National Reptile Awareness Day

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

National Reptile Awareness Day

Do you know your reptile neighbors here in Northern Colorado?

Colorado is home to more than 50 species of reptile (lizards, turtles, and snakes). The majority of reptiles in our state live below 6,000 feet, though there are some exceptions.

In Colorado, there are a variety of environmental challenges that reptiles had to evolve to deal with. Many prairie streams and ponds dry up entirely in the summer, reducing safe water sources; in winter temperatures can drop below zero. Drought in summer is a frequent problem as well. But our reptiles adapt well to arid environments like northern Colorado.

All reptiles are “cold blooded,” or ectothermic: their body temperature is controlled by the temperature of their environment rather than producing their own heat internally. Reptiles regulate their body temperature by moving from shade to sun, changing their body orientation to the sun, or even changing color. They also vary their activity patterns with the seasons.

At this time of year, reptiles are getting ready to hibernate through the cold Colorado winter. They drop their body temperature to just above freezing. Lizards curl up under logs or in crevices for the season. Turtles will burrow underground to get below the frost line, either on dry land or in the mud at the bottom of ponds or lakes. Snakes have communal winter dens that they return to each year. While these animals hibernate, their body process slow down. They live off water and nutrients stored in their bodies, and don’t even wake up to eliminate waste.

Reptiles in Colorado are now facing new problems: human neighbors can make things more difficult for reptiles. Development reduces the habitat and resources that reptiles need to survive. We bring pets like dogs and cats that can hunt and kill native animals. Reptiles may be killed by traffic when they try to warm themselves by seeking out warm surfaces – like asphalt roads, which are often warmer than their surroundings.

Scientists do not know at this time how abundant or wide-spread reptiles are in Colorado, but some species are clearly in decline here. Reptile species listed as of special concern in Colorado are: triploid checkered whiptail; midget faded rattlesnake; longnose leopard lizard; yellow mud turtle; common king snake; Texas blind snake; Texas horned lizard; roundtail horned lizard; massasauga; common garter snake.

Reptiles are key parts in the landscape around us. Reptiles are food for many of the larger predators in the area (e.g. foxes, raptors, coyotes). Many of them also predate on and control the population of smaller animals – often those considered pests by humans – such as insects, rodents, and even prairie dogs.

For National Reptile Awareness Day this year, take some time to appreciate our reptile neighbors. Come visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and see our live reptiles. Or, spend some time in the wild spaces near you and keep an eye out for our scaly friends.

When observing reptiles out in the wild, try to follow these guidelines:

  • Be careful: know what venomous animals live in the area. In Fort Collins area, there is one: the Prairie Rattlesnake. If you do spot one of these rattlers, move away slowly and leave it alone. They will only bite when they feel threatened.
  • Be respectful of all animals and their homes. Give the reptile or other animal space, and move slowly and quietly. Try not to damage the habitat they live in.
  • Do not bring home live animals. Take photographs or draw pictures of them instead.

 

Tara, FCMOD’s resident Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata), is keeping an eye out for a tasty mealworm to eat. Ornate Box Turtles are native to Colorado and are a protected species. They get their common name from the colorful patterns on their shells.

Photo courtesy of  Alexa Leinaweaver.

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Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Post written by Bevin Walker, museum member.

Thank you for joining us tonight in adoration and support for Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Iʼm Bevin Walker, proud mother of the 5 amazing kids featured in the FCMoD film. The kiddos true colors were presented so beautifully. I hope you enjoyed  viewing the film as much as we enjoyed making it.

I would like to take a moment to thank FCMoD for asking our family to be a part of this special night and for the privilege to speak about how this wonderful museum has enhanced our childrenʼs education.

A special thank you to my husband Jeramie for his unwavering love and support. It is his dedication that gives us the freedom to homeschool.

8 years ago, when our eldest was kindergarten age, we began our homeschooling journey. We wanted our children to have ample time and opportunities to pursue their interests and learn to self-regulate.

Our choice to homeschool has granted us many luxuries; one of which is the ability to tailor curriculum to our childrenʼs needs. We use a mixed media approach for core subjects but our pedagogy is mainly oriented by everyday life and our childrenʼs interests. Curiosity and learning are innate human abilities and few places have piqued our childrenʼs curiosity more than the Museum of Discovery.

Our first visit to the museum had very little to do with education; we simply needed to get out of the house on one of those, “these are my monkeys and this is my circus” kind of days. Since then, frequent visits have facilitated our childrenʼs acquisition of knowledge through invaluable hands on experiences.

During discovery labs our children have performed dissections and experiments that would be difficult to replicate at home. Museum take overs, summer camps, and special exhibits have intrigued and inspired.

One of our favorite exhibits thus far was the National Geographicʼs Photo Ark. I hope you all had a chance to view the breathtaking photographs! The stories behind those photos inspired our daughter Juliette to become passionate about photography and conservation. She was so moved by the exhibit that she zealously raised donations for the Wild Animal Sanctuary here in Colorado.

Our eldest daughter Jennavieve is an aspiring aerospace engineer and geologist. Moon month and the aviation museum takeover ironically correlated with the beginning of her Aerolabs course. The spectacular film ‘CapCom Goʼ fueled her ambition for an aerospacecareer. If you havenʼt seen the film yet, I highly recommend it.

Beyond the amazing exhibits and educational opportunities I have already mentioned; The museum has also graciously hosted the WOLF sanctuary for our Girl Scout troop and is currently working with Jennavieve on her Girl Scout Silver Award. Their collaboration will bring STEAM programs to NoCo Girl Scouts right here in Fort Collins. A huge thank you to Angela for making both possible! As a homeschool mother I strive for educational value in everything we do. We visit the museum almost weekly and it remains one of our favorite places to learn and explore. From the tot spot to the Otterbox dome theater and everything in between there is a plethora of knowledge to gain and fun to be had. What I personally love most about the museum is that I can tend to our younger children as they discover while allowing our elder daughters to be auto didactic in an engaging and safe environment.

None of this would be possible without your generous contributions.

As Pam noted the FCMoD has a $15,000 goal tonight. By making a donation you not only help us achieve that goal but ensure that access to science and cultural education remain a priority for our community!

In efforts to stimulate your inner child, we have made it both easy and fun for you to donate tonight: participate in the Silent Auction, play Heads or Tails, and as you can see over here, we have 3 of the Donation Stations spread throughout the museum. Please visit one and youʼll be able to pick out your own colorful accessory to help light up our night and spread the word that you believe in FCMoD. Thank you for enriching the lives of our children and the lives of so many others whom visit the museum.

Your donations color their world!

The museum relies on the generosity of you – our community – to do everything we do. Please consider donating to support explorations in science and culture for all.

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The Griffin Piano Lounge

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections.

There is a lot of space to explore at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery; visitors of all ages can spend hours experiencing the exhibits, jamming in the Music & Sound Lab, taking in a show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, and more. But even with just a few dozen steps through our front door a visitor can encounter something unique: the grand piano, with its distinctive Curly Birdseye Maple veneer, which occupies a large corner of the museum’s Griffin Piano Lounge.

This piano was produced by William Knabe & Co., of Baltimore especially for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It is apparently one of only two such pianos produced by Knabe, and its eye-catching appearance and distinctively mellow tone are said to have caught the attention a group of fair visitors from Fort Collins, who determined that their community needed the grace and culture it could provide. This group consisted of Abner Loomis, Frank Miller, Sr., F.W. Sherwood, and Peter Anderson –names that loom large in our community’s history, and echo in the names of our streets and local landmarks. These men brought the piano back to Fort Collins and it was placed in the Old Town Elks Lodge, on Oak Street, where it remained until the that building was demolished in 2008. At that time the piano was first sent to Finger Piano Restoration of Niwot, Colorado for a complete evaluation and restoration, and then delivered to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

This history is not the only thing that makes the Knabe piano unique among the artifacts displayed and preserved at FCMoD, whose preservation requires that they are protected from all touching and use. Experts agree that the working mechanisms of musical instruments like the piano are best preserved when played on a regular basis, by experienced musicians aware of its age and delicacy. So, for the health of the piano and for everyone’s enjoyment, visiting musicians and trained museum volunteers play the piano during special events and when possible during regular museum hours.

Come visit the 1904 World’s Fair Knabe Piano in FCMoD’s Griffin Piano Lounge. You’ll experience a legacy gifted to our community over a century ago, and you may just get the chance to hear it played.

Image courtesy of Malcolm McNeill

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World Animal Day

Interview conducted by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Happy World Animal Day!

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery interviewed FCMoD Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator, Alexa Leinweaver in celebration of World Animal Day! The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  1. Hi Alexa! First, tell us a little bit about your role as the Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator here at FCMoD.

Here at FCMoD, my job is to take care of all animals in the Animal Encounters exhibit and make sure they are happy and healthy, as well as coordinate the team that is responsible for their care.

  1. What inspired you to begin working with animals?

I can’t remember a time that I was not fascinated with caring for animals. As a kid I would go back to the field behind my house and catch grasshoppers, and be thrilled when they peed on me! When I look back at my childhood education I would find a new animal to be fascinated with, and keep adding more and more animals until I cared about all of them. My aunt bought me a subscription to ZooBooks and that only enhanced/expanded my love for animals.

A few years ago when I was moving to Colorado, I was looking for something that would get me away from the stress of my previous job. So I found a place to volunteer taking care of animals and it was a good way to stay centered and present — because you have to be if you are working with an animal. So that evolved into working with FCMoD.

  1. Tell us a little bit about the Animal Encounter exhibit, what kinds of animals do you encounter in this exhibit?

We have quite the variety of animals. We have everything from reptiles to amphibians to mammals to arthropods in the exhibit. We have a large variety of animals in the encounter exhibit. However, fun fact, the animals available are all able to be pets. We are not a zoo, so we do not have endangered or large animals in the animals encounter exhibit. That said, we do have some exciting and exotic animals.

Our most familiar are the rats. We have 5, and they all look different. We also have fish, insects, turtles, snakes, frogs, geckos, scorpions, etc. All of our fish are local. And my favorite is the whip scorpion because it shoots vinegar out of its butt! It’s the same as white vinegar as in your house and there is no stinger, but his aim is good so, if he feels there is a predator messing with him he aims for their eye.

Our goal is to keep all animals as comfortable as possible when cleaning. The most risky to work with animals include the whip scorpion, regular scorpion, and the assassin bugs. For all of these we keep them calm and have protective gear that we wear.

  1. Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians – oh my! How do you think the Animal Encounters exhibit fits into FCMoD’s vision, which is to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future?

I think any exhibit where you get to see animals that you do not usually see in everyday life is awesome. This exhibit at the museum is a great way to get all our visitors thinking about the world that they live in. Certainly now, I go out and see so much more because I know the animals to look for around in the mountains, city, etc. This sort of perspective creates a bigger world to live in. It allows for imagination and inspires us to care about the environment and for the animals.

“It allows for imagination and inspires those to care about the environment and for the animals.”

  1. Are there any programs associated with the Animal Encounters exhibit?

There are various programs associated with the Animal Encounters exhibit, including Meet the Animals, as well as school programs and summer camps. When school groups come in they can have a special time where we bring out the animals and let the kids get a closer look and sometimes pet the animals. Then we have our animal-themed summer camps, such as Animal Adventures. This camp includes a trip to the Lee Martinez farm and presentations of our animals in the Animal Encounters exhibit. Meet the Animals is a free gallery program offered every third Sunday of the month from 10 am to 1 pm. This program again, allows families and museum guests to get a closer look at the animals. Lastly, our animal-themed birthday parties are also quite the hit! Sometimes we even allow the birthday kid to handle the animal (depending on the child and the animal).

  1. What is your favorite part about working with animals at the museum?

My favorite part about my job is that it is my job to spend time with the animals – handling them, socializing them, and making sure they are well. I also get to snuggle with the rats. I get paid to hang out with the rats!

  1. What does a typical day at the museum looks like for you?

My team and I arrive a few hours before the museum opens. There are typically about 3-4 people working in the animal zone. We clean, feed, and observe the health of the animals, and then clean up to get ready for our visitors for the day.

  1. How do you think museums, like FCMoD, can continue to communicate, educate, and inspire positive action for animal care and conservation?

The first step is having the animals there to let people learn about them and be connected to the wild world. Also having school programs where kids come in and become the experts, to tell their friends and family about something like meeting a tarantula. Getting kids and adults interested in the world around them is the beginning. This creates awareness and increases interest. The second step is to get people angry. If you see and connect with an animal and you know their home is in danger — for example, once they are angry that frogs’ habitat in the Amazon is burning down — then they will have the motivation to do something about it. If you do not care you will not be willing to take the next step to protect the animals.

  1. Ok, random question, but if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

I would want to be some kind of bird, maybe a Corvid. Specifically, a crow or magpie. Other than having the ability to fly, these birds are very smart and clever. It would allow me to have my wits about me while also having fun. These birds can solve puzzles that I could never solve. For example, a crow can understand how a street light works by dropping a nut that needs to be opened during the red light. And once it’s green the cars run over and open the nut. They go back down during the next red light to get the food they need. Isn’t that amazing?

“I can’t remember a time that I was not fascinated with caring for animals.”

  1. If you could have a conversation with every visitor in the Animals Encounters exhibit, what is the one thing you’d definitely want to know from them before leaving?

I would want to know what animal they connected with the most. It is so personal – which one and why. I want to know what people connect with and if there is any way to provide more information to create a greater proactive response to the animals. That way I can enhance the experience or help to inspire them in the future.

 

Thank you to Alexa for her time and talents at FCMoD! We hope the next time you visit you enjoy the Animal Encounters exhibit!

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