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Science Center expands Ecozone

By Lisa M. Cataldo / Correspondent

Thursday, January 9, 2003

New exhibits to be unveiled this week

Visitors to the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell will be treated to four brand new exhibits this week. The exhibits, all part of the Science Center's multi-dimensional interactive Ecozone, focus on the ecosystems of Southeastern Massachusetts. The Science Center opened its initial phase of Ecozone in January of 2002. The latest exhibits are scheduled to be unveiled to the public on Saturday, Jan. 11.

New exhibits will include a creature corner housing several reptiles and amphibians living in separate environments, displayed in a wall unit for guests to view. Spotted salamanders, frogs, and snakes - all New England inhabitants - will be among the creatures featured in the exhibit.

A cutaway diorama will give visitors a realistic view of a springtime vernal pool. With the push of a button, the exhibit magically transforms the season into autumn as the animals disappear and the pool dries up. According to naturalist Melissa Kurkoski, there is one certified vernal pool on the Science Center's property.

A nighttime exhibit offers a misty evening scene with fiber-optic twinkling starlights and an interactive video about the nightlife of owls. The exhibit's location is a perfect introduction to the center's own resident owl Hedwig, who resides just outside the door to the right of the exhibit. Hedwig, a barred owl, lives in an enclosed area on the property and has been making the Center his home for close to two years.

Replicas of three woodland trees have been installed to complete the new exhibits. The white pine, tupelo, and silver beech trees stand from floor to ceiling. Nature enthusiasts, young and old, can reach into the trees through a knothole to discover what type of animal makes a home in the tree's cavity. The exhibit also features a chunk of the tree trunk that swings out to reveal the tree's growth rings.

Ecozone was inspired by South Shore native Jeff Corwin, host and executive producer of Animal Planet's "The Jeff Corwin Experience." Corwin, a graduate of Bridgewater State College, spends much of his time off from his television series presenting an outreach lecture series on wildlife, ecology and conservation to audiences throughout the United States. He has addressed the UN conference on Youth and the Environment, the Maui Earth Summit, the International Rainforest Conference and the Explorers Hall at the National Geographic Society.

Corwin was present at last January's grand opening of Ecozone when the original phase of the exhibit was officially unveiled to the public featuring a life-sized model of a red maple tree housing several mounted animals and nests; live turtle and frog ponds surrounded by grass, fern, and swamp azalea; and a hollow log, large enough for children and adults to crawl through to hear pond noises and see turtles and frogs through peep holes.

The addition of four new exhibits this week marks another phase of completion for Ecozone. The entire exhibit will encompass 1,500-sq. ft. when it is scheduled to be completed in January of 2004. Items on the agenda to be added to the exhibit include an interactive South Shore environmental table; a replication of a quaking bog; a butterfly release program; and an intertidal exhibit showing the differences between salt and fresh water.

"Since last January, we have had many families visit the Center to see the Ecozone - it's been great," said Joan Reid, Public Relations Director at the Science Center. "Our membership base has increased and we hope it will continue."

"We're really excited about the exhibits," Kurkoski said. "We hope that visitors are educated to what we have here in our own environment, but also become aware of other environments and how everything is tied together."

Reid went on to say that Corwin's vision will continue to live through the Ecozone exhibit.

"Jeff's hope and belief is for people to preserve what we have in our environment. His theory is to educate kids so that they can educate the next generation."

The Science Center is currently seeking individuals and/or businesses to sponsor part/or an entire exhibit. For further information call Martha Twigg at 781-659-2559.

The South Shore Natural Science Center is located at 48 Jacobs Lane, Norwell. Hours: Monday - Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5.00 adults, $2.50 children. Members are free.

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