Aw, look at that baby coral

September 5, 2008

We finally got the FONZ 2009 calendar from the printer!! It came out great and its so exciting to see it in print! My supervisor chose a heavier weight paper than the calendar was previously printed on and even that one little change made a huge difference in the overall look (and feel) of the calendar – not to mention all of our work choosing photos and writing captions and quadruple-checking dates, etc.

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Coral tank in the Invertebrate House

Part of my week involved hand delivering copies of the calendar to FONZ employees and mailing complimentary copies to all of the people who receive them, such as contributing writers, Smithsonian employees and major donors. I also had to give several copies to the front desk of the visitors center so they can be used as an incentive to join FONZ. It’s a pretty nice free gift if I do say so myself.

Besides continuing to work on written pieces for ZooGoer, one of the highlights of this week was my trip to the Invertebrate House to meet with a keeper who had just returned from collecting coral gametes in Puerto Rico.

We got to see the coral primary polyps that have attached themselves to tiles and begun to grow and develop. The keeper told us all about what it’s like to be in the water when the corals are spawning and how coral grows. It was really cool – i’ve never even thought about how coral forms.

He said that if two or more polyps attach to tiles (or rocks or other corals, etc.) right next to or on top of one another that they will essentially be fighting for space and nutrients rather than joining together to form a larger colony. In some instances, two seprarate coral colonies can grow alongside one another and in that case there will be a distinct line between the two, but it is just as likely that one coral will eventually die off while the other prospers.

Last year the keeper was able to count over 100 live primary polyps after his trip to Puerto Rico. This year, he has already doubled that number and he has only counted a fraction of his tile plates. The Zoo could become home to thousands of baby coral in the next couple of weeks.

Emu – Darwin

On my way to and from the Invertebrate House I passed an exhibit that I walk by at least twice a day, but I rarely stop to look at. The habitat is home to two speices – tammar wallabies that are small and shy and therefore rare to see and a very large bird – an emu named Darwin. I love the wallabies; they are just super cute and furry, but I have only seen them out in their yard twice over the entire summer. Darwin, on the other hand, is not super cute and he is certainly not shy. He is almost always looking for food right along the fence where he can be seen by all who walk by. He is quite the attention-hog. Though he is far from my favorite animal here at the Zoo (it’s a first for me to say that!) it is only fair that I include him – it’s not his fault he’s not as handsome as the giant anteaters or the red pandas.


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