Monday, December 21, 2009

The Green Way to Give Gifts

Choosing the perfect gift during the holidays can prove to be difficult. After debating about the best gift, you may be wondering how environmentally friendly is this present? There are several ways to ensure that your gift is not only putting a smile on someone’s face, but it’s also making the environment happy.

Purchasing gifts locally is an excellent way to reduce your holiday footprint. Buying items from local artisans can help save on shipping and carbon emissions, as well as keep money in the community. Local artwork, jewelry, food products, and other crafts make for unique gifts that are sure to be a big hit!

Making your own gifts is not only a special way to give to your family and friends during the holidays, it’s also rewarding to the environment because it uses less shipping and packaging. The time and effort you put into creating personalized gifts will put smiles on their faces and warmth in their hearts.

Give a gift of experience and adventure! Instead of buying your brother a baseball bat or your friend a candle holder, try a more daring route and purchase them a gift that keeps on giving. Try buying a year-long pass to a National Forest, Aquarium, Zoo, or Kayaking company. These gifts will allow people to connect with nature all year-long!

All of these gift ideas can help secure your name on the “nice list” this year with not only Santa, but Mother Nature as well!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aquarium Honors Employees

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher honored its employees this month by awarding its annual Sea Star and FISH Philosophy™ awards. These awards honor a permanent, temporary or seasonal state or society employee that has gone above and beyond their usual job responsibilities to make the Aquarium a better place to work and visit.

Julie Johnson, an Aquarist Technician in the Husbandry department won the Sea Star award and Special Activities Coordinator Renee Weeks was awarded the FISH Philosophy™ award. Employees are nominated by their peers and are awarded $250 from the N.C. Aquarium Society, a recognition plaque, dinner for two at Sticky Fingers, and recognition in Aquarium News magazine.

FISH Philosophy™ award nominees included: Matt Babineau, Martha Latta, Ginger Black, Tom Coit, Chad Goodson, Bob Griffin, and Doug Noonan. Sea Star award nominees included: Matt Babineau, Terry Bryant, Dennis Doremus, Hap Fatzinger, Doug Noonan, Nancy Peterson, and Tiffany Walker.

The recipient of the Sea Star award is given to an Aquarium employee for outstanding job performance at the Aquarium and service to the community. The recipient of the FISH Philosophy™ award is given to an Aquarium employee who has gone above and beyond to make the Aquarium a better place to work and visit by choosing a positive attitude, making co-workers’ and visitors’ days, playing, and being physically and mentally at work.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Wrap your Holiday up the Sustainable Way

The holidays are filled with all things wrapped; presents, food, cards, or the Hot Wheels™ box that fit your child’s brand new Jeep™ inside…all things that at the end of the day can be recycled. In order to make this holiday season a more sustainable one, here are a few tips:

- Use recycled paper, leftover pieces of fabric or wallpaper, or pictures from a children’s coloring book as gift wrap
- Use old newspapers as a delightful holiday wrapping paper
- Create a gift from a gift; place your holiday present in a tin or nice box that can be used forever
- Save gift wrap, gift bags, and bows each year and reuse them the following year
- When writing tags for presents try using old greeting cards or scrap paper instead of buying new ones each year
- Put leftovers in reusable containers instead of covering all of them with pounds of aluminum foil or plastic wrap
- Make sure to recycle all the cardboard boxes
- Finally….after the living room is filled with wrapping paper mountains make sure to recycle or reuse them instead of throwing them away

Keep these easy tips in mind and make this holiday special for you and the environment.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aquarium Welcomes New Special Events Assistant and Outreach Coordinator

For two part-time employees at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, 2009 was an eventful year. When two full-time positions opened in the departments that Emily Bullock and Jennifer Fiorino were working in, they both jumped at the opportunity to interview. Both openings brought in great potential candidates, and after the interviewing process was completed, the Aquarium was able to offer the positions to Bullock and Fiorino.

When Emily Bullock joined the team at the Aquarium as a special events assistant in 2008, she always hoped the temporary position would become permanent. With the success of the rental program at the Aquarium, management was able to create a full-time, permanent position, paid for out of receipts earned in the rental program. Bullock applied and interviewed for the job, and the Aquarium is proud to announce her appointment to the position. She looks forward to expanding the Aquarium’s rental program.

Jennifer Fiorino has always worked in the environmental education field. After moving to the coastal region of North Carolina in 2008, she was hired as the assistant outreach coordinator at the Aquarium. When the full-time position for outreach coordinator became vacant this fall, Fiorino was excited to apply for the job, which is funded with admission receipts. She plans to continue to take the outreach program to new and exciting heights in the future.

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to promote two very talented young women into permanent, full-time positions. We know they are going to perform to the highest expectations based on their recent excellent performances as temporary employees at the Aquarium,” says Director Donna Moffitt.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let's Rock the Boat!

Each year, Encore Magazine holds a "Best of Wilmington" awards. And each year, the Battleship wins "Best Attraction". Let's rock the boat and vote NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher as "Best Attraction".Cast your vote here and thank you for your support!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ring in the Holidays with Family and Fish

The holidays are fast approaching, and what better way to spend this time of year than at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher! The Aquarium is offering several events and programs to help get you and the family in the holiday spirit.

“Be a Child During the Holidays” weekend offers everyone, young and old, Aquarium admission at the child’s rate. All visitors to the Aquarium December 12 and 13 will be admitted for $6 each, as a gift from us to you! Special activities include holiday crafts, film screenings of “Mickey’s Magical Christmas”, a puppet show called “Polar Opposites” and Scuba Santa in Cape Fear Shoals. Santa Claus will also be joining the fish filled holiday festivities; visitors will have the chance to take a photo with him during the weekend.

Holiday Elf Camp gives children ages 5-10 years old the opportunity to become Santa’s little helpers! Your elves will be making gifts, wrapping them, meeting other elves, and creating memories at the Aquarium. This fun and educational program gives adults guilt-free time for holiday shopping or relaxation. The program fee of $50 includes Aquarium admission, pizza lunch, snacks, crafts, holiday gift-wrap, and instruction. Each camp offers a different theme of animals. Register early at (910) 458-7468 to get the date you want. Dates for Holiday Elf Camp are:

Saturday, December 5, 2009; 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM – Focus on Freshwater Animals
Saturday, December 12, 2009; 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM – Focus on Brackish Water Animals
Saturday, December 19, 2009; 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM – Focus on Saltwater Animals

The Aquarium is offering a festive twist to the popular Children’s Discovery Time program. Pre-school children create creatures of their own, as well as enjoy story-telling time. Each program offers a diverse animal theme with a holiday touch. The fee for the program is $5 per child. Parents pay admission only. Pre-registration is required. Dates for Children’s Discovery Time are:

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 10:00 AM – Holiday Spiny Skinned Animals
Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 10:00 AM – Holiday Turtles

Monday, November 30, 2009

Elf Camp

Need some guilt-free time away from the kids to finish (or start!) your holiday shopping? Sign up your 5-10 year old up for Elf Camp at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher where they will make and wrap gifts, meet other elves and tour the Aquarium. This fun and educational program gives adult elves guilt-free time for holiday shopping or relaxation. Register early at (910) 458-7468 to get the date you want.

ELF CAMP: Freshwater Animals
Saturday, December 5
Times: 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM
Ages: 5-10 years old
Fee: $50 includes aquarium admission, pizza lunch, snacks, crafts, holiday gift-wrap,
and instruction

ELF CAMP: Brackish Water Animals
Saturday, December 12
Time: 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM
Ages: 5-10 years old
Fee: $50 includes aquarium admission, pizza lunch, snacks, crafts, holiday gift-wrap, and instruction

ELF CAMP: Focus on Saltwater Animals
Saturday, December 19
Time: 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM
Ages: 5-10 years old
Fee: $50 includes aquarium admission, pizza lunch, snacks, crafts, holiday gift-wrap, and instruction

Limited transportation from the Monkey Junction area is available to and from Elf Camp. We can accommodate only 13 children per day. A fee and pre-registration is required.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Great Laundry Debate

Laundry is a chore that most people would like to forget, and in many instances halfway through the chore people do forget! Re-drying the laundry to remove wrinkles instead of actually removing the clothes from the dryer and drying the comforter numerous times because it never gets dry enough; these are all common problems that people face when doing the laundry. Among the appliances in your home, dryers use the most electricity, making them one of the least environmentally friendly.
One way to reduce your ecological footprint is discovering alternative ways to dry your laundry. Project Laundry List is attempting to make air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as a simple and effective way to save energy. The program focuses on educating people about why they should use clotheslines and other non-dryer techniques. They have also used advocacy as a technique in recent accomplishments, such as the Right to Dry legislation that is attempting to make it possible for people to use clotheslines in areas they were previously banned from using. This awesome program hopes to continue to create positive change that will better the environment.

To learn more about program visit

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Aquababies Weekend THIS WEEKEND!

Pack a diaper bag and bring your camera...we're showing off our babies! The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will host an “Aquababies Weekend” November 21-22, 2009 from 9 am to 5 pm each day.

The Aquarium's tremendous success producing baby animals will be highlighted all weekend. Meet our 'youngsters' including: jellyfish, sea turtles, alligators, sea horses, fishes, snakes and more. “This is a unique opportunity for the community to see babies that were either born here at the Aquarium or came to us as babies,” says Hap Fatzinger, aquarium curator.

Baby animals will be on view, as well as stingray, turtle and snake x-rays from pregnant mothers. The Aquarium’s education department will provide activities to help visitors appreciate the animals on display as well as the challenges to on-site propagation. New this year, tanks will be set up featuring juvenile versions of several adult fish that can be found in the Cape Fear Shoals tank, such as juvenile sandbar sharks, tripletail, spadefish, and a goliath grouper.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkey Day the Sustainable Way

Oh what a glorious time of year! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we are all patiently waiting for that one aspect of the day; the FEAST! The Thanksgiving feast is a time for food inhibitions to be thrown away, but let’s make it the only thing we toss away! Here are a few simple ways to make your feast more sustainable:

1. Purchase locally grown, seasonal produce- Buying local reduces the amount of shipping it takes to transport them to the area and supports local businesses and farmers. For the freshest vegetable and fruits, buy seasonal produce.

2. Buy organic foods- Buying organic foods help the environment because of the reduced use of pesticides. Several essential feast items can now be found in organic including turkey, apples and celery.

3. Create natural centerpieces- When searching for the perfect items to create a Thanksgiving centerpiece, try looking in nature instead of stores. Pinecones, dried leaves, Osage oranges, and other natural materials that can be found in your backyard can create an awesome centerpiece for all to enjoy!

4. Purchase ingredients with minimal packaging- Many food products are wrapped in multiple layers of packaging, which ends up in the trash can. Attempt to find products that are lightly wrapped in order to cut back on the trash.

5. Don’t use the garbage disposal plate technique- We tend to mound an assortment of food on our plates until it is impossible to tell where the turkey ends and the green bean casserole begins! American’s thrown away 40% of their food, so this year encourage your family to take smaller portions and clean their plates (then go back for seconds, if needed).

6. Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers!- Find new innovative ways to turn leftover food into more masterpieces!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Right Day to Spot a Whale

It’s not an everyday sight to see a whale in the Fort Fisher area, but for one recreational boater Sunday, November 8th was a lucky day. The boater called in a report that they had seen a North Atlantic Right whale around Masonboro Jetty. UNCW’s aerial marine mammal survey team was in the air at the time and flew over the area to see if the sighting was accurate. In fact, three North Atlantic Right whales were sighted near Fort Fisher State Park in Kure Beach. This is one of the earliest recorded seasonal sightings of North Atlantic Right whales in the Cape Fear region.

Right whales are large, bulky baleen whales. Baleen whales lack teeth and use baleen, which hangs in rows from the roof of the mouth, to sieve ocean waters for planktonic prey. The upper jaw of a North Atlantic Right whale is narrow and covered by hardened patches of skin called “callosities.”These callosities are actually sea lice living symbiotically on the whales and every Right whale can be identified by a unique callosity pattern. Right whales lack a dorsal fin or ridge; this and their large paddle-shaped pectoral fins help distinguish them from the humpback whale. Humpback whales travel along the NC coast in winter months often close enough to see from shore. North Atlantic Right whales are commonly 35-55 feet long; the largest ever recorded was 60 feet long. They are among the slowest swimming whales, and can live up to 70 years. The North Atlantic Right whale is extremely endangered even though it has been protected since the 1930s. Right whales, because they swim slowly close to shore, suffer high mortality from ship strikes with large ocean vessels. Entanglement in fishing gear also poses a great threat to these whales. Climate change impacts on the ocean threaten the productivity of Right whale feeding grounds. Copepods, the primary prey for North Atlantic Right whales, decline in response to even a slight increases in ocean temperature.

Several options have been suggested to reduce the deaths of Right whales; including boat speed limits and whale calls in avoid ship collisions. Vessel restrictions went into effect in December 2009. The restrictions require boats 65 feet or longer to travel at a speed of 10 knots or less in certain locations along the east coast of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard at certain times of the year, these new rules are an effort to bring the Right whales back to a healthy status.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Loggerheads Come to Town

As most head for the open ocean when they emerge from their sandy nests, some sea turtle hatchlings are detoured to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for health concerns. On Wednesday, October 21, the Aquarium released three loggerhead sea turtles that were rescued last summer right before tropical storm Hanna swept through the coast. The hatchlings were obtained from a Carolina Beach nest.

The loggerheads have been part of an interactive exhibit, Let’s Talk Turtle, which features a loggerhead hatchling and a replica of a nest with newly hatched turtles starting their run to the ocean.

Due to human pressures and other factors, all sea turtles that frequent North Carolina waters are listed as threatened or endangered. The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher annually cares for many hatchlings suffering from injury, weakness or cold weather. The Aquarium releases all sea turtles that recover at the facility, most as soon as they are strong enough to face life in the wild. A few stay a little longer on exhibit as part of the Aquarium’s educational efforts.

Let’s Talk Turtle is a learning station that puts visitors face to face with a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle, and gives them a chance to ask questions.

“Assigning a ‘turtle talker’ really adds value,” said Education Curator Peggy Sloan, who helps train volunteers and staffers for duty in the booth. “Loggerheads are a threatened species,” explained Sloan, “and by helping people understand them we’re increasing their odds for survival.”

The loggerheads are rotated at the exhibit daily. Their diet is adjusted and modified consistently to ensure proper bone and shell growth. Weekly length and weight measurements help track growth. Quarterly blood tests performed by veterinarians from NC State University and daily sunbathing ensure calcium is properly absorbed and the turtles are healthy.

The three new hatchlings at the Aquarium were obtained by a nest in Carolina Beach. Out of the 137 turtles in the nest, 125 hatched and seven were left in the nest when it was excavated. The Aquarium received three of the seven post hatchlings.

The Aquarium works closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, who manages sea turtle permitting, monitoring and rescue efforts on the state’s beaches.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Go Green for Halloween

Black and orange may be the designated colors for Halloween, but adding a little green to the mix can go a long way. Make this Halloween a treat to Mother Nature by following these easy tips to have a green Halloween.

1. Trick-or-treat with a reusable bag- Cloth or canvas bags are a much better alternative to plastic bags. Pillowcases are also a great way to tote your candy the environmental way. Americans use more than 380 million plastic bags every year, which hurts the environment as well as animals that may digest them.

2. Make do-it-yourself costumes- Making costumes from old clothes or other items you have around will help cut costs on Halloween expenses, as well as make use of old items lying around. After Halloween, you can trade your costume with other people or donate the clothing to a thrift store.

3. Give environmental friendly treats- In an effort to reduce waste, buy candy that uses less or no packaging. Buying candy locally is another excellent option to handing out eco-friendly treats. Buying locally helps support the local economy, as well as reduces the amount of fossil fuels used to transport the candy.

4. Walk instead of drive- This tip is a simple way to reduce your ecological footprint. Instead of driving to diverse neighborhoods, stick close to home and walk.

5. Compost your pumpkins- After carving and decorating your Halloween pumpkin, instead of throwing it away, try creating a compost and putting it in there. Composting is a wonderful way to create soil for your garden.

6. Finally, keep it going after Halloween! Becoming environmental friendly is a lifestyle change that requires work all year long. Taking these techniques and applying them to daily life is an excellent way to make every day a green day!

A Tiny Life

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher Aquarist Technician April Zilg is responsible for some of the smallest animals at the Aquarium: seahorses. Behind the scenes is home to a “nursery”, where April monitors their birthing process.

A female seahorse deposits her eggs into the pouch of her male partner who then fertilizes and carries the eggs until they hatch in 11-21 days. At the Aquarium, when a male is carrying young, he is moved into a special nursery area. Sometimes the birth process lasts up to three days and the male gives birth to hundreds of babies! Only about 15-30 babies survive, depending on how large they are when born.

Baby seahorses, called “fry”, are about 8 millimeters when born and eat constantly. They only accept live food, and within 2-3 weeks double in size. Last year, April was in the process of rearing her first group of seahorses. But, one in particular had her worried. Born on October 14, this seahorse wasn’t eating as much as he should and as he grew, his stomach was sunken in. April gave him an antiparasitic medication called metronidazole in his food, but she didn't see any improvement for a long time. Under her watchful eye and care, the seahorse she affectionately dubbed “Skinny” seemed to slowly get better by himself. On October 14, 2009, “Skinny” celebrated his first birthday. He is in a holding tank with about 20 other seahorses, and growing more and more.

For April, seahorses are fascinating and she enjoys sharing her knowledge and a conservation message with others, “I can't tell you how many people don't even know seahorses are real, or have never seen one. Being able to display seahorses brings more understanding, and hopefully they like them enough that they may do a beach sweep or join an oceanic conservation association... or just more conscious of their impacts on our ocean.”

Some seahorses stay at the Aquarium on display. Others go to other aquariums, either as part of the breeding program or for exhibit. Breeding and raising display animals eliminates the need to collect from the wild. April says, “I like our seahorse propagation program because it reduces the impact on wild populations. Breeding seahorses and sending them to other aquariums makes me pretty happy because each one I send is one not caught from the wild.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trick or Treat...At the Aquarium

Celebrate Halloween early with the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher’s Trick or Treat Under the Sea. The aquarium welcomes trick-or-treaters of all ages on two frightful nights this year: Wednesday, October 28 or Thursday, October 29 from 5:00 to 8:30 pm.

Dress up in costume (no masks for adults, please), rake in the candy and play games with prizes. Enjoy face painting, story-telling, and haunted gardens. Look for our spooky divers in the big tank! At 6:40 pm on both nights, a magic show entitled “Pirates Have Problems” by No Sleeves Magic Camp will be held in the Auditorium.

Admission is $6 per person. Children 2 and under are free. Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Only umbrella strollers will be allowed in the building for this event. Be green and bring your favorite trick or treat bag!

Pre-sale tickets are available now and are selling fast! Tickets will be sold on the day of the event from 5 to 8 p.m. Please call 910-458-8257 for tickets and more information.

NOTE: The Aquarium will close at 2:30 pm on October 38 and 29 to decorate and will reopen for Trick or Treat Under the Sea at 5:00 pm.