Greensboro Science Center Celebrates the North Carolina Science Festival

The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is proud to participate in the North Carolina Science Festival throughout the month of April by hosting seven on-site events designed to inspire scientific curiosity. The North Carolina Science Festival is a month-long celebration of science that brings hundreds of events focused on fun, interactive science learning opportunities to communities throughout North Carolina.

Official events hosted by the GSC are as follows:

Tuesday, April 9
Science Trivia: Brewing Up Science
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
To honor both the North Carolina Science Festival and North Carolina Beer Month, April’s trivia night will highlight the science behind brewing. This event is free to attend.

Friday, April 12
Brews & Bubbles
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Guests of this annual conservation fundraiser will sample science – and beer – while learning about the GSC’s conservation efforts. This event is limited to guests ages 21+. Tickets are $40 for GSC members and $45 for non-members. Tickets are available online at greensboroscience.org/conservation/brews-and-bubbles/.

Saturday, April 13
Turtle Dog Day
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Specially trained dogs will be tracking box turtles for GSC staff members to tag and release. Research collected about these animals will be submitted to the Box Turtle Connection. This event is free to attend.

Saturday, April 13
North Carolina Star Party
8:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
The GSC and Greensboro Astronomy Club invite the public to see what’s up in the night sky! Telescopes will be provided, but guests are welcome to bring their own. This event takes place rain or shine and is free to attend.

Saturday, April 20
Science Extravaganza!
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
GSC guests will be invited to sample multiple branches of science by experiencing robots in action, nano stations, outdoor fun, must-see shows, and more. Activities are included with general admission or membership.

Saturday, April 27
Tuxedo Trot 5K and Kids’ Fun Run
8:00 a.m. (5K), 9:00 a.m. (Fun Run)
Participants will run, walk or waddle to the finish line to help save endangered African penguins. Race registration is required and is available online at www.tuxedotrot.com.

Saturday, April 27
World Penguin Day
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Guests are invited to celebrate African penguins and discover how they can help this species in need. Activities are included with general admission or membership.

Martha Regester, the GSC’s VP of Education, says, “We love science every day, but the North Carolina Science Festival gives us a chance to highlight different areas of hands-on science, from astronomy to zoology. We hope that families will come out to join us throughout April to celebrate science and maybe find a new favorite area to explore!”

The Science of Beer

Beer is made from four basic ingredients: a grain (usually barley but sometimes wheat or rye), water, hops, and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from the grains so that the yeast can become alcohol and carbon dioxide, leading to beer.

First, the grains are harvested and processed by heating, drying out and cracking – a step called malting. The main goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing. An enzyme is a protein molecule in cells that works as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions.

Next, the grains go through a process known as mashing. The processed grains are steeped in hot water for about an hour (similar to making tea… but it’s beer tea). This activates the enzymes in the grains, causing them to break down and release sugars. Once this is all done, the water is drained from the mash, which is now full of sugar from the grains. This sticky, sweet liquid is called wort. It’s basically unmade beer, sort of like how dough is unmade bread.

The wort is boiled for about an hour while hops and other spices are added several times to create different brews. Hops are a vine plant’s small, green cone-like fruits. They provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort. They also provide flavor and act as a natural preservative, which is what they were first used for.

The cooled, strained and filtered wort is then put into a fermenting vessel to which yeast is added. At this point, the brewing is complete and fermentation begins. During this time, the beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or several weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers), while the yeast eats up all the sugar in the wort and spits out carbon dioxide and alcohol waste products. Yum!

At this point, alcoholic beer is born. However, it’s still in a flat and uncarbonated state. This flat beer is bottled and can either be artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’, allowed to naturally carbonate via the carbon dioxide the yeast produces.

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After allowing the beer to age for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, you can drink the beer – and it’s delicious!

 

Species Sampling: Crayfish

In late January, with temperatures hovering in the low 30s, a team of GSC staffers took to the streams to identify crayfish. Why, you might ask, would you wait for such a cold day for this particular project? We, the marketing department, had the same question as we were unceremoniously dragged from our heated office spaces to document the activity. According to our fearless leaders, Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation and Research, and Brena Jones, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, digging up crayfish is actually one area of research that lends itself to a winter excursion. The lack of new growth present at this time of year makes it easier to spot crayfish burrows and holes in the streambed.

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We know what you’re thinking… crayfish aren’t all that exciting. We thought so, too, initially. But read on! We’re going to share some truly fascinating factoids about a species present in our own backyards.

The first step to identifying crayfish, we learned, is locating them. Crayfish are burrowers. They are categorized based upon their habitat preference as primary burrowers (meaning they spend most of their time in burrows), secondary burrowers (meaning they are more often found in streams than burrows), or tertiary burrowers (meaning they are only found in burrows during breeding season). In order to find the animals, our team walked slowly through the stream, lifting rocks and looking for movement and searching for raised mounds that could indicate the presence of a burrow.

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Once the crayfish were found, the real fun began. Each animal was first identified by looking for several characteristics that distinguish one species from another. When it comes to pincher claws on a crayfish, size matters – for identification purposes, of course. The fat pinchers of the Cambarus are relatively obvious when compared with the long, narrow pincher claws of the Procambarus. Since crayfish can regenerate their claws, a tip Brena had for our team was to always look at the bigger claw for better accuracy.

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In addition to pincher claw size, the width between the lines on top of the animal’s carapace (or top shell), the presence or absence of spines on the carapace, and the pointiness or bluntness of the rostrum (which is a fancy word for the space between the eyes) can all be used for identification purposes. With that being said, there are a lot of undescribed species of crayfish in North Carolina, which can make identification challenging!

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Once the species was identified, some – ahem – personal information was also collected and recorded, such as the overall size and the sex. Males, Brena showed us, have an extra set of swimmerets, rigid in nature, on the underside of their tail. Each animal was also given a gentle squeeze. Pardon the scientific terminology here: a “squishy” crayfish may have recently molted. A shed exoskeleton means a growing crayfish!

Now, on to the big questions: why, exactly, are we digging up crayfish? Well, scientists, including the GSC’s own Lindsey Zarecky, are studying the effects of urbanization on wildlife. The recent sampling of species performed in our stream will establish a baseline for comparison as our facility continues to grow and expand. Knowing what the ecosystem looks like before, during and after construction will help scientists understand how to find a balance between continued development and maintaining native wildlife populations. The ultimate goal is to discover how to create a scenario where everyone wins – both humans and wildlife alike.

Greensboro Science Center Aquarist Participates in Prestigious Coral Restoration Workshop

Rachel-PR-BlogGREENSBORO, NC — Rachel Rodgers, coral aquarist in the Wiseman Aquarium at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), participated in a five-day coral restoration workshop at Mote Marine Laboratory in December, 2018. Rodgers’ participation was sponsored by the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant, funding which offers GSC staff the opportunity to pursue a conservation or research project.

The workshop was led by Dr. David Vaughan, President and founder of Plant A Million Corals and former Senior Scientist and Program Manager at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration. Workshop participants were exposed to the history of coral restoration (both land-based and ocean nurseries), coral reproduction and the future of restoring coral reefs in light of bleaching, or starvation, episodes occurring around the world.

The workshop offered hands-on experience in land-based micro-fragmentation and fusion coral restoration efforts. Participants learned how micro-fragmentation expedites the growth of corals. Using a specialized saw to cut very small pieces of coral, usually 1-5 polyps, the coral tissue is stimulated to grow, allowing scientists to clone at 25-50 times the normal growth rate. Clone fragments of coral recognize each other and fuse together to form large colonies. By implementing techniques such as micro-fragmenting and fusion, scientists and aquarists hope to bolster the resilience of reefs at local scales.

Workshop participants included coral biologists, conservationists and academics who have been doing coral fragmentation on existing reefs. As the only aquarist to participate, Rodgers brought valuable knowledge about land-based work to the team, including water quality, building of aquarium systems and coral husbandry. Now that the workshop is complete, Rodgers is excited to maintain relationships she built during the experience. She plans to continue collaborating with fellow participants so coral labs can be built all around the world.

“This workshop brought a lot of hope,” Rodgers says. “You hear ‘50% of coral reefs are bleached and 30% are dead’ and you begin to feel hopeless. But, when you have dedicated people learning to build reefs, there is hope for coral reefs.” This experience not only taught Rodgers techniques for restoring corals, but strengthened her passion for the work she does as well as drew her into a world of coral restoration opportunities.

Rodgers was one of three staff who received project funding through the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant program. The GSC’s staff can apply for funds to support research projects, conservation work or relevant professional development. Applicants must submit a written application, provide a presentation to the research committee and, if funded, present a program recap to the GSC’s board and staff.

Lindsey Zarecky, VP of Conservation & Research at the GSC says, “The GSC research committee is thrilled to be able to offer this grant opportunity. There is such gratification in seeing the hope, passion and illumination in the eyes of staff who experience field conservation work and become re-energized to do what they can to conserve wildlife.”

Media Release: Color Maze to Open at the Greensboro Science Center

Color-Maze---OrbsGREENSBORO, NC — On Wednesday, June 27, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is bringing back an old favorite with a new twist. The GSC’s popular maze will return as the Color Maze, a puzzling adventure that highlights the science of light and color. GSC members will receive a preview of the exhibit from 9:00 a.m. – noon on Wednesday, June 27 before it opens to all GSC guests at noon.

Upon entering the exhibit, guests will encounter hands-on stations designed to shed some light on everything from optical illusions and color blindness to ultraviolet light and wavelengths. Young children are invited to explore and learn in a play area containing manipulatives like colorful blocks and books about colors. In addition, guests can pop virtual balloons and watch them rain colorful confetti, create colored shadows, and put on a puppet show with shadow puppets.

The maze itself features twists and turns with colorful surprises around every bend. Fireflies are featured in an area designed to enlighten guests about bioluminescence (light produced by living things). Prisms illuminate the mystery behind rainbows, demonstrating how white light is split into the color spectrum. Shooting stars spotlight the science behind the different colors you see when meteors streak through the sky. Fun finds like colorful orbs and a black light zone also await discovery.

Color-Maze-Colored-ShadowsMartha Regester, the GSC’s VP of Education, says, “Color is such a big part of our world and we wanted to shed some light on the fun science behind the spectrum and optics! We think visitors of all ages will really enjoy the exhibit’s special effects and want to play with color.”

Admission to the Color Maze is included with general admission to the Greensboro Science Center. General admission is $13.50 for adults ages 14 – 64, $12.50 for children ages 3 – 13 and $12.50 for seniors ages 65+. Children 2 and under as well as Greensboro Science Center Members are free.

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About the Greensboro Science Center – A premier family attraction in North Carolina that offers the state’s first accredited inland aquarium, a hands-on science museum, an accredited Animal Discovery Zoological Park, a state-of-the-art OmniSphere Theater, and SKYWILD, an animal-inspired treetop adventure park. The GSC is also NC’s only dually accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AAM (American Alliance of Museums) science attraction – an honor only 14 attractions in the nation can claim. The Greensboro Science Center is located at 4301 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit http://www.greensboroscience.org.

Media Release: “Wicked Plants” Author to Speak at Science Café

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Amy Stewart, author of “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities”

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) will host Amy Stewart, the author of “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities,” at a Science Café on Wednesday, April 4 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Stewart’s book is the basis of Wicked Plants: The Exhibit, hosted at the GSC through May 6, 2018. Admission to the Science Café is free.

About the Science Café

Join author Amy Stewart for a closer look at the medicinal, mind-altering and mysterious properties of plants, from strangling vines to heart-stopping seeds and even a leaf that started a war! Amy blends science with history in this talk, a companion piece to Wicked Plants: The Exhibit. Wickedly tasty snacks will be provided before the talk.

Stewart will also be signing copies of her book, “Wicked Plants,” available for sale at the event. Her talk is geared towards older children and adults.

This event is part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a month-long event that highlights the educational, cultural and financial impact of science in the state.

Amy Stewart Bio

Best-selling New York Times author Amy Stewart is no stranger to the perils and pleasures of the natural world. To date, she has written nine books, including “The Drunken Botanist,” “Wicked Bugs” and “Flower Confidential.” Beyond putting pen to paper, Amy travels the country as a highly sought-after public speaker whose spirited lectures have inspired and entertained audiences at college campuses, corporate offices, museums, gardens and libraries nationwide. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Scott with whom she owns an independent bookstore (so independent that it lives in California) called Eureka Books.

Amy’s books have been translated into 16 languages and her 2009 book, “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities,” has been adapted into a national traveling exhibit entitled Wicked Plants: The Exhibit. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award.

For more information on Amy, please visit amystewart.com.

GSC Gift Guide: Memberships

Looking for the perfect gift idea that’s fun for the whole family? How about a full year of free Greensboro Science Center admission?!?! A GSC membership offers just that – and much more.

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For as little as $32.40 per person (including tax), a membership truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only will it give your loved ones a full year of exciting, memorable, and educational visits to the GSC, they’ll also receive lots of discounts — including discounted admission for their guests, discounted OmniSphere Theater and SKYWILD tickets, discounts in the gift shop and cafe, and discounts on birthday parties, classes and camps!

Members will enjoy exclusive invitations and previews of new exhibits and OmniSphere shows. They’ll also receive information about how to get involved in citizen science programs, be the first to learn about upcoming GSC projects, and get exclusive peeks at what happens behind the scenes of the GSC in our member-only e-newsletters.

If your loved ones enjoy traveling, the savings will go even further! GSC members receive free or discounted admission to over 300 Association of Science-Technology Centers and over 150 Association of Zoos and Aquarium facilities, giving your loved ones the chance to explore amazing science centers, zoos and aquariums all around the country (and world!) for a fraction of the cost.

Click here to see the complete list of member benefits and to purchase a gift membership online.

If you’re a boss looking for a great gift for your employees (or an employee looking to encourage your boss to give you an awesome, experiential gift!), you’ll want to check out our Business Membership program.

Business memberships include GSC membership cards in the company’s name for employees to use. During their visit, employees using the business membership will also receive discounts in the gift shop and cafe. It’s a great way to show your employees your appreciation while supporting science education!

Click here to view business membership levels and to download a business membership order form.

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a family or for your employees, the GSC has a membership program that’s right for you!