As part of its mission to “inspire the naturalist in all of us,” Hickory Knolls Discovery Center encourages everyone to continue to grow their knowledge of the natural world. As such, we currently have these exhibits on display…
This new display, located at the west end of Hickory Knolls’ lobby, has as its centerpiece a bull musk ox surrounded by terrain typical of the end of Illinois’s last Ice Age. The exhibit was created by Geneva-based Angrypop Exhibit Services, LLC and Acme Design Inc. in Elgin. While scenes of receding snow and mud flats simulate Ice Age Illinois, the focal point of the exhibit is the preserved musk ox, donated to the park district by St. Charles residents, Dennis and Mary Mueller. The Muellers acquired the animal from Mary Mueller’s late brother, Dick Orban, of Kankakee. Orban, an experienced hunter and lifelong conservationist, was the sole hunter on a trip to the Arctic in November, 1991. Tracking a herd of musk ox through frigid, minus-30-degree temperatures accompanied by his Inuit Indian guide, Olie, Orban set his sights on an older alpha male. Interpretive panels detail the history of the musk ox and showcase why it continues to be a valuable animal even in modern times.
Thanks to an inspired collaboration between the St. Charles Park District and Luke Slawek, president and chief operating officer of Flavors of North America (FONA) International, a new aquaponics display honors both organizations’ shared mission of responsible ecological stewardship through an innovative use of materials and resources. The display was officially unveiled to the public during a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 12.
Aquaponics may be a new concept to most Discovery Center visitors but it’s an agricultural system that can be traced back to the Aztec civilization in the year 1000 AD. The Discovery Center will put this ancient technology to work cultivating vegetables and other greens that can then be used to feed many of the Center’s resident critters.
Simply stated, aquaponics is a system for raising fish and other aquatic animals in conjunction with plants via a circulating system that provides benefits for both. Fish produce biological waste that breaks down into nitrates and ammonia. Too much of these byproducts can be harmful for aquatic life but they provide excellent fertilizer for plants. By pumping the tank water through a biofilter into a growing medium for plants, the nutrients can sustain simple vegetables such as lettuces and herbs. The water that is cleaned and filtered by vegetation is then cycled back into the fish tank to provide a fresh environment that will continue to safely sustain aquatic life.