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Below The Surface

Friday, July 30, 2010

THINK! about it

I was feeling a little hungry while thinking of a blog post for this week... Hunger, and thinking... these two things vaguely reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, then it hit me! It was a sign I had to blog about our café here at ECHO! I ventured downward, into the depths of the aquarium, past the general butler shipwreck and the monster bugs that eyed me as I walked by- finally I had arrived to my destination…The ECHO Think! Café...

I wanted to get the scoop on what this café was all about- because it clearly was more than JUST a café… I was quick to learn that the café has the model of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and is extremely sustainable! Everything from compostable utensils, trash bags, and cups to countertops that are made with 50% consumer recycled paper, the Think! Café is one step ahead…Even the paneling on the walls is made of a biofiber wheat-straw that is created from the renewable agriculture source, wheat straw! When you visit the Café it’s easy to get tips on how to be eco-friendly at home with helpful signs and hints… “Think! Café aspires to inspire our diners to make eco-connections between their food choices and the health of the environment”

I had the chance to talk with Marissa, who has worked at the Think! Café since 2008. Marissa’s favorite aspect of the job is meeting people from all over the country and even world that come to visit ECHO…”A few years ago there was a group from Japan, they were taking a photography class I think and it was awesome to see them experience ECHO” Talking with Marissa, I realized how much she enjoyed working on the lake while interacting with guests almost every day.

What do you like most about working on the lake at ECHO?

“Well, I have the best view in the building! When I have a break I love to go out by the water and enjoy the wildlife, the ducks are always a favorite”… “One time, a few friends came on a jet ski to visit for lunch, that was fun!”

What are some popular options in the café?

Marissa was quick to answer, “Down on the Farm and the Out’a Towner are two popular paninis, both really good!”… I did some more research with our office as well, and the “Raise the Roost” Panini was a staff favorite!

I asked Marissa what her favorite exhibit was at ECHO…. “I really enjoy the traveling exhibits, backyard monsters is really cool right now! I love the details in the monster bugs, the one in the entrance is my favorite by far”

Next time you visit ECHO, stop by the Think! Café, enjoy a great local meal, take in the beautiful lake views, and learn about sustainability with your food! Make sure to say hi to Marissa, and let her know you read the blog!

Here is the link to Think! Café ….

http://www.echovermont.org/visitors/foodbeverages.html

Until next week,

-Derek

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where's your VOICE?

Every week my blog topic changes, this week a rather cool personal story connected with ECHO in such a way that I felt the need to write about it for this week’s entry! My hope is that it can inspire you, the reader, to try out what I did on my own! (Keep reading to find out just what I am talking about...)

My “Personal Story”- This past weekend I found myself at North Beach, a little ways away from the Burlington Waterfront and ECHO. I was at a barbecue with friends enjoying my chicken kabob when in the distance I noticed you could no longer see the Adirondack Mountains… It didn’t take long to realize that far off there was a summer storm encroaching on the lake. The sky was changing all sorts of colors, from the blue it originally was to a deep, vivid yellow as the light reflected in fascinating ways over the new rainclouds. It was a brilliant site! The wind suddenly picked up, and most observers got the hint that the curtain of water hiding the Adirondacks was headed our way, and quickly! I grabbed the plate of kabobs without thinking twice (partly to have more for myself) and took cover under the pavilion. The storm continued its way, engulfing Shelburne point directly across from us, and making the trees whip in the wind…luckily we (and the food) were all safe and dry under the shelter! It didn’t take long for the storm to dissipate from the area and move on, and when it did it left the most amazing gift- a huge double rainbow, brighter than any I have seen in my 20 years in VT, and it was right above us. My friend was quick to joke we should swim to the other end and dive for treasure… My treasure was the excellent chicken kabobs I keep thinking about, so I was all set! I grabbed my phone and took a picture, I only was able to capture one rainbow, but one is in-fact better than none! I loved this moment, witnessing the hidden power of nature, its beauty unleashed; all with friends on beautiful Lake Champlain- times like these are rare…

Its “Connection” to ECHO: Ironically, the Monday after that weekend I met with Bridget Butler who is the mastermind behind VoicesForTheLake.org- I showed her the picture I had taken and she said how perfect a photo like that could be for the Voices for the Lake project! I had heard a lot, and seen a lot about Voices for the Lake, but for some reason it never occurred to me that my stories and pictures were wanted as well- so, I decided to share the photo! It took less than 5 minutes to log on to the website, upload the picture and write a brief description, and within 15 minutes of posting it was already on the website, twitter and Facebook for all of you to enjoy! Something so simple accomplished the goal of Voices for the Lake- a story about my experience enjoying my home… We all have these stories, and this project makes it possible to help these memories last a lifetime (literally!)… I’ll note that my picture directly got the attention of another user who then shared a picture and story of her own!
The Ultimate GOAL for Voices for the Lake! Bridget has created an amazing way for technology to play an integral role in stewardship for Lake Champlain- she fully utilizes twitter Facebook and blogging to keep the public informed of events and happenings, and the Voices website is always packed with fresh content, so every visit to the site is a new and exciting experience!

Here are some snippets from the websites “about” page…

“Voices for the Lake takes the perspective that we have much to learn from the voices of the public. ECHO draws from VFL to understand the interests and needs of the community and provide opportunities for individuals to take action in support of lake stewardship…VFL believes that technology can be a tool to connect individuals with similar values, collect diverse perspectives and questions, and to broker relationships among residents, experts and resources in the field…”

Its excellent that we have a website like this! I know for a fact Bridget would love to see, hear and watch all of your stories about the lake… Good thing you are on your computer now- here is the link, don’t waste any time- make your voice heard!
OH!!... Stay updated with Facebook and voicesforthelake.org for info on the summer sunset cocktail party to officially present the collage of ideas this project has brought forth- officially celebrate Voices coming to the floor at ECHO as a permanent exhibit!

Can’t wait to see your entries-

Until next week,
-Derek

http://www.voicesforthelake.org/
**To share your Lake related story, picture or more, click the above link and then click “share” to get started!I know for a fact that she would love to see, hear and watch all of your stories about the lake… Good thing you are on your computer now- here is the link, don’t waste any time- make your voice heard!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Feeding Surinam Toads

Surinam Toads are perhaps the most strange and bizarre exotic amphibian species on exhibit at ECHO. Found in the Amazon region of South America, they live amongst suspended sediments, rotting leaves and other organic matter in muddy streams and slow moving rivers. Eyes are of little use in this habitat. Securing food for this carnivorous species is more about feeling its prey than seeing it. Tiny cups on their fingertips sense vibrations in the water from passing prey. When prey is detected, a Surinam opens its cavernous mouth and uses its oversized rear webbed feet and, in a heartbeat, lunges at and devours its prey. At ECHO, we prefer to feed night crawlers to Surinams. Night crawlers are less apt to carry pathogens and are more nutritious than fish. However, the challenge with any captive species is converting dietary intake from natural prey items to a preferred captive food item. In this video, Tessa, one of ECHO's Animal Care Specialists, is successfully feeding a night crawler, for the first time, to a Surinam Toad.

Why exotic frogs at ECHO? Part of ECHO’s mission is to share opportunities for stewardship and our impact on our environment. Our native wildlife collection helps with our mission as it relates to the Lake Champlain Basin. Our exotic frogs help with our mission as it relates to our worldwide impact on our environment. For example, if we purchase materials made from natural resources in the Amazon basin, optimally, it would be great if we knew if these resources were sustainably harvested so as not to adversely impact animals like Surinam Toads. Why should we care? Amphibians eat insects and as you’d probably agree, we have more than enough of those in our lives; anything that consumes them is more than welcomed in our shared habitat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fresh Perspective!

For this week's blog I wanted a fresh perspective on ECHO (one that wasn't my own). So, this week I met with Carly Millen, a Junior at Saint Michael's College in Colchester VT, studying Business, Marketing and International Relations. Carly is the ECHO Events Intern for the summer season…While meeting with her I got a cool inside scoop on events that are held here along with two exhibits that have become her recent favorites!

So why did she choose to intern at ECHO?
“I loved the atmosphere of this place, and I love the opportunity to interact with the great people that visit every day!”… As an event intern, Carly attends the various functions that go on at ECHO including weddings, dinners, and meetings. She quickly added, “It’s cool to see how ECHO transforms to host these events, it’s so open yet you can be anywhere in the building and there is an intimate feeling” She particularly enjoyed a recent wedding she worked at, noting how during the first dance guests had lined along the balcony to watch from above.

What’s a recent ECHO discovery?
Carly checked out the “Awesome Forces” movie last week for the first time! “Learning how the lake was formed along with the Adirondack and Green Mountains was very interesting! It gave great, easy to understand information without overwhelming you, and the cool special effects and lighting really enhanced the viewing too!”

Frog World!?! After asking Carly what her favorite exhibit is at ECHO, she really had to think… Finally, she came up with her answer. “Frog World, in particular the Vietnamese Mossy Frog exhibit”… I had her take me to it to show me firsthand. For a minute or two I stood trying to FIND the frog, until I realized it had been right in front of me the whole time! (It blended right in with the moss… clearly I missed the memo in the name of the exhibit!) This is one interesting frog for sure, considering how much it blends in with its natural habitat. We both learned that this type of frog rolls into a ball to look less edible to the animals that prey on it- and in Southeast Asia where this species originates, habitat loss is threatening its very existence.

This week I got a fresh perspective on ECHO from my fellow intern downstairs, Carly... Here is the link to our Frog World exhibit to learn more http://www.echovermont.org/exhibits/fw.html
Look back next Friday for the 4th installment of the marketing intern blog posts!
Until then,
-Derek

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Live Backyard Monster at ECHO

If you like the giant robotic insects in ECHO's Backyard Monsters exhibit, come see a new, live backyard monster that you might encounter where you live! ECHO's newest arrival, the Giant Water Bug, also known as the "Toe Biter", is one of the largest insects in the U.S. "Toe Biters" consume other insects, small fish, amphibians and apparently have a reputation for taking a stab at toes. They pierce their prey with their sharp beaks and secrete enzymes that break down their prey's body tissue, which is then slurped up by the giant water bug.

The Giant water bug is on display in the Animal Care Room at ECHO. You might also cross paths with this alarmingly gigantic bug when Brian or Tessa, ECHO's Animal Care specialists, might take him out to lunch during Animal Encounters that take place daily at 10:30AM and 3:00PM. Not to worry, if you sit in on one of these encounters, we'll bring a food item for the Toe Biter, we won't ask for anyone's toes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Buggin' Out!!

As an intern at ECHO I get to explore this awesome place every time I take a break from work- Today work was extra cool considering my break included a visit to Backyard Monsters, our current traveling exhibit which I have decided to blog about!

Today I felt like I was shrunken down to a crazy small size (much like the honey I shrunk the kids movie, a 90’s classic!) As I walked in I was greeted by a HUGE Praying Mantis… It was so detailed and even moved which made it incredibly lifelike. Other robotic creatures that soon greeted me were the ants, the dragonfly and the scorpion- Each had great detail to really help you see these normally small bugs from an entirely new perspective! (It’s not every day you can be dwarfed by an ant!)

After the robotic insects I checked out the exhibits… One that stood out to me was the bug eye display! There were two huge eye lenses, one human and one bug. The human lens was normal and easy to see through, the bug eye however was almost impossible! (In the picture you can see why!) I learned that humans have one eye lens per eye whereas bugs can have up to 30,000! Bugs are not able to focus their vision like we can, yet they can get a sharp picture from all directions of sight (unlike humans who only focus on certain things).

I would love to go into detail about making my robotic bug walk, learning why mosquitoes do what they do, and getting up-close and personal with a flea………But I don’t want to give away the rest of the exhibit, so if you have not yet been you really should check it out for yourself…Words and iPhone pictures can only do so much!

Here is a link to the exhibit home-page at our ECHO website, http://www.echovermont.org/exhibits/bym.html and make sure to post your comments, pictures and stories about your visit with us on our Facebook FanPage (ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science center)

Until next week!

-Derek

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Bugged out in Tunbridge!"

This past weekend I ventured to a place in VT I had never been in my 20 years of living here, Tunbridge! I represented ECHO along with our excellent mascot Newton (who became a hit and was even in the parade!) Despite the cloudy weather, the turnout was excellent.

I went into this event not fully knowing what to expect- when I arrived to set up it was like I had been transported back to the 19th century ... People were in period dress and riding around on the tall ancient looking bicycles!


As the day kicked off many people stopped by with a smile and said they had heard of us (COOL!!) Even way down south in Brattleboro a
nd Manchester, the ECHO voice is heard very clearly. A lot of people said they recognized us from the news as well, and if you watch Channel 5 WPTZ you’ll know why!

People as far south as Florida were thrilled to learn that VT had such an established aquarium and science center, one of them even worked at an aquarium in Florida and wanted to check us out before her return home!

I was thrilled to see how many people knew about our current exhibit, Backyard Monsters- Many people expressed to me that they would be visiting this summer to check it out- Tunbridge was clearly “bugging out” in the best way possible! Despite the cloudy weather and slight rain, the people made it all worth it. As a new intern it was amazing to see how well known ECHO has become to Vermonters!

To end this post I want to share an awesome video a New England family made as part of a series called My Fit Family that “Demonstrates how your family can grow stronger, happier and healthier together”... It’s a fun video, so check it out!


www.my-fit-family.com (its video episode #1)


Until next week...

-Derek