A female rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo will make history by giving birth to the first Indian rhino calf conceived by artificial insemination. Read more.
EdZoocation A Multi Faceted Approach to Teaching Animal Adaptations
Diane Cumming, Frances Stafford
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Cincinnati, Ohio
EdZoocation was conceived to bring urban youth an understanding of the natural world, the importance of the web of life and the place of humans in this world. It began in 1992, with financial support from many sources, and involving all the elementary grades at a neighboring school. Today it targets the 3rd and 4th grades of 18 participating schools in Kentucky and Ohio. Toyota is now its sole corporate sponsor and insists on very high standards. It is a month long experience that requires the cooperation of zoo staff and volunteers with schoolteachers and administrators.
The goal of the program is to forge the link between habitat, adaptation and survival. It explores how human life and activity can impact a habitat and affect the life forms that depend on it. It provides a discussion of ways to reduce these harmful effects.
Participating schools are selected using 2 criteria:
· Urban location
· Low-income students more than 50% receive the lunch program.
These schools often lack funding for enrichment programs. Urban students can be alienated from the natural world and possibly fear it. In response, the program offers firsthand experience and tries to connect to their everyday lives. EdZoocation is a well-structured program that integrates skills from several school subject areas and builds throughout on prior learning.
The direct benefits to the school administrators is that EdZoocation fulfils the following state learning requirements:
- National Science Education Standards
- Benchmarks for Science Literacy
- Ohio Science Proficiencies
- Kentucky Core Content Program
- Components of the program
- Zoo Educator – The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens education department originated the program. Today the program is administered and developed by a zoo educator who also goes to the school for the initial outreach visit in the schoolroom.
- School teachers – Teachers are responsible for the day-to-day learning experience. They supervise the reading of 3 books. They teach 3 forms of poetry and lead the students in writing these poems on any subject that interests them. On the day of the zoo visit, teachers organize chaperones, accompany the students and supervise the free time component.
- Zoo docent- During the zoo visit, a docent leads one group on the tour of the 3 target habitats focusing on 2 animals in each. They supervise the observation of their group’s target animal.
- Industry- Toyota is the sole corporate sponsor and supplies funding for the dedicated zoo staff. Other expenses are also covered: supplies and books, and all the expenses of the zoo visit such as entrance fee, transport and lunch. At the end of the program, Toyota pays to publish the book of students’ work. Zoo
education staff conducts an evaluation of the program at the end of the year that is reviewed closely by
the sponsor. Toyota wants to improve educational opportunities of the future work force in their
neighborhood and they require a good program.
Time frame of the program:
EdZoocation requires a 4-week commitment from a participating school.
- On the first day the zoo educator makes a 90 minute initial outreach visit to the classroom.
- During weeks 1 through 3, the schoolteachers take 1 week to cover each book and to teach 1 of the forms of poetry so that all 3 books and poems are covered.
- The daylong zoo visit is scheduled at the beginning of the 4th week.
- During the final week, the teachers lead classes to write poems about the animals and their adaptations. The students produce artwork to illustrate the poems. The observation and work sheets from the zoo visit provide input to this work.
Outreach A 90-minute visit to the classroom by the zoo educator.
The program targets 3 North American habitats
- Arctic habitat.
- Eastern woodland.
- Florida wetland.
The educator brings some props for this meeting. There are 6 boxes containing materials to illustrate the 3 habitats. There are 2 boxes for each habitat and may not have identical contents. Materials in artic boxes include: – an ice cube tray, a snowflake decoration, a snowy owl feather, a polar bear claw, a snowshoe, and a picture of a native Inuit person, an igloo, an icicle, Polar bear hair, swatches from a summer and a winter phase hare, and a puffin toy. In the Eastern woodland boxes are a small log, branch or piece of bark, leaf litter, an acorn, a squirrel skull, porcupine quills, a small white flag, a cardinal toy, a jar of soil, a raccoon fore paw track, shed snake skin, an owl pellet, a swatch of mink fur, and maple syrup. To describe the Florida wetlands, the boxes hold, an oar, a jar of water, a duck’s webbed foot, a tree frog toy, some crocodile skin, a manatee toy, cattails, a fishing lure, an alligator tooth, and a picture of stilts.
In an introduction the zoo educator tells the students that they are taking part in a zoo program that will teach them about how animals live. It begins with this meeting and will include books to be read, a daylong visit to the zoo and it will finish with poetry and drawing assignments.
The educator then leads a discussion about the basic needs of all living things. She uses a flip chart and lists the students’ input and guides the conclusion to the 4 major requirements of water, food, shelter and space.
The next part is the habitat boxes. It begins with a discussion on how different creatures need different food and shelter and shows that these needs are met by different habitats. Everybody brainstorms a list of habitats.
The class is then divided into 6 groups and each one is given a habitat box. The students have about 10 minutes to explore the contents of the boxes. At this time the students do not know the target habitats. Then they are encouraged to guess which habitat their box represents. The group is given an envelope containing the name of the habitat and pictures of animals found in it. Each group of students explains their findings to the rest of the class. Using the pictured animals, the educator can then make the connection between the animal’s visible adaptations and the demands of its habitat.
The most exciting part for the students comes next when the zoo educator introduces 2 live animal visitors to the class. The animals come from either the wetlands or the woodlands. The striped skunk, the black rat snake or the eastern screech owl are used to illustrate the eastern woodland habitat. The Florida king snake, the cattle egret or the American alligator represent animals of the Florida wetlands. This part includes a review of adaptations. The same questions are used to explore the adaptations of each animal: – where does it live, what does it eat, what adaptations help it to find and eat its food, and what other adaptations help it to survive? The students are encouraged to touch the animals. This provides a hands on experience that is central to EdZoocation.
At the end of the visit, the educator hands out adaptation worksheets and leads the class in filling them out. These reinforce the basic requirements of water, food, shelter and space. They underline the fact that habitats are very varied and that the animals that live in them have adapted to the conditions there. Before she leaves, the educator suggests that the students become detectives as they read the books and as they go about their everyday lives. They should observe wildlife they see around them and even family pets to see how they are adapted to survive in the neighborhood.
The school classroom
The teacher is the second partner in the EdZoocation program. She leads the reading and poetry sections. The schools are loaned thirty copies each of the books Manatee Winter, The Polar Bear and Animal Lives: The Otter. The students in each school then have the opportunity to read at least one of the books and usually all three. The teachers are also supplied with worksheets and background material on the animals. The worksheets include a vocabulary list and a reading comprehension activity sheet for each book.
Teachers also conduct the poetry and art component of EdZoocation. During week one they teach either couplet or haiku poems. Week two brings name poems and week three cinquain poems. Activity pages and examples of these poems are provided with the program. After the zoo visit each student writes and illustrates an adaptation poem about an animal studied on the zoo tour. A book is published at the end of the program representing the best works from that school.
The Zoo visit
The zoo docent is the third partner in the EdZoocation program. On zoo day the students receive a guided tour, a box lunch and free time to explore the zoo. The docents lead a scripted tour emphasizing habitats and adaptation. Each docent is supplied with a biofact bag containing transition items, biofacts and laminated environmental problems. Chaperones on the tour are enlisted to carry a waterproof bag with ten clipboards, pencils, and activity sheets. The tour visits 3 habitats featuring 6 animals:
- Arctic habitat with the polar bear and the horned puffin
- Eastern woodland habitat with the otter and grey fox
- Florida wetlands with the manatee and the softshell turtle
The zoo tour contains an introduction, three transitions (one for each habitat), and a discussion with scripted questions for each animal, a suggested activity for each stop, problem solving for the manatee, otter and polar bear, and a final worksheet.
The students are divided into group of ten and each group of children is identified by the name of one of the animals. For the purpose of this presentation we will be members of the softshell turtle group. The introduction includes a review of habitats and a description of the tour. As the softshell group our first stop would be the eastern woodlands. The transition item to the eastern woodlands is a webbed glove (representing the webbed otter feet). The first stop is the river otter. Questions to ask that lead the discussion are:
- Where does the river otter live?
- What do you think the river otter eats?
- What adaptations does the river otter have to help it find and catch food?
An activity at the otters is the showing the otter skull. The teeth for tearing and grinding are discussed and the frontal position of the eye sockets is noted. The next stop is the grey fox. Questions for a discussion of each animal are basically the same. An activity selected at the grey fox is the demonstration of fox ears. This is how to conduct this activity. Have the students stand quietly listening and speak a sentence softly to them. Now have them cup their hands behind their ears without covering them up. Speak the sentence softly again. They should hear better than before. Now ask the students to cup their hands in front of their ears. Have the chaperone behind the group say the sentence softly. Now you repeat the sentence. The students can now hear sounds behind them more clearly than those in front. Finally, students cup one ear to the front, the other to the rear and now should hear well in both directions. This is how a fox moves his ears to focus and improve his hearing. The environmental problem given to the students at the eastern woodland is: Scientists have noticed that fewer Otters are found in rivers and streams where large numbers of fish are found floating at the surface. What might be happening? Questions from the docent lead to conclusions about the use of pesticides in our environment that leach into the water and undergo biological multiplication in the food chain. Possible solutions might be developing safer pesticides.
Leaving the eastern woodlands our next habitat is the arctic. The transition item to the arctic with the polar bear and horned puffin is a single clear straw and a bundle of clear straws (representing the polar bear’s clear, hollow, hair looking white when bundled together and viewed from the side). The first stop is the polar bear. The activity here is the comparison of a dark surface versus light surface at absorbing heat, showing the adaptation of black skin on the polar bear. The standard questions on habitat, food and adaptations are then asked. The next stop is the horned puffin. The activity is to flap your wings as fast as possible to see if you can flap them 400 times a minute like the horned puffin. The environmental question associated with the arctic is: Scientists have noticed that many polar bears are losing weight because they aren’t getting enough to eat. What might be happening?
Here, questions from the docent lead to the effects of the early melting of the winter sea ice on seal hunting by the bears. Many scientists believe that unusual warming in the arctic is due to the gases produced from energy use in our homes, factories and cars. The docent leads brainstorming ideas for responsible energy use.
The final stop is the Florida wetlands. The transition item is the snorkel, which represents the softshell turtle’s elongated beak or snout. This adaptation allows the animal to keep his body buried in the sand for camouflage and to extend only his snout to breathe. The focus animals are the manatee and the softshell turtle. The questions linking habitat and adaptations are the same. The activity at the manatee is a gray arm glove the children can try on to experience a flipper feeling. This is a good time to explain that the manatee has the same bone structure within its flipper as we have in our arm. The problem to solve: Wildlife biologists have noticed that as the number of registered boats in Florida has increased. Manatee populations have sharply declined.
What’s happening? Docent questions help reveal that manatees swim slowly compared to the speed of boats and that when there is a collision manatees are injured or killed. The group is lead to a possible remedy. For people to continue to enjoy Florida and for the manatees to be safe, we need laws to restrict boat access in manatee gathering places. In other areas, speed limits need to be enforced just as a car’s speed is limited to protect children where they cross the road near a school. Finally the group comes to their focus animal, in this case the softshell turtle.
For 20 minutes, the students work on an activity sheet. While watching the turtle they relate its adaptations to its success in its environment. They brainstorm descriptive words that will be used back in the classroom to help them write the final poem. On these sheets the students are also encouraged to draw a picture of the softshell turtle and its habitat that they see in front of them.
The students are proud of the published book they receive that is a memento of their efforts. As for the docents, we hope that we have helped them to make the connection with nature that leads to appreciation and love. We hope, that with this love, they will grow up to protect our wonderful living planet.
Zoo Animals Invade Social Studies Class
Nancy Heckel and Connie Smiley
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
The trend in education today is integration of subjects. We, as zoo educators, need to take a look at creative ways to help teachers achieve this goal. Of course, zoos lend themselves very easily to science instruction, especially the biological sciences. Integrating other subjects, like math, social studies, reading, and language arts is more difficult. Many of the programs that we offer, such as Adaptations, Classification, Predator/Prey, Partnerships, Food Webs, etc., relate to the science field.
All the animals come from somewhere on earth, often far away. This can make a very great geography lesson. Tours and other programs can center on a geographic place, either by continent, area of the United States, or by geographic features such as deserts or rain forests. Of course, reading comes into play as the teacher or children read the signs around the zoo and plot the locations of countries or areas on maps when they get back to school.
Some of our programs are designed specifically to meet Social Studies goals. We offer Ohio History programs specifically for the 4th grade, and Rainforest and East African Safari programs designed for the 6th grade. Economics is a topic that teachers find difficult to teach; yet is mandated in Ohio for grades Kindergarten through High School. We have designed a program that teaches basic economic concepts (scarcity, opportunity costs, etc.) using the zoo as an example. By answering the basic questions of a. How does the zoo get money? b. How does the zoo have to spend its money? the students start their learning. The program also incorporates as much math as the teachers are willing to
integrate. We provide data on how much it costs per year to feed an animal on a basic core list of animals, and also how much various foods cost per week and per year. The teachers are encouraged to then construct math problems for the children using that data. Our hope is that this study leads to further learning by doing. Some schools have had their students start a “company,” deal with factors of production, sell their product, hopefully make money, and choose to ADOPT their favorite zoo animal.
We start the program by defining the term “economics.” The children should be able to tell us what they think of when they hear that term. Then we spend time exploring with them what they do with their allowances. Some save for long-term goals (college or a car). Some save for short-term goals (a new video game, etc.). We discuss with them the differences and why they can’t buy what they want whenever they want. That is a good way to illustrate the concept of scarcity. Some of the children spend their money as fast as they get it. We have the children give examples of what they would buy with their money. There can be other examples of scarcity. This also illustrates the concept of “Opportunity Costs.”
You can’t spend the same dollar on two things that each cost a dollar. The thing you have to give up in order to get the thing you really want is the Opportunity Cost. We then discuss the scarcity situations at the zoo. We are a city zoo that is surrounded by streets, stores, hospitals, and houses. We cannot grow any bigger. Therefore, we have a scarcity of space. We always have to make decisions about how to use that space. Should we have another animal exhibit, plant exhibit, snack bar or restroom? Another scarcity is just like in your home. We have unlimited wants but limited resources. There is never enough money to go around. Therefore, we have to continually make choices as to how we will spend the available money.
Several years ago, a committee toured the zoo to make a list of improvements that were needed in order to remain a world-class zoo. One of the things on the list was a new birdhouse. The house that exhibited the birds was not built for birds. It was built for reptiles. You could see the birds quite well, but it was not a very exciting exhibit. Another exhibit that needed work was the Elephant House. The existing house, while on the historic register, was one of the last barred exhibits. The space for the elephants was also very limited. We were told that we could either enlarge the exhibit or only keep one elephant. There was enough money for only one exhibit and we got the new birdhouse. Our Opportunity Cost was the elephant exhibit. As time went on, we got enough money for another improvement. The elephant display
was moved to the top of the list, but unfortunately the space scarcity intervened. We would have to give up a goodly amount of parking places in order to expand the elephant exhibit. Because of space scarcity, this was not an option. One solution to the problem was a parking garage, which would allow for more cars to be parked in a smaller space. Parking garages are prohibitively expensive. There was no money for this project. The money that was given for the elephant exhibit could not be used. We went to the taxpayers for an increase in property taxes. The voters voted it down. Eventually we were able to acquire property across a major street for parking and could expand the elephant exhibit.
Where do we get money to operate the zoo? The children are encouraged to answer based on their past experiences. Many of them have been at the zoo before and can think of ways that the zoo obtains money. Among the things that they could suggest are:
a. Tax levy–a small part of our budget is obtained by a property tax levy.
b. Admissions–revenue from admissions are a major part of our daily budget.
c. Memberships–a real bargain for the public as members can come to the zoo any day of the year free, and the zoo can count on the revenue.
d. Concessions–the food services are not owned by the zoo, but rather we own the buildings and Marriott restaurants pay us to run their business at the zoo. We also have train and tram rides that are considered concessions as well. An amusement company pays to operate their train and tram at the zoo.
e. Gifts, grants, and business donations–both individuals and corporations give us money. Some of the donations are given with conditions attached. Businesses like to have their names attached to the display, building, or program.
f. Investment income–when people give money for a future project, that money is invested and accumulates interest.
g. Gift shop–our gift shop is a good source of income because volunteers run it. Therefore, all the income becomes profit for the zoo.
h. Animal adoption–ADOPT (Animals Depend On People Too) allows people to provide for the food eaten by their adopted animal for one year.
i. Parking–due to the scarcity of space, parking space is at a premium. The scarcer something is the more can be charged for it. People are certainly welcome to park on the street for free.
j. Sale of animals–we have a very prolific zoo and our animals often provide us with offspring that we can sell (but only to other zoos).
k. Special events–provide us with the opportunity to have people come to the zoo who may not come otherwise. We have such special events as Festival of Lights, Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Happenings, Zoofari, Zoo Golf, and Cheetah Run.
What do we have to spend money on? The children are encouraged to answer this question based on their past experiences. Among the answers they may give are:
a. Food for the animals–this is a big part of our budget. The animals get the finest, freshest food available.
b. Salaries–the employees have to be paid. We are lucky to have so many volunteers. Salaries are not as big a part of our budget as most zoos and the thanks go to the volunteers. They saved the zoo $1,000,000 last year.
c. Advertisements–while advertisements are expensive, it does increase the admissions.
d. Maintenance–this is the largest part of our budget. Buildings and displays always need painting, light bulb replacement, cleaning, etc. Walkways need repairing, carpets need cleaning, and odds and ends need repairs.
e. Utilities–just like at home, we have to pay our electric, gas, water, and telephone bills.
f. Buying animals–sometimes we need to replace an animal that has died or want to add a new exhibit and have to buy animals. Sometimes we are able to trade animals with other zoos.
g. Vet/hospital care–when animals get sick or injured they need to be treated. A local hospital is not an option. We need to have a hospital on grounds with all the expensive equipment needed to X-ray or operate.
h. New exhibits–this also includes the demolition of the old exhibits.
i. Education–including classes, posters, written material, etc.
j. Plantings–since we are also a Botanical Garden, our plantings are very important.
k. Office supplies–we need to buy things like paper, computers, tape, pencils, etc.
l. Animal supplies–we try to make the animal exhibits as homelike as possible, with things for the animals to do. We need to buy toys, water bottles, etc.
After this discussion we discuss the ADOPT program, and how you can adopt an animal. We ask the children which animal is the most expensive to feed. Everyone guesses the elephant, which costs $5000 a year to feed. Our most expensive animal is the walrus, which costs $7500. Not only does the walrus eat a lot of food, but it eats very expensive food like squid. The children can adopt any animal that they want to. Some have adopted the particular animal that we brought to their classroom. There are even special animals that are featured every year for classes to adopt. If the class adopts one of these animals they get pictures of their animal (one per student, up to 30 children).
In Restoring the Balance, Think Green!
The Changing Role of Zoos in Plant Conservation
Research Associate, CREW
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Plant conservation is vital for a balanced ecosystem. Habitat conservation is the main focus; however, many endangered species require extreme measures for survival. The Cincinnati Zoo is developing techniques to propagate and preserve these species.
Prologue: A Brief History of CREW
Founded in 1981, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Center for Reproduction of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was established with the goal of applying modern reproductive technologies to the conservation and reproduction of endangered animals. Over the next several years, the research scope expanded, and in 1986 the Plant Conservation Division was established with Dr. Valerie Pence as the director. Now known as the Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife, CREW’s mission is to use science and technology to understand, preserve, and propagate endangered flora and fauna and facilitate the conservation of global biodiversity.
Research at CREW includes assisted reproduction in mammals, amphibians, and birds; genome resource banking of rare plants and animals; basic research conducted to better understand the physiological requirements for the preservation of endangered species; and in vitro propagation of endangered plants.
Plants are an integral part of a functional, balanced ecosystem. At the very least, plants make up the landscape that is home to the fauna of the world. They provide food, shelter, and even entertainment for countless animals, including humans. Plants fuel our economy; feed, shelter, and heal our masses; and clean and recycle our atmosphere, soils, and waters. In their own right, plants are amazing organisms that have evolved in countless ways to survive and prosper in a world from which they cannot run. Second only to insects in species richness, plants are an incredibly diverse group that includes minute mosses, lush ferns, gigantic redwoods, and delicate orchids. Unfortunately, this irreplaceable diversity is disappearing at a feverish rate.
According to the World Conservation Union, the IUCN, nearly 34,000 of the world’s 270,000 vascular plants are threatened with extinction. As with endangered and threatened animals, habitat loss poses the greatest threat to plant diversity. Other major factors that threaten plants include competition from invasive, non-native species and habitat degradation from pollutants. Primary efforts are being made to conserve remaining habitats before it is too late. Unfortunately, many habitats have been severely damaged and preservation of these simply may not be enough. Some species are either on the brink of extinction or will be if current declines in populations continue. These extreme conditions call for extreme measures.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has established a program that utilizes modern plant propagation techniques to collect, grow, and preserve highly endangered plant species. Techniques being developed and implemented include plant tissue culture, in vitro collection (IVC), and cryopreservation. The purpose of this presentation is to explain these techniques and to illustrate how they are being used to grow and preserve some of the most threatened plant species known.
Plant Tissue Culture: A Tool for Conservation
Also known as in vitro propagation or micropropagation, plant tissue culture (PTC) is a process through which plant tissue can be grown and indefinitely maintained using an artificial medium conducive to tissue development. This technique is possible because plants have the ability to vegetatively regenerate from somatic, non-sex cells. This is known as totipotency. Plant cells can regenerate new shoots, roots, or even entire plants and it is theoretically possible to produce an infinite number of individuals from an initial cell line.
Most research in PTC has been conducted on economically important crop species. Today, these techniques are commonly applied in the agricultural and horticultural industries. Many ornamental and food crops have their starts not in seed beds in a greenhouse or field, but rather in a tissue culture lab designed for mass production of plantlets using PTC. A few examples include Boston ferns, poinsettias, and even grapes.
Many tissues can be used to start cultures, including seeds, embryos, shoot tips, and leaf tissue. Most of the endangered species being studied at CREW are acquired mostly in the form of seeds, sometimes cuttings, and rarely as entire plants. In all cases, the material is quite limited and seeds may be inviable.
When available material is severely limited, protocols will be developed using closely related species, then these will be applied to the endangered plant.
Application of PTC to endangered species is a rather recent development. Only a handful of institutions throughout the world are actively applying tissue culture research to plant conservation. Unlike research with crop species for which material is readily available, endangered species are difficult to obtain and material such as seeds can be in scarce supply. An alternative method for acquiring different lines is in vitro collection, a technique that is currently being developed at CREW.
In Vitro Collection: Collecting Plants One Small Piece at a Time
In vitro collection is a technique in which researchers, instead of collecting entire plants or their seeds, take small cuttings of leaves or buds, place them on media for growth initiation and transport, and take them to the lab where they can be grown into new plants. Using this method, rare species can be collected with minimal, if any, negative impact on the habitat or the plants themselves. Using IVC, a species can be extensively sampled from wild populations without removing a single plant. In this way, the genetic diversity of a species can be better represented in the collections.
The technique of IVC was developed over several years of research in both tropical and temperate ecosystems. Today, the technique can be successfully applied to a wide variety of plant species. It has been used to collect eleven endangered plant species from the United States. These include annuals, perennial herbs, and even woody shrubs.
Cryopreservation: Freezing for the Future
After propagation protocols have been developed for an endangered species, each genetic line is placed in liquid nitrogen-long-term storage. This is known as cryopreservation. At 196ºC, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, all cellular activity ceases and living tissue, in effect, is suspended in time. A variety of tissue can be frozen from seeds to shoot tips. With the PTC lines of endangered species, shoot tips are most commonly used. Regardless of the tissue being preserved, the trick is to treat the tissue in such a way as to reduce cell damage.
Upon freezing, water in tissue cells expands and breaks cell membranes. To prevent this, various cryoprotectants and procedures are used to treat the tissue before freezing. The general goal is to replace the water in the cells with other substances that do not expand upon freezing. This preserves the cell membranes and allows the tissue to survive. When these techniques are developed for a particular species, cryopreserved tissues are placed in liquid nitrogen dewars for long-term storage.
At CREW, many species are currently preserved using this technique. These will be maintained indefinitely and may be revived in the future if needed. Preserved species may one day be used for reintroductions into reclaimed habitats or for additional study of the species.
The Endangered Species Propagation Program: Applying the Tools to the Species
The Endangered Species Propagation Program (ESPP) is focused on applying the techniques just described to many critically endangered species. Those species selected for research all face specific hurdles to successful propagation that cannot be overcome using traditional means such as seed germination and cuttings. These species face eminent extinction if measures are not taken to propagate the species. In 1995, and again in 1997, the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded a grant for research within this program that targets endangered U.S. species.
This project, a collaborative effort between CREW and the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), is focused on nearly 30 endangered plants from throughout the United States. These species are part of the CPC’s National Collection and were chosen based on the above-mentioned criteria. Plants being studied represent a variety of species from throughout the United States. These include species from wetlands, mountains, deserts, grasslands, forests, and the Florida scrub. To date, propagation and cryopreservation protocols have been developed for many of these species. For others, the research continues.
Conservation of the world’s plants is imperative. By preserving remaining habitats and reclaiming and restoring others, our world will continue to survive and prosper. However, those species on the brink of extinction require extreme and often creative measures to ensure their survival. Research at CREW is focused on these species for which little time remains. Individual requirements and limitations must be addressed for each species, and the protocols for effective propagation must be tailored to each. By developing such protocols, endangered species that have been impossible to propagate ex situ can now be produced and maintained for study. Additionally, the long-term survival of these important species can be ensured by cryopreserving the genetic lines. These efforts are not foolproof, and success is not guaranteed. However, if efforts are not made, the future for these species is, at best, uncertain.
The Center For Plant Conservation (CPC) is gratefully acknowledged for their collaboration in this project. CPC-affiliated gardens are also gratefully acknowledged for selecting species and supplying plant material, information, and help with fieldwork. Special thanks to The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. This research was supported, in part, by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, No. IC-50056-95, No. IC-70248-97, and No. Ic-00034-00.
Small Wonders: Our Buggy Friends
Frances Stafford and Becky Shelley
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Most exhibits at a Zoo show vertebrates. Though admittedly very charismatic, these are not the most important animals. The Insectarium at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was opened in 1978. It was the first such house in North America dedicated solely to the display of arthropods, and it won the 1979 National Exhibit Award for best new display in any Zoo or Aquarium. It has also won awards for its captive breeding programs. Beautifully displayed within is an extensive live animal collection including many exotic arthropods from around the world. They represent the myriad tiny creatures that are vital to the working of our planet. Arthropods are the insects and their relatives, creatures with segmented bodies, jointed legs, and exoskeletons. This is the theater for the guides who lead Insectarium tours.
The rewards for the docent are many. One is to spend time discovering for themselves this fascinating and beautiful world. The moments when comments change from “Ugh” to “Awesome,” from “Gross” to “Cool,” The little girl who enters in tears of apprehension because she fears bugs, and leaves gleefully smiling because she petted a walking stick. The 3rd grader who gazes nose to nose at the giant millipede coordinating more than 200 legs into a wave of locomotion, and exclaims “Beautiful, beautiful!”
Children relate to furry animals and brightly colored birds, but it is special to guide them as they come to appreciate and relate to these previously unknown creatures. The shimmering bubble of air under the diving beetle’s wing strikes a note of envy in the mind of the girl swimmer who must surface with every stroke for her breath. A student marvels at the industry of the ants, and wonders if they miss the enjoyment she gets from school and play. On learning that the walking stick flings her eggs to land widely distributed on the forest floor, a boy worries about how she will find them again. He accepts that this distribution is the best chance for survival that she can give them.
My focus will be:
1. The organization of the house and the docent tours.
2. The teaching opportunities provided by the house.
3. Life stories of the insects.
4. The insect biofact tables at the zoo during summer.
5. The classroom programs at the Zoo or at schools.
1. Organizing Tours
From the beginning in 1978 it was recognized that the Insectarium contained such a wealth of information that it could not be covered as part of a general school tour. Also, the material was completely new to most of the docents who were interested in volunteering. The then director of education gathered a group of enthusiastic tour guides and together they assembled slides explaining the exhibits. These were initially used in training and also as programs for visitors. Every few weeks guides had training sessions from the Zoo entomologists. Dissatisfied with the slide programs, the guides then began developing the touring system that is followed today. It was originally for students 3rd grade and above. Teachers would call the guides for advice on preparing the students for the visit. This interaction had a very positive effect on teaching in schools.
Today children as young as kindergarten visit the house and most of them are very well prepared. The docents offer a program to schools from September through March. Students from grades K through High School are invited, with the majority in grades 2 thru 4. We draw students from as far away as Indianapolis, Dayton, and Kentucky. Others are so close that they walk to the Zoo. Insect guides must complete the general tour guide training and have one year of experience on zoo grounds. Then they must learn the Insectarium. Additional training in animal handling is required before guides can give insect demos.
The organization of the tour is molded by the organization of the House. It is the best way we know to move a large group through the exhibit. The challenge for the docent is to allow each student a very close view of the small exhibits, and to tell the amazing life stories of these less familiar creatures. The introduction is given to the whole class with the docents present and observing. It includes a review of the definition of an insect. A question and answer section with visual aids emphasizes the roles of insects: pollination, recycling, and position on the food web. This time also allows the docents to assess the preparation and knowledge of the students, and to select a suitable vocabulary level for their tour.
The house is arranged by topics, which can be studied in any order. The class, with a maximum of 40 students, is divided into groups of 56 students, each with a chaperone. Each of the groups goes with their docent to a different starting point. An additional station is a live insect demo with the option to touch. It includes a millipede, hissing cockroach, and a walking stick. Each group spends about 10 minutes per area, covering the entire house in about 75 minutes for a total time of 90 minutes. This can be condensed as suitable for younger children. The topics mentioned in the introduction can now be expanded as we tour the house.
2. Teaching Opportunities
At “Insect or Relative?” beetles, spiders, and millipedes are displayed with the names concealed. The students are reminded that insects have 3 body parts, 6 legs and exoskeletons. They then observe, apply the criteria, and deduce the answer.
The section on “What Eats Insects” displays vertebrates such as reptiles, mammals, fish, and amphibians. Birds are represented with pictures, and spiders are included in this display. Docents can point out the long snout of the tree vole, the specialized teeth of the golden-headed tamarin, or the arrows of water squirted from the mouth of the archerfish. Other lessons on adaptations abound in this section.
Creatures that may become nutritious food need survival strategies. In “Defense and Escape” we see those that take the offense with venom delivered by sting or bite. More defensive methods include colors that warn of poisons, also camouflage and mimicry.
“Metamorphosis” diagrams a complex phenomenon. Younger children are satisfied with looking through the magnifying glasses at a variety of the eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults that illustrate the four stages in the life of butterflies. More knowledgeable students will be interested to learn of a second simpler form where the juveniles look like a small version of the adults and don’t go through a pupa stage. This lesson can be reviewed at several displays of groups of insects that include immature individuals. Diving beetle eggs hatch into six-legged, string-like larvae, which are nothing like the adult form. The stick insects and hissing cockroaches come in a range of sizes, with the newly hatched looking like miniature versions of the adults. Students can observe and deduce whether they are looking at simple or complete metamorphosis.
“Insect Lifestyles” shows solitary, gregarious, and social insects. Ants, termites, and bees have lessons to teach about working together for the benefit of the group. The leaf-cutter ants carry vegetation into their underground home to build farmer’s fields where they grow fungus. Their food is the fruit of this fungus. The fungus exists only where these ants tend it and the ants survive only on this food. What an example of interdependence and the great web of life! When a queen goes to begin a new colony, she takes a starter of the fungus with her. She is like the pioneer women who moved west carrying living yeast to make bread, or the Italian wine maker carrying grapevine cuttings to the new country to establish his vineyard. The wonderfully ugly Naked Mole Rats show that some mammals are organized like termites with one queen and many female workers raising the young in an underground city.
3.Life Stories of the Insects
Juvenile roaches are smaller versions of the adults. Like all arthropods they must molt their exoskeleton several times as they grow. Lucky students will see a soft, vulnerable, white roach emerge, leaving behind its empty casing. The white turns to dark brown in the short time it takes to harden into a protective coat.
Mating and egg laying can often be seen in the Insectarium. The slender, winged Australian Walkingstick males can fly to their mates. She must wait for him. With her chubby egg-laying abdomen and tiny vestigial wings, she cannot fly. The female giant water bug lays her eggs onto the back of her mate. He must carry them until they hatch. His very presence provides protection, and in seeking a good living environment for himself, he provides it to his brood. Students can see the tiny bugs emerge from these eggs.
The rare display of Bullet Ants is a favorite with guides and students. The ants are huge, about one inch long, and the head, thorax, and abdomen are easy to distinguish. Eggs and larvae can usually be seen. The antennae and venomous jaws typical of ants are obvious. The unusual sting in the abdomen, as painful to man as being hit by a bullet, indicates that ants developed from their relative the wasp.
A walk through the Butterfly Aviary is a walk through a rain forest, and a reminder of the importance of insects. The flowering plants need pollinating; the fish, turtles, and birds need food; debris needs recycling; and the soil needs to be worked and aerated. The beauty of the passion butterflies dancing on brightly colored wings lifts our spirits. They are more miraculous now that we know their life stages and incredible transformation.
During the summer the Insectarium is used as a station for the insect biofact cart. Visitors can pick up and handle specimens in Ryker boxes. Items shown demonstrate both kinds of metamorphosis, differences between moths and butterflies, and the life cycle of the silkworm moth.
An alternative program is given either in a Zoo classroom or taken to a school in the community. Arthropods and insects are easily maintained in aquariums in the school program office at the zoo. Docents trained in animal handling give a 25-minute program with a demo that may allow the opportunity to touch. Animals used include hissing cockroach, millipede, hermit crab, and tarantula. These programs are very popular with schools. They can also be used to help teach the proficiencies mandated by the school authorities.