Fantastic Frogs (see also Live Animal Programs)
Have you ever wondered why frogs croak? Why are some frogs red, yellow, or
blue? Where do frogs live? This lively slide program will answer all these questions
and more as your students learn about the diversity of frogs and their habitats.
Weather permitting, Bertha the Treefrog will be brought along for a personal
demonstration of frog characteristics. ANSES founder Steve Amos was, for
many years, curator for one of the largest zoo collections of live frogs in North
Key Words: amphibian, biodiversity, larva, metamorphosis, amplexus, tympanum,
Let’s Go Owling!
Why do owls hunt at night? How do they fly so quietly? Why are owls thought to
be so smart? This program will highlight these mystical, magical creatures of the
night. With props and activities, we'll learn about owl morphology and behavior.
Program includes slides, props, audio tapes of owl sounds, and the reading of the
book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.
Key Words: avian, raptor, nocturnal, talon, predator, prey, habitat, ecology,
Ocean Mammoths: The Majestic Whales
Weighing up to fifty tons and stretching as much as 100 feet long, the blue whale is
the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. Why is this gentle giant so large?
How has it, along with its kin, adapted to the vast ocean habitats of our world?
Whales, dolphins and porpoises, as a group, are some of the smartest animals on
our planet, approaching human intelligence. But what do we know of their
underwater life? Why is it that they are in such an imperiled state today? This
informative program will present what we do know about these ocean behemoths,
using descriptive slides, audio tapes of whale vocalizations and songs about whales,
and a variety of whale artifacts. ANSES founder Steve Amos is the author of
several books on ocean life, including The Audubon Society Pocket Guide to
Familiar Marine Mammals.
Key Words: mammal, cetacean, blowhole, melon, echolocation, biodiversity,
Feathered Gems: The Hummingbirds
Ruby, Topaz, Sapphire, Emerald - these are just a few names of nature's most
remarkable fliers, the hummingbirds. ANSES founder Steve Amos has studied
their morphology and behavior in his travels throughout the Central and South
American tropics. How is it that hummingbirds can fly upside-down, hover in mid-air,
even fly backwards? Why do hummingbirds come in such intensely beautiful colors?
Did you know that hummingbirds must hibernate each night to survive? Using slides
and props, this program will discuss hummingbird behavior, form, and color. We'll
also focus on Vermont's own hummingbird, the Ruby-throat, and methods for
attracting them near the home.
Key Words: avian, biodiversity, nectivore, tropics, hibernate, migrate, metabolism
Moose On The Loose!
The largest living member of the world's deer family, the moose is a stately,
magnificent design of nature. Using slides and props, this program will focus on the
natural history and biology of this gargantuan creature. How big are they? How is it
that antlers can be replenished each year? What is the status of the moose
population in Vermont today? These and many other questions will be answered
during this informative program.
Key Words: mammal, hooves, antlers, habitat, wetland, territory, competition,
Mysteries of the Loon
The mournful cry of the loon echoes across our northern lakes during the summer
months. What do we know of this beautiful creature, an endangered species in
Vermont? Subjects of folklore throughout the ages, loons are some of the world's
earliest evolved birds. How have they survived the passage of 65 million years, and
how secure is their future? Using slides, audio tapes, and props, we will unravel
some of the mysteries of this remarkable bird.
Key Words: avian, ecology, webbing, endangered, indicator species,
conservation, predator, prey
Nature’s Master Engineer: the Beaver
Did you know that top hats and castor oil are both products originally derived from
the beaver? How do beavers manage to build such a marvel of engineering
technology - the dam? Why does the beaver have such a large, flat tail? No animal
has figured more prominently in America's early history than the beaver. With
slides and props, this program will cover the natural history of this intriguing animal,
cousin to the common rat, and how their exploitation by early settlers nearly caused
their extinction in North America.
Key Words: mammal, rodent, aquatic, incisor, webbing, biodiversity, ecology,
Fritillary, morpho, swallowtail, bird-wing, sulfur - these are names of some of the
world's most beautiful creatures, the butterflies. Why do butterflies have such
colors? What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Did you know that
one of the world's greatest animal migrations is performed by the Monarch
butterfly, found right here in Vermont? Using slides, props, and mounted
specimens, this program will enlighten audiences on these delicate creatures.
Included will be some discussion on Vermont's more common species, and ways to
attract them to your home. ANSES founder Steve Amos has successfully kept
and raised a variety of butterflies, including the tropical Zebra Butterfly, in captivity.
Key Words: larva, pupa, cocoon, metamorphosis, migration, nectivore,
Lepidoptera, habitat, population, ecology
Rodents: Master Gnawers
One of the most diverse and successful groups of mammals on earth is the family of
rodents. From the tiniest of mice to the pig-sized capybara of the New World
tropics, rodents have populated nearly every known terrestrial and semi-aquatic
habitat, including the northern forests of New England. Within this local natural
community there are tree-dwelling porcupines and flying squirrels, woodland mice
and aquatic beavers, among many others - twenty species in all. This class will
discuss the reasons for the great diversity of rodents, detail their specialized and
varied adaptations within the Northern Forest community, address their historic
and/or economic importance, and challenge students by using photographs, skulls,
tracks and other sign to discern the differences between this taxonomic mammalian
group and other herbivores and carnivores. Hands-on activities will help to highlight
Key Words: taxonomy, mammals, rodents, adaptations, herbivores, community,
ecosystem, ecology, habitat, population.
Creepy Crawly Spiders (see also Live Animal Programs)
Eeeeuuwww - spiders! Those nasty, eight-legged creepies that always drop on
your head and bite, right? Well, not really. Although scorned by many, spiders are
fascinating creatures with truly specialized adaptations for catching their prey.
Some spiders actually benefit humans by feeding on biting insects like mosquitoes
and flies. This program will discuss the incredible variety of spiders - web-spinning
spiders, trap door spiders, funnel-net spiders, fishing spiders, , jumping spiders, and
wolf spiders, among many others. We'll also learn about spider relatives, examine
where spiders live, discuss their life cycles, and recognize how spiders are really not
as bad as they are perceived. Slides, specimens, some readings and weather
permitting, Harrietta the Tarantula, will enhance the program.
Key Words: arachnid, ecology, adaptation, biodiversity, species, extinction
Weasels: The Stinky Ones
Some of the most effective predators are members of the Mustelid family – the
weasels. A surprising half of the total 14 North American species are still found
locally, from the diminutive Short-tailed Weasel to the Fisher, not a cat! All have
found specific haunts and hunting niches within this unique environment. Using
slides, specimens, and hands-on activities, we will review the selection of New
England mustelids, their amazing adaptations and sometimes fierce nature, and their
historic importance and place in both American and Vermont history.
Key Words: mammal, mustelid, community, ecosystem, habitat, biodiversity,
adaptation, population, predator, prey, carnivore.
Vermont’s Cat: The Catamount
Mountain lion, puma, panther, painter, screamer, catamount - these are but a few of
the names for one of the most widespread and common of the big cats, the cougar,
Felis concolor. The cougar is one of the few species of cats in the 20th century
that seems to actually be adjusting to human presence. Its historical range, which
from southern Argentina to northern Canada was one of the most widespread of
any big cat species, is again increasing, beginning to approach that of pre-
settlement America. Other than the wolf, no other creature features so largely in
early American culture than this powerful, yet secretive creature, once native to
New England's forests. With the recent sightings in the Vermont’s Northeast
Kingdom town of Craftsbury, this cat is now poised to make a potential comeback
in Vermont. Using slides and props, this program will detail the life history and
ecology of the cougar, the folklore and mythology related to this graceful predator,
and its potential return to Vermont.
Key Words: mammal, felid, community, ecosystem, habitat, biodiversity,
adaptation, population, predator, prey, carnivore, endangered, extinct.
Slithering Snakes (see also Live Animal Programs)
Jake the Snake LOVES company – and he’s just waiting for the chance to visit
with your group. A 17-year old, nine-foot long, red-tailed boa constrictor native to
the South American jungles, Jake is the perfect experiential learning tool for
children. ANSES founder Steve Amos will use slides, specimens, and some
readings to first introduce children to the biology and behavior of snakes. What is a
snake’s primary sense? Where does a snake’s tail actually begin? What kinds of
snakes are found in northern New England? As the finale, Steve will bring out
Jake for all to take a close examination and to even hold him, if they so wish – he
enjoys the attention!
Key Words: reptile, hibernation, scale, adaptations, biodiversity, community,
ecosystem, ecology, habitat, population
Creatures of the Night: Nocturnal Animals
Have you ever experienced the world after dark? Literally tens of thousands of
species prefer this time of darkness - hunting, establishing homes, raising young,
and being active only after dark. Here, in northern New England, an entire
ecosystem goes into full-play as the sun goes down. In this program, we will present
case-examples of various animal groups of northern New England and their
adaptations to the world of darkness. We’ll discuss alternate senses, night vision,
coloration, activity patterns, and food searching. We’ll also present several hands-
on activities. Slides and props will contribute to the on-site interpretation of
Creatures of the Night.
Key Words: nocturnal, adaptations, biodiversity, community, ecosystem, ecology,
habitat, population, diurnal, crepuscular, bioluminescence, fluorescence,
Puffins and Penguins: Costumed for Cold
“Little Brother of the North” is the literal translation for the scientific name of the
Atlantic puffin. No other groups of birds seem to personify humans, with their
tuxedo-like clothing and proper “air” about them, than puffins and penguins. Their
comic antics, and attentive family behaviors, endear them to us. Although similar in
appearance, these two disparate groups of seabirds have evolved in extremely
diverse areas of the world. Why are they black and white? Why do some fly and
some don’t? In this unit we’ll collectively discuss the various attributes of both
groups, determine their similarities and differences, determine the reasons for their
success, and review threats to their continued survival. Slides, props, and activities
will compliment the program.
Key Words: convergent evolution, counter-shading, population, community,
ecology, ecosystem, behavior, adaptation, endangered
Bird Brains: Crows, Ravens and Jays
“One crow for sorrow, Two crows for joy, …” So begins one of many traditional
poems and stories on corvids. Messengers of the gods, harbingers of death, signs
of the supernatural – the birds which belong to the family Corvidae have played
prominent roles in the mythology of many cultures. In reality, crows, ravens and jays
are among the most intelligent of all birds, with dramatic and complex social behavior.
Tool-using, mimicry, food-storing, play, and long-term memory retention are all
aspects of this extremely adaptable and successful group of birds. This program
will identify the outstanding and sometimes surprising characteristics of corvids. We’
ll discuss the various native New England species, reviewing their biology and
natural history, and also participate in some readings from various native cultures on
what these remarkable birds mean to them. Slides and artifacts will complement this
Key Words: auspicy, mythology, population, behavior, community, adaptation,
habitat, ecosystem, intelligence.