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Below The Surface

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I used to like Clam Chowder!

I still like clam chowder,though this makes you wonder if, like the mercury warnings we hear about fish consumption, we should be watching our clam consumption!

Does my favorite Italian Dish "Linguine ai Frutti di Mare" become "Linguine ai Frutti e Inquinante di Mare".

What a fascinating way to detect what we can't see in our waterways. What a frightening manifestation of what may be happening in our waterways. Thankfully we have the Clean Water Act. Hopefully we can all implement changes in our own lives to avoid chemical depositions in our waterways. We have to remember, our waterways may look good, but chemistry is often elusive. If you're letting phosphorous or other chemicals leave your property, you may be messing with my clam chowder! See what you think about Clamming Up

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Panting Fish?

While caring for fish here at ECHO, we always stop to observe and look for issues in an aquarium if we see a fish "gilling hard" or flexing it's mouth with each exaggerated action of the gill flap. This behavior indicates some sort of stressor in the environment. The stressor can be aggression from another fish, it can be a pathogen taking hold of the fish or it can be a water chemistry problem. Now, this change in gilling rates is being used to detect deteriorating water chemistry in water supply systems for people. The new canary in the coal mine. Click here to learn about these new "Intelligent Aquatic Biomonitoring" Systems.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snake Hibernation: Too Cool To Move

Imagine living outdoors in a Vermont winter and not having the ability to create your own body heat! Our native herpetological species, including Vermont snakes, respond to this challenge by retreating to an appropriate place to hunker down for the winter to avoid freezing temperatures.


So how do these stationary serpents survive the cold without food all winter? Their metabolism slows down and their bodies use the resources they have stored over the last year in the form of lipids, glycogen and glucose in the liver.
Each species has its own preferred type of hibernacula. Finding the right spot to ball up for the winter is very important, safe hibernacula provide a snake with shelter from freezing temperatures, protection from predators, access to air and enough moisture to avoid drying out. Here in Vermont snakes seek safe hibernating areas under rocks, stumps, roots, or under logs. Some slide into mammal burrows or dig into loose soil.


Some snakes aggregate in large ant-mounds for the winter, a choice usually left to the smaller species such as red bellied snakes, Dekay’s brown snake, young smooth green snakes and young garter snakes. Black rat snakes and the endangered timber rattle snake are also communal hibernators, sharing large and deep rock crevices and cracks. Communal hibernating brings together males and females for mating opportunities before or after it’s too cool to move!


Tessa Faye-Foulds
Environmental Exhibit Specialist

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

E-Team: Teen Leaders extradonaire!


Ever been to ECHO and wondered about those kids in the green shirts? Weekend shifts are staffed by the E-Team, ECHO’s Environmental Teen Leadership program. I have the great pleasure to supervise this group of outstanding freshmen and sophomores and learn alongside them as we explore all things, Lake Champlain Basin style.


Elizabeth staffs the button making station.


The E-team is a group of 10 freshmen and sophomores from the Greater Burlington area; Burlington, Winooski, Champlain Valley Union and Vermont Commons School are well represented. When they aren’t educating and delighting guests at ECHO these teens are playing soccer, rowing crew, starring in plays, shredding the slopes, tutoring younger students and siblings, and acting as leaders in their religious communities. Despite the demands of their busy schedules they commit to ECHO for 6 hours every week, and many choose to come in for extra volunteer hours as well!

Emma showing off her frog mask, with Williams at work.

Last month the E-team demonstrated their fabulous leadership skills by hosting students from the C.P. Smith after school program. The elementary school students were able to tour our regular exhibits as well as participate in Conservation Quest programming led by the teens. Not only was this a very fun and exciting afternoon for the C.P. Smith students, it was also very beneficial for the E-Team.

Every week E-Team is at ECHO teaching guests about the Lake Champlain Basin and learning what it means to be a good educator. This additional teaching opportunity gave them the chance to create a lesson plan, share responsibilities and work with a different audience than we usually have on the weekends.

Mohamed plays Wheel of Power with the after school group

School groups are able to visit ECHO at a discounted admission price through the Open Door program. This program is funded by an U.S. EPA grant and the generosity of members participating in the You Give, We Give Campaign.To everyone that has supported ECHO, thank you!