Frost Science

FaviconFrost Science@Home: The Latest on Animals and COVID-19 8 May 2020, 4:58 pm

Our resident Frost Science veterinarian, Dr. Kristen Dubé, aka Dr. K, has provided us with a further update on what is now known about animals and COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Dr. Dubé, along with the rest of our dedicated animal husbandry team, are continuing to follow the science behind the virus to make sure our animals receive the appropriate care they need.

What is now known about animals and COVID-19?

Dr. Kristen Dubé, Veterinarian, Frost Science:

The range of animals that can contract any virus is called the “host range” of the virus. It has been discovered that the COVID-19 virus can only interact with certain susceptible species depending on “receptors” in the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs).

If the correct receptors aren’t present in the animal’s body, then the virus can’t attach and interact with the animal’s cells, and be activated to cause illness. In new research of this disease, early studies have shown that besides people, in a controlled lab setting, certain other mammal species may have the receptors needed for COVID-19 to attach.

Having the right receptor doesn’t mean an animal will get sick from or spread the disease; it just means there is a place for the virus to attach and possibly activate. Initial results show that ferrets and cats are two types of animals that have these receptors. This only indicates that these animals can possibly catch the disease, and there is no evidence that any animal can spread the disease to humans. Humans remain the best host for COVID-19 as the virus has adapted on a genetic level to infect and spread between people, and in certain cases cause significant illness.

What new information is known about COVID-19 in zoo and exotic animals?

Dr. Dubé: In early April, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is the first zoo animal to test positive for this virus in the US. The tiger showed mild signs of a respiratory illness (coughing) and was tested to determine the cause of its illness.

More recently an African lion from this zoo was tested positive, as well as 2 other lions and 4 tigers. All of these animals are reported to be doing well and acting normally. Tests were developed that first used the animal’s feces to determine if they had the virus, and then were confirmed at a designated veterinary lab. COVID-19 testing on animals is done at a specific veterinary lab, and does not use the same reagents/materials that are used in human testing.

A few days ago a small number of mink, animals that are related to ferrets, tested positive for the virus at a facility in the Netherlands after showing respiratory signs. Ferrets are also known to be able to contract other respiratory diseases from humans, such as the influenza virus.

How did the big cats and mink get COVID-19 and can it be spread to the other zoo animals?

Dr. Dubé: Public health officials believe the tiger became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee that was infected with COVID-19, but was unaware they had the disease and not showing symptoms. Early investigations reveal the same situation has occurred in the case of the mink. Other than the cats in the same exhibit as the tiger, animals in other areas of the zoo remain healthy and are not showing any signs of disease.

Animal care staff at the zoo have enhanced their biosecurity protocols and are wearing appropriate personal protective gear around animals that may be susceptible to COVID-19, including nondomestic cats and great apes. Despite primates being very close genetically to humans, there have been no reports of primates in zoos or in the wild contracting COVID-19.

Zoo staff, the CDC, and other US government agencies are continuing to monitor the situation at the NY zoo for any changes.

Can animals at Frost Science or pets become sick with COVID-19?

Dr. Dubé: Fortunately, as shown in recent research regarding the virus host range, this disease can only infect certain mammals, and so cannot cause illness in the diverse species seen at Frost Science.

Despite the global number of COVID-19 cases surpassing 3 million, there are only confirmed cases of 2 dogs and 1 cat in Hong Kong that have tested positive for COVID-19, several mink in Europe, and 2 domestic cats and several nondomestic cats in the US. In the past few days one dog has also tested positive in the US, but interestingly other pets in the same house tested negative for COVID-19. Of the pets confirmed positive, only the 2 cats in NY and the dog were showing any signs of respiratory illness, and in all of the animals it was mild.

Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no current evidence to indicate that pets or other domestic animals including livestock, can spread COVID-19 to people.

Are there any other precautions pet owners should take to help protect their animals from this virus?

Dr. Dubé: Until more is known about this virus, any person that tests positive for COVID-19 should restrict their contact with pets just as they would restrict their contact with people. If contact is necessary, masks should be worn when near animals just as would be done around people, and hand washing is important before and after any contact.

Although it has become more important for humans to wear masks, they should not be placed on pets. It could potentially compromise their breathing and cause them to overheat. All people, even those without signs of respiratory illness, should also always continue to practice good hygiene (including hand washing) when interacting with and handling animals.

Keeping cats indoors will prevent them from contacting someone that potentially has the virus. When walking dogs on a leash, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other animals or people. Social distancing is important for animals too. If your pet is showing signs of illness and has been exposed to a person that has tested positive with COVID-19, contact your veterinarian and inform them of their condition before taking them to be examined. They will advise you of the next steps to take.

Even if a pet has been exposed to COVID-19 , there are many other more common illnesses in animals that will cause a pet to become sick. Human diseases and outbreaks such as COVID-19 are driven by person-to-person transmission. As shown by the very small numbers of animals that have so far contracted and tested positive for COVID-19 even when in close contact with humans, it is still considered an extremely uncommon disease in animals. Remember pets and people need the support of each other to help get through this crisis.

With the museum closed due to COVID-19, we are losing admission and event revenue that we so heavily rely on. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help offset the cost of animal care and virtual programming during this difficult time. All donations, however small, will have an immediate impact.

Donate Now

For questions on different ways to support Frost Science, please contact advancement@frostscience.org

The post Frost Science@Home: The Latest on Animals and COVID-19 appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconFrost Science@Home: Learning Resources & Activities 27 Apr 2020, 11:38 am

Keep the learning going and the kids engaged! As part of our Frost Science@Home digital learning platform, this page will be your go-to resource link for DIY science, at-home science activities, step-by-step videos and more that you can try with your family at home.

The page will continue to stay updated with new information. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we’ll be posting regular updates and behind-the-scenes content. Please share it with your family and friends, and tag us at #FrostScienceAtHome!

 

Activity Videos & Resources

Make Plastic Out of Milk

Experiment with chemistry concepts as you engineer your very own plastic polymer from casein, a protein found in milk, using common kitchen ingredients.

  • Make Plastic Out of Milk Activity Toolkit. Click Here

 

April 2020 Stargazing

Use this guide to practice astronomy basics, including a special focus on constellations, while searching for the stars and planet visible in the sky above you.

  • April 2020 Stargazing Activity Toolkit. Click Here

 

Building Bubbles

Explore the phenomenon of surface tension by creating bubbles. Experiment with different combinations of materials to build your own bubble mix!



 

Scientific Sorting

Collect your favorite natural objects from your own backyard and sort them by their physical characteristics to learn about the important scientific process of taxonomy while practicing fine motor skills. This is a great activity for children five and under.

 

Sundial Science

Discover how the sun and its shadow is used to tell time by creating a sundial – an instrument that tracks the position of the sun to indicate time of day.

 

Friction Fun

Discover the force of friction by creating ramps made of different materials and then seeing which one allows your racecar to go the fastest.



 

Soap Putty

Get hands-on and a little messy as you investigate polymers, including what it is, what it is made of, and how we interact with them every day by creating your own soap putty.



 

Additional At-Home Resources

Water Cycle

Investigate the three main processes of the water cycle through a hands-on experiment highlighting how sunlight and water temperature play important roles in these processes.

Clouds in the Sky

Head outside and observe the sky to identify different types of clouds. Then create your own 3D model of your favorite cloud with common materials. This is a great activity for children five and under.

Phases of the Moon

Launch into a lunar exploration of the special relationship between the Earth and the Moon by tracking how the phases of our Moon change in the night sky over time.

Dino Fossils

Explore how dinosaur tracks can still be discovered by scientists today, despite dinosaurs going extinct millions of years ago, by making your very own imprint fossil. This is a great activity for children five and under.

River Fractals

Discover the beauty and simplicity of naturally occurring branching fractals by creating your own paper watershed model.

 

 

Additional Resources

  • Smithsonian – Distance Learning. Click Here
  • How Things Fly – Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Click Here
  • Game Center – Smithsonian Science Education Center. Click Here
  • Live Science – Educational activities for homebound kids. Click Here
  • Association of Science & Technology Centers (ASTC) – Educational resources. Click Here
  • Ology – A science website for kids from the American Museum of Natural History. Click Here
  • Curriculum Collections – American Museum of Natural History. Click Here
  • Courses & Specializations – American Museum of Natural History. Click Here

With the museum closed due to COVID-19, we are losing admission and event revenue that we so heavily rely on. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help offset the cost of animal care and virtual programming during this difficult time. All donations, however small, will have an immediate impact.

Donate Now

For questions on different ways to support Frost Science, please contact advancement@frostscience.org

The post Frost Science@Home: Learning Resources & Activities appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconFrost Science@Home: Earth Day 2020 22 Apr 2020, 8:34 am

Find out how you and your family can celebrate Earth Day from home!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Traditionally celebrated on April 22, Earth Day began in the spring of 1970 after former Senator of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson witnessed the devastating effects of an oil spill off the coast of California in 1969. With the help of other senators and university professors, he began promoting for a national “teach-in on the environment” day where millions across the country held demonstrations and rallies for a healthy, sustainable environment. This Earth Day event had support from both sides of the political spectrum producing a unique political alignment that piloted the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and led way for the development of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

At Frost Science, Earth Day is celebrated 365 days a year (or 366 on a leap year!) As a  Gold Certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment) building, caring about the environment is quite literally, built into our infrastructure and values. Frost Science’s conservation programs educate and inspire action on marine and coastal preservation by creating a space for the community to get involved and learn about the importance of the unique ecosystems found in South Florida. Both on site at the museum through our educational exhibits and in the field through our Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE) program, visitors and volunteers can develop a passion for the environment and discover ways that they can help protect and preserve our planet.

Challenges can sprout resiliency and new ideas. Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic we are coming together to find new ways to celebrate and honor Earth Day while staying true to our mission. We invite you to explore your surroundings safely around your home and backyard through our Nature Bingo Toolkit including a special plant identification guide highlighting native Florida plants found on our Frost Science rooftop.

If you are interested in connecting virtually to both nature and cities around the world, consider participating in the City Nature Challenge (CNC) taking place April 24 to May 3, 2020. CNC is an international citizen science event where more than 100 cities around the world participate in documenting nature through the involvement of their community. Normally it is a BioBlitz-style competition where the cities are in a contest against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people providing an opportunity for outdoor exploration all throughout the world. However, this year the narrative has evolved from a competition to a celebration of nature. We want to embrace the collaborative aspect of this project (virtually) and continue to embrace nature while allowing individuals to document urban biodiversity in any way they feel comfortable.

Using the citizen science application or website, iNaturalist, participants can upload photos of nature they find within their homes or backyards, plants, bugs and animals are all welcomed! Every observation you take can contribute to environmental science advancements, where real scientists can access and use the data for important research.

Participating is easy. Follow the steps below:

  1. Observe your environment and see if you can find an animal, plant, fungus or even just evidence of wildlife, like a shell or footprint.
  2. Snap a photo!
  3. Upload photos you have taken between April 24 to April 27 to iNaturalist.
  4. If your finding isn’t growing or found naturally, like a garden plant or pet, that is ok! You can still upload, just make sure to mark it as “captive or cultivated”

This is a great opportunity to learn about how to properly identify flora and fauna, learn about biodiversity around you and contribute to real science. Want some ideas on how to participate in your backyard? Here is City Nature Challenge’s document on how to explore nature in and around your home!

With the museum closed due to COVID-19, we are losing admission and event revenue that we so heavily rely on. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help offset the cost of animal care and virtual programming during this difficult time. All donations, however small, will have an immediate impact.

Donate Now

For questions on different ways to support Frost Science, please contact advancement@frostscience.org

The post Frost Science@Home: Earth Day 2020 appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconFrost Science@Home: A Day in the Life of an Aquarist 17 Apr 2020, 4:06 pm

Monitoring animal health and water quality, interacting with guests, inspiring a passion for marine science and conservation; it’s all in a day’s work for an Aquarist at Frost Science. But ever wonder what it’s actually like?

Meet Jacob Rosner, Senior Aquarist & Assistant Diver Safety Officer (ADSO) at Frost Science. Rosner joined the museum in 2018 with nearly 10 years of experience in the aquarium industry. His primary responsibility, along with the rest of the husbandry team, is to make sure the animals and plants in our collection are given the highest level of care possible and that all of their dietary, medical and environmental needs are taken care of. Of course, making sure that our exhibits are clean, presentable and functioning as intended is another top priority.

“We want museum guests to be inspired by the face-to-face encounters with our dynamic live animals,” says Rosner. “They will experience a connection and be moved to learn more and protect them.”

The Right Stuff

It’s not easy to become an aquarist, but it’s all worth it in the end. To become an aquarist you will typically need a degree in biology, zoology or a related field, as well as a dive certification. Experience with aquarium keeping, animal handling and underwater maintenance will prepare you for the day-to-day tasks of an aquarist. Most aquarists either volunteer or intern with a public zoo or aquarium prior to beginning their job search. A strong work ethic and a keen eye for detail will also serve you well in this field!

Early Bird Gets the Grasshopper

Our animal care team starts their day at 6:30 a.m. every day. The morning of checking each exhibit to assess the health of the animals and address any maintenance that may need to be done to the exhibit itself. Since the museum opens at 9:30 a.m., the first three hours of the day involve a lot of window cleaning and scrubbing algae off of just about every aquatic surface. Once the exhibits are ready for guests to enjoy, the team beings preparing diets and feeding the animals. Some of our animals are even trained to eat in a specific location or recognize certain shapes.

Daily Routines

Aside from feedings, which occur throughout the day, using scuba diving to clean our large exhibits is another activity that you can witness almost every day at Frost Science. Our largest exhibit, the Gulf Stream, requires about 20 hours of underwater maintenance each week to keep it looking great. Other regular activities include testing the water quality of each exhibit in our lab and routine maintenance on the life support systems that keep the water circulating throughout the facility.

Best Part of the Job

One of the most rewarding parts of being an aquarist is seeing the animals flourish in their exhibits and playing an active role in helping the museum become a ‘living-ark’ in order to shelter species from going extinct in the wild.

Diver cleaning Frost Science Gulf Stream Aquarium.

With the museum closed due to COVID-19, we are losing admission and event revenue that we so heavily rely on. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help offset the cost of animal care and virtual programming during this difficult time. All donations, however small, will have an immediate impact.

Donate Now

For questions on different ways to support Frost Science, please contact advancement@frostscience.org

The post Frost Science@Home: A Day in the Life of an Aquarist appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconFrost Science@Home: Building the New Goliath Grouper Exhibit 17 Apr 2020, 10:51 am

There are exciting changes in store at the iconic Aquarium at Frost Science! A new exhibit is being built that will showcase the goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), a large saltwater fish true to its name. This exhibit will replace the Tropical Pacific Coral Reef exhibit habitat, but don’t worry – you’ll still be able to see those fish and corals in the new Great Barrier Reef exhibit in the museum’s Ocean Gallery.

Our animal husbandry team is currently working on the project and is ready to share some insights with our Frost Science@Home audience. It will take about four weeks in total to build this 17-foot deep, 20,000-gallon saltwater exhibit, which spans all the way from the Royal Caribbean Vista level to The Dive, and will also feature other species of fish. While we wait for our goliath’s new home, let’s learn a bit more about this species.

Top Five Facts About the the Goliath Grouper

  1. The adult goliath grouper being featured in the exhibit currently weighs about 50 pounds, but these behemoths can reach at least 8 feet long and weigh up to 700 pounds.
  2. Like most groupers, the goliath grouper is an ambush predator, feeding on large fish (including small sharks) and invertebrates. With their large mouths, they suck in their prey whole and swallow them without chewing!
  3. Reefs with large numbers of predators like the goliath grouper are found to be healthier than those lacking predators. The goliath serves an important role in food webs, including in the Southeast Florida ecosystem.
  4. The goliath grouper is classified as “critically endangered” due to overfishing in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Legal protection across several gulf states in 1990 has led to a partial population recovery, but there is still much progress to be made. By including the goliath in our living collection, we seek to educate guests about the past, present and future prospects of this impressive, charismatic and ecologically vital animal.
Goliath grouper photo

With the museum closed due to COVID-19, we are losing admission and event revenue that we so heavily rely on. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help offset the cost of animal care and virtual programming during this difficult time. All donations, however small, will have an immediate impact.

Donate Now

For questions on different ways to support Frost Science, please contact advancement@frostscience.org

The post Frost Science@Home: Building the New Goliath Grouper Exhibit appeared first on Frost Science.

StarDate Online - Your guide to the universe

FaviconHeavyweight Merger 2 Jun 2020, 1:00 am

Stars that are born as twins don’t always remain apart. Sometimes, they merge to form a single star. That can happen while the stars are still young and vigorous, or even after they’re “dead.”

Astronomers recently discovered the remnant of the merger of two dead stars. It’s 150 light-years away, in the constellation Phoenix.

The remnant is a white dwarf. It’s heavier than the Sun, but smaller than Earth. It’s one of the heaviest white dwarfs ever seen.

When astronomers took a good look at it, they found a few other odd things. Its outer layers, for example, contain a high level of carbon. And the star appears to be especially old.

The astronomers plugged those traits into models of how stars work. They found that the most likely explanation was a merger between two white dwarfs more than a billion years ago.

The merger probably began when one of the original stars reached the end of its “normal” lifetime. The star puffed up, enveloping its companion. That dragged the two stellar cores closer together. The star then shed its outer layers, leaving only its dead core — a white dwarf. Later, the second star went through the same process, pulling them even closer. Over billions of years, the stars shed energy through gravitational waves — causing them to spiral together.

The combined stars were almost heavy enough to explode as a supernova. Instead, though, the merged stars settled in — beginning a long “life” as a dead star.


Script by Damond Benningfield

StarDate: 
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Teaser: 
A merger of heavyweight stars

FaviconHeavyweight Merger 2 Jun 2020, 1:00 am

The planet Mercury is near its farthest point from the Sun for its current evening appearance. It is low in the west-northwest as night begins to fall, about half-way between the bright stars Procyon, to the left of Mercury, and Capella.

FaviconOmega Centauri 1 Jun 2020, 1:00 am

The biggest ball of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy creeps low across the south on June evenings. But it might not have been born in the galaxy. Instead, it may be the core of a smaller galaxy that was grabbed by the Milky Way billions of years ago.

Omega Centauri is classified as a globular cluster. It’s the biggest and brightest in the galaxy. It contains about 10 million stars. They’re all packed into a ball that’s about 150 light-years in diameter. In the cluster’s core, stars may be just a tenth of a light-year apart. By comparison, the Sun’s closest neighbors are more than four light-years away.

Several lines of evidence support the idea that Omega Centauri was born in another galaxy. For one thing, its orbit around the center of the Milky Way is backwards from the general flow. For another, its chemistry doesn’t quite match that of the Milky Way’s other stars.

So it seems likely that the cluster was the core of a dwarf galaxy that passed close to the Milky Way. The Milky Way’s gravity grabbed the smaller galaxy and pulled it in. The stars in the galaxy’s outer regions were absorbed into the body of the Milky Way. But the core stuck together – forming a bright globular cluster.

Omega Centauri is quite low in the south as night falls. From the northern third of the United States, in fact, it’s below the horizon, so it’s not visible at all. From other locations, it looks like a faint, fuzzy star – the remnant of a galaxy.


Script by Damond Benningfield

StarDate: 
Monday, June 1, 2020
Teaser: 
The remnant of a one-time galaxy

FaviconOmega Centauri 1 Jun 2020, 1:00 am

Omega Centauri is the biggest globular star cluster in the galaxy, containing about 10 million stars. From the southern two-thirds of the United States, it is quite low in the south at nightfall. It looks like a faint, fuzzy star.

FaviconOphiuchan Clusters 31 May 2020, 1:00 am

Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, climbs across the south at this time of year. Many star clusters are found inside the constellation’s borders. The list includes 10 fairly bright globular clusters, which are tight balls of hundreds of thousands of stars.

ESOcast HD

ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO, the European Southern Observatory. Here we explore the Universe's ultimate frontier.

FaviconESOcast Light 223: Hot Stars are Plagued by Giant Magnetic Spots 1 Jun 2020, 11:00 am

Astronomers using ESO telescopes have discovered giant spots on the surface of extremely hot stars hidden in stellar clusters. This video offers a summary of the discovery.

FaviconESOcast 222: Ten Fascinating Paradoxes about the Universe 27 May 2020, 5:00 am

This video lets you see some of the many things we do not understand in the Universe, and the strange and surreal paradoxes in what we think we understand…

FaviconESOcast 221 Light: ESO Telescope Sees Signs of Planet Birth 20 May 2020, 8:00 am

Observations with ESO’s SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope have revealed the telltale signs of a star system being born.

FaviconESOcast 220 Light: Closest Black Hole to Earth Found 6 May 2020, 8:00 am

A team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and other institutes has discovered a black hole lying just 1000 light-years from Earth. The black hole is closer to our Solar System than any other found to date and forms part of a triple system that can be seen with the naked eye.

FaviconESOcast 219 Light: Star Dance Around Supermassive Black Hole 16 Apr 2020, 3:00 am

ESO's Very Large Telescope has observed a star dancing around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The observations have revealed, for the first time, that the star’s orbit is shaped like a rosette and not like an ellipse.

HD - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

High-definition (HD) videos from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory feature the latest news on space and science findings from JPL and NASA. Topics include discoveries made by spacecraft studying planets in our solar system, including Mars, Saturn and our home planet, Earth. Missions also study stars and galaxies in our universe.

FaviconWhat's Up - February 2020 4 Feb 2020, 3:00 am



What are the skywatching highlights of February 2020?



FaviconNASA's Spitzer Space Telescope: Unveiling the Universe 15 Jan 2020, 3:00 am



After 16 years of unveiling the infrared universe, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has left a singular legacy.



FaviconNASA's New Planet Tracker, NEID 8 Jan 2020, 3:00 am



A new NASA-funded planet-hunting instrument has been installed on the WIYN telescope, on Arizona’s Kitt Peak.



FaviconWhat's Up - January 2020 31 Dec 2019, 3:00 am



What are the skywatching highlights of January 2020?



FaviconFirst Drive Test of NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover 18 Dec 2019, 3:00 am



On Dec. 17, 2019, engineers took NASA’s next Mars rover for its first spin.