Posts Tagged 'maryland'



Animal Updates – June 22

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

New BLUE Lobster

As of earlier this week, National Aquarium, Washington, DC became the new home for Toby, a rare blue lobster found off the coast of Maryland. Toby’s particular blue hue is said to be a 1-in-2-million exception to the reddish-brown shade of most lobsters!

Toby, our new rare blue lobster

The lobster was caught last week by John Gourley on his fishing boat, the Pot Luck, near Ocean City, MD. Gourley decided to donate the lobster to National Aquarium, Washington, DC.

Although Toby is already at the Aquarium, he will not immediately be placed on exhibit due to standard precautionary measures regarding the safety of a new species. He will eventually be placed in our Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit, which currently houses three black sea bass and one tautog. We hope to have Toby on display by July 4.

According to the University of Maine Lobster Institute, Toby is blue due to a genetic variation that causes the lobster to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein. This characteristic is estimated to be present in every 1-in-2-million lobsters born.

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

Thoughtful Thursdays: Catch Crabs, Not Terrapins

Save the Terrapins

Crab feasts are a summertime tradition here in Maryland. There’s nothing like gathering around a picnic table with family and friends to spend time together, eating, drinking and picking crabs!

With Memorial Day Weekend marking the opening of Maryland’s crab feast season, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources want to remind recreational crab pot owners to obey the law and by doing so, to help save the Maryland State reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

The diamondback terrapin lives exclusively in the tidal salt marshes of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastal marshes. This brackish-water habitat is also home to the blue crab.

Each year recreational crab pots unnecessarily claim the lives of terrapins. Terrapins are lured into crab pots by the same baits used to attract blue crabs. However, unlike blue crabs, terrapins must rise periodically to the surface for a breath of air. Terrapins trapped in a fully submerged crab pot will eventually die from drowning.

Waterfront property owners are legally allowed to crab with a maximum of two recreational crab pots. Maryland regulation requires that each entrance funnel of all recreational crab pots must be equipped with a with a turtle excluder called a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD). A BRD is a gate that allows crabs to enter the pot, but keeps the larger-shelled terrapins out.

A BRD will prevent almost all terrapins from entering a crab pot.

Recreational crabbers can purchase BRDs where crab pots are sold, and some retailers sell pots that already have the device installed.

Bycatch Reduction Devices

Metal and plastic BRDs

If you are unable to locate BRDs, contact the National Aquarium Conservation Department at conserve@aqua.org.

Installing a Bycatch Reduction Device

Masonville Cove Grass Plantings

Baltimore Harbor shorelines are looking a little greener thanks to the work of local students and community volunteers!  The National Aquarium partnered with the Maryland Port Administration, Living Classrooms Foundation, Maryland Environmental Service, and BayBrook Coalition to restore wetlands at Masonville Cove, near the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay neighborhoods of Baltimore City.

On May 14 and 15, more than 6,000 marsh grasses were planted by 187 fifth-grade students and chaperones from area schools at the Masonville Cove wilderness conservation area.  This is one small part of a large-scale environmental restoration of the entire cove, which is creating waterfront access in an area that was once an industrial site.

On May 18 and 19, a second portion of Masonville shoreline was planted with 17,000 wetland grasses!  The Aquarium first brought volunteers to this fringe wetland in October of 2011 to plant salt bush shrubs, and this recent planting completes the shoreline by filling in all of the tidal zones with the appropriate plants.  More than 112 volunteers helped with this effort, including groups from Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove, Baltimore Maritime Academy, Canton Kayak Club and more!

Interested in further volunteer opportunities regarding Masonville Cove? Come to an informational meeting about the Friends of Masonville Cove group on Thursday, May 31, at 5:30 p.m. at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center. Find out more information below:

Click here for more information about Masonville Cove, including community programming and additional volunteer opportunities. You can also follow Friends of Masonville Cove on Facebook for more information!

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Nature of Learning

In early May, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) spent two days at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge engaging students in activities focused on climate change and its effects on the diamondback terrapin.

Partnering with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, students were led through activities including a wetland planting promoting terrapin habitat, a GPS scavenger hunt to illustrate field monitoring techniques, and a nature walk along the butterfly garden, surveying the local bird population.

Prior to this field trip, Aquarium staff visited the students in their classrooms as part of an introduction to climate change, as well as terrapin characteristics and husbandry. Schools selected to participate are part of the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, a head-start program in which students care for and observe a newly hatched terrapin they will ultimately release into natural habitat at the end of the school year.

All activities were made possible through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Nature of Learning grant. The Nature of Learning grant encourages educators to “use National Wildlife Refuges as outdoor classrooms to promote a greater understanding of local conservation issues.”

In all, the Aquarium engaged more than 100 students in climate change activities, while educating students on how to be stewards of the Chesapeake Bay.

You can too! The Aquarium offers habitat restoration opportunities to promote a healthy Bay. Sign up for one of our free events today! Together our actions and awareness will create a healthy environment for Maryland’s state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

Terrapin Tagging

Last week, the National Aquarium welcomed Dr. Willem Roosenburg, a professor from Ohio University, to Baltimore. As a renowned diamondback terrapin researcher, he was here to implant PIT tags under the skin of the juvenile turtle ambassadors from the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program.

The passive integrated transponder device, or PIT tag, is a tiny chip the size of a grain of rice that allows Dr. Roosenburg and other researchers to track terrapin movements and life history in the Chesapeake Bay.  In most cases, the tag will stay with the terrapin for its entire life, allowing researchers to gather long-term data on individual terrapins and, eventually, draw conclusions about the broader terrapin population.

Dr. Willem Roosenburg and the National Aquarium team implant PIT tags to track their movements

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom program, students from 31 schools across Maryland contribute to this research by raising hatchling diamondback terrapins in their classroom. This “head start” protects the terrapins during their first year of life—the time when they are most likely to become a snack for a predatory fish, snake, or bird.

Once the terrapins are released, researchers can gather long-term data from the PIT tags

In early fall, biologists gather hatchings as they emerge from nests on Poplar Island and collect detailed data on each turtle as well as their nesting site. Aquarium staff then distribute a these terrapins to the lucky schools participating in the program. During the school year, students are charged with caring for their classroom terrapin and tracking his or her growth. At the end of the school year, the student caregivers will travel to Poplar Island to release the tagged terrapins at the site where they were collected. The hope is that Dr. Roosenburg and his field crew will recapture these terrapins in future years to document their continued growth and survivorship.

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom program, students contribute to cutting-edge research and create lasting connections with their terrapin. Though sad to say goodbye on release day, students are more acutely aware of the impact a changing environment will have on their terrapin. This direct connection to the Chesapeake Bay inspires more thoughtful choices and, hopefully, a lifetime of environmental stewardship.


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