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  • April 16, 2019 11:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Gary Priest, Curator of Animal Care Training, San Diego Zoo Global Academy

    Zoos and aquariums regularly revitalize their facilities with new construction projects. If you are responsible for construction at a zoo or aquarium—or know a co-worker who is—this column is for you.

    A few months ago, I was contacted by Erika Kohler and Michael Ahlering, directors of operation for the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, respectively. Erika and Michael had a request: Does the Academy have a solution for training our construction contractors' employees on our rules for safely working on site at the Zoo and/or Safari Park? These contractor employees might be working on site for months, or for only a day or two. The goal for our two operations directors was to ensure that each employee of every construction contractor knows our organization's rules for working safely at the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park. The directors wondered:

    • Could we help them build a short safety training course?
    • Could the Academy figure out a way to create and organize a list of applicable contractors and their employees for this training?
    • Could the training be accessible on a smartphone or tablet?
    • Could the training reside on a special dedicated site, specifically for San Diego Zoo Global vendors?
    • Could the training include a short quiz?
    • And, perhaps most important, in the event of an accident at a construction site, could the Academy be a source of reporting for improved compliance tracking?

    My tentative answer was "maybe." It was a tall order, and this was new territory. However today, I can report the answer is a definite "yes"—a brand-new program to do all of those things is now being rolled out at both of our facilities, just as they envisioned.

    The first order of business was to build a short, 10-minute safety course for on-site workers who are not our own employees. For course creation, we relied on an existing document that all our contractors must sign that spells out our organization's expectations for their employees' conduct while working at any of our facilities.

    Construction of the short course was not difficult. But, the review process involving the heads of other departments proved more challenging. Many good suggestions were proposed for including additional information, however the operation directors needed to remind our reviewers that the initial goal was to create a 10-minute training course, not an exhaustive legal document. In the end, with that understanding, only a few simple modifications were required to satisfy everyone.

    The course is now accessible via smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. With help from our partners at CypherWorx, we were able to create a special Vendor Academy site that is uniquely set up for our contractors and their employees. For the initial rollout and testing, we enlisted the help of two longtime contractors. Each contractor provided us with a list of their employees who would need this training. We created a group under each contractor company name and entered their employees in this folder. During the final phase of testing, we successfully worked out the operational details—including developing a solution for contractor employees who didn't have an email account or a smartphone.

    Your organization can benefit from this effort, because this contractor training concept is now available for all of the Academy community. Our contractor training course could be the starting point for your own customized training module. You can use our contractor training course as a template, customize it for your own operation (working with CypherWorx), and load it in your own Vendor Academy site. This allows everyone to go from "hoping" that contractors conduct themselves a certain way while working on grounds, to managing the outcome of this important aspect of operations with the right tool for the job—and that tool is training.

    To view a sample of our Contractor Employee Safety Training course, click here.

    What's great about the collaborative Academy community is that we can develop new programs like this one together, in real time. If this idea interests you—or if you have questions, or are interested in finding out the cost to develop a customized contractor module for your institution—contact Linda Duca at lduca@cypherworx.com.

  • April 09, 2019 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tallying the zoo’s trees chronicles historic and current landscape and shapes plantings for the future.

    Massive branches that arch overhead, bright flowers in spring, cooling green shade on a summer day: So much of the pleasure of a stroll through Lincoln Park Zoo comes from the majesty and grace of its trees.

    Along a path, you may pass new saplings and grand old giants. Near the Helen Brach Primate House is one huge bur oak estimated to be 220 years old; the trunk is so wide that “it would take three people to hug it,” says Joe Rothleutner, director of horticulture. The tree was already broad and shady when the zoo was founded 150 years ago.

    When this and other nearby oaks were young, they sprouted from acorns in dunes along the wild shoreline of Lake Michigan. By the time upstart Chicago decided it needed a park and a zoo, these trees were large enough to be valued features of the landscape. Around them, dunes became lawns, new animal noises filled the air, buildings rose, paths were paved, and hundreds more trees were planted.

    The zoo now has about 1,500 trees of 300 types, according to a new tree inventory conducted by the horticulture staff. They include nine kinds of oaks, seven of them Chicago-area native species.

    “We wanted to understand all the different kinds of trees we have and what we need to do for them,” says Rothleutner. Reliable plant records only go back to 2009, so every tree from Nature Boardwalk to Walter Family Arctic Tundra had to be visited, identified, and measured.

    Now there’s a database where the lives and health of the trees can be monitored, in much the same way that the zoo tracks its animals. “Some of these trees will still be living in 100 or 150 years,” Rothleutner says. “And preventative care is important.”

    He and Abby Lorenz, manager of plant records and horticulture programs, are using the data to guide a greater investment in science-based care for existing trees and planting for the future. Preserving the zoo’s historic trees requires extra measures such as pruning to remove dead or damaged limbs and fungicide treatments to hold off disease. “Medical bills tend to go up for all of us as we get older,” he says.

    The inventory also helps them plan what trees to plant. No tree lives forever, and young trees must be added to continuously renew the tree canopy. But they need to be carefully chosen.

    It’s critical not to plant too many of one kind, like the American elms that once lined parks and streets, easy prey for the Dutch elm disease that nearly annihilated them. To avoid that, the zoo plants many different species in the hope that no matter what challenges its trees face in the future, some will survive.

    The historic oaks on the South Lawn have already seen the world’s climate change. Trees planted today will live to see even more changes—hotter summers, more drought, bigger storms, invasive insects, diseases, and new hazards. “It’s hard to anticipate what’s going to happen,” Rothleutner says. “Our only real safeguard is to plant a wide variety of trees.”

    A northern catalpa tree stands just east of the zoo parking lot.

    New plantings include not only native species but hardy trees from around the world, such as katsura, zelkova, and ginkgo trees from Asia. More flowering trees are being added to enrich the spring display.

    Where possible, Rothleutner and his staff choose trees that suggest the stories of nearby animals. No African tree could survive a Chicago winter, but near Regenstein African Journey there’s a tropical feeling in the huge leaves of an umbrella magnolia, a tree from the Appalachian Mountains.

    Trees live long, and in a century the umbrella magnolia may still stand while the zoo continues to grow and evolve. One thing is sure: With foresight and care for its trees, the zoo will still be green.

    posted from Lincoln Park Zoo news

  • March 17, 2019 9:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    AZH board member and Denver Zoo Horticulture Manager John Murgel participated in this Seed Your Future networking event in Philadelphia last week. Read about this great event to connect professionals to students and close the green collar workforce gap!


  • February 17, 2019 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    At the 2018 AZH conference in Winnipeg, Zanis Valdmanis and Benjamin Martin from the Toronto Zoo gave a presentation on making silage. Dani Ferguson and I, from the Oregon Zoo, were paying close attention, as this was something we wanted to try here. With the knowledge gained at the conference and the help of Lance Swearengin from Oklahoma City Zoo, we ventured into the world of silage. Since we didn’t start until after the conference, we had a shortened season to collect browsable material, so our trials were somewhat limited. We ended up preparing 30 barrels of silage, using a variety of plant material and a couple different methods. After much anticipation, we finally opened our first barrel last week. 

    We were very excited to see that the instructions we received worked really well; the silage looked great and had the appetizing scent of cider, it was like opening a can of summer. Anxious to see if our efforts were worth it, we traveled around our zoo and asked keepers to feed out some of the silage to all our animals that eat browse. We were thrilled to see that every animal species we gave it to really took to the silage, with just a few individual exceptions, and those animals are known picky eaters anyway.

    These efforts demonstrate the value of the AZH annual conference and membership for idea sharing. A big “Thank You” to those who shared their experiences with us so we could create browse to use during the winter season. We already are planning to prepare more silage for next year. 

    For those of you who are thinking of trying it, I encourage you to give it a shot, and add the Oregon Zoo to the list of resources who are willing to help guide you through the process. —Jeff Pera, Horticulturist Oregon Zoo


  • February 06, 2019 7:15 AM | Anonymous


    One in five plant species are at risk of extinction worldwide. Growing concerns for the loss of plant genetic diversity and species’ extinctions, as well as advancing know how to make successful conservation collections, motivates Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) Network scientists to collect seeds from wild populations and bank them.

     The great diversity of plants throughout the world helps define our sense of place and our cultural heritage. Plants have great economic value—providing food, shelter, medicine, and the basis of our livelihoods. 

     CPC Best Plant Conservation Practices to Support Species Survival in the Wild offer all of us targets we strive to hit in our plant conservation practice. We welcome you to join the conversation and to contribute to the science and to the stories about how practice improves through experience. Please contact the Center for Plant Conservation at info@saveplants.org."

     Read more: https://saveplants.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/CPCbest-plant-conservation-practices.pdf

  • January 23, 2019 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Features include requirements, salary information, educational links and videos of more than 90 careers working with plants.
    MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (January 23, 2019) – Today, Seed Your Future, the horticulture industry-wide effort to promote horticulture and inspire more people to pursue careers working with plants, has launched its new free online horticulture career exploration resource. Much more than a basic alphabetical list of the almost 100 careers in the horticulture industry, the tool first asks site visitors to consider what they are interested in, and then lists careers in horticulture that might match their interests.

    Every career page includes information about the job, the level of education required, links to where to study in the U.S., data about salaries, links to professional organizations supporting that career, and engaging videos of people in those careers. Meant to provide introductory information to each career across the art, science, technology and business of horticulture, the new resource will continue to grow as more careers are featured, and more videos selected to help users understand all of the diverse options in the horticulture industry.

    “Seed Your Future is committed to providing quality, reputable information about all of the exciting careers available across the art, science, technology and business of plants,” said Susan E. Yoder, executive director of Seed Your Future. “Showing students, parents, mid-career changers, educators, and anyone else interested in plants that there are meaningful and rewarding careers working with plants is one of the goals of Seed Your Future. Whether this resource introduces site visitors to a fulfilling career, or a lifelong passion, one thing is clear — the more we know about plants, the more we can make a difference in the world today."

    The site http://www.seedyourfuture.org/careers serves as a digital hub for all horticulture-career information in a concise, easy to read format with links to external resources, places to study and find scholarships, and videos of real people in each of the careers fields.

    About Seed Your Future Seed Your Future is a national movement to promote horticulture and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants. Supported by more than 150 partner organizations, we envision a U.S. where everyone understands and values the importance of plants and the people who work in the art, science, technology and business of horticulture. For information, visit us at SeedYourFuture.org.

  • January 20, 2019 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently earned a prestigious accreditation from Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI). The Zoo’s botanical garden is a longtime member of BGCI, an organization created in 1987 to promote plant conservation by linking the botanical gardens of the world into a global network.

    The botanical garden’s five-year accreditation means the facility is certified as an official BGCI botanical garden. This brings with it a new plant conservation standard for the Zoo and recognizes the garden as one that conforms to the highest international standards for plant collections and botanical research. The OKC Zoo is only the fifth botanical garden to receive this accreditation within the United States and the eleventh to do so internationally.

    Botanical garden members can share their collections with each other for research purposes and conservation efforts whether the trade be in genetic material, seeds, or living plants.

    BGCI offers three botanical garden accreditation categories that each require extensive documentation and follow high-quality criteria for attainment. The application process is quite lengthy and examples of documentation from several categories must be submitted, including peer-reviewed articles, plant research, conservation practices, and collection planning processes.

    The Zoo’s botanical garden encompasses over 120 acres where exotic animals roam over the landscapes under a canopy of flowering trees, forested groves, and wildflower meadows. Come visit the largest collection of Oklahoma native plants nestled securely within the historic cross-timbers ecosystem. This remarkable ecosystem, where the eastern deciduous forest meets the tall grass prairie, is the cornerstone of the botanical garden and sets the tone for a purely unmatched native botanical experience. Our Oklahoma native plant collection contains more than 100 species, some of which are listed as rare or imperiled.

    The botanical garden also hosts the largest outdoor butterfly garden in Oklahoma! The butterfly garden covers more than 21,000 square feet and showcases pollinator plants, nectar pants, and host plants which serve to educate our guests on the importance of pollinators and monarch migration. Plants displayed in our botanical collection include species from North America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. The Zoo first achieved national accreditation as a botanical garden in 1998 through the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

  • January 08, 2019 9:32 AM | Anonymous

    Thinking of creating or upgrading your Plant Collection Database? There are a ton of options out there but ArbNet at Morton Arboretum has put together a comparison of three database programs to assist with making a choice that works for your organization.



  • December 08, 2018 10:05 AM | Anonymous
    Every year we install a 30' tall poinsettia tree ( silk ) in our Visitor Center Lobby. But we wanted something more tropical for the RF Pyramid, so for the past several years we have put up a Bromeliad/ Orchid Tree. It begins with a metal frame. We then add rings to the frame & then plastic pots go in the rings. 

    We add assorted bromeliads in varying colors & sizes to the pots. ( Guzmanias & Neoregelias, mostly) The final finishing touch is big, beautiful white Phalenopsis Orchids.
    Our guest love it! 

    Donita Brannon  




  • December 02, 2018 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We have a new section on the AZH website detailing each of the 2018-2019 AZH Plant Conservation Grants.  At the 2018 AZH annual conference in Winnipeg, a total of five grants were awarded for projects in Madagascar, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Colorado, and England.  Check out the details of each project on the AZH conservation grant page - https://azh.org/azh-conservation-grant-project-updates/ 

    Community based habitat restoration for the critically endangered Guatemalan beaded lizard (Heloderma charlesbogerti)
    International Reptile Conservation Foundation

    Continuing on their past success with habitat restoration for endangered Guatemalan lizards, the International Reptile Conservation Foundation will use AZH funding this year to create habitat for the Guatemalan beaded lizard by planting 100 hectares of oak forest on abandoned agricultural plots. This will be the first ecological restoration project in the dry forests of Guatemala.


    The project aims to:

    • Assess and document forest tree species composition in well preserved areas of habitat
    • Engage local communities in direct conservation actions such as tree seed collection and reforestation
    • Establish a local tree nursery to propagate and grow large tree seedlings able to withstand dry seasons
    • Restore up to 100 ha of habitat with 10,000 native trees
    • Determine survival and growth rate of newly planted trees
    • Develop scalable techniques for dry forest ecosystem restoration in the Matagua Valley



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