Friday, May 30, 2008

Baby Quail!

Free roaming bobwhite quail located in the Conservatory at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher nested this Spring and we now have offspring. Two quail hatched on May 29. They're in an incubator to maintain their boby heat while they get a little bigger, as they're still wobbly on their feet. About sixteen more eggs are incubating, however, not all are viable. (Click on photo to see larger images.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Toads Successfully Released

Over 1000 toads have been raised and released back into their normal habitat thanks to New Hanover County students and NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff. To highlight Year of the Frog and the plight of amphibians in the world, the aquarium provided the toad eggs for classrooms at seven area New Hanover County schools. They quickly had tadpoles, then toadlets, and soon had tiny toads. Students from Anderson Elementary, Carolina Beach Elementary, Cape Fear Center for Inquiry, Freeman Elementary, Myrtle Grove Middle School, St. Mary’s Parrish and Wrightsville Beach Elementary released the toads they raised at the NC Fish Hatchery, in Watha. More photos can be found on the Star-News website here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

It's that time of year again! From May through October, during the height of tourist season, an average of 775 nests are dug by female sea turtles on the shores of North Carolina. All sea turtles that nest in the US are either listed as threatened or endangered and penalties exist for killing, harassing or harming these turtles and their nests.

A female sea turtle lays an average of 100 eggs in each nest. If left undisturbed, eggs will hatch usually within 60 days. Did you know the temperature of the sand can dictate the sex of the hatchlings? Warmer sand creates more females and cooler sand creates more males. A good way to remember it is: "Hot chicks, cool dudes". After hatching, the tiny turtles make their way to the sea before they become prey for hungry predators. Beach visitors can also be a threat by disturbing nesting sea turtles and the nests.

To see a sea turtle up close and learn more about them, visit the "Let's Talk Turtle" exhibit at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. To help keep sea turtles safe, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have released the following guidelines:
  • Minimize beachfront lighting. Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms and turnoff outdoor lighting.
  • Remove all recreational equipment from the beach when not in use including chairs, umbrellas, towels, beach toys, etc.
  • Do not construct beach fires during the nesting season. The hatchlings could become disoriented and crawl toward the fire.
  • Refrain from using flashlights on the beach at night.
  • Do not take flash photography of a nesting sea turtle or hatchling.
  • Remove all of your trash from the beach - including cigarette butts.
  • Do not trample beach vegetation.
  • If you dig a hole in the sand, fill it in before you leave the beach for the day.
  • When boating, stay in the channels and avoid seagrass beds. Do not anchor your boat in a seagrass bed.
  • Leave the tracks left by turtles undisturbed.
  • Do not disturb nest markers. Most NC beaches have volunteer programs that protect and monitor sea turtle nests.
  • Report unmarked nests, hurt or dead sea turtles to the local police or sea turtle volunteer organization.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Are you curious about Cape Fear?

Here's your opportunity to be a Cape Fear Explorer! The Cape Fear Explorer Passport is a great way to discover the history, the science, the culture, and the excitement of the four-county region known as Cape Fear.

After visiting a participating site, including the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, have your passport stamped before leaving. When you collect six stamps from at least two participating counties, send a copy of your passport to the Cape Fear Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. By return mail, you will receive the 2008 Cape Fear Explorer patch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Serendipitous Seascapes

The stunning artwork of Kristin Gibson now graces the lobby of the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Two pieces entitled Into the Aquarium I and Into the Aquarium II feature aquatic life, including sting rays and turtles. Both are made of wax and dye on silk.

Kristin lives in Carolina Beach with her family, and paints full time from her home and backyard in a space called "Saltwater Studio". The name gives a nod to a lifetime lived by the sea and to the salt and water integral to her process. Several galleries represent Kristin including City Art Gallery in Greenville; Tyler White Gallery in Greensboro; Three Hounds Gallery in Wilmington; and Artshak in Southport.

Kristin considers herself a multi-surface painter. She paints still life paintings on traditional canvas or woven jacquard. Fabrics and recycled clothing become mixed media stories of surf art or beach houses. Kristin also paints expressionistic seascapes on canvas and wood panels rescued from floors and walls of abolished buildings in and near Wilmington and Carolina Beach. Silk also intrigues and inspires her. Whether a hand painted silk scarf, or a large batik art wall hanging, Kristin relishes in mixing color and form upon a surface that is so completely responsive.

* All images © Kristin Gibson

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Turtle Egg Update

It appears that at least some of the turtle eggs laid in the conservatory at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher on April 29 will produce baby turtles on or about the first of July! After the eggs were laid, Aquarist Keith Farmer dug them up and placed them in an incubator. We've been anxiously waiting to find out if the eggs were fertile. We will keep you posted and have baby pictures soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bright Light

How many light bulbs does it take to change the world? One. If each household in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it would eliminate the equivalent of emissions created by one million cars. And most homes have 15-30 bulbs.

CFL bulbs contain an very small amount of mercury; about 1/100 the amount in a household thermometer. An unbroken CFL doesn't pose a health concern. However, expended CFL's should be disposed of properly, just like household hazardous waste such as paint and batteries.

If a CFL bulb breaks:
  • Don't inhale the vapor.
  • Don't use a vacuum.
  • Sweep the pieces together with a brush or broom.
  • Clean up glass with a wet rag or towel and place the towel, along with the pieces, into a sealed plastic bag.
Dispose of expended or broken CFL's at your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Site. If your local HHW Collection Site does not accept CFLs, check with local authorities. Many CFL retail outlets also offer safe disposal or recycling.

How to Green Your Baby

Did you know that your baby will use approximately 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose? Consider using cloth diapers or biodegradable diapers. Cloth diapers aren't what they used to be. No more sticking the baby with diaper pins or sagging. bumGenius's all-in-one cloth diapers offer stretchy tabs with hook and loop fasteners. Washing cloth diapers does take water, energy, and chemicals (not to mention time), but you might want to consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53% of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service, that impact is halved again.

Biodegradable diapers are made with plant-based plastics, are non-petroleum based, and are compostable. While not degradable under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Camp for Teens!

Need something for your young teen to do this summer? Sign him or her up for summer camp. Summer camp for a teen? Yep! The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is offering it's first ever camp for teens age 13-14. In Coastal Crusaders, teens participate in fishing, canoeing, and exploring barrier islands, among other adventures. This camp inspires learning more about protecting coastal resources. For camp dates and registration information, click here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Local Catch

North Carolina harvests some of the finest fish and shellfish available anywhere in the world. Our fish stocks are disappearing because they have been over fished or harvested using damaging fishing practices. To keep our favorite seafood plentiful for us to enjoy and to keep it around for future generations, we must act now.

As a shopper, you have the power to turn the tide. When you purchase seafood that's in season and from fisheries using ocean-friendly methods, you reward their actions and encourage others to act and operate responsibly.

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, in partnership with NC Seafood and Sea Grant of NC has produced seafood availability cards to provide you with seasonal choices for winter, fall, summer, and spring. Pick up your copy at the Aquarium during your next visit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tips for Buying Organic on the Cheap

Do you enjoy the taste of organic food but you’re turned off by the price? Organic food sales hit $10 billion in 2003, up from $178 million in 1980. If you’re willing to do some creative shopping and cooking, you can enjoy the freshness and goodness of organic foods without breaking your food budget.

1. Shop at farmer’s markets. Wilmington’s Riverfront Farmers’ Market is open again.
2. Grow your own. And no fossil fuels are used.
3. Shop sales and house brands. Many grocers now have their own organic lines.
4. Buy in season. This way, you can load up on all your favorite organic fruits and veggies, dirt-cheap!
5. Join a co-op. Wilmington’s Tidal Creek offers discounts to members.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Going Green is the New Black

There's a new trend in fashion, and it's all about going green. By using non-toxic dyes and fabrics produced without the use of pesticides, designers are creating more fashions with the environment in mind. Typically, when you think of organic fashion, you may think of comfy, organic cotton t-shirts. But, trendy jeans designer "7 for all mankind" now makes "organic denim" that sells for $161.

Even shoe designers are becoming socially responsible by using faux leathers, organic cotton, and paper pulp foot forms. Melissa Shoes recycles 99.9% of factory water and waste and overstock styles are recycled into new styles. Greenloop provides eco-friendly and more importantly, eco-chic fashion. Visit their website here.

While a bit more expensive, you can shop "green" and be stylish at the same time.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Underwater Garden

For Mike Suchy, aquarist at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, gardening is a passion. His love for growing things and strong interest in coral reefs spawned a new project: a coral propagation and holding system within the aquarium.

By snipping fragments of existing coral, mounting it on small disks, and submerging it under water with a light source, Suchy has begun to “grow” coral. “It’s much like taking a cutting from a plant and potting it to grow more,” says Suchy. Growth rates vary depending on variety, but tend to be slow, sometimes only a few inches per year. Temperature, pH, and salinity are kept constant. A moving light hangs above the tank. “A moving light source is more natural and light is of paramount importance to corals,” explains Suchy. Reef-building corals contain symbiotic algae within their tissues that convert light energy into a food source, which helps provide sustenance for the coral colony.

Mike Suchy has a degree in biology from University of Nebraska. He has been at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher for 15 years.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Litter, Litter Everywhere...

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher employees cleaned up Hwy 421 today. The aquarium has adopted part of the highway and cleans it regularly. Cigarette butts were the most common items found (did you know it takes decades for them to degrade?), in addition to beer cans and plastic bottles. But, we also found a huge pile of plastic wrap with a tiny crab trapped inside - another good reason not to litter! How can you help? Organize a clean up, starting with your own neighborhood. Remember to wear bright colored clothing, bug spray, sunscreen, and gloves. Most importantly, dispose of trash and recycling properly, not on the streets!