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

Boonshoft Museum Spring Break and Summer Camps Promise Great Fun for Kids!

By BLAIRE M. H. BARTISH

Although it’s hard to believe with this weather, spring is just around the corner, and summer isn’t far behind it. That means it’s a perfect time to start thinking about Spring Break and Summer Camps at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

Spring Break Camps are day camps that include a variety of topics. Become a Jedi and study The Force in our ever-popular Star Wars camp. Get up close and personal with real artifacts from across the globe with Wild World. Animal Grossology is suited for our crudest campers, while Wild Kratts camp takes elements from the PBS show and turns them into real-life adventures! These camps will be sure to keep your kids entertained, educated, and engaged.

The big news this year is that 2017 will be our final run of Harry Potter Camps. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Hogwarts Summer Session, and therefore Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all their friends go out with a bang! Wands will be waved, battles waged, and a mystery that has haunted witches and wizards for decades will be solved. “These exciting Summer Sessions have been some of the most popular Camps we’ve done. They’ve been a big hit with the kids since we started them 10 years ago,” said Museum Vice President of Education, Dawn Kirchner. Camp has been extended to a third week for the final run- be sure not to miss out!

Finally, Summer Discovery Camps are back and jam-packed with fun. July brings the return of preschool camps for our littlest scientists, who can fly to the moon with Curious George, make fizzy bubble solutions with our Lil Scientists camp, and travel along with the Kratt Brothers to save endangered species. Forensics camp makes a return visit for our crime-solvers ages 10-14 looking for a challenge. New to the lineup this year include Project Mindbender, a camp for those who love logic and puzzles, curious and disgusting creatures in Animal Grossology, and a caped-crusader adventure in Superhero Science. Boonshoft Museum Manager of Education, Blaire Bartish, explains “There’s nothing quite so enjoyable to kids than to be grossed out!”

For more information on Boonshoft Camps, please feel free to contact Blaire Bartish, Manager of Education, at 937-275-7431 x 148.

Super Science Saturday Presents March Mathness! Boonshoft Museum Hosts Free Day For All

By MICHAEL L. SAMPSON

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery hosts Super Science Saturday on March 18, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Super Science Saturday is a free admission day opportunity that the Museum offers three times a year. The event is intended to permit anyone who hasn’t had a chance to visit the museum before, or those who haven’t been in a while, to see what all the fuss is about!

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Students explore their engineering and teamwork skills

This Winters Super Science Saturday program is themed March Mathness and reflects the Museum’s emphasis on STEM learning. It also confirms a commitment to emphasize the impact of science on everyday life. Students and their families, teachers, and peers will be immersed in science demonstrations and experiments, presentations, and exhibits designed to engage and challenge enquiring minds of all ages.

Highlights include live animal encounters, planetarium shows, science labs, and science theater shows.

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Young people learning about interactive robotics

The emphasis on Math, one of the focal points included in STEM; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics will be explored in an exciting way. Dawn Kirchner, Vice President of Education at the Boonshoft Museum expressed that “Math can be fun if young minds grasp it fearlessly and view numbers as friends instead of foes. When they actually have a hands-on experience with math, they get excited about the outcomes.”

Special Family Events planned for March Mathness include geometry-related games that encourage fun with math. There will also be math challenges like Popsicle Symmetry, Balanced Math, Square Puzzle, Connect the Dots of Pi and Measure Femur Length.

The Discovery Zoo invites you to celebrate the birthdays of our favorite otters and our most popular possum. Later, the North American river otters, Splasher and Diver, will accept their gifts as they turn a middle-aged seven years old.

Not to be outdone, however, is Odie the Virginia Opossum, who receives his rewards and celebrates his first year, which may represent from a quarter to one-half of his entire lifespan. All Super Science Saturday guests are invited to celebrate their special day with them. Join in the fun as they receive presents and savor “cakes” only-an-animal could love.

The party continues for Odie as he meets visitors for a Keeper Talk followed by an end of the day Otter Talk. Normal programming will proceed as scheduled with roaming animals who will meet and greet guests throughout the day, as well as coloring and craft tables for the artistically-inclined.

All Super Science Saturday events are FREE as part of the day-long science celebration from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Edibles will be available from local food-truck favorite,  McNasty’s.

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!

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.