Archive for the 'Conservation' Category



Reflecting On the 25 Years Since the Exxon Valdez Spill

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Oil spills have been an on-going topic of interest to the public for centuries, but was rapidly thrust to the spotlight 25 years ago when the Exxon Valdez vessel grounded in Prince William Sound, Alaska and discharged 11 million gallons of crude oil.

**Images via Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

Despite a broadened awareness of environmental risks, more stringent regulations and increased safety methods, the efforts to decrease oil spills on a global level have been largely unsuccessful.

There are multi-disciplinary studies to quantify the effects of oil on marine and terrestrial ecosystems, the wildlife that inhabits those ecosystems and the social and economic impacts to communities.  The pictures of oiled wildlife from the Exxon Valdez spill, similar to the ones from the Deepwater Horizon spill a generation later, and the recent photos from last month’s Houston ship channel spill are devastating.

Kemp's Ridley BP Oil Spill

This Kemp’s Ridley turtle was recovered from the site of the Deep Horizon accident site on June 14, 2010. Photo via Carolyn Cole/LA Times.

The immediate threat to wildlife and the human communities that depend on healthy natural resources is obvious.  The long-term effects on our ecosystems (through direct exposure of through food chain interactions), while not as readily apparent, is equally concerning.  These emerging impacts are profound in any environment, but when the oil is released in a spawning or nursery area like the Gulf of Mexico, effects can be compounded and impact entire year classes of fish.  A recently published study found that even passing exposure to petroleum compounds can cause damages in developing embryos that may ultimately prove lethal months to years later.

Protecting wildlife from oil spill incidents, and subsequently responding to oiled animals are not easy tasks. While all plants and animals can be affected by oil spills, the most visible and easily accessible animals are typically those that are collected to be decontaminated and rehabilitated. Examples often include birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Oiled wildlife response is just one small part of the overall spill response.

Our Animal Rescue team ensures our preparedness to respond to oil spill events involving marine mammals or sea turtles in our area by participating in oil spill training and drills, maintaining internal protocols, and meeting with the Regional Response Team for our area (RRT III). RRT III is a group of federal, state and local organizations that oversee written plans for response to oil spill events within the region of Pennsylvania through Virginia. These plans, known as Area Contingency Plans, include information such as: environmentally sensitive species/areas, culturally sensitive areas, high risk locations and critical infrastructure.

Our dependence on fossils fuels ensures that there will always be a risk of oils spills. To mitigate for this risk we need to understand the true cost of this dependence and take responsibility for making better life style decisions in our daily routines.

Support and implementation of cleaner energy alternatives will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and the risk of oil spill events.

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Celebrate Spring by Taking a Walk on the Wet Side!

national aquarium families expert update

As we enter “Earth Month,” let’s take some time to celebrate the one thing that all living things need – water! Now that Spring is (finally) in the air, animals that depend on the water are all around us and it’s a great time to get outside as a family to explore.

Before Your Hike

A water-themed family hike can connect children with the importance and beauty of water and remind us all that water is a shared resource, one that deserves our protection! Here are a few things to consider before hitting the trail:

  • Scope It Out - Learning about nature is about making careful observations. Scientists use spotting scopes or binoculars but children are right at home using two toilet paper tubes taped together to peer through. Children can practice spotting animals and natural objects by looking at items up close through the tube and then moving back and looking at it again. To focus their attention, ask questions like, Does it look the same? What do you think it feels like? What color is it?
  • Meet The Neighbors - Review common animals that might be found in your area and have your children guess what animals they expect to find on the hike. Free field guides and/or lists of local animals are available through your local Department of Natural Resources or library.
  • Mind Your Manners - Walk only on existing trails when near the water to help reduce erosion. Practice the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles.

During Your Hike

Experience a familiar park or hike in a new way by directing your gaze and questions around water: what kinds of animals live in water? Who spends time near the water and who lays eggs in water? Here are a few ideas to keep the conversation flowing:

  • Look in wet, muddy or moist areas, especially near puddles and stream banks. Along with bigger tracks, try to find smaller bird tracks. Look for tracks as they are easier to find and photograph well! You can encounter tracks from animals like: great blue herons, great egrets, deer and raccoons.
  • One of the easiest ways to see frog eggs is to listen for frog calls and look for temporary, shallow ponds. The eggs may be floating in shallow water or attached to sticks and plants underwater. As tempting as it may be to touch, only look and take pictures.

 After Your Hike

Once you’re home, find a large piece of cardboard or butcher paper and have the whole family participate in drawing a mural that includes all of the animals you found on your trek. As you’re drawing, ask questions like, Where do you think the water we saw came from? Where do you think it goes? Do you think we could help keep the water clean and healthy for the animals (and us)? What ideas do you have?

As the Spring weeks pass and you continue to explore the outdoors you can begin to compare and contrast your murals, giving you and your junior trekkers an idea of how diverse the habitat in our own backyards can be and how we can protect them!

national aquarium families expert heather doggett

An Update on Our Animal Rescue Patients

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

As you saw in last week’s update, 11 of our 19 sea turtle patients are stable and ready for release! We’re working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and officials from the state of Florida to set a release date for these animals!

In addition to our turtle patients ready for release, we do still have 8 active medical cases, and some of them have proven to be interesting challenges for our veterinary staff.

Here are updates on a few of our active cases!

Charlie

Charlie was previously diagnosed with an unknown mass near his heart. After his diagnosis, our veterinary staff prescribed an innovative treatment for Charlie – baby aspirin. He has been responding well to treatment, is eating well, and behaving normally.

national aquarium turtle charlie

A repeat echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) this week revealed that the mass is still present, though reduced in size. While Charlie is showing no clinical signs from the mass, his medical case will continue to be active until we can perform more tests to determine what the mass is, and if it is a symptom of a yet unidentified underlying issue.

Blade

Blade was admitted as a cold-stun, but also had a traumatic (possible boat strike) injury to the left side of his carapace and bottom shell that was dangerously close to penetrating through into his body cavity. The good news for Blade is that the suspected boat strike injury has completely healed, thanks to regular wound cleaning and a minor surgery.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Unfortunately, Blade is still fighting an active infection in his right front flipper, and his condition is still critical. Blade recently underwent a CT scan, and the results indicate an active bone infection in his right shoulder. Bone infections can be difficult to treat, but our Animal Health staff have been working hard to monitor and treat the infection appropriately. Yesterday, Blade underwent additional x-rays, blood work, and a sedated procedure to extract some infected cells so we can identify whether the infection is bacterial or fungal.

Our staff are keeping Blade as comfortable as possible, and doing everything they can to help him fight the infection.

Stay tuned for more updates on our sea turtle patients and be sure to follow me on Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at our rehab efforts! 

Animal Rescue Expert

Thoughtful Thursday: Go Light’s Out for Earth Hour

national aquarium conservation expert update

2014 marks the eighth year of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Earth Hour, the world’s biggest and most engaging grassroots movement that brings together communities from across the world to demand action on climate change through a global “LIGHTS OUT” event.  People from around the world will celebrate Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th beginning at 8:30 pm local time.

Major landmarks and entire cities will go dark during this symbolic action that showcases how we, as global citizens, must take personal accountability for our daily impact on the health of the planet. By turning off the lights, switching off our electronics and turning away from our screens, we are highlighting the individual and collective actions we can make to produce real change – a change that can make a difference if we continue to commit to its ideals.

What can you do at home or at work to participate in Earth Hour?

  • Join for Earth Hour! Pledge to switch off your lights at home and show your support by registering your commitment.  Share this time with family playing games by candlelight or discovering fun ways to reduce household energy on a regular basis.
  • Go beyond the hour by supporting crowd funding or crowdsourcing environmental and social projects through Earth Hour Blue.
  • Amplify the hour. Encourage friends and family to get involved by sharing the Earth Hour video so they get a better sense of the magnitude and inspiring nature of this event.
  • Plan an Earth Hour Party! Block parties, candlelight vigils and candlelight dinners are just a few things you can do to celebrate as a community. Share the moment and consider, together, how you can reduce your footprint beyond the hour.

How is the National Aquarium participating?
From 8:30 pm-9:30 pm on Saturday, March 29th, the National Aquarium will go dark alongside hundreds of iconic landmarks and natural wonders ranging from the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, Niagara and Victoria Falls, and China’s Forbidden City.  We join over 7,000 cities and towns in 154 countries and territories with hundreds of millions of participants across seven continents in using our power to make change a reality.

This one hour of darkness may result in a small reduction of energy consumption, but more importantly paints a powerful picture of behavioral change needed to combat climate change.

Join us as we stand among hundreds of millions of people to call for action on climate change!

Laura Bankey national aquarium conservation expert

 

A Blue View: Why Turtle Rescue is Important

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 26, 2014: Why Turtle Rescue is Important

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and Jenn Dittmar
discuss her team’s important work to
support the conservation of sea turtles!

Did you know that every species of sea turtle in US waters is endangered?

Preserving these amazing and essential sea creatures is of the utmost importance. Every year, our Manager of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar, and her team respond, rehabilitate and release numerous sea turtles found stranded along the East Coast.

national aquarium animal rescue turtle

This year has been another busy season for our Animal Rescue team, with 19 turtles currently being rehabilitated in our facility! Over the last three months, many of our patients have been treated for critical conditions, including: fungal and bacterial pneumonias, infections in their flipper joints and severe shell lesions.

Eleven turtles are now ready for release back into the wild. Aquarium staff is now working with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the state of Florida to schedule a release date.

Get the full story of Chipper, Goose, and Jester, and learn more about their upcoming journey back home.

Want to learn more about what’s threatening sea turtles and what you can do to help? Listen to this week’s interview

national aquarium CEO john racanelli


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