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Another Chapter Ends

As I sit here pondering, what to write my last blog post about, I really have no clue. I could write about my amazing experiences seeing endangered species, the groundbreaking research with conservation that goes on here, or even the amazing people I have encountered. But I feel like that doesn’t do any of it justice, people need to see how I talk, my reactions, and my enthusiasm to really understand my admiration and urge to come back to SCBI someday. I hope the welcome mat is always out  for me.

Honestly, when I was selected for this internship I was a little worried. I have had the most amazing bosses in my past work experiences. From my grandparents and parents being my first (and I think toughest…?) employers at their greenhouse/nursery agribusiness, all the way to my college employment working as a restaurant mixologist   and Science in Motion lab preparer. My supervisor, Laura and Sue (my unofficial supervisor) have been MORE then wonderful. I wish I could write something to do them justice, for all they do with FONZ and SCBI, but I just can’t. They are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my life and I know I will see them both again. There is this award called “The Golden Gnome,” which goes to a FONZ employee who goes above and beyond, without being recognized for it. Well after my 3 months here, FONZ at SCBI would not function without these two lovely ladies. SO if it were up to me they would get an entire yard of gnomes. Also to Laura’s next intern, get used to Pitbull, Zumba, and Froyo, you can’t have an awesome experience without them.

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To all the people I met along the way; the dorm family, vehicle and carpenters shops’, SCBI staff, NZP police, FONZ staff, interns, keepers, and our Frisbee team, I doubt I’ll ever meet anyone that will measure up to this new SCBI family and I don’t think I want to try. The memories, experience, and knowledge I have gained here will help me in whatever I choose to do and I know all of these people will support me along the way.

Currently, I am having these strange feeling about leaving, my life this past year has been a whirlwind, with so many highs and so few lows. I don’t want to go but I know I have to… If it weren’t for the support I got from my family, friends, Juniata, and scholarship foundations I know I wouldn’t be here, so THANK YOU again!

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They always say the grass is greener on the other side, well I don’t know about that, I made my grass pretty green. I’m loving life and it’s loving me back.

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Winding Down….

I finish my internship and leave Front Royal in just 7 days! My time here has been amazing and I don’t want to leave! This past week has been much like all the rest, I prepared for the campout, lead the campout, and lead activities for the nature camp. This weeks’ campout was Clouded Leopards and Maned Wolves.

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I have gone over all the animals we have here at SCBI except the Black Footed Ferrets, Red Pandas, and Bison. The black footed ferret campout got canceled and because of how reproductively sensitive IMG_5424the red pandas are, there aren’t usually campouts where people can see them. The bison we have are retired from the zoo and reproduction, so they just send their time hanging out in the fields and relaxing (rough life!).

The Black Footed Ferrets (BFF) are quite the success story here, this year is the 25 Year Anniversary that they have been breeding at SCBI. BFF were thought to be extinct in the wild in 1979 until Shep, a ranch dog, brought one back to his owner. BFF mainly feed of Prairie Dogs, with the decimation of thoseIMG_5359 populations in the 70’s the BFF lost much of their food sources. Researchers found the last isolated population of about 129 individuals. Scientists let them be but plague attacked the population leaving only 18.  They were then all captured and brought into captive breeding. From there ferrets have been breeding in captivity and being reintroducing into their history ranges since 1991. Of course the story is much more complicated and scientists and researchers struggled for years, but this just goes to show if you just keep trying things do get better! Today there are about 1,300 individuals in the wild.

IMG_5376As for Red Pandas, they are classified as endangered with approximately 10,000 individuals in the wild. Although they are called “pandas” they are more closely related to raccoons then the giant panda. Also they were discovered before the giant panda, which most people don’t know. There are two subspecies of red pandas, one is found in Nepal and parts of India while the other is found in southern China and northern Mayanmar. Lastly, the bison! There are 30,000 left in the wild according to the IUCN’s Red List. They were almost extinct, as most people, know due to massive amounts of hunting. Today IMG_4671some of their major threats include habitat loss and genetic manipulation of commercial bison.

So, those are all the animals we have on site! I have been lucky enough to see all of the (expect the Hooded Crane, which I am going to see next week!). It’s so hard to believe that summer is almost over and I will be heading back to Juniata in just 2 weeks!

DSC_0488Anne, our P-Horse, gave birth as I said to a healthy female! Here is all the information and press release about it! I am so glad I was involved with this awesome experience!

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI/ReproductiveScience/WildEquids/default.cfm

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Day 56

Anne foaled!! She gave birth to a healthy baby!! The first successful artificial insemination in P-Horses and I was there to witness it! This is super exciting for all IMG_5422of us at SCBI and in the science community, so once we find out the sex and name it I will let you all know!
Also this weekend I was back to the campout grind stone. This campout was Clouded Leopards and Birds. Clouded leopards are one of the most elusive cats in the world. They are mostly found in Thailand and in the foothills of the Himalayas. There are only 10,000 individuals left in the wild. The clouded leopards demise is mostly due to poaching for their beautiful pelts and medicinal purposes.
We were able to see most of the birds on site which included the Northern Brown IMG_5459Kiwi, Micronesian Kingfisher, Guam Rail, and Loggerhead Shrike. In the previous bird campout we saw some of these guys along with the Mariana Crow and Bali Mynah. The Northern brown kiwi, like all kiwis, are found in New Zealand. There are approximately 24,000 individuals still in the wild. These flightless animals act more like mammals then birds. Their feathers look more like fur because they do not have ridges that join them together. They also have a great sense of smell and IMG_5451poor eye sight which is the complete opposite of most other birds. Another interesting thing about kiwis is that their eggs take up 20% of their weight (seen below right). That is the same as a 120 pound human giving birth to a 24 pound baby!
The Micronesian Kingfisher is regionally extinct in the wild in Guam. There are only about 130 birds in captivity. Their decline, like many animals in Guam, is due to the introduced brown tree snake. Clint, our only Mariana Crow, is also native to Guam. There are an estimated 50-250 individuals on Rota (an island near Guam) but all are thought toIMG_5440 be extinct on Guam, again because of the brown tree snake. The last bird species we have here from Guam is the flightless Guam Rail. They have been extinct in the wild since 1987 due to the brown tree snake. Predation by feral cats was also responsible for failed reintroduction attempt.
The Bali Mynah is listed at critically endangered with an estimated population of IMG_532365 adults and 62 young, while 1,000 individuals are survived in captivity. Bali mynah are endemic to the island of Bali, Indonesia. The last birds we saw on the tour were the Loggerhead Shrikes. Although they are listed as least concern on a national level they are engendered in Maryland and Virginia. They are native to Canada, Mexico, and the United States and their decline is due to habitat fragmentation.
The FONZ Camp is going along smoothly, I taught the same classes as last week.IMG_5567 I am having an awesome time teaching and leading the campouts, I don’t want summer to end!
A group of interns and myself went to a local attraction called Dinosaur Land. It was so cool! There are over 50 replicas, we had too much fun taking pictures will all of them, here are a few! 
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July 15-21

Talk about a HOT HOT HOT week down here in Front Royal, average temperature was 93 with a pretty high humidity percent. None the less IMG_5203everyone and every animal made it though. Anne the P-Horse that myself, other interns, and keepers have been monitoring still has not given birth but tonight could be the night with the full moon and storm front coming in.

It was my last weekend off of campouts, so now I have 3 more campouts then I am school/home bound! My time here has truly flown! Two days this past IMG_4828week I led activities about cranes and cheetahs. Our FONZ campers got keeper lead tours of hoofstock, cranes, and cheetah. For the cranes activity campers tracked the winter migration of four cranes that had GPS monitors. This activity was successful because kids got to see how far cranes can travel and where their habitat ranges are. In the cheetahs activity campers looked different enlarged hair samples which were collected from cheetah scat. From there they could determine what the cheetah ate. In Namibia, Africa, cheetahs are seen as pests and farmers often trap and kill them. The CCF (CheetahIMG_5200 Conservation Fund) works over there with landowners doing research like this to determine what the cheetahs actually ate. They also educate people on how a top predator is vital to such a fragile ecosystem. Overall, both activities were successful and I hope campers learned a lot!

I have already talked about the hoofstock animals we have here and the cheetahs but as for the cranes, we have three species at SCBI, the White-Naped (below left), Red-Crowned (above right), and Hooded. All three species breed in areas of northern China and southern Russian while their overwintering grounds are in parts of Japan and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. IMG_5194Cranes are found on all continents except South American and Antarctica. There are approximatly 2,700 individual Red-Crowned Cranes, 6,500 White-Naped, and 9,000 Hooded.  Red-Crowned Cranes are the second rarest cranes only being the Whooping. Cranes can fly 200-300 miles a day, but are opportunistic flyers. Most cranes average between 6 and 12 pounds but the Red-Crowned are about 26 lbs, the largest of all cranes. Because of their light weight they thrive in the demilitarized zone, they do not weigh enough to set off the land mines while other animals would.

At SCBI we have a White-Naped Crane, Walnut, who is imprinted on humans. This means she acts like a crane and knows she is one but has little to no  natural crane instinct. Because of this she cannot breed naturally, before she IMG_5192came here she was paired with two other males which she allegedly killed. Fortunately, she has taken a liking to her keeper, Chris, and believes he is her mate. With this strike of good luck Chris can actually artificially inseminate her without any anesthesia or sedatives (which can sometimes be harmful to the crane). I’m sure that wasn’t in the job description but SCBI employees are always going above and beyond for the greater good of a species!

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FONZ Nature Camp

It has been an exciting week for Hoofstock here! For the past seven years IMG_5114scientists here have been preparing and training the P-Horses for artificial insemination. P-Horses are not domesticated so it has been a long process. In the spring Hoofstock keepers and scientists successfully artificially inseminated two of the mares here. The first horse gave birth about four weeks ago but there were complications with the foaling and the baby was lost. Because of that and this being the first successful insemination for the past week there has been 24-hour surveillance on Anne, our mom to be. The first full night was Monday and no one could cover the shift on such sort notice I ended up pulling an all nighter.  The keeper IMG_5117did come for a few hours but had been coming in for 30-minute stretches for the past two nights so I told her she should go home and get some sleep. Needless to say I worked from 8pm until 6am, I am so thankful my supervisor is amazing and let me come in late! That was the longest shift I had to pull, now I am pretty much on the 10pm-1am shift (I’m actually here now!). During the shifts we sit in a van outside the enclosure with three video monitors and just watch Anne. If she were to go into labor we would contact the vets and keepers. It is pretty awesome to be involved in this process and experiment.

This week was also the first week of FONZ (Friend Of the National Zoo)IMG_5159 Nature Camp. As I said before I helped plan and coordinate activities for this camp. Fifth and sixth grades were here seeing the facility, hiking, doing activities, and talking with keepers and scientists. Wednesday I lead the afternoon activity, which was a blast! I loved working with the kids and teaching them about animal enrichment. Animal enrichment by the way is what zoos use for the animals to help them keep some of their IMG_5162wild instincts. There are many different types of enrichment including food foraging, predator/prey systems, and enrichment for fun. I am excited for this week because I think I will get to teach more!

On Thursday the BRWC (Blue Ridge Wildlife Center) came to talk about what they do and brought some education animals. BRWC is an organization that focuses on reintroduction of Virginia native animals that have been injured or hurt. About 2000 animals go through BRWC a year with about 400-600 individuals at a time during the summer, which is their busy season. IMG_5150The first animal campers were shown was a skunk. An interesting thing I learned was that Great Horned Owls actually eat skunks. They are pretty much the only animals that can take down skunks because they have no sense of smell. There was also a Screech Owl, Wood Turtle, Red Shouldered Hawk, and Flying Squirrel. I had never seen a Flying Squirrel before and didn’t know they were native to Virginia. These flying squirrels are arboreal nocturnal mammals, which are often confused with the IMG_5148Sugar Glider, a marsupial flying squirrel from Australia. Overall, I think I learned just as much as the campers this week!

I will keep everyone updated with Anne, the P-Horse, hopefully we will be making history!

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Wolves and Endocrine Lab!

Right back into the swing of things this week! I prepared for the Maned WolvesIMG_5098 and Endocrine Lab campout, which I am getting pretty good (and efficient!) at after the fourth time! This campout was adult only so keepers and scientists were able to go more in-depth on conservation and reproductive genetics.

IMG_5092The Maned Wolves, commonly nicknames foxes on stilts, are mostly found in southeastern Brazil with some as far as Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, and northern Argentina. Here at SCBI we have 15 wolves which is the largest number in captivity. They are listed as near threatened with about 23,600 individuals still in the wild. Although they are called wolves these guys do not fall into the same category as the other wolves, they are a category all on their own. Maned Wolves are actually omnivores unlike most other wolves which are carnivores. In the wild most of their diet consists of a tomato-like lobeira fruit along with a variety of other fruits, this along with small mammals and arthropods makes their diet very unique.

The endocrine lab is where SCBI processes feces and urine to track hormonalIMG_5099 changes and stress levels. Although this method takes longer to get results, it is much less invasive and can be done daily. The endocrine lab is vital for both here and the National Zoo to track hormonal changes and plan the right times to artificially inseminate (if need be). Animals like the Giant Panda and the Asian Elephant have about a three day window of when they IMG_5100can get pregnant. As you can tell it is super important to be able to track these times. Because of the endocrine lab, and faithful interns that process all the feces and urine, there have been many successful natural and artificial insemination.

Also this week I worked with the camp counselors hiking and getting readying IMG_5084for the FONZ (Friends Of the National Zoo) overnight camp. We hiked in the Shenandoah National Park and part of the Application Trail as practice for when the campers come. The campers actually arrive today, it should be a fun filled week leading and assisting on activities!

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Banding, Camp, and DC

???????????????Talk about a busy week! This was my first weekend off, so I didn’t have to spend the week preparing for the campout (which was a nice change ofIMG_4846 pace). My week kicked off with banding Purple Martins. We had lost some nestlings because a snake got in the nest box but we still had enough to band. The banding process was pretty easy, there were 10 of us so we had IMG_4857people that took the birds out of the boxes, runners, a weigher, and banders. I helped the people banding by reading the numbers on the bands and loading them into the clamps. It was really fun and we got all of the nestlings banded in about 3 hours. Each bird gets two bands, one is orange and is the federal band, the other is purple which is the state band.IMG_4920

This week I also helped out with the day camp. The camp is for 5-8 graders and they spend the day here hiking, doing activities, and getting lectures from researchers. I IMG_4908helped three days, in which I gave a tour of the facility, lead an activity about stream macroinvertebrates, and supervised a group during the geo-cash game. It was super fun working the day camp and some of them even wrote me thank you notes!!IMG_4888

Thursday I went to the National Zoo in DC to pick up vans for the overnight camp that coming up. The other people I went with had to sit in an orientation meeting so during that time I got to walk around the zoo. It was the first time I had IMG_4946even been there and it was awesome! I only had a few hours so I didn’t get to see everything, looks like I will have to make another trip back! While there the group of us got a behind the scenes tour of the Reptile IMG_4947House which was phenomenal. It was nice to see what the public sees but even been to see what research is going on.

IMG_4993I had a half day Friday (much needed after such a busy week) and a friend from Juniata came to visit! We had a blast getting sushi, bowling with all the interns, and traveling to DC. The Smithsonian was having their Folklife Festival so we spent a lot of time there looking at all the different cultural activities and relaxing on the lawn. The rest of the day we walked around and looked at the different monuments. If all my weeks and weekends are going to be like this, summer is going to fly!

IMG_4872 Oh and here are just some reasons why I love my internship!