Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursdays'



Thoughtful Thursdays: DIY Green Holiday Decorations

From the mesmerizing experience of watching “Polar Express” in 4D to staff celebrations and special holiday enrichment activities for the animals, the holiday season is always an exciting time for us at National Aquarium.

Part of that excitement includes decorating! As part of our conservation mission, we are always on the look out for ways to use recycled and eco-friendly materials to create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations!

We’ve included the steps for some of our DIY favorites below:

Recycled Magazine Holiday Tree 

Materials: 

Old magazines
Glue (optional)
Glitter (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Fold the page of the magazine down to create a triangular crease

  2. Fold the triangle down again and then fold the tip of that page up so that it’s even with the bottom of the magazine
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until every page of the magazine is folded in
  4. If desired, use glue and glitter to decorate your magazine trees!

Paper Bows

Materials: 

Recycled paper (printer paper and old magazine/newspaper works best)
Double-sided tape
Stapler

Directions: 

  1. Cut your paper into eight approximately one-inch wide strips (leaving one to the side)
  2. Loop the top half of the strip and secure to the middle of the strip with tape, loop the bottom half of the strip so to complete the “figure eight” shape
  3. Repeat step two for the remainder your strips
  4. Arrange the “figure eights” into a bow shape and secure together with a stapler.
  5. Loop the final strip (set aside earlier) and tape it in the center of the bow to cover the staple

3D Paper Snowflake 

Materials: 

Recycled paper cut into six squares (again printer paper and old magazine/newspaper work best)
Scissors
Tape
Stapler
Old ribbon or string (optional, for hanging)

Directions: 

  1. Gather your six square sheets of paper and fold each diagonally into a triangle
  2. Cut three lines in the triangle by positioning the scissors along the bottom fold, these cuts should be parallel to the top edges of the triangle and should leave some distance in the middle of the triangle (do not cut the paper all the way through)
  3. Once you’ve cut lines into each piece of paper, unfold them so that one of the points of the square faces you
  4. Roll the first two innermost paper lines together to form a tube. Place these two pieces together. You should see triangle shapes on either side of the role
  5. Turn the diamond over, take the next two paper lines and pull them together on the opposite side of the tube and tape together as before. This will be a more rounded shape than the first tube.
  6. Completing that pattern, join all the paper lines together on alternating sides until every “arm” of the snowflake has been completed
  7. Staple together the tops of three of the completed snowflake “arms”
  8. Staple the other three tops together
  9. Join the two halves of the snowflake by stapling together the tops of the snowflake
  10. Staple together where the “arms” of the snowflake meet each other, ensuring that the snowflake shape will stay in place
  11. If desired, loop a piece of ribbon or string through one of the snowflake “arms” and hang your snowflakes on doors, banners or windows!

Want to learn some other exciting eco-friendly holiday crafts? Join us for our holiday events, including our World Holiday Traditions celebration next Friday, December 7. We’ll be using recycled holiday cards to make notes to send to service members! 

Do you have a favorite eco-friendly holiday craft or decoration? Share them with us in the comments! 

Thoughtful Thursdays: Happy America Recycles Day!

We are committed to conservation and we strive to live our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, in everything we do.  Today, on America Recycles Day, we are happy to share with you some of the many ways our dedicated team’s hard work is paying off!

GREEN is in the numbers: 

  • 20.24 tons of organic materials were collected for composting
  • 45.72 tons of single-stream recycling were diverted from landfills
  • 2,135 pounds of technotrash and eCycling were diverted from landfills
  • 3.3 megawatts of electricity were saved thanks to energy efficiency upgrades to the lighting and water pump systems throughout our buildings
ECycled motherboards!

ECycled motherboards!

bird enrichment

Bird enrichment toy made from recycled newspapers!

In addition to our bigger programs, Aquarium staff are always thinking of new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose materials for our everyday tasks! Our Animal Programs team is especially clever and has made numerous enrichment materials from used items!

  • Paper towel tubes as puzzle feeders for birds
  • Old phone books for our birds to shred
  • Used gift cards to open reptile mouths for medical exams
  • And much more…the list is endless!

Monty likes to hang out in recycled cardboard boxes

We invite you to use today’s celebration to adopt some easy recycling practices:

  • Take the America Recycles Day pledge
    (It’s never too early to get started on those New Year’s resolutions!)
  • Make it a family affair!
    Kick your new pledge into high-gear by sharing your commitment with your family/friends/community.
  • Discover new ways to recycle!
    We are a big fan of TerraCycle’s brigades , who collect previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste. Send your hard to recycle items off to TerraCycle and they will appropriately recycle for you!
  • Get crafty!
    Before you throw away that old pair of socks, t-shirt, book, cork, plastic milk jug or plastic water bottle check out these fun DIY crafts. They are easy (and cheap) ways to get a little more life out of these products.

Those are just a few ideas – we’d love to learn some new ones! What are YOUR favorite ways to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and/or Repurpose? 

Sustainable Seafood Q&A with the Rusty Scupper’s Mark Miranda

In honor of our upcoming sustainable seafood Fresh Thoughts dinner in Baltimore, we sat down with featured chef, Mark Miranda of the Rusty Scupper, to get the scoop on how the sustainable dining movement is influencing the dining scene in Baltimore. 

Mark Miranda

Mark Miranda

A chef for more than 30 years, Markl Miranda has served the Rusty Scupper’s renowned Maryland crab cakes and seafood to some of the Monument City’s most monumental appetites. In doing so, Miranda has also shared his passion for preserving the ecology and economy of our community by upholding his restaurant’s commitment to serving only the best quality, sustainable seafood. 

National Aquarium: What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to cook? 

Mark Miranda: My favorite sustainable seafood to cook with is the Stripped Bass, better known as Rockfish. Rockfish is a local favorite that is very versatile.  It can be prepared in a variety of ways.  The Rockfish population is thriving, not only in our area but also throughout the world.

NA: How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?

MM:  As people become more aware and knowledgeable about sustainable seafood, they are paying more attention to restaurants and establishments that use sustainable seafood ingredients.  Customers want to be sure they are supporting environmentally friendly practices so many are choosing restaurants that offer dishes prepared with sustainable seafood. Using sustainable seafood not only helps to build our business, it also allows us to give back to the environment.

NA: What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably? 

MM: There really are no challenges in cooking with sustainable seafood.  However, if you say you are using sustainable seafood, you must be sure the items are sustainable and stick to using them.  Sometimes products can be misleading, so you must pay close attention to the sources of the ingredients to make sure the product is truly sustainable.

NA: In 2013, what is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own)? 

MM: I really enjoy preparing dishes that incorporate the Basa fish.  It is similar to the catfish and growing in popularity.  The Basa fish can be prepared in a variety of ways—from grilling and sautéing to frying and blackened.  When choosing to prepare Basa, it is important that you look for the fish to be U.S. farm-raised as it is farmed in a more ecologically responsible manner than those imported from Asia.

Click here to learn more about our Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dining series in both Washington, DC and Baltimore.

Thoughtful Thursdays: 2012 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit

From National Aquarium education specialist, Maria Madero:

On a cold November morning, four Aquarium on Wheels (AOW) students, De’Quan, Asia, Paul, and Dana met Aquarium staff supervisors, Nancy, Maria, and Jeremyat BWI airport to begin their weekend adventure at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the MOTE Marine Lab in Sarasota, FL. From the moment we stepped into the airport, there was an air of excitement. For some of our AOW students this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. In fact, it was Asia’s first time flying! Once up in the air, she was glued to the window, amazed at the sights below just as the rest of the students.

On the way to Tampa!

We flew into Tampa and had a gorgeous coast line drive to Sarasota, FL (filled with many sing-a-longs).  The summit began that evening with a Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival featuring the short film, This is your Ocean: Sharks by Jim Abernethy and George Schellenger! The festival also featured student produced ocean conservation short films showcasing how youth of all ages are taking action to protect our marine environment.

The festival inspired our AOW students greatly. They want to continue the mission set forth by Jim Abernethy by creating their own video!

Exploring the beautiful Sarasota beach

On Saturday, our group attended the full day summit at MOTE Marine Lab. We learned how the youth of Florida are making a difference in their community and beyond. Our AOW students were inspired by the personal stories of successful action plans and could not wait to make their own! Thankfully, our next session was all about action planning. We had time to brainstorm ideas and come up with an action plan that we could take back to our community and make a difference! Our group hopes to focus on a Chesapeake Bay-related issue, such as overfishing and harvesting, for the play they’ll be performing  at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. They will also be creating a film that highlights this issue in hopes to spread the word even farther than Baltimore!

The group after a successful day at the summit

We spent the remainder of the summit in workshop sessions building the foundation and gathering the skills needed in order to implement our action plan. Workshop session topics included fundraising, plastic pollution, public service announcements, conservation through art, branding, and marine debris prevention. This diverse array of topics allowed for our students to develop a broad knowledge base to bring back to others in their program to make their project a success.

On Sunday morning, we had the wonderful opportunity to go kayaking in the mangroves with MOTE Marine Lab educator Brad Tanner. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for our students; they had never seen an environment like this! Not only was the location gorgeous, but we had the rare chance to see and interact with manatees! It was an unforgettable experience.

Paul and De’Quan were amazed to be so close to a manatee!

As a supervisor, getting a chance to see the students you work with on a regular basis have such a great experience is an invaluable thing. This summit inspired our students, who are now brainstorming and excited about implementing their action plans for this year. I could not be more proud of them! The attention, participation and drive of our AOW students as well as Sean has inspired all of us. A huge THANK YOU to Nancy, also known to our students as “Aunt Nancy,” who made this whole trip possible!

For more information on The Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and Sean Russell’s efforts, please visit www.stowitdontthrowitproject.org. Sean and our AOW students are proof that everyone, no matter your age, can make a difference!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Chesapeake Bay Lined Seahorses

Many people don’t realize that there is a species of seahorse that calls the Chesapeake Bay its home.  The lined seahorse, hippocampus erectus, lives in shallow eel grass beds during the summer and moves to deeper submerged aquatic vegetation during the winter.  It can typically be found in the lower to middle Chesapeake Bay and, in particularly dry years when the water is saltier, as far north as Kent Island and the Bay Bridge.

Lined Seahorse

Lined Seahorse at National Aquarium, Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Michael Bentley

The lined seahorse varies drastically in both coloration and ornamentation.  Individuals can range from a yellowish color all the way down the spectrum to a nearly black color.  Some may have intricate ornamentation on their backs and their heads.  Additionally, they can change color slightly to match their surroundings.  As with all seahorses, males carry a pouch which they use to hold their young after breeding.  Breeding itself is complicated, it includes a drawn-out ritual of dancing and clicking between the male and female.  At the end of the courtship, females deposit their eggs into the male’s pouch where they are fertilized and held until ready to be released (about 2 weeks).

Lined Seahorse

Lined seahorses vary in color, pattern and ornamentation

Seahorses as a whole are ineffective swimmers.  They only use three of their fins (two pectoral fins and one dorsal fin) to swim.  They beat these fins rapidly to provide propulsion, but it is not enough to keep them stationary in even the most gentle of currents.  It is because of this that they require something to hold on to.  For our local lined seahorses in the Chesapeake, that something is often eel grass, as well as other submerged aquatic vegetation.  These grasses are vital to the seahorses’ ability to hunt, breed and just plain survive.  Seahorses are ambush predators and so they need something to anchor themselves to while hunting.  As they hide, prehensile tails attached to the eel grass, they wait for prey to float by their snouts.

lined seahorse

Lined seahorses have very small fins, making it hard for them to swim.

Unfortunately, eel grass is in trouble in the Chesapeake Bay.  Nutrient pollution from farms, sewage and other human activities often leads to large algal blooms, which grow near the surface of the water and block light that the grasses need to grow. Additionally, destructive fishing techniques like bottom trawling can rip up huge swaths of submerged aquatic vegetation, causing wide-spread loss of habitat.  Because they are so specialized in their habitat needs, lined seahorses have little hope of successfully hunting and breeding without the grasses.  These pressures are threatening seahorses worldwide. As a result of these and other conservation pressures, it is estimated that the world’s lined seahorse population has declined by at least 30 percent in the past 10 years. We must begin to take steps to preserve the local habitat, or we risk losing this very interesting and important Chesapeake Bay species.

What you can do to help:  Reduce waste runoff, which pollutes waters like the Chesapeake Bay.  

  • Control insects using natural controls instead of pesticides. Americans directly apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to home lawns and gardens each year and, in so doing, kill birds and other wildlife and pollute our precious water resources.
  • Dispose of motor oil and anti-freeze through a local service station or recycling center. A one-quart container of oil disposed of at the local landfill can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water and the water home of our seahorse friends.
  • Don’t pour anything down storm drains because they lead to the bay, which connects to the ocean. Most sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants do not remove poisonous cleaners, and yard and car-wash chemicals make their way into local waterways, and, eventually, into our ocean, harming animals along the way. You wouldn’t want to swim in those chemicals, and neither do animals!
  • Learn more!
    To find out more about the lined seahorse and the troubles threatening them in our area, listen to this special seahorse edition of WYPR’s Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton

Thoughtful Thursdays: 7th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum

In late September, our Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteer, Stephanie Pully, and Conservation Technician Maria Harwood attended the seventh annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum.  The forum, held by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, took place at the beautiful USFWS National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

An aerial shot of the incredibly lush Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Services

At the forum, watershed organizations and local government agencies provided updates on current Bay conservation initiatives and provided informative sessions on the current state of the Bay. The forum also included sessions on the latest in conservation research from other organizations that have been successful in the Bay watershed.

During the forum, Stephanie presented a poster, sponsored by the Aquarium, entitled “Protecting Valuable Habitat with Living Shorelines” as well as an update on the National Aquarium Conservation Department’s work and research in creating living shorelines.  Both Maria and Stephanie enjoyed the great opportunity to engage with members of the community trying to save the Bay!

Click here to learn more about our Chesapeake Bay conservation initiatives! 

Poster presented at Chesapeake Watershed Forum

In support of the Conservation Department’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, we held our annual “Rock the Boat” fundraiser last night. On behalf of everyone here at the National Aquarium, thanks to everyone who came out and made last night such a success! We can’t wait until next year!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Students Help to Restore Atlantic White Cedar Population

As part of this year’s Wetland Nursery Program, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) is working with schools along Maryland’s Eastern Shore to repopulate Atlantic white cedar trees.

This project teaches students sustainable methods of raising tree saplings in an indoor ‘greenhouse’ and how to transplant them into nature, with the hope that we can slowly but surely bring back the species!

Juvenile Atlantic white cedar trees

Once common in freshwater wetlands, Atlantic white cedars are now rare. Lumber from these cedars is water-resistant and highly valued for use in boats, furniture and houses. Overharvesting of this natural resource has decimated the population and the species is now on the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Watch List.

After learning about the history of Atlantic white cedars and the need to restore them, students used clippings from older trees to propagate 500 new trees and helped to re-pot 200 trees that had outgrown their planters and were ready for transfer.

Students show off their healthy juvenile Atlantic white cedars!

All year, our group of students will continue to regularly monitor the trees’ growth and, with the help of their teachers, learn more about freshwater wetlands. In the Spring, the students will join ACT! at Nassawango Creek Preserve to plant their trees.

Owned by the Nature Conservancy, the Preserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres and is home to cypress swamps and upland forests. The planting will take place in a newly cleared 8-acre plot adjacent to Nassawango Creek!

This project would not be possible without the support of our partners: The Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Trust, The Munson Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, and the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.


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