Archive for the 'Turtles' Category



How Satellite Tagging Is Teaching Us About Sea Turtle Migration

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Aquarium and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center recently partnered to release four juvenile loggerhead sea turtles named Findlay, Rooney, Portsmouth, and Grenada at Sandbridge, Virginia on October 20, 2013. The animals were all treated for a range of injuries and illnesses and were in rehabilitation for varying amounts of time. While all four animals have unique rescue and rehabilitation stories, three of the four now have one significant factor in common – they are all taking part in a significant piece of research!

The U.S. Navy is supporting the conduction of research that will provide valuable insights into sea turtle habitat use of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia waters. The project funds the deployment of acoustic transmitters and satellite tracking tags on rehabilitated and released sea turtles with the goal of learning more about residency times, migration intervals, and foraging areas within the Bay and its surrounding waters.

Acoustic transmitter tags work by emitting a sound signal or ‘ping’ that can be detected by networks of underwater receivers, commonly referred to as arrays. These acoustic monitoring arrays are installed in many coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and have been valuable for understanding migration patterns and habitat use for many fish species, including endangered species of sturgeon!

Each tag transmits a specific coded signal that is used to identify the individual as it moves from one location to another. As the turtle moves around areas where receiving arrays are present, the arrays detect the pings from the tag and record the information, which is later downloaded by researchers for analysis.

Findlay, Rooney, and Portsmouth were also equipped with data logging satellite telemetry tags produced by Wildlife Computers and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.  These tags can record the behaviors such as dive depth and duration and transmit that data back to researchers via satellites.  In addition to the recorded data, each transmission also includes the GPS coordinates of the individual so that their movements can be tracked over long ranges.

national aquarium animal rescue, portsmouth release

As seen here, both tags were secured onto Portsmouth’s carapace before his release!

The goal of this project is to leverage the Navy’s existing underwater passive acoustic receiver array initially established to track sturgeon and the expertise of Virginia Aquarium researchers to tag sea turtles to gain insights into how sea turtles forage and migrate. From the underwater acoustic tags, we hope to learn about residency time and migration intervals by being able to tag more turtles at less cost. Analysis of data will be performed jointly between both the Navy and Virginia Aquarium.

Check out Rooney and Portsmouth’s rehabilitation pages on our website for more information and to track their progress!

Funding for the tagging work is provided by U.S. Fleet Forces Command and technical project management and collaboration on data analysis is being provided by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.

Here’s how YOU can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our sea turtle rehabilitation efforts!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Animal Rescue Update: Turtle Season Is In Full Swing

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Cold-stun season for sea turtles is in full swing in the Northeast. Our stranding partners in Massachusetts and New Jersey have already seen an influx of admittance due to the rapid drop in water temperatures in our region.

Over the last week, our team has admitted 12 turtles for rehabilitation. We received 8 Kemp’s ridley turtles from New England Aquarium, 2 Kemp’s ridleys and 1 green sea turtle from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and 1 green sea turtle that stranded off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland.

Meet some of the new crew (named for various Top Gun characters!): 

These turtles are suffering from a range of ailments, including: pneumonia, joint infections, gastrointestinal irregularity, lacerations and abrasions. Each turtle is being treated with antibiotics, supplements and fluids. We’re happy to report that most of our patients are eating on their own!

As you can imagine, our team has been very busy caring for our current turtle patients and preparing for the possibility of receiving more turtles in the very near future. Stay tuned for more updates!


National Aquarium Animal Rescue team helps countless animals in need every year! Here’s how YOU can help support our efforts this holiday season! 

Animal Rescue Expert

Week of Thanks: Jenn Dittmar on Rescue Partners!

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, our experts (and animal residents) will be sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Our third “Week of Thanks” post comes from the Aquarium’s Manager of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar

This year, I am most thankful for the collaborative relationships that allow us to respond to marine animals in need, and properly rehabilitate and release them! Our team is grateful to be part of a network of stranding response and rehabilitation facilities – which jointly cover the Northeast Atlantic coast – that work together to accomplish a common goal. This effort could not be more evident in the last year, as many of the animals we have responded to and rehabilitated were part of a larger group effort. It really does take a village!

Together, our network has been able to accomplish some amazing things this year! Here are just a few highlights:

In December of 2012, our friends at New England Aquarium were facing a severe cold-stun season for sea turtles. They reached out to us for help, and we answered by admitting 3 green sea turtles, 3 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and 7 loggerheads. This same friendship came into play in January of 2013, when we partnered together to transport 32 sea turtles to Jacksonville, Florida. The trip was long and tiring, but in the end, nothing will ever replace the gratification of sending healthy turtles back into the wild. It was such a memorable trip, we turned around and made the same trek, just 3 months later! This time, we transported and released a record breaking 52 sea turtles, which included turtles from 8 sea turtle rehabilitation facilities from New York to South Carolina.

seaturtletrek release national aquarium new england aquarium

After caring for a higher-than-normal influx of patients in 2012, our team was able to celebrate a huge milestone – the release of our 100th animal! We were excited to share this special day with our partners over at the National Marine Life Center!

national aquarium 100th release

Number 100 looking healthy and ready to journey back into the ocean!

All of this brings us to our current cold-stun sea turtle season. Due to a rapid drop in water temperature, our partners to the north have already seen an influx of sea turtle strandings. Last week, we shared that our team has admitted Maverick and Iceman, two Kemp’s ridleys that stranded along New Jersey, rescued by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. We have also just admitted a cold-stunned green sea turtle from Ocean City, Maryland yesterday, who was found and rescued by the US Coast Guard Station AND an additional 8 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys from the New England Aquarium that arrived late last night. All 10 of the Kemp’s are stable and eating, but will remain in rehab for several months.

national aquarium animal rescue

I am very thankful for the opportunity to be part of a truly amazing network of organizations, staff, and volunteers that support stranding response and the rehabilitation of these incredible animals!

Animal Rescue Update: Two Turtle Patients Now in Rehab!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

With water temperatures in the Atlantic steadily dropping, sea turtles that perhaps stayed north a little too long are now faced with a long journey south towards warmer waters. Some of these sea turtles become cold-stunned (an illness equivalent to hypothermia in humans) and strand on our shores. This week, we received our first cold-stunned sea turtle patients of the season, two Kemp’s ridleys named Iceman and Maverick!

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Our new arrivals both stranded within two days of one another off the coast of New Jersey, where water temperatures had taken a rapid dip into the low 60s over the last few months.

Iceman came in which a few small abrasions and a long laceration under his front flipper. He has weighed in at 7 pounds and has started to eat more regularly. His diet right now consists of squid, shrimp, and smelt.

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Maverick weighs in at only 2 pounds and the rescue team is currently trying to get him to eat more regularly. Just like most of us don’t like to eat when we don’t feel well, we can only imagine how these little sea turtles feel when they first enter rehabilitation. So, our staff try to entice him with different foods to stimulate his hunting instincts and get him to eat. As of today, Maverick has started showing more signs of an appetite. Although small, we’re very pleased with this great start!

Stay tuned for more updates on these turtles progress in rehab, and stay tuned to find out which Top Gun name we choose for our next patient! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Join Us in Welcoming Brownie, our Loggerhead Turtle, to Baltimore!

Earlier today, our Baltimore facility welcomed loggerhead turtle, Brownie, from Washington, DC! Brownie’s transport, in addition to the 17 other animals that successfully made their way to our Animal Care Center, marked the 12th day of animal moves from our DC facility to the Aquarium’s main campus in Baltimore.

loggerhead turtle transport national aquarium

After transport and a brief observation period, Brownie was introduced into our Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit!

About Brownie: 

Named for it’s sweet personality and love of food, Brownie is part of the Loggerhead Head Start Program. Run by the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll, this program gives baby sea turtles a better chance at survival in the wild. Sea turtle hatchlings spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow. After being given a clean bill of health and an extra boost of nutrition, they are tagged and released back to the ocean!

Once Brownie meets the proper weight/size criteria, it will be taken back to North Carolina to be released.


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