Courtesy: Sleeping Bear Press
Two years ago, you may have heard the story of Pierre, the eldest member of our African penguin colony. He was losing his feathers, and this bout of baldness left him shivering on the sidelines while the other penguins frolicked in the water. Pam Schaller, our chief keeper of the penguins, and Celeste Argel, Early Childhood manager (and couturier), designed a neoprene wetsuit to keep Pierre warm. Remarkably, Pierre’s feathers began to grow back. Pam suspects that because he was no longer using all of his energy to stay warm, Pierre was able to divert calories to feather production once again. Now he no longer needs his wetsuit and is content in his natural tuxedo.
Watch a clip of Pierre’s story on Anderson Cooper 360.
Since then, we have been working on a fun project – a children’s book about this endearing true story. I am happy to announce that Pierre the Penguin hits bookstores across the country this month. The book is told in rhyme by noted I SPY author Jean Marzollo, and paired with gorgeous paintings from acclaimed wildlife artist Laura Regan. Here is a sample:
One day aquatic biologist Pam
Observing the penguins, saw one in a jam.
Gently, gently, she examined Pierre.
His feathers were gone.
His bottom was bare.
The story and pictures will make you smile. If you think your children, grandchildren, kids in the neighborhood, or people you meet on the street would like Pierre the Penguin, you can find it in our Academy Store. And during your next visit, don’t forget to say hello to Mr. Comeback Kid himself, Pierre, at the end of African Hall. He has a blue band on his right wing. You can also view the colony from the comfort of your own home using one of three live penguin webcams.
The Academy is home to the world’s largest collection of skulls, skeletons, and other preserved samples of the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis). Research collections like ours are valuable resources for scientists studying California marine ecosystems, and informing conservation strategies. Southern sea otters live along the coast of California (mostly between Monterey and Big Sur), and are classified as threatened on the U.S. Endangered Species List.
From September 28 – October 3, 2009, stop by the Research Lab to see select specimens on display. Sea otter-themed books and resources will also be available in the Naturalist Center. For those ages 21 and up, stop by the sea otter table at NightLife on October 1 to talk to biologists about how these creatures are faring in the wild.
Vibrantly colored sea urchins (below, left) are a favorite food source among sea otters, and individuals who eat a lot of them over the course of a lifetime can end up with purple-tinted bones and teeth. Read more about their behaviors in this archive issue of California Wild.
The Academy’s Education division recently donated twenty compound microscopes to a local San Francisco teacher who travels to Afghanistan each summer to do trainings with science educators. After years of use in Academy education programs, the microscopes will now go on to inspire students half way around the world – along with anatomy charts, models, hand lenses, and other educational materials, they’ll go to teachers in rural Afghanistan, some of whom may never have used a microscope before. The teachers will then be able to use those tools to bring hands-on science activities to their students. Find out more about the project at http://blog.schoolisopen.org/.