Press-Republican

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July 7, 2013

A wild trip

(Continued)

Painted turtles were swimming about, and one had crawled up onto a rock to bask beneath a lamp. Ratcliffe said the turtles love the lamps and will sometimes climb atop each other to get closest to their warmth.

The painted turtle has bright orange coloration on its shoulders, and its dark green reptilian head has stripes of canary yellow.

Wood ducks paddled along the surface of the pool. The males have iridescent green plumage on their heads, which contrasts strikingly with their ruby-colored eyes.

NATURALIST’S CABINET

Another room, called the “Naturalist’s Cabinet,” is described by Ratcliffe as “our nod back to the roots of natural history museums.”

It includes a collection of mounted butterflies and moths, as well as skulls and bones from various animals and birds. It also features a computer program that allows you to listen to the sounds of many different species of birds. The sounds are analyzed and can be compared to the sounds of other creatures (such as humpback whales) or musical instruments. Like the Wild Center as a whole, it is both scientific and creative.

While the Naturalist’s Cabinet includes some traditional elements, another room showcased a museum feature that seemed quite futuristic: a device called “Science on a Sphere,” designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A 6-foot diameter globe is suspended on a wire from the ceiling. Video projection and an elaborate computer system turn the sphere into an animated device that displays scientific data in an almost science-fiction way. The sphere can be used to show the paths of hurricanes, to model climate-change projections or to display other planets in the solar system. So, with the touch of a button, the sphere can change from Earth to Jupiter. 

“It’s a really fun toy,” said Kendra Ormerod, the center’s expert on the device.

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