Sustainable Eats + Recipe

Guest blog by Pepper Moon Catering’s Sales and Event Manager, Emily Terranova

At Pepper Moon Catering, we don’t have to worry about the sustainability of the seafood we serve! As one of the preferred caterers for the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), we understand that balance is important. We do our best to balance the needs of the customer (size of group, budget, vision) to what we can offer as meal choices. Fortunately, the food distributors we work with understand that sustainability will help them, not just for the “feel-good factor”, but economically in the long term as well. It’s thinking like this that will push for true changes in practices.

Our food distributors are a wonderful resource for our company, as they have tiers of quality – and with those tiers come guarantees of sustainability! The top two tiers (which we order from) come with universal sustainability standards for ALL of their products, not just the seafood. In the seafood area, the wild-caught foods are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, a third-party verifier. Farmed fish will have at least 4 stars with the Best Aquaculture Practices standard. So, when you an attend an event here at the GSC that’s sponsored by Pepper Moon Catering, you can enjoy your food and enjoy that it’s good for the world too.

Here’s a sustainable seafood recipe for you to try at home!

Salsa

Shrimp and Mango Bruschetta
(Serves 10-12)

½ lb chopped shrimp

2 cups mango, small diced

¼ cup chopped green onion

½ cup lime juice

2 tablespoons honey (may add more to taste)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

*Serve with sliced French bread or gluten free corn tortilla cups
  1. Stir the shrimp, mango and onion together in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl until blended, 
    making sure to scrape bottom of the bowl to fully incorporate the 
    honey. Pour over the shrimp mixture. Cover with wrap and refrigerate 
    for at least 30 minutes before serving.

The Greensboro Science Center is a proud partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® program to help consumers and businesses make ocean-friendly seafood choices.

Happy Earth Day

nasa

Photo courtesy of NASA.gov

1969 was our first walk on the moon with the Apollo 11 mission and the first chance for us to see Earth as a big blue planet from space. At the same time, global powers were struggling in the Vietnam War and the environment was suffering, with large cars driving on leaded gas and corporate progress (without a lot of the regulation we take for granted). After a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California this same year, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded the idea of a national teach-in about the environment, set for April 22, 1970. This quickly became a bipartisan success story; thus, Earth Day was born. Earth Day 1970 gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.

By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Today, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

The fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency as the ravages of climate change become more evident every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day by taking steps, big or small, on a personal or professional level. We’ve only got one Earth – how are you protecting its future?

Find your local Earth Day event here.

 

Conservation Creation: Crafting Corals

Coral reefs are some of our planet’s most beautiful and vital ecosystems. Created by corals, reef systems provide both food and shelter to a large variety of animals. These amazing animals sustain around 25% of ocean life, even though they only make up about 1% of the ocean. Not only are animals able to live in the reefs, but the algae that grows on the corals is an important food source for several different organisms. Corals and algae are in what we call a symbiotic relationship – meaning they both benefit from each other. Corals provide algae with a place to grow; at the same time, corals gain energy through the algae’s photosynthesis.

So what are corals? Corals are tiny animals, called polyps, that group together to form a larger structure. Once an initial skeletal structure is formed, tissue can begin to grow. Once tissue has formed, some corals maintain a rigid appearance (like staghorn coral), while other corals are soft (like waving hand coral). As you could imagine, the appearance and traits of corals are incredibly diverse. As unique as corals are, they all face similar issues in the ocean. Corals have very specific environments that they inhabit. These environments are negatively affected by climate change, but we can help corals by reducing our carbon footprint and fighting ocean pollution.

 

Now, for our DIY activity: here’s how you can craft a coral reef of your own!

What you’ll need: Coffee filters, pipe cleaners, bowls, water, food coloring

supplies

Step 1: Fill your bowls with about an inch of water and food coloring. You can have as many bowls and colors as you would like! Just remember that more food coloring = brighter colors.

dye

Step 2: Place your coffee filters upside down in the water. Be sure to allow the color to travel throughout the whole filter. (For younger kids, this can be a great opportunity to teach them about color mixing!) Once the color has made its way through the whole filter, set filters aside to dry overnight. Low on time? This process can be sped up with the help of a blow dryer.

filter

Step 3: Stack 2-4 coffee filters together, then push a pipe cleaner through the center. You will want to twist the end of the pipe cleaner into a small ball to keep the filters from sliding off. This will serve as the center of your coral.

pinch

Step 4: Pinch the bottom of the filters around the pipe cleaner, then wrap the pipe cleaner around the pinched section; this keeps the coral together.

repeat

Step 5: Repeat the process to create as many corals as you would like! In this way, you can create your own reef! Feel free to get even more creative by adding toy animals or whatever else you’d like to see in your reef. For an added challenge, research different types of corals and animals living together in the ocean and try to build your reef based off of that environment!

Conservation Creation: Your Year at the GSC

We’ve learned a lot together over the course of this year. During our 2018 journey, we’ve created some amazing projects through the Conservation Creation program. If you’ve participated in the program at all, you may have noticed that the majority of projects have been crafted using everyday materials such as old pool noodles or bottle caps. Reusing materials in this way is called upcycling. Upcycling can be one of the most fun ways to reuse things around your home… provided that you’re willing to get a little creative. From small projects like turning an old shirt into a bag to large projects like creating furniture out of wooden pallets, upcycling is not just a way to save yourself some money – it helps the environment, too!

How does upcycling help the earth? When you turn an old shirt into a reusable bag, your upcycled product will save the materials that would otherwise be used to make a new bag, as well as cut down on the pollution emitted as that bag travels to your local store by truck or plane.

With the holidays approaching, why not take a look around your house to see what can be upcycled into something exciting for the new year? To get started, take a look at Pinterest or a similar website, where you’re sure to find project ideas and inspiration. If there’s anything you need for the project but don’t have it on hand, check nearby thrift stores (such as Reconsidered Goods) for local products at an affordable price. You can keep these places in mind, too, if you are looking to clean out your home and donate purged items that could be used by someone else.

Here’s a step-by-step DIY project to get you started:

If you’ve been to SciPlay Bay lately, you might’ve noticed some “new” food items in our Beach Room. These items were handmade by us, using leftover cardboard, craft felt and old pool noodles salvaged from our fort building area. We had so much fun making the tacos, we wanted to share the how-to with you!

What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard
  • A needle and thread
  • A marker
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue and a hot glue gun
  • Craft felt or leftover fabric
  • Something to wedge into the taco to keep it open (we used chunks of old pool noodle, but you can get creative)

1u

Step 1: Using cardboard, create a base for the food you want to make. (This is the one we created for our tacos.) Trace a slightly larger area than you need over a piece of felt – like we’ve done here – then, cut it out. This will create the inside of the taco.

2u

Step 2: Using a slice of a pool noodle (or material of your choice), glue the two sides of the taco together with your material in the middle to keep the taco open.

3u

Step 3: Cut out strips of the felt or fabric and glue them together with one line of glue down the middle. Cut fringe on both sides of each strip, then glue all of your toppings onto the inside of the taco.

4u

Step 4: Glue your inside piece of fabric to the inside of the cardboard, as we’ve done here. You should have a little bit of fabric sticking out over the sides.

5u

Step 5: Glue another piece of felt or fabric to the outside of the taco.

Step 6: Sew the two pieces of fabric together and cut off the excess. Use your finger to “mix the toppings” on the inside.

7u

Get creative. All of these foods were made using this method with varying cardboard templates. Show us what you’ve made by tagging your own Conservation Creations using #greensborosciencecenter and #conservationcreations. Happy holidays, and see you soon!

8u

 

 

Conservation Creation: Jelly Jamboree

Without a doubt, jellies are one of Earth’s strangest animals. They have neither hearts nor brains but have managed to survive on our planet for over 500 million years! Often called jellyfish, they’re not actually fish – instead, they make up their own group of incredibly diverse animals. For example, the smallest jelly, the Irukanji, only grows to about the size of a thumbtack, while the Lion’s Mane Jelly can reach lengths of over 100 feet! Some jellies use stinging for defense and hunting, others can clone themselves, and others still can glow in the dark.

So, what do these diverse animals actually have in common? A jelly’s body consists of a bell (the round top of the jelly), a nerve net (instead of a brain), and a mouth organ.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we house three distinct species of jellies:

moon jelly 01Moon Jellies – typically found in Japan, they’re an aquarium favorite, primarily due to their hardiness and robust lifespan of approximately 12 months. Moon Jellies sting using the small, tentacle-like structures surrounding their bell. However, the Moon Jelly’s sting is so mild that most humans wouldn’t even realize it if they’d been stung. The long, thin structures that extend from the bell of the jelly, called oral arms, move foods such as brine shrimp and small planktons to the Moon Jelly’s central mouth.

blubber-jelly_3770.jpgBlubber Jellies – native to the Indo-Pacific regions and coastal Australia, these jellies have a unique way of acquiring their food. They ram their bodies into the sand to stir up tiny crustaceans and plankton to catch in their oral arms, which contain stinging cells and also act as a mouth. Tiny spaces along the arms process the food (rather than moving it to a central mouth, like the oral arms of Moon Jellies do). Blubbers come in three different color varieties – white, blue and maroon – and have a lifespan of around 10 months.

cassiopea-or-upside-down-jellyfish-shutterstock_173059469.jpgUpside Down Jellies – found in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea, these jellies are one of the world’s most unique jellies. They lay on their bells with oral arms pointing upwards towards the sunlight. Bacteria on the oral arms allow these animals to gain energy through photosynthesis… just like plants do! Upsides Down Jellies also eat plankton and small fish, which is warm, sunny waters make for a perfect environment for them to thrive.

At first glance, jellies may not seem to be up to much, but they’re actually doing a lot of good for our oceans! Not only do they provide a food source for many of our favorite animals, but they also help to stir the ocean, keeping it healthy. Unfortunately, climate change and plastic pollution are working against these amazing animals. If you’d like to help jellies and the animals that rely upon them, reduce your plastic usage and your carbon footprint. A couple of easy ways to do this? Switch from single-use plastic straws and bags to reusable options, and buy more local produce and products when available.

And now, it’s DIY time! Here’s how to make your own jelly slime:

DSC_5090For this activity, you’ll need:

– 1 bottle (4 oz) of Elmer’s school glue

– ½ teaspoon Borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle)

– Food coloring

– Plastic wrap

-2 bowls and 2 spoons

-1 cup of warm water

DSC_5093Step 1: Pour all of the glue into a bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_5100Step 2: Fill the empty glue bottle with warm water, then add it to the glue in the bowl and stir.

 

 

 

 

DSC_5101Step 3: Add the food coloring and mix well.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_5104Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix the Borax with ½ cup of warm water until the Borax is dissolved.

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Slowly add the Borax solution to your glue mixture.

DSC_5114Step 6: Stir and knead the mixture until you have a bowl of slime!
DSC_5119

DSC_5124To store, place your slime in the middle of a square of plastic wrap. Twist the wrap around the slime, then add a small rubber band or paper clip to keep this in place. Your slime will last about two weeks.

DSC_5126 (1)FUN FACT: After your slime is wrapped up, gently touch the top; it’ll feel very similar to a real jelly!

During the month of November, join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 and 2:30 in SciPlay Bay for a Jelly Jamboree!

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Continuing Our Education

We recently sent our VP Conservation & Research, Lindsey Zarecky, and one of our Herp Keepers, Audrey Stallings, to an ATAG (Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group) Amphibian Field Research Course. The course was taught by eight NC- and AZA-based instructors and attended by 18 participants ranging from researchers and keepers to amphibian enthusiasts. The course focused on amphibian field research techniques, with participants spending time in the field (including the Sandhills, the NC Zoo, Boone, and Grandfather Mountain) everyday for the duration of the course.

Zarecky and Stallings shared with us a few highlights of what they did during the program:

  • Audrey Weighing a SalamanderWe learned how to use PIT (passive integrative transponders) tags. These are similar to the microchips our pets have. Each tag has a unique number so that when scanned, you can ID the individual.
  • We learned how to use VIE (visible implant elastomer) – a brightly colored, non-toxic material that is injected just below the skin layer. This technique is very useful when it comes to headstarting; when all the tadpoles from a particular year’s egg masses hatch and complete metaphasis into a frog or toad, you can place a particular color on those frogs’ legs. Then, you release the frogs. The next year, you select a different color for the next generation, and so on. This makes it so that when you go out into the field and find frogs, you’ll know the year they were born based upon their VIE.
  • We learned amphibian radio tracking techniques. Unlike other animals, amphibians respire through their skin, so it’s not feasible to place a conventional radio tag onto their bodies. Therefore, we made them small belts using monofilament, a very small and flexible tubing, plus the radio tag. The frog wears this tag like a belt buckle (but with the buckle on its back). To test our knowledge, two radio-tagged frogs were released on NC Zoo’s grounds, then we had to use telemetry equipment to locate them.
  • Probably one of the most fascinating techniques we learned was eDNA – the process of collecting water samples and using the sloughed-off amphibian DNA present therein to identify whether a particular species was present in the water. From collecting the samples, to extracting the DNA, buffering it, and even running the polymerase chain reaction technique, it all happened streamside with the use of a backpack eDNA kit.

Zarecky and Stallings learned about each of the nearly 100 species of amphibians that live here in NC, as well as some of the major diseases that can affect them. There was even a test in which instructors laid out 52 specimens that participants then had to identify! Not only were they expected to identify many amphibians by sight but by listening to their vocalizations, too.

Learning how to ID Amphibians

We’re very proud of our staff for continuing their education! Participating in programs like the ATAG workshop ensures that GSC is able to further its mission of conservation and research while offering you, our community, the best science education programming possible.

How Your Small Change Has Made a Big Difference

Each time someone visits the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), they’re supporting wildlife conservation! Twenty-five cents of each general admission ticket is dedicated to conservation efforts. Upon purchasing tickets, guests receive a token that allows them to direct their donation towards one of the three conservation projects represented on our Coins for Conservation machine. The GSC’s Conservation, Sustainable Practices and Research Committees come together to select the organizations and species represented. Over a six-month period, guests have the opportunity to use their tokens to select the organization they would like their $0.25 to support. After that time, three new organizations are selected for representation.

We’re excited to announce we have completed our first six months of the Coins for Conservation program. The following funds were raised in support of species conservation:

Oceana
Funds Raised: $10,000

oceanaEstablished in 2001, Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused on ocean conservation. Oceana seeks to find practical solutions to restore our world’s oceans. While not focused on one species, the organization influences decisions to address many ocean issues, including over-fishing and shark finning.

Komodo Dragon Species Survival Plan: Conservation Fund
Funds Raised: $7,000

komodoEstablished in 2007, the Komodo survival plan exists to research and monitor populations of Komodo dragons in the wild in order to conserve the species and its habitat. The organization educates locals about Komodo dragons as well as trains Indonesian conservationists to assist with population management and habitat conservation.

North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Funds Raised: $6,000

ncEstablished in 1992, the NC Coastal Land Trust conserves natural areas to enrich the coastal community as well as educates visitors about land stewardship. One such natural area is the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, which was formed through a partnership with the City of Wilmington. The park is open to the public; visitors can learn about carnivorous plants, including the Venus Flytrap. The Trust has a dedicated Venus Flytrap fund whose purpose is to sustain and manage this rare plant.

To learn about the three projects currently being represented, visit the Coins for Conservation webpage.