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iLabs: The Chemistry behind those firework colors!

July 3, 2015

If you are out and about this July 4th, stop by the Micro World iLab to find out just what chemicals cause the amazing display of color in fireworks.  We have a quick iPad activity to give you all you’d like to know about this.

Also we have handouts in the lab you can take to your local fireworks display in case you’re one of those people who wants to yell out chemical names instead of “oooooh and ahhhh” while watching colorbursts in the sky! :)

Here’s the poster, available through a Creative Commons shared post at the “Compound Interest” website in case you want to print your own! :) Have a happy July 4th weekend!!!!

Chemistry of Fireworks Poster

Chemistry of Fireworks poster

iLabs: Marine Invertebrate Dissection Class last night

June 26, 2015

Last night we debuted our “Biology of Marine Invertebrates” Class, aka, Dissections class!  We had a nice group of 8 and spent two hours exploring the external and internal structures of a Quahog clam, Blue crab, and a squid.  The time flew by and all seemed to enjoy themselves.

We will be doing the Marine Vertebrates Dissection class —  using a perch, skate and dogfish shark — on Thursday night July 30th from 6-8. Go to the Museum website for Registration info.

Lastly, if you missed last night and you can’t join us next month, stay tuned. We will be doing both on Tuesday mornings in the fall!

Quahog clams, Blue Crabs, and Squid buckets for our dissecting lab

Quahog clams, Blue Crabs, and Squid buckets for our dissecting lab

 

Dissection station for the class

Dissection station for the class

 

Marine Invertebrate specimens for dissection

Marine Invertebrate specimens for dissection

 

Dorsal anterior view of the  Blue Crab

Dorsal anterior view of the Blue Crab

iLabs: OIL SPILL! Come check it out, and take our class!

June 20, 2015

OIL SPILL VS. BIOREMEDIATION

(Using plants, bacteria or fungi to clean up environmental messes)

WE ARE TESTING TO SEE IF BACTERIA OR FUNGI CAN CLEAN UP THE OIL WE SPILLED IN SOME SEA WATER, AS WELL AS THE OIL WE DUMPED IN SOME SOIL.

Come visit the Micro World Investigate Lab to check up on our oil spill and oil-contaminated soil experiments.

We are monitoring how well oil-eating bacteria, and oyster mushrooms can break down the oil and clean up the mess.

In the trays of soil are chive seeds and motor oil.  To two of the trays we have added bacteria or fungus to see if either can clean up the soil enough for chives to grow.

These experiments are part of the demos we will be using this year in our “Pollution, Bioremediation, and Toxicology course. We’ll be holding this class either this Fall or next spring.

Participants can learn how to identify pollution and its source, monitor its severity, understand its effects on the human body, and learn of a success story of a dead river – the Naugatuck River in Connecticut, and how that river is being brought back to life.

It is a testament to what can happend when CONCERNED CITIZENS REFUSE TO GIVE UP , TAKE CHARGE OF THE EFFORT, AND MAKE THEIR LEGISLATORS LISTEN TO THEIR WISHES.

So watch the Museum website for postings this fall or spring, for when we’ll hold our class:  “Pollution, Bioremediation & Toxicology”

And remember,watch our blog for updates over the next few months on our experiment!

Best of all, come see our experiment in person!!!

Bioremediation experiment - plain seawater

Bioremediation experiment – plain seawater

Bioremediation experiment - seawater and oil

Bioremediation experiment – seawater and oil

Bioremediation experiment seawater, oil and oil-eating bacteria

Bioremediation experiment seawater, oil and oil-eating bacteria

Bioremediation experiment seawater, oil and fungi

Bioremediation experiment seawater, oil and fungi

Bioremediation experiment - soil, oil, chive seeds, and fungi

Bioremediation experiment – soil, oil, chive seeds, and fungi

iLabs: Vinegar eel trivia quiz answers!!

June 19, 2015

As promised, here are the answers to the Vinegar eel trivia quiz!

1) What is the scientific name for Vinegar eels? (alright, so this one’s a dead giveaway if you look at the “tags” but it’s like giving you points if you spell your name right. I’ll give you one question for free)

ANSWER: Turbatrix aceti

2) What do vinegar eels feed on? (no it’s not vinegar)

ANSWER: Bacteria

3) Can you see a vinegar eel without a microscope?

ANSWER: Yes you can, though it’s small, about 1mm. If you look closely at the slide, you can see movement

4) Pick the right answer: A vinegar eel culture will last for:

  • hours
  • days
  • years

ANSWER: A vinegar eel culture is easy to maintain and can be kept alive for years. So the closest correct answer would be years

5) True or false: Vinegar eels have an incomplete digestive tract (i.e. they do not have both a mouth and an anus connected by a complete intestinal tract)

ANSWER: False.  Vinegar eels DO have a complete digestive tract.

6) How many stages of development do vinegar eels go through?

ANSWER: 6 stages of development – egg, 4 larval stages, and an adult

7) Which is larger: a male or a female vinegar eel?

ANSWER: Female vinegar eel

8) Apart from length, how can you tell a male from a female vinegar eel?

ANSWER: The males have a curved end vs the females with a straight end.

9) How long does it take for a vinegar eel to go from an egg to an adult?

ANSWER: About 5 weeks.

10) How big is a vinegar eel?

  • 1 nanometer
  • 1 micro
  • 1 millimeter

ANSWER: 1mm

BONUS QUESTION:

Who authored the 1961 research article on the physiology of vinegar eels that reports that they may lack the tricarboxylic acid cycle (Krebs Cycle) in its usual form? (yes this is for real! ;) )

ANSWER: The paper, authored by H.A. Ells and C.P. Read was entitled:

Physiology of the Vinegar Eel, Turbatrix aceti (Nematoda), I. Observations on Respiratory Metabolism.

iLabs: Vinegar eel trivia quiz

June 16, 2015

So noticing how much interest there has been in the Vinegar eel articles lately, and knowing that many people like scavenger hunts, trivia, and quizzes, I decided to create a “Vinegar eel Trivia Quiz”  Here’s 10 questions on vinegar eel trivia.  You have until the end of the week to find the answers. I’ll post the answers on Friday.  Fair?

  1. What is the scientific name for Vinegar eels? (alright, so this one’s a dead giveaway if you look at the “tags” but it’s like giving you points if you spell your name right. I’ll give you one question for free)
  2. What do vinegar eels feed on? (no it’s not vinegar)
  3. Can you see a vinegar eel without a microscope?
  4. Pick the answer that is closest to being correct: A vinegar eel culture will last for:
    1. hours
    2. days
    3. years
  5. True or false: Vinegar eels have an incomplete digestive tract (i.e. they do not have both a mouth and an anus connected by a complete intestinal tract)
  6. How many stages of development do vinegar eels go through?
  7. Which is larger: a male or a female vinegar eel?
  8. Apart from length, how can you tell a male from a female vinegar eel?
  9. How long does it take for a vinegar eel to go from an egg to an adult?
  10. How big is a vinegar eel?
    1. 1 nanometer
    2. 1 micro
    3. 1 millimeter

Lastly, for the stout Google adventurer, here’s a bonus question:

Who authored the 1961 research article on the physiology of vinegar eels that reports that they may lack the tricarboxylic acid cycle (Krebs Cycle) in its usual form? (yes this is for real! ;) )

So get hunting.  Answers go up on Friday!!

iLabs: Worms in My Vinegar???? The Vinegar Experiment

June 13, 2015

debrabailey:

I just noticed that here it is, almost exactly 3 years later, and this post is STILL generating TREMENDOUS interest! In the last 5 days, we’ve had 2,175 hits on this article!!!!

I am not sure why the sudden surge in interest in Vinegar eels, but obviously they are a hot topic, so I am reblogging this post. There are several followup posts to this one, and if you do a tag search on “vinegar eel” you should be able to see the progression of our experiment with this. Enjoy!!!

Originally posted on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Education Blog:

The Micro World iLab has been abuzz with the sounds of amazement to shock.  The cause? Visitors reacting to the fact that unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is home to the creature, Turbatrix aceti, more commonly known as the “Vinegar Eel.”

It’s not that people mind eels, though these are not eels but free-living nematodes that are present in the environment, in soil, and in water. But what they really seem to find amazing? disturbing? fun? is that these creatures might be living on their kitchen shelf.

Regardless of whether they like or hate the vinegar eels, people almost universally have that initial reaction of “Oh my God — I have a bottle of vinegar that’s months old. Are they living in MY vinegar?” So it is suddenly “personal.”

The next question makes sense: “Are they harmful?” And all are relieved and reassured to learn these are worms that…

View original 357 more words

Butterflies, Blossoms and Biting Plants! Museum Interns Venture into Green Swamp!

June 11, 2015

This blog contributed by our summer intern, Elizabeth Breedlove.

Imagine the most recognizable plant you know. Is it a flower, or maybe something you eat? Now imagine a plant that eats like you do, with a “mouth” and a vicious catch that insects have no hope of escaping. You probably imagined the Venus Fly Trap, which is considered one of the most recognizable plants in the entire world. Some North Carolinaians are unaware that these iconic plants are native, and that we have a chance to see them growing healthy in the wild–not in a tiny pot at your local department store!

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences hosted a trip for interns led by Jerry Reynolds, Senior Manager of Outreach, that took us deep into the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County. Green Swamp is like a whole new world (cue Disney Aladdin music) to those unaccustomed to this landscape; a magical open Savannah dotted with areas of thick pocosin that offered up a plethora of plant diversity comparable to that of the Amazon rainforest. It was mentioned that if you ran at the thick pocosin, it would just pick you up and throw you back out! The pine Savannah was a glimpse into the old world of settlers and pioneers, a peaceful open place with the air of protection that tall trees bring. A passage was read to us from those days noting how the trees were spacious, and yet if you looked off into the distance they seemed an impenetrable wall of wood. We then looked out and saw the same scene from hundreds of years ago, and we all felt a sobering sort of wisdom from the land that has seen so much human history.

Walking into the Green Swamp Preserve. Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Walking into the Green Swamp Preserve.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

We learned that while the land was similar today, it had actually changed a lot. The historic Longleaf Pine forest was taken down, trees up to three feet in diameter, and used for the growing populations of humans. A large part of the tree supplied sap for making water tight seals and glues for building ships and homes. These trees were often replaced with faster growing, shorter lived, Loblolly Pines. Longleaf Pine forests are kept healthy by fire and these pines even require fire to go from one growth stage to the next. Human control of fires has weakened the Longleaf pine ecosystem that we are now working to restore with prescribed burns. The picture below shows ‘pole’ stage Longleaf Pine trees that needed fire to open up from  the ‘grass’ stage and shoot straight up.

Young Longleaf Pine Trees Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Young Longleaf Pine Trees
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

I mentioned Venus Fly Traps right? This place was teeming with them, we actually had to watch our steps constantly to ensure we weren’t going to demolish one! Have you ever seen a happy Venus Fly Trap blooming in a store? I haven’t. All around us were the gleeful white blooms of the flytrap, an innocent aspect of the toothed killer underneath it.

Venus Fly Trap in Bloom Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Venus Fly Trap in Bloom
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Underneath these flowers we saw multiple examples of the famous Fly Trap- some green and some the dark red that is meant to resemble meat and attract insects.

Venus Fly Trap

Hungry Venus Fly Trap. Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

What else were we to see in this savannah that could beat out a Venus Fly Trap? How about five more species of carnivorous plants! These plants are all adapted to capture insects that supply the nitrogen needed for plants to survive in nutrient-poor wet swamp soil.

Dwarf-size Sweet Pitcher Plant

Dwarf-size Sweet Pitcher Plant. Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Tall Yellow Pitcher Plant Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Tall Yellow Pitcher Plant.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Short and Stout Purple Pitcher Plant Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Short and Stout Purple Pitcher Plant.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Sundew Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Sundew.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Butterwort plant.    Leaves curl inward to surround and digest stuck insects. Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Butterwort plant.
Leaves curl inward to surround and digest stuck insects.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Not only were we delighted with the amazing types of carnivorous plants that call the Carolinas home, but also the natural orchids, grasses, and critters that thrive in this type of ecosystem. Perhaps the cutest critter of  the day was the exciting find of a Palamedes Swallowtail Caterpillar…does anyone else see the Pokemon Caterpie?!

Palamedes Swallowtail Caterpiller Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Palamedes Swallowtail Caterpillar.
Photo by Elizabeth Breedlove

Our trip to the Green Swamp Preserve was an experience so amazing that I can’t believe it was offered to me. Trips like this are what inspires people in nature and makes learning truly exciting. This post only covers the 1st half of the trip too! The second half included snorkeling in Lake Waccamaw to search for endemic species of mussels found only in this lake and to learn about the creation of lakes known as Carolina Bays. This gave us interns a chance to see more species, such as alligators, found in or near Lake Waccamaw. Yes, there are alligators in NC, and yes, they are big!

As an intern at the Museum I’ve learned more than any class has ever taught me and have been immersed in a wealth of knowledge that is not only willing, but wanting, to share. Getting involved with the Museum has given me the unique chance to not only get the public excited about nature and science in a positive way, but also to be taught by the best and create lifelong memories I may never get to experience anywhere else.

Elizabeth is a senior studying Environmental Science at NC State University.

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