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: www.nhnature.org/news/media_kit.php

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 www.nhnature.org.

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 www.nhnature.org.

April 8, 2016

Winter's End

By Eric D'Aleo

Sometimes winter seems to last forever. The accumulation of snow, the bite of cold wind, and the short, gray days are enough to make anyone succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even with teasing sunny days and thawing ice, cold temperatures sneak back in to solidify winter’s hold once more and make us doubt spring’s eventual arrival. We search for some sign of change and the “bloom” of pussy willows provides encouragement to cope through the last throes of winter.

Pussy willows (Salix discolor) are native to the northern United States and are found from Idaho east to Maine and as far south as Maryland. There are 30 species of willows throughout North America and many have the ability to hybridize with one another, making identification difficult in some regions. Pussy willows are a large, multi-stemmed shrub that grows as high as twenty feet with a dark gray, scaly bark. They are found most often in wetlands, along river banks, or in drainage ditches beside roadsides. Although they may sometimes be found in upland areas, they prefer to grow in wet soils. The long narrow-toothed leaves are green on the surface and downy grayish-white underneath.

However, it’s the flowers, the soft silvery catkins which appear first that captures our attention. The catkins are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers form on different plants. Male catkins develop golden yellow stamens as they mature, and they open first. The soft, silvery bud of hairs, that people find so appealing, is used to insulate and protect the developing reproductive parts. The temperatures in early spring can still be quite cold but the hairs of the catkin trap the sun’s heat and raise the temperature several degrees. This aids in the development of pollen in the male catkins. The slender green pistils on female catkins develop later but also have similar hairs that raise the temperature of the ovules maturing inside. Once fully open, the male catkins have yellow pollen on their tips while female catkins are less colorful. The flowers produce large amounts of nectar high in sugar content, which attracts bees, flies, ants, and other pollinating insects that have emerged from their winter dormancy in search of food. Once pollinated, the seeds develop in small capsules on the female catkins. Each contains numerous seeds embedded in cottony down. The seeds are released to the wind in summer and are carried to a new location where, if conditions are right, they may germinate.

Many animals rely on the pussy willow shrubs besides insect pollinators. At least five species of butterflies and moths feed on the plant during their larval stage. These include the viceroy (Limenitis archippus) and mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterflies. Hairstreaks (Strymon spp.), sphinx moths (Sphingidae), and comma moths (Polygonia comma) also feed on willows. Leafrollers, sawflies, borers, midges, beetles, and gall gnats also feed on foliage of the pussy willow. Birds including catbirds, chickadees, goldfinches, warblers, and flycatchers are attracted to the shrubs to feed on the insect life found there. Willow thickets may provide cover and nesting opportunities for songbirds, northern harrier hawks, waterfowl, and marsh birds. Pussy willow buds provide an important winter food source for ruffed grouse and they may also be eaten by squirrels. Porcupines eat the bark and the end of twigs in the winter and also feed on catkins during spring. Snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit gnaw off bark or feed on twigs in winter, while both moose and white tailed deer browse on the twigs of pussy willow and other willow species during winter.

Pussy willow has been important to people, not only as a harbinger of spring, but also as a natural resource. Its pliable branches are used to construct wicker mats, baskets, and cradles. It contains the compound ‘salicin’ in its bark, like all willows, and was historically used by Native North Americans as a natural pain reliever and fever reducer. An important use today is for use in stabilizing banks and shorelines along water bodies, binding soil with its extensive root system. This, along with the ability of willow cuttings to root quickly, allows pussy willow to thrive in seasonally flooded areas. As a result willow filter strips are planted in agricultural areas to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff into nearby wetlands or water bodies.

Who knew an early sigh of spring also was so beneficial to people and the natural world?

Bonus: Check out this video of a porcupine eating pussy willow catkins: https://vimeo.com/23759207

February 29, 2016

Night at the Science Center

By Eric D'Aleo, Naturalist

Have you ever wondered what happens at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in the off season or at night? Well, we have too, especially after we’ve all gone home for the day. So this winter we were able to start discovering answers when a local supporter offered to set up a number of wildlife trail cameras on our property. To date we have captured images of 6 species: including red fox, white tailed deer, eastern coyote, wild turkey, raccoon and grey fox. What seems to be by far the most photographed is the flock of about a dozen turkeys. They have shown up on all of the trail cameras both in the field and in the woods multiple times a day past some of them. We hope to be able to continue this project throughout the year and on different locations on our property. Take a look below at some of our “off season visitors”.
 Red Fox – Walking through
Gray Fox – This image was taken several days later in same location as the red fox photo.Can you tell the difference between both foxes? 
An Eastern coyote stopping to investigate a smell – This is not either of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center coyotes taking an evening stroll.
Raccoon – Walking through
A somewhat nervous White tailed deer
 A flock of wild turkeys foraging for food

February 22, 2016

What's Been Here?

Gray Squirrel visited its acorn cache.
By Margaret Gillespie, Naturalist

My dog Mica is especially curious about holes in the snow like this one. Maybe there is a lingering smell of the digger. Do you see any hints of what has been here? It’s definitely a creature that relishes acorns – it left only scraps behind.

Gray squirrels cache acorns in the fall in various locations and return to retrieve them during the winter. Most of the acorns will be those from red oaks which don’t germinate until spring. White oak acorns germinate in the fall soon after they hit the ground. If gray squirrels cache those acorns, they nip the tip off first, destroying the tree embryo. Do they remember where they cache their food supply? If their memory fails them and it often does, they can always use their sense of smell to find theirs or another squirrel’s bounty. What’s the fate of those acorns never found? You guessed it. They sprout and proceed with life as oak trees.

February 1, 2016

Tracks in the Snow

By Dave Erler, Senior Naturalist

Skunk tracks in the snow.
A week ago I was out in the woods behind my house. To get to the woods I have to cross a stream. The stream is fairly small, too small to paddle a canoe on, but just a little too wide to jump across. To surmount this obstacle I always cross in the same place where I constructed a couple of crude bridges about three decades ago. As got to the first bridge I noticed that a thin coat of ice had finally formed and was coated with a dusting of snow from the night before.

Looking down from the bridge I could see two sets of small tracks. I stopped and looked a little closer and it was clear from the patterns and size of tracks they were from two different animals. One set had smaller footprints paired side by side with about a 12 to 13 inch gap between sets of tracks. The other prints were also paired, but a bit rounder in shape; more definite comma-shaped claw marks and a longer gap between the sets of prints. From that evidence it was clear a Long-tailed Weasel and a Mink had passed through. Both sets of tracks were heading in the same direction, but knowing these two species don’t socialize I began to wonder. Which one had come through first? Was one following the other? Where were they going and where had they come from? Had I just missed an opportunity to see one of them?

I followed the tracks as best I could along the bank, but the dense growth of alders made it difficult and I gave up the effort after a few dozen yards. But even from following them that short distance it seemed clear they both were on a mission. If someone were to follow my tracks it would be clear I was randomly rambling about. In fact if someone followed long enough they would have been led in a large irregular circle eventually coming back across the bridge and to my doorstep. Once there they would have found me enjoying the warmth of the wood stove. As for the mink and the weasel, they have no such luxury. For them survival depends on using energy efficiently at a time of the year when food is hard to come by and the conditions are brutal. They have no time to wander about aimlessly.

Winter often seems devoid of life with so many of the birds having gone south and so many other animals lying dormant until spring arrives and awakens them. For those creatures that remain active and take on the challenge of winter I am thankful. I am thankful for the tracks they leave in the snow to give me reason to wonder and wander through winter as well.

January 28, 2016

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival Comes to Plymouth February 9

A Celebration of Our Environment 
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes to Plymouth 

Holderness, NH – Join Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, Plymouth State University’s Office of Environmental Sustainability and other Plymouth State University sponsors when they host the Wild and Scenic Film Festival On Tour at The Flying Monkey in Plymouth on Tuesday, February 9.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a collection of films from the annual festival held the third week of January in Nevada City, CA which is now in its 14th year! Wild & Scenic focuses on films which speak to the environmental concerns and celebrations of our planet. “Films featured at Wild & Scenic give people a sense of place,” says Tour Associate Director, Amelia Workman. “In today’s busy world, it is easy to disconnect from our role in the global ecosystem. When we realize that the change we need in this world begins with us, we start making a difference. Come get inspired!”

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival was started by the watershed advocacy group, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) in 2003. The festival’s namesake is in celebration of the SYRCL’s landmark victory to receive “Wild & Scenic” status for 39 miles of the South Yuba River in 1999. The main 4-day event features over 100 award-winning films and welcomes over 100 guest speakers, celebrities, and activists who bring a human face to the environmental movement. The home festival kicks-off the international tour to over 150 communities around the globe, allowing SYRCL to share their success as an environmental group with other organizations. The festival is building a network of grassroots organizations connected by a common goal of using film to inspire activism. With the support of National Partners: Patagonia, CLIF Bar, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Orion Magazine, Klean Kanteen, Earthjustice, and Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, the festival can reach an even larger audience. 

The festival in Plymouth will feature eleven films including Osprey: Marine Sentinel. The film stars what is arguably the world’s most iconic and significant raptor: the osprey. Exclusive access, cutting-edge technology, and innovative cinematographic techniques provide a unique perspective and unprecedented intimacy into the dramatic story of a life-long pair, and the intrepid scientists who have spent a lifetime discovering what may be one of the most significant success stories of environmental conservation. Another featured film is Nature Rx, an award-winning comedy set in the world of a spoofed prescription drug commercial. It offers a hearty dose of laughs and the outdoors. 

One of the longer films of the evening is The Little Things, which follows professional snowboarders who have chosen to be outspoken and make positive changes towards a sustainable environment. This film is an initiative taken on by one of snowboarding’s most influential riders, Marie-France Roy, in hopes of inspiring others towards sustainability through inspirational speakers, positive ideas, and leading a healthy lifestyle. They keep it positive and showcase some of the little things that people can do to contribute to positive changes for the future of our environment.

 The festival is a natural extension of PSU’s Office of Environmental Sustainability and Squam Lakes Natural Science Center’s work to inspire people to act on behalf of the environment.

All proceeds go to Plymouth State University’s general scholarship fund.

Event Details:
Date: Tuesday, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Location: The Flying Monkey, 39 Main Street, Plymouth, NH
Tickets: $10 per person, $5 for PSU students. Purchase online at flyingmonkeynh.com or call 603-536-2551. Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the event.

January 7, 2016

About River Otters

River Otter

Lutra canadensis
River Otter tracksKingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Lontra
Species: L. canadensis

Fast Facts

River OtterLifespan: 8-10 years in the wild (up to 20 years in captivity)
Size: 35-50 inches long, weight of males 15-20 pounds, females about one-third less
Offspring: 2-3 kits
Status: Common in parts of southern Canada and populations increasing in the eastern United States
What do river otters look like and what animals are their relatives?  River otters are dark brown, fading to tan on the underside and on the muzzle and throat. Their coats consist of two kinds of fur – a dense, short, oily underfur and long, shiny guardhairs.  Streamlined for swimming, with cylindrical bodies and long, tapering, round tails, otters are never far from water. Eyes, plus a flattened dark nose and small rounded ears are towards the top of the skull. Webbed feet greatly enhance an otter’s swimming abilities.  Otters are members of the family Mustelidae and thus are related to mink, fisher, weasels and martens.
What kind of habitat to otters prefer?  Masters of the waterways, otters are found in the moving water of rivers and streams as well as in marshes, ponds, lakes, and saltwater.  The home range of an otter is typically 3-10 square miles, but may be as large as 60 square miles. A male otter has a larger territory that usually overlaps that of several females. Dens are used in raising the young and may be an old beaver lodge or bank den, a spot under the roots of fallen trees or in hollow logs close to water.
What do otters eat?  
While fish make up the major portion of their diet, otters also prey on crayfish, frogs, small mammals, aquatic insects, turtles, water snakes and even eat some plant material like blueberries.
Do otters have some special adaptations?  Otters have special adaptations for living in water that give them to ability to dive to a depth of 60 feet and stay underwater of up to three or four minutes. As they dive below the surface, otters automatically slow their heart rate and concentrate blood flow to the brain and vital organs, thus conserving oxygen.  Valves in their ears and nostrils close to exclude water and a clear nictitating membrane (third eyelid) covers and protects the eyes while allowing for good vision. Whiskers two to four inches long are sensitive to underwater vibrations from prey.

Fun Facts!

  • Otters can swim at six to seven miles per hour both above and below water.
  • Otter slides? Yes, otters will slide down muddy, grassy or snowy slopes and these slides may be up to 25 feet long, usually ending in water.
  • Otters are very playful, wrestling and chasing each other and rolling in the water.
  • An otter’s fur is waterproof because the oily underfur is so dense and is structured in an interlocking pattern, keeping water away from the otter’s skin.  
  • Clean water is essential to otters so seeing one indicates a healthy waterway.