Panda Lab for Students

Yun Zi

As a panda researcher, my typical workday is spent collecting and managing behavioral data on the pandas, writing, and doing other research-related tasks. But recently, I had the opportunity to spend the day working with another division of the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, the Conservation Education Division.

One of the primary goals of the Conservation Education Division (or Con Ed, as we call it) is to connect students and teachers to wildlife by connecting them to conservation science. Con Ed has the state-of-the-art Conservation Education Laboratory, which is located inside the San Diego Zoo’s Beckman Center for Conservation Research, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. The lab contains various scientific tools and equipment that allow the students to have a truly hands-on experience learning about conservation science.

The Con Ed staff meets with more than 600 students per month, covering all ages, from kindergarteners all the way up through college students. The students get to tour the Beckman Center, see all of the various laboratories, and meet our scientists as they’re actively engaged in ongoing research projects. They then spend some time in the education lab conducting experiments and learning about science in a fun, informal setting. The Con Ed staff does an amazing job of providing a conservation science experience to diverse student populations in an attempt to improve conservation literacy and creatively showcase our programs and approaches.

Bai Yun runs a panda teaching lab of her own!

So, as part of an in-house professional development opportunity, I am working with the Con Ed staff to create an education module focusing on giant panda research that could be used in the education lab on a regular basis. We are working together, utilizing my knowledge of giant panda research, to create an education curriculum that will, I hope, get the kids excited about what can be accomplished through conservation science.

Through our research, we’ve learned a great deal about giant pandas over the past 12 years; the challenge is to create a module that will encapsulate all of our techniques and information into something that will both teach and inspire the kids. We’re hoping that we can teach the students about using a multidisciplinary approach to conservation science, as we’ve done with our giant panda research program, as a very effective technique for tackling a complicated research problem. We’re still in the beginning stages, but I’m excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Con Ed staff and share our message of conservation.

Education outreach is such a crucial part of any conservation program. We can conduct research and learn valuable information about endangered animals and their habitats…but if we don’t then share that information with the public, people aren’t motivated to take action that will protect and nurture our natural world. I hope that by educating and motivating the many students that visit our research institute, we’re having a positive impact on shaping the next generation of conservationists.

The Con Ed staff is headed to the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station for a meeting next week. I’ll keep everyone posted on how things progress.

Pamela Crowe is a research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.

42 Responses to Panda Lab for Students

  1. “Bai Yun runs a panda teaching lab of her own”…how adorable!

  2. As an addendum to my comment above, in reading this from the previous blog entry about the SSP:

    “Although we have had great success with breeding Marcella to Dibu, resulting in four cubs since 2004, other facilities have not seen this same result with their Bornean sun bears.”

    it makes me realize how blessed we (and the animals) are to have the San Diego zoo! You have had the same kind of success with your precious giant pandas. The world is thankful for what you have been able to accomplish…and not taking anything from the other zoos…I can only imagine how those other zoos must be a tad bit jealous of you!! Animal lovers all over the world can only pray that the other zoos will one day be able to experience the beeding success that San Diego zoo has enjoyed. Thank you for all you do!

  3. Hi Pamela-this program sounds wonderful. It is important to share your knowledge with all generations, they need to learn and contribute and spread the word about what needs to be done, how we can impact and end the threat of all animals on this planet. I wish they had something like this for kids, but guess it would be just the opposite, the overpopulation of felines and canines. We need to reach out and teach, starting with the younger generation, how to treat all animals with sensitivity, kindness and respect.

    We are all here together, let’s find peace together!

    p.s. your shot of momma Bai and little cloud at the make shift lab is darling! A superior professor and student!

  4. Do the Pandas get to have treats and toys for activities I watch on the panda cam and see only eating and sleeping do they get any excercise at all Thank You

    Moderator’s note: They absolutely do get treats and toys. Our cub is most active at night, so you might want to view Panda Cam in the late evenings.

  5. After watching Zhen Zhen, on the other board, via DoxieMom’s wonderful coverage… made me wonder if Yun Zi will have play like she does.
    Was she like Yun Zi at 9 mos. or was she much more playful her entire life?

  6. Dear Friends,

    Thank you for all your kind words about the stories on our Prince Fluffy Butt. When I see him on Panda Cam and in photos, he seems full of beans and so I started speculating on a secret life for him and what would he do if he could.

    I write to de-stress and when the muse strikes. So I hope the Adventures of the Gao Family especially Master Yun Zi will keep all entertained as much as I enjoy writing them. I always get the mental image first. So for my story of Chef Yunnie I saw him covered in floor and with honey on his paws, grinning in a winsome way.

    Am going to take a break for a few days as my work commitments are pretty heavy. Have a good week to all in Panda Land!


  7. Bravo to you SDZ and all you do to preserve our wild animals. Education is the best motivation for people. It is horrible how many spieces are becoming extinct and how many are endangered. I love that your education and breeding programs are making people understand how crucial every animal is to the ecosystem. Loved the photos.
    Thanks to the camera meerkats today getting great close up shots of our little prince napping peacefully. I love to watch him do anything. It was cute watching him play while Bai was eating her boo, he was climbing all over her. She has the patience of a saint! I ended my work day watching that and what a way to get rid of stress! These precious bears bring a smile to my face always…

  8. It makes me wish I was in SD and back in school. Field trips were never like that in my day. Ha Ha
    It is always nice to read the blogs. Thanks SDZ staff for taking time to keep your followers posted. I look forward to what is next. Thanks

  9. Awesome post! These blogs are keeping me busy on the computer. Hmm… I have to find some cute panda pictures later to post!! Thats so cool how kids can learn about endangered animals. What animals do you mainly talk about?? So, is the con ed presentations at the San Diego Zoo? If it is, then where is in the zoo?
    Anyway, I’m not sure if I told you guys in a previous comment but- I got another panda stuffed animal! His name is Shang Hai (does anyone know what that means???) and he is my TENTH panda stuffy! My panda stuffed animal collection is going quite splendidly!! Yay!! I have had a fabulous day, except that fact that I have a horrible cough. I got new clothes (no shirts with pandas though :-( ) and I got a letter from my BFF. She lives in San Diego and obviously has been to the SDZ! I have been there too and I had THE BEST time!!!!!
    Okay, so now I have to go and look for some cute panda pics to post on a comment (and find out who got elimanated from American Idol) Bye!!!
    Peace, love and pandas CIAO

  10. Thank you for another very informative blog. My daughter and I learn so much about pandas from the blogs. This learning makes me even more interested in learning more about pandas. You mentioned “utilizing my knowledge of giant panda research”. I would be very interested in learning more about giant panda research. I hope you will share more that you have found out from your research. Are there any books you would recommend? Thank you for teaching children about taking care of wildlife.

    I do not work at a zoo, but I do not think other zoos would be “jealous” as stated in comment #2. I get the impression, from reading the blogs, that working at zoos is very different from, say the business world, where everything is very competitive. It sounds to me like zoos work together for the benefit of the animals in their care. I think success at breeding is like the running fastest mile ever or cycling the fastest time ever. I think it would just motivate other zoos, that if SDZ can succeed at breeding pandas and sun bears, other zoos can have success at those endeavors as well.

    If I did work at another zoo, I would want to study how SDZ takes care of their bears. I think about it. Could it be just the luck of the draw that SDZ got panda bears and sun bears that are way into each other. That would be a big coincidence. It makes me think that there is some training, environment, or something that is making the bears feel comfortable to breed. Just a hypothesis.

  11. Follow up to previous comment. That is why I have been asking questions about whether Gao Gao mated in China. If Gao Gao mated in China, then one could say it is the bear who is ready to go. But if they tried to mate Gao Gao and if he was not interested, then it could just be Bai Yun’s charm and beauty, or it could be some other factors as well. To me it seems like a mystery why some panda bears are ready to go and some are not. It just seems like there is an answer somewhere to that mystery.

  12. I do agree with #1#2 Sherie . Thank you ,SDZ!


  14. What cute picture of mom talking to Yun Zi.
    What a great program that is. wish I lived closer to the zoo, just to see animal and all the work the staff
    does for them and the public. Thank you for the information and what special class the kids.

  15. “They really right here in our hearts!”:

  16. Thank you all for the wonderful job you do! I enjoy reading the informative blogs that you all post….keeps us learning and reminds us to be more aware of our surroundings and how we can protect and conserve these beautiful animals! Bai Yun the “teacher of the year!”

  17. Perhaps we should call her Professor Bai Yun? While Yun Zi’s a bit young for such a title, I kind of like the way Professor Fluffy Butt sounds, too. Seriously, these last two blogs have been very informative and I’ve enjoyed reading about SDZ’s conservation efforts and the SSP, too. Sherie said it well in her post.

    Thanks for the cute photos, too.

  18. this is a really good blog, its so funny that Bai Yun runs her own lab!!!

  19. Fantastic work that you and the Con Ed staff are doing. We have got to challenge people of all ages to help save the wild life of this planet be it a panda or polar bear or green sea turtle as well as the insects that most people never hear about. It is knowledge that will save these creatures more than anything else.

    You probably don’t hear this enough Pamela, but thank you for all your hard work in trying to find new ways to get this across to everyone that walks into the Beckman Center and other educational areas at both the SDZ and WAP.

  20. Gee, wish I could be there! Really looking forward to seeing the pandas again next month!

  21. Texas Barbi (Gabrielle) #12 to answer your question about Gao Gao, read the blog post “The Mating Ritual” from September 13, 2005.

    Moderator’s note: Here’s the link…

  22. Camera 6 is on Yun Zi who is living the life of Reilly at this moment. Cuddled on his side between a rock and a tree, he dozes. His back left foot is in constant motion. He licks and chews on his right paw, then his left. His little pink tongue darts out. Then a big yawn and a stretch. The breeze and San Diego sun are seemingly idyllic this day.

  23. Pamela, I second what Lee # 20 said. Thanks for all the wonderful work everyone who is involved in animals conservation and education does. :)

  24. #9 Panda Annie
    I mainly talk about pandas, but the Con Ed staff covers a large number of species in their lab. They have various education modules that they use regularly, covering topics such as the bush meat crisis, the chytrid fungus effects on mountain yellow-legged frogs, etc. Everything we’re working on is presented to students at the Beckman Center’s Education Lab at the Wild Animal Park.

  25. Without the labs and conservationists, how will we know what our animal friends need? great jobs everyone.And more babies all around!.

  26. #5 LUCILLA Take all the time you need—-then hurry back so you can entertain us some more. You have many fans, and you and Yunior are a great match…..Love Grammmie

  27. #11 PANDA ANNIE Cute photos….my favorites are #1 and #4.

    #16 MC IN SHANGHAI I did not wait for later, I watched the wonderful video you sent immediately—it is fantastic….thank you so much.

    #21 SUSAN H., N. CA They are looking forward to seeing you too.

    #22 MODERATOR Thank you for that great link.

  28. Thank you Moderator and Dee for the info and link. I see that Gao Gao was interested in the female he met in China, but she was unaware of his interests, perhaps, rolled on her back. Someone said that Tian Tian was interested in Mei Xiang, but Mei Xiang was unaware what was going on, perhaps, and sat down. The blog said that Hua Mei was introduced to Gao Gao, through the howdy gate (only), and perhaps that gave her some experience to know what the guy pandas are up to. Do researchers and experts think it is just a matter of female pandas getting the experience to know how to mate? That makes me wonder if Bai Yun mated when she was in China. Thanks for all information.

  29. IF YOU HAVE NOT CHECKED INTO Pandas Live On lately now would be a good time. There is a memorial to Chuan Chaun, of the Shang Hai Zoo.
    Then there is a nice story about Mai Lan (Atlanta Zoo born) and how she is getting along in China.
    They then go on to some great photos of Fu Long (Austria Zoo Born) and his new room mate—they seem to get along just fine.
    Then the wrap up us done on Tai Shan (National Zoo born) his diary enty number 8—great photos too…

    feeds (dot) feedburner (dot) com/PandasLiveOn To get the link to work you must remove any spaces, remove (dot) and replace with a period………………….Love Grammmie

  30. DOES ANYBODY WANT TO SEE WHAT ZHENNIE CAN DO WITH A BLUE RING TOY??? Just hop on over to Rita Petita’s Flikr pages, for 25 (I think) photos of just what she can do with one innocent blue ring. Here is the link in case you do not have it handy…..Love Grammmie

  31. Ughhh… our little boy is getting so BIG! He’s gonna be a big giant panda before we know it… where has all the time gone?! I’m sure Yun Zi is going to be an A+ student just like his big brother and sisters were — great job Mama Bai!

  32. What about a Panda Lab for those other than students? Retired, unemployed or, perhaps just interested in Wildlife Conservation. Obviously, not the same tour but if you were to offer something similar, just a few times a year (for a fee/donation) I imagine it would increase contributions greatly. Keep up the great work.

  33. MC in ShangHai: Thank you so much for the link to the video of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. What a great story… Thank you!!

  34. Grammmie–thanks for pointing us to Rita Petita’s amazing pictures of beautiful Miss Zhennie playing with a donut and dangling from the trees by the tips of her toesies! Such a beautiful little panda girl!

  35. i love the panda cam!!!!!!!!!!!!! i look it all the the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. Pamela,

    This was a most enjoyable and informative article!

    All of your students are so fortunate to have these great learning opportunities.
    College Days are long gone but thanks to you and the other Panda researchers our education continues.

    ….and the subject matter is so loving and adorable from Gao down to Yunnie!

    Right On as usual…..San Diego Zoo!

  37. GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY. I OFTEN STAY AWAKE all night and sleep during the day….today it got me a bonus. At one point I had 5 live Pandas on my screen. I went to Daniels page to see what was going on, since I had already watched a nursing session on our cam, and then the two of them snacking on bamboo and wandering around. This all happened between 5 and 6 a. m. Pacific Time. I hope you all have a great day and get off work early because it is Friday. The cams were on in Washington and Atlanta, along with ours……Love Grammmie
    home (dot) comcast (dot) net/~dreidel/pandacams/index.html
    Repair the link above by removing spaces and (dot) and replacing with a period.

  38. THERE IS STILL ACTION ON THE SCREENS, but I took a break to check to see if there was anything new on Pandas On Live (type those 3 words into your address bar to reach it). They are showing the 16 babies born at Wolong this year….ENJOY…..Love Grammmie

  39. I like Aunt Nancy’s idea, of a panda lab for adults. You have gotten me so interested in pandas, I want to learn more and more. Thanks. What could motivate me to leave the great state of Texas. PANDAS!!!!

  40. Bai Yun must be the BEST you can ever get for a teacher in the lab!!
    The best Panda .. the best mother and the best teacher. I love her to bits!!!

  41. how cute i bet she does have to teach her own lab sometimes to that very playful little boy she has her paws filled with….. shes sucha good mom :)