September 16, 2014

Fall Foliage Cruises on Squam Lake

The fiery red orange of sugar maples; the deep russet of oak leaves; the shimmering yellow of aspen leaves; the bright red sumac leaves. Fall foliage season in New Hampshire must be experienced in person to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons. A great way to get outside and see the landscape is with a cruise on Squam Lake offered by Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

Squam Lake is the second-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire at 6,791 acres. It served as the location for the filming of On Golden Pond in 1981. It is known for its wildlife including Common loons, bald eagles, great blue herons, and more. It is also famous for its amazingly clear water, rocky shores, celebrated islands, historic homes, and scenic mountain views.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers Squam Lake Cruises daily through Columbus Day weekend. Cruises run at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. These 90-minute guided tours on one of the Science Center’s canopied pontoon boats hold approximately 23 people and are a nice, intimate way to see and learn about this beautiful landscape. Binoculars are available on cruises for wildlife viewing at no additional cost.

Reservations are recommended for Squam Lake Cruises by calling 603-968-7194, option 7.
Photo by Ellen Edersheim

September 8, 2014

Got Heat? Get Wood

At this time of year, the days begin to feel cooler even with the deceptive summer weather that seems to linger. Fall is just around the corner and that often brings up the thought of winter, which many people try to avoid thinking about. For me, fall makes me think about heating, specifically wood heat. Most people who heat with wood have already cut, stacked and stored it for the upcoming heating season prompting me to think we are not much different from the squirrels that gather nuts and seeds for their winter needs.

Last fall Squam Lakes Natural Science Center started planning for its future energy use that’s a bit different. We converted our heating units for four buildings from fossil fuel to wood. Why? There were many reasons that helped us to make this decision but two stood out. First the cost of natural gas and heating oil has fluctuated over the years making it difficult to project a budget for our yearly heating needs. The second reason was that we wanted to find a source of fuel that was “local” and renewable. These reasons led us to the solution to heat with wood, not a wood stove, not a wood furnace, but a dual stage wood gasification boiler. These units are sometimes confused with outdoor wood furnaces but there are significant differences between them.

One concern people have with a wood furnace is the smoke particulates released into the air that affect air quality in the area. This happens because the fire is regulated by a draft fan that controls the burn rate of the wood depending on the heat demand from the building, which causes the fire to vary between a full burn and smoldering. Outdoor wood furnaces operate at relatively low temperatures resulting in inefficient combustion causing energy to go up the chimney as smoke.

Dual stage wood gasification boilers are constructed and operate differently. There are two burn chambers. In the first chamber the fire burns at a relatively low temperature and low oxygen level. This forces organic gases from the wood into the secondary combustion chamber where super-heated oxygen-rich air is introduced. This allows burning of gasses at very high temperatures, resulting in low particulate emissions because of an almost complete combustion of fuel. During the first 20 minutes of operation of our dual stage wood gasification boilers the only visible emission is steam. After the units reach their optimum burn temperature the steam dissipates and there are no visible emissions.

The heat generated from our wood gasification units is transferred and stored in two water “jackets” that surround the boilers and hold 5400 gallons of water. These act like batteries, storing heat until it is needed by one of the five buildings. Then the heat is transferred across a heat exchanger to insulated pipes that run underground to deliver the heat to each building. Cooler water returns from the building through other insulated underground pipes where it is “recharged” by the boilers.

This process is exciting for us because the wood gasification units will replace five oil or propane furnaces and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Our wood travels a distance of less than ten miles from standing tree to log at the boiler. The ash produced during the gasification process will be used as an amendment for composting. We also expect to lower our heating fuel bill, but the amount saved will depend on how effectively we manage the heating process. Conservatively we expect to reduce heating costs by 50%. This process also provides us a direct link to our fuel, through cutting, stacking, and burning, making us more aware of how much is used and where it comes from. Finally, this project allows us to broaden our scope of opening a window to the natural world to include physical examples of how our actions impact the world around us.

August 19, 2014

Marketing Internship

By Madeline Warren, Marketing Intern

When something life changing happens to you, that moment and how you felt sticks with you for a very long time. Engrained in your memory is every little detail about the short period of time that managed to have such a big impact on your life. That moment for me is when I got the email from Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offering me the position as Marketing Intern for the summer. I remember reading that email in the middle of my college campus’ bustling cafeteria and without a second thought accepting the position. The feeling of utter excitement that I was about to embark on a new journey by myself to a place I had never been before and live there for three months is still fresh in my mind. Now it is half a year later from that day in my college cafeteria. I have spent the past three months in the beautiful town of Holderness, New Hampshire interning at the Science Center and I am not ready to say good bye.

Over the past three months I have met more interesting people, taken more pictures, and learned more about marketing than I ever thought I would. Each day there was something new to be fascinated about in the field of marketing. One thing I became particularly fascinated with is how marketing creates an identity for a business by using a specific logo with specific colors and fonts. I knew companies used the same color and logos to advertise but I had no idea how specific a brand actually gets. It was my job at the Science Center to create posters for the different programs we were having like Natural Adventures, Up Close to Animal, lake cruises, lectures and more. Each poster was like a mini work of art for me. I would have to go out and take a picture that would be fitting for the event we were advertising for, and then follow the brand identity standards the Science Center uses for all advertisements. I doubt I will ever forget how a Lithos and Rockwell font looks, or the color of that Pantone light green and dark green we use in text.

Another ongoing project that struck my interest was the marketing research and demographic survey project that was the main focus of the internship. It was a little tedious going out on the trail and asking people the same four questions (how did you hear about the Science Center, How often do you visit, Are you a member, what is your zip code). However, after I had all the information and was able to sit down at my desk and analyze the data that was very interesting for me. I liked this project because I was able to bring new information to the marketing department and I felt like I was contributing to something much larger.

When I look at my life ahead of me I want to bring new ideas and information into this world. Marketing research tests the traditional strategies of advertising and creates new ones that help businesses advertise to the public better. I think I would like to pursue this field more and the Science Center has helped me get my foot in the door of marketing research through the demographic survey project. This internship experience has really helped me define my future goals. Before this internship I was confused at what specific field I would like to go into but marketing research is definitely something I would like to continue studying.

Half a year ago in my college campuses cafeteria when I accepted this internship my life changed. I would have never thought about a career in marketing research, or met such wonderful people, or learned so much about wildlife had I not taken this internship.

August 11, 2014

Program Internship Wrap-Up

By Sarah Kelly, Program Intern

With just a couple weeks of summer left, I’ve found myself stopping to take a moment and think about how grateful I am for what I’ve been able to do these last few months at the Science Center. It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over but I guess time flies when you’re having fun and I’ve been having a blast. Being from New Hampshire, I’ve been coming to the Science Center since I was little and have always loved it. When I discovered that they offered an internship I was so excited and sent in my application immediately. Looking back to that time is a bit surreal when I consider that I’m here now. This experience has been everything I hoped it would be.

I started this summer shadowing one of the naturalists through his classes. Sitting through these programs taught me very quickly the basics of the natural history of the area and of the animals we have at the Science Center. From there I started to go off campus and assist with outreach programs at various camps, libraries, and community centers. From these programs I continued to learn about the native wildlife of New Hampshire from the naturalists and had the opportunity to talk to people about them myself. I’ve done a lot of this since in the Up Close to Animals presentations held daily for visitors. These presentations are a great opportunity for me to inform people of the special characteristics of New Hampshire wildlife, and for visitors to see and gain appreciation of the animals up close, and bring up topics that concern them. I’ve been able to discuss these ideas with people of all ages, especially kids, which was helpful for the next part of my internship.

This part involved helping out with summer Guided Discoveries, which are day programs focused on environmental themes. This gave me a much better look at how younger children learn and become engaged to new ideas about the world around them.

I’m finishing my internship working in animal care. Here I see and work behind the scenes taking care of the animals by cleaning, feeding, and enriching. Getting to work up close with some of the animals is an invaluable experience that I’ve always hoped for and now will never forget.

It’s amazing to me the amount that I’ve learned this summer. While I am studying pre-veterinary medicine in college, I haven’t learned too much about wildlife or environmental studies there, so I’ve picked up a great deal of knowledge in just a couple months. After college, I hope to find a career working with wildlife. This internship has been an amazing experience but also has put me in the direction that I would like to pursue. I am beyond grateful for the time I’ve had at the Science Center and the people who have taught me so much this summer. The Science Center has always been one of my favorite places and I’m so lucky to have been given this experience of a lifetime.

August 6, 2014

The Life and Times of the Exhibit Coyote

By Marianne O’Loughlin, Program Intern

On May 1, the male coyote made his exhibit debut and has been one of the Science Center’s most popular exhibit animals ever since. He started as a program animal when he arrived in 2008, but since another coyote arrived in 2013, he’s become a full-time exhibit animal. While the coyote is still a wild animal, he’s gotten used to a human presence from his time as a program animal. He can often be seen running to the exhibit window to investigate visitors, as curious as any wild coyote might be. Coyotes in the wild use this natural curiosity to adapt quickly to new situations. He’s quite the howler, too. If you hear any long, shrill calls anywhere around the Science Center, it’s probably the coyote. His voice carries almost everywhere. Listen in the mornings for the younger female’s response. Since the coyote is so curious, it’s important to give him new experiences every day. Animals at the Science Center, just as in the wild, need to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. We do this by engaging them to practice the same skills they might use in the wild: these new experiences are formally called “enrichment.” Enrichment might involve new objects to see, such as toys or a mirror. Coyotes in the wild are adaptable and are constantly exposed to new things in a variety of habitats.

Most of the time, enrichment involves a new kind of smell. Coyotes in the wild use their supercharged noses to sniff out prey or the trail of another coyote. At the Science Center, the exhibit coyote might smell oregano, nutmeg, vanilla, coffee, or even the scents of other Science Center animals hidden throughout his exhibit. Keep an eye out for the coyote sniffing logs, rocks, or the edges of the exhibit where the scents might be hidden.

Of course, it’s important to have enrichment that the coyote can touch and interact with, too. Since wild coyotes eat a huge variety of animals (and garbage humans leave behind), the exhibit coyote gets some extra treats in addition to his fortified diet. Fish blood, grape juice, jam, “mouse-sicles,” and peanut butter are all on the menu on occasion. We hide food in logs and behind rocks throughout his exhibit so he has to use his sense of smell to find his treats. We also cycle in different logs and rocks in his exhibit so hiding places won’t be predictable.

Coyote FAQ

Do coyotes hunt in packs?
Yes, and no. Coyotes in the east and west are slightly different from one another. Western coyotes are more solitary than their eastern counterparts.

What’s the coyote’s name?
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center's live animals serve as valuable teaching tools to educate our audiences about each species’ role in its environment. To reduce focus on the individual animal and the inherent risk of making wild animals appear as "pets," the Science Center does not use "pet" names for exhibit or program animals. While coyotes are related to dogs, they can never be truly domesticated or “tame.” Animal care staffers work with the coyote under “protected contact,” meaning that when cleaning out holding areas or the exhibit, the coyote is always in a separate area.

How many coyotes are at the science center?
Currently, we have two coyotes. The older male is on exhibit and the younger female is strictly a program animal.

Are coyotes vicious?
Coyotes have powerful teeth and jaws for capturing prey, but unless they lose their fear of humans, they will not actively harm humans unless frightened or threatened. They would rather hunt mice and other small animals and stay out of harm’s way.

The coyote’s looking skinny today. Why is that?
Just like a long-haired dog, coyotes shed their winter coats when the weather gets warm. Often, wildlife photographers capture photos of animals in winter when their coats are thick and vibrant. While animal winter coats look beautiful in pictures, they’re not useful in the hot summer months. The fur gradually sheds off, leaving coyotes looking thinner and sometimes patchy. This is also why the red foxes tend to look scruffier in the summertime. Drop by as the weather gets cooler and you’ll start to see the animals with thicker coats.

July 28, 2014

A Day in Animal Care

By Alexa Cushman, Program Intern

A day spent in animal care begins bright and early at 8:00 a.m. . Diets need to be made for the animals on the trail first and foremost. The diets get made and collected; then it is time to hit the trail. Animal care staff doesn’t use the same trails that you use, but instead employ trails behind the exhibits that lead to enclosures where the animals stay in at night. While the animals are still inside, the animal care staff goes into the exhibit where we then clean. We clean the windows, so that you all can have the best view of the animal, and anything else that needs to be cleaned up and straightened out. Once the exhibit is clean, the animal is shifted out into the exhibit. We take this time to clean up their indoor enclosure and to put out their food for the evening. We make sure that all the animal exhibits have been cleaned, the animals have been fed, and are out on the trail by 9:30 a.m.. This ensures that you can see the animals as soon as the Science Center opens in the morning.

Once the trail is open, the animal care staff then moves back indoors to the animal care room, where many of our program animals are located. Cleaning, feeding, and providing enrichment for the program animals then begins. There are two different enrichment areas within the animal care room; one indoor and one outdoors. All of the program mammals spend at least a half hour either in the outdoor or indoor enrichment room every day. Enrichment is extremely important for captive animals. Animals in captivity do not live in their natural environment and to make sure that they are mentally and physically healthy, enrichment is provided to incorporate behaviors that are more natural. In the enrichment rooms we have placed many different logs, tunnels, toys, scents, and other activities to help provide space for the animals to run, climb, jump, and explore; all of the things that these animals would normally be doing in their natural environment.

Another activity that takes place in the afternoon in between cleaning and enriching the program animals is training. Training is very important for both the program and exhibit animals. Animal care staff does not train the animals here like you may train your dog or cat at home; instead all of the training serves a specific purpose. The program mammals are trained to move in and out of a crate onto a table, and are trained to stay there because they are used in many educational programs. When the animals are able to move by themselves, it is a lot less stressful for both the animal and the staff. The program birds are trained to follow whistle signals both on and off the glove. If the bird will easily move onto the glove, it is less stressful once again for the bird and the staff. Some of our larger program animals have been trained to do other tasks such as sit and give paw. These seemingly mundane tasks are important for routine nail clippings or visits from the veterinarian. The animals on exhibit have been trained to move on and off their exhibit so the animal care staff can perform maintenance and cleaning.

When all of the cleaning, feeding, enriching, and training has been completed, usually around 4:30 p.m., the animal care staff goes back to the exhibit trail to shift all the animals into their indoor enclosures for the evening. Eventually the animal care staff also go home, after a long, but rewarding day, ensuring that you were brought a little nearer to nature!

July 25, 2014

By Jordan McDaniel, Blue Heron School Associate Teacher, Guided Discovery Instructor

I’m in my fifth year as Guided Discoveries Instructor at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and have never been so excited about what I have planned. This summer I have had the help of an intern for the whole summer and together we have gotten really creative in the planning process. We have included the use of some different types of animals for our private mini talks, have scoured our resources for some fun, new crafts, and have come up with many new games to play. Each day is full of plenty of outdoor hands on time, crafts, games, interactions with animals and even some unstructured exploration in some of our more secluded areas on the Science Center grounds.

We have had many children return from previous years and met quite a few new friends. It’s really fun to see who is going to show up Monday, as I have seen many of them every summer since I have been here. I love the ability to establish a relationship with returning kids and their families, as well as making new friends. The children always bring something fresh and have helped me learn a few things as well!

We still have spaces available in programs such as “Up, down and around” and “Creature Features” so come check us out if you have not been here before, or come say hi if we haven’t had a chance to catch up this summer!

July 21, 2014

Docent Guided Tours

By Madeline Warren, Marketing Intern

If you’re looking for something fun to do on a Thursday at 10:30 a.m., the Docent Guided Tours offered at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center are a great way to spend your time. Docent Guided Tours are approximately ninety minutes long. These tours are given by trained Science Center volunteers who provide an in-depth look at the animal exhibit trail. Docent Guides have an extensive degree of knowledge about New Hampshire wildlife and the natural world.

Last week I was fortunate enough to join one of the Science Center’s Docent Guided Tours. My tour guide was Rachel, a volunteer Docent who spends a few months out of the year here at the Science Center working in animal care and leading tours. The tour began at the Welcome Center where Rachel introduced herself to the group of seven other visitors. I quickly learned that when Rachel is not giving tours or working in animal care at the Science Center she spends her months all over Africa giving wildlife safari tours. I could hardly believe I was about to take a tour with a true wildlife expert!

The tour then proceeded to the Trailhead Gallery where Rachel showed us the Barred Owl and explained the various adaptations owls have for living in the wild. One adaptation owls have that I thought was particularly fascinating is that the layout of the owl’s feathers is specially designed to allow the animal to silently swoop down and snatch their unsuspecting prey. Rachel was such an animated tour guide she demonstrated how the owls wings slice right through the air silently.

After giving the tour group a few minutes to walk around the Trailhead Gallery we continued to the exhibit trail. On the trail it felt as if I was taking a stroll through the woods because the wildlife was so abundant. We saw different song birds flying in the sky, chipmunks with their cheeks full of food, and an array of wild flowers. Rachel was just as knowledgeable about the wildlife at the Science Center that was not contained to an exhibit and was able to answer everyone’s questions. One couple in the group was specifically interested in learning about song birds and Rachel was able to identify all of the birds flying above and provided the couple with a great deal of information. It soon became evident that I was not just getting a tour of the animals at the Science Center but of all New Hampshire’s wildlife.

Having walked the trail dozens of times I thought I already knew everything about the animals here at the Science Center, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Rachel was telling me things about our exhibit animals and New Hampshire wildlife that I didn’t know before taking the tour. I especially loved that she knew so much about the stories behind each individual animal, and why they were brought to the Science Center. For just two dollars extra per person with trail admission, you will learn more than you ever thought you would about New England wildlife. I especially recommend this tour to anyone who has come to the Science Center before and wants to learn more about the animals here.

Docent Guided Tours are truly an unforgettable up close experience with New Hampshire’s animal ambassadors. In addition to gaining educational insights about the Science Center’s exhibit animals you will hear fun facts, and stories about all our animals. Docent Guided Tours truly provide an exclusive educational experience that will give you memories to take back with you.

Docent Guided Tours are offered every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. through August 28.