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Animal Update – April 18

national aquarium animal update

Spotted Lagoon Jellies in Jellies Invasion!

We have spotted lagoon jellies now on exhibit in Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance!

Did you know? Instead of a single mouth, this species of jelly has many small mouth openings on its oral arms, which capture plankton.

These jellies love the sunlight! It fuels the growth of symbiotic algae in their tissues, giving them a greenish-brown to blue color in the wild.

Spotted lagoon jellies can be found throughout the South Pacific!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

A Blue View: Floating Forests

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.

April 16, 2014: Floating Forests

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
the important role mangrove forests
play in the health of our oceans!

Gardeners in Maryland know that most trees in our temperate climate don’t like having wet feet. And water that’s salty? Forget about it. Around here, having tree roots submerged in saltwater is guaranteed to kill off your landscaping.

But far south of the Chesapeake, fringing tropical and subtropical coastlines, there exist floating forests of mangroves, whose roots grow in a luxuriant tangle at the ocean’s edge. And there, they thrive.

Botanists call the 50 species of mangroves halophylic, or “salt loving.” Mangroves have adapted to putting down roots where other plants can’t: in areas inundated daily by the tide; in thin, nutrient-poor, low-oxygen soils; and in water that varies from fresh to brackish to salty. Just how much salt can mangroves tolerate? Well, typical seawater has a salinity of 35 parts per thousand; in other words, about 35 grams of salt for every liter of sea water. Some species of mangroves can survive in salinities of more than 90 parts per thousand!

To thrive in this salty abundance, these plants need strategies to clear the excess salt. Some species excrete it through glands in their leaves. Others use their roots.

The weird, knobby roots of mangroves actually make traveling to paradise for a tropical vacation possible—tough, woody evergreen mangroves stabilize the soil and prevent many islands from simply washing away.

Thank the mangroves, too, for the colorful diversity of fish and invertebrates you see on your next coral reef dive. Many oceanic and coral reef fish—including snapper, tarpon and lobster—spawn in the nursery provided by the mangrove’s submerged tangle of roots. A mangrove forest is a rich hub of biodiversity, supporting a unique ecosystem of bacteria, plants, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and birds—some found nowhere else.

Earth’s largest mangrove forest—the Sunderbans of India and Bangladesh—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to at least 250 species of birds, endangered estuarine crocodiles and even Bengal tigers!

In North America, mangrove swamps are found throughout the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Texas. The largest mangrove forest in the United States is in Florida’s aptly named Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This special place is home to many endangered species, including West Indian Manatees, and clouds of scarlet ibis and white pelicans.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

Although mangrove forests host so-called “charismatic megafauna” like manatees and tigers, truly their greatest treasure may be the thick mud of mangrove leaf litter—fertile with bacteria and fungi—that accumulates in the water below the trees. There, detritivores, like crabs and other animals, feed on decaying leaf litter and contribute to a complex food web that begins, literally, in the mud.

Other microfauna encrust the mangrove’s submerged roots, including a profusion of filter feeding mussels and barnacles. Like Chesapeake’s oysters, mangrove barnacles efficiently filter pollutants from the water.

These crustaceans and mollusks in turn support populations of shrimp and fish that are economically important to Gulf of Mexico fisheries. So, the next time you’re dining on sustainably-caught shrimp, take a moment to thank a mangrove for your meal.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Celebrate Earth Day with a DIY Mosaic Earth!

Join us on April 19-20 for our weekend-long Earth Day celebration

Experts will teach guests how to celebrate Earth Day every day by bringing green practices into their daily lives, and will demonstrate how human action can positively or negatively impact the environment and animals like those in the care of the National Aquarium. In addition to fun interactive activities and educational workshops taking place throughout the Aquarium, our celebration will also include some eco-friendly DIY crafts!

Can’t wait until this weekend to make some fun crafts? Try creating this mosaic earth decoration:

What you will need:

  • Recycled CD
  • Piece of yarn (for hanging your creation)
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Tape
  • Blue, green, white and brown paper – use cut-outs from recycled magazines, tissue paper or construction paper

Instructions:

  1.  Begin with the blue (for the ocean) – use the glue stick to make sections of the CD sticky where you want the “ocean”, then place the blue paper onto the glue.  Overlap the edges.  When the ocean is completed, repeat these steps with the green and brown for the “land”.  Lastly, add a few of the white paper to represent clouds.
  2. Flip the completed earth over and trim the excess paper from around the edges.
  3. Fold the yarn into a loop and tape it to the back of your Earth for hanging.
  4. Hang it and enjoy!

Earth Day Mosaic

Do you have a favorite DIY craft? Share it with us in the comments section!

Q&A with Marine Photographer and Environmentalist Bob Talbot!

In advance of his special lecture at the Aquarium on April 22nd (Earth Day), we chatted with world-renowned marine photographer/filmmaker and dedicated environmentalist Bob Talbot about what inspires his work and how he uses the power of film to advocate for our blue planet!

Bob Talbot

How did you first become interested in photography?

I began snorkeling when I was eight years old. When I was thirteen I became a certified diver. The following Christmas I was given my first camera. I enrolled in an after-school photo class and soon realized that photography was the perfect medium for me to share what I was experiencing in the sea with others.

How did you start in underwater photography/filmmaking?

Soon after I began diving I met a fellow student that who had also just begun diving. Inspired by Jacques Cousteau, we photographed whatever we could in the waters off the coast of southern California. When we were fourteen, we acquired a sixteen-foot inflatable boat that opened up a whole new world to us. We now had access to the whales and dolphins that eventually became the main focus of my work.

When we were nineteen, I got my hands on a wind up 16mm movie camera. With no idea precisely where we were going, we loaded up a Datsun pickup and “trailered” the inflatable to Vancouver Island in hopes of filming orcas in the wild.

 That trip was the first of several to the Pacific Northwest to photograph orcas. It was a fool’s undertaking, fueled only by youthful enthusiasm and the passion to get an image on film. Those early days of trial-and-error honed the skills I use today. There was no formal training to become a marine wildlife photographer—an odd combination of photographer, naturalist, boatman and filmmaker.

 The sea was our playground, our classroom. And it taught us as much about how to learn as it did anything else.

What inspires your passion for ocean conservation?

I’ve been drawn to the sea since I was a child. Long before I understood its importance to life on this planet, the ocean was a source of comfort and inspiration. Its inhabitants never cease to amaze me—it’s liquid form an ever changing piece of art to be shared with the world. So I suppose on one hand my passion for ocean conservation is purely selfish. Though much more important is how critical the sea is to the survival of all living things.

Bob Talbot Photography

There is a part of me that has come to the intellectual realization that what we have done to the sea is a natural progression of evolution. But in my heart I can’t accept this. We know of no other planet where life now exists. I simply can’t stand by and watch the destruction of such a unique and vital place.

 How do you hope to inspire conservation in others?

I hope to inspire people with immersive film experiences that provide context and perspective through compelling stories. Old school conservation has become passé. I feel that we have reached a point in time when the environmental movement needs to reinvent itself.

I believe the way to move forward is to present issues in a clear and non-judgmental fashion, while providing logical and effective action to bring about meaningful change.

 What do you love most about the natural world?

 Purity and truth.

 If you could only capture one animal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why? 

 Orcas. They are the animals with whom I came of age both in my life and in my work.

 Their power, intelligence, grace and form continue to inspire me.

Join us for Bob Talbot’s Upcoming Lecture!

What: “The Power of Film: Inspiring Action for Monterey Bay”

When: April 22nd, 7pm EST

Where: National Aquarium and a livestream online via Google Hangout!

For more information of our Marjorie Lynn Bank lecture series, visit aqua.org/lectures!

Animal Rescue Update: 13 Turtles Ready for Release This Week!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that 13 of our current sea turtle patients in rehabilitation are going to be released this week! Animal Rescue and Animal Health staff have been busy the last few weeks clearing patients for releasing, making sure all releasable turtles have their required tags, and making sure we have all the pertinent paperwork and permits for the transport and release.

This Wednesday, several staff from the National Aquarium will pack the turtles for their long road trip south. So, how exactly do you transport a sea turtle? Each turtle is fitted for an appropriate sized transport carrier, which is padded with foam and towels to provide lots of cushion and support.

Each turtle will receive some fluids just under their skin to help keep them hydrated, and they’ll also get a water-based lubricant massaged onto their shell to help retain moisture, and some sterile eye lubricant helps keep their eyes moist. Finally, each turtle will be packed into our temperature-controlled transport vehicle and will be safely secured for the transport.

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Once our vehicle is ready, our staff will make the 800 mile drive to northeast Florida to release the turtles. We’ll have a total of 9 Kemp’s ridley and 4 green sea turtles to release on this trip, and the much warmer waters of Florida are perfect this time of year.

Stay tuned for more updates on their release, as well as updates on our remaining rehab patients!

national aquarium animal rescue expert


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