Monday, May 30, 2011

Many Hands on Seattle Works Day

Pacific Science Center’s park-like surroundings are designed to be open, inviting, and to help welcome our guests to the exhibits. Amazingly, just two people perform the day-to-day upkeep of our gardens: Jeff Leonard and Maida Ingalls. They not only keep the outdoor plants looking good but also maintain the butterfly house plantings as well.

Once in a while, when looking at the tasks at hand, it seems like a few extra people would be very helpful. That’s why we were so excited to be on the list for Seattle Works Day volunteers. This amazing group of volunteers brought a team to our grounds on Saturday, May 21, that really shook things up. They pulled ivy, distributed mulch, prepped, cleaned and planted our big planters, and gave us a head start on our Springtime task list, the busiest part of the year for gardeners everywhere.

Big thanks go to Pacific Science Center’s team captains: Renee, Janelle, Maida and Sarah. Jeff, the project foreman, was on his feet for over ten hours and continued to move the entire crew forward. Still, Jeff kept the team well supplied with tools, materials, instructions and encouragement.

And most of all, every one of us at Pacific Science Center wishes to extend a huge THANK YOU to the many volunteers who contributed Saturday and helped our staff keep PSC looking good. We couldn’t do it without you!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fresh Sheet – May 28, 2011

Six hundred, forty more pupae have been added to the emerging window this week including three kinds of Clippers: Blue, brown and violet.

El Salvador

05 - Anteos maerula (Ghost sulfur)
20 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
20 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
10 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
60 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue)
15 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
30 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 360


10 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
30 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
06 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
05 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes)
10 - Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail)
09 - Graphium policenes (Common Swordtail)
30 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue Moon)
30 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio demodocus (Orchard Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
20 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
30 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
20 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
10 -Parthenos sylvia violaceae (Violet Clipper)

Total = 280

Grand total = 640

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Snake Weight, Don’t Tell Me!

In anticipation of the recent vet visit from Dr. Maas of The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, Animal Care staff performed the quarterly weigh-in of our reptiles.

We weigh the boa constrictors by weighing staff members with and without snakes, and subtracting the difference. This is simple arithmetic, which we sometimes ask younger guests to help with. Any chance to sneak math into the day is worth it.

Here are the results:

Estrella – (21.6 lbs.) 9.8 kg, (7ft 10in) 2.4 meters
Esteban – (19.4 lbs.) 8.7 kg, (8ft) 2.4 meters
Estella – (24.8 lbs.) 11.2 kg, (7ft 11in) 2.4 meters

Why do we convert pounds and feet to metric readings? Partially, we do this because metric measurements are accepted universally. Even more importantly, we like to know the animals’ weights in kilograms because nearly all medication is dispensed in units per gram or kilogram, and the math is much simpler if we already have the weights in those increments.

Measuring a snake’s length is tricky. Snakes rarely stretch out to their full length, and they resist our efforts to make them do so. Instead, we lay string along their spine from head to tail and measure the string. Because the snakes are moving, these measurements are not accurate. However, as we take multiple measurements over time, their averages will come closer to a real reading.

Zea – 460 grams, (45 in) 1.14 meters
Tillamook – 480 grams, (45.5in) 1.15 meters
Nacho – 80 grams, (26.5in) 0.67 meters

Lydia – 100 grams

The corn snakes and the leopard gecko were weighed on a smaller and more precise scale, since a few grams means a lot for an animal of their size. If Estella gained or lost 100 grams (Lydia’s entire weight) it would account for less than 1% of her body weight, so we do not need to weigh her to the same degree of precision.

As we track our animals over time, we hope to see signs of growth in the younger ones, stability in the adults, and help bring Estella, who is a tad heavy and Zea and Tillamook, who are a trifle thin, back to their ideal weights.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fresh Sheet - May 21, 2011

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Costa Rica

30 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
13 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
08 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
05 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
28 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
15 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
42 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
21 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
03 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
10 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
17 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
24 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
07 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
13 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
35 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
16 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
30 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
38 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
32 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
42 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
05 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
13 - Parides iphidamas (Iphidamas or Transandean Cattleheart)
12 - Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
12 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 481

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fresh Sheet – May 15, 2011

They’re everywhere! Hypolimnas bolina, the butterfly formerly known as the Great egg fly, seems to be dominating the Tropical Butterfly House. Come see why we’re now calling them the Blue moon butterfly.

El Salvador

30 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
40 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
20 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
10 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
10 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 360


25 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
10 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
40 - Heraclides thoas (Giant Swallowtail)
10 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
05 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
05 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
10 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
05 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
40 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Grand total = 630

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Fish Story

Lately, a few astute and caring guests have noticed that the fish in the Tropical Butterfly House seemed a little under the weather. What they did next reminded us why we love our visitors and what a small world it is.

We feel lucky to have a wonderful veterinarian in Dr. Maas at The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine. As it turns out, some of our visitors also know Dr. Mass, and cared enough about our animals to mention the fish to him. Meanwhile we were making the same observations, and trying to strategize how to help get the fish get back into peak condition.

Luckily, we had already scheduled our semi-annual house call from our fine veterinarians. But with a week to go until that exam, our concern was growing and we wanted to get a head start on the fishes’ recovery. We also wanted our fish to have a private area with a lower light level to hasten their recovery. In the absence of a large, off exhibit tank, we improvised a hospital out of a large, clean plastic trash receptacle. In it, we circulated the water using the emergency backup pump from the axolotl cage. There the fish were treated to warmer water with salt solution and medication.

Because he was tipped on the problem with the fish, Dr. Maas arrived at our scheduled appointment with a net in hand, ready to help with the fish. He commented that the higher than usual salt concentration, good pH, and the added heat, probably helped get the fish down the road to recovery. Our goal now is to get the water quality high enough that their own healing process can finish their cure. Unfortunately, ammonia levels in a smaller tank build up more quickly than our filter could process. Dr. Maas found the fish to be near the peak of the ammonia development stage in the nitrogen cycle and gave us suggestions for bringing the levels down faster.

The fish are recovering swiftly and should be back on exhibit within days.

The rest of the exam went ‘swimmingly’. Most of our collection is in exceedingly good health. We always learn a lot whenever Dr. Maas visits. Be on the lookout for more articles about some of the other fascinating news we’ve learned about our animals (because there’s always more)!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Butterfly Surprise

Anyone who works with live animals gets used to occasional surprises. When a nursing home chose to use painted lady butterflies as a centerpiece for a Mother’s day party, they thought they had chosen a nice time of year, when the butterflies, a species native to the area, would have warm weather and ample flowers to feast on once the event was over. But surprise! Spring is starting very late this year, and the butterflies did not show much interest in flying out on a cold, grey day.

One of the nursing home employees remembered that Pacific Science Center has a butterfly house. Although we normally feature more tropical species, the hardy painted lady is perfectly happy in our exhibits.

Life Sciences Manger Sarah Moore got a surprise when she went to pick up the butterflies. Their carrying cases were nearly as pretty as they were. The butterflies were happy to feel the warm air and quickly found flowers to drink nectar from. We hope they like it here.

Pacific Science Center encourages anyone thinking of raising or buying butterflies to plan in advance for the whole life cycle of these animals. Butterflies often surprise us by emerging from the chrysalis earlier or later than expected. The weather is also not as cooperative as we might hope and a butterfly emerging in your house on a rainy day can pose a real dilemma!

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Butterfly Rising"

Last week Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House had a very special guest: actress, writer and director Tanya Wright. Ms. Wright is in Seattle for the world premier of her movie “Butterfly Rising”, an entrant in the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival.

Ms. Wright, best known for her appearances on the HBO television show “True Blood,” was preparing for her first Seattle visit. A quick search of the word “butterfly” brought up our exhibit, and Ms. Wright immediately called Life Sciences manager Sarah Moore to invite people involved in its operation to the film’s premier. In exchange, Sarah invited Ms. Wright on a personal backstage tour of our Tropical Butterfly House complete with a visit to the emerging room. There, Ms. Wright got to hold a pupa in her hand as she felt the warmth of the life force that is inside a small chrysalis.

As this visit reinforces, the facts we learn in science class do not have to stay there. The journey of a butterfly, from egg through caterpillar, pupa and on to a winged adult may be an intriguing biological phenomenon to one person, and a jumping off place for artistic inspiration for another.

“Butterfly Rising” is not a “bug” movie, but rather a story that uses the process of metamorphosis as a metaphor for growth and change of the movies’ characters. The world premier is on Sunday May 8 at 6pm at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center.

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Fresh Sheet – May 7, 2011

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.


04 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
23 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
100 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
100 – Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
20 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
07 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
30 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
60 - Parthenos sylvia philppensis (The Clipper)
07 - Papilio polytes (Polite swallowtail)
40 - Danaus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
20 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
100 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)

Total = 511

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Please Don’t Touch The Babies!

In addition to our many fascinating exhibit animals, Pacific Science Center is also home to many wildlife species. While most of these animals are rarely seen, the birds become very conspicuous in spring, as hatchlings outgrow their nests and begin the difficult process of learning to fly. The recent influx of wildlife on our grounds this spring had us thinking about some tips that can help humans to interact with these animals in a way that’s safe for both people and the creatures that share our city habitat.

At different times, staff have reported seeing or hearing evidence of tree frogs, newts, several types of native butterflies, bumble bees, dragon flies, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, bats and a wide variety of birds ranging in size from the occasional Canada goose or bald eagle down to hummingbirds.

In general, Animal Care does not feed, tend or interact with the wildlife. But in one very strange exception: A sea star was found outside Pacific Science Center’s main gates. At first we thought it had been taken from our touch tank, but a staff member reported that a gull had dropped it there. It was still alive and joined our Tide Pool exhibit.

Spring is baby bird season, and in the coming weeks we will start to see fledgling birds of many kinds, often looking cute but bedraggled as they develop from hatchlings to fully feathered young. Our landscape, with seeds and flowers in many seasons and trees of various heights, invites nest building and safely harbors young birds. After a few weeks in the nest, baby birds are large enough to stretch their flight muscles, but still not fully capable of flight. They flutter down from their nests and take up residence on the ground.

At this time, well-meaning people pick up the babies and either put them back in the nest, or bring them to animal care facilities. Please do not do this unless you are certain an animal is in danger. A young animal’s parents will give it better care and protection than any human is able to.

Most baby birds look nearly as large as their parents. They need long wings and big feathers to fly, and their bodies are racing to reach that size. Young gulls are a good example of this. They are grey rather than white, perhaps so their parents can spot them better. A grey gull that cannot fly but is otherwise alert and healthy looking has probably left the nest but is still being tended by its parents.

In addition to harming the animal, moving baby birds is potentially risky to the person doing it. The parents may be nearby and will often fiercely defend their young. Even small birds have sharp claws and beaks, and a cut or scrape from them is not clean, and liable to infection. Birds can also carry a variety of germs and parasites, some of which can be passed on to people.

Young wildlife faces many challenges, from temperature extremes to predators to disease and parasites. But their parents are uniquely adapted to care for them, and if there is ever a choice, they should be left to the best caretakers possible. Here’s wishing all our human and animal friends a happy Mother’s Day!

The photograph of the juvenile gulls is in the public domain.

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