The October Discovery Lab at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science drew more than 50 children and adults to Gloucester Point for a fun, educational, and spooky look at things that come out at night in and around Chesapeake Bay.
The lab was part of the monthly Discovery Lab series, which is hosted by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) program at VIMS.
Participants, many in costume, learned about the natural history of nocturnal animals by dissecting owl pellets and viewing skulls, mounts, and pelts of a raccoon, possum, bat, and flying squirrel. They also got the chance to make and handle “slime,” and learned about the many ways that animals use slime for movement, feeding, and protection.
One of the crowd favorites during the lab was an activity station that allowed participants to handle beakers of fluorescent, “glow-in-the-dark” liquids while learning about bioluminescence and how animals use self-generated light to attract both prey and mates. A tub of dry ice helped lend a spooky air to the evening.
CBNERR education coordinator Sarah McGuire says that several participants told her that the October Discovery lab is their favorite and they “look forward to it all year.”
The evening also featured a costume contest. Winners in the “Most Creative” category were Aiden and Henry Sowers for their dog and monkey costumes, which with the simple addition of a fin became a dogfish and a “Monkeychog” (somewhat like the mummichog, a small, minnow-like fish that is an abundant year-round resident of the Bay.)
The overall winner was Trenton Keener for his octopus costume.
The Discovery Labs are free; however, registration is required due to limited space. The labs will continue in January following their traditional mid-year break. For information on upcoming labs and to register, visit www.vims.edu/events. The labs take place in the Catlett-Burress Education building on the VIMS campus in Gloucester Point.
Next on VIMS’ calendar of public events is this week’s After Hours lecture on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The speaker is Dr. Don Boesch, a VIMS alumnus who is currently serving on the President’s Oil Spill Commission. For details and to register, call 804-684-7846.