Our new special exhibition, Earth Matters, is now open until January 8, 2023

 

Explore our changing planet and visit Earth Matters: Rethink the Future at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery from September 17 until January 8.

Explora un planeta que está en constante transformación; el nuestro, y visita la exhibición especial La Tierra importa: Repensar el futuro que llegará al Museo del Descubrimiento de Fort Collins a partir del 18 de septiembre hasta el 8 de enero.

En español

In nature, everything is connected—air, land, water – and everything is subject to change as well.

Earth Matters: Rethink the Future features fully interactive exhibits that put viewers front and center – enabling them to think in terms of solutions across a world of topics. Visitors will engage in themes such as biodiversity, rising global temperatures, and carbon emissions while creating lasting perspectives about the bigger roles we play in our environments.

While thinking about sustainability, you’ll see the inner workings of a tree, learn about endangered species, experience life in a coral reef, and calculate your water consumption. Earth Matters: Rethink the Future gives us all the chance to reimagine a more sustainable future – starting in our own backyard.

We are excited to take part in such a topical conversation. The exhibit will be on display until January 8, 2023, featuring STEM crossover for school audiences, and lifelong learners as well.

Created by Scitech in Perth, Australia and produced by Imagine Exhibitions
Exhibición creada por Scitech en Perth, Australia, y producida por Imagine Exhibitions

En la naturaleza, todo está conectado: el aire, la tierra, el agua y a la vez, todo está sujeto a cambios. 

La Tierra importa: Repensar el futuro es una exhibición ampliamente interactiva que coloca a los espectadores frente a cuestiones elementales que buscan encontrar soluciones diversas a problemas vigentes. Con temas como la biodiversidad, el aumento de las temperaturas globales, las emisiones de carbono, y mucho más, podrás crear diferentes perspectivas sobre el rol que tienes en cuanto a tu entorno.

Mientras piensas en la sostenibilidad, verás el funcionamiento interno de un árbol, aprenderás sobre especies en peligro de extinción, experimentarás la vida en un arrecife de coral, calcularás tu consumo de agua, entre muchas otras actividades increíbles y educativas, incluyendo experiencias STEM (ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas por sus siglas en inglés) para toda la familia.

La Tierra importa: Repensar el futuro nos da la oportunidad de volver a imaginar un futuro más sostenible, comenzando en nuestro propio hogar.

Esta exhibición especial estará presente hasta el 8 de enero de 2023.

¡Los esperamos!

Experience Earth Matters: Rethink The Future at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

Visita La Tierra importa: Repensar el futuro en el Museo del Descubrimiento de Fort Collins

September 17, 2022 – January 8, 2023

*September 17 is a preview day for members only.

This exhibit is made possible with generous support from:

Esta exhibición ha sido posible gracias al generoso apoyo de:

Sponsors (5)
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The history of tea in Fort Collins with the FoCo Founders

By Kathy Bush, Discovery Agent

Many are familiar with the story of the Boston Tea Party, but when did tea start coming out to Colorado? As early as 1859, when Colorado was still a territory, trains across the nation were importing tea to Aurora. When A. A. Edwards and Franklin Avery, pioneering founders of Fort Collins, first came over to the Cache La Poudre land in the 1870s, they would have seen in the Fort Collins Standard an advertisement from the Big Thompson Dry Goods department store for tea, along with other goods. The price for gunpowder green tea was $1.25 per pound and it was $1 for three pounds of Oolong tea in 1874. The currency was gold, not paper. In terms of inflation, one pound of gunpowder green tea would cost $32.49 by today’s prices.

The 1880s was a very popular time for tea in the United States. Besides department stores, an alternative form of buying tea in Colorado was mail orders. Mail orders for tea would come from warehouse shipping centers based in big cities like New York. One advertisement in 1881 declared that one can buy five pounds of tea at the rate of 25 – 40 cents per pound. These mail orders often added perks to the order – from Indian ink portraits to collectable Chinese tea boxes. Mail order tea became so popular that people became concerned over the quality and purity of the tea, fearing that companies were adulterating – adding substances that do not belong in teas – to add bulk to their orders. This concern became so real that in 1883 a bill was passed forbidding the adulteration of tea sold within the U.S.

Franklin Avery married Sara Edson in the late 1870’s and A.A. Edwards married Phebe Edson in early 1880’s. Both started and raised their families in Fort Collins. The sisters would purchase tea for their homes as well as for their volunteer work with their local Methodist church. Tea parties were a popular way to entertain guests at home as well as for charity work with the community.

Wedding gifts often included a tea set of Chinese pounded silver. In 1894, the Fort Collins Courier published one of the first advertisements of an individual tea ball strainer, a tool that was still quite new back then. Tea parties often had cultural elements in addition to tea drinking itself, from music and poetry to learning about other cultures. For example, the YWCA at Colorado State University hosted a tea party in 1895 that shared Japanese culture while the guests were enjoying their tea.

In 1908, a newspaper advertisement showed the first strictly tea and coffee store in Fort Collins. The Ceylon Tea Store was at 150 Linden Street in 1908 and in 1909 it was at 126 South College Avenue. Today, 150 Linden Street is Old Town Square where pedestrians can walk around a goose water fountain and statues, and 126 South College Avenue is the Blue Harvest Apparel store. The Ceylon Tea Store stayed in business up to 1914 when it was sold to new management. Mrs. Sara Avery and Mrs. Phebe Edwards may have gone to the Ceylon Tea store to stock their kitchens during this time. In 1905, they would have expected to buy English Breakfast tea at 20 cents per pound and gunpowder tea at 50 cents a pound.

At the beginning of the World War One in 1914, the prices of all food items rose soon after as a byproduct of the war. Meat went up by five cents per pound and tea went up by 25 cents per pound from the original prices. To ration foodstuff at home to support the troops fighting overseas and because of the diminished food production in Europe, the U.S. had to focus on increasing food production. One action President Woodrow Wilson took was to ban using grains to distill alcohol. When the Great War was coming to an end in 1918, consequences of food rationing, along with anti-German sentiment, meant that Prohibition was gaining support in the government. In 1917, tea consumption was connected to the Prohibition movement and there was some suspicion that Japan was supporting the movement in order to secure its tea exportation with American businesses. An article from the Weekly Courier in 1918 stated that tea consumption was outpacing production because tea had become the popular social substitute for alcohol consumption.

Unidentified children at a tea party in Fort Collins, from the 1880s or 1890s.

By the 1920s, the Avery’s would be in their last years of life and the Edwards’ would have been in their 60s and 70s. Tea had changed very much since the 1880s. Tea quality was standardized by the United States Board of Tea Experts by 1921 and more readily available once the country recovered from the Great War. Tea was more expensive than coffee in the 1920s, which most likely is a result of the Great War and the increase in standardization of quality and importation. Tea rooms were becoming popular in the 1920s as a form of socializing, lounging, and dancing, which was not a business model back in the 1880s. CSU even had its own tearoom called the Domino Tea Room. By the late 1920s, a small trend was emerging among young college ladies who were now considering a career of being a tearoom manager. As Fort Collins grew from being a frontier town into more a cosmopolitan college town, pioneers like the Averys and the Edwards would have seen many great changes and played a part themselves in developing the town into what it is today.

The Rocky Mountain Collegian – CSU Fort Collins, Volume XXXVII, Number 8, November 2, 1927.

If this whets your appetite for a hot cup of tea or more history, come by Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s Café to see a photo gallery of the Avery family and the Edwards family while enjoying our local tea blends from Happy Lucky’s in Fort Collins. The museum also has an archive for anyone wishing to do Colorado-based research in tea or anything at all.

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Register for special programs at the museum

Earth Matters: Rethink the Future is a 5,000 square foot exhibit that takes visitors on an inspirational journey to understand the changes occurring in our natural world and discover how we can rethink solutions for a better future.

In coordination with this new special exhibition, on display September 17 – January 8, 2023, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery will present programming that supports the mission of connecting our communities as we all work to move forward proactively in rethinking our future.

Our special programming includes a range of topics, and we have worked to gear events toward audiences of all ages. Please visit this page and our events calendar to learn about programs and events to join throughout the run of the exhibition.

See Programming

For more information on Earth Matters please visit: www.fcmod.org/earthmatters.

Earth Matters is sponsored by Odell Brewing Co, Hewlett-Packard, and Kaiser Permanente

September 24 | Black-footed Ferret Rediscovery Day | 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Join the celebration of the Rediscovery Day for our black-footed ferrets. Sustainability is an over-arching goal at the museum and our Black-Footed Ferret Rediscovery Day will honor that tradition. The black-footed ferret, once thought extinct, was rediscovered in 1981 in Meeteetse, Wyoming. This turned the conservation world upside down. Fort Collins Natural Areas biologists will also be on site for the September 24 event to tell you how you can visit Soapstone Natural Area to see this amazing species. The event is free for all to attend.

October 8 | You Can Can It! Food Preservation with Amber Webb | 11 a.m. – noon

Amber Webb of the CSU Extension Service will share preservation tips so you can take part in this season’s garden bounty safely and deliciously. Registration is required for this free event.

October 9 | Teen Self-Care Fair | 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Teen Self-Care Fair aims to bring mental health resources to youth through fun, interactive group activities. This year will highlight the connection between mental health and climate grief. Teen Self-Care Fair is a partnership with the museum, Imagine Zero, the Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and Larimer County Behavioral Health Services Impact Fund. Learn more about this event – which will be a Free Day at the museum with the support of LCBHSIF.

October 13 | It’s Not Easy Keeping it Green: Sustainable Turf Management with Dr. Tony Koski | 7 – 8 p.m.

To lawn or not to lawn? The question might not be that simple. Join CSU Turf Science professor Dr. Tony Koski in FCMoD’s OtterBox Digital Dome Theater for an insightful presentation of species and methods for cultivating your own more sustainable lawn. Registration is required and tickets are available as “pay what you can.”

October 15 | W.O.L.F. Sanctuary Presentation | 12 – 2 p.m.

W.O.L.F. Sanctuary is a non-profit Northern Colorado sanctuary that provides help to captive born wolves and wolf dogs. At this gathering, presenters will talk about a new sanctuary and offer everyone a chance to meet a wolf dog. The event is free with museum admission.

October 20 | The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend: Recognizing and Working with Natural Enemies of Insect Pests with Dr. Whitney Crenshaw | 7 – 8 p.m.

Dr. Whitney Crenshaw, from CSU’s Entomology Department, will share his vast knowledge of our area’s smallest inhabitants to help you understand how you can use their natural behaviors to minimize insects’ more destructive impacts on your life and home. Registration is required.

October 22 | Learn Cheesemaking with Rachel Wildman | 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Rachel Wildman, Farmer’s Market Coordinator of CSU’s Extension Service, will demonstrate the ins and out, curds and wheys of delicious cheesemaking in the Learning Lab. Registration is required.

November 5 | Tom Cech in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater | 2 – 3 p.m.

Colorado has been in the most serious drought in 1,200 years, and our growing population is stretching limited water resources. What are the impacts of Colorado water law on this unprecedented period in our state’s history? Tom Cech will provide insight and perspective on these critical issues for the Front Range of Colorado. Cech is the recently-retired director of the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Sustainability at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

November 15 | CSU Bug Zoo | 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Colorado State University (CSU) Bug Zoo will present information at the museum, focusing on their mission to bring a deeper appreciation for arthropods through hands-on learning. CSU Bug Zoo is part of the college’s Agricultural Science Department. The event is free with museum admission.

November 17 | Meet The Raptors | 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will be on site with live raptors and information to share about the animals, their habitat, and conservation efforts. Since 1987, RMRP has served the northern Colorado region through raptor rescue, rehabilitation and research, and conservation education. The event is free with museum admission.

November 17 | Radon: The Health Risks and Solutions with Karen Crumbaker | 7 – 8 p.m.

Join CSU Extension Service Agent in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Karen Crumbaker, in FCMoD’s OtterBox Digital Dome to learn the real impacts of radon exposure and practical measures you can take to protect yourself from its effects. Registration is required.

December 3 | CSU Bug Zoo | 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Colorado State University (CSU) Bug Zoo will present information at the museum, focusing on their mission to bring a deeper appreciation for arthropods through hands-on learning. CSU Bug Zoo is part of the college’s Agricultural Science Department. The event is free with museum admission.

December 10 | Black-footed Ferret Clone Day | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Learn more about our black-footed ferrets, as well as the wonderful birth story of the first-ever cloned BFF Elizabeth Anne as we celebrate the wonders of conservation. The event is free for all to attend.

December 15 | Some Like It Hot: Sun Loving Plants for Your Fort Collins Yard with Alison O’Connor | 7 – 8 p.m.

Blessed with a sun-drenched yard? Join Alison O’Connor of the CSUExtension Service to learn how to make sun-friendly perennial, tree, and shrub choices for a beautiful, more sustainable yard. Registration is required.

This page will be updated as we share more programs.

Find our Earth Matters Press Release.

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Staff Spotlight: Our Museum Preparator, Jenny

Often, it’s hard to quantify what it takes to keep a museum running. As the museum gets ready for a new special exhibition, we wanted to find out. So, without further ado, our great museum preparator, who keeps it all going smoothly.

Hi Jenny. You must be busy with a new special exhibition coming up. So, big question, what has to happen to install a 5,000 square foot exhibit?  

Oh wow! A whole heap of things. The process starts far in advance of the exhibition opening date with contracts, layouts, delivery schedules and the like. Being organized is crucial, a schedule of what needs to happen in the special exhibition space and who will be part of the process is identified. Earth Matters is opening two weeks after Food for Thought closes, which allows for time to take down and store the art photos and moveable walls in the gallery before the semitrucks arrives over the weekend.

Can you tell us a little more about the process?

Once here, the construction of the exhibit begins over the course of a week. There are two people who are traveling with Earth Matters who will guide the process, which is necessary once you see how dismantled and well packed a large exhibit is when it arrives. There is always a bit of heavy lifting, ladders, Gaff tape and zip ties needed for an exhibit and there will most likely be something that needs figured out. The traveling exhibit installs are quite fun to be a part of and give a bit of fresh air to the museum when they arrive. I am looking forward to seeing Earth Matters.  

Take us through what it’s like to be the museum preparator day in and day out. What are some of the fun things that happen?  

Being able to make things, there are standard items that are regularly made like the info pucks or toughening up the trains for the train table. Then we also have one off projects like making slip covers for Funky Forest logs or the felted zoetrope bird wheel on the welcome wall. It is a great combination of projects. I also enjoy working to put together the café exhibits we put on and the large exhibition shows. One of my favorite things I have worked on is the Dia de Muertos alter space. It’s such a beautiful celebration both spiritually and visually. 

The challenging?  

Some of the technology items can be a challenge for me since I have a stronger background in maintenance. Thankfully, we have a good team of folks who are always up for showing me how to fix the myriad of problems that could arise.  

And the most unexpected? 

Kids are always unexpected but what I discovered is that they are paying attention to what you are doing or carrying through the gallery. They are always interested and have questions about something that is being repaired even if they are just asking their parents what I am doing. One time a little boy ran over to tell me “your wrench is cool” as I was passing through and honestly, it is a good pair of channel locks, the kid has good taste. It is constantly surprising what they notice.  

You have the coolest workspace in the museum – the entire workshop! What’s the one tool you couldn’t live without?  

This is actually a tough question because tools change for each task and sure, I have a favorite set of pliers, retractable knives, hex keys, paint brush even pencils. However, having the space to work and having a large work bench is amazing. A large flat surface to suit all projects is fantastic and can be a workshop anomaly, so it is something I greatly appreciate.  

Thanks for the time, Jenny! Have a good week!

You too!

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Changing Animal Names

By Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

There has been a lot in the news the last couple years about renaming mountains, parks, and monuments, acknowledging the history of colonialism and slavery in the U.S. that has become enshrined in everyday names. This rebranding trend has not been limited to bridges or buildings, but has been applied to animals too. 

Biologists use a naming system for newly-described living things called “binomial nomenclature”, which was invented by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century. Each species has a unique two-part name in Latin that links it to other related species. Think Homo sapiens (Human) and Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal). For animals, these scientific names are overseen by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).  

Animals often have a second name, or “common name”, that’s often a little easier to say or remember than the Latin. You may find it easier to remember or talk about the Western meadowlark as it sings in a nearby field, then to call it Sturnella neglecta. Non-specialists often use common names, but they can change for a given species, depending on language and region, and are not overseen in the same way as the scientific names. An animal will have only one Latin name, but could have several common names. 

Much of the early naming of plants, animals, and other organisms happened during times of European colonizing and exploration. The most practical way to name a new animal is to use descriptive terms in both the Latin and Common versions of the name. However, species can and have be named for nearly any impractical reason as well. Many have been named for people, such as the sponsor of a scientific expedition, someone’s spouse, a popular politician. Some animals have even been named as jokes, like the Agra vation beetle. (The entire Agra family of beetles is pretty silly.) There’s also a lot of cultural references, like the beetle Agathidium vaderi, named for a resemblance to Darth Vader’s helmet! 

A lizard native to the western U.S., known as the Common small-blotched lizard, was named for Howard Stansbury in 1852.

As our society evolves to be more inclusive, however, some terms in both common and Latin names for animals are becoming problematic. Species have also been named using language or assumptions that are offensive to us now, often exploiting the knowledge and resources of indigenous people and people of color. Many of the people once considered worth honoring with an animal named for them are now not seen in the same way. A small sample of some of the problems:  

  • A lizard native to the western U.S., known as the Common small-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana, was named for Howard Stansbury in 1852. Stansbury, in addition to being an explorer with the Army Corps of Engineers, also played a role in a massacre of over 100 Timpanagos Native Americans in Utah. 
  • A beetle discovered in 1937 in caves in Slovenia and Italy was named to honor the new German chancellor at the time, and is still known today as the Hitler beetle, Anophthalmus hitleri. This beetle is currently at risk of extinction, due to obsessive collection of specimens by neo-Nazis.  
  • A bird formerly known as the McCown’s longspur (Rhynchophanes mccownii) was named in 1851 in honor of Confederate general John P. McCown. Its common name was changed in 2020 to the Thick-billed longspur (a neutral, descriptive name). (Note that the Latin nomenclature has not been changed, and still enshrines McCown.) 
  • In 2021, the moth Lymantria dispar has been renamed the Spongy moth (referring to what its eggs look like), instead of using the ethnic slur “gypsy”. Given this insect is considered a pest in the U.S., using a neutral name rather than a slur makes discussion of eradication of the insect less associated with the discrimination and genocide experienced through history by the Romani people. 
  • The invasive hornet Vespa mandarinia, when it first appeared in the U.S. in 2019, became commonly dubbed the “Asian Giant Hornet” as well as the “Murder hornet” in the media. While it is native to parts of Asia, the fears about this hornet fed into xenophobic, anti-Asian sentiments (as well as general fear and indiscriminate slaughter of hornets, bees, and similar insects). In July of 2022, the Entomological Society of America renamed this animal the Northern giant hornet.  
A Thick-billed Longspur on the plains of Colorado

There are many more examples of animals bearing names that are hurtful. While it is no small challenge to identify all the common and Latin names that should be changed, to come up with alternative names, and to implement all the changes, doing so would be a way to welcome minority groups into a love of wildlife. By taking on this project, the scientific world could be more accurate in how we describe the animals around us, using names that are descriptive of an organism’s appearance, behavior, preferred habitat, or some unique characteristic. Naming an organism after another person (especially someone objectively horrible like Hitler) or using insulting or inaccurate words tells us much more about the person doing the naming than it does about the organism itself. The language we use to describe the living world around us should build a better, more inclusive community. 

Learn more about animal names and some re-naming efforts in the U.S.: 

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Robert Dash’s photomontages are simply stunning

Food For Thought incredibly combines art and sustainability in a picturesque way, capturing the patterns of our world and food systems. Here are some highlights from the exhibition, which ended September 4.

Information about each image, left to right:

Top:

*50 million years ago, Azolla grew in such huge quantities that it is credited with removing half of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This recent discovery has inspired new efforts to promote the planting of this floating fern as a method of capturing carbon.

*The decline of bees worldwide is well-documented, as is the threat to crops that rely on them for
pollination. Little known is that natural mycelial extracts are being developed which boost bee
immunity. Mycologist Paul Stamets says, “Mycelium is the immune system of the mushroom.”

*This image in inspired by the 1968 Earthrise photo taken from space by William Anders. That iconic image launched the environmental movements decades ago. Today, agriculture is both the source and potential healer of the climate crisis. Blueberries in Michigan are being impacted by seasonal shifts which bring new pests, harsh weather, and fewer pollinators.

Middle:

*Buckwheat is an excellent source of plant-based protein. When used as a cover crop, buckwheat
reduces the need for fertilizer, captures carbon, and helps soil hold water.

*Ironically, some large farm organic practices, producing kale and other popular foods, create more GHG than does conventional agriculture.

*Lace lichen has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes; it has antibacterial properties. Lichens are an indicator of clean air, and lace lichen doesn’t thrive where there are significant levels of pollution. It has been impacted by wildfires caused by drought; researchers have found it failing to return to burn sites even ten years after a fire.

Bottom:

*Fungal/mycelial networks are indispensable for creating healthy soil, optimum conditions for plant growth, and remarkably: rain. Trillions of fungal spoors released into the air act as rain seeds, which create clouds.

*Globally, insect populations are under stress. Researchers have named “nutrient dilution hypothesis” as another possible factor for impacting insects. Increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 cause plants to bulk up on carbon, which leads to reduced nutrients.

All images courtesy Robert Dash.

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The Neuroscience of Cooperation   

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Assistant

The Neuroscience of Cooperation     

Back in May 2020 we posted a blog called “The Neuroscience of Discovery.” Based on observations from The Brain in Context (by J.D. Moreno and J. Schulkin), that blog highlighted – in scientific terms – how our brains are wired for discovery and exploration. 

Turns out that our brains are also wired for cooperation and empathy. Here are a few excerpts from the book

  • “Perceiving another’s misfortune, their psychic or literal pain, requires a wide array of both cortical and sub cortical tissue.” (p 53-4)   
  • “Human evolution, like our cultural development, is marked by many neural/cognitive events, but social capabilities [are involved in] most of them.” (p 183)   
  •  “Cooperation is as critical as competition [in science], because we need to learn from one another and to develop new ideas.” (p 192)  

So, what does this mean to you and me? 

It means that humans evolved through expression of social behaviors, and through the integration of those behaviors within the very functioning of our brain.   

It means that adapting socially, and being good at interacting with others, is at the heart of our evolution as a species. 

It means that “although we may think of ourselves as individuals, the truth is that we are designed to work together, revealing our evolutionary drive toward social cooperation and our neurodevelopmental proclivity toward shared decision-making.” (Moreno and Schulkin p 199) 
 
It means that we are wired to cooperate, and to work at understanding each other.   
 
(If you want to learn more about recent developments in neuroscience, here’s a link to The Brain in Context: A Pragmatic Guide to Neuroscience by Jonathan D. Moreno and Jay Schulkin)

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Get to Know our Animal Encounters with Alexa

If you’ve checked out our Animal Encounters Zone recently, you’ll have come across a vibrant tribe of animals of all sorts. From bees to snakes to local fish and turtles, it’s a fun spot with members of the animal kingdom. Now, every fourth Saturday from 10 to noon, the Animal Encounters team will be leading special programming in the museum.

Let’s catch up with Alexa, who makes the whole thing shine!

Hi Alexa!  You do such a great job with our Animal Encounters department! Might be a silly question, but how are the animals doing?

Thank you! The animals are doing great right now!

For those who haven’t visited Animal Encounters recently, can you give us a broad overview of what we can see and learn there and what it takes to keep such a vibrant part of our museum functioning?

In the Animal Encounters Zone at FCMoD, our visitors can see a pretty wide variety of animals from all over the world! We have a lot of arthropods – like the Emperor scorpion, the Chilean rose tarantula, and the Blue death-feigning beetles. We also have several amphibians, including the official Colorado state amphibian, the Tiger Salamander. There are some reptiles, like our Ball python, “Slinky,” and our Ornate box turtle, “Tara.” We have a big tank full of native Colorado fishes. And we have the ever-inquisitive, ever-adorable rats.

All of our animals require daily husbandry care to make sure that they are healthy. Each kind of animal requires different care though – when and what they eat, what kind of cleaning is necessary, common health problems to watch for, what kind of activities they need to keep alert and engaged. Our Animal Encounters staff needs to know about each animal’s native environment and diet, so we can replicate it in the tanks at the museum. We also need to know what kind of behavior to expect for each animal, so we can spot when they don’t feel well. The animal care all takes place before the museum opens, and happens every day of the year – even Christmas!

Almost all of the animals that we have at FCMOD are available through commercial pet trade. (The primary exception being the native fish, which require permitting.) If you are considering getting an unusual pet but don’t know how to take care of it, you can always visit the museum to check out our setup to keep the animals healthy and happy.

You all just recently started up with “Meet the Animals” programming. Can you tell our visitors a little more about that and what makes our animals so cool to meet?

We are now hosting a Meet the Animals program from 10 a.m. to noon on the fourth Saturday of every month! At each MTA, staff will have some of the museum’s animals out of their tanks so you can see them close up. Some of them you can even pet! Have you ever wondered what the Leopard gecko’s skin feels like? Now you can find out for yourself!

One of my favorite parts of MTA is that not only do you meet the animal – the animal meets you too! When you get to see one of our rats close up without the tank glass between you, you can see how she wiggles her whiskers and sniffs her nose to figure out what kind of person you are.

How does working with animals like this fit into your background and passions?

I have always been interested in all the living things around me! My parents supported me with some more unusual pets as I was growing up – including a couple Ball pythons (just like Slinky!) and a pet Black widow spider. As an adult, I love traveling to new places and seeing what kind of animals have adapted to live there. I recently got to see sea otters and Coastal brown bears in Alaska. (So cool!)

I have spent a lot of time volunteering with different organizations to take care of animals and improve the human-animal relationship, including the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program and the Clearwater Nature Center. I enjoy learning about new animals, their native environment, and the challenges that they face. And I am glad to share what I learn – once you see how adorable a Tiger salamander is (just check out his googly eyes and his smile!), and then learn how susceptible they are to water pollution, won’t you be more careful about what gets into the water supply?

What does it take to keep animals enriched and happy? Take us a little bit behind the scenes.

Do you ever get bored? No project to work on, no book to read, no TV show to watch? The animals can get bored too. We provide something called enrichment to our animals, where we offer things to make each animal more engaged and curious. For a rat, for example, that could be a puzzle where they have to figure out how to find the kibble inside. For the gecko, it could mean offering a new material in his tank, like dirt or wet moss. Having something new to explore keeps the animals mentally healthy and rewarded.

I think this is an important thing for any animal to have, so I even offer enrichment to my pet cats at home! I like to hide kibble around the house for them to find, or put it in puzzles that they have to figure out. Cats and dogs both respond really well to learning new games (and getting treats in the process), so you might try it at home with your furry friend.

The beehive is going gangbusters I hear! Who are we working with there and how do they do such a good job?

The museum has a partnership with Copoco’s Honey, a local beekeeping and honey company in Fort Collins. Beekeepers from Copoco’s regularly visit the museum to check on how the bees are doing. They like to look at how the bees are behaving (or should I say, bee-having?), for anything in the hive that might need fixing, and for any signs of illness in the bees. They always look for the queen bee to make sure she’s still healthy, and for all stages of life for the thousands of worker bees (egg, larva, pupa, and adult). I am not a professional beekeeper, but I love getting to watch and help out when they go over the hive. The last time they were here, I got to see some brand new adult bees chewing their way out of their cells!

You also partner with the American Fisheries Society. Can you tell us more about that rewarding work?

The American Fisheries Society is a student club at CSU for college students interested in fish and other aquatic life and activities. The AFS provides FCMOD with all of our native Poudre River watershed fishes. Going out in the river and sampling (collecting live fishes) is a great experience for these students as they work on becoming fisheries professionals.

Do you love all the animals equally, or do you have a favorite and why? Mine is the python!

My favorite animal is always the one I am working with at the moment! However, I am especially partial to the White’s tree frogs, the Fancy rats, and the Ornate box turtle. They are all extra-good at being memorably adorable.

Thanks! Is there anything I should add or I left out?

For those of you wondering about my grammar in using “fishes” as a plural instead of “fish,” there is a difference! “Fish” is used when you have many individual fish of one species. “Fishes” is used for multiple individual fish from a variety of species.

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Special Screening: The Ants & The Grasshopper

Presented by Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and in collaboration with ACT Human Rights Film Festival, join us at the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater for the documentary The Ants & the Grasshopper. Winner of multiple awards and an official selection at film festivals across North America, The Ants & the Grasshopper follows the story of Anita Chitaya, who travels from Malawi to the United States. With her, she brings experiences from her homeland, including living with extreme weather, inequality, and child hunger. She is on a quest to persuade Americans that these issues are real and can be solved.

Tickets are available as Pay What You Can. We will host two showings. 

While at the showing, be sure to visit our special exhibit, FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Micro Views of Sustenance: Threats and Prospects. It is on view in our Woodward Special Exhibition Gallery.

Order a ticket for the 11 a.m. showing

Order a ticket for the 2 p.m. showing

The Ants & the Grasshopper is directed by Raj Patel and Zak Piper and has a runtime of one hour and 14 minutes.

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A Sneak Preview of our August 10 Women’s History Event

By Lesley Struc – Curator of the Archive

We are so excited that, for the first time since 2019, we will be hosting our annual Women’s History presentation live in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Join us on the evening of Wednesday, August 10 from 7:00-8:30pm to learn about these fascinating Fort Collins women through Museum collections, archival images, and more. Get inspired!

A black and white photograph of Mary Ault. She was part of the Betsy Ross Flying Corps, a pre-WWII organization of female pilots formed to support the Army Air Corps by flying ambulance, transport, and passenger planes during emergencies.

Mary Ault was born in 1911, grew up in Fort Collins and began flying at age 19, when only 117 American women had earned a pilot’s license. In March 1931 she became the first licensed female pilot from Fort Collins. Mary became a member of the Betsy Ross Flying Corps, a pre-WWII organization of female pilots formed to support the Army Air Corps. When tragedy struck in 1945, Mary’s life took an unexpected — and personally meaningful – direction. In Mary’s own words, seen on the National Air and Space Museum’s Wall of Honor, “I didn’t make a career of it but never lost my love for flying

Adrienne Jean Roucolle hailed from France and arrived in the Fort Collins area with her family circa 1888 when she was about 13 years old. She lived near the present-day intersection of North Shields Street and Highway 287 at a home the locals called “Lafayette’s Place,” a cottage surrounded by gardens and fruit orchards. A long illness by her little sister Marie Antoinette inspired Adrienne to concoct wondrous stories to entertain and enchant her sibling; these fairy tales were gathered and published in 1898 into her first book – The Kingdom of the Good Fairies. She went on to write several more books, plays, and newspaper serials, that celebrated adventure, fantasy, and romance. 

Belva Williams Cahill in about 1923. She was the wife of Fort Collins, Colorado businessman John Barry Cahill.

Belva Williams Cahill, born 1896, moved to Fort Collins with her family when she was a young woman. She lived with her parents until she got married to JB Cahill in 1921. The Cahills had two daughters, Shirley and Beverly. The typical life of a wife and mother can be hard to trace in an archive, but the snapshots of Belva’s life help answer the question of who around Fort Collins. Who worked at Wolfer’s grocery store? Who got their hair done at Varra’s Beauty Salon? Belva Cahill.

Frances Withers Bigelow was born on March 15, 1913, in Denver, Colorado.  Women ministers seem commonplace now, but when she was ordained in 1958, she was one of the first six ordained women in the Methodist Church nationwide. From 1973-1977 Frances W. Bigelow served as the Associate Minister at the First United Methodist Church in Fort Collins.  Even after she retired, Frances led church services as needed.  Leading churches in Colorado and Wyoming was only part of Frances’ legacy.  In Fort Collins, she was instrumental in the planning of Elderhaus and the first substance abuse center in the city. 

Object collections like the Historical Artifact Collection at FCMoD often harbor insights into the lives of people who are not well represented in the written record. Teasing out these stories, however, can be tricky. Join Collections Curator Linda Moore as she shares the stories of local women that are contained within FCMoD’s collection of objects. These women include a surprising number of artists, as well as adventurers, educators, and community activists.

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