Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Toys for Elephants

To understand where these toys came from, flash back to a morning in March, inside a sculpture studio in the bowels of MassArt, where the students were trying to answer a question: What does an elephant toy look like? MassArt class designs toys for elephants

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Helpful tips for your "Bringing together Biomes" project

Here are some things that came up in class:

Notes on the board:

FOR your groups to identify:

1.  Define the problem -->  "We are designing a "zoo" that combines and integrates these 3 or 4 Biomes
        WE (define who is we)
         ARE DESIGNING (making a model, marketing, concepts, clients, problems, goals…etc.)
         A ZOO (Research, Entertainment, educations. Conservation, display, and enrichment with elements of:  Flora, Fauna, and bacteria, Protists, Fungus… etc.  Think all the kingdoms!)
         COMBINES AND INTEGRATES (the biomes should have a natural connection and flow together / interact in some way.  Even if its cycling water, air etc.… how do these connect, relate and interact?
         THESE 3 OR 4 BIOMES = the biomes in your group

2.  What are your goals to create a better “un-zoo”?
         - Look back at the Nat. Geo Article, the “Unzoo” article and the one posted this week by Larry that is on Blackboard as well
-       Learning?
-       Interconnected ecosystem that replaces isolated and fake exhibits
-       Profit?
-       Party?
-       Better habitats and protecting natural habitats?
-       Creating a Protected Area (i.e. like a National forest or park)
-       Preservation
-       Breeding Programs
-       Re-habilitation of injured animals from the wild?
-       Research?
-       Gathering resources for manufacturing. 

3.  Overall experience for the participant / visitor of your center?

4.  Why would I (as a philanthropic  / and or / Investor) want to fund this “zoo”?  What would I get out of it?

5.  Inform us about your place – but also inspire, excited, visually THRILL us.  Take away all my reasons to say no to this place you have designed.

6.  Create some sort of visual presentation of what your structure of this “zoo” will be like.  Why is it better than what already exists?  Site the article.

7.  Is it believable – site references reasons that it could work (slightly, focus more on the points above)?

*You have a blank check for a budget to create this structure – but think about how it will be funded from this point out.

Notes from class:  what came up that were good points to address:

Things to address:
  Place to stay:  increase one’s duration and observation time?
  Feasibility, is this believable?  Did you talk to a zoo designer, find a place that already exists in the globe like what you have? 
  Form enhances function of your structure.
  Working your schedule to adjust to the animals schedule and situation.
  Clear visuals.  Side view, top, floor plans that you draw.
-       Also,  you can find images on line of things that already exist or future technology.  Site where you got it and use it, as back up evidence of why your “zoo” would work. 
  Look for what already exists / what is this like??
  OXYGEN!!!  (See the Biosphere 2 video)
  LOCATION – where is your “zoo” set in the world and why?
  How big is it?  What do the animals need to live (i.e. Salmon run needs a long river)?
  Blank check – money not an issue in building it
  Bringing in funds:  now that you’ve built it, how will people come?
-       will you fund it with natural resources for making things?
-       Tourism?
-       Science?
-       Entertainment?
-       Education?
-       Feeling of “good will” / “good Karma”?
-       Saving a species – fund raising?
  Research:  what kind of research?  Can the community participate?  Can visitors participate?  What are they researching and what’s our benefit of such?
  Give us a new perspective:  Think the Caves – seeing the top of the trees, seeing the bottom of a cave.  Take me where I can’t go myself.
  What connects your biomes together?  (Moisture always a big one!)
  Accept the life that already exists (*respect the little guys)
  How does your facility tie in with the community around it?
  What does the viewer  / visitor “get” from this experience?

  As a funder – what do I get from this?

Helpful films, sites etc:

Jane Poynter: Life in Biosphere 2

A 20-year tale of hope: How we re-grew a rainforest: Willie Smits on

Kamal Meattle: How to grow fresh air

Remember you can contact Pete Lee as well:
You can message him at:

And I’m not sure if his e-mail is working or not – but what I have is: Pete Lee  

Web site resources ideas: Radio Lab on Zoos Search galore: 

More so follow up on the scientists they listed: 

Elizabeth Gould: 

Alan Rabinowitz

Dian Fossey

Biomes from all over the globe, right here in Cornwall

Eden Project, Cornwall, UK: Biomes from all over the globe!

Virtual reality app

Overlaying Reality

Alternative Zoo Experiences

To add to my Lakes and Ponds biome exhibit, I would bring in fun activities for children to interact. Even though my zoo will be indoor and outdoor, indoor activities would be perfect for children. At the Great Lakes Aquarium, there are fun on-hands activities for kids of all ages. One of the activities is playing with mini lakes and how dams and waves affect them. This also goes with rivers and streams as well. I would also like to add little facts about how fish are affected when dams are created. 

Great Lakes Aquarium Water Table



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Zoo sketches

Here are the sketches that I created while at the como zoo (later colored with watercolors).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two articles from

This blog is by Stacey M. Tarpley, who got her Masters in Landscape Architecture at NCSU (where I  also studied design) and now creates exhibits for zoos, aquariums, museums, and theme parks.

How Animal Behavior Drives Zoo Design

"Some designers begin with a poem.  Others look at the educational message.  Still others envision a place.  I always start with the animal."

Green Design in Zoos

"Most zoos utilize green methods somewhere on site, but usually it’s applied in what I call the “easy places”: nutrition centers, gift shops, special events pavilions.  Places that are typical construction in a non-traditional setting.  But the question always comes up…how do we make a green EXHIBIT?"

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Trip to the Zoo

On my search for Rainforest elements- I came across this guy, an orangutan, who is native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. So when he started posing for me I had to take his picture. From observation it seemed as though he was the father to a smaller orangutan, and was watching his offspring swing through the ropes with it's mother.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Zoo Visit / Lakes & Ponds

There wasn't much regarding lakes and ponds at the Como Zoo. This little area featured a great small man-made pond with ducks. The trees really contributed to the atmosphere as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A little late to the discussion on account of having transfered into the class, but I hope this makes up for it!
"Observations suggest that in Eritrea the olive baboon has formed a symbiotic relationship with that country's endangered elephant population. The baboons use the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top baboons as an early warning system."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kate Clark - Animal/Human taxidermy

Strange, but extremely well done. A fusion of mythology, nature, and craftsmanship.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"How much would you pay for the Universe?" - lets keep dreaming!

Space.... it's just a few miles up there. So close

 We stopped dreaming by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale)

One awesome animation about the stages of whale decomposition and how useful it's death is to other creatures for years and years after. Based on the Radiolab episode featuring this topic (wish I could remember which one it was!).

Decorator crabs & Sponges

The Decorator Crab & the Sponge. The decorator crab who is part of spider crab family snips of portions of sponge and covers itself with them to camouflage it from predators. The sponges are initially able to stick to the crab before they start to grow more because the crab is covered in hooked hairs. Both the crab & the sponges continue to grow together. The sponges benefit by filter feeding in a wide variety of areas as the crab moves around and the crab benefits by both blending in and being able to eat the algae that collects on the sponges.

Eastern Screech Owls and Blind Snakes

Symbiotic relationship between Eastern Screech Owls and Blind Snakes

     All prey that is brought to the nest of an Eastern Screech Owl is dead, except for the Blind Snake. Sometimes these snakes are eaten, but more often they begin to live in the nest. These snakes survive off of larvae that is contained in the fecal matter that sits within the nest. Not only does this reduce the risk of parasitism for the nestlings, and reduces the competition with larvae for food as well. Nestlings with live-in blind snakes have a much lower mortality rate.


-Kallie Hone

Gobies & Shrimp

The nearly blind Pistol shrimp utilizes a fellow marine creature to create and maintain burrows in the sea bed sand. The small Goby fish and the Pistol shrimp have formed a symbiotic relationship; the Goby fish acts as watchman against predators and the Pistol shrimp offers the Goby shelter. The Goby sits outside of the burrow watching for potential predators while the shrimp continues to move gravel.

Goby Fish and Snapping Shrimp Workin' as a Team

"Snapping Shrimps of the Alpheus shrimp, family are great diggers, and constantly create and maintain burrows in the sea beds sand using its large claws. However the shrimp have really poor eye-sight and being almost blind, cannot spot their predators until it’s too late. The Goby fish  (Gobies in the genus  Amblyeleotris, Cryptocentrus, Ctenogobiops, Istigobius, and Stonogobiops) on the other hand are small vigilant fish that form a symbiotic relationship with the shrimp and act as the shrimp’s watchman against predators, in exchange for shelter in the shrimp’s burrow." ( )


Symbiosis: clarifying study guide

I see  a lot of confusion over what is and isn't  a symbiotic relationship, so see these definitions

Cymothoa exigua, the Tongue-eating Louse

Looking like a cross between Nemo and the Xenomorph from Alien, the Tongue-eating Louse smiles out from a clownfish.

The young, asexual, Cymothoa exigua enters through a fish's gills and latches onto the tongue, draining it of blood until the tongue atrophies. C. exigua then sheds some of its limbs and becomes a female, staying to live inside the fish's mouth and acting as a replacement tongue. Eventually another young c. exigua will enter the gills and become male. C. exigua has only been found in an individual fish as a single female or a mating couple, never as a group or same sex couple.

Here's a video of one being removed from a fish... and a clip of Stephen Colbert freaking out over it.

Video and other info at:

I first heard about it on

Why Dont Any Animals Have Wheels?

Richard Dawkins states in his article, "Perhaps most animals wouldn't benefit from wheels because they can already run so fast on legs".  He does an amazing job of providing informations on the topic which you can read HERE.

Image Link:
Source Link:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bacteria may actually be your best friend.

We've all seen it in the commercials. We've all heard it from our academic counselors and teachers:

Germs--Namely bacteria--is bad. Stay away and disinfect disinfect disinfect! However, the human digestive system contains trillions of beneficial bacteria. These bacterial cells have the ability to break down indigestible substances within our bodies. An attribute that we as humans do not have. Not only does bacterial help breakdown indigestible substances, they also help decompose dead organisms. Having too less of (beneficial) bacteria may also lower our immune systems as humans--With too sterile of an environment, we would not be able to adapt to the smallest bit of bacteria.

Image source:

Pearlfish and Sea Cucumber

Symbiosis is typically associated with one meaning; a mutually beneficial relationship.  However, there are three different types of symbiosis. 
Parasitism, where the parasite benefits and the host is hurt. 
Commensalism, one species benefits and the other is not helped or hurt.  
Mutualism, both species benefit. 

An example of Commensalism is the Pearlfish and Sea Cucumber. The Pearlfish spends all day in the alimentary tract (intestines) of the sea cucumber and at night emerges from its anus to feed on crustaceans. 


Dental Hygiene at it's best...

In the great depths of Africa lives the big, bad crocodile. One lazy afternoon, crocodile realizes he is VERY hungry. Not far away he notices a lovely bird floating from branch to branch. Realizing this bird could be a tasty snack, crocodile croons out to the bird, "Bird, what are you doing?" Startled, the bird responds, "I'm searching for lunch." The crocodile conjures up a cunning plan, and invites the bird down for a chat. "Bird, I know where you can find food," giggles crocodile. "Oh yeah, where?" asks bird questioningly. "Inside my mouth." And with that being said, crocodile opens his mouth wide, revealing several razor-sharp teeth...

WAIT A SECOND!!!! I'm sure we've all heard a story similar to this in our childhood, but little did we know that the author had this story completely backwards. Though crocodiles seem like ferocious beasts, who munch on innocent animals, we have to keep in mind that somewhere in life's mysterious history, a strange relationship formed. Rather than eating this special bird (called the Plover) crocodiles actually enjoy sitting on a sunny evening, allowing this bird to pick small bits of food out of it's teeth. Once the Plover has completed it's task, it flies away with a full belly, leaving the crocodile with a whiter smile.

I found this symbiotic relationship quite interesting due to the fact that birds, and crocodiles are some of the oldest creatures our Earth knows. Assuming birds are the ancestors of dinosaurs, and crocodiles are related to prehistoric beasts as well, it is actually quite interesting to think that these two creatures aren't so different after all...

In the great depths of Africa lives the big, friendly crocodile. One lazy afternoon, crocodile realizes he has an EXTREMELY bad toothache. Not far away he notices a lovely bird floating from branch to branch. Realizing this bird was small enough to hop into his mouth and pick out whatever is causing his pain, crocodile decides to croon out to bird, "Bird what are you doing?" Startled, the bird responds, "I'm searching for lunch." The crocodile decides a clever way to ask bird for assistance, "Bird, I know where you can find food," moans crocodile. "Oh yeah, where?" asks bird questioningly. "There is this piece of food stuck in my tooth, and it's causing me great discomfort, if you could hop in my mouth and pick it out, I will forever be grateful." And with that being said, crocodile opens his mouth wide revealing several razor-sharp teeth. At first bird thought 'no way,' but upon closer inspection he realizes there is a huge chunk of food lodged into crocodiles tooth. 'Mmm, food,' thinks bird. Carefully, he hops into crocodile's mouth picks out the food, and hops out. Crocodile smiles as the pain disappears. "Thank you so much bird, I owe you one." From that day out, bird and crocodile decided to form a mutual trust- crocodile gets dental checkups, while bird gets a snack.
...Now that's more like it!

For additional information, visit:

Deadly Seduction
Toxoplasma Parasite Attracts Rats to its Feline Foe

It's been said that opposites attract and that danger can be a turn on, but what happens when your love interest is also your predator? There exists a type of symbiotic relationship between rats and a single-celled organism called the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which not only causes rats to become less fearful around cats, but this parasitic 'love bug', if you will, actually makes cats sexually appealing to rats. This truly conniving organism can only reproduce in cats so it begins its circle of life by passing through the cats feces where it then will wait to come into contact with the rat.  Once a rat has become infected, the parasite hijacks its brain causing the rat to associate the smell of cat urine with the smell of a female rat; hence leading a love-crazy rat straight to its enemy, and a parasite right back to its origin.