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!

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.

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.

We’re Getting Our Geek On, How About You?

We’re about a month away from the Museum’s first ever GeekFest, so we’re taking some time to explore our inner geeks.  Before we could do that we had to fully understand what makes a true “geek”. Unique hobbies, gaming until your thumbs fall off, knowing the dialogue of your favorite episode of Doctor Who by heart—are these things that make you a true geek?

Geekdom and nerdology purists will tell you there is a huge difference between geeks and nerds (see the infographic below) and we here at the Boonshoft Museum celebrate it all—which really is the point; being that the Boonshoft Museum is a Children’s Museums, Natural History Museum, Science Center, Planetarium, and Zoo we had to look no further than our 90,000 sq. ft. of space to find some of the coolest geeks and nerds in southwest Ohio.

Geeks vs Nerds

Click to enlarge

Geeking Out: Our Staff Tell-All

By default you may think that knowing the ins-and-outs of a Planetarium or cataloging 2,000 year-old artifacts (and loving it) is inherently geeky, but there are a myriad of things that make our staff awesomely nerdy. So, in the spirit of GeekFest and for nerds everywhere, our staff has shared some of the nerdiest, geekiest things about them:

Sarah

One of our Guest Bloggers and Registrar extraordinaire, Sarah, is a major history buff. Not only does her job revolve around history, she plans her free time (and vacation time) around it! Visiting as many Museums as possible, Sarah loves history so much her desk is home to Wilbear Wright, an aviation Teddy Bear. And beyond her desk? 1.4 million pieces from our collections. Sarah is all history, all the time.

Sarah shows off Wilbear Wright

Sarah shows off Wilbear Wright

Angela

Everyone has a friend that is a collector—of art, coins, wine, the list goes on. However, Angela, our Guest Services and Gift Shop guru, collects cult favorites. From a plush Batman doll whose arms and legs fall off to a dress up big foot doll who is presently wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Angela has a little bit of everything. Some of which can be found in the Museum’s Gift Shop and some, like her Sharknado promotional table tent, cannot.

Moon walking Bigfoot is too cool for school.

Moon walking Bigfoot is too cool for school.

Jeff

Jeff White, Manager of Guest Services and Team Leader at our Springfield facility, is the first to deny being a little nerdy, but his love of cartoons, like Fat Albert, says otherwise. Not only does Jeff’s Saturday morning routine include an hour and a half of Fat Albert and hand feeding his Venus Fly Trap, he’s also a horror movie buff and loves visiting archaeological sites.

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Jeff has his eye on you!

Dawn

Dawn, our Director of Education and Exhibit Initiatives, started off by expressing her love of cooking gadgets (she makes wedding cakes!), but later she revealed that she plans her vacations around Renaissance Fairs. Not only that, she was kicked out of one in Tennessee–not because she stole someone’s “helm”, but because she was wearing a shirt that showed her midriff…that she bought at a different Renaissance Fair.

Dawn would have been valedictorian at Hogwartz and now runs Harry Potter Camps at the Boonshoft Museum.

Dawn would have been valedictorian at Hogwarts, but she was so smart she got promoted to being a professor almost immediately. She now runs Harry Potter Camps at the Boonshoft Museum.

Mark

Reptiles, amphibians, mammals, you name it—Mark Mazzei, the Museum’s Curator of Live Animals, has probably worked with it. He’s fearless in the face of poison dart frogs (p.s. they are only poisonous in the wild) and can definitely out run the Museum’s sloth. By far Mark’s favorites are the Monkees — and no — that’s not spelled incorrectly. Mark is a HUGE Monkees fan (he admits he’s probably a bigger fan that any individual should be) in addition to being a walking encyclopedia when it comes to 80’s new wave and punk rock. So hipsters beware, Mark has totally heard that rare Ramones cut way before you did and he probably has it on vinyl.

MarkLivingDayton

Credit: Living Dayton, Mark hams it up with Sheldon on Living Dayton

Kristy

Kristy, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, geeks out about quite a bit, from politics to sci-fi classics like Doctor Who and the X-Files. Her biggest infatuation is from Area 51 and lies underneath the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base…supposedly. Kristy is a huge fan of conspiracy theories, no matter how ridiculous. Ancient Aliens? She watches it! Paul McCartney is really dead? Might be. You name the theory, Kristy has heard of it!

...because, Aliens!

…because, Aliens!

Mark

Mark Meister, President and CEO of the Dayton Society of Natural History (Boonshoft Museum Dayton and Springfield, SunWatch, and Fort Ancient) geeks out about something very specific, and very adorable: Hummingbirds! Mark loves these speedy birds so much that he arranged his hummingbird feeder to sit next to his dining room, so he and his little friends can enjoy a meal together. He also enjoys occasionally spotting hummingbird moth, deceptively similar to a hummingbird.

Mark Meister is unfazed by certain dino danger.

Mark Meister is unfazed by certain dino danger.

So what’s the moral of the story? Everyone has something about them that could be considered geeky, whether it’s a hobby or an occupation, so why not embrace the geekiness! If being a geek means you have a wide range of interests, a thirst for knowledge, and play games without cheat codes, we think that’s pretty awesome. So, tells us what makes you a geek by using the hashtag #getyourgeekon and tweet us or Instagram us @boonshoftmuseum—and while you’re at it, purchase your tickets for GeekFest 2015 at the Boonshoft Museum by clicking here.

Careers In Curiosity: Caring for 1.7 Million Pieces Of History

This week we are exploring careers at the Museum and because we are a Natural History Museum, Science and Technology Center, Children’s Museum, and Accredited Zoo—we certainly have a lot of curious careers to discover! Sarah Aisenbrey is a member of our Collections Department and will be filling us in on her amazing experience and duties at the Museum (hint: she gets to work with things that are thousands of years old! Read her guest blog by clicking the “read more” link!

Continue reading

Dinosaur Myths Busted

The Boonshoft Museum is beyond excited to be hosting it’s first-ever Movie Night in the Museum’s Planetarium, the Caryl D. Philips Space Theater. Not only will there be photo ops with T-Rex himself and a chance to see him roar on one of the biggest screens in Dayton, guests will also chat with Paleontologist and Boonshoft Museum Education Department staff member, Mackenzie English about Dino Dos and Dino Don’ts—what is fact and what is movie magic? To prepare, check out these common Dino myths below:

1) There isn’t a clear-cut time line of when the Dinosaurs roamed the Earth and went extinct.Pasta-Brontosaurus

Busted: Dinosaurs died out around 65.5 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period and roamed the Earth beginning 231.4 million years ago. We know this because scientists use techniques like Relative and Radiometric dating to figure out exactly how old fossils are!

2) Dinosaurs were not the sharpest tools in the shed.

Busted: In the 1970’s a system was developed to measure the weight of a dinosaur brain as compared to othVelociraptor-by-Salvatore-Rabito-Alcóner living animals. Dinosaurs, like Velociraptors, are considered to be extremely intelligent, hence the quotable final words of the skilled hunter in Jurassic Park: “clever girl.”

3) The Brontosaurus was the biggest dinosaur of them all.

Busted: Many people may have fallen in love with this gentle giant due to its supposed larger-than-life stature and who can forget the adorable “Brontosaurus”, Littlefoot, from A Land Before Time. Unfortunately, no such dinosaur existed. The “Brontosaurus” was merely a misidentified Apatosaurus, but don’t worry–the long-neck dinosaurs were still the biggest of them all.

4) Dinosaurs, much like lizards, were covered in scales.

Busted: You may be able to think of a few dinosaurs who had feathers, but scientists now suggest that most dinosaurs did have feathers. Recently, fossil evidence Deinonychus_BW-2 supported the findings of a dinosaur that had both scales and feathers. This two-legged dinosaur existed 160 million years ago, leading scientists to believe that feathered dinos may have existed dating back further than previously believed.

5) Dinosaurs were slow moving.

Busted: In high school, if you ran a mile in under 8 minutes you were considered pretty speedy–way faster than a big, slow moving dinosaur, riMovieNightDinoght? However, the fastest dinosaur could move at a speed of 40 mph and even a six ton T-Rex could reach speeds of 18 mph–which would prove problematic for the stars of Jurassic Park, who couldn’t have competed with T-Rex the track star.

Now that you’ve busted some myths, click the button below to purchase your tickets to see Jurassic Park at the Boonshoft Museum on Friday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m.

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