The Houston Zoo is well known for its efforts in saving wildlife. Sea turtles, Houston Toads, Attwater’s Prairie Chickens and even butterflies! Yearly staff and volunteers participate in Monarch tagging. The butterflies are then reported to Monarch Watch when found so their migration can be tracked.
Some of our staff have a special interest in pollinators and are our Staff Pollinator Pals. Through 2019, we will be spotlighting some of these staff members so you can get to know them and learn about how they are helping pollinators.
Today we want to spotlight Ariel Sklar who is currently a Supervisor in our Horticulture Department. Ariel is also an ISA certified Arborist, a member of our compost team, and one of the Zoo’s
Monarch Butterfly Tagging Captains. She has been with the Houston Zoo for 6 years and is a long time Houstonian – in fact, she is a native! She grew up just 20 minutes from the zoo and even attended Camp Zoofari as a kid.
Some of her other duties take her to some high places – treetops! Part of her work entails climbing trees to trim limbs. This often involves ropes, harnesses and chainsaws. This is often done to protect our guests from falling limbs in addition to helping with general tree health. Keeping those dead limbs cut is very important to overall safety. Ariel didn’t start out in Horticulture. She got a degree from Texas A&M University in Animal Science. When she started at the Houston Zoo in horticulture, she had only worked with animals up to that point. But, when her supervisor started her on tending to a butterfly garden, she fell in love! Ariel became obsessed with fixing it up and learning about the different plants that would attract pollinators. The pollinator that really caught her attention was the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly and it has become her favorite.
Ariel has been busy working to save pollinators in the wild. Not only does she plant pollinator gardens at the zoo, she has planted them at home too. She has also worked on a Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Project that is building pollinator pathway gardens around the Johnson Space Center and has helped tagging Monarch Butterflies at the Zoo.
She loves teaching people about the importance of planting pollinator gardens. To hear it directly from Ariel “Planting pollinator gardens is fun and easy. It is a great activity for any
one to do. A great butterfly garden to plant is an herb garden.” Herbs and vegetables are not only host plants for caterpillars, when they bloom, they provide nectar for many pollinators. There are plenty of online resources including the Houston Zoo’s website for information about planting a pollinator garden.
Here are some awesome resources for plant selection and purchase:
Native American Seed: http://www.seedsource.com/Default.asp
Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter https://npsot.org/wp/houston/
Another benefit to planting your own pollinator garden? Bring photos, reports or journals about your garden to the Swap Shop at the Houston Zoo. You will be registered as a Houston Zoo Pollinator Pal along with earning points to spend in the shop! Don’t know about the shop? Click here to learn more.