Archive for the 'News' Category



Thoughtful Thursday: Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean-Lovers

Our celebration of National Volunteer Appreciation Week continues with a special story about one of the Aquarium’s volunteers and her students!

Abbe Harman has been a volunteer supporter of the National Aquarium for 28 years and a teacher for for Frederick County Public Schools for 25 years. As an Enrichment Specialist at Middletown Elementary School, Abbe works closely with fifth grade students, teaching them about the Chesapeake Bay watershed and coral reef ecosystems!

Yesterday, Abbe hosted a large group of her fifth graders for a special field trip tot he Aquarium! The students were able to see their teacher in-action, as she led an interactive lesson and fed the animals in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium volunteer diver

In the weeks leading up to their field trip, Abbe’s students also had the opportunity to enter an essay contest for the opportunity to go on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium.

Abbe, from all of us here at the National Aquarium, thank you for being a longtime supporter of our mission and an impactful educator.

Do you volunteer? Share your story with us in the comments section and online using #NVW14!

A Blue View: Clownfish

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 9, 2014: Clownfish

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
clownfish and the important role
they play in the health of coral reefs!

Parents of young children know a thing or two about clownfish. These adorable orange and white fish rocketed to stardom in the animated classic Finding Nemo, which featured an adventurous clownfish hero.

Finding Nemo

Clownfish popularity, however, extends far beyond the preschool set. The movie led to an upswing in their demand within the exotic pet trade – they are now one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fish.

That was the downside of the Nemo-effect. The upside? More people became interested in coral reef conservation. It is an ecosystem of tremendous importance, fragility and interdependence, and clownfish are an indicator species for reef health.

Further, they are truly fascinating creatures. When Nemo’s dad, Marlin, names all of the eggs Marlin Junior, the moviemakers got the science right: all clown fish are born male. Many fish species are able to change sex, almost always from female to male. But the clownfish is different, changing gender only to become the dominant female of the group, and that change is irreversible. In a clownfish group living in an anemone the largest fish is female, the second largest a male. They are the mating pair.

But the adventure story of Nemo’s dad traveling far and wide to find his son? Unscientific. In the wild, clownfish never venture far from their anemone. It’s home…and pantry. It’s this interdependence that has earned the fish their full name: the anemone clownfish.

national aquarium clownfish

The relationship between anemones and anemone clownfish is a classic oceanic partnership of mutualism.

In science, mutualism is defined as a relationship between two species in which both benefit from the association. In fact, clownfish and anemones probably couldn’t live without each other, which qualifies them as “obligate symbionts.”

They couldn’t be more different, yet they need each other to survive. The clownfish is a vertebrate, while a sea anemone is an invertebrate, closely related to corals and jellyfish. And like them, its sting is deadly to most other creatures.

So how does the clownfish manage to live among the anemone’s lethal tentacles? Well, very cautiously. As the clownfish gets to know its anemone, it does an elaborate ballet of tentative darting movements, touching the anemone’s stinging tentacles gently, working up immunity and a protective layer of mucus.

Once they’ve acclimated to each other, they eat each other’s food scraps. The anemone’s tentacles provide the clownfish with protection from predators. The clownfish protects the anemone from predators like the butterfly fish and nibbles the anemone free of parasites. Cozy, right?

But scientists have recently discovered that there is additional complexity to the relationship.

The anemone benefits from the clownfish’s ammonia-rich waste. It’s like anemone fertilizer: it helps the animal grow.

After all, a bigger anemone is better for both; its larger tentacles can snare larger, more nutritious prey and the clownfish gets better leftovers and more spacious living quarters.

There’s also a fascinating nocturnal half to the anemone-clownfish routine. Scientists used to think that at night the clownfish snuggled quietly inside the anemone. But Dr. Nanette Chadwick and her team at Auburn University recently discovered that the clownfish moves around more than was suspected, reminiscent of a dog trying to get comfortable on its dog bed.

The clownfish’s movements oxygenate the water deep within the anemone’s tangle of tentacles. In effect, the clownfish helps the anemone breathe.

Clownfish and anemones literally cannot live without one another. In the sea, as in Hollywood, they call that chemistry!

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Legislative Re-cap: 90 Days in Annapolis

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Yesterday marked Sine Die, the adjournment of the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session in Annapolis.

It has been a busy session, with 1,117 bills introduced in the House of Delegates and another 1,555 bills introduced in the Senate. Approximately one-third of those bills were passed before midnight and will eventually be signed into law by the Governor.

The National Aquarium’s Government Affairs team has been busy supporting a handful of select bills. Here is a brief look at how a few of our bills fared this session:

HB 118 | Task Force to Study the Impact of Ocean Acidification on State Waters – PASSED
The legislature gave final approval to a bill that will create a task force to analyze the potential effects of ocean acidification in State waters and State fisheries. This task force would report back to the General Assembly with recommendations on potential strategies to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification by 2015. The task force will consist of members from the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Aquarium as well as representatives from the watermen community, the Senate and the House of Delegates.

HB 296/SB 336 | Designation of New Wildlands – PASSED
Bills expanding State-designated wildlands from the current 29 areas to 38 areas (from 44,000 acres to 65,000 acres) passed both chambers and are now on the Governor’s desk. The bills seek to legally protect certain wilderness areas from development, cars and other impacts, which are legislative priorities for Governor Martin O’Malley.

$2.12 million allocated for National Aquarium in the Capital Budget
The legislature increased funding from what the Governor originally included in his Capital Budget ($1.5 million to $2.12 million) to fund critical infrastructure improvements and the renovation of the Aquarium’s Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit.

$474,601 allocated for National Aquarium’s Education Programs
The Governor level-funded the State Aided Institution (SAI) portion of the Maryland State Department of Education’s budget. The Aquarium will receive $474,601 toward education programs to help bring tens of thousands of Maryland schoolchildren, teachers and chaperones to the Aquarium completely free of charge.

Polluted Runoff Bills | DEAD IN COMMITTEE, Budget Language Added
Twenty different bills were introduced to repeal or weaken the 2012 stormwater law this legislative session – and none made if out of committee. Language was added to the budget that allows Maryland’s Department of the Environment to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Carroll or Frederick counties to establish an alternative source of funding for meeting their polluted runoff goals.

HB 913 | Food Fish and Shellfish: Labeling and Identification Requirements – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would require restaurants and grocery stores to label seafood with the common name of fish/shellfish and prohibited mislabeling did not receive a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee. The bill would also have required restaurants and grocery stores to identify the origin of a crab product by state or country of origin.

SB 394 | Statewide Container Recycling Refund Program – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
The bill would have established a fully refundable 5-cent container deposit on beverage containers sold in Maryland. The bill would also have established redemption centers across the State. If it had passed, the bill had the potential to increase Maryland’s recycling rate of beverage containers from 22 to 76 percent.

SB 707/HB 718 | Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2014 – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would have enabled county governments to pass county bag-fee laws that require retail and grocery stores to charge customers at least a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags did not receive a vote in either the House or Senate committees.

While this year’s legislative session in Maryland may be coming to a close, our Government Affairs team will be working diligently over the next 275 days to raise awareness and support for these important pieces of conservation legislation!

To stay updated on our efforts throughout the year, be sure to sign up for our legislative updates

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week!

In celebration of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we’re highlighting just a few of the amazing ways our volunteers have gone above and beyond to help the National Aquarium fulfill our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures!

The passion and dedication of our volunteers led them to log a record-setting 124,390 hours at the National Aquarium in 2013 – a four percent increase over 2012’s total volunteer hours! The 2013 hours come from more than 960 volunteers and represents a $2.87 million workplace value (equivalent to approximately 60 full-time positions).

The Aquarium volunteer team represents a wide range of experience, skills and backgrounds including aquarists, divers, lab assistants, clinical veterinarians and more. The volunteers do everything from assisting at the information desk and diving to grass plantings and animal rescues, and they vary as much as their job descriptions.

The majority of the volunteers are from Baltimore and the surrounding counties, but some traveled from as far away as California, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Here are some major volunteer highlights from 2013:

  • The Jellies Aquarist program tripled its volunteer and service hours.
  • High school students logged close to 10,000 hours in two programs.
  • Volunteers contributed more than 2,000 hours of underwater maintenance for Dolphin Discovery.
  • Eastern Shore Animal Rescue volunteers doubled their service hours to 1,153 in stranding and outreach activities.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at the National Aquarium, visit aqua.org/volunteer.

Stay tuned for more volunteer highlights throughout the week and join the conversation online using #NVW14!

Animal Update – April 4

national aquarium animal update

Neon Gobies in Atlantic Coral Reef 

Two neon gobies have been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium neon goby

Generally, neon gobies only grow to be about 1 inch in length.

Did you know? Gobies are cleaner fish! These animals can oftentimes be observed in grouped “cleaning stations” throughout the reef, where larger fish like damselfish or grunts can stop by for a quick parasite removal.

Gilded Triggerfish in Blacktip Reef

If you’ve tuned into Shark Cam lately, chances are you’ve spotted Blacktip Reef‘s gilded triggerfish!

national aquarium gilded triggerfish

The gilded triggerfish, also known as the blue-throated triggerfish, can be found throughout the reefs of the Indo-Pacific. This is one of approximately 40 species of triggerfish identified worldwide.

Triggerfish are normally shy and solitary, but they can be very aggressive. Some may charge or attack intruders. When hiding from predators, triggerfish lock themselves into small openings with their trigger fin and bite down on the coral or rock to ensure their safety.

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


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