Wednesday, May 27, 2015

China 2015 | Pandas!

Billy Spitzer, Ph.D., is Vice President for Programs, Planning, and Exhibits at the New England Aquarium and Principal Investigator for the Aquarium’s climate change education initiatives. He is traveling to China on invitation from the U.S. State Department to discuss the Aquarium's climate change education work with several aquariums and zoos. 

WEDNESDAY, May 27, 2015
I spent the day at the Panda Base, a center focused on research, conservation, breeding, and education about endangered Chinese pandas. It is a large and well-organized facility, with lushly landscaped grounds and numerous exhibits with giant pandas and red pandas. The pandas are most active in the cool mornings, and then tend to rest for the long, warm part of the day.

A giant panda enjoying a bamboo breakfast
Juvenile pandas at play

Unlike the pandas, I spent most of the day leading a workshop for about 20 interpreters from the Panda Base and several zoos and wildlife conservation organizations in Sichuan province. I was impressed by their willingness to jump in and work with some of the challenging concepts of climate change science and communication, and their interest in thinking about how they would apply these ideas in their own institutions – despite the language and cultural barriers.

Zoo interpreters discussing ways to talk to the public about climate change.
Xu Ping, in the lower right, is the head of the Conservation Education Department at the Panda Base.

Reporting out from small group discussions

Their astute questions demonstrated that they were really wrestling with how environmental protection can progress in the midst of China’s continuing efforts to modernize. When we broke into small groups, they seemed to really enjoy having the time to discuss and share ideas with colleagues from other institutions, a dynamic we also see in workshops in the US. As at the science museum, there was much interest in university internships, which may be a productive avenue for collaboration and training.

Mingling with the red pandas

Billy has been blogging throughout his trip. Click here to see the complete set of posts

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