Through citizen science, kids and adults help make important discoveries. Take an epic journey with monarchs or leap and learn with frogs and toads! You can be a part of helping better understand the world around you. Contact the Education Department at (402) 738-2092 or classes@OmahaZoo.com for more information.
Close to 6,000 known species of amphibians live in our world; however, many are going extinct at an alarming rate. Currently, almost 2,000 species are threatened with extinction; that is nearly 1/3 of the planet's amphibians. This percentage is considerably higher than other groups. For example, 23% of mammal species and 12% of bird species are at risk. In order to accurately assess the level of threat, a great deal of research needs to be conducted.
Declines in amphibian populations are due to many factors including loss of suitable habitat, logging, urbanization, pollution, and some agricultural practices. In addition, diseases, particularly the Chytrid fungus, are spreading rapidly through worldwide amphibian habitats killing entire populations.
Amphibians are vital to the ecosystem and research. Frogs and toads act as exterminators, controlling populations of insects such as mosquitoes, which may carry West Nile Virus and Malaria. Currently, skin secretions from some amphibians are being used in the pharmaceutical industry to help treat specific conditions, including cancer.
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, together with other zoos and organizations, has launched the Amphibian Conservation Initiative to address this issue on a global scale. This initiative includes the establishment of facilities and the training of staff, capable of quarantining amphibians and carrying out captive breeding programs. Once threats have been lowered or resolved, offspring of the amphibians will be released back into the wild.
The Amphibian Conservation Education Project aims to develop an understanding of how a mass decline of amphibians will affect the balance of nature; and to give area youth the opportunity to conduct a statewide amphibian survey to determine the viability of amphibian habitat and health. We cannot save amphibians alone. They need your help and you can make a difference. This program is made possible by the Nebraska Academy of Sciences.
Contact the Education Department at (402) 738-2092 or scouts@OmahaZoo.com to inquire about training programs.
Amphibian Crisis Curriculum - Lessons and Activities
North American Endangered Amphibian Cards
Endangered Amphibians of North America - Poster
Amphibians of Nebraska
Located on the second level of the Elevator Building, a non public research area, is the Amphibian Conservation Area at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This area is designed to house and breed amphibians threatened with extinction and is capable of holding up to 3,000 individuals and 50 different species.
Individual, bio-secure isolation rooms are set up for each species to prevent the spread of disease between species. Each room at Omaha's Zoo and Aquarium has its own heating and cooling unit and is completely sealed. Strict hygiene procedures are practiced by the keepers to prevent contamination.
Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium has successfully produced and released Wyoming toad tadpoles and Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles into the wild. In the future, offspring from additional species will be released once threats have been lessened.
Worldwide, there are nearly 17.500 species of butterflies, grouped into five families: Hesperiidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Lycaenidae, and Nymphalidae. Close to 750 species inhabit the United States and Canada, most notably the Monarch and Regal Fritillary that can be found in Nebraska and surrounding states.
Approximately 3 percent of butterfly species are threatened with extinction. This decline in butterfly populations is attributed primarily to habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture. As populations continue to decrease, a growing need to more closely monitor species is developing. Because there is little distinction between some types of butterflies, identification and classification proves to be a challenge. Very few Lepidopterists (scientists who study butterflies and moths) exist; therefore monitoring population sizes and ranges of butterfly species is a daunting task.
Nationwide, butterfly counting events have become popular for families, schools, and hobbyists alike. Not only do they provide a valuable learning experience, but they also allow individuals to partake in citizen science. By participating, citizen scientists are able to provide researchers with useful data. Lepidopterists are able to utilize information collected from butterfly counts to pinpoint regions or species of interest for additional studies.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium needs your help! We are on the lookout for tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum), a species that was last spotted in this area almost 10 years ago.
We are looking to you for help in collecting data to see if they are still in eastern Nebraska!
Please contact the Education Department at scouts@OmahaZoo.com with the following information about your salamader find should you spot one: Name, Address, City, State, Zip Code, Phone Number, Email Address, Location, GPS Location, General Description and Comments.
Remember, please do not touch or disturb the salamander, just let us know where you saw it. It’s that simple!
Coral reefs are declining worldwide due to global warming, ocean acidification, sedimentation, eutrification, African dust storms and mechanical damage, just to name a few. Caribbean scleractinian corals have declined as much as 90% in many locations. The Caribbean Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata and the Caribbean Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis, are the two major reef building corals in the Caribbean. Both of these species are on the IUCN Red list of Endangered Species and both are listed as critically endangered. There is a reproductive bottleneck that is making it increasingly difficult for these corals to reproduce sexually in the wild.
SECORE has become the main coral reef conservation project in zoos and public aquariums around the world. Coral Reef Conservation on the Island of Curacao is a collaborative effort among public aquarium professionals and researchers. This collaboration links research efforts and excellence in coral reef husbandry, education and conservation. The mission of this endeavor is to develop techniques for the sexual propagation of the critically endangered corals. The goals of this project are three fold. The first goal is to reproduce these corals sexually as to enhance genetic diversity. The second goal is to use these sexually reproduced corals, growing in flow-thru systems, for coral reef restoration research efforts by outplanting them back onto the reefs at different sizes. The third goal is to monitor these corals at the outplant sites and in the flow-thru systems for growth and survivorship.
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The island of Curacao still has healthy Elkhorn corals that spawn every year during the once a year spawning event. This event usually takes place between the third and seventh night after the first full moon in August. SECORE has a team who works together to be out on the reef when this takes place. When corals are found that are getting ready to spawn, team members carefully net the colonies and collect the egg-sperm bundles (gametes) that are released. These gametes are taken back to the lab where they are separated and cross fertilized with gametes from other non-related colonies. Once fertilized, the embryos are put into specially designed kreisel tanks developed by the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the collaborating institutions for grow out into larvae.
After around 72 hours, the larvae are ready to settle. They are given the proper substrate which, for us, are pre-cultured with biofilms that give the larvae the proper chemical cues to initiate settlement. Once settled, the larvae will undergo metamorphosis into a primary polyp. These primary polyps will then start to divide asexually and start a new, genetically diverse, coral colony.
The mission of SECORE is to develop techniques for the sexual propagation of the critically endangered Caribbean Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata, and Caribbean Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis.
Caribbean Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata)
This species of coral is structurally complex with many large branches. These branches create habitats for many other reef species such as lobsters, parrot-fish, snapper shrimps and other reef fish. The color of this coral species ranges from brown to a yellowish-brown.
Caribbean Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis)
This species is a stony coral with cylindrical branches. Staghorn coral is found throughout the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, the Caribbean islands and Venezuela.