STEM fields of study, we realize that there are many children whose passion will lie outside of a traditional STEM Career–and that’s okay!

What is important, however, is for parents and children to understand that all jobs in the future will require STEM skills in some fashion, whether you’re a history teacher, small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You might remember reading about the importance of STEM from our Educators, but this time we asked our support and administrative staff just how much STEM they use in their jobs every day; and the answer? Much more than you think:

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Families explore hands-on science.

Dona Vella , Vice President, Development and External Relations

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Dona pitching in to help craft some Memberships in a Box

“Encouraging children to build science, technology, engineering, and math skills is a big part of our mission at the Boonshoft Museum, and while I understand that not all children will grow up and become mathematicians and physicists, it is important for current and future generations to have these STEM skills in order to flourish in their careers.

I use math every day to evaluate budgets, develop fundraising strategies, and analyze data. My entire team and I use technology to help us streamline and work more effectively. Because we rely on customers, committed sponsors, and generous donors in order to help us fulfill our mission, it is so important that we are good stewards of the funds that we receive, and by using technology, we are able to do that by working as efficiently as possible.”

Lauren Lemons, Communications Coordinator

“As the Museum’s Communications Coordinator, I am responsible for writing copy, digital marketing campaigns, and creative content, as well as evaluating metrics that pertain to our marketing platforms. My job starts with creativity, is implemented with technology, and is analyzed with math–so I would definitely say STEM is essential to doing my job successfully. I spend a lot of time working with graphics, editing and creating code, and using math to evaluate what makes our marketing campaigns successful.

In fact, though I do not have a traditional STEM job, like a doctor or engineer, I do have a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing, which means I had to take a lot of business and economics-based math and science classes in college. I believe this has certainly come in handy in my career and makes me more well-rounded for my position here at the Museum. I would encourage anyone, no matter what career path they will eventually take, to seize every chance they have to hone their STEM skills, because all jobs will require some degree of STEM in the future.”

Angela Shaffer, Senior Manager, Guest Services and Gift Shops

As an English and Classical Humanities student in college, I didn’t anticipate managing a database in my post-college career! However, as the person responsible for managing the Society’s point-of-sale database, CounterPoint, that is exactly what I do on a daily basis. It is my job to ensure that anything the Society “sells”–including admissions tickets, memberships, gift shop merchandise, group visits, and Astronomy programs, just to name a few–is entered and managed properly within CounterPoint. It is extremely detail-oriented work that incorporates many other fields of study, such as information technology and accounting; I work closely with our business office and many other departments within the Society to make sure that all information is set up and managed correctly and that both software and hardware systems function fully. It’s challenging and rewarding work that requires a lot of STEM skills!”

Sarah Aisenbrey, Dayton Society of Natural History Registrar

“As the Registrar of the Dayton Society of Natural History, I work with many types of technology, including (and most importantly) our collections databases. Databases, which are computerized tables that keep track of information, are a technology you probably use every day–Facebook, Amazon, and Google are all typical examples. Even though the artifacts we curate can be thousands of years old, we use current technology to help us research, exhibit, publicize, and track all 1.7 million of them. Successfully mastering the use of collections databases takes a lot of skill–I have to be very organized, up-to-date on the newest technology, and ready to field questions about the collection at a moment’s notice. Practicing and constantly improving these skills has helped me to excel as the DSNH’s Registrar.”

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Jill, our Associate Curator and Sarah, our Registrar, before the opening of Cut From the Same Cloth.

Jimmy Adams & Caleb Orecchio, Graphic Artists

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Jimmy and one of our SAA externs in the African Room.

“Graphic Designers use technology every day, specifically Adobe Creative Suite. We also have to understand how to use the printing presses, use measurements for production, and I use a lot of math when working with budgets. I would say our job requires as much STEM as it does art and creativity.” – Jimmy Adams

“Besides the obvious use of technology, there is also a psychology that goes into creating advertising pieces. We use science, geometry, and color to make things pleasing the eye.” – Caleb Orecchio

Phillip Dunlevy, Facilities Supervisor

I need things like Technology, Engineering, and Math to get my job done and keep the Museum in top shape! Our power, HVAC, lights–they all run on computers. I also use a lot of math when measuring wood and steel to cut when there are things that need to be fixed around the Museum.”

Marge Forsthoefel, Supervisor, Accounting

“I’m not a scientist or engineer, but I do use math every single day in Accounting. Whether I am calculating sales tax reporting using different percentages for different counties in Ohio, accounts receivable, or balancing sales against cash, my job requires a lot of math and reasoning!

Because our sales come through a point-of-sale system, either at the Museum or online, I also need to understand how to use online sales reporting systems, credit card reporting systems, management information systems, and I need to export data in order to balance our daily sales. Accounting is no longer handwritten ledgers, but all done using accounting programs, which are most certainly technology-based.”

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Erika, having a blast with our Education Crew

 

 

Erika Asher, Education Coordinator

“I’ve learned a lot about science and science-based concepts because I frequently have to talk to teachers about the programs that we provide to their students. I also do a lot of math when calculating numbers for programs, billing, etc.

Being well-versed in technology, specifically the use of databases, is something else that is necessary for my job. We keep schedules, membership information, and book programs with information that are all stored in databases.”

So, what did we learn? It’s safe to say that there isn’t a single staff member at the Boonshoft Museum that doesn’t use STEM in some form. Our goal? To make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math so accessible to children and their families that STEM no longer seems like a burden or a challenge, but more like a fun tool children use to explore, problem solve, and invent. While we can’t expect all children to grow up to become the next Albert Einstein, we can provide children with some of the tools necessary to poise them for a future of unlimited successes and the confidence to become accomplished problem solvers, in whatever career they choose.

If you want to participate in some STEM fun at the Boonshoft Museum, consider signing up for Summer Discovery Camps or visit the Museum tomorrow, March 19, on Super Science Saturday, for a FREE day of fun, hands-on STEM activities!