The exhibit showcases incredible animal footage captured by Crittercam, a small, scientific video and data-gathering tool safely worn by wild animals. Invented by National Geographic marine biologist Greg Marshall, the device can help researchers gain new insights into animal behavior, leading to useful clues for effective animal preservation.
"Humankind has always been fascinated with the wildlife around us. Now, Crittercam technology gives us a chance to observe the lives of over 60 animals from their own point of view," says Paul Fontaine, the Museum's vice president of education and a marine biology educator for more than 25 years. "Crittercam invites visitors to join the real-life adventures of incredible creatures, from lions on the prowl to sea lions on the hunt. By observing how animals behave through their own lens, we can better understand how to protect these living treasures."
Through a series of interactive displays and life-like models, this 6,000 square-foot exhibit will take visitors along for the ride as Crittercam follows some of the world's most unique animals. In the seals and sea lions section, a series of viewing and listening stations show how these animals communicate, hunt, feed, care for their young, and attract mates. Visitors then move to the sharks section for a close-up view of an 18-foot-long great white shark model and displays that illustrate the hunting and migratory behaviors of several shark species. A shark fin model presents the latest method of attaching the Crittercam—via a fin clamp. As visitors feel the rough sandpaper that keeps the clamp in place, they can watch a video depicting daring deployments, from early tether systems to a researcher deploying the fin clamp by hand.
An area devoted to sea turtles provides a look at how these famous swimmers search for mates, forage for food, and avoid becoming a meal themselves. From atop a life-size model of a leatherback, children and adults can watch point-of-view footage from a female leatherback, while other displays show life as seen by loggerhead and hawksbill turtles.
Visitors will discover the world of whales as they enter a chamber of bubbles and observe the cooperative behavior of humpbacks known as bubble net or lunge feeding. Other highlights include an up-close look at the toothed whales of Hawaii and footage of the mysterious "unicorn of the sea," the narwhal.
In the penguin section, exhibition-goers enter the world of Penguin Ranch, the main research site of the Crittercam team in Antarctica, to investigate a penguin's life beneath the ice and learn about research with penguins trained to wear Crittercam. Visitors can squeeze into an observation tube to watch a video of penguins soaring underwater, while youngsters can crawl through a tunnel and pop up in a bubble to come face-to-face with a penguin model wearing a working Crittercam. On exiting the tunnel, children can view footage of themselves from the penguin's perspective.
The terrestrial version of Crittercam is the newest development in the program. In the land animals section of the exhibition, visitors learn about the trial-and-error process of developing the land-based technology, from deployments on domestic dogs and cats to partnering with animal rehabilitation centers. Visitors also experience the unique challenges of studying land animals, from penetrating the dense forest habitat of the grizzly bear to getting the Crittercam collar to pass the lion cub 'chew toy' test. Point-of-view footage shows a young Alaskan bear cub napping, feeding and traveling with its family, as well as a lioness hunting, tending to her cubs and sharing a meal with them.
The final portion of the exhibition focuses on Crittercam technology, with information on how it works and the original inspiration that led to its development. Visitors can design their own Crittercams using a Build-a-Cam computer interactive, touch a Crittercam model and examine deployment methods such as an adhesive patch, penguin harness, and suction cup. Youngsters can try their hand at a Crittercam puzzle. -- www.mos.org