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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

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!!!

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 post 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.

iLabs: Pharmaceutical Development series – Season 3 this Fall!

June 4, 2015
Museum board advertising the Drug Development series in the Micro World iLab.

Museum board advertising the Drug Development series in the Micro World iLab.

For 2 years now, we’ve been doing a 4-week series on Drug Development, that covers everything from discovering an interesting plant in the rainforest to post-marketing studies. Our grant from the Biogen Foundation has made these classes possible, and their continued support is allowing us to continue to expand our offerings!

This series on drug development includes activities in high-throughput analysis of possible drug candidates for development, early drug characterization and pre-clinical testing, exercises in genetic engineering transforming E.coli with Green fluorescent protein, chromatography labs, clinical trial-ethics board simulations, and ends with a tour of NC State University’s BTEC (Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center) facility. Students get to see the actual equipment used in drug manufacturing, learn about the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate level programs at BTEC, and get to meet a panel of industry professionals who can give guidance on career paths.

These last two years of doing this program have been so successful that the director of the facility has invited us back for a 3rd year!!!

This year we will do something a little different.  Instead of having the classes on weekday mornings, which rules out attendance by public school students, we will be doing the series this Fall on Saturday mornings for the first 3 weeks of the class. The tour will be done on a weekday afternoon from 4-6 p.m. to allow students to come after school.

The class is open to upper middle school through adults. We encourage any adults who are curious about the drug development process to please join us, and we also ask any high school teachers out there to mention this class to interested students. Note to teachers: if there are students with strong interest and financial need, please contact Deb Bailey 

Dates and times will be posted in August around August 10th, so you’ll be able to sign up at that time.

iLabs: Super STEAM Class! Spy Chem of the American Revolution

June 3, 2015

TEACHERS, HOMESCHOOL PARENTS, FAMILIES – We have a whole new class this fall, just packed with STEAM-based curriculum correlations!  Okay, so maybe that doesn’t set your soul on fire…..or maybe it does, but let’s try this again:

How about this:

Enter the world of historical espionage and learn from an actual event, the Battle of New York, how Colonial spies used the principles of chemistry, and the subtleties of language to insure their messages got safely to the intended party. Learn also about the cultural views regarding spies, the evolution of the battle, and how General George Washington and his army barely escaped total destruction.

Okay, now let’s add this in.  The class will incorporate topics including: American History, American Cultural Attitudes, Geology, Chemistry, Biology, Mycology & Microbiology, all wrapped in the story of the Battle of New York – the first major battle of the Revolution, and the battle that nearly lost us the war before it even got started.

The class will be offered starting this fall, to grades 5-8, though older students are welcome. It is also offered weekdays to Homeschool groups of 8 or more, or to families and the public on a Thursday evening in the fall and next Spring. Dates and times for the public classes will be posted later this Summer as will the formal description for schools.

You’ll also get to make ink, write with a quill pen, reveal and decode invisible messages follow the course of the battle with a reproduction of the 1770 Ratzer map of New York, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society, go through the battle with a  pile of toy soldiers, and oh yes, find out why we care about 2 fungal strains that would grow in Colonial ink.

So come join us this fall for a super STEAM class that will bring science, history and culture alive, and by the way, here’s a hint for some of the NC curriculum standards it will include:

5.P.2, 5.H.1, 5.H.2, 5.L.2, 6.L.2, 6.P.2, 6.H.2, 6.C.1, 7.L.1, 8.L.1, 8.P.1, 8.H.2

Thanks to The Biogen Foundation, whose generous support helps make our classes possible. Enjoy!

Spy Chem of the American Revolution Ratzer map reproduction showing the Battle of New York

Spy Chem of the American Revolution Ratzer map reproduction showing the Battle of New York

Plastic soldiers on the Ratzer Map of 1770 showing the progression of the Battle of New York

Plastic soldiers on the Ratzer Map of 1770 showing the progression of the Battle of New York

Flask of Colonial Ink solution with fungi growing in it

Flask of Colonial Ink solution with fungi growing in it

Closeup of the 2 species of fungi that would grow in Colonial ink, and why we care

Closeup of the 2 species of fungi that would grow in Colonial ink, and why we care

For the Love of Bugs

May 6, 2015

by Courtney Johnson

If you have visited the Naturalist Center in the Museum, you’ve likely seen a large collection of insects…or maybe you avoided that part of the room? Most people find insects to be less than appealing. For me, there aren’t many things in this world I would rather study. My love of bugs began when I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until I took Forest Entomology at NCSU that I was seized with an intense interest to learn more about them.

Courtney holding recently  emerged Red-Spotted purple butterfly. Photo by Nick Mclamb.

Courtney holding recently emerged Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).
Photo by Nick Mclamb.

Insects are in the class Insecta. This class is a taxonomic rank below the phylum Arthropoda, which includes everything from crabs, shrimp and lobsters to millipedes, centipedes and spiders. Insects make up the largest class of Arthropods, and potentially account for 90% of the diversity of life on Earth. That is approximately 900,000 different species of insect, and there are more being discovered and classified all the time. Scientists estimate as many as 30 million (30,000,000) species could actually exist!

There are countless benefits insects provide to humans and the environment every day. Many plants have evolved along with insects and rely on them for pollination, including many of the fruits and vegetables we eat. Insects also serve as an important part of the food web, as many animals prey on them, but insects and arthropods are decomposers and detritivores too, which return nutrients into the soil from dead and decaying materials. And where would your honey be without honey bees?

Some people collect insects for science, education or just for a personal hobby. In the Naturalist Center, we have a diverse collection of both insects and other arthropods on display for YOU to come and learn about these wonderful creatures that cover the earth. During my time at the museum, I had the opportunity to help identify and pin beetles that were obtained from the Arthropod Zoo (another great exhibit on the 4th floor of the Nature Exploration Center).

Courtney pinning beetles in the Naturalist Center. Photo by Cindy Lincoln.

Courtney pinning beetles in the Naturalist Center.
Photo by Cindy Lincoln.

Pinning is the primary method for preserving insects. Smaller or more delicate insects or those prone to rotting are better kept in vials or jars of alcohol. When pinning insects, you have to take care not to damage the specimen, especially while trying to get a pin through the hard elytra (hardened forewing) of a beetle. My favorite insects to pin are butterflies and moths. The wings of these insects must be carefully pinned in position to dry, but the results are always worth the extra work.  Want to learn how to pin insects?  We have an Insect Pinning for Beginners class on May 21st.

Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)  during the pinning process.  Photo by Courtney Johnson.

Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) during the pinning process.
Photo by Courtney Johnson.

Collecting insects is a rewarding practice. It is easier to appreciate the diversity and beauty of each individual insect when they are not on the move. Having them in the Naturalist Center allows the public to see them the way I see them; not dead, but awe-inspiring. Appreciation for these small creatures goes a long way when you no longer see insects as pests, but as an abundant and wonderful part of nature.

 

Courtney Johnson recently completed her internship in The Naturalist Center. She is a graduate from the Forest Management program at North Carolina State University. She is an amateur insect collector, and is looking for a career related to entomology, conservation or public education and outreach.