UTC Students Help Renovate Prairie Dog Exhibit At Zoo

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Chattanooga Zoo partnered with students and faculty in the UTC Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering to renovate the Zoo’s existing prairie dog exhibit.   

The original prairie dog exhibit, home to five prairie dogs, was built in 1998.  This exhibit is approximately 400 square feet in size and contains two chest-high observation windows.  UTC Engineering students have redesigned the exhibit to incorporate a children’s viewing tunnel which will allows children to get eye level with their prairie dog counterparts through the creation of a viewing space within the actual exhibit.  

Funding for the renovations was provided by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga as part of a larger collaboration between UTC, the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and the Chattanooga Zoo to study animal behaviors in their habitats.  

“This exhibit is the product of a lot of hard work by UTC students and faculty and the staff at the Chattanooga Zoo,” notes Dr. Loren Hayes, assistant professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences at UTC and animal behaviors study program coordinator.  “Personally, I am really impressed by the creativity and dedication of the UTC Engineering students who designed and constructed the exhibit. This represents the beginning of what we all hope is a long-term collaboration between UTC, the Zoo, and CGLA.  With support from the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and the National Science Foundation, we are already engaged in additional collaborations, including studies of animal behavior by UTC Biology and CGLA students and the planning of new exhibits for other animals at the Zoo. This is a win-win situation for all of the students and Chattanooga.”

Zoo CEO, Dardenelle Long seconds Dr. Hayes sentiments in stating that, “The Chattanooga Zoo is thrilled to serve as an educational resource for local students.  We sincerely hope that this partnership becomes a model for many future collaborations with local education institutions.” 

An official unveiling for the new, renovated exhibit is scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 7, at 9 a.m. at the Chattanooga Zoo.  The ceremony is open to the public. 

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