August 15, 2016

Upper Pond

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

I have never been disappointed with extra walking for the reward of the reaching the Upper Pond. Towards the end of the exhibit trail, between the Raptor Exhibit and marsh boardwalk, signs offer guests another attraction up a path to an unseen pond. I've found that guests tend to divert past this attraction, likely because it brings guests up a path towards which may or may not be a worthy sidebar for their trip. In contrast, on the rare occasions I do come across guests at the Upper Pond, they too are floored by its serenity.

The Upper Pond is accessible via a short, easy path through the woods; adding perhaps 3 minutes to your walk but many more if you stay to look! Two docks stretch out over clear, calm water while massive trees and bushes curtain the pond; almost completely muffling the distant sound of children and families on the exhibit trail. Aptly positioned, several wooden benches beckon from the shaded vegetation, overlooking the peaceful waters. On the other side of the pond stands a weathered bird house; its perfect reflection in the water is an ode to the tranquility this spot offers. The trail parallels the edge of the water, leading from one dock to the other, delivering guests back down to the marsh boardwalk through a field of tall grasses and wildflowers.

Finding frogs, watching fish, listening to the birds, enjoying the breeze, are only a few of the activities I find myself doing every time I’m up there. This part of the Science Center is a hidden gem for a family photo, a peaceful spot for meditation or yoga, or the perfect rest stop for simply enjoying the sights and sounds of a thriving ecosystem. Next time you're visiting the Science Center, don't skimp your trip; make sure to at least walk by the Upper Pond, I'm sure you'll see (or hear) something beautiful!

August 1, 2016

The Habitat You Drive Through

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

I find it curious that I never before considered how and why I saw animals running through roadways, often becoming roadkill. To some extent I could sense it was partly from human encroachment on lands where the animals once thrived without limitations. However, this consideration came full circle while listening to one of our naturalists speak about opossums and how the species have been using highways as a habitat for some time. Well, sort of.

It all begins with the advent of the automobile. At that time, meager roadways existed for steam-powered trolleys and other such transportation, but there was nothing like the main arterial highways of today. As the automobile picked up in popularity, the need for roads led to development of newly constructed highway systems. These highways, and other roadways, became attractive to animals such as opossums for a slew of reasons. On the edges, roads offer minimal vegetation, almost field-like (picture the unkempt lawn-length grass that small rodents and animals can hide in and scavenge for seeds.) For many New England highways, just past the long grasses is usually the forest wall. This is where, on the edge of the forest and beside the highway, that animals like the opossum have found a fitting habitat where they’re able to find food sources: berries and seeds, insects, saplings, and the herbivores like meadow voles or white footed mice, who feed on this vegetation. Unfortunately, we often find the animals living here as roadkill.

The opossum, an omnivorous scavenger also facing human encroachment in its habitat, began moving north after the advent of the automobile, into southern and central New Hampshire. Though not all of the New Hampshire opossum population resides next to a highway, many opossum find it a rewarding habitat for the food supply, forest shelters, and living space. So why haven’t opossums continued moving north and over the White Mountains? Looking at photos of an opossum, you may notice that their protection from the cold and wind is rather limited. The exposed ears, tail, and feet of opossums are threatened by the cold temperatures and are susceptible to frostbite even in the southern part of the state. It’s clear that opossums, North America’s only marsupial species (like a koala or kangaroo), are not well-suited to the climate in New Hampshire and thus hints at the concept of this species utilizing roadway systems as a habitat over the past century.

For me, a commuter driving the highways of New Hampshire for over an hour in total each day, I began noticing the breadth and frequency of species near the highway - both alive and deceased. I noted that besides the opossums, I saw other wildlife near the roadway usually for one presumable purpose: food. For instance, the raptors circling above I had initially assumed may be there for the hot air rising from the pavement, but I soon began questioning “well, why this hot air mass over that hot air mass?” Further down the highway I watched as two vultures tugged a white-tailed deer from the break-down lane into the drainage ditch. This was my answer; there’s a constant food supply here for everyone sharing the habitat. From the driver’s seat in my hatchback I could watch butterflies and other insects buzzing around a laurel bush positioned in the median of the highway; squirrels scurrying out of sight with their seeds; white-tailed deer grazing in the tall grasses; and two crows pulling unrecognizable carrion from a rumble strip.

Remarkably, these animals are able to accommodate changes to their habitat, accepting that fast moving cars are a part of daily life whether it is noise, pollution, or the moments when our cars become top-of-the-food-chain predators, running down these critters. Though it may be too late to reverse the industrial revolution, or for that matter, reverse the damage the industrial revolution brought unto our environment and society, it is not too late to consider the future. I find it both intriguing and humbling to consider this during my long commutes: the impact on the future generations of these species that are adapting to their highway habitat.

Here are some interesting topics to think about if you also have a long commute:
  • Did you see a live animal? Wonder: does it seem to be living nearby, or running for its life to never come back? Does it have babies? Could it have babies? What’s the lifespan of the animal (and possible babies) if it’s using a highway habitat? At what rate is it ingesting chemicals from cars and air pollution (like windshield washer fluid)? And the list goes on…. 
  • Did you see a dead animal? Wonder: If it’s an opossum, which have pouches for their newborns, could it have babies that were also killed? How does the death of an adult and/or baby opossums affect the opossum population? How does its/their death affect the ecosystem where it once lived?
Feel free to leave any questions or comments at the bottom and I’ll answer as soon as I can, and as well I can!

Night-time driving tip: When watching for animals at night, chances are when they hear your car they’ll turn their head towards the noise. This gives you the opportunity of catching the split second they are looking into your headlights, and the light is bouncing off their tapetums. The tapetum is a reflective sheet covering the back of the eyeball in most animals, like a dog when you take their picture. The reason we can’t see this reflection during the day time is because tapetums exist to help animals see better at night by amplifying the light source. Ultimately when that picture of your dog or cat is developed and he has red eyes, this is because the flash, combined with the effects of the tapetum, illuminated blood vessels in his eyes. Therefore, watching for the flash of your high beams off an animal’s tapetums is a great way of identifying if an animal is up ahead before it’s too late.

New Hampshire Rocks

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

Can you name all of New Hampshire’s common rock types- besides granite? Geology may not be the most thrilling topic you studied in grade school, but it most definitely holds some eye-opening information about our past, present, and future that you might have overlooked as a kid. If you’ve ever visited the Science Center’s New Hampshire Geology exhibit, you might have discovered more about what rocks offer us humans besides the Old Man of the Mountain (God rest his soul.) If you haven’t seen it- here’s an article about why the New Hampshire Geology Exhibit is the bee’s knees.

To begin, the Geology exhibit is located near the amphitheater, making it either a treat for the end of the trip, or easily accessible to visit at the beginning for a few minutes. You’ll notice upon approaching, a long stone pathway from the entrance stretches to the back of the open-air exhibit. The cobbled path features small placards from start to finish, marking the path with a literal timeline of Earth’s existence, based on information scientists have gathered from rocks! Toward the end, the last foot and half, you’ll find yourself completely in awe at the visualization of just how much occurred in the last couple thousand years… like humans beginning to walk the Earth!

There are other interactive displays for guests to learn about the many important aspects of rocks. There is an interactive display board defining numerous uses for rocks in New Hampshire; massive rocks, or mountains in this example, are integral in developing weather and climate patterns in the region, while smaller rocks may make great homes for cliff swallows and other species. In all, the display helps adults and children visualize the importance of rocks from big mountains to small as sand.

The last, and more popular part of the exhibit, is the native New Hampshire rock garden. A small sign identifies the native rock types while almost a dozen small boulders protrude from the soil behind it. This is a hot spot for family photo action; most kids (and hey, adults too) love climbing on the rocks to look silly for a picture. However, the rock garden is a great opportunity to look closely at these native rocks' characteristics. Regardless of your reason for visiting the New Hampshire Geology exhibit, you are sure to exit with a stronger appreciation for the purpose rocks serve in New Hampshire.

July 18, 2016

Be Nice to Your Ants!

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

I love finding a good reason why something is useful to the immediate environment, and so it was during an Insect Adventure program for a school group when a volunteer started in with a tidbit on ants that stopped me in my tracks. While children frolicked, catching field insects, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Docent volunteer, Judy, discussed the basic importance of ants: they dig holes in the ground, which helps aerate soil and water plants. In my head I thought, “Wow, I hate those crawly things, but at least they make a great contribution to our environment!”

Little black ant
I initially saw this as a small silver lining to the presence of such insects; I absolutely abhor the feeling of an ant crawling across my foot while doing dishes in my kitchen. Regardless of those past encounters, I began searching for more ways they are important in the Science Center’s Arthur C. Unsworth Memorial Library (the staff’s repertoire of fantastic reference books and educational materials) where I was stunned to find a publication called Wonders of the Ant World, written by Hans Heinz Ewers. The book did such a great job both personifying and justifying the presence of these insects that I was unable to put the book down that night.

It’s probably safe to say a high majority of the human population dislikes the presence of house ants (this blog focuses on common black house ants and little black ants, in particular) since we often see them scurrying in and about our kitchen, getting into pantries, and scarfing away sugary goods. Beside the fact that ants are well-known thieves, they offer humans little else to be interested in; they are neither beautiful to look at like a butterfly nor is there anything humorous or novel about them. Thus, come early spring, hardware and grocery stores stock their shelves with ample ant poison so that we may eradicate them in our homes.

Well, won’t you be surprised to know ants are more like humans than we may think. An ant’s lifestyle is very similar to our own, starting with “ants are the cleanest of all creatures” (Ewers 20). Ants are so clean, in fact, that my research in our library noted that “The American woman of the cultured class is almost painfully particular as to cleanliness,” going on to reference how in Japanese customs, individuals remove their shoes before entering their houses, and that even the Dutch “pride themselves upon the absolute cleanliness of their homes” but “all the cleanliness of the Japanese, the Dutch or Americans is as nothing to that among ants” (Ewers 20). All species of ants are specially equipped with many biological functions that aid them in the cleaning process, such as comb-like features on their forelegs. These features help ants to maintain their personal hygiene and also keep a pristine nest.
See live ants at Life Underground
Nests have chambers of corresponding importance, just like humans, such as a main living space or sleeping quarters. Cleaning the nest, like we would our home, is a strong-held value for ants, or perhaps more so. When it comes to any refuse inside the nest, ants use an innovative, organized means to immediately remove and bury waste in a “special dump, sometimes in the far corner of the nest, but usually outside of it” (Ewers 21). Additionally, Ewers notes a unique trait in ants, that “even more remarkable, the ants bury their dead” as soon as they can, a rare trait in the animal kingdom (Ewers 21). Though ants may be personified through many, many more of their traits, like playing games with each other using “grains of wheat or seeds,” ants should also be thought of as integral player in agricultural practices (Ewers 21).

In many other countries, the presence of ant colonies in orchards can greatly aid in decreasing the population of fruit- or veggie-harming insects. In fact, a single colony of ants has the ability to eliminate upwards of 100,000 insects each day, a high majority of those insects being the harmful ones (Ewers 11). I was stunned to read that “Germany is the only country which has passed a law protecting the ant” (Ewers 10). This is because, in Germany, and other countries like China and Malaysia, if there is a caterpillar infestation in an orchard, farmers may hang ant colonies in each orchard tree and will then draw a thick ring of sticky tar around the trunk of the tree, ultimately preventing ants from crossing the tar. In America, our most similar practice to this has been by using ant colonies to “fight the destructive boll-weevil on the cotton plants” (Ewers 11).

The agricultural history of using ants to aid in farming practices was not the worst idea, compared to that, say, of the advent of using DDT as a pesticide. Ants are an incredible agricultural tool, able to “stir up the soil, plowing and harrowing better than any men can,” and should therefore be thoughtfully reconsidered as quite an underestimated, yet important, insect (Ewers 12). Despite mankind’s natural intuition to dislike the ant due to its tendency to turn up in places where we don’t want it, and my own nauseating reaction to feeling an ant scuttle over skin, I was inspired by Ewers interpretation of an ant’s importance and tremendous similarities to the human race. If you find yourself also questioning an ant’s abilities and similarities to humans, feel free to leave your questions, there is an awful lot of information not included here that I found just as intriguing!

July 11, 2016

Hiking Mt. Fayal

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

View from the summit of Mount Fayal.
Before I had actually climbed the mountain, I’d seen iconic photographs taken from the summit that inspired me to make the trek. The Mt. Fayal hiking trail is a one-mile loop that reaches a gorgeous lookout over Squam Lake, and took me past many captivating sights along the way. Knowing there wasn’t yet a full map and summary of the hiking trails for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to map the trails while I climbed.

Prior to beginning the ascent, you have several options for reaching the Mt. Fayal trailhead. My choice was by following the exhibit trail towards the amphitheater. From this point, I walked to the right, away from the amphitheater and towards the marsh boardwalk. Before the marsh boardwalk, a mowed pathway cuts back through the vegetation on the right; this trail, the end of the ecotone trail, will connect you to the Mt. Fayal trailhead. However, if you get yourself on any three of the Science Center’s hiking trails, you will eventually see one, if not a few, trail signs describing where you are and where you’re going.

View from first lookout.
I eagerly bounded up the slope, recording my movements using a voice recorded on my phone as I excitedly peered around the peaceful forest. I will make it clear now that ascending the side closer to the Welcome Center is the steeper part of the trail. Taking full advantage of lunging my lunch away, I was surprised it took no more than fifteen minutes to reach the first lookout, with a view so nice I first assumed it was the summit. Plopped there on a bench, I did not hesitate to enjoy the vistas for a second while a scrawled in my notes. I continued to go up a little bit further until the path began to level out as I reached the summit. As I finished this leg, I walked towards another bench facing a clearing and was stunned as I continued to move past the vegetation blocking my view. What a sight! After twenty, twenty-five minutes of hiking, I was looking at the iconic images of the lake I had seen from photographs. You should know, seeing the view in person after a sweaty scramble to the summit, is about 100 times more breathtaking than you’d imagine by just looking at snapshots.

After breaking, I continued on the trail from behind the bench, as it plateaued and eventually descended. The descent wasn’t as steep as the trail coming up, but loose rocks might make it slightly more difficult for inexperienced hikers. The Mt. Fayal loop trail intersects with the Forest Trail on this side of the loop, near the Piper Homestead. I was thrilled to find that the trails intersected at such a perfect spot; the only remains of the Piper Homestead is the stone cellar hole, but it’s accompanied by an informational signboard with artifacts on display. Overlooking the cellar hole, while reading about the history of the homestead, I was fascinated to learn the homestead included a barn once located on the opposite side of the trail, but both had burned down in a fire. From the Piper Homestead, you can continue up on the Forest Trail or continue on the Mt. Fayal Trail back down to the Welcome Center, like I did. At the bottom, I turned left to where the trail intersects with the Ecotone Trail, as I made my way back towards the Welcome Center.

From start to finish, the hike took me through various landscapes with enthralling sights along the way, in a matter of about 45 minutes. I did, in fact, encounter some wildlife on my hike - a black bear to be exact. Though this was my first experience coming face-to-face with a black bear, I was experienced enough to know to make noise on the trail, which most likely kept him at bay. When hiking the Mt. Fayal trail, or any trail for that matter, your chances of running into wildlife aren’t zero, thanks to growing populations of humans ultimately leading to shrinking habitat for bears and other wildlife.

When it comes to black bears, know this: these curious creatures can smell you from a mile away and will almost always keep their distance from humans. This brings me to my next point: the bears I am referencing are not the man-eating, ferocious grizzly bear from The Revenant. Black bears tend to have a more docile attitude and typically have a healthy fear of other bears and humans. There is a loophole here, though, if you come across a black bear cub GET OUT OF THERE! Black bears protect their cubs at all costs, especially if they feel like a hiker is encroaching on their family picnic - you want to give the bear as much space as possible.

Tips for hiking (anywhere, really):
  1. Make noise on the trail! I keep all of my keys on a big carabiner (an almost janitor-sized collection), which I hooked to my side-strap camera bag to make a nice jingle-y, clanging noise while I walked. Other ideas? Attach a tin or aluminum cup, attach your whole mess kit even, or try putting some bells on your pack. I know everyone likes peaceful walks in the woods, but making noise will help alert a bear that something is near and will advise the bear to stay at a distance. In my case, when I heard the bear, he was already watching me walk away from about 400 feet off in the woods. 
  2. Hike in open areas so you can see into the woods (and see the bear, and it can see you) Where I was hiking, there was great visibility off the trail so that both the bear and I could see each other from about 400 feet away. If you know you’ll be hiking on a densely vegetated trail, plan ahead with steps 1 and 3. 
  3. Carry bear deterrent spray; it makes for a great backup plan if the situation gets sticky 
  4. Remember to stay calm! The second you feel the adrenaline kick in, gulp it down, and calmly take charge. Depending on the bear and the encounter, there are different steps to take to avoid further contact. Thus, I recommend doing more research about how to handle even closer bear encounters, particularly when bears become defensive
Here are some links on how to escape a bear in the wild:
A great way to see black bears safely is from the black bear exhibit at the Science Center! Both of our ambassador black bears can be visited at their exhibit, daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm with the last trial admission at 3:30 pm. Along with being able to watch the bears in their daily routines, the black bear exhibit features countless educational activities and displays to keep you entertained and curious!

Interested in more black bear information? You’re invited to come listen to expert Ben Kilham speak at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center at 7:00 pm on August 9 as a part of our Adult Lecture Series. Ben Kilham has studied these animals in a vast tract of Northern New Hampshire woodlands. At times, he has also taken in orphaned infant bears- feeding them, walking them through the forest for months to help them decipher their natural world, and eventually reintroducing them back into the wild. Ben Kilham has even been featured in five internationally televised documentaries, as well as making appearances on over forty radio shows. Don’t miss the opportunity to understand black bears from the perspective of a well-seasoned expert! There is no charge for attendance but reservations are required and can be made by calling 603-968-7194 x7.

June 28, 2016

Are you Cultured on Vultures?

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

“Wooowwww, they ARE so ugly!” a young guest bellows from below me. I have to admit I agree that the shiny red heads of turkey vultures, with their bacterial warts and wrinkles, are not the most enchanting species in the raptor family. Watching the Science Center’s ambassador turkey vultures, I quickly began considering the semiotics of this species; what is it that these birds symbolize for us? Most would probably say death or dying; some may identify with these birds as the executioner henchmen, Trigger and Nutsy, from Disney’s Robin Hood; while perhaps a select few, including myself, strive to see these birds as a massively important player in the circle of life. (Cue the Lion King music!) Mostly, the idea of a turkey vulture, a bird that eats other dead animals, conjures up images and emotions so taboo to us humans that it seems fitting to push them aside as just an ugly, bald bird. As ugly as they are, I began to consider their undoubted importance to our ecosystem, and ecosystems globally. Why is it we should care at all about turkey vultures in New Hampshire? Past research has shown that turkey vultures have such an advanced sense of smell, that they are characteristic for locating and consuming their meals when they are typically 2-3 days dead. That being said, turkey vultures use their keen smelling to decipher the degree of freshness, so that they “rarely visit [dead animals] when they are four (or more) days along and in a state of full-blown putrefaction” (Snyder & Snyder 28.) In contrast, a newly deceased animal emits a much less powerful odor and therefore turkey vultures are less likely to find them.

Powerfully intense stomach acids in the vultures work to break down the food so that bacteria and other poisons may be carefully expelled, while the fresher parts of the animal are utilized for energy. Unfortunately, their selective scope for food has been increasingly impeded since the industrial revolution.

“In a pre-technological world, the major poisons found in carcasses were of microbial origin- poisons which [vultures] could develop resistance by their highly developed immune systems. The modern industrial world has thrown an array of new poisons at these species, which at least in the case of the California condor* appear to have been a major cause of population decline” (Snyder & Snyder 28-29.)

Interestingly, despite their incredible immunities to synthetic and natural poisons, turkey vultures have a surprising vulnerability to lead poisoning; a growing concern in the state of New Hampshire for another ornithological species: the common loon. Additionally, many people think that turkey vultures are vessels for disease that can kill livestock, but in fact their insanely adept biological functions eliminate these viruses and diseases while in the stomach of the vulture. Turkey vultures are earnest scavengers, consuming carrion or other animal carcasses like roadkill, and finally returning those deceased creatures back into the circle of life. These birds are a species equipped with extraordinary biological functions that allow them to sniff out a deceased animal and utilize its remains as a food source, despite bacteria and parasites. If you want to consider how this truly is a beautiful representation of the circle of life; the circle ends with the vulture defecating which ultimately is returning that once-living animal back into the ecosystem as soil. Thus, “caring about” turkey vultures doesn’t have to be as trivial as you think; it is, rather, an opportunity to identify with an ornithological species in a positive manner. Though they are ugly, and carry out some truly ugly functions in our ecosystem, turkey vultures are a key species in reducing the growth and spread of disease, helping to eliminate roadkill, and aiding in the final and most important step of the circle of life: returning back to the Earth.

*Did you know that California condors have the largest wingspan of all vultures?

June 2, 2016

Science Center Earns 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

PO Box 173, 23 Science Center Road,
Holderness, NH 03245
Press Contact: Amanda Gillen, Marketing & Visitor Services Manager
603-968-7194 x34 or
High resolution images available at:

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Earns
2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Holderness, NHSquam Lakes Natural Science Center today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. Now in its sixth year, the achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year. Certificate of Excellence recipients include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience. 

“We are thrilled to be honored by the TripAdvisor community for everything the Science Center has to offer,” said Amanda Gillen, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “We are very proud of the positive reviews and ratings from travellers who have visited.”

"With the Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor honors hospitality businesses that have consistently received strong praise and ratings from travelers,” said Heather Leisman, Vice President of Industry Marketing, TripAdvisor. “This recognition helps travelers identify and book properties that regularly deliver great service. TripAdvisor is proud to play this integral role in helping travelers feel more confident in their booking decisions.”

The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travelers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.
About Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
The mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. Through spectacular live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, an informal public garden, and lake cruises, the Science Center has educated and enlightened visitors since 1966 about the importance of our natural world. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is located on Route 113 in Holderness, an easy drive from exit 24 off I-93, and is open daily from May 1 through November 1. The Science Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is the only AZA-accredited institution in all of northern New England. For further information about the Science Center, call 603-968-7194 or visit

About TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor® is the world's largest travel site**, enabling travelers to plan and book the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers advice from millions of travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools that check hundreds of websites to find the best hotel prices. TripAdvisor branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, reaching 340 million unique monthly visitors***, and 350 million reviews and opinions covering 6.5 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. The sites operate in 48 markets worldwide.

TripAdvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP), through its subsidiaries, manages and operates websites under 24 other travel media brands:

**Source: comScore Media Metrix for TripAdvisor Sites, worldwide, February 2016
***Source: TripAdvisor log files, Q1 2016


April 22, 2016

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Celebrates 50 Years

An early conceptual drawing for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.
2016 is a big year for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center! It marks the fiftieth anniversary of the organization that is a favorite of many. From humble beginnings, it grew into the state’s premier natural science center and now provides outstanding nature-related experiences for more than 85,000 people each year. A milestone such as this is thanks to the vision, energy, and generosity of many people over the years.

The idea for the Science Center began in 1965 with a meeting of Holderness residents who were united by an appreciation of the area’s beauty and a desire to preserve it. These founders thought a science center would attract visitors while also protecting the area’s natural assets. By the following year, 180 acres of property and several buildings were purchased and the Science Center was incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization called Squam Lakes Science Center. In 1969, the Science Center opened its doors to the public for the first summer season, offering lectures in the Red Barn next to the Holderness Inn (on Route 3). The original attractions included two trails on Mount Fayal and several live animal exhibits with admission at $1.25 for adults and $0.75 for juniors.
Forester Larry Rathbun, Founder Frank Webster, Executive Director Gilbert “Gib” Merrill,
and Trustee John Anderson (left to right) pose by a sign recognizing the Webster family’s commitment to
environmental education. The sign now greets visitors near the Welcome Center main entrance.
During the 1970s the Science Center mission narrowed its focus to specialize in natural science education and more fully utilize the fields, forests, streams, and ponds on the property as a unique outdoor classroom. While offering many educational programs for schools on site, naturalists also began taking natural science education and wild animal ambassadors to schools across the state.

The 1980s saw collaborations with other partners such as New Hampshire Public Television which helped broaden the reach of the Science Center. The facilities of the Science Center also saw change, most visibly moving the Webster Education building across campus to be closer to teaching areas and renovating the building to add additional classroom space. Early on, volunteers were an important resource. Many people donated time and services to help support the Science Center. The volunteer program continues to be a strength today, with 396 volunteers donating over 9,500 hours of service in 2015.

Bill Webb, Executive Director from 1989 to 1992 recently said, “That’s the magic of the Science Center. Every generation is fascinated by the experiences found here, experiences that in many ways only get better as we get older. The challenge for the Science Center is finding new and innovative ways to keep future generations connected to the natural world around them.”

In the 1990s the Science Center began offering naturalist-led cruises on Squam Lake that remain popular today. The cruises changed and grew over the years and now include daily offerings from May through October focusing on the natural history, ecology, and wildlife of Squam Lake. In 1995, ground was broken for Kirkwood Gardens on property adjacent to the Holderness Inn on Route 3, featuring plants attractive to birds and butterflies. The current mission of the Science Center – to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world – was adopted on January 1, 2000 and still is the mission today.
The Science Center's first Executive Director,
Gib Merrill, showing a fox kit to visitors. 

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center gained accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 2006 and 2011 (each term is five years). The accreditation process evaluates every facet of a zoo or aquarium making sure that an institution meets the highest standards for animal management and care, including living environments, social groupings, health, nutrition, and enrichment. The process also evaluates the veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services, and the quality of staff. Successful accreditation means an institution is among the best in the world. The Science Center continues to be the only institution in northern New England currently accredited by the AZA.

Another special addition occurred in 2010 with the opening of Blue Heron School. The school is the first nature-based Montessori early learning center in New Hampshire designed for children ages 3 to 6.

Throughout the years the Science Center has seen name changes – Squam Lakes Science Center (1966), Science Center of New Hampshire (1983), and Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (2000) – but the overall goals of educating the public and conserving the land have remained constant. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center today is firmly established, supported by its community, with a proven track record of educational excellence and offering a rich diversity of adventures.

Learn more about activities related to the anniversary celebration at