Posts Tagged 'chesapeake'



Site Update: Barren Island wetland restoration project

In the spring of 2001, the National Aquarium’s Conservation Team (ACT!) set foot on Barren Island for the first time, with the goal of restoring 7 acres of wetland habitat with the help of 350 volunteers.

Although now part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Barren Island was once a thriving community that, in the early 1900s, even had its own church and local store.

In 2001, the only structure left to greet volunteers was the hunting lodge, which also appeared to be giving in to the elements. By the next year, when ACT! returned, they would be greeted by only remnants of a foundation where the lodge once stood.

Barren Island lodge disappearing

Water at the front door of the hunting lodge (photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Over the last 10 years, ACT! and our project partners have restored a total of 26 acres of wetland habitat on Barren Island.  Project partners, school students, and community volunteers have dedicated a total of 9,957 hours to rebuilding this island, creating a sanctuary for migratory birds and other native wildlife.

An island once “barren” by erosion now thrives with wildlife and vegetation. Volunteers enjoy returning to observe past sites they helped restore. When surveyed, many volunteers commented, “I never knew grasses would grow and spread so quickly!”

Each year, staff from the Aquarium and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit the island to monitor the success of the plantings. This year’s annual fall monitoring trip took place in October, when all six restoration sites were photographed. Monitoring methods generally include taking topography readings to determine if the island has gained or lost land, recording vegetation data to determine plant diversity, and taking photos to give a time-lapse snapshot of the sites.

During the 2011 monitoring trip, it was apparent the island is doing very well. Although there was some scalloping observed along the western coast between the bulkheads, much of the island has not lost land. In addition, vegetation from the 2009 restoration has spread to areas of the site that were unplanted and bare.

Barren Island before

Barren Island, August 2004

Barren Island after

Barren Island, October 2011

With their flourishing vegetation and hints of resident wildlife (fox and raccoon prints, turtle nests, horseshoe crab molts, etc.), sites have become so successful they are almost unrecognizable!

Project partners are pleased with the results of the last 10 years. As funds become available, additional areas of the island will be restored. The Barren Island restoration project is a collaboration among the National Aquarium, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Friends of Blackwater.

How many trainers does it take for a dolphin to give birth?

The marine mammal staff is busy preparing for Shiloh and Chesapeake to give birth!

We’ve mobilized a team of dedicated volunteers to assist the trainers with observations of the pregnant females and potential calves. In 2007, volunteers contributed over 1000 hours to watching the nursery group and last year’s new calf, Foster. 

These volunteers have been recruited through other areas of the aquarium and undergo additional training in order to observe the dolphin colony.  While rearing a calf is ultimately dependent on the mother, observations allow us to add more information into what researchers know about dolphin pregnancies and neonate calves. For example, in the past we have observed females in the group assuming a calf position on an expectant mother’s mammaries. Researchers believe that this may be a way to teach a new mother how to nurse a calf!

Additionally, we use observations to determine exactly when a female is going into labor. Surprisingly, there is limited published research on dolphin pregnancies. A previous research project at the National Aquarium in Baltimore did indicate that two behaviors, arching and crunching, may increase just prior to giving birth. So obviously, this is one of the behaviors that trainers and observers are looking for!

The Information technology department has worked alongside the marine mammal department to develop a recording program using Palm Pilots™. This program won an award when presented at the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Conference in 2001. This allows trainers and veterinarians to view collected information more efficiently.

Can you believe that dolphins do this in the wild without all the extra help?!


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