Monday, August 31, 2009

Proud to be a Puffer

If you have ever been to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher then you have probably seen two large porcupinefish, commonly known as pufferfish that live in our 235,000 gallon Cape Fear Shoals tank. If you were lucky, you may have even caught them smiling at you. Although much smaller in size, the tiny burrfish, another type of puffer, that live in the Buzzard Bay exhibit could melt the toughest man’s heart. Their ability to speed through the exhibit has always been a crowd pleaser.

Although pufferfish may look cute and cuddly, their public enemy number one is other pufferfish. As adults, they can become territorial in an aquarium and in turn attempt to injure others. At the aquarium, staff works hard to keep them all living together and happy. (Only one pufferfish should call a tank home because an aggressive fight may erupt if a second one moves into the neighborhood.) Another interesting fact about this magnificent species is that they are extremely poisonous (only some species are poisonous, see below from Wikipedia)

Some species are poisonous, having a tetrodotoxin in their internal organs, such as the ovaries and liver. This neurotoxin is at least 1200 times more potent than cyanide, but some scientists believe it is produced by several types of bacteria that are somehow obtained from the fish's diet as fish bred in captivity are not poisonous.

A puffer’s body holds a type of toxin called tetrodotoxin, which if eaten can cause paralysis or death. Yet in Asian cultures puffer fish are eaten as a delicacy on a regular basis.

The most unique quality of a puffer is its ability to swell up when scared or threatened. This adaptation is a magnificent sight to see. So, enjoy viewing puffers from afar, at the NC Aquarium.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Heart of a Diver

When most people think of divers they think of mystery people in shiny black suits, but for one 15-year-old boy, the divers at the Aquarium at Fort Fisher were much more. While visiting the Aquarium with his mother, Scott was given an amazing surprise from a diver in the Cape Fear Shoals tank. While peering into the 235,000 gallon tank at the Aquarium, Scott was greeted by a diver who pretended to be ‘Spiderman’ by crouching upside down in front of the glass. The diver also placed his hand on the glass, which Scott mimicked with great excitement. This small interaction meant wonders to Scott, who is Autistic. He loves scuba divers and now thanks to the Aquarium staff he holds a special place in his heart for these underwater heroes.

Generally lingering behind the scenes or deep in tanks, divers keep a low profile (most days). Yet their hearts may be bigger than their appearance around the Aquarium. Each day, divers complete two dive shows at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm where they talk to the public from inside the Cape Fear Shoals tank. This is one of the greatest moments for young children who are offered the opportunity to ask the divers any question they want. Although this is just another task in the daily life of a diver, Scott’s memorable story proves that our divers take pride in the magnitude of joy and excitement they bring to people visiting the Aquarium.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bringin Oysters Back!

The Benthic Ecology Lab at University of North Carolina Wilmington has created The Oyster Spat Monitoring Program, a volunteer effort to discover when and where oysters reproduce and settle along the north, central, and south eastern coasts of North Carolina. Oysters have been in decline as a result of over- harvesting, increased pollution and runoff, and disease and competition from invasive species. Volunteers track the settlement of oysters on a set of ceramic tiles cable-tied to a “Spat Rack” design, which sits below the marsh grass line and are positioned to mimic local oyster reefs. Spat racks are created out of PVC pipe, ceramic tiles, cable ties and a drain hose. Volunteers also collect data on salinity, water and air temperature to learn more about the environment where oysters grow best.

Although UNCW has studied oyster populations for several years, the recent decline in oyster populations has shifted the project’s focus to discovering new methods and procedures that may enhance oyster populations. Another program goal is to restore areas where there are declining populations of oysters around the North Carolina coast. The restoration of oyster populations is important for countless reasons. Oysters are extremely valuable because they provide food, filtration, and fish habitat.

To learn more information about The Oyster Spat Monitoring Program or discover how to become a volunteer and assist in this amazing effort visit the website at
*Picture by volunteer Lee Bailey

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NC Aquarium Accepting Booth Sponsors for Halloween Event

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites businesses and organizations to sponsor booths at the seventh annual “Trick or Treat Under the Sea.” The event has been expanded to two nights for 2009 – Wednesday, Oct. 28 and Thursday, Oct. 29.

The event, also known as TOTUS, features indoor trick-or-treating for children from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sponsoring a booth is a wonderful way to promote your business by interacting with families in the community at this fun and popular event.

Booth space is available for $75 per day. Vendors may attend one or both nights. Sponsors decorate booths and provide enough treats for the several hundred children expected each night. Sponsors bring their own tables, decorations and power cords.

Booth sponsorships are available first-come, first-served. For more information or to register, call Special Events Coordinator Terry Bryant at 910-458-8257 ext. 218.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Catch of the Day

Commercial fishermen, seafood dealers, and local restaurant owners from Brunswick County have joined forces to create Brunswick Catch, a local seafood recognition program. The program is an effort to promote the long history of the Brunswick County seafood industry that is in peril due to population growth, fluctuations in fuel costs, and influx of lower-cost imported seafood. The program’s ultimate goal is to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Brunswick County seafood program through public education and promotion.

The Brunswick Catch website states, “We hope to increase the demand for locally harvested seafood among residents and visitors, with a long term goal of making Brunswick Catch seafood a recognized brand throughout the eastern United States” (

Whenever someone mentions the history of Brunswick County one thing that comes to mind are fishermen. If you have ever visited the Yacht Basin in Southport, you have come into contact with some of the nicest and oldest fishermen in the business. Their knowledge of the seafood industry is extensive! Restaurants throughout the area have helped this small market grow as many turn to these local providers for the freshest seafood. Top quality seafood, such as shrimp, blue crabs, grouper, flounder, oysters, and clams have all been harvested from the area. The program was formed with the assistance of Brunswick County Economic Development Commission, Brunswick County Commissioners, North Carolina Sea Grant and Carteret Catch

The Aquarium’s Local Catch program initiative has generated a great deal of interest from the community. The mission of the program is to create awareness about sustainable fisheries, and that fisheries are seasonal. Each card presents a different set of “Quality Counts” tips for selecting seasonal fresh seafood. Sustainable harvesting means we will enjoy seafood today and in the future. Species listed as North Carolina “Local Catch” are managed for long-term viability.

Camper Chronicles Week 8 / Day 5

The last day of Aquarium summer camp was a sad day for the campers and the staff. The summer was filled with awesome activities and stellar campers. Thank you to all the campers that made Camper Chronicles possible and those that have followed Camper Chronicles, stay tuned for next year when the fun returns!
Chyanne, “My favorite part was feeding and taking care of the animals, but my most favorite was learning about them.”

Cameron, “My favorite part was feeding dead rats to the snakes.”

Alana, “My favorite part of camp was canoeing out to Zeke’s Island, swimming in the swimming holes, and hanging out with my friends.”

Eason, “My favorite part of camp this week was going canoeing because we got to swim in the little hole and our canoe got their first.”

Morgan, “My favorite thing about this week was being able to feed all of the animals and learning what they like to eat.”

Abby, “My favorite part of the week was making all of these new friends.”

Kirra, “My favorite thing about camp this week was going to Zeke’s Island in canoes. We got to swim in the water.”

Harris, “I liked seeing giant clams and touching the animals.”

Ashley, “My favorite thing this week was feeding and taking care of the animals.”

Kylee, “My favorite part of this week was going crabbing and feeding the animals.”

Rob, “My favorite thing I did this week was feeding the animals.”

Hannah, “I loved feeding all the animals. My favorite was the frogs!”

Preston, “My favorite thing about camp this week was getting to shadow the Aquarist and getting to see what they do daily.”

Sarah, “My favorite thing about being at camp this week was seeing everything behind the scenes, feeding the baby seahorses, and learning about dolphins.”

George, “My favorite thing was playing with my friends.”

Camper Chronicles Week 8 / Day 4

On the fourth day of Animal Keeper summer camp the kids helped feed the Aquarium animals. The campers also learned about the life cycle of several animals that call the Aquarium home. Here is what they had to say.

Ashley, “Today I learned that they feed frozen mice to their snakes!”

Cameron, “I learned that snake’s food has to be dry.”

Kylee, “I learned the life cycle of a jellyfish, and I learned about animal training.”

Abby, “Today I learned that giant clams feel really mushy. I had a great time.”

Alana, “Today I learned that seahorses enjoy eating shrimp, and that when giant clams try to close up their skin goes all bumpy!”

Harris, “Shark teeth get black faster in the ocean than in captivity. I also learned that female stingrays are bigger than males.”

Chyanne, “I learned that giant clams are very squishy and bubbly.”

Kirra, “Today I learned about alligators and how they train them!! One thing to go to train them is have them touch a target.”

Eason, “I learned that the shorter jellyfish tentacles are, the less they hurt.”

Morgan, “Today I learned what box turtles eat. They like carrots, grapes, tomatoes, and lots of other vegetables.”

Hannah, “Box turtles are really sweet and shy!”

Preston, “I learned that clams are very, very squishy. I thought they were rough and hard.”

Rob, “What I learned today was that box turtles are stubborn.”

George, “Box turtles are stubborn and also love to eat.”

Sarah, “Today I learned that snakes eat their prey head first.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Camper Chronicles Week 8 / Day 3

Day three of animal keeper camp was a blast for the campers! Enjoy.

Abby, “The best part of the day was the snakes I pet.”

Harris, “My favorite thing I did today was I got to see seahorses eat food. Also I got to see a giant clam.”

Chyanne, “My favorite part about today was making sand art and swimming at the beach, I also liked holding a green snake.”

Kirra, “My favorite part of the day was feeding the seahorses. They ate frozen food. My other favorite part was feeding the other fish!!”

Eason, “The thing I liked best today was when I had blood worms in my hand and then the fish nibbled them off my fingers.”

Cameron, “My favorite part was feeding the fish.”

Morgan, “Today I got to feed some different kinds of turtles.”

Ashley, “My favorite part of the day was swimming at the beach with my friends! Also feeding the tanks.”

Kylee, “My favorite part of today was going over the waves and getting knocked down by them.”

Rob, “My favorite thing I did today was feed the turtles.”

Alana, “My favorite part of the day was playing at the beach with my friends. I also enjoyed holding a snake.”

George, “My favorite part was watching the baby alligators and feeding the frogs. “

Hannah, “I loved the beach! It was so much fun!”

Preston, “The best part of the day was going to the beach.”

Sarah, “My favorite part of today was swimming at the beach.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camper Chronicles Week 8 / Day 2

Day two of Animal Keeper camp was a day filled with beach fun! The campers hung out at the beach all morning, and afterwards learned how to take care of animals that reside at the Aquarium. Here is what they had to say.

Avery, “My favorite part was swimming.”

Aquarist Sarah, “I liked feeding the baby seahorses and seeing the clownfish exhibit from the top. Did you know that seahorses eat brine shrimp, which are the critters we all “sea monkeys”?”

Abby, “I think that feeding the animals is great. My favorite part was cutting and preparing the food. It was great.”

Eason, “The thing I liked about being an Aquarist was that you get to see how different it is behind the scenes then it is when you’re a visitor.”

Harris, “I liked that I learned a lot about octopus, like that they can fit through anything this is the size of their beak.”

Rob, “My favorite part about being a keeper is taking care of the snakes.”

Hannah, “The thing I liked the most was that we got to hold a snake, also that we got to “play””

Ashley, “Being an Aquarist is so much fun you see things other people can’t! You feed and take care of all the animals. Thanks, it’s so cool!”

Kylee, “My favorite part about being a keeper is that I saw a jellyfish eat and they throw shrimp in an octopus tank.”

George, “My favorite part was holding the snake and letting it slither all over me, and feeding the poison dart frogs fruit flies.”

Chyanne, “I liked making gel food and feeding one of the exhibits fish and gel food.”

Alana, “The thing I liked about being an Aquarist today was chopping up the fish. I also enjoyed feeding the fish and watching them swarm around food.”

Morgan, “One thing I liked about being an Aquarist was that I got to find dart frogs, they were all hiding.”

Preston, “The thing I liked about being an Aquarist is I got to help prepare food and feed it to the animals.”

Kirra, “My favorite part about being an Aquarist was getting to feed the octopus shrimp.”

Cameron, “My favorite part was that I got to feed the animals.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Camper Chronicles Week 8 / Day 1

Camper Chronicles is coming to an end since this week is the last week of summer camp at the Aquarium. On the first day of camp the campers spent the day at the salt marsh, as well as learned the beginning steps to becoming an Aquarist. Here is what they had to say.

Ashley, “Today I learned that you have to wash my hands before and after you handle your animals.”

Abby, “Animal keeping is a very serious job. It is also very fun. Here at the Aquarium there are many animals to take care of. The workers here are doing a great job.”

Hannah, “I learned that it takes a lot more than just feeding the animals. It takes time and dedication. You also need to care about the animals.”

Harris, “When you design a habitat for an animal it has to switch its properties. Also it has to have enough food for all of the animals in it.”

Kylee, “I learned that turtles need vegetables, fruit, and worms, and that the males are mean when they eat.”

Alana, “I learned that being an animal keeper it is important to never feed the animals too much, or too little. It’s also important to know what type of food to feed them.”

Kirra, “Today we learned about being an animal keeper. We went to the salt marsh and learned how to crab fish.

Chyanne, “I learned that they keep the newly caught fish in quarantine for one month to help it get used to captivation. Also the shark won’t eat for two weeks while getting used to captivation.”

Sarah, “Today I learned that Aquarists have to wash their hands every time they touch a snake, even if they are getting ready to touch snakes of the same kind.”

Preston, “I learned that being an animal keeper takes a lot of work, but in the end, it all pays off.”

Cameron, “You need to lock up even the smallest animals or they will escape. I also learned if you’re aggressive to an animal it will be aggressive back. “

Morgan, “Today I learned what to feed seahorses and how much they should be fed. “

Avery, “Aquarist have to wash their hands because they don’t want to pass germs to another animal.”

George, “It doesn’t take much food to feed a fish, especially the small ones.”

Eason, “I learned that if you put two male box turtles beside each other they will get ugly.”

Camper Chronicles Week 7 / Day 5

The last day of animal keeper camp was a sad day for the campers. They reminisced about their week long adventure and their favorite activities. Here is what they had to say.

Shelby, “The best part of camp was shadowing an Aquarist.”

Mady, “The last day. My favorite part of camp was when we got to talk to the diver in the tank and when we went to the beach. “

Conner, “I loved two great things about camp, cleaning a fish tank and talking to the diver.”

Sarah, “I loved holding the mud snake and talking to the diver.”

Quentin, “The best part of camp overall was the beach.”

Jacob, “The best part of keeper camp would either be going to Zeke’s Island (traveling by canoe) or shadowing Aquarists. I loved feeding the animals and paddling to the island.”

Andrew, “This camp was really fun and great. We went to the beach and got a pizza party. We learned a lot and we had fun.”

Kirstyn, “I love camp! It has been so much fun. Everything we have done has been filled with action packed awesomeness! I LOVE THIS CAMP!”

Haley, “Overall, my favorite part of camp was canoeing to Zeke’s Island and going to the touch tank. I think this is an awesome camp.”

Kristin, “My favorite part of this week was meeting Jenny, Andy, and all my new friends.”

Gabrielle, “My favorite part overall was the pizza party, watching a shark come in, and canoeing.”

Alex, “My favorite part was the pizza party.”

Camper Chronicles Week 7 / Day 4

On Day four of Animal Keepers camp the kids learned how to take care of aquatic animals. Here is what they had to say.

Shelby, “My favorite part of this week was cleaning out the tanks in quarantine.”

Andrew, “Taking care of the aquatic animals was the best part. “

Remy, “Rem’s here. My most favorite, neatest, and most interesting part was holding a mud snake and feeding sea turtles and seahorses. I enjoyed it all! It was so fun!”

Hannah, “Hello, I’m Hannah. My favorite part of the week would be going to the beach because it was so fun and you got to make sandcastles. “

Haley, “In my opinion the neatest thing was being able to clean out the cages in quarantine because we got to touch the salamanders and frogs. Even though it was messy, it was awesome.”

Alex, “Cleaning the tanks was my favorite part because I got to see the animals.”

Mady, “The best part of being a keeper is that you get to interact with a lot of animals.”

Jacob, “My favorite part about being a keeper at keeper camp is following Aquarist around and watching and helping them. I moved crabs, fed frogs, lizards, and newts. I saw baby fish, and fed turtles and fish. The only problem was when I went home my hands smelt like fish! I got to go to the staff only areas. This camp was awesome!”

Gabrielle, “My favorite part was feeding the horseshoe crab and learning and watching what the Aquarist do after they catch a shark. It was awesome!”

Kristin, “My favorite part was with Melissa when we got to pet the baby horseshoe crab. That was so neat!”

Quentin, “The best part of being a keeper this week was feeding the sturgeon fish.”

Conner, “I liked just being with the animals all the time. Every animal was really fun!”

Sarah, “I held a mud snake, it kept trying to hide and the tail kept wrapping around my wrist. I also fed baby sea horses and the sea turtles and jellyfish.”

Kirstyn, “I got to hold a mud snake. It didn’t feel real. It was so cool. I loved going behind the scenes. I also loved feeding all the animals. This camp has been so cool.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Camper Chronicles Week 7/ Day 3

Day three of Animal Keeper camp may have been a bit blustery, but it was worth it! After a canoe trip to Zeke’s Island, the campers went behind the scenes to help Aquarists feed the animals. Here is what they had to say.

Mady, “The most interesting thing I did today was get to see and touch a shark that they just caught in the river. It was so amazing and interesting.”

Conner, “We fed fish, turtles, lizards, and snakes today. We canoed to Zeke’s Island. “

Haley, “The most interesting thing I did today was canoeing because once we got to the island we got to go swimming. In certain spots it was really deep and then sometimes you were on a sandbar. It was awesome.”

Jacob, “Today at keeper’s camp we canoed to Zeke’s Island and played in the water. I caught two hermit crabs and released them. My sister caught three. I also liked shadowing an Aquarist; we fed turtles, frogs, and newts.”

Chase, “The most interesting thing I did today was canoeing because I was with Tom and we beat everyone else to the island. “

Shelby, “The most interesting thing I did today was play with Wilson the duck because he was molting.”

Gabrielle, “My favorite thing about the day was when I saw them carrying in a sandbar shark from the river! It was so cool, and we got to pet it. “

Sarah, “I fed a girl diamond back turtle gelatin stuff and fish bodies. “

Hannah, “An interesting thing I did today was see the first out of five female sharks. It was a sandbar shark.”

Remy, “Remy here. I think the most interesting thing today was Zeke’s Island. What was cool was the swimming; the holes where so deep nobody could touch the bottom. “

Kristen, “The most interesting thing I did today was we saw them carry a sandbar shark in from the river. We also got to pet it.”

Andrew, “I didn’t know that some turtles have long nails.”

Alex, “The most interesting thing that I did was feed a snapping turtle because it was cool.”

Quentin, “The most interesting thing I did today was crab fishing. “

Kirstyn, “Today I saw baby alligators; I fed the amphibians, canoed, and swam in brackish water. I had a wonderful day. I love camp!”

Stay tuned for tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Camper Chronicles Week 7/ Day 2

Day two of Animal Keeper camp was a sand-filled fiesta for the summer campers! After playing on the beach all morning, the campers learned how to feed the Aquarium’s animals. This is what they had to say. Enjoy!

Conner, “I went to the beach with my boogie board and my friends, and had a blast! We also got to feed the sea turtles. Being an Aquarist is really fun!”

Kirstyn, “My favorite part of the day was when I got to hold a moon jellyfish. Then after that we fed it to the baby sea turtle. The jellyfish felt really weird. The turtles were cool. I love camp.”

Haley, “My favorite part of the day was going to the beach because we got to boogie board and swim. The water was perfect for swimming in. Luckily I saw a huge fish jump out of the water. “

Remy, “I’m Remy, and today was awesome. My favorite part was watching the cute sea turtles eat. It was funny watching them snap at the food. “

Jacob, “On the second day of keeper’s camp we fed seahorses sea monkeys. Then we cut up fish and squid and fed the puffer fish, turtles, and other fish. We even got a clam shell. To finish off the fun events we painted a rubber fish and printed it on our shirts.”

Chase, “My favorite part of the day was the beach because the surf was crazy.”

Kristin, “My favorite part today is visiting behind the scenes because we got watch Ginger fed the frogs. Another thing I learned is the frogs aren’t really poisonous, it’s because of their food that their poisonous.”

Mady, “My favorite part of the day was when I got to hold a mud snake, and I really want one!!!!!”

Quentin, “My favorite part of the day was at the beach. I love the beach.”

Alex, “I enjoyed feeding the fish!”

Gabrielle, “My favorite part of the day was making t-shirts, holding a snake, and going to the beach. “

Shelby, “My favorite part of the day was going to the beach because there were huge waves. We were constantly being knocked down. “

Andrew, “I loved the beach because I could build sandcastles, swim, and chill out!”

Hannah, “Hello, this is Hannah I touched a snake, an actually snake, how cool! I can’t believe it! That was my favorite part of the day!”

Sarah, “My favorite part of the day was when we touched a moon jellyfish, and then fed it to three sea turtles. “

Camper Chronicles: Week 7/ Day 1

Camper Chronicles is back! After a brief hiatus, a new group of summer campers are back as guest bloggers. This week’s theme is Animal Keepers, which focuses on teaching the children how the Aquarium takes care of our animals. Here is what they had to say. Enjoy!

Jacob, “At keepers camp on August 3rd, 2009 I learned about quarantining and curing reptiles. We watched them tag a female turtle, and give a snake medicine for internal parasites. We also learned about designing a tank, David, another worker, explained about his job as a cage designer.”

Hannah, “My name is Hannah, and on Monday at camp I learned how to feed fish and how to design a cage. I actually got to feed fish in an exhibit, how cool!! The workers fed seahorses, and said they were sea monkeys. I never knew that! Thank you!”

Remy, “My group learned how the aquarists fed the animals and how they make their food. The Bur fish looked a lot like Porcupine fish. The baby seahorses had to be put in different tanks, oldest to youngest.”

Mady, “Being an aquarist is a hard job; you have to make sure the animals have enough food and not too much food. You have to feed fish and help release them. We also got to go crabbing at the salt marsh.”

Haley, “As we helped out the aquarists with the animals, we fed the fish in the Raven Rock tank chopped fish and a special vitamin food. The Sturgeons, Shiners, and Catfish had the smaller chunks. Sturgeons can actually live up to 70 years in age. “

Gabrielle, “I learned that if you are an Aquarist you have to feed the fish called zoo plankton. Also we fed the fish menhaden and stuff that looked like little shrimp. That’s what I learned about being an Aquarist. “

Kirstyn, “When you are an aquarist you have to know about the animal you are caring for. Being an aquarist takes hard work, but it can be fun. It is a huge responsibility. Even though being an aquarist is hard work, it is really cool to go behind the scenes. This is an awesome privilege.”

Shelby, “While helping the aquarist we had the opportunity to feed the fish in the Raven Rock tank and also prepare the food. We fed them cut fish and specialized gel.”

Jacob, “Today I learned being an Aquarist is not easy. You have to find the animals and give them special tags that you read with a cool machine. “

Chase, “I learned that you have to go through a training camp to handle venomous snakes (that would not be my preferred career choice).”

Conner, “I got to work with the seahorses today. There were babies and adults. We chopped up fish and squid to feed the fish, and a puffer fish and a turtle ate from our fingers. We went crabbing and caught sea life to put in a tank. “

Alex, “I learned how to feed fish. “

Sarah, “I learned that different seahorses eat different food. Smaller seahorses eat smaller stuff and bigger seahorses get bigger stuff. “