IF YOU GO
* What: Prairie dog exhibit unveiling.
* When: 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7 (zoo is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily).
* Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.
* Admission: $8.95 adults, $6.95 seniors 65 and older, $5.95 children 3-12.
* Phone: 423-643-5710.
* Website: www.chattzoo.org.
The prairie dog exhibit at Chattanooga Zoo has gotten a makeover, and the results will be revealed Friday, Feb. 7.
The original exhibit, home to five prairie dogs, was built in 1998, according to zoo spokeswoman Marisa Ogles. The 400-square-foot space contains two chest-high observation windows.
Recently, the zoo partnered with students and faculty in UTC's Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering for a redesign that added a children's viewing tunnel. The viewing space is situated within the exhibit to let kids get eye level with the burrowing rodents.
Funding for the renovations was provided by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga as part of a larger collaboration between the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and 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," says Dr. Loren Hayes, assistant professor of biological and environmental sciences at UTC and coordinator of the animal behaviors study program. "Personally, I am really impressed by the creativity and dedication of the UTC Engineering students who designed and constructed the exhibit."
Hayes says that support from the Community Foundation and the National Science Foundation already has students engaged in other collaborations, including studies of animal behavior by UTC biology and CGLA students, with plans for new exhibits for other animals.
"This is a win-win situation for all of the students and Chattanooga," he says.
Zoo CEO Dardenelle Long says having the zoo serve as an educational resource for local students is a partnership she hopes "becomes a model for many future collaborations."