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Students design new habitat for zoo animalsWhat do Oklahoma State University students, California sea lions and African penguins all have in common?
They are all involved in creating a future exhibit for the Tulsa Zoo.
OSU landscape architecture students recently developed models for a California sea lion pool renovation with the addition of an African penguin exhibit.
"I felt the zoo would make an interesting project because it is an affiliate garden member of the Oklahoma Botanical Garden Association, with whom our department works closely," said Matthew Kirkwood, landscape architecture professor.
As a part of Kirkwoodís Landscape Architecture Design I class, students were asked to put their experience and knowledge to the test in designing new exhibits for the zoo.
The project originated when Kirkwood contacted the zoo concerning ideas for reconstruction or expansion projects.
The zoo responded with a job to improve the existing California sea lion exhibit with the expansion of an African penguin exhibit.
Larry Nunley, director of the Tulsa Zoo, said the zooís intentions are to renovate the California sea lion habitat and to add an African penguin section to make a multi-species entrance to the zooís future "Oceans and Islands" exhibit.
A California sea lion basks in the
sun following a training session.
(photo by Nikki Harrington)
Kirkwood said the zooís contracted architect had previously presented ideas for the exhibit, but the zoo planners were willing to participate in the project to give students a perspective of what a project of this magnitude entails.
"As landscape architects, it is our job to meet client needs," Kirkwood said. "The challenge with this project was trying to meet the needs of the animal clients."
Geoff Evans, landscape architecture senior, said the class began surveying and analyzing the project by taking a field trip to Tulsa to view the existing conditions.
"Our current exhibit is functional, but as with anything there is always room for improvement," Nunley said.
The class was split up into teams of two for the designing of the models.
"Our main goal with this project was to learn how to work with others and to establish team building skills," Kirkwood said.
Shaun Miller, landscape architecture senior, said it was necessary to do further research on California sea lions and African penguins.
Miller said the Internet became useful in finding information on the animals and their habitats.
"You first have to know what the animals are used to before designing a habitat that they will live in day after day," Miller said. "We were really pushed to expand our ideas."
The students were given a month to fully complete the project.
The requirements were to produce a plan design, a support design with elevations and dimensions, and a model.
Materials such as crescent board, mat board and "whatever the students could find" were used to create the models. Plastics were also used to resemble water.
Upon completion of the project, the groups presented their work to OSU faculty, Tulsa Zoo staff, architect Rick Winn and zoo consultant Merlin Simons.
The students were asked to speak about the plans, models and reasoning behind their individual designs.
"They were very open to the idea because we presented them with 21 different plans instead of the original two from the architect," Kirkwood said. "We hope that the zoo will be able to take a few ideas from each plan to incorporate into one ideal plan."
"Our staff was amazed with the results," Nunley said. "The students did an outstanding job."
"We were not expecting such excellent work from a beginning level design class," Nunley said.
OSU landscape architecture students Eve Morgan,
Jared Cresswell, Rebekah Kerwin and Teri Andreas
present a model for the "Oceans and Islands" exhibit.
(photo by Matthew Kirkwood)
"This assignment gave me an opportunity to gain a better view of what this field was like," Evans said. "This project was a very educational experience."
"I think this particular assignment made the students stronger in interpreting user needs," Kirkwood said.
The landscape architecture degree is a five year program that contains six design classes. Currently, more than 120 students are enrolled in the program as landscape architecture or landscape contracting students.
"This major is so important to our world because you can do so much with it," Miller said.
Evans said he hopes to use his degree toward recreational design for parks and zoos while Miller would like to move into the area of land and site planning.
"This degree is an excellent way of expressing yourself while interacting with people," Kirkwood said.
For now, the students must sit back and wait until construction begins in Tulsa to see if their designs are implemented.
"Overall, the plans were both realistic and unrealistic designs for the Tulsa Zoo," Evans said. "They liked the ideas, but the city of Tulsa may not provide the necessary funds."
The zoo would possibly incorporate some of the ideas into the final exhibit, said Nunley. However, construction is on hold while the zoo is in the process of collecting money for the renovations.
Nunley said the zoo was pleased to partner with
OSU on assisting students in developing their skills and hopes to continue
this relationship with the university.