Archive Page 6

Animal Update – March 7

national aquarium animal update

Blue Hamlet in Atlantic Coral Reef

A blue hamlet has been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium blue hamlet

This fish, named for its iridescent blue hue, is native to Atlantic coral reef habitats (from the Florida Keys to Mexico).

Blue hamlets are typically very shy. They spend most of their days hiding in reef crevices.

Map Puffer in Blacktip Reef

Did you know? The map puffer is one of six species of pufferfish on exhibit in Blacktip Reef!

national aquarium map puffer

Map pufferfish can be found in reef habitats throughout the Indo-Pacific. Their oval shape and distinctive pattern make these fish easy to spot!

Map puffers are solitary animals. They mostly feed on invertebrates, sponges and algaes.

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

Bill of the Week: Education Funding

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Did you know? Nearly 60,000 Maryland school children, teachers, and chaperones visit the National Aquarium free of charge every year through a partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

national aquarium education

Governor O’Malley’s Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget includes over $6 million in funding for 40 State Aided Educational Institutions (SAI) across the State of Maryland. The proposed grant includes $474,601 for the National Aquarium.

During the current 2014 session, our Government Affairs team has been working diligently in Annapolis to voice strong support for this important education funding and the Aquarium’s allocations within the state’s budget.

Through our partnership with MSDE, the National Aquarium provides students across the state opportunities to interact with our 17,000+ animals and geographically-diverse exhibits, all with the aim of providing an education beyond the classroom without any cost to the students or their schools.

Funding from the SAI program has offset 52 percent of the cost of our school program, making it possible to offer this program to 960 local schools, and open our doors each year to over 59,000 students, teachers, and chaperones—for free.

This funding will give 28,000 students the chance to visit the Aquarium in 2014. They will join the 2.5 million Maryland school children from every jurisdiction in the state having visited the National Aquarium since our opening in 1981.

The National Aquarium’s education program offers more than just field trips. We also have a year round continuum of extracurricular experiential programs for all ages, off-site “outdoor classroom” programs to communities and free curriculum training to over 500 teachers.

national aquarium education

The field trip experience combined with the Aquarium’s commitment to advancing the science programs in Maryland schools will help educate a future generation with an interest and passion in the environmental sciences, all the way from the tropical rain forests to the Chesapeake Bay.

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

Happy Birthday, Chesapeake!

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

Today we’re celebrating the 22nd birthday of Chesapeake, the first dolphin to be born here at the National Aquarium!

Chesapeake dolphin national aquarium

Chesapeake, affectionately nicknamed Chessie by our Marine Mammal team, was named in honor of the Chesapeake Bay. She is mother to our youngest dolphin, five-year-old Bayley.

Chessie is easy to identify as she is smaller in size, has a short rostrum or bottlenose and is usually paired swimming with her daughter!

bayley

Chessie is an energetic and playful animal. She loves to learn new things and interact with our Marine Mammal staff!

Join me in wishing Chesapeake a very happy birthday!

allison ginsburg national aquarium marine mammal expert

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Women in Science!

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to recognize just a few of the amazing women who have dedicated their lives and careers to the exploration and protection of our precious and fragile blue planet!

Margaret Leinen
As the Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Margaret Leinen is helping to pave the way for future generations of ocean scientists, explorers and environmentalists. Scripps, formally part of UC San Diego, is one of the world’s oldest centers for oceanic and atmospheric research. Since it’s establishment in 1903, this institution has produced three Nobel Prize winners and three National Medal of Science winners.

Margaret Leinen

Image via Scripps

Leinen’s recent appointment at Scripps is just one of the many accomplishments in an illustrious career dedicated to the ocean. As an award-winning paleo-oceanographer, Leinen is responsible for  creating a better understanding of the relationship between ocean sediments and climate.

Wendy Schmidt
In 2013, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE launched. The goal of this prize is to address a global need for better information about the process of ocean acidification.

Wendy Schmidt

Image via XPRIZE

A long-time supporter of ocean exploration and research, Schmidt and her husband Eric are founders of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI). Through combining science with state-of-the-art technology, the SOI hopes to achieve lasting results in ocean research and shares their groundbreaking knowledge with audiences around the world, with the ultimate goal of fostering a deeper understanding of our environment.

Ruth Dixon Turner
Marine biologist Ruth Turner was the world’s expert on shipworms, wood-boring bivalves that were responsible for destroying ships.

Ruth Dixon Turner

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Throughout her lifetime, Turner published more than 200 scientific articles and became one of Harvard’s first tenured female professors. In addition to her contributions to marine academia, Turner worked closely with filmmakers and explorers like Stan Waterman, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Robert Ballard (responsible for discovering the Titanic).

Margaret Murie
Affectionately referred to as the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement,” Margaret Murie played a critical role in the passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Margaret Murie

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Beginning in the 1960′s Murie, an author, naturalist and conservationist, dedicated her life to lobbying Congress to pass legislation to prevent development on designated wildlife habitats nationwide. As a result of her tireless dedication to preserving millions of acres of Alaskan habitat, Murie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Want to learn more about the amazing contributions women have made to science? Join us for our annual Women’s History celebration tomorrow, March 7th!

A Blue View: Inside Giant Clams

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 5, 2014: Inside Giant Clams

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
the awesome giant clam!

In the vastness of the ocean, there are many so-called animal to animal symbionts, seemingly odd-fellow relationships from which both species benefit. Finding Nemo made famous one such partnership, that of the clownfish and anemone.

But what about symbiosis between an animal and a plant? Or more specifically, a plant-like alga called zooxanthellae? It’s a surprisingly common phenomenon, especially in the shallows of warm equatorial reefs where there’s abundant light for photosynthesis. Corals, jellies, even sea slugs participate.

And so does Tridacna gigas, the giant clam of the Indo-Pacific, the largest bivalve mollusk on Earth and the world’s only sun-powered clam.
The giant clam hosts a thick layer of zooxanthellae in its tissues and gets up to 90 percent of its nutrition from their photosynthesis. Imagine if we could do that? Just stand outside on a sunny day and photosynthesize? That’s pretty close to a free lunch.

giant clam

The giant clam does its part, too, by providing the zooxanthellae with a habitat protected from hungry predators.

During the day, the giant clam extends its mantle tissue, allowing sunlight to reach the zooxanthellae. In fact, full-size giant clams cannot fully close their shells. You’re less likely to get your foot stuck in a giant clam like in one those ‘50s-style horror movies than to get a hernia from trying to pick one up.

Because of their symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae, giant clams can photosynthesize their food like plants, even as they carnivorously filter feed, sieving out plankton from the water as all clams do. No Omnivore’s Dilemma for the giant clam.

And with this abundance of nutrition, giant clams have gone turbo—at least in terms of size. Giant clams grow and grow. In the wild, they can reach a length of four feet, weigh up to 500 pounds, and live for a hundred years.

Scientists have also discovered the giant clam can even “farm” its zooxanthellae. At night, specialized cells called amebocytes search out and digest old algal cells, keeping the “farm” clean and healthy, and in the process aiding the entire reef. The giant clam’s vigorous filtering keeps reef water crystal clear and free of fouling organisms.

But these giants are becoming rare, and near some Pacific Islands, are already locally extinct.

There is a huge demand for every single part of the giant clam. For Pacific Islanders, who rely on the ocean’s bounty for most of their diet, giant clams have been a traditional food source for millennia. The clam’s mantle and dried abductor muscle are considered a delicacy in Asia.

Further, every year approximately 200,000 live giant clams are taken for the ornamental aquarium trade. Their shells are, of course, sought-after as souvenirs. The zooxanthellae make the clam’s mantle look glamorous, in hues of electric blue to malachite green. Each clam’s pattern is unique and has long caught the eye of humans.

To save the giant clam, and the reefs on which they make their home, mariculturists are learning to farm them on Fiji and other islands, much the same way oysters are raised in the Chesapeake Bay. The goal is to reintroduce them into the wild, where they can filter and photosynthesize to their hybrid heart’s content. As happy as clams.

national aquarium CEO john racanelli

Animal Rescue Update: Harbor Seal Rescued After Shark Bite Injury

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that we recently received funding to support necessary upgrades to our seal rehabilitation facility! The new upgrades will include new enclosures with larger pools and the addition of life support. Our Animal Rescue and Development staff have been working very hard the last few years to find funding to support these upgrades, and our hard work has paid off. We are currently working with a design group to draft a final set of blueprints, and construction work will be begin in just a few short weeks!

To prepare for the upcoming construction work, our seal rehab area is currently closed and not admitting patients for long-term rehabilitation. Even while closed, we continue to be committed to responding to seal sightings in our response area, and coordinating care of seals that are sick or injured and require medical treatment.

We are working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  and our local associates that can accommodate seals for rehabilitation. We would like to thank the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine, New Jersey for their assistance in admitting two recent patients from Maryland. Several weeks ago, MMSC assisted us by admitting a critical harp seal from Assateague, Maryland, that unfortunately expired the following day.

Most recently, MMSC stepped in to help us by admitting a harbor seal from Ocean City, Maryland that was severely injured. The seal was the victim of a shark bite injury, and required immediate medical attention.

Warning: Some readers may be sensitive to the graphic nature of the following image.

animal rescue seal shark bite

Trained First Responders with the National Aquarium collected the seal and transported it to the National Aquarium for initial care and stabilization. The following morning, the seal was transported from the Aquarium to MMSC for long-term rehabilitation. The seal has a long recovery ahead of him, but is receiving the medical care needed to treat the wounds.

seal in rehab at national aquarium

It is collaborative partnerships like this that make the marine mammal and sea turtle response and rehab network so successful!

Stay tuned for periodic construction updates and a sneak peek of the ‘new’ seal rehabilitation facility when it is completed!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Expert jennifer dittmar

Don’t Miss the Rest of Our Spring Lecture Series!

After welcoming Dr. Sylvia Earle to kick-off our 2014 Marjorie Lynn Banks Lecture Series, we’re excited to share the diverse group of speakers that will be rounding out the remainder of our season!

The theme of this year’s series is “National Marine Sanctuaries: Special Ocean Places and Their Champions.” Our nation’s vast ocean riches are protected by a system of National Marine Sanctuaries, cherished by people around the country and safeguarded by a team of global ocean leaders. These sanctuaries represent some of the best places in our ocean environment such as humpback whale feeding and birthing grounds, shipwrecks of national interest, coral reefs and kelp beds.

In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, National Aquarium is excited to offer lecture attendees the chance to meet ocean experts who work on the front line of ocean conservation and exploration. Our year-long series brings to you the luminaries, scientists, explorers and artists who protect and use these special places to drive change toward a sustained ocean and a sustainable future!

Find out more about our upcoming lectures:

March 18, 2014 – Ocean Soul: A Photojournalist’s Journey
Featured Lecturer: Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998, he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine. He will present a gripping portrait of the ocean as a place of beauty and mystery, a place in trouble, and ultimately, a place of hope that will rebound with the proper attention and care. Skerry has witnessed these rebounds in our own National Marine Sanctuaries and marine reserves areas around the world and uses his stunning photography to advocate for continued and increased protection of special ocean places. His work is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institutions’ National Museum of Natural History’s Sant Ocean Hall in an exhibit called Portraits of Planet Ocean.

April 22, 2014 – The Power of Film: Inspiring Action for Monterey Bay
Featured Lecturer: Bob Talbot

As a world-renowned marine photographer, award-winning filmmaker and dedicated environmentalist, Bob Talbot is using the power of film to advocate for National Marine Sanctuaries and uses his gift to tell a story of change and recovery in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In Talbot’s remarkable career, he has combined his unique visual style and storytelling ability with state-of-the-art entertainment technologies to create intimate ocean experiences on film. National Aquarium visitors can enjoy Talbot’s work at the entrance to the Blue Wonders wing on our video wall.

May 7, 2014 – Humpback Whale Rescue in the Hawaiian Islands
Featured Lecturer: Ed Lyman

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator, Ed Lyman, will share stories of trying to free whales from entanglement, and the value of science aimed toward protecting these gentle giants. Lyman manages a community-based response effort to release entangled large whales around the main Hawaiian Islands. He also assists NOAA Fisheries in addressing large whale entanglement response in Alaska and the US West Coast. Ed Lyman has participated in more than 70 large whale disentanglements.

To reserve seats for any of our upcoming lectures, visit aqua.org/lectures!


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