Museum Musings

A Toothy Adventure

The alligator tank in Fernbank NatureQuest is cleaned once a week, usually on Sunday. During this process, the alligators are put into individual containers for safe-keeping. The tank is drained and scrubbed and refilled with fresh water, just in time for Museum guests to arrive.

In anticipation of the upcoming "alligator swap," Animal Programs Manager Lynn A., decided to use this opportunity to weigh and measure the alligators. Here are few photos of this process.

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Animal Programs Manager, Lynn A. places one of the alligators inside a different plastic container sitting on a scale.

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The lid is closed and staff waits for the alligator to settle down a bit to get a more accurate reading. (The weight of the plastic container is subtracted from the total.)

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And now, it's time to measure length! This is the smallest of the three. It measured 25" and weighed 1.5lbs.

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This one's the medium of the bunch. It measured 26" and weighed 1.6lbs.

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And finally, for the largest of the trio, measuring 26" and weighing 1.7lbs.

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One last look, then the alligators were put back in their tank.

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OH NO! One of them got loose! Just kidding…

Be sure to visit these alligators before they leave on September 9. Want to have your own behind-the-scenes experience? Enter to win an Alligator Encounter!  

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:37

Educating—The Animal Way!

claire 2 (3).jpgMy summer has been filled with snakes, lizards and turtles, Oh MY!  As an animal programs intern for the special exhibition The Scoop on Poop, I have been learning and educating every day!  At the beginning of the internship, I didn’t realize Fernbank Museum had so many live animals. I also didn’t really know ‘how’ to handle a snake or lizard. After training with Fernbank’s animal keeper staff, I’ve been able to lead presentations with the live animals and handle them as we educate guests about animal conservation.

At Fernbank we have a live animal collection consisting of a mammal, some amphibians and mostly reptiles. During the first few weeks of the internship, I quickly warmed up to the smaller snakes in the animal collection. There are larger snakes I’m still getting to know such as the Ball python, Felix, who has a fierce look to him. Before becoming an intern I didn’t know much about snakes but after being around the animals I have learned a lot about them. For example, I now know that there are no python species native to North America.

Education is crucial, especially with reptiles. There are many things people may not realize about reptiles that are important to understanding them. This is one of the many reasons I have loved my time as an intern. Not only do I get to educate guest about the great things these animals have to show us, but I also get to spend personal time with them, meaning…I get to scoop their poop! Although it can sometimes be a dirty job, I thoroughly enjoy performing daily animal care tasks such as preparing salads for the lizards and turtles, collecting shed skin from an enclosure and feeding the amphibians their favorite food--bugs.

While animal care is an important part of my day, I always look forward to taking the animals out for a program. Despite my initial reaction to his menacing looks, I have quickly formed a bond with Felix and I always enjoy sharing him with guests. He is my go-to guy for animal encounters and he always puts on a good show!  When you next visit the Museum, you may even see Felix during a Live Animal Encounter!   

Editor’s note: Check the “Today at Fernbank” sign when you arrive to see a schedule of events like Animal Encounters.)

Claire Brummeler—The Scoop on Poop Animal Programs Intern

Written by Fernbank Museum at 16:20

The Scoop on Interning

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This summer has been the most exciting summer of my life. Why? Because I am an intern at Fernbank Museum of Natural History! The Museum offers a variety of diverse internship opportunities. Interns can gain valuable experience in everything from marketing to botany and even animal husbandry. As an animal programs intern I help care for the animal collection at the Museum. Tasks such as giving a boa a bath, feeding a skink a salad and cleaning up after a slippery salamander are all in a day’s work at Fernbank. But my favorite part of my internship is sharing the animals with the public through daily Animal Encounters.

Currently the museum is home to the special exhibit The Scoop on Poop. I never imagined the word “poop” would be present on my resume. But there it is sandwiched between the words scoop and intern! When working with animals there is always plenty of it to deal with. But don’t worry, you won’t have to clean up any when you visit the exhibit, that’s my job!  As an intern. my knowledge of this sometimes icky but always interesting topic has improved considerably. Did you know that petrified ancient poop is called a coprolite? This is just one of many interesting facts you will learn when you visit this summer.

The Museum is a great place to escape the heat. Make sure to check out a schedule of the daily activities so you can plan to stop by an animal encounter to meet a furry, scaly or slimy new friend. Hope to see you soon at the Museum!

—Kate Donlon, Education Programs Intern

Written by Fernbank Museum at 08:58

Fernbank Museum’s Great Outdoors!

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There’s more to Fernbank Museum than you see inside the building. As one of Fernbank Museum’s summer UrbanWatch interns, I have been a part of restoring the woodlands behind the Museum, extracting invasive species and identifying plant species while improving Fernbank’s herbarium.

Before I started this internship, I could barely identify a hydrangea, but after training with the museum’s biologists and educators I now lead Nature Walks, pointing out vines, shrubs, trees and grasses. My biggest accomplishment of the UrbanWatch internship has been learning about the native and invasive plants in the Piedmont region of Georgia and their effects on our environment.

By getting my hands dirty, and actively removing invasive plants from the forest, I have been able to see areas where native plants have recovered into healthy plants after an invasive plant was removed from its space. At one point, a patch of monkey grass was consuming one of our native Trillium plants. After we removed the invasive monkey grass, the Trillium rebounded and we could really see how the invasive plant has been harmful to the native species. This project has shown me that even the little weeding I have done has made a difference in the forest! Once I understood how important this is for our environment, I started telling my friends and neighbors about the effects of invasive species, and I know this is how to make a difference. It’s great to finally feel like what I’m doing is helping protect our planet.

Marissa leading walk.JPGNature Walks are also very interesting parts of my experience as an UrbanWatch intern. While guiding children and their parents through the forest, and explaining the importance of it to them, I know I am sharing some outlook on environmental conservation, which has been one of the top goals for my environmental career. During the walks, I feel like it’s so exciting to see families interested in nature and learning new things about their own environment. The guests leave the walks with new understanding of what they could be doing at their own home and why it’s truly necessary. As an Environmental Science major in college, I know that leading these walks and touching on aspects of environmental education is one of the best ways I can promote conservation.

Learn more about Fernbank Museum’s Nature Walks and other outdoor activities.  

—Marissa Carvalho, Summer 2012 UrbanWatch Intern

Written by Fernbank Museum at 15:47

Lessons from a Five-Year-Old

Children can teach you a lot about life.

This is something I’ve often heard, but it wasn’t until recently that I witnessed first-hand the truth of this statement.

Two weeks ago, I was given the task of going to Fernbank’s Summer Camp, in order to get some ideas for possible blog posts. I was excited for the opportunity to hang out with the kids and experience the Museum from their point of view. I arrived at camp prepared to face the random questions and non-stop energy that typically accompanies 20 rowdy five-year-olds.Camp Trail.JPG

I was scheduled to join the campers as they were taking a Nature Walk. I had never been on a walk, so I stopped to ask a member of the staff how I should go about finding my group. He smiled, pointed me towards the entrance and said, “Just follow the trail. I’m sure you’ll hear them before you see them.”

He couldn’t have been more correct. Within minutes of passing through the gate, my ears picked up on the symphony of tiny voices that were waiting for me around the corner. I approached my group of fellow campers, and before introductions were even made, I had a new friend at my side. She grasped my hand, stated her name, and began her interrogation. I was asked if I liked boys, how old I was and why I was there. When she was satisfied with my answers, she smiled and began telling me about herself in return.

As we continued on our Nature Walk, the other children soon realized there was a newcomer in their presence. Knowing that I had arrived late, they each took it upon themselves to catch me up on all that I’d missed. They told me about what they had done earlier in the day, and all of the things they had learned on the Nature Walk prior to my arrival.

Camp Leaf.JPGThe kids spent the remainder of the day learning about the natural world through various games and activities. Each new activity was met with genuine excitement from the gaggle of small children. It wasn’t until blood-sugars dropped and lunchtime approached that their enthusiasm declined.

As I sat with the kids at lunch, I began to re-evaluate my initial belief about the behavior of five-year-olds. The day had gone exactly as I had predicted. The barrage of questions from the campers was never ending, their attention spans didn’t lengthen, and their energy levels never declined.

Yet, I found myself realizing something had occurred that I didn’t expect. I had learned a lot from these kids in the short time that I had been with them. The children at summer camp questioned everything, because they had a never-ending desire to learn. They wanted answers to the things they didn’t understand. I then compared myself to these kids. At 22, I still ask questions and wish to learn new things, but not nearly as often or as passionately as my fellow campers.

It took a group of brilliant five-year-olds to knock some sense into me. Since camp, I’ve decided to approach life more like my young comrades. They welcomed me warmly, trusted me as a friend, and reminded me that imagination and learning do not end with youth.

—Sam Marks, Communications and Marketing Intern

Written by Fernbank Museum at 16:26
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!