Education Posts

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

National Farm Animal Awareness Week 2014

September 13th, 2014

September 14th – 20th is National Farm Animal Awareness Week!

 

 

While the museum isn’t celebrating the week in the same way we do Bear Awareness Week or Wolf Awareness Week, you should still come out and say hello to your favorite Farmyard animals. You can even buy a Duck to help offset the cost of feeding our hoofstock and maybe win a really awesome prize on October 4th when the ducks race at the American Tobacco campus!

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Cows Have Horns, too!

July 24th, 2014

Lots of guests come into the farmyard, see Max, and call him a “cow.” I assume that a few know he’s not a cow but choose to use “cow” rather than “steer” because it’s an easier word of small kids, but I’d bet more people just don’t know what the difference is. So here’s a quick run down of the various common terms used for cattle:

Cow – A female who has had a baby (or many babies).

Heifer- A female who has not had a baby.

Bull- An intact male.

Steer- A castrated male.

Ox/Oxen- adult, male or female, trained in draft work (pulling). Often males that have been castrated as adults.

Calf- A baby, male or female.

Bullock- In the UK, a castrated male. In the USA, an intact male, less than a year old.

Cattle- either gender (or both) in a group.

 

What about the horns?

Horns are common on both males and females, especially in dairy breeds. It’s not usually possible to tell if you’re looking at a bull or cow just by looking at their face. You’d need to get a look at their bellies to tell them apart for sure. Udders are only visibly present in cows. Heifers have udders but they aren’t typically distended or visibly hanging because she’s never had a calf. Intact males are bulls, castrated males are steer.

Some cattle are naturally hornless. This is called being “polled” and is a genetic trait in cattle that can be passed down to their offspring. It’s also common for cattle on farms to have their horns removed as very young babies, so they never grow, and to have the horns on adult cattle cut or blunted so they don’t hurt each other or the people working with them. Max keeps his own horns blunted by rubbing them on all sorts of stuff, like toys, stumps, and his fence.

Max

Max, napping in the sun

jersey heifer

An adorable little Jersey heifer with her horns

Here’s a handsome naturally polled, Jersey bull from MaryJanesFarm in Idaho.

 

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.

The Mantis Shrimp

July 5th, 2014

You’re probably wondering why am I writing about a shrimp. I wonder sometimes about the content of my blogs too, but this one interested me personally. I have started a saltwater tank at home and have been doing research and came across this little crustacean that I thought was very interesting.

mantis_shrimp_body_armor-7Pic by shutterstock

Not only can these critters be striking to look at, but they are some powerful beings. Many people keep them in special built tanks because they are so powerful!This creature kicks butt and takes names.

What makes them so powerful? The power of their strike not only allows them to disable their next meal or threat, but it can actually break the aquarium or even your fingers! The claw is faster than a .22 caliber bullet, it hits so fast it boils the water and produces a shock wave! These things are so awesome that scientists are studying the structure of its battle ram to improve on body armor made for people.

Here is a little info graphic I found with those facts and more.

mantisshrimp_infographic_finalClick it to enlarge

 

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Cool information, Jill! Are you going to get a special tank?

    Posted by Marilyn
  2. I dont think I could have one of these. Im sticking to lesser aggressive corals and fish

    Posted by Jill

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Can Snakes Swim?

May 28th, 2014

YES!

All snakes can swim. It’s not just specialized snakes, like Sea Kraits, that can swim and dive. Water Snakes, Copperheads, Water Moccasins, Garter snakes, Anacondas, Ribbon snakes, Rat snakes, and many more are often found near bodies of water. Even the arboreal snakes of the world like Green Tree Pythons and Mangrove snakes are competent swimmers.

The museum grounds are home to a number of resident snake species; including the only venomous snake species in Durham, the Copperhead. While I didn’t see a copperhead on this occasion, I did see the Northern Water Snake below who  just happened to be swimming by when I was on the boardwalk.

 

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.

Common mistake with snakes

May 13th, 2014

A lot of times I go and check on the animals in Carolina Wildlife. When I walk out I hear a lot of comments adults make to children. Some of the comments are correct and some of them are very false. One that drives me crazy is hearing people over at the snakes warning kids to avoid snakes with triangle heads because they are poisonous. Now, I do agree in avoiding the snakes, but 2 things wrong with the advice is  snakes aren’t poisonous, they are venomous and a lot of snakes have triangular shaped heads…not just the venomous kind. I found this excerpt in the herpsofnc website.

” there is no simple way to distinguish between a venomous snake and a non-venomous snake.  The best possible advice one can follow is that any snake that cannot be positively identified as harmless should not be handled.  Many people believe that all snakes with triangular-shaped heads are potentially venomous.  Although all pit vipers (rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths) in the eastern United States have broad triangular heads, so do some non-venomous species such as water snakes (Nerodia).  In addition, a non triangular head does not signify the absence of venom: the two species of coral snakes in the United States, both venomous, have slender heads with little distinction between head and neck.  Another over generalization is that venomous snakes have elliptical pupils, whereas all harmless snakes have round pupils; however venomous coral snakes also have round pupils.  Unfortunately, no single rule separates all venomous species from all of the harmless ones.”

snakehdsPhoto

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Citizen Science!

May 10th, 2014

Do you ever sit at home, staring at your computer monitor willing something interesting to happen on the internet so you can be entertained? Are you a secretary with a secret passion for reading old war diaries? How about an engineer who wants to hear whales talking to one another? Or maybe you were born and raised in a city and always wanted to go on an African safari or a fireman who dreams of being a meteorologist?

Even if none of those things resonates with you, there’s probably some branch of science that does. Likewise, there’s a branch of science that needs your help. Channel surfer, secretary, engineer, urbanite, fireman, or whatever it is you do, everyone is welcome and needed to help process the massive amounts of information that scientists assemble. I promise it’s not boring!

Imagine you’re interested in learning to identify the different dialects of Orcas. You sink several microphones underwater and record for hundreds of hours. Now you’ve got a ton of data to sift through and it would literally take you YEARS to do so. So what do you do? Historically, a scientist might devote their entire career to that one project but now, with the internet and so many people willing to help, it may only take a few months. Projects that involve the collective effort of people (scientists and janitors alike) to parse through vast amounts of data are called, “Citizen Science” projects.

The museum helps pair social scientists and their projects with participators on our Experimonth website using cooperative games to find answers for the scientist.

If that’s not your thing, and you really do want to read war diaries, listen to whales, categorize cyclones or safari through Africa, you should head over to Zooniverse and join me and the other 1.1 million people who are taking part in any of the 22 currently running projects.

My current favorites:

Experimonth: Do You Know What I Know You Know?

Zooniverse: Condor Watch, Snapshot Serengeti, Notes from Nature, and Galaxy Zoo

So start classifying or entering or cooperating!

You also never know when a Serval will photobomb your Wildebeest trail cam, and I promise you don’t want to miss it!

 

An actual trail cam photo from the Snapshot Serengeti project

 

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by , Keeper
I have been a keeper at the museum since May 2012, but I was an intern back in the spring of 2011. I am very passionate about animals and my favorites are native species with the exception of sloths. In my spare time, I am working on a Bachelor's degree with OSU online in environmental science. I have two dogs, a snake, and a cat.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and you will usually see me somewhere in Explore the Wild. I love giving keeper talks, so hope to see you at 2 pm for our meet the keeper programs in Explore the Wild.

Upcoming Birthday Celebration!

March 23rd, 2014

Cynthia, our oldest Red Ruffed Lemur, will be turning 33 years old on March 30th.  On March 27th, the Explore the Wild team (Autumn and myself) will be providing Cynthia and the other Red Ruffed Lemurs with different types of enrichment and food items so that we can celebrate this milestone.  This will provide the Red Ruffed Lemurs with great opportunities to interact with different food items and enrichment plus give the keepers a chance to take a lot of pictures!  So, this will be very enriching to the keepers.

 

My next post will show what we did for Cynthia on her big day plus how she and the other Red Ruffed Lemurs interacted with all the items.

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Director Comment :

    We’ve already had a couple bags of fruit and other goodies dropped off. Thanks Neighbor:

    http://blogs.lifeandscience.org/keepers/2013/03/24/spotlight-my-anonymous-neighbor/

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  2. Congratulations to Cynthia for being one of the oldest Red-ruffed lemurs in captivity in the world – You go girl!!! Get your party on!!!

    Posted by Katy

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Big Word of the Month: Prehensile

January 21st, 2014

If you’ve been to a Meet the Keeper program at Lemurs, you may have heard someone ask if the Red Ruffed Lemurs have “thumbs” or “fingers” on the ends of their tails. The answer is “no”; the little bit of naked tail that sticks out in varying lengths from the normally furry tails of our lemurs is a by-product of over grooming. The Red Ruffed lemurs will occasionally groom their tail tips by licking, chewing or rubbing at them with their fingers and subsequently, have removed tufts of fur from the ends. The naked bit of tail can bend and curl just like the rest of their tails, but it isn’t prehensile.

So what exactly is “prehensile”?

It’s defined as an appendage or organ found on a vertebrate animal that has the ability to grasp or hold.

Though the definition seems simple enough,  it’s not always so black and white. Think about the tail of a Virginia Opossum or the lips on a rhino or donkey. They have the ability to grasp or manipulate objects, but can’t really hang on tightly. In those cases, the appendage is considered “semi-prehensile.”

 

Here are some examples of prehensile appendages in the animal world: new world monkey tail (like Spider Monkeys), octopus arms, chameleon feet, prehensile-tailed porcupine tails, Giraffe tongues, primates with a thumb have prehensile hands and sygnathidae tails.

Photo Credit: ARKive.org
Photo Credit (Prehensile tailed porcupine): The Creature Teachers, Littleton, Mass.
Lycus the Lemur is our photo.

Here are a few more “semi-prehensile” appendages: elephant trunk tip, camel lips and snake tails.

Photo Credit (elephant): ARKive.org
Photo Credit (camel): ImageShack user “poojambasaurus”
The grumpy baby Northern pinesnake is our photo

 

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.

What is that?

December 31st, 2013

Photo

Photo

Don’t think this is a Photoshopped blog this time, even though it looks like a zebra-deer-giraffe….

Well, I’m not sure what else it looks like. But, it does exist and is called an OKAPI. I chose this animal because it is interesting to look at and  are recently declared  endangered.

Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) are more related to giraffes and they live in the forest. Science was not aware of these animals until the early 1900′s and a lot of information we know about them come from captive populations. In the wild, you would find them in the Republic of Congo munching on leaves, grass, fungi and fruits.The leopard is its natural enemy, but the reason for its endangered status is because of destruction of its habitat. Civil war in the area also poses complications for those working to save the species.

Quick Facts:

Their tongue is long enough to clean their own ears

Male okapis have horns

They have been known to live up to 30 years in captivity

 

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.
Tags: ,

Tales of tongues

November 22nd, 2013

The other day I was in the farmyard and talking with Max. Yes, I talk with the animals. They may not understand me when I tell them certain things, but they do recognize commands that are given and I know that they are not able to tell me they are tired of hearing the same stories. When I converse with our steer he tends to lick my arms, hands and anything else I might be holding. It is most likely he is not doing this because I am his awesome caretaker, but he wants to taste the salt that is on my skin. The most surprising thing that a lot of people don’t know is that the texture of Max’s tongue is rough like a cats, the reason for this is most likely grooming. The best part of Max’s tongue is that it has the ability to reach into his nostrils and lick out whatever may be lurking in there. Snot, dirt and boogers included.

The tongue of a giraffe is 18-20 inches! While researching many sources say that it is dark in color to prevent sunburning while it is used to pull leaves off trees

The blue whale possesses the largest tongue. It weighs 2.7 tons  and is rumored to be its predators (orca whales) most desired part to eat.

 

The anteater has a 2 foot tongue which has very sticky saliva so insects have little chance of escaping and it dines on them.

 

Snakes can smell by having  a forked tongue that collects particles in the air and brings them into the Jacobson’s organ which can then  detect what they are.

Photo

Kent would get mad if I didnt mention the Blue Tongued Skink who flashes his tongue to scare predators away

photo

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