Portland’s zoo releases hundreds of native butterflies as part of conservation effort

The Oregon Zoo in Portland, as part of its conservation research and intervention efforts, released native butterflies atop Mount Hebo on the Oregon Coast in early August.

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Kathy Street

An Oregon silverspot butterfly visits a flower on Mount Hebo. Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo/Kathy Street

The native insects were Oregon silverspot butterflies, which the zoo reared and released in an effort to boost the species’ numbers in the Northwest. Populations of the silverspots, which were once common in coastal grasslands from northern California to British Columbia, Canada, have significantly declined due to the loss of habitat and its host plant, the early blue violet.

Oregon silverspots are now listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

This was the final release in a month-long effort that had zoo staff and conservation partners making weekly trips to the coast to transport butterfly pupae to grassy headlands and salt-spray meadows that comprise some of the silverspots’ last remaining habitat.

In total, nearly 450 zoo-reared silverspots were released as pupae this summer at four field sites along the Oregon Coast. At those sites, the silverspots are completing their metamorphoses inside mesh pens that protect them from voles, birds and other predators. During the next few weeks, they are expected to emerge as fully formed butterflies.

Life as fully mature silverspots, however, is brief. Adults live only about two weeks after emergence, and in that time they’ll have to mate and produce the next generation of the species.

Zoo staff said that during the final release of silverspots on Mount Hebo, they spotted a newly emerged female in the field who “fluttered straight to a nearby daisy and was joined there moments later by a male silverspot.”

“Which, you know, is the whole point,” ecologist Kaegan Scully-Engelmeyer, who managed the weekly releases and monitors the chrysalides in their release pens, for the zoo said in a statement.

The zoo began its silverspot conservation and recovery effort in 1998, but this was the first year silverspots were released at a U.S. Forest Service site atop Hebo in Tillamook County. However, Mount Hebo has long played an important role in the recovery work: Female silverspots are collected from that area and taken to the zoo’s butterfly conservation lab to lay eggs, where they can be protected and develop through winter and spring, before being released the following summer.

During the past two years, though, drought conditions have prompted additional declines among the silverspot population on Hebo. That’s because drier, hotter weather forces the early blue violet into dormancy before wild caterpillars can eat enough leaves to fully develop, resulting in fewer adults to mate and develop in the wild or be collected for the lab.

“Mount Hebo is where these pupae’s parents originally came from,” zoo conservation research associate Karen Lewis said in a statement. “Essentially, we’re putting back what we took and adding quite a few more.”

Partnering with the zoo in the conservation effort are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville and the Institute for Applied Ecology in Corvallis.

To learn more about the effort to save Oregon silverspots and other imperiled Northwest species, go to the zoo’s website.

To read a brief summary of the status of butterfly populations worldwide, also check out an article published in Science in July 2016. (You will need a AAAS membership or access to a library with a subscription.)

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Exercise your science and critical-thinking skills at Portland, other area skeptics meetups

Oregonians for Science and Reason, which promotes science and critical thinking through events statewide, has sent a notice about monthly meetups held in various cities in the Willamette Valley, and Portland is among them.

The meetups focus on skepticism, in the philosophical and critical-thinking sense, but there is often a healthy dose of science-related discussion — even the occasional trivia game.

Much of skepticism is about demanding evidence to back up claims, and favored evidence often is that which is scientifically rigorous. Pseudoscience need not apply. Freeimages.com

Much of skepticism is about demanding evidence to back up claims, and favored evidence often is that which is scientifically rigorous. Pseudoscience need not apply. Freeimages.com

The one in Portland is co-sponsored by Portland Skeptics in the Pub and  held the last Sunday of each month at 5 p.m. in Broadway Grill and Brewery, 1700 N.E. Broadway St. Host is Eric Tergerson. Learn more about PSP via its Facebook page. You also can join in friendly debates about science and other topics skeptics are passionate about.

Meanwhile, Salem and Eugene are home to two more meetups. Eugene’s event is the second Sunday at McMenamins East 19th Street Café, 1485 19th Ave. Salem’s is co-sponsored with Cherry City Skeptics in the Pub and happens on the third Sunday of the month at varying locations. Both meetups start at 5 p.m. on their respective days.

For more information about O4SR or its events, go to the O4SR Facebook page or visit its Meetup.com pages for Eugene and Portland. You also can email O4SR officer Jeanine DeNoma at wilkinsa@peak.org.

To learn more about skepticism, check out the Skeptics Society website or the Center for Inquiry’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Oregon Zoo busy with science-related conservation, education efforts

The folks at the Oregon Zoo in Portland sure have been busy lately. In fact, they’ve been filling up SIP staff inboxes with news releases on a variety of their happenings, many of which are entertainment-based.

However, a few have relevance to science directly or through the context of conservation or education. Here’s a brief roundup of some of these items:

Juvenile Asian elephant Samudra in the pool at Elephant Lands. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

Juvenile Asian elephant Samudra plays in the pool at the Oregon Zoo’s Elephant Lands exhibit. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Zoo/Michael Durham.

Elephant welfare — A collection of peer-reviewed studies presented in PLOS One may support the zoo’s efforts in how it cares for its captive elephants. According to zoo staff, the findings in the collection validate practices the zoo has in place already for managing its pachyderms. Staff also said its “the first and only multi-institution study to comprehensively identify and measure variables that significantly contribute to North American zoo elephant welfare.” Some of the studies findings were: 1. Elephants need to spend time in social groups, not isolation, to promote their behavioral health. 2. Material on the floor of elephant habitats are important to reducing risk of foot and joint problems; for example, too much time spent on hard flooring can lead to problems. 3. Food diversity and timing promote health; for example, less predictable feeding times lead to more walking and social interaction, which can improve body composition/weight concerns. *** The findings also may have an impact beyond elephants kept in zoos, potentially informing conservation and management efforts of wild elephants who are increasingly confined to small reserves and protected areas.

An orphaned bobcat kitten in Veterinary Medical Center. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

An orphaned bobcat kitten in is shown in the zoo’s Veterinary Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo/Michael Durham.

Bobcat kitten — The zoo’s veterinary medical center is temporarily caring for a male bobcat kitten that was taken from the woods near Eagle Point. The estimated 2-month-old kitten was taken by people in a well-intentioned but misguided rescue effort. The kitten came into the zoo’s care after Oregon wildlife officials determined the cat would not survive if released into the wild. A permanent home for the bobcat kitten now awaits at another accredited zoo, thanks to the help of staff at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. *** Removing young animals from the wild is illegal and actually can lower their chances of survival. Often, people may see a youngster alone and think it’s abandoned, but usually the mother is nearby, possibly searching for food, wildlife officials said. Bobcat kittens, in particular, become difficult to release into the wild if they are housed and fed by humans for just a few days. They become habituated to people and will cause problems to people, pets and livestock if put back in the wild. Rather than attempt a “rescue” yourself, it’s best to call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. For more information, see ODFW’s frequently asked questions about injured and young wildlife.

Ishi the toucan from the Wildlife Live show. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

Oshi the toucan is among the birds featured in the zoo’s “Wildlife Live” show. Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo/Michael Durham.

“Wildlife Live” — Visitors have a daily chance to learn about wildlife and conservation as part of this program, held on the zoo’s central lawn. At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., “Birds of the World” presentations will focus on how birds adapt to their habitats worldwide and feature Sonora the Harris hawk, Oshi the toucan and Clyde the turkey vulture. At noon, “Scale Tales” will highlight the importance of snakes to the environment and introduce guests to one of the zoo’s boa constrictors. The program will run through Sept. 7, except on concert days, and all shows are weather-dependent. To get a preview before you go, check out a video from rehearsals for the show.

Rescued elephant calves take an afternoon walk with staff at the Sepilok Wildlife Medical Care Center in Sabah, Malaysia. Photo courtesy of OregonZoo/Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit.

Rescued elephant calves take an afternoon walk in the company of staff from the Sepilok Wildlife Medical Care Center in Sabah, Malaysia. Photo courtesy of OregonZoo/Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit.

Elephant conservation — Oregon Zoo Foundation has set aside $1 million to create a permanent endowment to aid in Asian elephant conservation. According to zoo staff, the zoo and its foundation has long supported conservation efforts aimed at Asian elephants but lacked dedicated funding to put toward those efforts. In the past, the foundation has had to do what it did earlier this year: use $10,000 from its foundation’s Endangered Species Justice Fund to buy formula for orphaned elephant babies in Borneo. Rather than continuing with a catch-as-catch-can approach, creation of the million-dollar fund will give the zoo a permanent and self-sustaining source of money it can direct toward fighting extinction of Asian elephants. The elephant fund is the fifth $1 million endowment created by the foundation to further the zoo and its work. For more information, see the zoo’s endowments page. To contribute to the Asian elephant conservation fund or learn about other ways to help, call 503-914-6029.

Cooling the polar bear habitat will produce heat used to warm Asian elephants. Illustration by Glen Marcusen, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

This graphic shows how cooling the zoo’s polar bear habitat helps produce heat used to warm Asian elephants. Illustration courtesy of Oregon Zoo/Glen Marcusen.

Even more about elephants — The zoo’s Elephant Lands exhibit, which houses a family of Asian elephants, has been recognized with a Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which honors sustainable building practices worldwide. Some of the exhibit’s sustainable design features that helped it earn the certification include: a filtration and water-treatment system that cleans and replenishes the new 160,000-gallon elephant pool every hour; collection and storage of rainwater from Forest Hall’s roof, which reduces peak loads on the city stormwater system and conserves potable water that is then used at Forest Hall for flushing toilets and washing down enclosures; a geothermal slinky system that cools polar bear swimming pools by shunting heat away from them, sending the heat through pipes and pumps, and delivering it to indoor parts of the elephant exhibit to warm them; and a solar array on Forest Hall’s roof.

To learn more about the zoo’s conservation, education and research work, visit its website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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OMSI workshop offers opportunity to hone science communication skills

Ever had to explain RNAi to public audiences? What about gravitational waves? How about clarifying what a “theory” means to a scientist (go to the last graph here)?

Yep, been there, done that, but translating complex scientific information to lay audiences can always pose a challenge, even to the most experienced of science writers out there.

Credit: Freeimages.com

If translating science for a general audience feels as unfamiliar as using one of these, check out OMSI’s upcoming workshop for help. Freeimages.com

If you’re a professional working in science, technology, engineering and math who’d like to hone your skills in science communication, check the next offering in the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Communication Extensions workshops.

“Communicating Science: Writing for Public Audiences” will run from 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 12 at the museum.

Participants in the three-hour workshop will learn how science writers distill complex research into clear, concise stories and get a chance to practice writing brief articles about their research and the work of other scientists. Other topics will include the effective use of graphic design to complement writing, interviewing tips and information about pursuing careers in science writing. Workshop-goers are asked to bring laptops with text-editing programs if they have them.

Communications Extensions is an occasional workshop series that highlights various aspects of communicating science.

Cost is $40, unless you are an OMSI Fellow, in which case the workshop will be free.

To reserve your spot, go to the OMSI ticket page for this event.

For more information, contact Amanda Fisher, OMSI Fellowship Program coordinator, at AFisher@omsi.edu or 503-797-4635.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Oregon’s wolf plan up for review at August meeting

The Center for Biological Diversity, which has staff in the Portland area, has put out a call for folks interested in wolf conservation to join them Aug. 5 at a meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The meeting will be in Salem, but we’re sharing this call on SIP for Portlanders with interests in biology, conservation and wolves.

Five wolf pups from the Imnaha pack sip and sit at a pool of water July 7, 2013. The pups were about 2.5 months old in this remote camera photo. (Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Five wolf pups from the Imnaha pack sip and sit at a pool of water July 7, 2013. The pups were about 2.5 months old in this remote camera photo. (Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

The commission will discuss Oregon’s five-year plan for wolves, and it’s the first in a series of hearings in which the public can weigh in on a review of the plan. Other meetings will be held after a draft of the state’s wolf plan is released: Oct. 7 in La Grande and Dec. 2 in Salem. Final rule-making efforts are expected next year (2017).

The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was adopted in 2005, undergoes reviews and updates every five years. Last year (2015), conflict arose after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife voted to delist Oregon wolves. A number of scientists disagreed with the department’s position. CBD and others sued, and further actions in the state Legislature and courts hampered the lawsuit, which is now moving forward again.

The Aug. 5 meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE in Salem. It’s expected to last several hours. You can view an agenda for the meeting on ODFW’s website.

If you plan to attend the meeting with CBD to voice support for wolf conservation, the center requests you RSVP to Amaroq Weiss, its West Coast wolf organizer, at aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org.

The commission meeting is public, and anyone can attend, regardless of whether you plan to join with CBD in their lobbying efforts.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Tualatin company shows off classroom audio technology at ISTE 2016 and wins award

Here’s some news from a Tualatin-based tech company we recently received. The following is quoted and excerpted from a press release* the company sent us:

“At ISTE** 2016, classroom audio provider Lightspeed Technologies [introduced] three new features of its Flexcat system. The only classroom audio system designed for small-group learning, Flexcat consists of a wearable microphone for the teacher, a speaker for whole-group instruction, and a set of two-way audio pods that allow teachers to listen and speak to small groups from anywhere in the classroom so they can reinforce, respond, and challenge students in their moment of need.

Flexcat products are shown in a screenshot taken from Lightspeed's website on July 24, 2016. Credit: Lightspeed Technologies Inc.

Flexcat products are shown in a screenshot taken from Lightspeed’s website on July 24, 2016. Credit: Lightspeed Technologies Inc.

“Lightspeed’s new mobile app, launch[ed] in July, turns teachers’ iOS device into a Flexcat remote control. This allows them to switch among the two-way audio pods directly from their device … The new app unlocks some additional new features of the system.

“With the app, the new Flexcat includes expanded coverage for up to 12 audio pods …

“Flexcat now also supports Whisper Coaching, a variation on informative assessment. Through a small earpiece worn by teachers and their mentors, mentors can listen in to ongoing conversations between teachers and student groups. Whisper Coaching also allows teachers and mentors to have private conversations between their earpieces for real-time coaching and highlighting teachable moments.”

The Flexcat system, incidentally, also won a best of show award at ISTE 2016. You can read more about it on Lightspeed’s website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

(*Normally on SIP, we prefer to write original posts rather than bits of press releases, but this blog is run by a small, all-volunteer staff with day jobs and other commitments, so sometimes, we need to make exceptions to bring you content. **ISTE is the International Society of Technology in Education.)

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DNA, evolution gets spotlight at Portland humanists’ gathering

Update: As of July 16, the DNA talk has been pushed back to October, according to a source. This post will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

Do you know what a haplogroup is? Yes? No?

It pertains to DNA, evolution and common ancestors, and if you’d like to learn more, or just refresh your knowledge, about what scientists have come to understand about human genetics and evolution in recent years, you might want to attend the Humanists of Greater Portland’s July 17 October meetup.

Nitrogenous bases — A, C, G and T — are the building blocks of DNA. (Credit: Freeimages)

Nitrogenous bases — A, C, G and T — are the building blocks of DNA. Freeimages.com

As part of the meetup’s main program, Dr. Jon Peters will present current information about DNA, sequencing of the human genome, our shared ancestry with apes and the study of haplogroups.

The main program will run from 10 to 11:45 a.m. at Friendly House, 1737 N.W. 26th Ave. at Thurman Street in Portland.

The meetup schedule also will include an early bird discussion at 8:45 a.m., plus coffee and other treats. Classes, discussions and committees will pick up after the main program and run until 1 p.m. Attendees also may venture out for lunch at a nearby eatery at noon.

For more information about the meetup, check out its page on Meetup.com.

To learn more about Portland’s humanist group, go to its website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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