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

By Michael L. Sampson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

Vectren_live smart

Up Up and Away!

The juvenile falcons are starting to take their first flights!  The two older chicks were the first to take to the roof behind the nest box.  Last week they spent time on the roof behind the next box stretching their wings.  The two juveniles that hatched a few days later than their siblings left the nest box soon after and began practice hops and stretching their wings on the roof behind the next box.  Names were selected for the chicks through a contest on the Boonshoft Museum Facebook page and the winning names are Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia.  On Tuesday one of the juveniles made it to the ledge near the 17th floor of the Liberty Tower.

FalconLedge

Dayton and Daniel still remain close by and provide food for the juvenile birds and protect them.  Once all the young falcons have taken their first flights they will be in flight training.  Dayton and Daniel will assist them as their flight instinct is developed.  Practice flights with parents nearby to keep the area clear of predators allow the youngsters to develop their skills.  The young birds will practice hunting with their parents passing pre-caught prey to them to help them to refine their skills.  Visits to the nest box will be infrequent and the birds will only rarely be seen in the nest box.  This is a good time to visit the nest site downtown as the birds can be seen in their practice flights over the Liberty Savings Tower in downtown Dayton.   The young peregrines are about six weeks old and are beginning to practice the skills they need to survive independently in the future.  They have passed their first hurdles but are still inexperienced.  The fledglings are as large as their parents and are hard to differentiate from Daniel and Dayton by their appearance while in flight downtown.  Dayton, Daniel and their four young falcons are all doing well and we continue to have no reports of any problems.  If the young falcons have gotten into any trouble they have been able to solve it themselves and are one step closer to being independent of their parents.

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.

eggs!!24March2016

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

Dayton’s Favorite Falcons On Camera Mid-March

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!

As part of the Boonshoft Museum’s efforts to educate the public about local wildlife and promote conservation efforts, we have always hosted the FalconCam, which 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 22nd 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. Over the past 14 years the chicks have been banded so they can be tracked in other regions and blood has been drawn so the genetic health of the population can be evaluated.

Banding 2008 4

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 form 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 contributed to the success of this majestic species in Ohio.

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Falcon Cam sponsored by:

Vectren_live smart

To learn about the peregrines at other locations in Ohio visit the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s website: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife-watching/falcon-cam

Dayton’s own peregrine pair, Dayton and Daniel, can be viewed on the Boonshoft FalconCam starting in Mid-March.

If you have questions about the FalconCam? Email us at falcons@boonshoftmuseum.org.

Celebrating Science During Black History Month!

In February you’re on the look-out for Rosie’s shadow and something sweet for your Valentine, but most importantly, February is a month dedicated to the celebration of African Americans and their accomplishments, contributions, and impact on society. We are celebrating by exploring some of our favorite African American scientists, academics, historians, and more.  In an extension of our ongoing conversation about opportunities for careers in science fields — that lasts all year long! — we wanted to delve into the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.

The Challenge:

Like women and other minority groups, African American men are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In fact, 2010 Census data shows that African American men made up 6.2% of the population between 18 and 64, yet the National Science Foundation reported just 3% of scientists and engineers working in those fields are African American.

In 2015, a round table of African American STEM professionals cited a lack of resources, failing school systems, role models, and “relatability”. The proposed solutions to these problems are similar to ones that help entice women into STEM careers—start teaching and engaging students sooner and build up their self-confidence in the face of self-doubt.

Being Part of a Solution:

The Boonshoft Museum is doing its part to engage young students across multiple cultural, economic, and scholastic backgrounds by making a promise to our community to open its doors, free to the public, four times a year. New for 2016, these free Saturdays, known as Super Science Saturday, will feature enhanced science-based public programming, planetarium shows, roaming animals, and much, much more–all day, all free to the public. In addition to Super Science Saturdays, during the Dayton Regional Science Festival we also offer free field trip programming to qualifying schools so children can meet with STEM professionals, Universities, and Colleges in our community, in addition to having special programming throughout the Museum with our trained Museum Educators.

Some of our Favorites

At the Boonshoft Museum we do everything with a science-twist, so when we asked some of our educators and administrators to talk about their favorite African American figures, naturally we saw an array of scientists, medical professionals, historians, and more!

Mae C. Jemison

Mae-jemisonThe first female African American astronaut in space, Mae Jemison is a favorite of our Astronomy Department and Museum Educator, Robin Ramsey. In 1992 from September 12 to 20, Jemison flew into space aboard the Endeavour as a mission specialist. Her love for the sciences as a child followed her through her adulthood, as she attended Stanford University and received a bachelor degree in chemical engineering and then attended Cornell Medical College. Jamison was not only the first African American female astronaut in space, she is our favorite kind of philanthropist, creating the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which encourages children’s interests in science!

Regina Benjamin

ReginaBenjaminTiarra Callahan, our Special Events Coordinator admires Regina Benjamin, humanitarian and U.S. Surgeon General from 2009-2013.

“During her time as the surgeon general, Benjamin took on a wellness and prevention stance. She focused on maintaining a healthy body as opposed to a treat-sickness paradigm. As such, coordinating efforts with a number of federal agencies, she emphasized the importance of nutritious foods, regular exercise (including dance) and cessation of smoking. She also supported breastfeeding, including creating more spaces where women could do so comfortably, and exploring issues around suicide.

When I learned she was resigning as Surgeon General I was sad, but I later found that she would be returning to the La Batre clinic, where some of her patients could not afford to seek medical attention if it had not been for her efforts to make the clinic affordable. Over the length of her career, she has received many honorary degrees and accolades, including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and the National Caring Award.”

Emmett W. Chappelle

Emmett_W_ChappelleCertainly, our Live Animals Department are huge fans of all-things-animals, but one of our Keepers, Steve, is a big fan of Emmett W. Chappelle.

“Someone that inspires me to keep on giving my all would have to be Emmett W. Chappelle, environmental scientist and biochemist,” Steve noted.

Chappelle lived on a small farm on the edge of town in Phoenix, AZ where his family grew cotton and tended to cows. After serving in the army, Chapelle attended Phoenix College and earned his B.S. from University of California. His degree in biology gave him the tools he needed to aid in the creation of safe supply of oxygen to astronauts and discovered how using a chemical derived from fireflies could detect life in water on Mars. He also served as an instructor at a medical college.

Theresa Singleton

Singleton,T 2013Jeff White, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield’s site manager is not only an educator he is a trained archaeologist—so naturally, he admires Associate Professor of Anthropology, Theresa Singleton. She was the first African-American to receive a PhD with a concentration in archaeology and the first African American to receive a J.C. Award in Historical Archaeology. Singleton specializes in Historical Archaeology, African American History & Culture, Slavery in plantation America, and Archaeology of the African Diaspora.

Not to be outdone, Theresa Singleton also joins Archaeologist, John Wesley Gilbert, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, and Ernest Everett Just, just a few more of Jeff’s favorites!

You and your family can learn more about famous African American scientists by clicking here.

Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

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Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

armstrong

In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

exoplanets

The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

planetarium

A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

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Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.