Sunday, June 29, 2014

Maine Coastal Islands NWR with Rose Zoller

Hey Everyone! It’s Rose here.

My past week has been filled with new experiences and it has been a lot of fun. Last Tuesday I was switched to work on Eastern and Western Brothers’ Islands with another intern. The Brother’s Islands are off the coast of Maine near Jonesport. The terrain here is mostly cliffs dropping off into the ocean, ideal habitat for some alcids. This Island is vastly different from Ship Island however, in that it had previously not had an established tern colony. Here they focus on Black Guillemot nests and attracting Razorbills and Puffins to the island. This year however, after years of trying to attract terns, the Brothers finally have a nesting tern pair and I was able to witness the hatching of one of the eggs. Currently we have two healthy chicks. Another pair appears to be nesting, fingers crossed!
First Tern chicks on Eastern Brothers!

Since arriving I have been climbing cliffs in an attempt to find new Guillemot nests and learning about the nesting traits and behavior for the bird. I have also seen several Razorbills approach and flock to our decoys. There have been no puffins as of yet but we have our fingers crossed. Below to the left is a Guillemot in her nest and to the right is a Razorbill on the water. 

For the nine days that I am out here I have been able to take on supervisor responsibilities and create data records for the species and all that we record on the island. Since we have two islands I have also been able use our small boat to get to our neighboring island. It has been a fulfilling experience so far and it is truly beautiful out here. Next time I post I should be back on Ship Island. Till then!

My house is the little box on the right side there.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CMZ week 3

This week I have been doing a lot of the same procedures I was already introduced to. I think this is because with repetition comes confidence, and the keepers always will tell me that I should be more confident in my abilities and trust myself that I have the knowledge to know what to do and how to do it. So now they trust me to give me the keys to the reptile cages and feed them by myself. It took me a while the first time I fed out the food dishes only because some of the locks are hard to open. I also cleaned the barn three days in a row, and it still takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes, which I know I need to improve on.

Some new things I was introduced to this week was preparing out diets for the emu, Damien, and I was given a short talk on his enrichment schedule and all of the different items he can get. I was introduced to medical sheets, and unfortunately one of the goats needed to put one of the sheets to good use. She unexpectedly started limping badly one day, but she seems to be improving now. Another thing I was introduced to this week was snake handling. The keepers showed me into the downstairs reptile room and had me observe as they each picked up one of the non-venomous snakes and put it into a box on a scale to be weighed. The snakes are weighed before they eat, which can be either adult or young mice, depending on the individual.

As I prepare for my keeper talk at the end, I have been observing these talks more and learning about different styles of public speaking. Each of the three keepers has her own style of performing the gator talk, and they have been telling me to find my own that I feel comfortable with. Looks like I’ll have to get rid of this stage fright sooner or later.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Discovery Reef and Stingray Bay

Week 6 is already done! I am halfway through my internship already and I can't believe it. Time is flying by. I am still enjoying it here at Discovery Reef, and still learning something new every day. 

We have been getting a lot of male cardinal fish brooding eggs lately. It is pretty exciting. Part of my internship includes a personal project that I must complete by the end of the internship. This week I decided on a project with the help of the aquarists. Occasionally when we try to move the male cardinal fish to a different tank to hatch the eggs in, the males will become stressed and spit out the egg mass. My project is to determine a way to effectively count the eggs so that we can keep a record of the average number of eggs a female cardinal fish will lay. The egg mass is held together by a sticky casing so I will be researching possible ways to remove that casing so that the eggs separate individually without destroying the eggs. I might try and come up with my own ideas as well. I will only be studying egg masses that the male spits out because once he disposes them, they will not hatch. 

We set up a new tank this week to hatch the larvae in. Hopefully it will be more successful. The previous tank that we would hatch cardinal fish larvae in had three white sides and one glass side. This new tank has black walls instead. The idea is that the larvae are phototaxic and instead of swimming to the white walls like in the previous tank, they will swim to the surface on the new tank, making it easier to rear them and less stressful for the larvae. I am going to try and take some pictures next week to post. 

The zoo has been really busy and weather has been hot and humid here the last couple of weeks. I've also been really busy working at Discovery Reef and also working as a lifeguard a few days a week. Because my internship is unpaid I decided to get a job working at Zoombezi Bay, which is the water park at the zoo. I am having fun with it and it is making my summer even more enjoyable!

I hope everyone is having a good summer! I'll post some more pictures of animals at the zoo below and will post pictures of the cardinal fish and tanks soon. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Maine Coastal Islands NWR with Rose Zoller

Out here on Ship Island, we have a variety of other work that we do. I originally thought that I would be only researching Common Terns but a biologist's work never seems to be quite so limited. I have enjoyed learning about various different types of research here. The most common work, besides tern, is helping to remove invasive plant species.
Flash cards in an attempt to study.

Cow Parsnip, now taller than me.
This island is currently threatened by Garlic Mustard, or Allaria petiolata. This species is in the Mustard Family and biennial. Our Island is small at about 7 acres and almost clearly divided between Cow Parsnip and the Garlic Mustard. Garlic Mustard is a problematic invasive plant because it will quickly spread through disturbed soil and continues to grow back even when the roots are pulled. The seeds of this herb can lay dormant for up to several years.
My view of the lovely sky when I weed.
Currently the refuge is working with local biologists and invasive specialists to find an effective control method and we are caring for plots on the island and collecting soil samples to ensure that we do not damage the island. So far we have removed all of the Garlic Mustard that we can locate(about 12 garbage bags altogether), but it is proving to be more challenging as the Cow Parsnip grows taller than both of us.
Blossoming Garlic Mustard.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Discovery Reef & Stingray Bay

Hope everybody's summer is going well! I am still enjoying my internship here at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! I learn something new every day which keeps it interesting. I have actually learned a lot about how the water systems at the aquarium are run as far as maintaining the right pH, salinity, and temperature levels, filtration systems, and doing water changes. I find it more fascinating than I originally thought I would. 

The aquarists at Discovery Reef are breeding flame tailspot cardinal fish (Apogon dovii). Male cardinal fish are mouthbrooders which means that when the females lay an egg mass, the males will carry the eggs in their mouth until they hatch. This past week we had a couple of males that were brooding eggs and we set up a separate tank for them to hatch the eggs in. It is really challenging to capture and relocate the males because these cardinal fish can get really stressed out easily. They actually change color, becoming a lighter shade of orange when they are stressed and males that have eggs in their mouth will sometimes spit the eggs out, in which case they will not hatch. Below are two pictures of the flame tailspot cardinal fish:
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A male with eggs.
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We managed to move on of the males into a separate tank and his eggs hatch a couple of days ago. We then transferred the larvae to a separate, smaller tank to raise them and moved the adult male back to his original tank. 

Below are some pictures of various animals at the zoo. I had some free time after work and walked around to the other exhibits to take pictures. I hope you all enjoy them!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


 All of the second week at CMZ has been a continuation of the tasks I was introduced to, as well as preparation for my written test I took at the end. Throughout the week I had been reading information to prepare a “daily,” which, as it sounds, is a daily report of all the happenings that occur in our assigned area. This includes changes in census, such as births, deaths, and hatchings; veterinary and medical information, both new and ongoing; areas that were cleaned and how we cleaned them; the names of all the people who helped out that day and what times they were there; and any other additional information. I learned that each individual animal has its own unique ISIS number, which is made up of its order, the year it came into the CMZ collection, and which number it is.

This week I have been growing a little more independently and can set up most of the barn area in Big Backyard without having to ask what to do. I know how to clean the aviary for budgie buddies, though it takes me a lot longer than it should, and I don’t always have to look at the recipe sheet when I prepare their diets. Some new things I was asked to do this week were cleaning gecko cages and cleaning snake tanks. Since the snakes rest upon colorful gems and marbles, there is a special way to clean them. First, obviously, the snake is removed, then the gems (they are actually just hard marbles), then the inside of the cage is cleaned, then the gems are cleansed and rinsed with the HDQ chemical and left out to dry. Meanwhile, a clean, dry set of new gems is placed back into the snake, and then the snake is returned with its substrate as well. I’ve been observing gecko and anole feedings up close, and I’ve made the description that anoles have velociraptor faces, which the keepers were amused to hear about. I am slowly learning how to prepare the reptile diets for each different day, since it always varies. Sometimes some species get crickets or roaches, but other days they get a helping of “reptile greens,” so I will have to distinguish and memorize these.

I am getting better with identifying the four Bennett’s wallabies, the two Parmas, and the two Bennett’s joeys since they are more active and growing every day. Outside the door of the room where they sleep, there is a sign that reads:

They aren’t kidding.

Pictured below is Kiah at seven months.

Kiah and Bindi are slowly being weaned off their formula, but that didn’t stop me from learning how to make it from scratch. Sometimes in the morning I will help out the docents set up the station where they hold one of the joeys and sit there with the joey and encourage children to greet them. I can’t believe how much they have grown already. In the next couple weeks they will probably be off the formula for good, which is good for them, but I will miss bottle-feeding them. I shouldn’t get too emotional, though, since I’ve still got a long way to go…


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Discovery Reef and Stingray Bay

Week 3:

The days at the aquarium are starting to merge together smoothly. I am a lot more confident in doing the jobs at Discovery Reef. When I finish one job, instead of asking what I should do next I have started taking initiative and completing jobs on my own. I have learned a lot about how the water systems work. There is a lot more to it than I realized. I am not yet sure being an aquarist is something that would like to pursue in the future, but I really enjoy learning everything and think it is important. 

When I first started my internship I was curious about what things the aquarists do for enrichment for the fish. This past week I learned of a new way to enrich the fish. They call them "crabby patties". Basically they are small round pucks or discs made of dental paste that have small pieces of food (for example krill). These crabby patties are dropped into the Discovery Reef tank and the fish get to forage on them to remove the food. This allows them to interact and work a little harder to get their food. Using dental paste as the base gives them a substance to hold the food that is not harmful to the fish. 

This past week was also filled with fun, new activities! A new intern started for the summer, I had a blast going to the Zoombezi Bay water park, and met Jack Hanna! 

Me and a few other interns with Jack Hanna. 

While I am here for the summer I am also looking for a part-time job. I have decided to take a job working as a lifeguard at Zoombezi Bay. This week I started the training and next week I should be working, which is super exciting!

The summer is already starting to fly by but I am having tons of fun enjoying the zoo, Columbus, and learning new skills at the aquarium. I will leave you with a fun fact: 

The large 85, 000 gallon Discovery Reef tank is modeled after a coral atoll, similar to what is found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. One side of the reef is shallower, representing a more dense coral growth and as you move toward the other end it get deeper as if moving towards the open ocean. 

Till next time, 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Maine Coastal Islands NWR

Hey! It's Rose here again on Ship Island. I'm happy to say that I have learned quite a bit about researching birds since I have started. We have now established a daily routine and adjust accordingly to the weather and bird activity. Most days we start off by surveying the birds that are on the island at 7 AM. I have learned learned how to use "alpha" codes and collect data more efficiently. I am also getting better at identifying the birds from farther distances, either from the bird's shape/color or their behavior.

A Common Tern eating a Herring
A Rag or Clam Worm (about 8")
About every three days we also spend a couple hours in our blind stands. This is a great time to record bird behavior and what type of food the birds are returning with. Typically, we see terns go for herring but currently we are seeing a large consumption of Rag or Clam Worms.

On nice days we are able to enter the tern colony and identify tern nests. On 5/29 we found our first egg and the number of nests have grown to 63! I'm currently learning how to estimate flock sizes ( which takes some getting use to), but we currently have about 150 terns consistently on the island. The work is exciting but you have to be careful, as the eggs are well camouflaged and easily stepped on if no care is taken.

Me, labeling a tern nest.
A snail sneaked into a Song Sparrow nest.
While keeping track of the Common Terns here, we also get to record the different birds nesting here. So far we have found warblers, sparrows, Spotted Sandpipers, and Mallards nesting here. Some of the sparrow and Mallard nests have hatched already, but others are still waiting.

Oh and here are some of the seals on the neighboring island, East Barge. Sorry he is a little blurry, it's through a scope.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Discovery Reef and Stingray Bay

Well, two weeks of my internship done already and oddly enough, it feels like I've been here so much longer. 

Anyways, I decided for this post I will focus more on how my internship began and some of the general tasks I have to do everyday.

My internship started off by meeting my supervisor and getting a general tour of the areas I would be working in. There was another intern that started that day as well and our supervisor went over the internship manual with us. After that I was just thrown right in with the aquarists at Discovery Reef and they started introducing me to the aquatic zoo-keeping field. Every day is different in some way, but certain things are the same. Mornings for me are mainly filled with food prep, YSI water quality testing, raising brine shrimp, and feeding all the animals. When there are multiple people working these jobs get done really fast and I have to occupy my time with some of the other jobs that need to get done. Obviously keeping tanks clean is really important and a lot of time is spent on that. Water changes and water quality tests a two other tasks that are frequently done. Below is a photo of one of the aquarist cleaning the Coral Exhibit:

So far my favorite thing to do is the food prep and feeding the animals. Feeding the sharks is really fun. The aquarists have to feed the zebra shark every afternoon. She is target trained to be moved to a separate tank for feeding while a diver is in the Discovery Reef tank feeding the other fish. There are two bonnethead sharks that we feed from the surface of the tank. The bonnethead sharks look like hammerhead sharks, and they are related to them, but the bonnetheads are about three feet long. Below is a picture of a zebra shark and a bonnethead shark:

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Oddly enough, as much as chemistry has never been my favorite subject in school, I really enjoy conducting the water quality tests. Every morning we use the YSI to measure salinity, temperature, pH, and ORP (oxidation reduction potential). Aside from this we conduct tests for nitrite, ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, and alkalinity levels in the different water systems.
I'm doing science! I am conducting a nitrite and ammonia test. 

I'll leave anyone reading this post with a fun fact of the week:
Do you know why the tanks at Discovery Reef are made of acrylic instead of glass? 
This is because acrylic will not warp your vision of the animals inside the tank. Glass can magnify or distort you view of a fish, so when guests are looking through the walls of the tank the size of the animal that they see is the actual size of that animal.

Till next time,