August 8, 2004: Headlines: COS - Eastern Caribbean: Museums: Science: Greensboro News Record: Eastern Caribbean RPCV Glenn Dobrogosz is Director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Eastern Caribbean: Peace Corps: Eastern Caribbean : The Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean: August 8, 2004: Headlines: COS - Eastern Caribbean: Museums: Science: Greensboro News Record: Eastern Caribbean RPCV Glenn Dobrogosz is Director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center

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Eastern Caribbean RPCV Glenn Dobrogosz is Director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center

Eastern Caribbean RPCV Glenn Dobrogosz is Director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center

Eastern Caribbean RPCV Glenn Dobrogosz is Director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center

Science center chief shares energy


By Allison Perkins, Staff Writer
News & Record

GREENSBORO -- Tigers and bears and chunks of raw meat thrown to alligators during feeding demonstrations -- oh my?

"Oh yeah," growls Glenn Dobrogosz, director of the Greensboro Natural Science Center, as his eyebrows knit together excitedly.

Dobrogosz is at work and he is excited, ecstatic really. But then again, it seems there's not a day when he isn't practically giddy as he glides through the science center halls.

The 40-year-old Dobrogosz loves animals, and science and enjoys having a little bit of the raw beauty of nature, something like alligators snapping up raw meat, thrown into his day.

And this spring, he took the helm of the science center as it embarks on a $5 million project, Animal Discovery, to bring more of the natural world to Greensboro. As a zoologist in training, and at heart, that's what Dobrogosz is really good at.

"I feel like I have the best job in the city," he says as he taps on a plastic box that holds a fist-sized, hairy tarantula. Dobrogosz warns, almost casually, that the spider would quickly jump on, bite and probably kill an innocent bystander if the box were opened.

"I get to do things here that a very small percentage of the population gets to do," he says. That includes feeding the incredibly dangerous tarantula, and creating a world for children to play and learn in -- Animal Discovery.

When Edward von der Lippe retired last year after 37 years as the center's president and CEO, Mark Isaacson, the center's chairman of the board of trustees, said the board knew choosing a new leader would be one of the biggest decisions the center would ever make.

What impressed the board about Dobrogosz, Isaacson said, was the same thing that inspires his staff and most visitors who happen upon him in the hall, covered in mud after helping to assemble the crocodile exhibit, or with poisonous spider in hand -- his pure energy.

"He makes you want to learn more about science and what's going on in our world," Isaacson said. "He's as curious as anyone about those things. He wants to figure it out and then be able to tell you about it."

Animal Discovery has become an outlet, Isaacson said, for Dobrogosz to take the already solid ideas and expand upon them with his creativity.

"Animal Discovery started with a great foundation, and Glen has taken it to the next level," Isaacson said.

"His own energy and creativity -- that's what you're seeing when you see this plan evolve."

The 22-acre Animal Discovery will take the place of the center's now-closed zoo and will expand into nearby wooded areas. Each exhibit is designed to put the visitors in the jungle, in the swamp and in the tops of the trees to see the animal's view of the world.

And while Dobrogosz thinks the animals are cuddly and wonderful, it's the science of how the animals behave, hunt and survive that really gives him goose bumps.

This year, Dobrogosz gathered with the center's board of directors during five daylong meetings to fine-tune the vision for Animal Discovery.

They emerged with a plan that not only expanded the original vision of the project, but also organized the whole exhibit into a series of themes that allowed the animals to show visitors their world.

How animals move, hide, hunt and communicate all became exhibit topics.

"This gives us a way to pull things for scientific interpretation," Dobrogosz said. The old zoo (at the science center) was a menagerie," Dobrogosz said. "We have created realms."

Even the animals' kitchen and veterinarian clinic will be open to the public through a series of giant windows.

It's all part of Dobrogosz's hope that science will continue to excite.

"You can never know enough," said Dobrogosz, a former Peace Corps worker and son of a biologist. "You look at kids today and you're not sure how many of them have that interest in the basic things around them and life science. It's everything.

"Here's a way to take certain aspects of biology and life and interpret it to kids," he said.

Animal Discovery has met its fund-raising goal of $5 million, an enormous stepping stone for the project. But Dobrogosz acknowledges that it's just a start. Recently, the San Diego Zoo built a single polar bear exhibit for $7.2 million.

Some demolition work will begin this fall for Animal Discovery at the site of the old zoo, though a strict timeline has not been set and would be "foolish" to set, Dobrogosz says, when you're working with animals.

The entire project is estimated to open in two phases, and be completely finished by 2007.

And Dobrogosz has no plans of stopping there.

As Dobrogosz leans back in his chair, revealing his mud-stained tennis shoes, he admits that he's already beginning to think about the next fantastic project for the center.

"In this Disneyesque world you build the exhibit and it's great, but you're always wondering, what's next," he says. "It's very hard to satisfy people in this entertainment-based world.

"I'm working on something that's totally secret right now," he says with a grin. "I'm not even sure I know what it is yet. I have some ideas.

"But," he says, leaning in, "we're not doing this for our personal needs. This is going to be your zoo. It's community service at its finest and that to me is integral to the long term success.

For now, Dobrogosz says the plans for Animal Discovery are on the move and he's busy teaching himself to stop playing zookeeper, as he has in the past, and spend more time in the office -- a difficult shift for a man who spent his two years of Peace Corps duty living in a barely modernized hut on the Caribbean Islands.

"I probably drive the staff crazy," Dobrogosz says. "I will always be involved, but I don't want to micromanage."

His tarantulas, however, let him do just that, as he whips live crickets into their boxes at feeding time and shuts the top, quickly to avoid injury.

He adores them as much as any animal, or even human, in the center. And that, staff and board members say, is what will make both Animal Discovery and the science center, grow.

"They're just youngsters," Dobrogosz says peering into the spider's box. "I like watching them grow and molt and become adults. It's satisfying."

Contact Allison Perkins at 373-7157 or

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Story Source: Greensboro News Record

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Eastern Caribbean; Museums; Science



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