A Volunteer Day in the Gardens

Nicole Harris, Teen Volunteer

Nicole Harris, the author of this post, has been a Teen Volunteer since June 2014 and currently serves as a Teen Volunteer representative on the Board here at Turtle Bay.  She actively volunteers in our Education Department as well as at Special Events.

The Teen Volunteer Program is presented by Shasta College/”Doing What Matters” and United Way of Northern California.

On a recent Saturday morning, a group of teenagers got together to spend the early morning volunteering at the Turtle Bay McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Most teens might sleep until noon on a Saturday, but for this group of dedicated students from Shasta High School’s Key Club and Botanical Society Club this Saturday morning was a time to get up early, put on their gloves, and get to work pulling weeds.

img_20161008_085634504-jpgEighteen teen volunteers came together from these two different clubs and joined forces to help weed a planter bed inside the Gardens. In just two hours these 18 teens accomplished a lot! As one teen volunteer, Erica Bade, put it, “It feels good to have helped out here in the Gardens, because you can see the difference you are making.”

img_20161008_085355571-jpgAs a Teen Volunteer at Turtle Bay and a member of both the Key Club and Botanical Society, it was a rewarding experience to have the opportunity to work alongside this group of teens in the Gardens. Everyone who was there seemed to enjoy the work they were doing. When asked if they would be interested in volunteering in the Gardens again, there was a resounding “Yes” in response. Through this experience we were able to meet new people, learn about native plants, and learn the values of hard work. One thing that really stood out to me was that some of these teen volunteers had never seen the Gardens before, but were still willing to put in their time and effort by giving up their Saturday morning to help their community.

When we had finished our work for the day, not only did we leave with a sense of accomplishment, but also with new friends and a better sense of community. I am proud to be able to say that I took part in organizing this event and gathering the volunteers needed to make this happen. I think we all took away more than we had expected from this experience, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Make a Difference Day is this Saturday!  This Saturday, October 22nd, volunteers from across the country will be making a difference in one of the largest annual single-days of service nationwide. Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans volunteer? We are thankful for our amazing group of Volunteers that make a difference daily here at Turtle Bay – thank you for serving your community and supporting Turtle Bay through your Volunteerism!

 Click here to find out more about Make a Difference Day

Click here to learn more about volunteering at Turtle Bay

My Life With Animals: A Sweet Affair

As we drove home with our newest ball of fur curled up in my lap, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.  We had waited a long time for her–six years to be exact!  Who would have thought getting such a common animal for education would be so difficult.

Sweet PeaWe had come close once before. A call came through from Guest Services, “There is a problem.  There is this skunk down at Raptor Hollow that is approaching all the guests.” As we knew, a skunk out in the middle of the day walking up to people is a bit odd. We quickly headed down to Raptor Hollow, an area in our park where we housed our birds of prey along with a few other animals. There, wandering around was a cute, little skunk, probably less than two months old. Guests were just standing around watching her as she stumbled over their feet. She appeared to be injured and was not using her back legs well. Adrienne, one of the Animal Care staff, grabbed a kennel and placed it near the kit and without any hesitation, the little dazed skunk walked into the kennel.   

Sweet PeaWhat were we going to do with this baby skunk? The wildlife rehabilitator who we normally call would not take skunks, the vets didn’t want to touch her, and everyone is so scared of rabies that this little girl didn’t have a chance. That was the main reason we had not yet been able to get one: California Fish and Wildlife regulations state that we can only acquire a skunk from within California, so we couldn’t get a skunk born in, say, Washington or Oregon. Since breeding and keeping skunks in California is illegal (rightly so), we could only get one from rehab. However, most wildlife rehabbers in California do not take skunks.

Finally after much searching, we found one wonderful wildlife rehabilitator who loves to help skunks. Recognizing that these beautiful animals are misunderstood and have such a valuable purpose in the world, she has made it her life’s work to bring about appreciation for them and give them a second chance. A few hours later, the rehabber arrived. Showing absolutely no fear of being sprayed, she carefully took the skunk out of the kennel to examine her. I knew that skunks didn’t spray indiscriminately, but being grabbed out of a kennel by a stranger? That was crazy. She took the time to teach us about handling skunks safely and how to avoid getting sprayed. She let us touch the tiny skunk on its back. We were all instantly in love with this little creature.

Sweet PeaWe talked with the rehabber about getting a skunk for education someday. She explained that skunks are very hardy and that most of the time they heal up well and can be released, the ones that do not heal, usually don’t survive. “It is rare,” she told us, “to have one survive, but have something wrong with it to deem it non-releasable.”  She continued, “If I ever have one who is healthy but non-releasable, I will call you.  I think this would be a great place for an educational skunk.” We couldn’t have agreed more! I had been trying to find one for over five years without any success. 

A year later the phone rang; it was the rehabber. “I think I have a skunk for you. Do you still want one?” “Of course!” I responded with excitement. “This one should be perfect for you. She has a neurological problem that has given her balance issues. She is doing great and is about six weeks old.” She was still on a bottle and the rehabber agreed to keep her on it so we could wean her ourselves. That would help with the relationship and creating a long lasting, forever bond with her. I immediately got the paperwork together for permits and sent them off.

Sweet PeaIn the meantime, I headed over to the rehabber’s to meet this skunk kit in person. There she was in a little cage, curled up with another kit even smaller than she. I picked her up and cradled her in my arms. I couldn’t even believe how beautiful she was: her fur was soft and  silky, her black and white stripes just perfect, her tail was already fluffy. I couldn’t wait to bring her home, but at that point it was a waiting game. 

Two weeks later I got word from California Fish and Wildlife that we had permission and a permit to get the skunk kit. As we drove home with this black and white fluffball, my heart filled with joy. After six years of searching and waiting, our adventures were about to begin and Sweet Pea was now a part of our lives. 

Sharon Clay, Curator of Animal Programs

“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”

Maker Faire is coming to Shasta County!

Shasta County Mini Maker Faire

The very first Shasta County Mini Maker Faire is coming! Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 12th, 2016 from 10am – 4pm and the Redding Civic Auditorium.

The Shasta County Mini Maker Faire, hosted by Turtle Bay, is a chance for our North State California counties to celebrate its local makers. This is a family-friendly event that celebrates the creativity of individuals, students, educators, innovators, and businesses in the community. Mini Maker Faire allows creators to showcase their work to the community, while the public comes to enjoy interactive experiences, connect with like-minded people, and be inspired. Maker Faire supports passionate innovation, collaboration, and hands-on doing as a way of experiencing the world.

This Mini Maker Faire will feature various makers from all over the North State. View art made of masking tape, learn to solder, discover how a 3-D printer can make pancakes, participate in a LEGO robotics workshop, and so much more!

How can you be part of it?

  • Purchase your early bird tickets NOW! Early bird tickets are on sale at makerfaireshasta.com. Early bird adult tickets are only $10 available until November 4. (After November 4, adult ticket prices will increase.) Children 18 and under and college students with a valid ID are free. All attendees (free or not) must have tickets upon entry.
  • Participate in student team and individual challenges. Can your team build a bridge made of pasta? Can you design a helmet to protect an athlete’s head (aka a raw egg)? Can you design a creative sculpture that incorporates artistic skill and engineering? Create a mini race car for the Nerdy Derby Track! These challenges will test engineering and design skills for students of all ages! Visit the website for entry rules and requirements.
  • Volunteer at the event. Many volunteers are needed to help make this a successful event! Click here to sign up or email makervolunteer@gmail.com with any questions.
  • Spread the word! Tell your friends and family and make this a event a family affair!

The fun doesn’t end all in one day! On Sunday, November 13th, John Collins, the Paper Airplane Guy will be presenting at Turtle Bay Exploration Park at 11am in the Take Flight exhibition. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn the science behind paper airplanes and learn to fold the paper airplane that holds the world record for farthest flight. For information about John Collins, visit his website at www.thepaperairplaneguy.com.

We hope to see you at the Faire!

The new exhibition Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology: My good fortune and personal glory.

The famed, yet fictitious, archaeologist Indiana Jones once said to his sidekick, Short Round, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory,” which somehow encapsulated, however incorrectly, the impression of what archaeology was all about. In real life, archaeology and museum work may not lead to fortune and glory in the conventional sense, but they might be somewhat attainable depending on how you define them. For me, fortune is the opportunity to work with the wonderful Turtle Bay museum collection and glory is a completed exhibition.

If you visited the museum in September, you might have noticed these mysterious curtains. What secrets are they hiding?
If you visited the museum in September, you might have noticed these mysterious curtains.
What secrets are they hiding?

When I entered a master’s degree program in museum studies, my family was baffled. They would ask with befuddlement or even cynicism at holiday gatherings or family dinners what exactly I would do with something so esoteric. It was a hard question to answer as there are so many possibilities! If you were to visit my first exhibition at the Turtle Bay Museum, Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology, you would see the answer to that question firsthand. This blog post might help offer a little background too.

Each piece of art and every artifact are carefully catalogued in a searchable database and stored in a precise location in environmentally controlled storage – all crucial for good stewardship of these precious objects.

These priceless artifacts live in a special box made just for them! They have their own house (box) with their own address (box number, shelf number, row number)!
These priceless artifacts live in a special box made just for them! They have their own house (box) with their own address (box number, shelf number, row number)!

In a sense, museums are like libraries for these pieces. They are retained and protected for the enjoyment of the public – you! Then, instead of checking them out and taking them home, the museum puts them on display in interesting ways for your enjoyment and education.

One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition – a stirrup spout vessel representing Naylamp. Naylamp was the mythological “first ruler” of the Sicán culture who sailed from the south on balsa rafts and colonized many valleys in the region of what is today Peru. When he died, he sprouted wings and flew away to another world.
One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition – a stirrup spout vessel representing Naylamp. Naylamp was the mythological “first ruler” of the Sicán culture who sailed from the south on balsa rafts and colonized many valleys in the region of what is today Peru. When he died, he sprouted wings and flew away to another world.

Throughout the process of selecting the most intriguing art and artifacts best representing the theme and storyline, copious research is done to ensure the information presented is accurate and engaging. However, only a small percentage of all the research and writing makes it into the exhibition, as space is limited and reader interest is circumstantial and unpredictable.

All the objects are staged in a convenient location prior to arranging them in the exhibition.
All the objects are staged in a convenient location prior to arranging them in the exhibition.

Arranging the artifacts presents a delicate balance between aesthetics and practicality while still adhering to the storyline. Their placement should look good, make sense, and above all maintain safety for the object. The purpose of the exhibition is to tell an interesting story in a three dimensional space while allowing public access to the objects. Access in this sense means the guest can view the artifact and read a little something about it, hopefully to learn something new or entertaining.

Arranging Mezcala objects on their shelf.
Arranging Mezcala objects on their shelf.
Arranging shelves by culture and geography.
Arranging shelves by culture and geography.

Although at times the process can be terrifying, offering sleepless nights, late hours, and questioned sanity as you wonder how your pet project will be received; creating an exhibition is genuinely enjoyable and absolutely satisfying. Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology was a great first project in my newly acquired role in the exhibitions department at the Turtle Bay Museum. It allowed me the opportunity to become acquainted with the museum’s collection, which is eclectic, invaluable, and far-reaching, as well as to gain an understanding of the process, operations, and techniques unique to this institution. Plus, the Pre-Columbian artifacts in our collection are just really, really cool!

The almost-finished-product. Come to the Museum for a closer look!
The almost-finished-product. Come to the Museum for a closer look!


Amanda Kramp

Poison vs. Venom

How many times have I heard someone say, “Look, it’s a poisonous snake!”? Too many to count! Most people do not know the difference between poisonous and venomous, but there are some fundamental things you should know about these toxic terms.


Poison Oak
Poison Oak

Poison is defined as any toxic substance harmful to a living organism. For our purposes, we are focusing on the poison produced by plants and animals.

In the animal and plant world, poison is a toxin that must be ingested (such as eating something) or absorbed (such as through the skin). Poisons can have many potential effects, from simple skin irritation and burning, to stopping specific processes within the body.


Golden frog
The Golden frog, Phyllobates terribillis, the most poisonous frog in the world

There are many examples of poisonous organisms. Numerous plant species use poison as a way to protect themselves from animals that may want to eat them. There are plants all around us that are poisonous. The most obvious, locally, being poison oak, which can cause blisters and skin irritation upon contact. There are many ornamental plants that we may not even realize are toxic, including the oleander plant we see all up and down I-5, which possesses poison in every part of the plant including the flowers and the stalks. There are even poisons in many of the plants that you eat, just in small enough amounts that it will not cause harm to humans.

The Pitohui is a small bird native to New Guinea. They carry a neurotoxic poison in their skin and feathers. http://www.pitohui.com/

Poison in animals is generally used for the same thing, to protect the animal from predators or pests. Many insects are poisonous, such as beetles, caterpillars, and millipedes. The Monarch butterfly and Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly are poisonous if ingested. Amphibians, including frogs, toads, salamanders and newts, sometimes secrete poison from their permeable skin, some only mildly toxic, others incredibly deadly such as the poison dart frogs. There are some birds that are poisonous to the touch, such as the pitohuis – a bird native to New Guinea that secretes poison through its skin and feathers. Some of these poisonous animals do not actually make the poison themselves, instead getting it from the insects or plants that they eat.



Venom is a toxin that is delivered via a sting or bite. Venom must be introduced into the blood stream and carried through the vascular system to be effective. Venom can safely be swallowed without having any effect, as long as there is no cut in the mouth or ulcer in the stomach that the venom can go through, and the stomach acids will break down the proteins same as they do any other food.

Venom is a mixture of enzymes and proteins, chains of small molecules called amino acids found in living organisms. These chains are diverse in the pattern of the amino acids, causing the strands to be different and therefore causing a variety of effects to happen in the body. There are two types of venom. Neurotoxic venom affects the nervous system, cutting off the transmitters that send messages between the nerves and causing paralysis. Hemotoxic venom affects the vascular system, breaking down the tissue and causing hemorrhaging throughout the body. Many types of venom are a mixture of neurotoxins and hemotoxins.

Blue-ringed octopus
Blue-ringed octopus, a highly venomous octopus that can fit in your palm

In the animal world venom is quite common. Insects, such as ant, bees, and wasps, have a venomous sting that is mostly used for defense in these small animals. Arachnids (spiders and scorpions) are notorious for their venom that they use to subdue their prey – spiders via fangs and scorpions via stingers. Fish can be venomous. The beautiful lionfish is covered in spines with venom-tipped ends, while stingrays deliver their venom through a barbed tail tip. Many aquatic Mollusks (octopi, squid, and snails) and Cnidarians (jellyfish) use venom to incapacitate quick moving underwater prey.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Snuggles, Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
By Carli Davidson

Reptiles may be the animals that come to mind most often when we think of venomous creatures. Many snakes use venom to kill prey, and even begin digestion before the snake ingests the prey item. Some snakes have such mild venom you wouldn’t know it if you were bit, such as the garter snake. Other snakes have highly adapted venom delivery systems that use movable, hypodermic-like fangs to inject potent, fast-acting venom, such as rattlesnakes. Lizards can be venomous too; the Beaded lizard and Gila monster of the southwest United States and Mexican deserts have strong jaws with serrated teeth that they use to chew the venom into the prey, and may help in defense against predators in these slow moving lizards. Recent studies show that monitor lizards, such as the Komodo Dragon, also have venomous saliva.

Duck-billed Platypus
Duck-billed Platypus

The most surprising venomous animal is the Playtpus, a marsupial mammal native to Australia that looks like a cross between a duck and a beaver. The males in this unique species have spurs on their back feet that are used to deliver painful venom. It is thought that the venom is used during breeding season in an offensive manner to assert dominance over other male platypi.

Toxic substances are found throughout nature. It can be an effective way to protect both plants and animals, and are used by animals to subdue and even begin digestion of prey. Educate yourself about the species around you to keep yourself safe and avoid any dangerous plants and animals in your area. If an encounter occurs with any toxic organism, seek medical assistance. None of these plants or animals are out to get humans; we must learn to coexist with all parts of the natural world.

Adrienne John, Head Animal Trainer

How to Recycle and Reuse School Supplies


The school days are upon us, yet again! Every morning students are equipped with backpacks and lunches, full of all the tools they will need to learn well and be successful in school. Back to school shopping lists are full of all the necessities a student needs for a class: notebooks, pencils, crayons, rulers, binders and more! Open up a backpack and you’ll see that each one of these supplies serves a purpose as students study, take notes, and express themselves.

Now, let’s open up that lunchbox. School lunches either from home or the cafeteria fuel the minds of learning students making food one of the most important school tools. Every school year, each student eats 180 lunches at school; that’s a LOT of food! Ideally each lunch is well balanced and students consume everything that is in front of them… But we know that this is not necessarily the case.

Unfortunately, tons of school supplies end up in landfills each year. Half-used pencils, notebooks, crayons and pens, dried up markers, out-of-style backpacks and paper. Paper alone is responsible for up to 60% of waste produced by schools. After every lunch, wrappers, plastic bags and containers, leftover food and plastic utensils fill up the trash receptacles. Over 78% of this trash could be managed via recycling and composting programs.

So what can we do about this?

DIY Pencil Case
Pencil case made from recycled CapriSun drink wrappers!

Recycle what you can’t use. Dried up markers, inkless pens and short pencils can be recycled by programs like this one or help your school buy a box like this. Take left over note paper or pages with a blank side and make a new notebook by binding it!

Only buy what you need! After taking inventory of your supplies, only buy the things you don’t have and absolutely need. For things like backpacks and lunch boxes, reuse your old ones or check out thrift stores. Keep all supplies in a zipper bag or pencil box so they are organized and easy to find.

Buy sustainable supplies. Look for 100% post-consumer recycled products such as paper and plastic. Some backpacks and lunch boxes are made out of recycled materials too. Shop for food and products with minimal packaging and use reusable water bottles, containers and utensils for lunches. Aim to find the only thing missing in your student’s lunch is the food they ate!

Work with your schools, opt for electronic communication and encourage recycling and composting.

Lastly, share your own ideas on how to start a sustainable school year!

#CaffeinateforaCause – A one of a kind fundraiser with Dutch Bros. Redding!

CaffeinateforaCauseOn Thursday, September 15, Turtle Bay and Dutch Bros. Coffee are teaming up for the fourth #CaffeinateforaCause event to help raise funds for Turtle Bay. From 7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. on Thursday, all Redding and Anderson Dutch Bros. locations will donate $1 from every drink sold plus designated tips to Turtle Bay.

We can’t thank Dutch Bros. Redding, the Resner family (Erin and Chris are one of our Celebrity Barista pairs again this year!), and the Dutch Bros. crew for all their hard work, support, and energy that they bring, not only to #CaffeinateforaCause, but every day!

Chris Resner serving as a Celebrity Barista

Over 25 local celebrities will be serving drinks and competing to see who can drum up the most business in support of Turtle Bay. All funds generated will support Turtle Bay’s work in cultural and science education, from care and feeding of the animals to subsidizing school field trips to booking blockbuster exhibitions. Check out the break down to see exactly why your support (and fundraisers like this one) is so important for the Park:


$25 – Feeds Turtle Bay’s animals for one day

$50 – Subsidizes a school field trips for six students

$100 – Opens Parrot Playhouse immersive aviary for one day

$500 – Maintain the drought-tolerant botanical gardens and park grounds for one day

$1000 – Covers one day of hosting an awesome blockbuster exhibition!

If you can’t make it to Dutch Bros. on Thursday, you can still support! Just donate online and make sure to put the names of your favorite celebrity baristas in the “In Honor Of” area.