At the Centre we are very proud of how popular our Outreach Program is among secondary schools throughout Ontario. Initially many teachers are skeptical as to whether a program that involves bringing live animals into schools would benefit their students, but after viewing our presentation they see the value of our programs.
Our presentations go far beyond simply showing an animal and describing where it’s from. We delve into complicated subjects that truly help students appreciate the incredibly complicated nature of the world in which they live, and that inspires them to further investigate the topics we discuss. The two groups of highly specialized animals that we bring to schools, bats and birds of prey, allow us to address all aspects of our planet’s complicated biosphere.
Students are encouraged to interact with some of the animals through touching and sometimes even feeding them. Our use of computer graphics during the presentation helps us to achieve a meaningful impact on the students. It is very gratifying to see the student’s reactions during our visit. At first they are somewhat jaded about the idea of sitting through a long presentation. However, soon they are reacting either with excitement about the amazing animals they are learning about, or with concern while we are discussing the troubling conservation issues facing our planet today.
The number of animals that we bring to a school is flexible. Our typical format is to bring a hawk, a falcon, two species of owls and three species of bats. Other options include only birds of prey or only bats. There is also a nocturnal option, which includes only owls and bats. Limiting the number of animals we bring to a school allows us to increase the amount of educational content and to direct our focus on specific topics.
Not surprisingly, the animals used in presentations vary depending upon a number of factors. Some of the species that we use in our programs include: Swainson’s Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Lanner Falcons, Peregrine Falcons, Great Horned Owls, Eurasian Eagle Owls, Snowy Owls, Tawny Owls, Vampire Bats, Jamaican Fruit Bats, and Egyptian Fruit Bats. The Centre works with many different species, so new animals are added to our Outreach Programs on a regular basis.
We are very flexible about where our presentations can be held. Auditoriums, libraries, classrooms, and gymnasiums are common locations used by schools. Our only requirements are adequate space for the animals to feel secure, tables to put the animal’s boxes onto, and a power source for our computer related components.
The length of the presentations can vary from just under one hour to well over two hours. In many cases we have classes for two periods, with a small break at the midway point. Because our programs are not scripted, we can easily adjust the length and content to suit a school’s schedule.
Over the years our experience has shown us that smaller audience sizes are better for the students. This encourages more interaction and attention from the students, and also allows us to better design a program for a particular classes curriculum. However, we are more than willing to present to audiences well over 100 students, should that better suit a school’s scheduling and budgetary needs.
Another aspect of our programs that we are proud of is that we do not charge for additional presentations in a single visit. It is very common for us to arrive at a school around noon and stay until the end of the school day, again at no extra charge. This helps to keep audiences smaller and allows for greater flexibility regarding a school’s schedule. In addition, we offer discounts for schools that book more than once within a single school year. Many schools have us in once during each semester, and some specialized classes even have us in twice in a single semester.
Finally, when requested we can provide teachers with an assignment to go along with our presentation, or we can provide a detailed outline of what we will be discussing so that teachers can design their own assignments. Many teachers take advantage of this offer, and the students are very receptive and attentive when given an assignment to follow along with.
The topics we discuss during our presentations are completely customizable. Typically we would tailor the content to suit the environmental curriculum of the grade level that will be attending. In the event that a mix of grades attend the presentation, we adjust to suit the attendees as a whole. Because of the complex nature of the subjects taught in secondary schools, we feel it is best to list the topics we can address and let the teachers decide which topics in particular they would like us to discuss. Some of the topics we can discuss during our presentations include:
This covers the basic adaptations that make birds of prey and bats unique, such as the carnivorous diet of raptors and bats unique ability, (among mammals) for true flight.
We discuss the vital role bats play in ecosystems throughout the world, such as insect control in Ontario and seed dispersal and pollination in tropical habitats. We also discuss how apex predators face special challenges perched precariously atop their respective food pyramids.
For example how different factors, such as raising young or having a naturally high metabolism, influence food consumption. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Here we discuss the specialized adaptations that separate different orders and genus within a larger grouping of animals. For example, how distinct wing and tail shapes allow raptors to specialize in hunting a specialized prey group or within a specific habitat.
We also highlight adaptations that are unique to a specific species, such as the amazing adaptations that allow vampire bats to be the only terrestrial vertebrate that feeds entirely on blood. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Many biologists and geologists feel we are in the midst of a new era, the Anthropocene, because of the dramatic changes that have occurred on Earth since the dawn of mankind’s advanced civilization. Our approach to the many conservation issues currently facing our planet is to discus the leading causes of decline in biodiversity throughout the world, including:
We examine the incredible toll loss of habitat is taking upon biodiversity, and its devastating impact upon those species that are specialized to a specific habitat type. Species such as the Philippines Eagle and Harpy Eagle are just two examples of species that are greatly affected by the decline of their tropical rainforest habitats.
We also highlight habitat alteration, such as the conversion of land for agricultural use. This is a more subtle change to the environment that can be just as devastating to biodiversity as the more obvious slash and burn techniques, however many people do not recognize how widespread it is in their local area. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Our approach to this important subject is to focus less on the science behind climate change and more on the direct effects it will have on upon Earth’s biodiversity. Although a great deal of attention has been placed given to how a warming planet will affect polar regions, all ecosystems throughout the planet will experience severe changes.
Some of these changes may at first seem minor, but can be devastating to local flora and fauna. Through the use of live animals and computer graphics, many teachers feel that we help their students to better understand and appreciate how this sometimes dry or depressing subject can effect the environment. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Although great strides have been taken to reduce the impact of harmful chemicals such as DDT from entering the food chain in North America, many regions of the world still allow the use of many dangerous pesticides and chemicals. In fact, even in North America many toxins are still affecting the environment.
Polyurethane foam, pressure treated lumber and rodent poisons are just a few of the lesser known pollutants that are currently causing the populations of many species to decline throughout the world. We discuss how pollutants such as these directly affect birds of prey and bats, and through this students learn how toxins can build up in animals that sit atop a food pyramid. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Throughout human history the practice of over hunting and uncontrolled depredation of animals considered to be a 'pest' has caused the extinction of numerous species. The Dodo Bird, Passenger Pigeon and Tasmanian Tiger are just a few of the more infamous examples of species to fall prey to this sad and permanent scenario.
Although birds of prey and bats are protected in most developed nations, they face very little protection in many third world countries and remote regions of the world. In our presentation we discuss how the uncontrolled human persecution of animals, from the hunting of elephants for ivory to the tragic slaughtering of sharks for their fins, can have devastating effects upon wildlife populations. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Seemingly harmless animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and even mice can cause devastating damage to ecosystems when they are introduced by human actions. Many species of Megabats, (the Pteropid Flying foxes) are currently suffering population decline due to the introduction of predators such as cats and rats to their small island habitats. Another issue is the imbalance of species that can occur after their habitat is severely altered.
For example, here in Ontario the balance between the three large Buteo species has shifted, and we now have proportionally more Red Tailed Hawks when compared to the other species, Broad Winged and Red Shouldered, than we naturally would have. This is a great example of the hidden changes that occur when the balance of an ecosystem is changed. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
When requested, we can discuss the impact of black market trading of animals and the steps conservation authorities are taking to curb this ever increasing threat to endangered species. The illegal poaching of animals, such as Rhinos, Tigers and even bears for their body parts in other countries is one of the leading threats to their populations, and even birds of prey and bats are sometimes subject to uncontrolled harvesting in their natural habitat.
International agreements, such as CITES, help control the illegal trade of animals and their parts, and many countries now realize how valuable their natural assets are and have begun to allocate additional funding to the protection of their native endangered species. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
When requested, we can examine the possible negative side effects of the forestry industry, not only here in Canada, but across the globe. Unsustainable forestry practices such a monoculture have had a devastating impact on ecosystems throughout the world. Although many great strides have been taken in recent years, there is still a need for study and improvement of forestry management practices worldwide.
The forestry industry is a major part of the economy for many developing countries. Unfortunately, this can mean that ecologically sensitive regions, such as the Amazon, Madagascar and the South Pacific islands, suffer greatly from deforestation. New sustainable forestry practices have helped in many regions, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure these amazing examples of Earth’s biodiversity remain healthy and sustainable. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Rather than approach evolution from a paleontological point of view by discussing fossils and cladograms, we focus more on the environmental pressures that have shaped the adaptations seen in today’s animals. Bats and birds of prey are wonderful examples of animals that are highly evolved to fit into specific niches in their ecosystems.
For example, different habitats force bats into using different echolocation types. Some use high frequencies while foraging in cluttered forests, while other use lower frequencies for open area insect detection. Birds of prey offer many unique examples of evolution as well, such as why females are generally much larger than males. Convergent evolution is another topic that is perfectly illustrated by birds of prey. Owls, typical diurnal raptors and new world vultures do not share a common ancestor, but instead have evolved nearly identical adaptations for their similar feeding habits. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Many people are unaware of the incredible biodiversity among birds of prey and bats. Our presentation highlights not only the diversity in our own backyard here in Canada, but around the entire planet.
27 species of birds of prey and 8 species of bats are native here in Ontario alone, and we can discuss these species in detail when requested. Over 500 species of birds of prey can be found across every continent excluding Antarctica, including such diverse species as the largest aerial bird in the world, the Andean Condor. With a wingspan that can reach lengths of nearly 11ft and a body weight that can exceed 30 pounds, it cannot achieve flight from a standing start! This is just one example of the amazing diversity among birds of prey.
The order bats are in, Chiroptera, is the second most numerous order of mammals in the world. Over 1,100 species occupy every continent excluding Antarctica. Species such as the carnivorous false vampire bats and the exclusively nectar feeding bats native throughout the tropical regions help to illustrate the many niches bats occupy, and are a wonderful example of Earth’s amazing biodiversity. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Genetic diversity is vital to maintaining a healthy population among all species of life. Sadly, due to many factors genetic diversity is declining at an alarming rate among many species throughout the planet. Habitat fragmentation is a major issue. When large protected conservation reserves are established this can restrict the natural movement of animals and therefore cause genetic diversity to plummet.
Well known animals, such as Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and Tigers, are just a few of the species that have suffered from decline in their genetic diversity. Another tragic example is the Tasmanian Devil, It is now facing the very real threat of extinction due to a contagious form of facial cancer. Genetic diversity among Tasmanian Devils has declined so much that when cancerous material from one animal is transferred to another non-infected individual, through their natural competition for territory, it is not recognized as a foreign body. Because their DNA has become so similar, their body does not view it as foreign tissue and the immune system does not attack it, thus allowing the cancerous tissue to take hold and grow. This is devastating the Tasmanian Devil’s population throughout their already restricted and heavily altered island habitat.
Decline of genetic diversity will be one of the largest issues facing conservation authorities in the future. We are only just now beginning to see the effects isolation and segregation has on many species. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
Birds of prey and bats are both wonderful examples of the many differing reproductive strategies used by animals. For example, female raptors do not choose a mate based upon a flashy appearance like many other birds do. Instead they choose a mate that has shown the most aerial skill and courage during the courtship process. Some species engage in elaborate displays, while in some cases males compete with each other through tests of courage, including “death spirals”, where two adults lock talons and spiral toward the ground, whoever lets go first is the loser!
Bats also employ many strategies during their reproductive cycle. For example, the females of most bat species native to Ontario become pregnant in the late summer or early fall. However, the implantation of the sperm into the egg is delayed until the following spring. This helps to ensure that there will be a sufficient supply of insects when the newborn pups are born in the early summer. Both of these animal groups also exhibit amazing behavioural adaptations. Many species of raptors actively teach their young to hunt, whether it be hawks bringing incapacitated prey to the nest or falcons actually dropping birds in midair for their young to catch, the parents play a vital role in the development of their offspring’s hunting skills.
Bats and birds of prey also have an amazing ability to memorize prey and their surroundings. Different strategies are used while hunting and foraging, and the majority of these are learned, not instinctual. At the Centre we are constantly impressed and amazed by the intelligence of these animals. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs
In this topic we discuss the amazing adaptations of the tissues and organs in both birds of prey and bats. The skin that covers bats wings, (the chiropatium) is a great example. Its combination of thinness and flexibility is unmatched in the animal kingdom, and is perfectly adapted to allow bats to be the only mammals capable of true flight. Birds of prey also posses many specializations in their feathers, such as the noise dampening qualities of owl feathers. The visual and auditory systems of these animals are highly adapted to their particular food source and habitat as well, and their cardiovascular systems are truly incredible. During a stoop, the heart rate of a falcon easily exceeds 600 bpm, while it endures more than 8 g-forces upon its body.
In addition, these animal’s digestive and endocrine systems allow feeding upon a diverse variety of food types. Diurnal birds of prey are capable of digesting raw bone in hours, while vampire bats can process incredible amounts of iron in blood without suffering from iron poisoning. As with all organisms, birds of prey and bats are wonderfully adapted to fit into their respective niches in nature. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
We approach this subject by examining the richness of biodiversity and habitat types found throughout Earth. Whether it is the Andes in South America or the Gobi Desert in Asia, our planet has an incredible variety of habitats in which animal life has adapted to living in. We examine the continents that birds of prey and bats call home, and the many different habitats that these regions have to offer.
We also can address some of the most pressing conservation concerns pertaining to these various regions. Such as deforestation in the Amazon and climate change in the arctic. We view this as a perfect way for students to learn about the natural environments of the various regions they may be studying, while discussing geography. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
When requested, we can discuss all aspects of falconry. From its 5,000-year-old origins to its current uses, falconry has a rich and fascinating history. In addition, we can discuss how birds of prey are trained. The process of training birds of prey is very unique. Most people are surprised to learn it is not in any way similar to training a dog. After working with animals for over 29 years, our staff is very experienced with animal husbandry, and some of the dangers that go along with it.
When asked, we can discuss proper techniques to handling and caring for these animals. This is a great opportunity for students interested in a future career, either in the fields of zoology or conservation, to learn from someone who has been around animals for decades. As with all aspects of our presentation, we can customize this subject to best suit your needs.
We always encourage teachers to pick from the above topics and work with us to design a program that best suits their particular classes’ curriculum and studies. However, these are the normal subjects we address during presentations for specific grades:
Basic Adaptations, Ecosystems, Conservations and Species At Risk, Habitat Loss and Alteration.
Basic Adaptations, Ecosystems, Conservation and Species At Risk, Climate Change and Forestry Management.
Special Adaptations, Evolution, Biodiversity, Genetic Diversity, Reproduction and Behavioral Adaptations.
Basic Adaptations, Special Adaptations, Evolution, Structural biology, Conservation and Species At Risk.
Please contact us for more information about our secondary school programs, pricing options, availability, and references.
If you have found an injured bird of prey (hawk, falcon, owl, etc.), contact the Centre and our experienced staff can assist in determining what steps should be taken to ensure the bird receives the best possible care.
Telephone : +1 343 341 2730
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