The Size of a Stick of Butter…

Paula Conservation Biology, Science and Tech Leave a Comment

…that’s how big a giant panda cub is at birth. This is one of the many fascinating things I learned in my 2 + years working with conservation biologists, veterinarians, keepers and educators at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Mei Xiang has been in the news lately and the Zoo has been Tweeting about her twins (sadly, one died 4 days after birth). This is her third baby in captivity and she’s proving to be not only a good mom, but a Fertile Myrtle, too. When I was at the Zoo, everyone was waiting with baited breath for Mei to get pregnant.

Who’s Who at the Zoo

My job was to take the tools and scientific methods used by Smithsonian scientists (from giant panda conservation biologists to forest ecologists) and make them accessible to young learners—target audience: middle school students. First, children had a chance to “practice” in the virtual environment via engaging interactive simulations, before heading out into the field. Our small team of 5 created Conservation Central, a multiple-award-winning interactive website. It is an action-oriented hub of simulations, online curricula, and family learning activities focused on temperate forest conservation in the US and China and the species contained within them.


You can explore many paths on the website from Design a Panda Habitat to A Walk in the Forest to Habitat Adventure (all Flash-based games). We also created an education CD-ROM and I wrote a 200 page curriculum, Finding Common Ground, aligned with the national learning standards. Multiage Family Learning Activities encourage local habitat conservation and our Conservation Gallery was a place where students could contribute their ideas, campaign posters and conservation action plans.


Gold AAM Muse Award in Science (2004) (American Association of Museums)

“Best Museum Website 2004” (Museums and the Web, an international museum professional organization)

First Place, Interpretive Multimedia (National Association for Interpretation)

Parent’s Choice Gold Award (2005)

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