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  • June 11, 2019 9:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last year, the AZH provided $7,000 for the International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF) to implement a community-based habitat restoration project to support the Guatemalan beaded lizard (Heloderma charlesbogerti). Building on past success, the IRCF will use AZH funding this year to create habitat for these critically endangered reptiles by re-establishing oak forest on abandoned agricultural plots. This will be the first ecological restoration project in the dry forests of Guatemala. The project objectives are:

    1. Assess and document tree species composition in well-preserved areas of forest habitat.

    2. Engage local communities in direct conservation actions such as tree seed collection and reforestation.

    3. Establish a local nursery to propagate tree seedlings large enough to withstand dry seasons.

    4. Restore up to 100 hectares of habitat with 10,000 native trees.

    5. Determine survival and growth rates of newly planted trees.

    6. Develop scalable techniques for dry forest ecosystem restoration in the Matagua Valley.          

                Initial documentation of the tree species that occur in well-preserved forested areas has taken place, along with collection of seeds whenever possible. Twenty-five species have already been germinated, however, only a few of these were selected for the first stage of the reforestation program.

                A large-scale nursery has been established, complete with water tanks, a water pump, shade cloth, and fencing; re-purposed soda bottles serve as nursery pots. A  cost-effective, community-based method for propagating trees in large numbers was developed, transferring capacities to long-term community, school, and volunteer stakeholders who will be able to continue the project indefinitely. Thanks to timely problem solving in overseeing the operation of the nursery, we are on track to surpass our goal of 10,000 trees annually. The program so far includes about 20 volunteers continually taking care of different aspects of the project. Additionally, about 200 people have participated in reforestation events.

                Initiating planting of trees in the field coincided with the beginning of rainy season. So far, 5,000 trees have been planted and further reforestation events will soon take place. Monitoring of the trees planted in the field has determined that the survival rate is near 100 percent due to the abundant precipitation.

    The main goal of this project was to develop and test scalable techniques for the reforestation of the Guatemalan beaded lizard habitat. If we continue to nurture and coordinate these alliances, the Motagua Valley dry forest future looks promising. — Darryl Windham

  • April 22, 2019 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    San Diego Zoo Global

    Contributed by Carlos de la Rosa, Ph.D., Natural Lands Manager

    San Diego Zoo Global is committed to conserving rare plants and animals both abroad and in their own backyard. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, this commitment is literal, with half of the Safari Park developed to exhibit and support exotic animals and the backyard is a natural coastal sage scrub reserve. The newly minted Natural Lands Program is taking on the challenges associated with stewarding this important piece of Southern California habitat.
    Situated in the San Pasqual Valley of San Diego’s North County, the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park is world-famous, attracting over a million visitors a year. Looking out over the African plains, visitors can observe herds of Thompson’s gazelles, scimitar-horned oryx, reticulated giraffes, and white rhinoceros. Though most may have never seen a Kenyan savanna in person, the view is a rare but familiar sight, reinforced in our minds by picture books and nature documentaries.

    Past the rhinos and just over the hill to the east is an equally wild landscape, one that, paradoxically, every visitor walking through the gates has seen, but perhaps fewer can identify with precision: California’s coastal sage scrub. Adjacent to the Safari Park but still within the Zoo lease, the Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve is an 800-acre protected area consisting mostly of coastal sage scrub and subtypes like cactus scrub. Like the Safari Park, the Biodiversity Reserve is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals; unlike the Park, though, they are not on display, usually only noticed by the handful of researchers and students conducting work there.

    Photo of a Rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata) snake sunning on a rock

    Rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata) are a cryptic but spectacular resident of the Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve. Photo: Carlos de la Rosa, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

    Photo of Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in the coastal sage scrub of the San Pasqual Valley

    Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)are a common sight in the coastal sage scrub of the San Pasqual Valley in San Diego’s North County. Photo: Carlos de la Rosa, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

    Photo of cactus scrub and the surrounding coastal sage scrub habitats

    Cactus scrub and the surrounding coastal sage scrub habitats are home to many plant and animal species. Photo: Christa Horn, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

    Photo of rare species - coastal cactus wren

    Rare local species, such as coastal cactus wren, can be found adjacent to exotic hoofstock kept for breeding, both species supported by the conservation efforts of San Diego Zoo Global. Photo: Demi Debrino, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

    California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Parry’s phacelia (Phacelia parryi) blanket a slope in the Biodiversity Reserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Photo: Carlos de la Rosa, courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

    In the summer, the hills are a patchwork of browns and greys, a drab tapestry that gives no indication of the spectacular colors that come with spring. At the first rains, bush rue (Cneoridium dumosum) and four o’clock (Mirabilis laevis) flowers begin to brighten the landscape; if precipitation continues, the orange and yellow of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), and bush sunflower (Encelia californica) will mix with the purple tints of Parry’s phacelia (Phacelia parryi), caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria), and blue fiestaflower (Pholistoma auritum). Later in the season, as the days become warmer and longer, more color emerges: purple chia (Salvia columbariae), pink tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii), violet showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), magenta owl’s clover (Castilleja densiflora), to name a few of the species. Under a stand of coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), you may even find Campo Clarkia (Clarkia delicata), an annual recognized as threatened or endangered in California.

    San Diego County is noteworthy for its biological diversity, as well as high numbers of rare and threatened species. Habitat destruction, wildfire, and invasive species are highest on the list of likely drivers of local biological extinctions. Recently, San Diego Zoo Global created the Natural Lands Program to begin taking a more hands on and comprehensive approach to managing the habitat on our lands. In the Biodiversity Reserve, mitigating wildfire and invasive species are the highest priorities; if unchecked, either could cause sensitive species of concern, such as the coastal cactus wren, to lose precious habitat.

    Our goals for the Biodiversity Reserve fall into two categories. First, we aim to manage the natural lands in such a way that native species thrive, and are resilient to changing climate, wildfire, drought, and invasive species. This year, we treated 18 acres of stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum), an annual weed and emerging threat in the area, gaining a foothold in our south-facing slopes. These same slopes support an extensive patch of prickly pear cactus, vital habitat for the coastal cactus wren. By removing stinknet, we are improving habitat for cactus wrens and the many other species that call coastal sage scrub home. The weed removal also helps protect the habitat from wildfire by reducing fine fuels that could increase the frequency of fires. An early task of the Natural Lands Program will be to develop a management plan to help guide and prioritize management activities.

    Second, we are working to build a robust research and monitoring program that feeds back into our management plan. To know our baselines and historical populations of sensitive species, we are pulling together data and findings from previous research in the Biodiversity Reserve; likewise, we are planning new research projects designed to help us chart a path forward. Later this spring, we will conduct a thorough inventory of locations likely to contain rare plants. After a decade of drought in Southern California, the robust rains this year have us excited to see what species have been lying dormant in the seed bank. We are also designing experiments to test the response of snakes and lizards to habitat restoration, and to understand how species will survive as our climate changes.

    Though both management and research activities have occurred on the conserved land for decades, the new Natural Lands Program is an opportunity to place them in the context of a comprehensive management plan. SDZG’s commitment to this program also demonstrates its commitment to conservation, not only of the giraffes, elephants, and other exotic species in their care and abroad, but to the species found in their own backyard.

    CPC Save Plants newsletter - April 2019

  • 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.



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