Posts Tagged ‘national zoo’

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By Angela Trenkle, technical writer and DC EcoWomen member

Throughout the DMV metropolitan area, there are different organizations that give people the opportunity to learn about conservation, restoration, and the natural world that we are lucky to call home. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution – an organization that is easily recognized when mentioned. What’s not always known, however, is the amount of work that goes on behind-the-scenes and that it’s easy for people to get involved.

My work with the Smithsonian Institution spans a decade and includes three institutions – the Natural History Museum (NMNH) in downtown D.C., the Environmental Research Center (SERC) south of Annapolis, and the Marine Station (SMS) in Fort Pierce, Florida. At each of these institutions, I had the incredible opportunity to work with different organisms that the general public does not always get the chance to see during their visit.

My work included, but was not limited to, curation and collection management of invertebrates and insects (specimens only a handful of individuals could see), and live aquatic organisms that were used for research purposes to answer scientific questions. I also cared for animals, both aquatic and terrestrial, that the public could learn about and see.

When I’ve shared these experiences with people, one of the first questions they often ask is, “how did you become involved?”. They’re always surprised when I tell them it’s a lot easier than they’d think!

One of the overall goals of the Smithsonian Institution is education and they are always looking for volunteers to help in different capacities, whether its for a long-term commitment, a short-term commitment, or for a day.

Smithsonian Natural History Museum

At the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the opportunities to volunteer are split into two different categories: behind-the-scenes and public engagement.

The behind-the-scenes category gives volunteers the opportunity to help on projects out of the public eye, whether it’s assisting with data entry, cataloging museum specimens, or researching scientific literature.

The public engagement category gives volunteers the opportunity to inspire the museum’s visitors by allowing them to teach visitors about the natural world. Volunteers in the public engagement category get to work with live insects and butterflies in the butterfly pavilion and insect zoo. They can also showcase different objects in the Ocean Hall, the Hall of Human Origins, and Qriuis – a section of the museum that is dedicated solely to visitor enrichment and education.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

At the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the opportunities to volunteer are split into two different categories: citizen science and environmental education.

The citizen science program allows volunteers to help SERC researchers on projects that are going on in the field or in the lab. These projects can include work with mud crabs, river herring, and environmental archaeology.

Volunteers in the environmental education category can teach school groups, which gives students the opportunity to connect with the natural world around them. Volunteers in the environmental education category get to lead canoe trips, run different environmental stations (seining, oysters, plankton, etc.) for field trips, and develop educations materials, among other activities.

Smithsonian National Zoo

At the Smithsonian National Zoo, there are opportunities to volunteer in several categories, such as education, zoo support, and special events.

Volunteers in the education category can learn about the ins and outs of different exhibits throughout the zoo. They can then pass this knowledge onto the zoo’s visitors, which come from around the world.

The zoo support category gives volunteers the opportunity to work with staff behind-the-scenes and assist with animals. Zoo support volunteers can care for animals in different places around the zoo and assist with research projects that are taking place at the time of volunteering.

Finally, the special events category provides volunteers with short-term commitment opportunities. These volunteers can come as little, or as often, as they wish, whether its just for one event or for multiple. Some of the events that these volunteers can assist with include ZooFari and Zoolights.

These are just a few examples of ways that people can help with the Smithsonian. By taking the time to volunteer with this organization, people can learn, pass on information to others, grow and make a difference in the natural world. I hope you consider volunteering!

Angela is a technical writer in Maryland with a scientific background. Preserving the natural world is an important goal for her and she plans to use what she has learned over the years to help do her part in restoring local watersheds for future generations to enjoy. In her free time, when she isn’t found exploring the world of aquatic biology, she enjoys acting in musicals, running, reading, writing, and traveling to new places.

 

Photo Credits: Corey Cavalier CC BY 2.0, Quadell CC BY 3.0, and Judy Gallagher CC BY 2.0.

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Washington D.C., the city of young professionals and fast politics, is one of the hardest working cities in our country. And as an environmentalist, it can be particularly easy to get disenchanted with politics. Sometimes you just need to escape.

It’s important to get away and remind yourself what you’re working for. To get lost in the woods, to paddle on a river. To remember why you are working for the environment in the first place. To feel at peace.

The pockets of nature and beauty dispersed throughout the city make DC wonderfully unique. Even in the midst of the hectic atmosphere, it is possible to find stillness in nature.

If you’re looking for your next get-away, here are some places to escape to without leaving city borders:

The National Mall

Although this is probably the most well-known (a.k.a. tourist-frequented) getaways, there are many pockets of beauty that aren’t the first stop on a segway tour. The World War II Memorial usually is less crowded than the others – and in the summer heat, the fountain is a quenching hiatus. You can also take the long walk around the tidal basin, which might seem too daunting for tourists, but is perfect for the DC native trying to escape!

Rock Creek Park

Washington D.C.’s most ubiquitous secret, Rock Creek Park extends all throughout the city. Almost anywhere you are, a patch of this Park is likely nearby. If this park is good enough for 200 deer then it is good enough for a peaceful escape.

National Zoo

Just a few steps can transport you to a foreign land with pandas, elephants, and dragons! Komodo dragons, at least. Go to the zoo to gaze into the eyes of a creature you’ve never seen in person before. Maybe you will see your own image deep in its the eyes – maybe it will awaken your inner tiger. (Or your inner penguin, no one’s here to judge.)

Capital Crescent Trail

This biking and hiking path that runs along the Potomac goes on for miles. It extends Northwest out of DC, eventually into Maryland. When the trees start enveloping the landscape, you may forget the city is just a mile away. Grab a bike and go if you want to get really far away – and be able to find your way back after.

Additionally, if you don’t mind leaving city borders (or at least crossing the river to Virginia):

Roosevelt Island

The monument that got separated from the mall. The Theodore Roosevelt monument rests in the middle of this tiny island, smack dab in the middle of the Potomac. With DC on one side, and Arlington on the other, the stillness lies in the middle of the noise. The island doesn’t feel that small when you’re on it – there are footpaths, riverbanks, and an expansive open area around the monument itself.

Gravelly Point – Ronald Reagan International Airport

This is secretly my favorite spot in all of D.C… well, I guess the secret’s out now. A simple, humble park on the Potomac, Gravelly Point is windy enough to be a respite on a hot day. And, the national airport is approximately 20 feet away. To be able to see airplanes heading towards you at top speed, and take off just barely over your head, is exhilarating. You feel like you can almost reach out, grab onto the wheels, and take a ride.


Next time you’re stressed
about the inequality of women in the workforce or after five oil spills in one week, you can go to one of these getaways and clear your head. When you come back, you’ll be ready. Ready to walk into work and ask for what you want. Ready to take care of yourself. Ready to jumpstart your career. Ready for change.

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