Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Son the Photographer

Over the past few nights I have been going through Dylan's photographs from the last year. Yes, I am a year behind on photos. I have been editing his pictures, posting some of his favorites to a photo group we belong to, and uploading them to his Flickr account. Some of his photographs, well, they are really good. I only wish I had been doing this sooner.

Dylan has come such a long way from when he first started taking pictures and I have really enjoyed watching him grow as a photographer. He takes his time now and thinks about the image in his mind. Sure, there are still those times when the picture is out of focus or a head gets cut off, but for the most part he is a pretty darn good photographer for being only 10 years old.

My favorite is when he takes a picture and says, "Hey mom, is this one any good?" Like he took a really bad picture, but then smirks because he knows that he just nailed it!

Tigress Danai
Sharing a love for photography with my son is wonderful and not something that I anticipated. It's the hobby that quickly became an obsession and now we don't go anywhere without at least one camera.  Dylan is starting to use Instagram more and loves leaving comments on others Flickr photos.

He is learning to use words like contrast, depth of field, clarity, and composition. I look forward to seeing what he photographs this year. Because after all, the possibilities are endless when you give a child a camera.

Photos by Dylan Fryer

To see more of Dylan's photographs visit his Flickr page.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Magical Giraffe Moment

The sun was setting and this little giraffe came walking up along side the field exhibit. The cart came to a stop and I got out to stand by the fence. 

We looked at each other, eye level to eye level, and we had a moment.

A brief moment in time, but it was our moment. These animal connections don't happen all the time, but when they do they are magical.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Our visit with Dr. Ryder - Part 2

Over the past few years I have become more involved with the Wildlife Conservancy, special projects at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, and various philanthropic ventures with Dylan. Each donor event I went to, I learned more. Each zookeeper I met, I learned more. Each scientist and researcher I met, I learned more. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I would learn about San Diego Zoo Global during my visit to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research. I am in awe of the diversity and amount of conservation work that makes up what is the largest zoo-based, multidisciplinary research facility in the world.

This is my story.

To start with, I can't even begin to explain the pride I felt when I received the phone call inviting Dylan to visit the Beckman Center for Conservation Research and meet Dr. Oliver Ryder. My child was going to meet a world-renowned scientist who had a passion similar to his about saving the Northern White Rhinos. Not only was he going to meet him, but he was going to see the Frozen Zoo we have read so much about.

As we drove through the entrance gates, I could feel the excitement in both of us escalating. Just as our itinerary had said, there was an orange cone reserving a parking spot right in front for the Fryer Family. Was this really happening? I felt anxious walking through the double glass doors, yet at the same time I felt right at home. Like this is where I was suppose to be.

We were met by Maggie, who would be our guide for the afternoon, and after formal introductions we were on our way. The nerves had settled and I just tried to take it all in. Everything around me was inspiring. From the signs in the window listing Dr. Beckman's Seven Rules for Success to the bronze plaque depicting the mission statement of the Institute, to the polished concrete floors. Lights were turned off in the labs to conserve energy, but it was hardly noticeable with all of the natural daylight coming through the windows. Renewable resources like bamboo are found throughout the building on railings, ceiling arches, and benches. Talk about being "green" ... this was a "green girls" heaven on earth.

Watching Dylan meet Dr. Ryder was something I will never forget. He went into starstruck mode for about the first 10 minutes and then I noticed something familiar. Dylan's tone of voice changed. He was in his element. He was carrying on conversations with Dr. Ryder just like he does with Rick Schwartz. All I could do was sit back and watch with great pride.

Something that I found really interesting is that they keep a handwritten log of all specimens brought in. Those leather-bound books you see on the shelves are all logs. Dr. Ryder asked Dylan when his birthday was to see what specimens they collected the day he was born, but nothing showed up. Strange right? Well, not if you were born on a Sunday. So we looked at the following day and saw Thomson's Gazelle. These books even dated back to my birthday!

The Frozen Zoo was just incredible. They have DNA from plants and animals all over the world - Over 10,000 irreplaceable samples, which represent over 1,200 species and subspecies.

Talk about an extensive collection ... just look inside this fridge! There are vials containing DNA from every California Condor ever hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and of course the Northern White Rhinos - all 7 of the remaining species, plus the DNA of those that have passed away.  So much can be learned from DNA. Science truly is amazing and an integral part of saving endangered species.

After visiting the Frozen Zoo and the Genetics Lab, we went into Dr. Ryder's office where we sat talking about his work with the Northern White Rhinos. You know, no big deal. Just two ordinary people talking with a world-renowned scientist. Somebody pinch me.

We thanked Dr. Ryder for his time and continued touring the building. So much to take in. I had to keep reminding myself to take pictures. Of course, after the fact, I realized I should have taken some video clips.

The Beckman Center for Conservation Research is nearly 50,000 square feet and includes specialty labs and equipment that enable the scientists to continue critical conservation research on behalf of endangered species and habitats worldwide.

The mountain yellow-legged frog was nearly wiped out by the chytrid fungus; but thanks to the hard work and research of these scientists, 465 captive-born mountain yellow-legged frogs were released into the wild in Southern California. Now that is what I call a conservation success story!

Although the labs were inspiring, my favorite stop was in the library. Not just for the extensive collection of books, or because Dylan was invited to come back anytime he needed to do research, but because of something I saw in a small room.

The original desk of Dr. Harry Wegeforth, Founder of the San Diego Zoo. This is where it all started. One man's dream to start a zoo in San Diego - I believe Harry would be proud of what his zoo has become. While this may seem trite to you, it was a very emotional moment for me.

The first half of our tour was now over and it was time to head out to the Safari Park on a cart to look for the elusive Northern White Rhino, Nola. She is old and one of the last seven remaining in the world of her species. We spent over an hour driving around the field exhibits and had so many wonderful encounters. It was getting cold and dark. The park was closing and still no Nola. Then, far across the field, we spotted her. Isn't she beautiful?

I still can't even wrap my head around everything that goes on at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Nor can I even begin to thank those involved with our visit that day. Words just can't express how wonderful this experience was for both myself and Dylan.

One thing I am sure of though is the next time someone says to me, "You're going to the zoo again?" I will simply reply with, "The San Diego Zoo is so much more than just a zoo!"

To see more pictures of the labs, Frozen Zoo, and animals we encountered, you can view the Dr. Ryder and the Frozen Zoo Flickr album.

In case you missed Dylan's story, you can read it here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dr. Ryder and the Frozen Zoo

A few months ago Dylan was invited to tour the Beckman Center for Conservation Research and meet Dr. Oliver Ryder to learn about his extensive genetics and DNA work with the Northern White Rhinos. The anticipation and excitement for this visit was nothing compared to the feeling we both had when we walked through the front doors of the Institute on January 8, 2014.

Knowing that we both walked away from this amazing experience with our own highlights and favorite moments, I thought it would be nice for each of us to share our own stories. 

This is Dylan's story.

Visiting the Beckman Center for Conservation Research was the best time of my life. When I got there the first thing I could say was, "Wow, I'm really at the Beckman Center." - Then when I got inside I saw stuff like pictures of animals that were extinct like the quagga. A fun lady named Maggie met us and gave us the tour. We got to talk to a really cool guy named Dr. Oliver Ryder (or Ollie if he's your friend). Dr. Ryder is a world renowned scientist who first discovered through genetic research that northern and southern white rhinos are different. I also saw many different types of DNA from different animals such as southern white rhinos, gorillas, condors and much much more. 

My favorite part of my tour was when I got to go in the Frozen Zoo. In the Frozen Zoo Dr. Ryder showed me all the frozen cells. The frozen cells are frozen by liquid nitrogen and I couldn't touch them because it was so cold that it would cause severe tissue damage. Dr. Ryder had to use a special thermal glove to pick the cells up.

Then we went to Dr. Ryder's office and I learned a lot about northern white rhinos. It turns out that Dr. Ryder has seen all of the remaining 7 northern white rhinos! He also told me that he had a conservation plan to help save northern white rhinos. I thought his plan was very interesting.

We got to see all the labs too. In one of the labs I saw Mountain yellow-legged frogs. They are critically endangered and I got to see them as tadpoles, polliwogs, and adults. Another part I really liked was when I walked by a scientist they would say, "Hey, you're Dylan!" In the Beckman Center I also got to go in a really cool library that only had animal books in it. 

All in all, my experience at the Frozen Zoo and Beckman Center for Conservation Research was totally awesome!

Part 2 (my story) will be published tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Creating awareness for Tigers

It is no secret that we have a very special place in our hearts for tigers. A few months ago the Tiger Conservation Campaign released this video about the plight of the wild tiger. This video was done so poetically and the voice of a child tells the story with such simplicity.


Dylan and I can't watch this video without feeling like there is something more that we can do to create awareness and help wild tigers. We have decided to make a goal of contributing $500 to the Tiger Conservation Campaign in 2014.

Together we can make a change for these beautiful animals.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The World Gardens are bursting with color

The World Gardens are another hidden treasure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park that I just can't get enough of. High atop the park, between Tiger Trail and Condor Ridge, is a secret world filled with an abundance of botanical beauty.

Thousands of species native to Southern California fill the Nativescapes Garden. This one caught my eye and reminded me of the ocean, which is ironic since this is a succulent that doesn't require much water.

The gardens are bursting with color right now and will continue to flourish through February.

The World Gardens are about a 30 minute walk from the entrance and a bit of a climb, so come prepared with water to drink especially during the warmer months. The Conifer Forest smells divine and is a wonderful place to reconnect with nature; and walking through the gates of the Bonsai Pavilion will instantly transport you to a place of peace and tranquility.

Throughout the gardens there are benches to sit on and views that will take your breath away.
So come - visit - enjoy - stay awhile - and don't forget your camera!

More pictures can be found in my World Gardens Flickr Album.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Adventure Continues ...

We had so much fun sharing our love of animals with kids last summer that we wanted to continue our journey of teaching others about endangered species and conservation.

We've been busy planning some exciting things since hosting Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp last summer and it's almost time to share our next journey with you. This is an adventure that you won't want to miss!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Learning to love the photographer inside of me

There is nothing quite like looking through the lens of camera and capturing a moment in time. A moment that will now live on forever in a photograph. Photography started as a hobby, but has quickly become a passion of mine and I am finally beginning to let the photographer in me shine through. It is always a little scary to put your work out there for the public to see; not knowing what their reaction will be.

Will they point out my flaws or will they say job well done? 
Will my photos be as good as the others or will it be obvious that I'm new to this?

Well, about 6 months ago I took the plunge and submitted a picture for Wildlife Photo of the Month. It was like easing into the public realm because unless my photo was selected as a finalist, nobody would really see it.  

This was the result.

Wait, is that really my picture on the front page of San Diego Zoo Global's website? I better click the picture just to make sure ... Oh my, somebody pinch me!

My first photograph that was published someplace other than my own blog - with my name as the photo credit - pretty darn awesome. 

Confidence level boosted.

Fast forward a few months to last September when I entered two of my photographs into the Zoological Society of San Diego President's Club Wildlife Wonders Photo Contest.

Imagine my surprise at the President's Associates event in October when my name was announced not once, but twice. I think I may have stopped breathing for a moment.

Confidence level boosted a little more.

Now I didn't feel so bad that I was only using a point and shoot camera when all my photographer friends had fancy DSLR cameras. I felt like Sally Field. I wanted to scream, "They like me, They really like me". 

Well, ok, confession time. I did scream ... but not until after the event when I was in my car.

Now I was really motivated to take pictures. I wanted to learn more and yes, I still wanted my very own fancy DSLR camera with lenses and a pretty camera strap around my neck.

So I used Christmas money and did just that. I bought myself a new camera with a pretty lens.

Then I searched for the perfect camera strap. I found just what I was looking for at Jodie's Camera Straps and had it personalized too. This arrived in the mail today.

Now the photographer inside of me is ready to take on the world - capturing moments in time with a new found confidence. 

Tiger stripes around my neck and Tiga close to my heart. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's not easy being Green ... In a world of trash can fillers

Being green. Living a green lifestyle.

What does it all mean?

Are you green

Do you find it difficult being green all the time?

The past few years I have noticed more and more people around me reverting back to what I like to call trash can fillers. Sure, if there is a cause or a fundraiser going on, these people are more than happy to help out and recycle all their soda cans and plastic water bottles. However, once that event is over what do they do? Well, from my observations they go right back to their old ways ... the items get thrown in the trash can. If a person can save their recycling for a child who is raising money for conservation, then why can't they save their recycling all the time?

I have heard all the excuses and honestly, none of them are good enough for me. My favorite one has to be that "it all gets mixed together anyway, so why bother" ..
Wow, really? If that is the case at your place of employment or where you live, then I suggest you start asking some questions. If a trash can or bin is labeled as Recycle, then that is exactly what should be done with the contents. Recycle them.

The thought of filling a trash can with items that can be recycled is something that I will probably never be able to understand. It just isn't how I live my life.

I have said it before and I will say it again ... We recycle almost everything! Companies like Terracycle make it so easy to recycle items that would otherwise end up in a landfill, yet so many people won't take the time to do it. All it takes is a small bin, box or bag as a collection spot in your home or workplace. So many things can be recycled.

Being GREEN should not be difficult.

The next time you go to throw something away, please take a minute and think about what you are putting in that trash can. Is it something that can be recycled? Is it something that someone else might want?

Humans are creatures of habit and sometimes old habits are hard to break ... but I have seen it done. When you see someone throw a soda can in the trash, ask them this "Why are you being a trash can filler?" and see what they say. 

I think Kermit said it best ...

When green is all there is to be 
It could make you wonder why 
But why wonder why wonder 
I am green, and it'll do fine 
It's beautiful, and I think it's what I want to be

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Magnificent Bald Eagle

Creating awareness about these beautiful birds has played a major role in bringing the Bald Eagle, the US National Bird, back from the brink of extinction. 

The Bald Eagle is no longer listed on the endangered species list, but they are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Once on the brink of extinction, the majestic bald eagle is now flourishing across the nation.
A friend of mine was lucky enough to see one in the wild at Snoqualmie Falls, WA and captured this beautiful photograph.

Photo by Randy Campbell

To learn more about the Bald Eagle you can visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lorikeet Landing just got a little more colorful

Lorikeets are bright and cheerful. They love nectar and have a fairly loud chatter; especially when they are inches from your ear. However, being surrounded by these little birds and experiencing them up close is worth some high-pitched chirping. Last week Dylan and I went to say hello to a few of the newest members to call Lorikeet Landing home.

Recently thirty more birds have joined the existing population at the Lorikeet Landing aviary, nearly doubling the population from 43 to 73 lorikeets. The new birds came from an already-established flock and keepers say the new birds are very social and integrating well with the existing flock.

Lorikeets are very social birds that flit around the trees looking for flowers and nectar. While lorikeets are interesting to watch, they also serve an important role as pollinators. Yes, these birds are pollinators! The lorikeets feed on nectar from various plants and that feeding helps transfer pollen. They have a very unique tongue, with its brush-like texture, to drink the nectar.

When not flitting around the tree tops, lorikeets will spend time grooming each other.

The next time you visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park be sure to stop by the Lorikeet Landing aviary and purchase a cup of nectar to feed them. The aviary is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. daily and is located in the Nairobi Village at the Park.  

There are a few hidden gems at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park that don't always get the attention I think they deserve. Lorikeet Landing is one of them ... and next week I will share the other hidden gem with you.

Have you been to Lorikeet Landing? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Smooches from Tatqiq

Tatqiq blowing kisses to her adoring fans.

Tatqiq is a 13 year old polar bear who lives at the San Diego Zoo. She is one of my favorites because she has such a wonderful personality. Tatqiq and her brother Kalluk were orphaned at a very young age when their mother was killed by a hunter in Alaska. After being rescued, the cubs were brought to the San Diego Zoo where they continue to thrive, entertain guests, and educate us about the plight of the polar bear.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Animal Conservation and Philanthropy - It's in the Family Crest

If you ever had doubts concerning how much my family cares about animal conservation, what you are about to read will chase those doubts away. I am sure you have figured out that conservation is pretty much what makes the world go around for Dylan, but this ... well this is something that even I didn't see coming.

Dylan had a homework assignment that he was to complete over the winter break. He had to create his own family coat of arms using symbols, animals, and colors from a sheet his teacher gave him. Each item gave a description or a meaning of what it stood for. Here is what Dylan created as our family coat of arms.


Flaming Heart 


       Hope and Joy


The words I understood. They seemed like wonderful words to describe our family and I was proud of what he chose. Being that he is so passionate about animal conservation, I was not surprised that he chose animals for two of his sections. It wasn't until I read his explanation on the back of the poster board that I realized he had just created the perfect coat of arms for our family.

"My coat of arms shows my families love for philanthropy. My blue and green checkerboard shows that my family keeps all of our promises to conservation; and our hope and joy for conservation. The bear shows our families protectiveness of all animals we come across. My pelican shows my families devotion to save animals near and far. My flaming heart shows our passion for anything wildlife related."

Like I said, you can remove all those doubts from your mind. Dylan has now put it in writing and created a family coat of arms that I am proud to display.

We are a family that believes in conservation.

We take pride in our philanthropy projects.

We value our belief that through animal conservation and education we can help save endangered animals all around the world.

Yes, this is the perfect coat of arms for our family. Excellent job Dylan!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hopes and Wishes are so much better than Resolutions

It's that time again. Time to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. Some people have a hard time with the transition and dwell on all the things that did not get accomplished. I used to be one of those people until I made a simple change. So simple in fact, that I was just changing the words. Two years ago I started making New Year Wishes instead of New Year Resolutions. Wishes remind me of a birthday cake and blowing out candles ... Resolutions just sound like work.  So far, the majority of my wishes have come true.

Jungle Bells - San Diego Zoo

The first year (2012) I was able to make 4 out of 5 wishes come true. I call that a job well done. So imagine my surprise today when I went back to read my New Year Wishes for 2013 and realized that I had made all 5 wishes come true ...

Hello. Amazing! I can't think of a better way to start 2014.

I definitely took a step back last year and spent lots of time looking within myself. There were lots of changes and learning experiences for both me and Dylan. However, one thing that remained the same was our passion for creating awareness about endangered species and doing all we could to make a difference.

Here are my New Year Wishes for 2014 ...

  1. Start drawing again. In high school I loved to sketch and paint. This will be the year I rekindle that creative side I once loved so much.
  2. Teach more kids about endangered animals and conservation by expanding Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp into more than just a summer camp. 
  3. Make time to write about what inspires me. I have a folder filled with notes and ideas for posts, but never found the time to actually write them. 
  4. Stay current on my photography and share more of my images. No more falling a year behind on editing and posting pictures. 
  5. Continue to read more, explore more, and keep learning more. 

Yes, I know that #5 is a repeat from last year, but it is just such a good wish to have. 

Dylan and I were very blessed with some unforgettable experiences and wonderful supporters of his fundraising projects last year. We are both excited to see what the new year has in store for us and what new doors may open leading us to new adventures.