Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Helloooo Dolly!

The Western Science Center strutted and swayed their way to 2nd place for the 2nd year in a row at the Annual Soboba Casino Lip Sync Contest! The Western Science Center brought home the $1,500 2nd place award with a rousing and hilarious performance of a scene from Barbara Streisand's classic musical Hello Dolly played by staff members, Peter Klienpass, Sue Tatosian, and Jethro Brown, as well as museum volunteers Tom and Jo Jones, and Amy Ledbetter.

With representatives from organizations such as Our Nicholas Foundation, The American Cancer Society, San Jacinto Education Foundation and the Veterans Alliance Group, this annual competition presented by Soboba Casino supports local Nonprofit Organizations in a fun and fabulous way!

We're already planning for next year!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wildlife Runs Wild at WSC!

Summer is here, and at the WSC, the wildlife is active all day long. Our location along the edge of the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Preserve means we enjoy all the benefits - and drawbacks - of having Nature as our next-door neighbor!

While we do have to endure the occasional invasion of the museum by the likes of the Chapparal Whipsnake or Wolf Spider, we also get to enjoy the many species of birds and mammals that call the DVL area their home. In the dawn or sunset hours, visitors might see a family of Desert Cottontails or a Black-tailed Jack Rabbit. Many ground-nesting birds have settled down in the bushes near the WSC, including Mourning Doves and several families of California Quail, and their distinctive calls can be clearly heard in the morningtime. The nearby lake attracts waterfowl like Killdeer, and even bald eagles have been reportedly seen nearby, though they've likely flown north until cooler weather returns later this year.

The WSC is also playing host to a small flock of Cliff Swallows, who have made themselves at home under the alcove at the south end of the building. San Juan Capistrano can eat its heart out, because you can come view this active swallow colony right here in the Inland Empire! These fascinating birds build nests out of mud that attach to cliffs and overhangs, and they're constantly active around them, moving in and out and around - it's amazing to see their aerial agility. Below are some pictures of the nests, courtesy of Larry Knoepfel at the DVL Visitor's Center. If you're here to visit anytime soon, make sure to take a stroll south down the path towards the Simulated Dig Site, and tell these red-throated beauties hello!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Space Spot!

We are back with a bang. A Big Bang! The Space Spot, the latest exhibition at the Western Science Center, opened May 28! The Space Spot allows visitors to discover astronomy with fun interactive exhibits that bring the stars, constellations and planets down into your hands! This fantastic exhibit was put together by the Pacific Science Center in Seattle Washington, and they traveled down to help us with the install.

Trucks arrived from Georgia at 7:00 am to unload the traveling exhibit. With in a few hours we were unpacked and placing the stations in thier new spots. We were quickly able to see how exciting this exhibit was really going to be! After a long day of extension cords and finishing touches we turned on the stars, inflated the planetarium, and opened The Space Spot!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New developments in Ice Age climate research

Mega-flood Triggered Cooling 13,000 Years Ago
From Yahoo! News

There's been an interesting development in our understanding of the changes in the climate at the end of the Pleistocene era; more evidence to point to the draining of a massive Canadian lake at the end of the Ice Age, which triggered a short but sharp global cold period called the Younger Dryas.

This cooling event was critically important, as the period that immediately followed - the Holocene - marked the development and spread of modern humans. Some anthropologists have speculated that the environmental stresses of the Younger Dryas, which led to cooler, drier conditions globally, forced previously nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to settle and develop agriculture, one of the key milestones in the development of civilization.

What caused this unusual centuries-long cold snap has been debated in the scientific community. One theory, that this study has found physical evidence to support, is that a massive lake in North America drained into the Atlantic, flooding it with fresh water and shutting down the "thermohaline convection belt" (thermo- meaning heat, -haline meaning salt). This is an ocean current that carries warm water from the Equator along the surface to the North Atlantic, where it freezes into freshwater ice. The remaining cold water, laden with excess salt, sinks to the bottom and returns south to the Equator. This convection circuit is very important for Europe, as it carries heat from the tropics that keeps Europe warmer than other landmasses at the same latitude.

What could stop a whole ocean from circulating? It would take a lot of fresh water to dilute the entire North Atlantic enough to halt thermohaline convection. Lake Agassiz, a huge inland lake formed by the melting of the North American ice sheets towards the end of the Ice Age, had an awful lot of fresh water. Take a look (from UCAR):

It's hard to imagine lakes as big as the ones that can form only after a global ice age. Agassiz was a lake that could submerge the entire United Kingdom. It held more fresh water alone than all the current lakes in the world put together. And, around 11,000 years ago, this new study shows, that fresh water drained from central Canada to the ocean, shutting down thermohaline convection and chilling the world's climate.

What's even more interesting is that this study discovers a new twist: the water didnt drain down the St. Lawrence Seaway, which heads through the Great Lakes and down the St Lawrence River to its mouth north of Maine, as first thought, but rather down the Mackenzie River, north to Canada's Arctic Sea coast near Alaska.

One can hardly imagine the cataclysm that must have occurred in Northwest Canada, millenia ago, when this "mega-flood" first roared down the Mackenzie to the sea.


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Simulated Dig Site

With help from our friend Justin Jones at Watermoore Imagery and the students of MSJC's Anthropology 205, the Western Science Center's Simulated Dig Site makes its video premiere!

The dig site education project is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out with the bugs, in with the new

Our new traveling exhibit, Sustainable Choices, opens on Jan. 22 and runs through Mother's Day Weekend. It's a terrific and informative exhibit on the ecological implications of the choices you make in day-to-day life, and a wonderful addition to our role as one of Southern California's premiere science education institutions.

There weren't any 12-foot robot bugs to install this time, so we were able to complete installation quickly once Backyard Monsters was on its way. The exhibit features several information panels on themes such as laundry, electricity, transportation, shopping, and bathing - each one providing quick facts and figures about how the choices we make affect the sustainability of natural resources. There are also several interactive exhibits that help bring these ideas to life. You can even plant a seed to bring home and grow!

Our exhibit space also gave us the opportunity to supplement the standard Sustainable Choices exhibit with some fascinating information about the Western Center campus - one of the most eco-friendly museums in the country. If you've ever wondered what our LEED Platinum rating really means, you'll be surprised to find out just how many intriguing and creative ideas went into the design and construction of our buildings - and you can see it as it came to life, through photos from the Water + Life Campus' construction.