Bracketology Week 7

Slow week due to the Holidays, but a lot of seeding movement below the 1 seeds. A few changes at the bottom as I have re-examined the smaller conference champions and rankings. Conference play is in full swing this week!

NEW: Missouri St., St. Bonaventure, Kansas St., Houston, UCLA, Texas Southern, Hampton, Lipscomb, Penn,


Last Four In: Kansas St., Minnesota, Oregon, St. Bonaventure

Last Four Out: Penn St., Butler, Syracuse, Marquette


1 Seeds-  Michigan St., Villanova, Arizona St., Duke

2 Seeds- Xavier (+1), West Virginia (+1), Wichita St., Texas A&M (+1)

3 Seeds- TCU (+1), Virginia, Kansas (+1), Purdue (+1)

4 Seeds-  Miami (-2), UNC (-2), Oklahoma (+1), Kentucky (-2)

5 Seeds-  Gonzaga (-1), Arizona, Baylor (+1), Tennessee (+1)

6 Seeds- Florida St., Seton Hall, Texas Tech (-1), Cincinnati (-1)

7 Seeds- CreightonNotre Dame, Arkansas, Clemson (+2)

8 Seeds- LouisvilleVirginia Tech (+1), SMU, Texas

9 Seeds- Florida (-2), USC (-1), Oklahoma St. (+1), Michigan

10 Seeds- St. Mary’s, Nevada (-1), UCLA (NEW), Maryland (+1)

11 Seeds-  St. Bonaventure (NEW), Auburn, Oregon, Houston (NEW), Minnesota (-1), Kansas St. (NEW)

12 Seeds- Missouri St. (NEW), Middle Tennessee (-1), New Mexico St. (+1), Stephen F Austin (+4)

13 Seeds- UT-Arlington (-1), Bucknell, Belmont, Vermont (-1)

14 Seeds-  Oakland, Charleston, Mercer, Ball St. (-1)

15 Seeds- Monmouth, Penn (NEW) , South Dakota, Lipscomb (NEW)

16 Seeds- Hampton (NEW), Texas Southern (NEW),  St. Francis Pa., Montana, UNC Asheville, UC Santa Barbara (-1)


Bracketology Week 6

Well it was a pretty boring week due to finals. Then Saturday happened, upsets galore. Not the greatest week of games this week, but I like Northern Iowa to give Xavier a test, as everyone else gets ready for conference play.

NEW: Michigan, Oklahoma St., Northern Iowa, Penn St.


Last Four In: Penn St., Maryland, Auburn, Oregon

Last Four Out: Kansas St., Houston, Missouri, Syracuse


1 Seeds-  Michigan St., Villanova, Arizona St. (+1), Duke

2 Seeds- Kentucky, Wichita St. (-1), Miami, UNC (+1)

3 Seeds- West Virginia, Texas A&M (-1), Xavier, Virginia

4 Seeds-  Gonzaga, Kansas, TCU, Purdue (+1)

5 Seeds-  Cincinnati, Arizona (+1), Texas Tech, Oklahoma (+2)

6 Seeds- Florida St., Tennessee, Baylor (+1), Seton Hall (-2)

7 Seeds- Creighton, Florida (-1), Notre Dame (-2), Arkansas (+1)

8 Seeds- LouisvilleUSC, SMU, Texas (-1)

9 Seeds- Nevada (+1), Virginia Tech, Clemson, Michigan (NEW)

10 Seeds- St. Mary’s, Alabama (-1), Oklahoma St. (NEW), Minnesota (-1)

11 Seeds-  Maryland, Middle Tennessee (+1), Auburn, Oregon, Penn St. (NEW), Rhode Island

12 Seeds- Belmont, Northern Iowa (NEW), Vermont, UT-Arlington

13 Seeds- Ball St.,  Charleston, New Mexico St., Bucknell

14 Seeds-  Florida Gulf Coast, Oakland, Charleston, Yale

15 Seeds- Monmouth, Mercer , South Dakota, UC Santa Barbara

16 Seeds- NC Central, Stephen F. Austin, Praire View A&M,  St. Francis Pa., Montana, UNC Asheville

Bracketology Week 5

It is going to be a light week of action with finals happening across most campuses. Arizona St. is climbing the rankings with an impressive start, and beating Kansas, in Lawrence, proves they are for real. Tennessee vs. North Carolina on Sunday is my game of the week.

NEW: Loyola-Chicago, Maryland, Auburn, Clemson, Prairie View A&M, UC Santa Barbara, Mercer, and Arkansas

Biggest Gain: Florida St. +4 seeds

Biggest Fall: Minnesota -5 seeds

Last Four In: Oregon, Loyola-Chicago, Georgia, Oregon

Last Four Out: Kansas St., Northern Iowa, Houston, Temple


1 Seeds-  Michigan St., Villanova, Wichita St. (+1), Duke

2 Seeds- Kentucky, Arizona St. (+3), Miami (+1), Texas A&M

3 Seeds- West Virginia (+1) , UNC, Xavier (+1), Virginia (+1)

4 Seeds-  Gonzaga (-1), Kansas (-3), TCU (+1), Seton Hall (+1) 

5 Seeds-  Cincinnati, Purdue (+1), Notre Dame (-2), Texas Tech (+2)

6 Seeds- Florida (-4), Arizona (+2), Florida St. (+4), Tennessee (+1)

7 Seeds- Creighton, Texas (+1), Baylor (-1), Oklahoma (+2)

8 Seeds- Louisville, USC (-2), SMU (+2), Arkansas (NEW)

9 Seeds- Alabama, Virginia Tech, Clemson (NEW), Minnesota (-5)

10 Seeds- Mississippi St. (+1), St. Mary’s (+1), Nevada (-4), UCLA (-3),

11 Seeds-  Maryland (NEW), Loyola-Chicago (NEW), Auburn (NEW), Oregon, Georgia, Rhode Island (-2)

12 Seeds- Belmont, Middle Tennessee, Vermont, UT-Arlington (-2)

13 Seeds- Ball St.,  Charleston, New Mexico St., Bucknell

14 Seeds-  Florida Gulf Coast, Oakland, Charleston, Yale

15 Seeds- Monmouth, Mercer (NEW), South Dakota, UC Santa Barbara (New)

16 Seeds- , NC Central, Stephen F. Austin, Praire View A&M (NEW),  St. Francis Pa., Montana, UNC Asheville (-1)


Hopefully you’ve read my blogs, Zoos and Aquariums Saving Animals, and Research; Not Just for Research Papers. It is my heartfelt opinion that zoos are not only relevant in today’s society, but that are absolutely necessary. The tremendous amount of work and monetary resources that zoos and aquariums put into animals, and their habitats, shows the importance of conservation and animal well-being. These institutions have the very important job of creating future conservation biologist, veterinarians, and recyclers. Every kid that walks into a zoo or aquarium is someone who can hear the message about sustainability, and what everyone can do to create a better life for future generations, and the animals we share this planet with. Zoo and aquarium visitors leave inspired to take direct conservation action.

Zoos and aquariums strive to evolve, develop and transform as science, and public perception change. Institutions have turned to a message of education and conservation. Carl Hagenbeck came up with modern zoo exhibition in the late 1800s. He went away from the traditional bars, and made the exhibits similar to the animal’s natural habitat. His forethought led to advances from collectionism to more natural social groupings. As recently as the 1970’s, zoos held animals in extremely small spaces, and animals were used for entertainment with little regard for their own welfare.

With what many consider the 6th great extinction, humans have reduced or destroyed plants and animals habitats. Because of this, zoos and aquariums have become custodians of numerous species. Many facilities also have the added duty of rehabbing and reintroducing animals back into the wild. Sea World, and a few other aquariums, have teams devoted to rescuing wild animals and either returning them to the wild or keeping them at their institution for medical evaluation. Many animals that are extinct in the wild, are only alive today because of zoos and aquariums.

Zoos and aquariums also use their power and influence to protect or create laws that conserve endangered species. The AZA contributes more money to research and conservation than any other world group besides the United States government. Habitat protection is an area that is greatly funded by zoos and aquariums across the world. Many of the larger institutions have biologist that are on their payroll who live in areas where the research in being conducted. The organization doesn’t gain financially from this, but it shows how committed they are to conservation.

Some make the argument that the experience of a visit to the zoo can be replaced by the internet, television or film. I think there is no substitute for an affordable, up-close encounter with the dynamic living world that the zoo, or aquarium can offer. A day at the zoo or aquarium is more family-friendly, less costly, complicated, or time consuming than an international expedition. More people visit zoos and aquariums each year than attend all 3 professional sports combined. I cannot think of any other institution that more realistically or more powerfully declares the values of the nature world.




Research; Not Just for Research Papers

Countless hours, and resources go into research in zoos and aquariums every year. Studies that cover education evaluation, breeding programs, visitor trends, behavioral analysis, and many other areas are published every year. Zoos and aquariums want to be the best at what they do, and for this to be the case you have to know how effective your programs are. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for the industry, requires program, animal behavior, and enrichment evaluations. This is a financial, and staff time encumbrance for almost every institution. But, if you want truly make a difference, you have to put the resources into research.

15 years ago, Dr. Kurt Benirschke, Director of Research for San Diego Zoo at the time, said “zoo research” was essential for maintaining wildlife species in captivity.[1] Zoos and aquariums were doing research, but it was only reactionary and not proactive. Dr. Benirschke thought that if organizations combined their research they could collect and generate biological databases for numerous species. These databases could now be used in the wild, and in captivity, to create the best practices and breeding models for the species. Snyder, and colleagues, thought that mandated research could help zoos and aquariums hit their conservation and biodiversity goals.[2]

The AZA has created a directory for all research performed by accredited members for easy access and analysis by members. The development of research programs is still in the infancy stage. Programs are altered on a yearly basis to be more thorough and effective, but the field is growing. Another result of the research has been the creation of Scientific Advisory Groups (SAGS) for multiple species. SAGs are composed of experts from the zoo and aquarium field, as well as university and government scholars. Dr. Matt Allender, Professor from the University of Illinois, is our veterinarian here at Miller Park Zoo. He is also on multiple SAG and Veterinary Advisory Groups (VAG). He leads multiple turtle VAGs. He uses the AZA directory to consult other experts when making diet, husbandry and breeding recommendations for our animals at the zoo.

One of the zoo species that has struggled to breed in captivity is the polar bear. A lot of breeding knowledge was anecdotal in the past. Keepers would hand down information, but didn’t have a lot of science, or research, to substantiate their claims. Research has changed this. Institutions gathered all 99 years of studbook keeping for the polar bears and analyzed it. They studied latitude, year of birth, parental demographics, sex, survival, litter size and litter order.[3] Research like this can create a shift in breeding strategies. One important result was that first time mothers had a much greater chance of the offspring not living to adulthood. Mothers become more successful if they have multiple litters. Zoos and aquariums know to give mothers multiple chances to rear young, as their natural instincts improve with each birth.

Decades of research has resulted in zoos and aquariums becoming much more effective at breeding. Data is analyzed to determine factors such as most effective time of year, animal holding areas, nutrition, and other important influences to create the best chance for successful copulation. Research notes all of these factors in successful, and unsuccessful breeding, so that every institution can make informed and strategic decisions when choosing a breeding strategy. Zoos will also incorporate domestic research into similar exotic species. This was true with domestic dogs and the red wolf breeding program.[4]

Although breeding is a very important role of zoos and aquariums, it is not the only reason for research. Multiple studies have looked into animal behavior and the effects of human visitors. The segment of the population that is against zoos and aquariums would argue that it is not right for animals to be kept in captivity. They say the animals should be in the wild. This argument is perfectly valid, and most in the industry would not disagree. But, it is important for people to see these animals so that they can become engaged, and take a role in their survival and well-being. This is why researching their behavior while in captivity is vital. A group studied spider monkeys on an island in Lake Catemaco, in Mexico, to see what result human visitors had on their behavior.[5] They found an increase in self-directed behaviors and decreased vocalizations when humans were present. Although the results varied among individuals, the conclusion was that the human visitors did have a slightly negative effect on behavior. Zoos can use studies like this to change exhibit layouts, and decide the best practices for displaying the species in the most calming manner.

Another study similar to the spider monkey research, was is a study of ambassador animals. Dr. Chris Kuhar wrote about this study in a recent issue of Connect.[6] Ambassador animals are used for guest engagement and education classes. Here at Miller Park Zoo we have a special collection that is not on display to the general public that we use for special occasions and education opportunities. A lot of professionals wanted to study the well-being of the animals who were used for encounters. No data existed to measure the psychology of the ambassador animals. The AZA decided to evaluate these animals with a thorough study. The study is just beginning, but results have led to a change in the way ambassador animals are held, and the frequency of their interactions. Documentation is now required for every animal interaction, and length of the interaction. There is now a standard length of time, and number of visits a month, that an animal can be used for engagement. Every animal is different, so every requirement is different. Research into ambassador animals has led to a safer exhibit spaces and more animal welfare friendly regulations.

Zoo and aquarium research has improved, not only the breeding programs, but husbandry, nutrition, and animal well-being. With the industry spending more resources on research the possibilities are endless. Zoos will become more effective in every aspect of their mission. Evaluation of the research will lead to breakthroughs, and eventually, a shift to more effective conservation practices. The end goal for zoos and aquariums will be a world in which animals and humans can live in close quarters without infringing on the animals natural habitat. Science and research will lead us to new and innovative ways to create products, and live without destroying the nonrenewable beauty of this world.

[1] Goodrowe, Karen. (2003). Programs for Invasive Research in North American Zoos and Aquariums. ILAR Journal. 44(4). 317-323.

[2] Snyder NF Derrickson SRBeissinger SR Wiley JW Smith TB Toone WD Miller B. 1995. Limitations of captive breeding in endangered species recovery. Cons Biol 10: 338– 348.

[3] CURRY, Erin. Reproductive trends of captive polar bears in North American zoos: a historical analysis. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 3(3), p. 99-106, july 2015.


[4] Goodrowe KL Mastromonaco GF Ryckman DP Walker SL Bateman HL Platz CC Waddell WT. 2001. In vitro maintenance and effects of cooling and cryopreservation on red wolf ( Canis rufus ) sperm characteristics. J Reprod Fertil 57 (Suppl) : 387– 392.

[5] Perez-Galicia, Sergio and Manuel Miranda-Anaya. Visitor Effect on the Behavior of a Group of Spider Monkeys Maintained at an Island in Lake Catemaco. Zoo Biology. 2017; 1-7.

[6] Kuhar Chris PhD. Ambassador Animals. Connect. May 2015. 10.


Zoos and Aquariums Saving Species and Habitats

Zoos and Aquariums love to have visitors, but their number one goal should always be education and conservation. For a message to be effective an audience is needed, but convincing visitors to support the long term stability, and health of animals should always be at the forefront. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have more than 230 institutions that contribute to over 500 Species Survival Plans (SSPs).[1] The main function of every SSP is to help reproduction of each individual species. Each SSP coordinator, and their team, collect data and take appropriate action on each animal in the program. Each SSP has the support of other advisory groups that recommend proper nutrition, exhibit size, and other relevant information covered in a care manual for each species.

Breeding recommendations are made and animals are ranked based on their genetics. The ultimate goal is to breed the most valuable males and females to create the most genetically diverse and healthy offspring. The few examples of successful SSPs are red wolves, California condor, and black-footed ferrets. There are currently 31 species classified as Extinct in the Wild that are being bred in zoos and aquariums.[2] Jennifer Bove emphasizes the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s study stating that “conservation breeding and reintroduction have helped prevent the extinction of six out of 16 critically endangered bird species and nine out of 13 mammal species, including species previously classified as Extinct in the Wild.” Considering that these animals had zero left in the wild, these results are remarkable. Boye credits the work of zoos and aquariums for the success. Without zoos and aquariums willing to provide the space, and proper research, these animals would be extinct.

One of the success stories, red wolves, are housed at Miller Park Zoo. Being an employee of the Zoo, I have witnessed firsthand the amount of detail and planning that each species entails. The wolves once roamed Southeast North America, and in 1980 there were fewer than 20 wolves left in the wild. The wolves were rounded up and placed in institutions for breeding and study. Starting in 1987, red wolves were reintroduced to North Carolina. Today, there are over 50 red wolves in the wild, and over 200 in breeding facilities.[3] In a 2012 reintroduction, two of Miller Park Zoo’s wolves were introduced into the wild. Humans are still the number one threat to the red wolf, and many farmers kill the wolf to keep it from harming cattle or other livestock. While killing of the red wolf is illegal, it looks similar enough to a coyote, which is not currently protected, that they are not prosecuted due to mistaken identity. Zoos are not allowed to train the wolves while in their care. This is an important part of the wolves SSP, so that they can be reintroduced without jeopardizing their natural instincts. The red wolf program is being re-evaluated by the government, with the help of zoo experts, in hopes to making it more successful. Ultimately, we have to find a safe space for the wolves to roam without harming the farmer’s livestock.

Another animal with a great conservation story that is housed at Miller Park Zoo, is the Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo. The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program manages over 194,000 acres of locally owned forest in Papau New Guinea. The area was being devastated by deforestation, and threatening the survival of the tree kangaroo. The Woodland Park Zoo Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, Seattle, Washington, partnered with the Papau New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program to create a long term solution. Together, they needed to provide relief to the animals of the area, while giving the locals a way to create income without destroying the animal’s habitat. This is the first time a conservation program has partnered indigenous communities for a shared conservation and sustainable livelihoods agenda.[4] The locals use the land to produce coffee. The coffee is all shade-grown, making it renewable and less damaging to the environment. To date, over $75,000 US dollars have been generated by the local farmers through the sale of the coffee. The program has given local farmers extra income, and made them less reliant on hunting, and using non-renewable resources to create income. The program has created buy-in with the locals, and is a blueprint for future collaboration projects. Not only has the tree kangaroo species been helped, but countless other species in the area have been positively affected.

Sometimes animals are saved by programs that go after the cause of habitat destruction. This is the case with Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Palm Oil Awareness Mission. Palm Oil is used in numerous products, and the habitat destruction has adversely effected orangutans. They have become a world leader in getting the message out about the palm oil crisis, and the long term devastation it will cause. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has created an app that can be used to determine if the product you are purchasing contains palm oil. AZA members have also started an initiative to not sale products that contain palm oil in their gift shops, or concession stands. The amount of time and resources that the Zoo has spent on the program shows you the passion, and drive that these organizations have to make the world a better place. Their list of candy that is palm oil safe, has been shared on social media, in one form or another, over 100 million times.[5]


The Director of Miller Park Zoo, Jay Tetzloff, is the head of the snow leopard SSP. This has led me to being able to view a program first hand. There are countless hours spent by each SSP director, and none of them are paid. This is done out of the goodness of their hearts, showing their true passion for conservation, and their love for the animals who are in their care. The yearly breeding recommendations start with a ranking of each snow leopard who is in the care of a zoo or aquarium. With the help of the SSP veterinarian, Tetzloff creates a numbered list of the males and the females, and the institution where they are currently housed. There is a line created, where anyone above the line is considered genetically diverse and brings new or unique DNA to the program. Any animal imported, or brought in from the wild, is automatically placed at the top of the list. The thought is that none of their DNA is currently in the zoo breeding program and will help bring diversity to the group. This is where the real work starts. Ideally, you would like the number 1 male and female to be together. Although, sometimes this is not logistically possible so exceptions are made. Zoos are notified if there snow leopards are to be shipped in or out. For example, if the number 3 male and female snow leopards have been together for numerous years without any successful breeding, they are most likely going to be separated. Animals must be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and are always given a physical before shipment. If an animal is found to have a medical reason that they cannot reproduce they are removed from the program. They are sent to a holding institution, otherwise known as non-breeding facility. This could be a same sex group, or a group of animals who are too young or too old to breed. The snow leopards who are still in the SSP breeding program, will now be paired with another genetically similarly ranked snow leopard, and moved from institution to institution accordingly.

The detail that goes into the genetic rankings was really fascinating to me.  Miller Park Zoo was the only institution to have successful litters of snow leopards two years in a row. Because of that success, and our female having a sister who is in the breeding program, she actually drops in rankings. All 5 of her cubs were females, meaning there is a lot of her DNA now in the program. I think to the average person this may seem extreme, but if you want to create a sustainable future, the animal’s health has to be top priority. You want genetic diversity so that no health issues can be passed down from generation to generation. In-breeding is a real concern, and you want to keep all genetics as separated as possible.

These are just a few examples of the species that would not be viewable for future generations without zoos and aquariums. There are countless other programs that have saved species from extinction, and in some cases, kept an animal from becoming endangered. While the Humane Society is a great organization, they do not have programs that help save species. They are worried about the here and now. To save animals, and habitats, we need zoos and aquariums. There is no other organization who cares as much about long term health for animals and our planet.

[1] “Species Survival Plan Programs.” 2017.


[2] Bove, Jennifer. (2017, April 15). The Role of Zoos in Endangered Species Conservation.

[3] “Red Wolf Recovery.” (2017, May 25).

[4] Equator Initiative. 2016. “Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program.”

[5] Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. 2017. Palm Oil Candy-Orangutan Friendly.

Bracketology Week 4

A few highlights for the week. How about Florida’s week, FSU the 4th, Loyola-Chicago (No cupcake) the 6th, and Cincinatti the 9th. We will find out how good Nevada really is. They visit Texas Tech, and TCU this week. Villanova at Gonzaga is my game of the week.

IN: Virginia Tech, Kansas St., Mississippi St., Yale, E. Tennessee St., UNC Asheville, Stephen F. Austin, St. Francis Pa., Montana

Last Four In: St. Mary’s, Washington St., Mississippi St., Missouri

Last Four Out: Butler, Clemson, Maryland, Temple


1 Seeds-  Duke, Michigan St., Kansas, Villanova

2 Seeds- Texas A&M, Kentucky, Florida, Wichita St. (+1)

3 Seeds- Notre Dame (-1) UNC (+1), Miami, Gonzaga (+1)

4 Seeds- Xavier (+1), Virginia (+1), Minnesota (-1), West Virginia (+1) 

5 Seeds- TCU (+1), Cincinnati (-1), Arizona St. (+2), Seton Hall (+1)

6 Seeds- Nevada (+1), Baylor (-2), Purdue (+1), USC (-3)

7 Seeds- Creighton (+1), UCLA (+1), Texas Tech (-1), Tennessee (+2)

8 Seeds- Texas, Arizona, Louisville (-3), Rhode Island (+2)

9 Seeds- Oklahoma (+1), Alabama (-2)Virginia Tech (NEW), Providence (-1)

10 Seeds- Texas-Arlington (+1), Kansas St. (NEW), SMU (+1), Florida St. (+1)

11 Seeds- St. Mary’s, Missouri (-2), Mississippi St. (NEW), Washington St. (-2), Oregon, Georgia

12 Seeds- Belmont, Middle Tennessee, Vermont, Northern Iowa (-1)

13 Seeds- Ball St.,  Charleston, New Mexico St. (+1), Bucknell (+1)

14 Seeds-  Florida Gulf Coast (-2), Oakland, Charleston (-1), Yale (New)

15 Seeds- Monmouth, East Tennessee St. (NEW), UNC Asheville (NEW), South Dakota (+1)

16 Seeds- UC Irvine, NC Central, Stephen F. Austin (NEW), Texas Southern,  St. Francis Pa. (NEW), Montana (NEW),