Trouble in Paradise
The Marianas are a breathtakingly beautiful chain of islands in the Pacific. But, behind that tropical tranquility, we are waging a battle against sweeping ecological disaster. While you may never set foot on one of the Mariana Islands, through your support of Audubon Nature Institute’s partnership with the Marianas Avifauna Conservation Program (MAC), you are part of the fight to save the birds of the Mariana Islands.
The trouble began in the late 1940s with the accidental introduction of an invasive species, the brown tree snake, to the southernmost island in the chain, Guam. With no natural predators, the snake reproduced at alarming speed, tearing through the island’s native bird populations. Concerned about the snake spreading to other islands in the chain, conservationists launched a multi-tiered response to save the birds. For nearly ten years, Audubon has been involved with this program, which has evolved over the years to include moving imperiled species to more remote islands where the threat from the brown tree snake is, for now, minimal.
Peter Bibeault, Audubon’s Assistant Curator of Birds, represented Audubon in 2015 and 2016 as part of a 13-member consortium ofanimal experts working to translocate Tinian monarch and bridled white-eye birds from the island of Tinian, where concerns about the snake are growing, to the more remote island of Guguan, where the birds have a better chance of survival. While this program has been active for many years, this was the first year birds were transferred by boat.
“Translocations in the past always used helicopters, which was certainly quicker, but it drastically limited the number of birds that could be transported all at once,” said Pete. Herb Roberts, co-leader of MAC, agrees, saying that in this case, it was the only option. “Lack of fuel and landing sites on remote islands prevents using helicopters,” he says. “But with a longer transit time, there’s definitely more planning involved.”
The group was divided into two crews. The first shift, including Pete, was stationed on Tinian, while the second shift transported birds to Guguan. To gather the birds, the crews set up mist-netting in dozens of locations throughout Tinian. They collected, examined, and readied the birds for a long, 14-hour boat ride to the island of Guguan, where, in sweltering heat over punishing volcanic rock, the transportation crew hiked even further into the uninhabited island and successfully released the birds into the forest canopy.
Over the past two years, nearly 200 birds have been released into this new, secluded habitat. Experts say the future looks good for these species, and the project will continue. “Translocation is the primary conservation tool for us because it creates large, wild, secure secondary populations,” says Herb Roberts.
Back home in New Orleans, you may have never held a small, fluttering bird next to your heart, securing it in a container for transport to safety. You may have never spent 14 hours on a hot boat, only to land on a rocky shore with hours of travel over harsh terrain still ahead of you. But, this truly is your work. And the joy of seeing those small birds take flight in a new forest home is yours as well, because you made it happen by supporting Audubon Nature Institute. Your donations save wildlife at home and across the globe. Thank you for all the ways you make our work together possible.
SOS for Sharks
The world’s shark population is suffering from a conservation disaster that is playing out before our very eyes.Thanks to your help, Audubon Nature Institute is able to work alongside other respected organizations to increase the odds for shark survival.
“Sharks have far more to fear from us than we do from them,” said Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Managing Director Rich Toth. “And with 200,000 sharks killed in our oceans through unregulated fishing every day, there are many species of sharks in alarming decline.”
This sobering information is nothing new for The University of Southern Mississippi’s Shark Research Program at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL). Researchers and students from this program recently set up displays at the Aquarium, guiding guests through shark artifacts and activities, including a display of shark blood, a trawl table simulating a day’s catch in the ocean, and information on shark tagging programs.
“The Aquarium is like a megaphone for shark conservation,” said GCRL student Mikhaila Miller. “It’s a chance for us to access a broad audience with a message on how we can work together to save sharks.”
After working on the OCEARCH research vessel visit to the Aquarium last year, the GCRL Shark Research Program is well acquainted with the Aquarium’s commitment to conservation. OCEARCH is a world leader in generating data on species like great white sharks, working on outreach and education with organizations like Audubon and others across the globe.
The GCRL scientists and students were excited by how plugged-in young Aquarium guests were during the group’s week-long stay at the Aquarium. The youngsters challenged researchers with questions on subjects ranging from shark nuclei to shark in soup. Until these kids are old enough to get out in the field, here’s what the rest of us can do to join the fight to save sharks:
1. Say NO! to shark in soup. Support sustainable seafood, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. Audubon’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) is on the front lines of that effort.
2. Be a shark advocate! Spread the word about how valuable these incredible creatures are to our ecosystem.
3. Continue your support of conservation education organizations like Audubon Nature Institute and the GCRL Shark Research Program as we educate visitors and participate in research missions like OCEARCH.
Find out more about why a good shark is a live shark, and why shark in soup is never a good idea, at SupportOurSharks.com. Your support and encouragement make these innovative projects a reality for Audubon Nature Institute and for all animals - on land, in the air, and under the sea across the globe. As always, thank you!.
The Final Frontier
How does supporting Audubon Nature Institute through events such as Scales & Ales fuel a mission to Mars? Making that connection came easily earlier this summer when NASA spent a week at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas presenting a special space exhibit for guests and conducting free workshops for teachers from across Louisiana. It is exactly this kind of event that Scales & Ales makes possible—and your support is the rocket fuel that propels it all forward.
As NASA representatives spent the week envisioning the future of our planet and our people with Audubon, there was no mistaking the message. “This next generation is going to Mars,” stated Paul Foerman from NASA’s Office of Communications. “It’s our job to inspire them.”
In the Aquarium Pisces Room, NASA set up more than a dozen fun and interactive displays for all Aquarium guests to experience. It was like a festival for space exploration, as visitors conjured up 3-D pictures of the Mars Rover and learned the secrets to growing potatoes in space. A real life astronaut, Victor J. Glover, even appeared in person to meet with guests and answer questions. Commander Glover visited Audubon Zoo the following day, inspiring Zoo Campers to reach for the stars as well.
“We love to see kids dive into the hands-on demonstrations we have here and dream about the possibilities for our future,” said Paul Foerman. “Making connections is our top priority, developing that inspiration in today’s youngsters, who will be the rest to travel to Mars in the 2030s.”
Not long ago a manned mission to Mars seemed impossibly far away, but suddenly now it’s within our grasp, a goal that will be attained by the same children who today run around Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, delighting in the penguins, the sharks, the sea otters, and the white alligator.
The free workshops generated plenty of excitement for the teachers who are educating and inspiring the Mars generation. Teachers eagerly absorbed fascinating information and demonstrations on NASA’s missions and goals. Thee success of these visionary NASA projects hinges on students educated through a robust Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum, providing NASA with experts ready to aim for the stars.
“There is a big push for STEM curriculum right now,” said Ann Caraway, a teacher at Carroll Junior High in Monroe, Louisiana. “We’re learning so much about what resources are available and how to create effective lesson plans. It’s almost like we are taking our students to space in a classroom.”
An emphasis on earth sciences underscored why the NASA partnership is a perfect fit for Audubon Nature Institute. Seminars included programs on living and working in space, an examination of key questions about our solar system, and discussions on technology as it drives exploration.
“Everything NASA does benefits the Earth,” according to Paul Foerman. For example, “Earth Right Now” shows how NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand our changing planet—and advises teachers how to bring this knowledge to life in the classroom.
“The resources we’re accessing here can help our kids imagine a future in space,” said teacher Ann Caraway. “As educators, we now have a direct connection to NASA. Mission accomplished!”
Mission accomplished, indeed—thanks to the dedication of Audubon supporters like you who know the value of preparing our youngsters today for the challenges they will face tomorrow, on our home planet and in galaxies far, far away.
Larger Than Life Learning
You can hear the excitement in Audubon Zoo’s Asia all the way from the elephant fountain in Cooper Plaza. It’s the sound of the joy of hands-on learning and experiencing the wonders of nature, the kind of learning that makes Audubon so special. Your donations and dedication make this magic possible. Because of your support, Audubon Zoo is delighting guests with an array of bright and breathtaking new ways to learn about the animals of Asia, including new habitats for Asian elephants and Sumatran orangutans as well as the addition of an elevated elephant education pavilion, made possible in part by a $1 million donation from Jeffrey Feil and the Charitable Lead Annuity Trust Under the Will of Louis Feil.
The pavilion is a breezy, color-splashed outdoor learning environment, running along the elephant exhibit. It includes spots for guests to engage with educators with hand-held animals and interact with irresistible games and graphics to learn about elephants and the environment (not to mention the opportunity to see Asian elephants Panya and Jean up close).
“Our goal is to share very personal insights into our elephants and their home,” said Audubon Director of Education Projects Brenda Walkenhorst. “We’ll give guests actions they can do to make a difference for wildlife. We also think it’s going to be very cool to use the new pavilion for overnights and evening conservation events!”
Activities include iPad elephant “painting,” and a life-size graphic elephant where kids trace the fascinating story of elephant digestion, complete with sounds! The walls are lined with information about how elephants sleep, their importance to Asian culture and history, and other fun facts. Panya and Jean act as ambassadors for their species, bringing the complicated and deadly perils elephants face in the wild to life for guests. Treats include human/elephant conflicts such as crop raiding, poaching for the ivory trade, and habitat destruction from palm oil farming. Thanks to donors like you, Audubon Zoo’s Asia is filled with more ways than ever to kindle strong connections between wildlife and those who love it, so we can work together to save species from extinction. Your support makes these connections possible, creating a meaningful, lasting difference for animals at Audubon and across the globe.