Thursday, March 31, 2005

Volunteer Meeting - March 29

Boy, we're getting good at these monthly meetings, let me tell you! Not only was this one shorter (from 6:00 to 7:30, just like it was supposed to be!) but we covered a lot of ground! Here's the basic run down - if you have any questions, feel free to give Shannon Jenson a call.

First on the list, Shannon informed us that the BP Energy Center is closed early on Wednesdays, so even though we had decided at our last month's meeting to move them from Thursdays to Wednesdays, we decided it would be better to move them once again to Tuesdays rather than pay an extra $100 to get BP to open late for us. So, from now on (till next time it changes) our monthly volunteer meetings will be on the last Tuesday of each month, at the BP Energy Center.

Treats this time were provided by Elizabeth. She brought us ham rolls, olives, cheese, crackers, and oranges, along with leftover chips and sodas from our last meeting. Shannon supplemented the fare with bottles of water from the zoo. Next month's treats will be provided by Kim, who just may end up bringing cake since it will be on her birthday! Also, I should remind people (since I forgot it myself) there is a can into which you can put donations for these treats: a dollar or two from each of us would go a long way towards saving money needed more elsewhere.

We had some new volunteers attending this time. Heather, a biology teacher; Jamie, a student (undeclared at this time); and Kirk, who will be gone all summer but will return to us in the fall. We also had new people at last month's meeting, but I neglected to introduce them (I apologize). If anybody knows any other potential volunteers, bring 'em on!

There were a few new forms introduced this time. Shannon handed one of them out at the meeting, where we indicated our preferences in volunteer duties, as well as listing our birth date (possible opportunities for more cake!) and contact methods (phone/email). Also mentioned was a new sign-in/tracking form giving the zoo more information as to the activity to which you are signing in for. Again, the sign-in sheet is not to monitor the volunteers per-se, but to prove to the public that the zoo has support from the community, thereby enabling them to receive "in-kind" donations (i.e.: more money!). These forms are located in several places throughout the zoo: at the admittance booth, in the education building, and I think in the infirmary. If you forget, you can always pop an email off to Shannon letting her know what you did and she'll fill one out for you.

Several "critter table" events had been held this passed month (one at the military base and one at the Imaginarium - possibly others I'm not aware of) and a suggestion was made to include a disposable camera in the critter-table tub. The thought was that pictures could be scanned and placed on the website for public display. John Gomes, our official zoo photographer (who does NOT use a disposable camera!) stated that as long as you get at least a 400 speed film, it would do well enough.

Speaking of the website, Shannon mentioned that she intends to convert the monthly volunteer newsletter into an electronic format soon. She is working on learning all about that, and hopes to have all the kinks worked out by next month. If you do not have access to email or the internet, a paper version can be mailed to you as usual, with no problem.

The job descriptions still need attention. These are intended to be a helpful tool for getting more volunteers interested in the zoo. If you are at all acquainted with any portion of the zoo, please help Shannon out in filling in all the descriptions!

One of the new opportunities available is the Animal Behavioral Observer. There will be a training session soon to teach all those interested in how to properly record all that you observe. These observations will be crucial in ensuring our animals get the best care possible. Sounds very interesting to me: I just hope they have some observations taking place on the weekends, so I can help out!

We went over the schedule of events next, with a suggestion put forward of adding the actual day to the list so we don't have to try to count our fingers and toes to figure out which day what event falls on. I noticed tonight that Shannon has already implemented this idea: much better now!

Some of the bigger events coming soon: on April 16, the zoo will hold a Kid's Day event which will be all day long and will need several volunteers to fill in all the time slots available. The Alaska Women's Show will be on the weekend of April 22-23, and the zoo will have a table all 3 days. We still have timeslots available for this event, which may include live animal presentations even! The Alaska State Fair is a long way off, but keep in mind that we plan to have a critter table and live animal presentations on the first weekend, and will need volunteers for that as well.

Apparently, there has been some fuss about petting zoos in the news lately. I must confess I've missed all that, but from what I gathered from conversations at the meeting, it mostly centers around the hand washing issues. Shannon has promised to try to get her hands on the official guidelines on how to run a petting zoo, but in the meanwhile it was stressed that whoever is in charge of the petting zoo needs to insure that everybody, adult and child alike, must get a squirt of hand-washing foam both on entry and on exiting the petting zoo. Also, you should encourage everybody to visit the toilet rooms to physically wash their hands as well, since the foam can only get rid of just so many germs. We want everybody healthy and happy, not sick and miserable.

A lot has been happening on a personal level at the zoo lately. Katie Larson, the education director, had an emergency appendectomy recently! This, on top of her neck injury last year. This just isn't her year at all. I'm sure you all join me in wishing her a speedy recovery. Also, Herb the bee guy is scheduled for surgery (I'm sorry, I don't know what kind) and has pulled all of his bee stuff out of the hexagonal exhibit. He will be out of commission for the rest of the year, so whatever it is he's having sounds pretty serious. He says he will try to get a replacement bee guy (as if that were possible) to fill in for him during his absence, and also adds that he still has lots of honey sticks if anybody is in need! And last, but certainly not least, long-time volunteer Terry (I'm sorry, I don't know her last name) is moving to Guam soon. We will all miss her, I'm sure (certainly her birds will!), and there has been talk of a going away party for her. More will be forthcoming on that as we formalize our plans.

And here's an interesting little tid-bit for you. You all know that John Gomes is a retired cop, right? Well, back in the mid '70s, he worked airport security = with my father, of all people! Talk about a small world.

As for the animals in the zoo (heck, that is what a zoo is all about, after all!) there's been a lot going on there, too. The river otters have been moved to their temporary holding pen next to the wolverine. They will live there for about a month or so while their side of the exhibit gets a face-lift. Once their side is done, the harbor seal will be moved to the new side while her side gets the face-lift. And, at that time, a male harbor seal named Snapper will move in with her! Snapper will come to us from the Seward Sea Life Center to make room in their exhibit for younger pups. I'm sure Chloe will enjoy some company again; harbor seals are not meant to be solitary animals.

The two young lynx moved into the big pen with Mary Ellen to make room for the river otters. The kittens and Mary Ellen are still divided by a temporary fence, but the hope is to have all three of them together in one exhibit. It will be good for Mary Ellen to have company, whether she knows that or not. It might just "wake" her up a bit, and give her someone to play with.

The snow leopards have had an interesting month. They got "introduced" a few weeks ago, meaning the got put together in the same side of the exhibit. Unfortunately, it did not go well. Kaz attacked Molly at his first opportunity, so now Molly really wants nothing to do with him. They were separated again, but have been switching sides lately in order to get familiar with each other's scent. They were introduced again just recently, and this time it went marginally better. No blood was shed, although Kaz took a tumble down the cliff after Molly made her intention to remain singe known in no uncertain terms.

The subject of babies was brought up at the meeting, and Shannon informed us that more than likely we would not be getting any baby moose or caribou again this year. I do so love babies, but I guess we'll just have to make do with the bear cubs and whatever else comes our way.

Last year, about this time, we got two red-tailed hawks from Oregon. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have had the hardest time trying to find out what their names are! Finally, Shannon told me that the one out on exhibit is called Phoenix, and the one behind the infirmary is called Raj. I still don't know why they're not both out on exhibit. If anybody knows, please tell me!

Ike, the bald eagle, is till recovering from his amputation and is still out behind the infirmary. He tried to go on exhibit but messed up his healing process, so he got pulled back again. Hopefully, he will be well enough this summer, and can go back out. Perhaps with a little rearrangement of the exhibit, to make it less dangerous for him. He is such a beautiful bird!

Best of all, the US Fish & Game people have promised us some wolves this year! They will be yearlings, most likely, and possibly a family of 5-6. We want them young enough to adapt to captive life, but old enough to survive without their mother. Unfortunately, their family will most likely be shot, since that is the current policy on wolf management, but at least we will be able to save the pups.

Well, that about covers it. If I have missed anything or gotten my information tangled up, I apologize.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Girl Scouts - March 11

The program this time was titled "Wildlife" so we geared most of our program towards that. I have to admit, this is one of our easier programs: how difficult is it to speak of wildlife while at a zoo? We had a good group of girls: 17 juniors (ranging in age from 9 to 12) with plenty of adult supervision to help us out. There were three of us from the zoo there: Amber Mount (the education director's assistant), Mike (one of the board members who likes to help out occasionally) and myself.

Introductions went around the table, with each person stating their name and their favorite animal. Favorites ranged from horses to dolphins, tigers, monkeys, snakes, bears, and leopards. One little girl even stated that she liked muskrats! That was a first for that particular animal.

Since we were focusing on wildlife, Amber took the time to introduce our education animals to the girls, most of which I'm sure you've already "met". I'll go ahead and list them out anyway, for those of you who have not. We have an African Ball Python named Yaz; three Eastern box turtles named Leo, Mercy and Scruffy (unfortunately, Leo chose this particular evening to mate all night long with Mercy, giving the girls a rather unexpected lesson in animal propagation); 9 degus, which are South American rodents and whose names I do not know; about 25 baby millipedes (the adults have all died off, so we're down to just the little ones) whose names I also don't know although I told one little girl that the millipede I had crawling over my hand was named Fred (and she believed me); 1 lizard named Garry (I have probably been told a hundred times exactly what kind of lizard Garry is, but darned if I can ever remember it); and 1 Mexican box turtle named Goliath.

I was very impressed with how the girls handled their first activity of the evening. We passed out a slip of paper to each girl that had the name of an animal or insect on it. Amber then read off a list that paired the animals and/or insects up into groups of two, and each girl had to go find her "partner". Once the new seating arrangements got settled down, Amber put up a poster with three "relationships" lined out for them to study. COMMENSALSISM: is a relationship where one organism benefits and the other one does not, but is not harmed either. MUTUALISM: is a relationship where each organism benefit, and PARASITISM: is a relationship where one organism benefits while the other one does not. The girls then talked amongst themselves for a few minutes to figure out which type of relationship they had, then we went around the table and told us all what each pair had decided.

Unfortunately, I can't remember any of the animals and/or insects, and Amber never sent me the email she said she would send that was to have listed them all out. But I’m sure you get the idea, and I’m sure you are also impressed with the girls being able to grasp the whole concept and apply it to animals they were familiar with (as well as some they were not.)

Our second activity of the evening was a really fun one, and had everybody in the room laughing. We divided the girls into 4 groups and then gave one group a bunch of scissors, another group got a bunch of tweezers, and the final group got spoons. We explained that the girls were now birds and these utensils were their beaks; the scissors represented a meat eater's sharp and pointy beak, the tweezers represented a seed eater's small pointy beak, and the spoons represented a fish eater's bigger dull beak.

We then put a pile of marbles, representing snails, in front of them and told them to pick up as many as they could, using only their "beaks", and put them into a cup. At the end of about 2 minutes, we counted to see which group got the most. We found out that the spoons did the best at this activity, since a bigger beak would be better suited for scooping them up.

Next, we put a pile of washers in front of them, representing crustations, and reminded the girls to use ONLY their beaks (I’d noticed several hands in use the last time). We discovered that the girls with tweezers did the best at this, even though they are "seed eaters".

Our final experiment was a pile of pipe cleaners, representing worms, which ended up being consumed by the scissors the best, although some of the "worms" got cut in half accidentally.

We got finished with our two activities quite a bit earlier than scheduled, but figured that extra time spent outside was not a bad thing at all, so we got the girls geared up and headed on out the door. We took the usual route passed the polar bear, around the wolverine, passed the crows and musk ox, but then decided to head over to the snow leopards to see what they were up to.

Once we got there, Amber decided to play her game again, where the girls are divided up on two sides of the trail, and have to form whichever position is called out. The last to get into the proper position is "out" and has to give a reason as to why their assigned animal might go extinct. The girls were really rambunctious, and had to be shushed several times. I didn’t really enjoy playing with them since they were so rowdy, but I guess that’s one of the things kids do best. By the time we got the game over (taking out two or three animals at a time, even) we were way behind schedule, even after having been ahead of schedule earlier, and had to hustle back to the education building for a quick snack.

We didn’t have time for the other activities planned for the program, unfortunately. Instead, we just did my creature feature portion and then got out a few of the animals for the kids to meet in person. My creature feature this time was one that I’m particularly intrigued by: the Giant Pacific Octopus. Those of you who have been to the Seward Sea Life Center have no doubt met the two that lived there. J5 was the male (he’s gone now, but not before he was able to produce some offspring) and Aurora their female (who is currently tending her nest of 80,000 eggs, and who will soon pass away herself).

They are one of the strangest creatures I’ve ever encountered, although they are surprisingly intelligent. Studies by scientists have found that octopus can figure out mazes and other such puzzles with surprising speed. They can also open jars and mimic their surroundings, changing not only their color but their texture as well. They have a very well developed brain and have excellent eyesight, as well. They also happen to be escape artists; J5 and Aurora both have been found in tanks other than their own on many occasions.

The giant pacific octopus is the largest of over 100 different kinds of octopus. They average about 50 to 90 pounds and can reach up to 16 feet from the tip of one leg to the tip of the opposite one. The largest one ever recorded was a whopping 600 pounds and measured 33 feet! Considering the fact that they have no bones and are basically just a bag of jelly with eight legs, that’s pretty amazing.

Their most noticeable feature is of course, their eight legs covered with suckers. All totaled, they have roughly 1,600 suckers in all, and can actually taste things with them! An Octopus’ normal diet consists of crabs, clams, snails, small fish, and even the occasional octopus (yup, their cannibals). They use their sharp beak, located at the center of their legs, to either drill holes into the shells of their prey, or to crack them open and eat the insides.

As we’ve seen from the Seward Sea Life Center, the male dies very shortly after mating. The average life span of the giant pacific octopus is only about 4 years anyway, even though they do have the longest life span of them all. The female sticks around just long enough to tend to her nest, which takes up to 6 months to hatch. At birth, the octopus is barely the size of a grain of rice! What an amazing growth rate: from a grain of rice to 33 feet in just 3.5 years!

As I said earlier, we just had a few minutes left in our program, so we got out some of the critters for the girls to meet. These girls were pretty exhausting for me, so I had to admit I was pretty happy to see them all go home, but we did have a good time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Math & Science Night - March 9

Wednesday night was Willowcrest Elementary's Math & Science night, and they invited the zoo to participate in the activities with them. Actually, they specifically asked for me, by name, since they are familiar with me volunteering there all the time. That is the place I go to on my lunch hours (once a week for the past 3-4 years) to read stories to the kids. I had another one of the zoo volunteers, Joyce Smith, helping me out with the critter table, full of all kinds of critter stuff. We even had a humongous moose antler that weighed at least 45 pounds!

The room they put us in was called the "Animal room" which we shared with a Bearded Dragon, two Hedgehogs, two Ferrets, a baby Corn Snake, and several Dwarf Hamsters. Needless to say, ours was a very popular stop in the program that night.

I didn't get a chance to see the rest of the program, but I'm told they had 8 stations run by teachers highlighting math & science activities as well as the school Nurse doing Health Fair related activities. They had people from 21st Century providing the food, and helpers from the local PTA helping out wherever needed. All in all, roughly 90 kids with their families showed up. Not quite as good a turnout as was had at Bowman Elementary a few months ago, but those that did participate had a good time.

This was the first time I had done anything with Joyce, so it was a good opportunity to get to know her. She is a very nice lady, who's husband Hal is typically found at the Petting Zoo supervising the little ones.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Girl Scouts - March 4

This week’s program was one of the best ones we've ever had. The girls were Brownies, which are pretty young, but they were very well behaved and very much in to the zoo. And there were only 13 of them, which is considerably easier to handle than our normal 25. We had plenty of help, as well, with 6 adults and 3 zoo personnel. It's so refreshing to have a group of girls who are so excited about being there, and yet will actually listen to what you have to tell them, ask intelligent questions, and then actually listen to the answers.

By way of introducing each other, we had everybody tell us his or her names and give us a favorite nature item. A lot of the girls said things like Mountains or Trees or Animals. There were a few specifics, like the one girl who liked Giraffes, and myself who likes water.

The focus of our program this time was "Earth is Our Home" so we talked for a while about things that are Endangered –vs.- things that are Extinct. We asked them to come up with a list of things people do that harm the Earth, like "cutting down all the trees" or "leaving garbage on the ground" or even "hunting".

After our discussion, we divided the girls into 3 groups and gave each group a subject from off the list they just made. We gave them a list of questions to fuel their discussion ranging from "Does it harm the Earth? And How?" to "Is it appropriate? Is it beneficial?" Then let them talk it out amongst themselves for a few minutes.

We passed out the paper and crayons next, and asked them to draw a picture of an alternative to the subject they had just discussed, then had them tell the whole class about their picture. The group that talked about cutting down trees drew a picture of an artificial Christmas tree and told us that we didn’t have to cut down a tree each year, we could just buy a fake one and reuse it over and over again. The group that talked about the garbage problem drew a picture of a group of girls picking up trash from the roadside, and told us that organizing a group clean-up day was a good way to have fun and clean up the place all at the same time. The girls who talked about hunting drew pictures of people with cameras and notepads, and told us that taking pictures and writing stories about the animals you see is a much nicer way to show off the animals than killing them for their skins or horns.

Keep in mind, these girls were only about 7 years old. I thought they did such a good job with the whole concept, and really came up with all these ideas on their own. There were a few issues with sharing the crayons that didn’t go over very well (one little girl ended up in tears because the other girl was using the black crayon), but all in all, they really did a good job.

By the time we finished up with everybody’s picture it was time to gear up to head outside. The temperatures are so much warmer now-a-days, we really don’t have to "gear up" quite as much as we used to, but it still takes time getting 13 little girls into their boots, hats, gloves, coats, and scarves, not to mention going potty in advance! But, eventually we got everybody out the door and headed on our way.

We stopped to visit with Ahpun, the polar bear, but she wasn’t really interested in company so we headed on to the wolverine, then to the ravens, the goshawk, the musk ox, and the eagle.

Once we got to the eagle, Amber Mount (the education director’s assistant) decided we were to play a game. We divided the girls into pairs and assigned an animal to each pair. Then we split the pairs up, with one girl on one side of the trial and the other girl on the other side of the trail. Then, Amber called out the name of a position (6 or 7 of which she and I demonstrated earlier) to the girls, and they would run to each other and get into position. The last pair to assume the required position was "extinct" and had to give a reason why their animal might have gone extinct, like loss of habitat or over-hunting. The positions were all funny names, like Lover’s Leap, or Monkey on your Back, or Reading on the Toilet, and the girls had to remember the proper position to assume while in the middle of a giggling mass of 7-year olds.

The game was a lot of fun, but it really wound the girls up. We kind of had a bit of trouble getting them calmed back down once we resumed our nocturnal tour. I’m glad we played that game outside, however. I can’t imagine trying to do it inside, particularly in our tiny little temporary education building.

Snacks and hot tea were waiting for us back in the Ed. building, so we trudged back inside. One of the troupe leaders had sailor bread and almond butter as a snack, and I couldn’t resist trying it out when she offered it to me, especially since I hadn’t had dinner yet! It was quite tasty and went very well with my usual cup of tea, which Amber was kind enough to get for me.

The next item on the agenda for the night was a craft project, so we passed out more paper and crayons and had the girls draw pictures of something they could do to make the world a better place. I, unfortunately, didn’t really pay attention to the pictures, but I do recall that all the girls were quite happy, chatting with their neighbors and coloring away. Since they didn’t have to share this time, there were no tears involved.

After about 15 minutes of drawing masterpieces, it was time for my Creature Feature portion of the program. I do love doing these, and this time I chose what I thought was a very interesting creature: the Daddy Long-legs! I get a lot of people asking me if it’s true that the daddy long leg spider is the most poisonous spider on the planet, but its fangs are too weak to bite human flesh – and I found out in my research that this statement is actually false, on many different levels.

First of all, they aren’t actually spiders at all! It’s like saying a wolf is not a dog, or a tiger is not a lion. They’re both canines and felines, but different classes of canines and felines. It’s the same with the daddy long-legs: they are arachnids, but a different class. By the way, crabs, scorpions, and ticks are arachnids, too – and most definitely NOT spiders.

The daddy long-legs is actually in a class all their own, called Huntsmen. They differ from spiders in a few very obvious ways, such as the fact that they only have two eyes and spiders have eight, and they have only one body part as opposed to the three parts that spiders have. They also have no fangs at all, and therefore can’t bite. Even if they could bite, they have no venom what so ever, and therefore are not poisonous. And last but not least, they have no silk, and cannot create the webs that spiders are so famous for.

There are about 1900 species of huntsmen world wide, but only about 60 or so can be found in North America. Most types winter over as eggs buried underground. They eat decomposing vegetation as well as the occasional aphid, caterpillar, leafhopper, beetle larvae, mites and/or small slug.

The most interesting thing I learned about them is this: if a humans legs were in the same proportion to our bodies as the daddy long-legs is, our legs would be 40’ long! Wow. Imagine trying to find a pair of jeans that fit!

We had just a few minutes left before the parents came to pick up their kids, so we got Mercy, one of our in-house box turtles, out to eat some bugs (she’s always up for eating bugs, no problem there!) for the girls while Liz (one of our zookeepers on duty that night) brought Trini, the silver fox, over for a visit. Trini loves to visit with the kids, but she doesn’t take the heat very well (she worked hard on her winter coat, and can’t take it off just yet) so we had the girls put their own coats on and go outside to see her. By the time everybody had a chance to pet her and talk to her handler, it was time to send them all home.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bowman Book Bash - February 25

Bowman Elementary had their annual book bash event last week, and invited the zoo to participate. The Alaska Zoo and Bowman Elementary have what they call "a partnership" which basically means Bowman does a lot of things for the zoo, like their web pages; and the zoo does a lot of things for Bowman, like attending their book bash. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, and both partners are well satisfied with it.

The book bash was quite an affair. They had several guest readers attending: Halene Petersen Dahlstrom, author of "Raven Cove Mystery" (a battle of the Books selection) was in one room; Anna Bondarenko, an Iditerod musher, was in another room. They even had The Cat in The Hat reading books, as well as the entire Fire Engine Crew from Fire Station #9 (off Hufman) reading stories! And of course, zookeeper Brian Moore and myself were in our own room reading stories.

The plan of attack for the night was for kids to pick three rooms they wanted to listen to stories at. They were given 15 minutes in each room with a 5-minute break in between for them to shuffle off to their next room of choice. After all the reading was done, they were to gather in the Multipurpose Room for treats, prizes, and a book signing.

Brian and I met up at the front door and headed on into our room at about 6:45, giving us a few minutes to settle in before the kids started to arrive. We each brought our books with us: Brian had "Stellaluna" by Janell Cannon and Jewell Cannon (Stellaluna, a little brown bat, is accidentally dropped by her mother. The helpless baby falls smack into a nest of bird fledglings, and is immediately accepted as one of the family. Stellaluna tries to fit in, but keeps acting unbirdlike; hanging upside down and wanting to fly at night. By chance Stellaluna is reunited with her mother and finally learns to be proper bat.) while I brought "Edward the Emu" by Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement (Tired of being an emu, Edward decides to try being like other animals at the zoo, but he soon discovers that being himself is the best after all.) and "Last Night at the Zoo" by Michael Garland (A quiet zoo evening turns into a wild tale as animals plan a night on the town and get decked out in zany disguises to achieve their goals. A rollicking rhyme accompanies pages of detail on their lavish night out and encounters with humans in this highly recommended, different story with its bright color drawings). I actually had a few others with me as well, but didn’t read them.

The reading sessions went really well. Brian had never read to children before, at least not "officially" like we were that night, so it was a learning experience for him. He discovered that it’s not quite as easy as it looks, although it is very rewarding. The kids enjoyed all of our stories, and we enjoyed the kids as well. The staff at Bowman Elementary is very nice, and I must say their librarian smells really good! I don’t know what perfume she’s wearing, but I liked it.

After we finally read the last sentence in the last book, we closed up shop and followed everybody into the Multipurpose Room. There, they had a huge table laid out with milk and cookies, along with grapes and strawberries, to munch on. Brian and I helped ourselves to the food and then tried to squeeze into one of the tables along with the rest of the crowd. It’s been a long time since elementary school, and I for one have grown more than double since then: and those tables are mighty small!

But, we finally got situated and ate our snacks while listening to Ms. Dahlstrom read from one of her books. They had their drawing once she was done, and gave away copies of her books to the names they drew from their hat. Brian and I didn’t stay to the very end, but it looked to me as though everybody was going to get one of her books, which means that every child went home happy!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Volunteer Meeting - February 24

Thursday was our second monthly volunteer meeting, held again at the BP Energy Center. Shannon Jenson, our volunteer coordinator, took an informal survey at the beginning of the meeting and it was decided that we would continue our monthly meetings at the center, but would change the day to the last Wednesday of each month rather than the last Thursday. Apparently, the television shows are better on Thursday than they are on Wednesday!

We had pizza and snacks to munch on while participating in the meeting, with more than enough for all 15 people to have seconds or thirds even. It was decided, however, that food was not really necessary, so next time there will be only some munchies. Our budget is limited, and we don’t want to blow it on unnecessary expenditures. Also, Shannon mentioned the fact that she was always in such a frazzle getting ready for the meetings that she would really appreciate somebody else picking up the snacks. Elizabeth volunteered to bring something to our next meeting, and somebody else can volunteer for the following one. There will also be a "kitty jar" into which we all can put a buck or two to help defray the cost.

The city is going to have a luncheon, called the Golden Hearts Awards Luncheon, sometime in April to honor community volunteers. Shannon asked if anybody was interested in attending. It will be held at the Captain Cook hotel from 11:30 to 1:00, and will be sponsored by BP. If anybody is interested, please let her know as soon as possible since she has to reserve seats for us. So far, just Shannon and myself are going.

One of the new procedures that Shannon has implemented is the volunteer sign-in sheet. She explained a bit more about the thoughts behind this procedure in an effort to make it less objectionable, since it kind of feels like we’re back in kindergarten again. The zoo is eligible for grants and other "in kind" donations only if they can show that they have the support of the community. One very good way to show this is to document how many hours volunteers donate to them. Shannon said that just since the sign-in sheet started, we’ve had over 74 hours logged – if you multiply that out we could conceivable have well over 850 hours for the year. That could amount to a lot more money for the animals!

So please remember to sign in each time you go to the zoo. There are sign in sheets located at the admissions booth as well as in the education building. If you forget, or are unable to at the time you are there, you can always either call or email Shannon and let her know what you did, and how long you did it.

The next topic of discussion was Volunteer Job Descriptions. Shannon is planning to have a list of all the things that volunteers are able to do, along with a description of each activity, posted on the website. This will again aid the zoo in obtaining grants and/or "in kind" donations, as well as help future volunteers know what they’re getting into. Shannon has come up with a preliminary list of "jobs" but has asked for help in filling it out a bit. Each job will need to have the following: Position Title (like: Tour Guide), Description of position, Responsibilities, Outcome/Goals, Training and Support plan, Reporting to, Time commitment (hours per week), Qualifications Needed, and Benefits. She has blank forms available and would really appreciate some help in this endeavor.

One of the benefits of volunteering for the zoo is a new Volunteer Jacket! After one year of volunteer service, the zoo will give you a jacket with the zoo’s logo. The order for the jackets, and for t-shirts as well, has been turned in and they should be available soon.

These jackets and t-shirts will help identify the volunteers at the zoo, so please be sure to wear them. At the very lease, make sure you always have your badge on, particularly if you plan on going off the public trail system for any reason. The people who go to our zoo are fiercely loyal, for the most part, and will defend "their" animals anytime they see somebody do something they shouldn’t. I, myself, was accosted once by a very large man who did not see my badge. He took it upon himself to "teach me a lesson" and I have to admit it was rather frightening.

The IditaZoo is coming up really soon (March 12) and we still need volunteers for the day. There are quite a few positions still open, so please contact Shannon and let her know you can help out. She will make sure you get the information packet pertaining to the checkpoint you’ll be working at. Make sure you read thru the information so that you will be able to answer any questions that may come up throughout the day!

The final activity of the day was a demonstration of the critter table. Shannon had asked me to tell everybody how to "do" the critter table, and brought a tub full of stuff for me. I arranged it all out on the table and went thru some of the basics. Typically, I’ll arrange things in groups: the bear stuff all together at one end of the table, and the deer stuff grouped together at the other. I usually don’t use pictures, although we have some really nice ones available. I like to have the kids guess at the items, and see if they know their animals. If they seem interested, I’ll talk to them about the differences between black bears and brown bears, or the differences between an antler and a horn. Always, they have stories to tell, so I typically encourage them, adults too! Basically, you give them as much information as they can take in, which may be a lot one day and hardly anything the next. Each event is different, so you have to tailor your presentation techniques to suit.

After the critter table demonstration, we all just sat around and talked for a while. Shannon had sign-up sheets available for both the IditaZoo and for the Women’s Show coming up in April.
Of interest to some of you: John Gomes, our volunteer zoo photographer, got one of his pictures published in the National Geographic Kids magazine! They did a blurb on Maggie’s new treadmill and used his photo superimposed onto a treadmill at the gym. It’s a very cute picture; you’ll have to check it out if you have a chance.