On December 2, 2012, the last flock of baby ostriches born at the the Academy will be leaving for their new home. Some will be moving to new quarters at the Sacramento Zoo while others will grow up at OstrichLand USA. This breeding ranch in Solvang, explains Tim Steinmetz, the Academy’s Ratities Program Coordinator, provided the eggs which were hatched at the Academy. Because adult ostriches can grow as large as 9 feet tall and weigh 350 pounds, they were never intended to be permanent part of the Academy's living collections. “Plus,” Steinmetz says, “We have reached the end of the ostrich breeding season, so this is a natural time to phase out the ostrich component of the exhibit.” For a look back at the ostrich's hatching, watch the Behind-the-Scenes clip.
Behind the Scenes with Tim Steinmetz
It’s 5 pm on a cool, foggy evening in Golden Park. Tim Steinmetz, the Academy’s Ratites Program Coordinator, is on the public floor of the Earthquake exhibit, preparing the brood of ostrich chicks for one of their first thirty minutes of outdoor exercise in the West Garden.
Steinmetz, who previously served as the supervisor of the San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center, is the ostriches’ de facto Mr. Mom. He has done everything from setting up an incubation room in the Academy basement with eggs obtained from a Northern California ostrich breeding ranch to monitoring their growth, feeding them red clover and live crickets, and setting up an exercise schedule.
The most common myth people have about ostriches is that they bury their heads in the sand to hide from danger.
“Not true,” says Tim Steinmetz, the Academy’s Ratites Program Coordinator. “The male is very involved in family life. That image comes from photographers catching the male using his beak and long neck to make a home. They stand in the nest and dig sand out. I’ve seen nests that are ten feet in diameter. That’s where the hens go to lay their eggs.”
Second, they don’t hide from predators. They run. “Their long legs were built for speed,” says Steinmetz. “A mature ostrich can achieve speeds of 43 m.p.h. That’s faster than a lion or a hyena.”
• The public Ostrich exhibit space is 8 feet wide by 21 feet. The night enclosure is 6 feet wide by 14 feet long.
• It’s 95 degrees...
Most of the Academy’s 38,000 live animals are relative newcomers, but a handful of them are old-timers who were at the Academy when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck on October 17, 1989. During your next visit, say hello to these silent witnesses of the ground-jolting event 23 years ago.
Species: African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
Current age: 29
Can be seen: Frolicking with his fellow penguins in African Hall
Fun fact: Pierre wore a custom-designed wetsuit in 2008 to help him stay warm when his feathers molted but didn’t grow back. His natural tuxedo eventually returned, and his story was made into a 2010 children’s book, Pierre the Penguin.
Teaching Teachers About Earthquakes
Helena Carmena-Young, the Academy’s senior manager of teacher education, is in the midst of a presentation in the third-floor Education Lab. This is where Carmena-Young more commonly leads monthly professional development workshops for Bay Area teachers.
Today, she is explaining how materials created in-house for the Earthquake exhibit and planetarium show will be made available online to Bay Area educators.
Carmena-Young prepares the launch of the Academy's first coursework offering on iTunes University.
"We're partnering with KQED to launch a new educational course on iTunes University," Carmena-Young says, “starting with our new Earthquake materials.” Maybe it’s her background as a middle-school science...
With the Earthquake exhibit less than a month from its public opening, I caught up with Scott Moran, Director of Concept & Exhibit Development, as he darted between ladders and rolling tables loaded with power tools and electrical wires on the ground floor of the Academy's West Pavilion. Moran was on his way to test the audio portion of the new Shake House exhibit, set inside a replica of a San Francisco Victorian-era dining room.
Scott Moran pauses by the exhibit's entry sphere
"Every exhibit tells a story," he says, comparing this phase of preparation to a dress rehearsal.
To tell the story of Earthquake, Moran and his team are using an 8,000-square-foot area and six different installations (including a mini-dome theatre, a live animal enclosure, fossils and a 25-foot wide model of Earth that you can walk through) to describe the movement of Earth's tectonic plates across two very different time spans—the vast stretch of geologic time and the more immediate lens of human time. (Launching at the same time will be a new planetarium show that examines...
Scott Moran in front of Shake House bookshelf
The Academy's Earthquake exhibit explores the Earth's tectonic plate movement on a vast geological timescale, the effects of earthquakes on a more immediate human timescale, and quake preparedness tips for living in seismically active regions such as the Bay Area.
In the Shake House, the titles on the bottom bookshelf are:
An Ever-Changing Place
The Imperial Mantle
Earth in Motion
The Story of our Earth
The Story of Mechanics
The Story of Force and Motion...