Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Green HalloweenTips

Halloween! The staff at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher loves the frightening, fun festivities and decorations that accompany this time of year.  Visions of skeleton pirates, zombie divers and scary sea creatures dance in our heads. 

Yet, by far the most frightening thing about Halloween is the incredible amounts of waste and plastics created, used and discarded in connection with the holiday. Unfortunately, when the spooky fun ends, too much trash ends up in our landfills and polluting our waterways and ocean.

1.        Here are 10 ways you can put some green-think into your Halloween:

1.  Skip the Scary Plastic:Store-bought costumes are an easy way to get scary; but what’s scarier is that mass-produced ready-to-wear costumes from the supermarket are often made with non-recyclable chemicals and synthetic fibers that are not biodegradable. Upcycle a costume instead! Use old or donated clothing to make your costume. Make it a family project and you create memories and something original, without all the plastic and paper waste.

2.       Host a Creepy Community Costume Swap: Make it a party, invite the neighbors and foster environmental consciousness all at the same time. Your old dusty prom dress just became someone else’s awesome new “Bride of Frankenstein” costume! Register a swap date online at: https://www.greenhalloween.org/CostumeSwap/register.html

3.       Reuse a Trick or Treat Tote: Don’t buy a new plastic jack-o-lantern just to use one night. Lug your treats with a reinvented pillow case. They always hold more candy anyway! Already have an orange jack-o-lantern bucket? Use it again this year, then again next year (and the next)!

4.       Buy in Bulk: Look for candy with less packaging. This will cut down on waste and give you more for your money. Think little mini boxes versus large individually, plastic-wrapped treats. Look for brands that use recycled or recyclable packaging.

5.       Recycle the Wrapper: Approximately 598 million pounds of candy are consumed every year around Halloween, according to a report issued by Nielsen several years ago. That’s a lot of candy and a lot of trash. What to do with all the “trash” after you’ve indulged in your sweet tooth? Recycle as much of it as you can! You can bring your candy wrappers to the Aquarium and we send them to TerraCycle to be repurposed into items like purses and bags.
Upcycled candy wrapper bag from TerraCycle

6.       Keep Your Eco-Footprint Local: Purchase a pumpkin at a nearby farm. This supports the local economy and significantly reduces the fuel used for transportation in comparison to pumpkins that are mass-shipped to supermarkets.

7.       More Pumpkin, Please: When carving your pumpkin, save the seeds to make a delicious spiced or roasted fall treat. Once Halloween comes and goes, compost the fruit and to keep it out of landfills.

8.       Exercise, Don’t Drive: Instead of driving from house-to-house or street-to-street: walk! Saves gas and help take a load off the calorie spike accompanying all of those treats.

9.       DIY D├ęcor: Halloween is the second biggest decorating holiday after Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation. Why spend money on non-recyclable products, with excess packaging? Keep it simple. Upcycle everyday household items to give them a spooky makeover. Use old sheets and some leaves or newspaper to make ghosts. Go natural with corn husks, gourds and pine cones, all of which are 100 percent compostable.

10.   Keep it Up:  No need for green behaviors to end after the 31st. Keep it going all year. If you’ve never composted, the harvest season is a great time to begin. Use fallen leaves, pine cones, corn kernels and old jack-o-lanterns to start. Use simple do-it-yourself decorations and recycled crafts for holiday decorating in December, February or any time. Keep it local. Support organic markets whenever you can, and when you can’t, select minimal packaging and biodegradable products.

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Animals at the Aquarium

We are excited to announce the addition of two new animals to the Aquarium family!

Spotted eagle ray

Aquarium staff introduced the spotted eagle ray to his new home on July 10. The young male, called "Twister", is acclimating well to the Aquarium’s largest exhibit and his new neighbors. Visitors can easily recognize the animal by his whip-like tail fin, the fluid winging movement of his large pectoral fins, a pronounced snout, and, of course, a white polka-dot pattern on the brown dorsal body.

Spotted eagle rays can grow to 9 feet wide and weigh as much as 500 pounds. They live throughout tropical and warm waters as far north as North Carolina in the summer and as far south as Brazil. This species also lives in the Red Sea and waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands.
The species is near threatened globally. Small litter sizes, schooling tendencies and inshore habitat preferences make this species particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

Twister, a spotted eagle ray at the Aquarium.

Goliath grouper
A Goliath grouper may reach an adult weight of 400 pounds, so Aquarium staff knew it would take some clever arranging skills to be able to put their goliath grouper on exhibit. Though not fully grown, the potential size of the fish necessitated a larger exhibit with lots of room for the grouper to grow. It was decided that the grouper would be a great addition to the Blockade Runner Condor exhibit. But, portions of the replicated shipwreck would have to be removed in order to allow for goliath grouper’s growing potential.
Aquarium staff relocated fish currently living in Blockade Runner to other exhibits and set about draining the tank to cut away a large central portion of the shipwreck. Once removed, the tank was refilled and prepared for its new occupants. The goliath grouper was successfully relocated to the Blockade Runner exhibit in mid-August. 

This species is critically endangered globally. In 1990, the U.S. enacted a harvest ban to protect this vulnerable species which will hopefully allow this beautiful fish to bounce back from near extinction.

A goliath grouper at the Aquarium.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Predator vs. Prey Summer Camp: Box Turtle

Each day summer campers interact with an animal and learn about that particular animal's relationship with either it's predator or it's prey.

On day 2, the theme is "Herbivores". Campers learned about box turtles and the relationship box turtles have with their "prey" which is often fruit, vegetables, crickets and worms.

In their own words, campers describe their favorite predator-prey interaction:

"Box turtles and fruit, vegetables and crickets." -Angel
"Box turtle - crickets and leaves." -Alyssa
"A box turtle [because] they eat worms." -Skyla
"The box turtle because it was so cute to see its eyes." -Sophia
"The box turtle [was my favorite predator-prey interaction]." -Skeets

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Predator Vs. Prey Summer Camp: Relationships

For the next two weeks, summer campers will learn how tough life in the animal world is. Campers are learning about animal relationships and interactions. In the animal world, you must eat or be eaten.

In their own words, campers name their favorite predator/prey relationship they've learned so far.

"My favorite predator relationship would be cows and grass." -Alexia
"Megalodons and giant squid." -Katy
"Yellow stingray and its prey [which] is fish." -Michael K.
"My favorite predator is a turtle. Turtles eat jelly fish." -Laura
"Blue heron and fish." -Sam
"My favorite predator and prey are killer whales and sea lions/seals." -Kelly
"My favorite predators are wolves. They eat deer and other wild animals." -Sydney
"Lions and zebras!" -A.J.T.
"Manta-ray and crill." -Dakota
"Deer who eat plants. I love deer and plants." -Campbell

Friday, July 27, 2012

Animal Keepers Summer Camp: Private Dive Show

As this week's summer camp sessions wrap up, campers were thrilled to get a chance to see their very own PRIVATE dive show. Behind the scenes, summer campers saw how the divers prepare the for the show and interact with animals in the Cape Fear Shoals tank. During the show, campers "talked"  with divers while they were in the water.

For many campers, this was one of their favorite activities of the week. In their own words, campers explain why they enjoyed the dive show.

"[My favorite activity was] watching the fish. I liked seeing people dive in the water with them." -Kailei
"Seeing our own private dive show [was my favorite activity] because it was interesting." -Madison
"I liked seeing the dive show because it was our very own!" -Anna
"I liked seeing the diver because all the fish were like really close to him." -Parker
"I liked seeing the scuba divers because we got to go to the very top [of the tank]." -Madison

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Animal Keepers Summer Camp: Favorite Animals

Summer campers learn what it takes to be an Aquarium animal keeper during this week's session with activities like animal feeding, tank cleaning, water changing and food preparation.

Campers are granted a chance to get up-close and personal with many of the animals in the Aquarium's care.  In their own words, campers describe their favorite animal they cared for this week.

"The jelly fish because they had to be cared for in a way I didn't know." -Madison
"Today, we cared for jelly fish. I thought it was interesting how they move without a brain!" -Anna
"I cared for the invertebrates [and] cleaned their tanks." -Parker
"I liked the porcupine fish the best because he's really cute and playful. I got to feed him!" -India
"The porcupine fish [was my favorite] because they didn't eat as much and they were more patient." -Sara
"I liked caring for the puffer fish because I like them." -Kassi

One of the campers' favorites, a porcupine fish.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Animal Keepers Summer Camp: I Learned...

Animal Keepers summer campers continue to learn what it takes to care for many of the animals at the Aquarium.

From changing water to making carbon, these campers are experiencing all sorts of hands-on animal care that shows them just a little of how hard our aquarists work everyday.

In their own words campers describe something they learned this week.

"I changed water in a Q-15. [Which was] for a sea star." -Quinn
"I made carbon." -Blake
"My favorite animals were the salt marsh fish like mullets and lookdowns because I got to check the PH and saline [levels]."-Kelly
"We didn't care for a particular fish, but changed water for a whole tank." -Christopher
"We made carbon for the moon jellies. I liked it because we were helping." -Helena
"Today we tested salinity and PH [levels]." -Lilly

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Animal Keepers Summer Camp: Animal Care

This week, summer campers enjoy the rare opportunity to feed, clean and care for some of the Aquarium's 2,000+ animals. They are helping prepare food, cleaning exhibits and creating animal enrichment all while learning about the animals they care for.

In their own words, campers describe their favorite animal to care for and why.

"Black Sea Bass because I checked salt levels in their tank." -Quinn
"The fish because I fed them." -Blake
"I liked feeding the shipwreck (Blockade Runner Exhibit) because we got close." -Helena
"I helped the sandbar sharks by making salt." -Lilly
"I cared for a black sea bass because we tested (its) water." -Jaden
"Sandbar sharks because we helped them be shipped." -Dylan
"The huge grouper because he was enormous and he snapped his food up quickly and we saw his teeth." -Lily
"Every fish because we tested PH (levels)." -Hunter
"My favorite animal that I cared for was the shrimp because I got to clean its tank to keep ammonia out." -Kelly
"Horseshoe crabs because I helped clean that tank." -Lauren
"My favorite animal that I cared for was the ladyfish because I was able to take care of the water." -Katie
"The turtle, because he enjoyed it and we got to chop up fish." -Christopher

Monday, July 9, 2012

Extreme Animals Summer Camp: Wilson the Wood Duck

As Extreme Animals summer campers learn about animals that adapt and survive, they learned about wood ducks. Unlike other ducks, wood ducks nest in trees to survive.

Wilson, one of the Aquarium's wood duck pair, visited summer campers today. In their own words, campers  explain why meeting Wilson was their favorite activity.

"Encountering Wilson the wood duck because it was funny when he pooped on the floor. (He was stressed about getting his picture taken.)" -Kelsey
"My favorite activity today was meeting Wilson a wood duck because he is like a mallard." -Jessica
"My favorite activity was seeing Wilson the duck because he is intense." -Will
"My favorite thing today was Wilson the wood duck because I learned cool things like they molt their feathers." -Reagan

Friday, July 6, 2012

Extreme Animals Summer Camp: Beach Day

A summer camp session at the Aquarium just wouldn't be complete without a trip (or 2) to the beach! Lucky for our campers, the beach is only a few steps away. Learning about local animals is a lot more fun when you  add a little sun and surf!

In their own words, campers explain why going to the beach was their favorite activity.

"My favorite activity today was going to the beach because it was fun!" - Mary
"My favorite activity was the beach because I got to play in the water and I got to play with Abby!" -Avery
"My favorite activity today was going to the beach because we got to out to the sandbar." -Kelly
"Going to the beach [was my favorite activity] because we got to go to the sandbar." -Lauren
"The beach [was my favorite activity] because it felt good to be in the waves." -Abigail
"I enjoyed going to the beach today because there was a sandbar." -Devann
"My favorite activity today was going to the beach because it was cool to look a the turtle nest and play in the water." -Lara
"The beach [was my favorite activity] because I got to hang out in the water." -Austin
"My favorite activity was  going to the beach and making shirts. The beach was fun because there was a drop-off and we floated over the waves." -Abby

Monday, July 2, 2012

Extreme Animals Summer Camp: Favorite Animals

This week's summer camp session is all about extreme animals. Campers learn who can swim the fastest, jump the farthest and climb the highest in the animal kingdom.

The campers describe their favorite extreme animal encounter from today in their own words:

"I liked the unexpected encounter with the rat snake." - Devann
"A penguin because they are Antarctic animals and they are so pretty and careful with their families." - Lauren
"My favorite extreme animal from today was the eel because they look cool and seem cool." - Lara
"My favorite extreme animal we talked about today was the penguin because of the environment that they live in." - Kelly
"My favorite extreme animal was polar bears because they are cute and they have a lot to do in life." - Avery
"A sea turtle because I think it's cool that they live in water but they are reptiles and breathe air." - Abigail

A green sea turtle.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wildlife Rescuers Summer Camp: Crabbing

As campers learned how to protect and preserve wildlife they ventured out in the wild to check out some of the coolest animals around...CRABS!

In their own words, campers describe why they enjoyed crabbing.

"Catching fiddler crabs [was my favorite activity] because it was fun!" -Alex
"Going to the Rocky Outcrop because I caught a lot of awesome sea creatures." -Jaclynn
"Going to the cove and catching crabs [was my favorite activity]." -Kaden
"Going to the Rocky Outcrop because I caught a crab." -Davis

Here are some photos from campers who went crabbing in the salt marsh during the week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildlife Rescuers Summer Camp: Shirt Painting

Many people have no idea that certain animals are considered threatened or endangered. This week, campers highlighted many of the endangered species with through one of the coolest crafts in summer camp... t-shirt painting.

Campers explain their favorite activity of the day in their own words:

"Painting t-shirts [was fun] because I got to use paint." -LJ
"Painting t-shirts because it was fun!" -Andrew
"My favorite activity today was painting my t-shirt. It was really fun. I also really liked going canoeing." -Aislinn
"My favorite part was when we painted our shirts because I love art." -Jaclynn
"Shirt making! It was fun!" -Michael

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wildlife Rescuers Summer Camp: Crafts

All week long, Wildlife Rescuers campers channeled their creative side with arts and crafts. From sand painting to recycled material crafts, learning about protecting wildlife in this way was fun, fun, FUN!

Here are a few photos of campers "painting" with sand and glue to demonstrate the importance of marine habitats.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wildlife Rescuers Summer Camp: Animal Encounters

Today, Wildlife Rescuers campers had a close encounter of the animal kind!

Campers learned to protect and preserve endangered species like alligators, northern pine snakes and tiger-barred salamanders as they got up-close and even touched some of these creatures.

In their own words, campers explain why these animal encounters were their favorite part of the day:

"Petting the gator, the snake and being sprayed by the water for the salamander (because it was refreshing) and the skin had a unique texture." - Mikhail

"Seeing the baby alligator, Mo." -Scarlett

"I got to see a baby alligator today. His name was Mo. Mo is cute." -Jenna

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wildlife Rescuers Summer Camp: Salt Marsh

Training is under way for the Wildlife Rescuers at the Aquarium Summer Camp today.

Campers enjoyed a hike to the nearby salt marsh where they investigated animal life and learned how to protect it.

In their own words, campers explain what they learned about protecting wildlife in and around the area:

"Don't litter and when you see someone litter don't fuss with them just pick it up." - Mikhail
"Never litter, reuse paper and always recycle." - Jenna
"How to make paper out of recycled tissue paper and discarded paper." - Nate
"Recycling paper and plastic keeps it out of the ocean." - Jackson
"You shouldn't litter, pick up trash if you see some and recycle." - Scarlett

Shrimp in the salt marsh.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Animal Spotlight: red lionfish

Though native to the Indo-Pacific region of the world, the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) is commonly found on the North Carolina coast and in the Atlantic Ocean. Many scientists blame Hurricane Andrew for the lionfish’s accidental introduction to the area in 1992. 
Lionfish use 13 venomous dorsal spines to sting their prey as they glide along rocks and coral while hunting at night. During the day, these animals usually stay hidden in caves and crevices. With no natural predators in the area, this invasive species threatens native animals by encroaching upon their prey and habitats. 

Three red lionfish make their home in the Exotics Aquatics gallery at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Animal Spotlight: Eastern glass lizard

Today's Animal Spotlight is the Eastern glass lizard.

The Eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) is a legless lizard often mistaken for a snake. The difference between a legless lizard and a snake is that the lizard has ear openings and eyelids, unlike snakes. They are usually 18-24 inches long with 2/3 of that being their tail. The Eastern glass lizards is very common in the Southeastern Coastal Plains and can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Our Eastern glass lizard can be found in the Box Turtle Exhibit located in the Cape Fear Conservatory.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Local Catch: Spring

Each season, the Aquarium offers advice on local seafood availability. The following list highlights species in seafood markets and restaurants in spring. When dining out, ask if these or other choices are "Local Catch".

When choosing to dine on "Local Catch" you should remember that quality counts! You want to make sure that your seafood has no disagreeable odor and if it's live (blue crab) look for the movement of legs.

To find your local North Carolina seafood market, visit nc-seafood.org.

This information is made possible by the NC Sea Grant, NC Department of Agriculture and the NC Aquariums.
Pocket-sized "Local Catch" guides are available at the Aquarium each season.

Happy dining!