Archive for May, 2009

Final installment (for now) of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

KarlMeissnerOur last story from the inaugural Fort Collins Memory Project workshop comes from Lew Arlen Meissner, whose family, like many in this area, were Germans from Russia. Enjoy his story here, and if you missed any of the previous four stories, browse back through the last month and be sure to check them out too.

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Color my world

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We’ve got a LOT of behind-the-scenes work going on right now, as we prepare for Discovery Science Center’s move into the Fort Collins Museum building. DSC’s last day in their current location is this Saturday, May 30th (so get over there, like, NOW if you want to have one last look!). Three weeks ago we dismantled the “Poor of Me, Good of Dog” exhibit in the gallery and Exhibit Designer Cory Gundlach began transforming that space into what will become the home of many of DSC’s most-loved hands-on interactive science exhibits. It’s a lot of work, to say the least, and very exciting to see everything taking shape.

The walls are up and prepped, and this week we’re all pitching in to prime and paint. Yes, Directors, Curators, and everything, turned loose with rollers, ladders, and drop cloths. It’s mayhem, but so far the paint is mostly going on the walls, and not too much on each other …. Plan to come check everything out on June 30th, when we unveil science and history under one roof!

Wonderful work-study Ashley tackles the blue wall

Wonderful work-study Ashley tackles the blue wall

Curator Katie demonstrates that it's all in the wrist

Curator Katie demonstrates that it's all in the wrist (and all on her pants)

Soon to be our fantastic new exhibit space

Soon to be our fantastic new exhibit space

Visualize exciting science exhibits!

Visualize exciting science exhibits!

Bugging out (part II)

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation (and bug fan)

In part I of this post, I wrote about a field trip to the Poudre River to collect aquatic insects. Along with being fun to catch and fascinating to look at, aquatic insects are also very important to the ecosystems they live in. These insects are a major food source for waterfowl and fish (most “flies” for fly-fishing are modeled after aquatic insects), and can also be biological indicators of ecosystem health. According to Dr. Kondratieff at Colorado State University, the Poudre River isn’t as healthy as it could be and even though we found a lot of insects, we didn’t find a lot of different species. Usually, the healthier a river, the more species you’ll find.

As it continues to get warmer, more and more insects will be visible around Fort Collins. If you haven’t tried it already, go insect hunting! It doesn’t need to be a complicated production involving waders (although, if you get the chance…), it can be as simple as sitting down on the grass and taking a close look around you – you’ll be surprised at what you see. Just remember these tips:

  1. If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. Many insects bite, sting, pinch and cause allergic reactions, so it’s always better to assume an insect will bring the pain until you know better.
  2. The best way to learn what insects you’re finding is to have an identification book with you. “Guide to Colorado Insects” by Whitney Cranshaw and Boris Kondratieff is a great tool, full of photos and easy to understand descriptions (and available in the museum’s gift shop).
  3. Leave insects where you find them. While it’s tempting to create your own insect collection, some endangered insects are protected by laws that make it illegal to collect them. Even if an insect isn’t endangered, it has an important role to play in the ecosystem it belongs to so it should be left where it is.
  4. Try keeping an insect log. How many kinds of insects can you find in a day? In a month? Can you find examples from all the orders (there are anywhere from 24-27 orders, depending on which scientist you talk to)? How many different kinds of beetles can you find (they make up approximately 22% of the world’s described, living species, so get counting!)?
  5. Visit the Discovery Science Center’s “Bugville” exhibit while you still can (it’s open through May 30th) to learn a whole lot more about insects than I can cover here.

We’re still figuring out how insects will be incorporated into our new museum, so when you come to visit us, you’ll have to leave the insects at home (at least for the time being).

Bugging out

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Normally, insects and museums aren’t a good mix. In fact, museums are often downright terrified of insects, with cockroaches, beetles, moth larvae, and silverfish (to name only a few) capable of destroying artifacts made of anything organic, including wood, leather, wool and paper. As a self-professed “insect geek,” I’d love nothing more than to see our museum with a gallery full of terrariums teeming with termites and tarantulas (yes, I know, spiders aren’t insects. But the alliteration was so good, and the only other “t” word I could think of was “Trichoptera,” which are caddisflies, and if I used that there’d be no hiding how truly geeky I really am). Since I’m pretty sure our collections curator won’t allow insects inside the museum, I’ve started thinking of other ways to incorporate insects.

One fabulous, yet perhaps unexpected, way comes in the form of the Poudre River, which will be our neighbor once our new museum facility is built. But when people think about where to find insects, they don’t often think about insects living in the water. Insects fly, crawl, and occasionally come up your shower drain, but swim? Yep. There’s a whole world of aquatic insects most of us know little about.

A few Saturdays ago I had the pleasure to go aquatic insect collecting in the Poudre River at Lions Park with Dr. Boris Kondratieff, Professor of Entomology at Colorado State University, and staff from the City of Fort Collin’s WaterSHED (Stormwater Habitat Education Development) team. It was freezing, rainy, and grey – not the type of day you’d expect to find insects – but as I and other participants soon learned, the Poudre was full of them.

We found our insects by kick netting, which involves sticking a net down into the water and gently kicking the river bed with our feet to loosen the substrate. Anything hiding in the soil gets swept into the net by the current. Technique is important here, especially the skill of not falling into the river while kicking in waders 3 sizes too big (I’m still mastering that one). Very quickly, all of us had nets full of insect larvae. Most insects that have a “water stage” do so as larvae, with the adults leaving the water and looking nothing like the larvae they were.

Some of the highlights of the incredible (and often creepy looking) insects we found were:

-Crane fly larvae bigger than my little finger

-The caterpillar of an aquatic moth (the caterpillar is aquatic, not the moth), which, it turns out, can be parasitized by an aquatic wasp – crazy!

-larvae of Stonefly species that Dr. Kondratieff said haven’t been given names yet

In part two of this post, I’ll explore how important aquatic insects are to the ecosystem, and give you some tips on finding and observing insects yourself.

The Poudre River at Lion's Park (photo: Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area)

The Poudre River at Lion's Park (photo: Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area)

Tipulidae adult (photo: Tom Murray)

Tipulidae (crane fly) adult (photo: Tom Murray)

Tipulidae (crane fly) larva (photo: Cuckoo's Wasp)

Tipulidae (crane fly) larva (photo: Cuckoo's Wasp)

Moth adult (photo: Dale Parker)

Moth adult (photo: Dale Parker)

Moth larva (photo: Dale Parker)

Moth larva (photo: Dale Parker)

Plecoptera (stonefly) adult (photo: F. Prieto)

Plecoptera (stonefly) larva (photo: F. Prieto)

Fourth installment of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

This week’s story of immigration from the Fort Collins Memory Project comes from Kathy Moddelmog, who recalls her parents’ move to Fort Collins after being married in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Read her story here, and be sure to enjoy the previous stories too (look in the “Oral history & oral tradition” category over on the right for links to the other stories).

moddelmog

Scenes from the Indian Market

It was another gorgeous Colorado weekend and a fantastic time down in Old Town Fort Collins for the Fort Collins Museum’s annual Indian Market. Over two dozen Native American artists and craftspeople from six states were on hand with a wide variety of beautiful wares; Ram Nation kicked off each day with traditional drumming and singing, and then festival goers were treated to contemporary Native American music by Scotti Cliff and the Briggs Brothers, Plateros, and Casper and the Mighty 602. A huge thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers who help make this such a great event, especially Anita and Cary Morin, Linda Aguilar, and Kim Tamkun (and family)!

Beautiful Native American crafts (photo by Matt Gale)

Beautiful Native American crafts (photo by Matt Gale)

Ram Nation drum group

Ram Nation drum group

Indian Market festival goers

Indian Market festival goers

Casper of Casper and the Mighty 602 Band (right) and Cary Morin

Casper of Casper and the Mighty 602 Band (right) and Cary Morin (photo by Matt Gale)

Scotti Cliff

Scotti Cliff

Latest news

There was a nice article in Fort Collins Now about the new museum project yesterday — we’re always excited to talk about what’s going on! Check it out.


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