By Mike Stockman
It seems there is a lot of talk about pollinator gardening these days. Now more than ever people are interested in wildflower gardening and saving bees and butterflies.
This is an important effort, because the populations of several pollinator species are in decline. Lucky for bees, they have the attention of the President of the United States, who has spearheaded efforts resulting in federal mandates for states to develop a plan to save bees and other important pollinators.
I was lucky enough to attend Indiana's first meeting on this topic this spring. A group of perhaps a hundred concerned Hoosiers brainstormed together to find answers and develop strategies to help save bees. I felt very lucky to be in such a diverse group of people working to solve the problem. This group included farmers, biotechnology representatives, environmentalists and many others who were looking for answers that can help save pollinators.
Balancing human food production and saving pollinators is a big and complicated problem. We can feel comforted that people all over the nation are working on solutions and trying to strike a balance. Each one of us can roll up our sleeves and join in the effort to provide solutions ourselves! As home gardeners, we have a role to play and can make a big difference.
Here is one small action step for interested gardeners: push your garden to focus more on early spring blooms. After going through winter and suffering from a little cabin fever, we are desperate for flowers to signal that warmer times are just around the corner, so adding early blooms to our garden is simply pleasing to everyone! This is also the time for wild queen bumble bees to emerge from their winter slumber. Only the queen emerges because the rest of the population — all of them — die off at the end of each season. Only queens survive the winter. They emerge hungry and with the burden of restarting their entire bumble bee colony over each year.
This happens in March and April, so increasing the amount of early spring blooms and foraging opportunities for queen bumble bees is an easy step we can all take to help pollinators in a very big way!
When evaluating my own garden, I found many opportunities to plant early spring blooming plants. After researching bumble bee forage plant lists and incorporating a lot of observation, here are a few of my favorites:
• Vinca Minor, commonly known as Myrtle, Creeping Myrtle, or Periwinkle, might seem like a surprisingly formal plant to be on the list, but wild bees are urban foragers. They work long hours and they forage at the bank parking lot, the grocery store and in landscapes all over the city! This is a common commercial ground cover and it a great one for bees. It provides a low growth, sun loving plant that you can use as a base layer or foreground plant. It blooms really early and bees love it!
• Some bulbs, like Cammasia and grape hyacinth, are bee favorites.
• Also try willow (salix) and catmint.
Also, please check out our friends at the Xerces Society. They have an abundance of information, pictures and fun programs to help with bee conservation.
Today marked a historic moment for our nation and the future of African elephants. Today New York City's famous Times Square set the stage for the nation's second ivory crush.
Hundreds of elephant champions gathered to honor elephants and to raise awareness for this iconic species' plight. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alongside many other conservation organizations, including the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society, hosted its event on the morning of June 19, destroying one ton of confiscated ivory.
A staggering 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa by poachers who sell the elephant tusks on the black market — a crisis inspiring the creation of the 96 Elephants campaign through Wildlife Conservation Society. According to the 96 Elephants website, since 1989, 13 nations have crushed and burned a total of 136 metric tons of confiscated ivory, equivalent to more than 300,000 pounds.
That represents more than 13,600 elephants.
"A lot needs to be done before we have the capacity to adequately protect elephants in their natural habitat," said Dr. Charles Foley, director of the Tarangire Elephant Project. "That's why raising public awareness about poaching and the ivory trade is so important."
Dr. Foley said people are astonished when they realize the perils elephants face in the wild and the immense number killed for their ivory each year.
"That's the message that we need to get across loud and clear. Why? Because the more that members of the public know about the poaching situation, the easier it is to shift public opinion away from buying ivory," he said.
These events send a clear message to traffickers around the world: Illegal ivory trade won't be tolerated. With the United States ranked second only to China as the largest ivory market worldwide, efforts close to home carry an immense impact for this vulnerable species.
Conservation, Communities and Classrooms
But it doesn't end with a single city.
Central Indiana students are living proof of that. Guided by dedicated and creative teachers who took the pledge to stand up for Africa's elephants, classrooms are engaging with conservation efforts, learning and truly "raising change" to "make change" in the wild for this incredible species.
More than 96 educators took the challenge put forth by the Indianapolis Zoo to pledge to teach students about this crisis. They went beyond lesson planning. They took action.
Whether it was raising money through fundraisers or creating amazing artwork, students from kindergarten to college played a part.
Some of their projects included kindergarteners at Indianapolis Public School 96 made button pins to raise money; second graders from Saints Francis and Clare Catholic School studied elephants and held a successful fundraiser; first grade classes from St. Thomas Aquinas and Ashland Community College both produced memorable works of art; and the high school AP environment students from Hamilton South Eastern created projects and are fundraising.
These are the conservationists of the future working to ensure elephants will continue to roam our planet.
The Indianapolis Zoo Board of Trustees recently appointed Mike Bosway, president and CEO of City Securities Corporation, for a two year term as the Zoo's new Chairman of the Board. We sat down with Mike to hear his vision for the future of the Zoo, what inspires him and much more.
What personal experiences connected you with the Zoo and made you want to be a part of the board?
I was referred to Mike Crowther, and shortly thereafter he invited me to lunch in his office. If you know Mike at all, you know that he is incredibly capable and passionate about the mission of the zoo. Although I would not traditionally consider myself a conservationist, Mike's enthusiasm about the mission was infectious. As we were concluding, he asked me to get involved and I accepted. Two other items that connected me to the Indianapolis Zoo are the enjoyable experiences my wife and I had with our kids long ago when visiting the zoo, and the fact that the zoo is completely privately funded. To have a zoo of this caliber with no public funding support says a lot about Indianapolis and its residents.
What do you think our biggest challenge is in motivating people to make a difference in saving species?
Education and awareness.
What do you feel the impact of the Indianapolis Prize is and the significance of taking our lemur champion Pat Wright to the New York Stock Exchange? What was it like to be there?
Let me answer the second question first. Despite tremendous technological changes that have affected the NYSE over the past ten years, it was still exhilarating to be in the bastion of capitalism. Knowing that billions of dollars of securities were being traded as we were there was almost overwhelming. It was a phenomenal experience. The impact of the prize cannot be overstated. It has taken some time from its infancy to blossom into the world's leading "prize" for conservation. In my mind, the speed of its evolution has matched that of Facebook -a tremendous accomplishment in a relatively short period of time. The opportunity to take Pat Wright to the NYSE to ring the opening bell (many thanks to Eli Lilly) provided the Prize with unprecedented media coverage. And this was priceless. The buzz on the floor of the exchange when the lemurs showed up was simply awesome.
What are you main goals coming into this new role as Chairman of the Board?
Not to mess up what my predecessors have built with Mike and his team, and to make sure the zoo continues to be well governed.
After you serve your time as Chairman of the Board what would you like to have the Zoo known for?
The zoo has been known for growing, looking forward and delivering a tremendous customer experience while staying true to its mission. I don't see any reason to change that mantra.
...and what would you like to see happen during that time?
I don't really feel the need to think in these terms, i.e., "putting my stamp" on the zoo is not in my DNA. This is a tremendous organization, with a great leader and staff, and an unbelievable network of volunteers and donors. I only hope that I can fill the huge shoes of my predecessors in a satisfactory manner.
Who inspires you and why?
This is always a difficult question to answer. If you knew me, you would expect me to answer with people like Warren Buffet and Ronald Reagan - and those are two people that I do highly admire. However, two others come to mind at the moment. My father, who is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, and was a career military officer (army infantry). He spent time in Korea, Vietnam and Iran (when they were an ally) away from his family, fighting for the freedom we enjoy today. Yet, he never complained about his chosen profession. In fact, he relished "standing on that wall to make sure we all slept well at night". His integrity, work ethic, love of country and family is second to none. I hope one day to be just like him. Inspiration number two comes from the Vice Chairman of my company's, City Securities Corporation, board of directors, Danny Danielson. Danny is 95 and still a contributing member of our board. It is impossible to list all of the accolades Danny has received in the space reserved for this article. Suffice it to say that Danny has led a very successful and active life in business, politics, family, church and community. He has impacted more lives than we'll ever know. Danny's integrity, energy and generosity never cease to amaze me and all that know him.
Both of these men have been great mentors to me as well as loving husbands, fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. If my gravestone one day says that I was just like either or both of these men, I will have lived a full and successful life.
What's your favorite animal and why?
I'm not sure I have one other than Henry, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Water gardens can bring beauty, peace and tranquility to any outdoor area. But if you don't have the space or aren't ready to commit to installing a pond in your yard, containers are a perfect solution.
Nearly any water-tight container or outdoor plant pot can become a beautiful water garden for your backyard or patio. If that perfect-looking pot has a drainage hole in it, you can make it watertight by taping over the hole on the bottom of the pot, filling the hole on the inside with waterproof silicone or epoxy, and letting that dry. If the pot is made of clay or some other porous material, you can apply a couple coats of liquid water seal 24 hours before you plant it. Then it will be ready to fill.
You can find many plants that are fine in water that is 6 inches deep or less at your local nursery or hardware store. Corkscrew rush, canna, taro, umbrella palm and sweet flag are often sold as regular garden plants but are very at home in the water. For more variety check out the water plant section at a garden center or online for water lilies, lotuses (both of these can be purchased in dwarf sizes for smaller pots), water hyacinth, parrot's feather and such.
With a larger container, you can put your plants into it in separate small plastic pots, just as you might do in a pool or pond. This is an especially good idea if the plants spread pretty wildly or aren't hardy enough to survive outside in the winter. Most of the time, though, you can use some of our always-available Indiana clay soil that won't float in your container and plant everything in that! Top off your soil with pea gravel and place in a spot that receives mostly sun to bright indirect light.
It's also a good idea to assemble you container water garden at the spot you want it to be for the summer because your completed garden will be quite heavy and challenging to relocate. But with a little love and attention, you'll have beautiful blooms all season long.
Horticulturist, Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens
If you've been to the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens to see Butterfly Kaleidoscope presented by Citizens Energy Group, you might be wondering how you can attract this wonderful winged insects to your backyard. If you have the right ingredients, you can make your yard into a home for lots of beautiful butterflies!
1. Sun — Butterflies need the sun to keep warm, so you'll want plenty of it for your butterfly garden. If you want to take an extra step, try adding a few flat stones placed where they will soak up the sun to provide a heated resting place.
2. Cover — Make sure there is some protection from the wind and weather in your backyard habitat. Trees, shrubs and grasses along with a wall or trellis can provide protection from wind and rain, as well as places to land, bask in the sun and rest.
3. Water — Just like you, butterflies need water to drink! It needs to be very shallow so they can stand in or next to it. A water-filled, flat container with some rocks they can land on will do, or a bare spot in your garden you keep constantly muddy. A bucket of wet sand will also work.
4. Food — This is where the plants in your butterfly habitat are vitally important. You will want to have plants that feed both the adult butterflies and their more finicky caterpillar children to have a true habitat.
Nectar from flowers = adult food. Plant a wide selection of brightly colored flowers with bloom times spread all through the spring, summer and early fall so there's always tempting treats for your butterflies. Having lots of flowers clustered together makes for easy flitting from one to another.
Host (or larval) plants = caterpillar food. The adult butterfly will only lay her eggs on plants she knows her babies can eat. Native plants are especially important for our native caterpillars! Here are some plants that will attract some of your favorite butterflies to your yard:
• Eastern black swallowtail: Dill, fennel, parsley
• Tiger swallowtail: Black cherry, willow, birch, basswood (linden)
• Spicebush swallowtail: Spicebush, sassafras
• Painted lady: Hollyhock, mallow, daisy
• Viceroy: Willow, poplar, cottonwood
• Sulphurs: Clover, peas, alfalfa, asters
• Buckeye: Snapdragon, sedums, plantain
• Red Admiral: Nettles, black oak, wild cherry
• Great spangled and other fritillaries: Violets
• Monarch: Milkweeds
Mix all these together very well so the butterflies will have no problem finding everything they need.
And, equally important, say no to pesticides! Both the caterpillars and adults feeding on chemically treated plants will cause your carefully planned habitat garden to be unhealthy for butterflies and other pollinator insects.
Once you have your garden growing, you're sure to have a host of butterflies providing beauty in motion throughout your yard.
By Nina Evans
Horticulturist, Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens
Indiana's waterways now connect guests to the ocean here at the Indianapolis Zoo. For the next few months inside the Oceans building, visitors have the chance to experience local conservation in action.
The crawfish frog is endangered in Indiana, so researchers from Indiana State University and Indiana University School of Medicine in partnership with Indiana's Department of Natural Resources carefully collected tadpoles from the Hillenbrand Fish and Wildlife Area. Zoo staff are caring for the tadpoles as they grow, with the purpose of reinforcing, or releasing these late-stage tadpoles back into their original habitat once they have grown a set of back legs.
Why Grow Frogs?
The crawfish frog lives most of its life in crayfish burrows, but comes out into southern Indiana's wetlands to breed. As this habitat get smaller and rarer, crawfish frog tadpoles are easily spotted and picked off by predators in the tiny patches of remaining marsh. By growing tadpoles here at the Zoo, we can protect them when they are the most vulnerable and release them when they are strong and mobile.
Together We Can Save the Crawfish Frog!
The Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana University and the Detroit Zoo are all working together to save the crawfish frog—but we can't do it without your help! You can:
Protect and help restore Indiana wetland habitat when it is threatened.
Listen for the call of the crawfish frog about an hour after sunset. If you hear it, report the presence of crawfish frogs to the Department of Natural Resources!
Keep wetlands clean by eliminating pesticide use in your yard, keeping soap or other chemicals out of storm drains or even cleaning up trash from local waterways.
By Nina Evans, Horticulturist
Rather than starting with a seed or nut to grow a plant, did you know you can move things along a little more quickly by starting many perennials and shrubs with cuttings? All you need is the stem of the plant you want to reproduce and you're ready to begin. These tips and tricks from the Horticulture department will give you the basics to bring something new and beautiful from something old.
For woody-stemmed plants, there are three cutting processes to choose from, depending on your particular tree or shrub. You can do softwood cuttings, using fairly new stem pieces in early summer; semi-hardwood cuttings, done later in the summer to early fall with that year's somewhat mature growth; or hardwood cuttings, taken when the plant is dormant in the later fall and winter season.
Here at the Zoo, the Horticulture department is working to get some hardwood cutting started in the greenhouse using willow (Salix spp.) branches. Willows are one of the easiest shrubs to grow from cuttings – you can be successful doing any of the three cutting methods – because willows have a natural chemical in their stems that promotes root growth. Staff members are creating new plants from existing Flame willows, a large, fast-growing shrub with vibrant-colored stems.
Try it yourself!
Follow these steps and you're sure to enjoy an exciting new piece to your garden:
1. Cut sections of healthy stems that are about 6-8 inches long with sharp knife or pair of scissors. For even better root growth, cut the ends that will be planted at an angle (photo 1). Before planting, some people like to dip their stems in rooting hormones to promote good growth or honey to reduce bacterial problems. But with our willows, we didn't see the need to use either!
2. Using a free-draining, soilless potting mix (mixing some sharp sand with a mix will improve the drainage), push the stems about halfway into your pot. Lightly firm the potting mix around the stems (photo 2).
3. Water very well so the soil settles nicely around the stems. If the potting mix compacts noticeably, go ahead and add some more to the pot (photo 3).
4. Keep your potted cuttings in a place with bright, but not direct, sunlight. It is very important to keep your cuttings moist, but not soggy, as they are working to grow their new roots! You can see the pots of willow cuttings started several weeks ago are sending out leaves in our toasty greenhouse (photo 4).
5. You might want to re-pot your cuttings into a larger container as the winter goes on. Check for good root growth by very gently pulling on each stem. If you feel good resistance, you can carefully remove your cuttings and plant each into a larger pot (photo 5.) Continue your good watering protocol!
6. Once the warmer weather has arrived, let your new plants get used to the outdoors a little bit at a time for a few days. Then plant it either in a nursery bed to continue growing larger or plant it in its permanent home right away!
7. Enjoy your new woody plants as a special part of your garden!
By Nina Evans, Horticulturist
A long-time favorite shade tree, the ash (Fraxinus spp.), is disappearing from the landscape throughout the country due to the Emerald ash borer. This insect has already invaded many of the trees in Indiana. Ash trees are among the largest and most prevalent shade trees at the Indianapolis Zoo and have been hit hard by the beetle. A few of the healthier trees are being treated in the hope of saving them. Sadly, most are being removed.
The loss of so many trees reduces the many positive impacts that urban trees have, which include providing shade, lowering ground temperatures, creating wildlife habitat, improving air and water quality, and reducing ultraviolet radiation and greenhouse gases. The most immediate difference you will see at the Zoo is the fair amount of sunny spots where there used to be shade.
As quickly as ash trees are coming down, the Horticulture Department is planting replacements throughout the Zoo and White River Gardens. We want to regain the value we are losing as quickly as possible! Here are a few of the new trees you will see on grounds that you might consider for your own yard:
• 'Autumn Blaze' maple (Acer 'Jeffersred')- a cross between red & silver maples; orange & red fall color; fast growth to 40-55' tall.
• 'Green Mountain' sugar maple (Acer saccharum)- dark green leathery leaves; pyramidal form; orange & scarlet fall color; fast growth rate to 40-50' tall.
• Hardy rubber tree (Eucommis ulmoides)- dark, glossy leaves to 6" long; broad, rounded crown; moderate growth rate to 30' tall.
• Fruitless sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundiloba')- star-shaped leaves with rounded points; yellow to purple fall color; moderate growth rate to 50-70'.
• 'Whiteshield' osage orange (Maclura pomifera)- fruitless & thornless; yellow fall color; very tough tree that takes more alkaline soils; fast growth to 30-50'.
• 'Princeton' & 'Valley Forge' American elms (Ulmus Americana)- resistant to Dutch Elm Disease; yellow fall color; fast growth to 50-70'.
Indiana's "Most Unwanted"
There are a few trees that have been put on Indiana's Invasive Plant List by the Indiana Invasive Species Council which we would recommend against planting. The Norway maple (Acer platanoides), black alder (Alnus glutinosa) and callery pear (Prunus calleryana) are well-known for their ability to reseed efficiently, and take over wild areas, including spaces within our cities. Many people love the cultivated varieties (cultivars) of these three trees (like Crimson King maple and Bradford pear), but they also can reseed themselves rather quickly in many instances.
Dr. Laurie Marker loves speed. She might even say the world needs a little more of it.
Because when it comes to speed, she's talking about cheetahs.
Marker is the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). She has dedicated her life to protecting the world's famed fast cat and is currently celebrating the organization's 25th anniversary with a tour focusing on changing the world to save this species.
Her most recent stop was the Indianapolis Zoo, where she chatted about cheetahs and their conservation with guests and staff members, and took time to meet some fellow cheetah lovers.
"I think the question I get most often is, 'What does it take to save them?'" Marker said. "And my answer is to make the world a place sustainable for cheetahs, all other wildlife and our human population."
A Conservation Connection
Recognized as a two-time Indianapolis Prize finalist for her dedication to wildlife conservation, Marker has worked with cheetahs since 1974, starting with simply a Land Rover and a dream.
Her determination in chasing that dream culminated with the creation of CCF in 1990, establishing an unparalleled model for predator conservation that may have made the critical difference between extinction and survival for the cheetah. CCF is now the longest-running cheetah conservation program worldwide and is recognized for research and successful management methods for cheetah populations in Namibia and across Africa.
"Protecting cheetahs in the wild is paramount … Our goals are to scale up and continue doing the things that are working," Marker said. "We want to save more cheetahs and save the world for them."
Girls in Science
Young girls ages 9-14 had the opportunity to learn about cheetahs and science from the conservation leader at a special Girls in Science program.
"My favorite part of the job is exciting people about actually making a difference," Marker said. "Bright young minds can bring awesome changes in our world."
The group participated in a cheetah chat, where they were able to see these African cats up-close, hear about their care from a keeper and ask Marker lots (and lots) of questions. Plus, the girls met a kangal shepherd, the same breed that CCF provides to farmers across Africa to guard livestock.
Marker was excited to see girls being encouraged to explore science. She said women are extremely precise, excellent investigators and have intuition — all qualities that expand research and building blocks for the future of conservation.
CCF and the Indianapolis Zoo
"Conservation needs to be thought of as an investment," Marker said. "The world is recognizing that cheetahs are in need."
Here at the Indianapolis Zoo, it only takes two coins to make a difference for cheetahs thousands of miles away. Funds raised from Race-a-Cheetah — totaling more than $64,300 — have gone directly to CCF's many endeavors.
The future of CCF looks bright, with an expansion of the Livestock Guarding Dog program into Tanzania; establishing a creamery for farmers to learn to make cheese for profit; and habitat restoration programs converting encroaching thorn bush into high-heat, low-emission, compacted logs for use as a cooking fuel or for home heating. Marker is excited to work alongside the Future Farmers of Africa to educate and train rural farmers to care for endangered land while re-establishing the heartland of rhino, wild dogs, cheetahs and many other animals.
"Our strides have been great," she said. "We've been able to show that through good wildlife management you can live in harmony with predators."
A new pilot program at the Indianapolis Zoo is bringing together students from Indianapolis Public School's Key Learning Community and a pod of Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins for an adventure you can't quite match in the classroom.
More than 400 students, from kindergarten to high school, are getting to take part in these up-close, hands-on experiences, part of a program aimed at engaging these young students and creating connections with amazing animals.
"Making a connection is the first step in understanding and ultimately caring," said Tolly Foster, program development and evaluation specialist at the Zoo. "It is our hope to build on this experience for future programs."
Whether it's a poolside encounter or actually getting in the water with the dolphins, these students are working side-by-side with trainers, learning cues for behaviors, training techniques and even giving a few good belly rubs, all to understand exactly what it takes to care for and work with these intelligent and charismatic marine mammals.
"It is awesome to overhear the stories and reflections from scholars as they return," Key Learning Community's principal Sheila Dollaske said. "Even the ones who put on a 'tough guy' persona come back talking about getting a kiss from Jett or waving at Orin."
Planning the Program
A challenge from an executive staff member set this project in motion, creating an opportunity for Zoo staff to create lasting, once-in-a-lifetime memories for these students.
With initial conversations in October, 2014, the experiences took several months of planning and preparation, but came together for an impactful program that the trainers, students and dolphins enjoy being a part of.
The students first learned about ocean conservation and a few fun facts about the pod during a classroom session in the Polly H. Hix Institute for Research and Conservation. Then students were broken into groups, each participating in a dolphin encounter specifically designed for their grade levels.
"It's awesome because a lot of kids come in nervous … and by the end of the session they're naming dolphins, they're all excited, they're like 'me next, me next,'" Senior Marine Mammal Trainer Mandy Goin said of the program.
Changing the Future
Many animals that live in the world's oceans are highly endangered, and although the International Union for Conservation of Nature does not list dolphins as an endangered species, their ocean habitat is under tremendous pressure. The dolphins at the Zoo help to address many of those issues, including warming, acidification and pollution.
Members of the Indianapolis Zoo's pod are ambassadors for their species, helping people of all ages learn the importance of protecting the world's waterways and caring about safeguarding the wonderful wildlife that call the ocean home.
"We have seen many students come in with some apprehensions about the dolphins but there is nothing more rewarding than to see them leave with big smiles and a new appreciation for the animals," Foster said.
And for some Key Learning students, that newfound appreciation may shape their future careers.
"I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for most people, and I just want to say thank you. I always wanted to be a veterinarian but I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian. This trip made my option clear," Key Learning student Armonie wrote in a letter to Zoo staff after her visit.
According to Principal Dollaske it has been a truly transformational opportunity for the students.
"The positive impact we have seen on our scholars since the dolphin encounters started is incredible," Dollaske said.
Key Learning students call themselves "Key Warriors." And it looks like the future may have a few new warriors for wildlife.