Monday, October 28, 2013

Gifts from the MaST Center

Guests who were around at Pacific Science Center’s Salt Water Tide Pool at noon Friday got the wonderful experience of meeting a bevy of new creatures.

Staff and volunteers from Highline Community College’s MaST (Marine Science and Technology) Center led by Kaddee Lawrence, with expert information from Rus Higley, hand delivered a group of exciting Puget Sound organisms. These new residents are for us to share with anyone who wants to learn more about the diversity of our regional shoreline.

In addition to bringing an infusion of bright color, the animals are an assorted mix of species. Best of all, they are a mix of non-aggressive animals that will not try to eat each other.

Many of the sea stars in our collection are Pisaster species, among the most predacious of all creatures in the intertidal zone. Yet, we love how durable they are, and how happily they eat readily available shellfish. With the new sea star species, we hope to have animals that are easily cared for and unlikely to eat other members of the exhibit. If these sea stars do well, the folks at MaST have offered to help us replace our current Pisaster population with these less hungry brethren. We will then plan a second round of new animals to include chitons, limpets and other animals that easily get eaten. Already our exhibit is more diverse by the addition of:

2 - Red sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus)
1 - Purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)
1 - California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus)
1 - Kelp crab (Pugettia productus)
2 - Vermillion sea star (Mediaster aequalis)
2 - Blood stars (Henricia leviuscula)
1 - Mottled star (Evasterias troscheli)
1 - Sun star (Solaster dawsoni)
25 - Plumose anemone (tiny)(Metridium sp)
2 - Swimming anemone (Stomphia coccinea)

We can’t say “thank you” enough to the scientists at MaST. However, if you find yourself down in Des Moines, at Redondo Beach on a Saturday morning, stop by and thank them for us! The program hosts a weekly open aquarium, where the public meets their animals and their wonderful staff and volunteers. This is a great way to extend your knowledge of marine life.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fresh Sheet – October 26, 2013

This week we received shipments from El Salvador and Suriname which include the popular Halloween Butterfly, Catonephele numilia. How many other black and orange butterflies can you find in our Tropical Butterfly House? Jump on your broomstick and fly on in!

El Salvador

22 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
35 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
20 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
12 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
11 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
13 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
14 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 322


40 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
10 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
40 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
40 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
10 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
10 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
40 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Grand Total = 592

“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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Saturday, October 19, 2013

New! Improved! Naked Mole Rat Cam

Seven months after the launch of our first naked mole rat cam, we are excited to introduce a live-streaming, eye-level, wide-angle web cam with audio! With the Dropcam Pro camera, fans can watch as well as hear these industrious critters.

Just what can you expect to see? Take a look at this recent video of a determined naked mole rat transporting a carrot through the tunnels.

For more fun, click on this link:

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fresh Sheet – October 12, 2013

It must be getting close to Halloween! This week’s shipment of pupae from El Salvador will produce lots of orange and black butterflies. Do you have a favorite?

El Salvador

15 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
15 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
28 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
07 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
15 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
08 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
10 - Eurytides thymbraeus
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
06 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
28 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
12 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
15 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 312

“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.

Read more!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Touching Naked Mole Rat

Here at the Pacific Science Center, we are always looking for ways to improve our guests’ experience, whether it’s through activities, interactive exhibits, or providing accessibility to all of our guests. We love exhibits where people can not only see, but also touch and explore with as well. However, with the exception of our Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, that is not really possible with most of the animal exhibits. In fact, we specifically say that they are not allowed to touch the butterflies. So we are thrilled to announce a new addition to our department that you can touch. Welcome our brand new bronze naked mole rat!

Knowing how popular the naked mole rats are with our visitors, and how iconic their shapes are, Lead Animal Caretaker Lauren Bloomenthal wanted to render them accessible to everyone who visits. Who wouldn’t want to touch this cute statue? But even closer to Pacific Science Center’s mission was our goal of reaching diverse audiences by becoming more inclusive toward those who are visually impaired. For those guests who can’t see the mole rats, this becomes a way to experience them. For those who look but need more sensory data to really understand, the sculpture is an additional learning tool.

The idea quickly spread from the Animal Care department to the Exhibits team, where Exhibit Operations Coordinator Ashley Hollender helped bring the project to life. She invited Georgia Gerber, the artist who crafted our caterpillar as well as the turtles that live outside in our ponds, to work with us once again. As the project was moving along between Georgia, the Animal Care team, and the Exhibits team, we decided to enlist Stacy Thurston, a longtime volunteer who is blind. Stacy gave us invaluable feedback on the braille plaque which will accompany the bronze, as well as the location and features of the bronze piece.

Georgia came by the science center to get some up close, hands on time with our mole rats, as well as take numerous reference pictures. When she had sculpted the main design, she sent images back to our Animal Care folks for feedback. We loved it, but kept asking her to make the bottom teeth bigger. And bigger. And bigger. If there’s one thing we learned in this process, it’s that it’s all about the teeth.

The bronze mole rat is roughly two times the actual size of our naked mole rats. Even with the scale in mind, he has a large build compared to the average naked mole rat. If you study him, you’ll notice that he is carrying lots of his weight in his neck and chest. This means he is likely a disperser morph, like Hairless Houdini.

This project fell outside the normal scope of either Lauren’s or Ashley’s daily job. It entailed extra work and learning new processes. But they both really wanted to do it and luckily, our VP of Exhibits and Life Sciences, Diana Johns, believes in giving employees the opportunity to tackle this kind of project with the support they need to succeed. We couldn’t have done it without her.

While this is a rendition of a naked mole rat and its features is not an exact replication, Georgia’s artistic touch is what really brings our little bronze friend to life. Our bronze mole rat is cast from a limited edition mold. Ours is #1 in a series of 15. You, too, may have a bronze naked mole rat of your own.

Naming Contest

But wait! The bronze naked mole rat project is not yet complete. He is only missing one thing – a name! Here’s where we need YOUR help. If you’d like a chance to name our newest bronze addition, comment below with your suggestions. We’ll pick a winner next Thursday, October 17th.

And don’t forget to come by the Pacific Science Center and help us welcome our brand new bronze naked mole rat!

Addendum: October 15th

A braille interpretive plaque is now installed for our visually impaired guests.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Goodbye Estella

With a heavy heart, we mark the passing of our dear Boa Constrictor friend Estella.

Estella and her clutch mates Esteban and Estrella came to Pacific Science Center in 2000 as young snakes. As they grew, each manifested a unique personality that belied the notion that all snakes are essentially interchangeable.

Estella’s nature was mellow, almost cuddly. She loved her food, loved her bath, and in general gave the impression of being fond of comfort and leisure.

We will miss her.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fresh Sheet – October 5, 2013

A spiffy, shiny, clean, bright and warm Tropical Butterfly House reopens today! Welcome a shipment of pupae from Costa Rica that includes three species of owls, three species of calicos, six species of longwings and much, much more. The butterflies are waiting for you.

Costa Rica

21 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
05 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
70 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
27 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
20 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
30 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
22 - Hamadryas arinome (Turquoise Calico)
28 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
45 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
79 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
27 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
62 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
70 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
70 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
50 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
60 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
65 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
04 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 775

“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.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Tropical Butterfly House Lightens Up

If you’ve visited Pacific Science Center in the past two weeks, you may have wondered why the rest of the exhibits are open but our Tropical Butterfly House remained closed.

Perhaps you’ve peeked in the window and spotted a big orange lift, wheeling slowly around the pathways. The lift is big enough to completely block the path. It’s almost exactly the same size as our exit vestibule, and every available Life Sciences person helped out one morning to help it steer its way in without letting a single butterfly escape. The lift was heavy enough to endanger the floor, so driving it meant preparing the way by placing plywood sheets under the front wheels. Of course it also meant we had to watch out below – staff and volunteers let the lift work on one side of the house, while we groomed and watered plants on the far end, away from any danger.

Normally members of the Life Sciences department operate the lift to change the light bulbs, but this year is different. We are not just swapping out one light bulb for another, but switching to lower energy bulbs. This means not only replacing our old enormous bulbs with new slightly smaller ones but also removing all the ballasts and installing a new starter for each lamp. We worked with an outside contractor for this quite involved process. These smaller HID lamps will save us 25% of our energy bill!

Unfortunately, greater energy saving LED lights would not provide the spectrum of light we needed to keep the butterflies flying. We will continue to save a bit more energy by having the lights programmed to turn off during days when the sunshine outdoors is bright enough to grow the plants and stimulate the butterflies into flying. In Seattle, those days are nearing an end for the year, as we move into dark weather.

Lighting is the big news in the butterfly house, but it’s far from the only story.

Several of our largest plants threatened to grow up to the ceiling. We reduced them in size – sometimes quite drastically, cutting back to the scaffold of trunk and main branches, and letting new growth fill in where the old growth had become skinny and unhealthy. With other plants, patient volunteers sorted through overgrown stems, snipping out the tired ones and leaving the healthiest and strongest.

We fertilized, removed spent flowers, and gave all the trees a good shake to remove any dead leaves. All of this is important for plants in a conservatory setting. Far from doing harm, cutting back plants stimulates new growth.

After all the shaking, cutting, feeding and digging, we had very dirty floors. Our next job was to pressure wash, rinsing away the muddy, leafy, ground in grime from so much good work being done.

Knowing we were going to be closed for much of September, we stopped purchasing new butterflies in late August. But even as the month went on, a few hardy fliers remained. We enjoyed their company as we worked on our various projects.

Now the surviving butterflies are joined with a new shipment, so we should have plenty of them in time to reopen, along with dazzling lights and healthy, floriferous plants.

Come in and enjoy! The Tropical Butterfly House reopens October 5.

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