Archive for the 'National Aquarium Animal Rescue' Category



A Blue View: Inside Bioluminescence

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.

January 2, 2014: Inside Bioluminescence

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the amazing
phenomenon that is bioluminescence! 

In the ocean’s deepest reaches, sunlight cannot penetrate, and yet, there is light. From softly glowing to dazzlingly brilliant, it is not the light of humans and their machines. It is called bioluminescence—literally, “living light”—and it provides a bewildering variety of species the means to seek prey and elude predators in a world as alien to us as space.

Check out our infographic on this fascinating phenomenon: 

national aquarium bioluminescence infographic

Bioluminescence occurs when living creatures convert chemical energy to light energy, resulting in the production and emission of light. Here in the mid-Atlantic, we experience bioluminescence in our own backyards on many a summer evening. Fireflies are among the few terrestrial species that glow, joined by certain species of bacteria, insects, and fungi. Beyond these, there are few other bioluminescent animals found on land.

Under the sea, however, it is a remarkably different story. An estimated 90 percent of deep-sea marine creatures are able to produce bioluminescence in some way. Most emit blue or green hued light, though some creatures employ a red-light strategy—taking advantage of the fact that red is the first color in the spectrum to be refracted.

In the deep, where food is scarce and conditions unforgiving, bioluminescence is critical to the survival of countless aquatic species.
For those defending themselves against predators, bioluminescence can be used to distract or even divert attention. Bomber worms actually eject glowing green masses that redirect a predator’s attention!

Other marine animals use the light as a lure to find food. Consider the anglerfish, which has a light rod protruding from its head. This light coaxes prey to come closer, at which point the anglerfish snaps its impressive jaws around its meal. Certain squids flash light to stun their prey.

In one of the most fascinating uses of bioluminescence, counter-illumination, the light pattern on the bottom of a fish replicates the appearance of faint sunlight from above, so the fish is invisible to predators looking for food from below.

For all we’ve learned, we still known very little about how these mysterious creatures use their bioluminescent capabilities, and access to these incredible animals is a challenge for researchers. The very qualities that make them so fascinating also make them almost impossible to study.

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations are researching this deep frontier in an effort to better understand the 90 percent of the ocean yet unexplored.

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2013 Re-cap: Great Conservation Moments

The National Aquarium is a 33-year-old conservation organization with one mission: to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Everyday, we live our mission through our exhibits, conservation in the field, education and animal rescue!

As 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to share some of our favorite conservation moments from the past year:

Maryland Shark Fin Bill

In May, Maryland became the first state on the East Coast to prohibit the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins!

maryland shark fin bill

Maryland’s new law is helping to curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year. Our legislative and conservation teams worked very closely with state officials on this important bill.

Over the last year, we were excited to see Maryland, Delaware and New York join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in granting sharks this crucial protection.

Animal Rescue Team’s 100th Release

In June, our Animal Rescue team reached an exciting milestone – their 100th release!

national aquarium animal rescue 100th release

As #100, a green sea turtle named Willard, made his way to the water, our team was able to reflect on the last twenty years of care, ’round the clock rescue and treatment, and releases.

Each of the animals that we’ve cared for over the years, from a pygmy sperm whale to seals and sea turtles, has an incredible story. There’s no better triumph for our team than their return into the wild!

The Sea Turtle Trek

In April, our Animal Rescue team joined their colleagues from the New England Aquarium to transport and release 52 endangered sea turtles off the coast of Florida.

the lineup

The 1,200 mile road trip was lovingly named the “Sea Turtle Trek.” The entire journey, filled with lots of driving and midnight stops to pick up turtles from other institutions along the East Coast, could only be described as a labor of love.

Did you miss out on our live updates from the road? Check them out here!

Our First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer

In July, Eric Schwaab joined the National Aquarium as our first-ever Chief Conservation Officer! This newly-created position has been developed to lead our efforts in becoming a national leader in aquatic conservation and environmental stewardship.

national aquarium chief conservation officer

“We are committed to telling the conservation story more effectively…we want to use these exhibits to inspire greater appreciation and conservation action, among visitors, throughout the community and even among those who have not yet visited here in Baltimore” – Eric Schwaab

Want to get more insight into Eric’s future plans for the National Aquarium? Check out our interview with him here!

James Cameron Visits Washington, DC

In June, ocean pioneer and Academy-Award winning filmmaker, James Cameron, visited the nation’s capital as part of his DeepSea America Tour.

James Cameron DC Visit

The purpose of this nation-wide trek, with his submersible the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, was to inspire future generations of ocean explorers!

Our CEO John Racanelli and education team were delighted to be on-site during Cameron’s stop to engage the community in STEM education.

The Endangered Species Act Turns 40!

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Enacted by Congress in 1973, this legislation provides protection for species that are endangered or threatened and conserves the habitats their survival depends upon.

Zoos and Aquariums, including National Aquarium, work closely with the federal government to both conserve habitats and raise public awareness of these amazing species.

In the last few decades, the Act has successfully prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects – making it one of the most effective conservation laws in our nation’s history!

Masonville Cove Becomes First Urban Widlife Refuge

In September, the US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Masonville Cove

This new initiative is an effort to make more of our country’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, especially urban ones!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Here’s how YOU can support our conservation mission! 

A Blue View: Taking Care of Turtles

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.

December 18, 2013: Taking Care of Turtles

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and our Manager
of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar
discuss this
year’s influx of cold- 
stunned sea turtle patients!

Last winter was an historic year for turtle rescue, with a cold-stun incident stranding hundreds of turtles along the northeast coast. This year is off to another quick start, with many turtles stranded already and more coming in every day (In fact, our team is slated to get another 6-9 patients this afternoon!).

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

How cold-stunning works: A sea turtles body temperature will drop (from the ideal range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) to match the temperature of the water that surrounds them.  As the weather gets colder in our area and water temps dip, the turtles become hypothermic.

The hypothermia suppresses the turtles’ immune system, leaving them susceptible to pneumonia and infections, and can keep them from diving properly, which is how they collect much of their food.

So far this season,  close to 100 cold-stunned turtles have come into Animal Rescue facilities along the Northeast. While the numbers have yet to match last year’s historic influx, this season has already seen a lot of activity!

Click here to listen to Jenn describe how the turtles are rescued and released! 

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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


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