Return to ECHO Homepage
Below The Surface

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Take a Spin with ECHO

I'm working with ECHO's exhibit and education team this summer to develop an exhibit for a new space called, the Action Lab. This exhibit will use a “spin browser” to take you, the visitor, on a virtual tour of Lake Champlain. A dial is used to control a movie-like tour as you “spin” forwards or backwards to find different places of interest on the Lake. You get  to control how fast or slow you move from place to place allowing you to explore at your own speed.


Spin Browser Wheel
Click here for details on spin browser technology.


We have lots of places we’d like our spin browser to take you to, but what we really want to show our visitors are the spots YOU find the most interesting.  What are your favorite spots on the Lake? What places on the Lake do you think tell a story about our region? Where would you tell someone to go that will just take their breath away?  

What do you think should be a part of this virtual adventure of Lake Champlain?


Burlington Waterfront Lighthouse
Some of the places we are thinking about include the  Fisk Quarry in Isle La Motte, where fossils from the world’s oldest reef can be seen. Or, how about diving down to the deepest part of the Lake near Split Rock?

I’ll be boarding the Melosira in June with a film crew to capture this visual journey on film for the new exhibit. Be a part of creating our first spin browser exhibit! Share your thoughts on what we should film by commenting below.  

Early next year, when our spin browser is up and running it will serve to create another opportunity for our visitors to experience and enjoy some of the ecology, culture and history that the Lake has to offer, and inspire folks through this journey to take a moment and make a difference to help care for Lake Champlain.


Written by Stephanie Larkin, Lake Champlain Basin Program

UVM College of Medicine Speakers Outstanding!

This past Thursday, May 24th, we celebrated the last session for the ECHO After Dark OUR BODY: Speaker Series. Over a span of 6 weeks (starting April 19th) we had some of the best teachers and surgeons 
Dr. Sharon Henry


Sarah O'Rourke, Intern


from the UVM College of Medicine doing a “walk and talk” through the exhibit with our guests. Each of the talks offered guests a unique opportunity to engage with these medical “rock stars” on topics focusing on the six body systems displayed within the exhibit. Titles ranged from A Focus on the Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems, Emergency Medicine, Diseases of Aging, Go With Your Gut, Science of the Sexes and our most popular session was Conditioning Your Body, Sports, Injuries, and Back Pain and Yoga. Sarah O’Rourke, year-long intern extraordinaire, and our amazing event staff set up the evening with relaxing music, a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres (big shout-out to Cheese Traders & Wine Sellers for deliciously partnering with us). People arrived early and enjoyed the exhibit and relaxed at ECHO before the talks.  Some of the evenings offered beautiful sunsets to sip wine by while enjoying the gorgeous Lake view. The biggest benefit for our attendees was the ability to ask questions of the experts. One of our elderly guests remarked on his way out how incredibly affordable the tickets were measured against the quality of the presentations. Other comments gathered included “How did you find these amazing people?” “The doctors are so engaging and passionate about their field. Their excitement is infectious.” If you missed any of the sessions and want more, click here to see our web page and watch some of the videos the speaker’s put together in their labs.
Dr. Peter Moses & Dr. Gary Mawe
The evening speaker series for adults was so successful that we decided to replicate the concept beginning in July for families! The ECHO Family-Scienctist labs begin July 11 at 1 p.m. and run six successive Wedensday. Hands-on and fun learning for the whole family! For a list of these please visit the OUR BODY calendar of events page or call 877-324-6386, ext. 100.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Pumpkinseed Sunfish Dance Again- Clearing the Dance Floor

Once again our sunfishes are beginning their annual spring ritual in our 3rd floor Upper River tank.  It started today with two male pumpkinseed sunfish establishing their nesting territories, keeping other fish away and sweeping the gravel bottom of their nests:
video
This happens each year.  To find out why check out this post from last year, or better yet come visit and see it for yourself!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

OUR BODY: Questions, Curiosity and Controversy

The day finally arrived! Saturday, April 14 the doors to ECHO opened to welcome our guests to the world class exhibit, OUR BODY: The Universe Within. Hard to believe, but the idea to host this exhibit began in 2008 when we embarked upon an expansion of ECHO that was completed this year. The expansion provided us the opportunity to present a larger, more involved and extensive exhibit that had exceptional education value.  

Notes from ECHO guests
Reaction from visitors has been amazing. The thoughts from guests collected and shared on Post-it® notes each day have filled us with inspiration and joy, tears and laughter. Many emotions, many deep and heartfelt, many full of thanks, and many questions as well.

We’ve received phone calls and emails from folks too. Some curious, some worried, some wondering why an Aquarium and Science Center would host an exhibit about the human body. Some confused about the up-charge on the usual ECHO admission fee, others wondering if they can visit and enjoy ECHO without accidentally “bumping into” a body from the exhibit (don’t worry, you can’t as the exhibit hall is sectioned off from the rest of ECHO).

Thoughtful questions. Relevant questions. Welcomed questions. And we are grateful for them. 

Our goal is to provide a unique and powerful experience for the community so they can engage in a conversation about the wonders of the human body and how best to keep their own body healthy. We also recognize that hosting this exhibition comes with some controversy. While we can definitively answer questions about the origin of the bodies and how they are preserved, we hope the wider conversation about ethics, aesthetics, and donating your body to science prompts discussion across the region.   

I thought I’d share some of the more common questions received and attempt to answer them assuming that many more people may be wondering or questioning the same thing.
Linda Bowden at the entrance to the exhibit. A rare quiet moment.

Here we go…

Where did the bodies come from? The specimens in this exhibition came from China via the Anatomical Science & Technologies Foundation (ASTF) through members of the Chinese Society for Anatomical Science. Members include accredited Chinese universities, medical schools, medical institutions, research centers and laboratories. The members share a collective goal “to promote and popularize knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the science of the human body, health care and disease prevention”, among other things. 

Did the individuals consent to be in this exhibit? According to the ASTF, all donors (or their immediate family members or authorized proxy) are clearly told that the donated bodies will be used for medical research and educational purpose (including appropriate preservation and public education). In China, as in the U.S., donor wishes and family identities are kept private, and therefore we can never trace the exact journey an individual has taken to find its way into this exhibit.  We feel confident, however, that the specimens in the exhibition at ECHO were acquired via lawful means and means that are in compliance with methods that are also acceptable in the U.S. 
Dr. Stephen Leffler from UVM College of Medicine walks the crowd through the exhibit.

Why did you choose this exhibit over other exhibits such as Body Worlds or Bodies…the Exhibition? We felt this exhibition put forth the most scientific and anatomically based and respectful presentation of the specimens. This exhibition, in our opinion, presented an exceptional amount of science, biology and health messaging and allowed for a greater opportunity to partner with UVM College of Medicine to expand the learning/teaching potential of the exhibit. See photos from two of the OUR BODY Speaker Series events: Pipes and Tubes and In the Nick of Time where experts from UVM College of Medicine walk guests through the exhibit and speak about their area of expertise. 

Dr. Elizabeth Ezerman from UVM College of Medicine talks about the central nervous system
Isn’t there controversy surrounding this exhibit and others like it? Yes there is. And we were aware of these questions and controversies which actually helped us decide on this particular exhibit over the other ones. We called previous host sites of this exhibit such as The Orlando Science Center, Detroit Science Center, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Oklahoma Science Museum, Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, Witte Museum, Mid America Science Museum, Whitaker Center, among others, and they, like us, felt confident in the validity and accuracy of the information provided. 

Why are they specimens so thin? When the body goes through the plastination process, the liquid in the body is replaced with a polymer, or plastic. Once the liquid is removed the body is much thinner since 70+ percent of the body is liquid. 

Do the specimens smell? No. There is no odor whatsoever.

Gerianne Smart, ECHO's Marketing Director, spoke about some of these issues recently on the Mark Johnson Show on WDEV Radio. To listen to the radio interview click here, you can hear her around the 2 minute mark.

Many generous people decide to donate their body or organs to science every day. This generosity has allowed medical science to advance our understanding of our “humanness” and create advances in medicine and technology that have helped millions of people to have longer, healthier lives. 
The questions asked, the thoughtful emails received and phone conversations are welcomed. Each one provides a new level of understanding, another avenue of research and education and, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for dialogue around issues of great importance. 

We welcome the continued conversation around this exhibit and invite you to come and view the exhibit for yourself. It is our hope that you will obtain not only a greater understanding of your own human body, but a deeper appreciation of the importance of medical science and research in the advancement of the health of our species.

Phelan Fretz, Ph. D., Executive Director
ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Good Luck to Our Animal Care Graduates!

A number of our dedicated volunteers in the Animal Care Department are graduating and moving on with their careers. We hope that their experiences at ECHO have helped them to achieve their future goals because they have certainly helped us maintain an outstanding animal collection and we have had a lot of fun together!
Tyson with Winston on the floor
Claire giving her first demo

Claire Trotter and Tyson-Jerome White are graduating from Champlain Valley Union High School and plan on attending college in the fall. Besides contributing many hours of labor to our core Animal Care duties, both have gone beyond the call of duty by contributing to the daily public programs that we present.

Reinhart feeds brook trout
Emma cleans baby turtles
Emma Fox and Reinhart Meisenheimer are earning Bachelors of Science in Biology degrees from Saint Michael's College. Emma will be working for the Maine Conservation Corps as an Environmental Educator at Mount Desert Island Biological Labs in Bar Harbor, Maine. Reinhart will be working as an Farmyard Educator at Shelburne Farms.



Scott returning a mudpuppy




Alyssa feeding the American toad
 The University of Vermont provides a seemingly never-ending source of motivated students who study Animal Science, Biology, and Natural Resources. We tip our hats to Monica Beers, Boyd Carnal, Annabelle Bower, Alyssa Kircher, and Scott Carson who will all be receiving their degrees from UVM in several weeks.  Monica has been a long-time volunteer in both our Animal Care and Education departments and working next door in the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Lab; she is true representative of the Leahy Center's many facets.  She will be continue with us this summer and also manage a lab at UVM.  Boyd will be moving south to pursue a graduate degree in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University. Annabelle hopes to return to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Atlantic salmon hatchery in her home state of New Hampshire, where she has worked summers during college. Alyssa plans to return to her home state of Colorado and continue to work in the field of wildlife biology. In addition to helping us, she and has been working with Keeping Track as a wildlife biologist. Scott hopes to stay in Vermont and will be continuing on with ECHO this summer as an Animal Care volunteer and as an Educator with our overnight education program.
Boyd returns the softshell turtle

While its always hard to see our volunteers move on, we wish them luck with all their future plans!