Posts Tagged 'national aquarium'



An Update on our Sea Turtle Patients!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The cold-stun turtle season has died down, and 19 turtles are now being cared for by our Animal Rescue team. Fifteen of our turtle patients came from Cape Cod; three traveled South from New Jersey; and one came to our facility from Ocean City, Maryland. Thus far, all 19 turtle patients have taken their rehabilitation in stride! Currently, our team has 8 stable patients, 8 less critical and 3 critical patients.

national aquarium animal rescue

Our hospital pool is teeming with patients!

Cold-stunned sea turtles are typically admitted with abrasions and lesions from the rocky and rough winter seashores. Many also have secondary infections, including pneumonia, upper respiratory infections and joint swelling.

As you can imagine, keeping 19 turtles on track with medical treatments, feedings and enrichment can become quite a handful, but the Animal Rescue staff and volunteers have come together, and the success stories continue to mount! To date, we have three turtles that are completely off medications (which means we are hopeful for release options in the near future) as well as a few turtles that have really turned a positive corner in their treatment and diet plans.

A Kemp’s Ridley turtle named Charlie had a particularly rough start to his rehabilitation process. Charlie was not eating consistently and our veterinary and husbandry staff were having a tough time pinpointing what could be causing the changes in his behavior and health. After a CT scan at John’s Hopkins, several medications and daily ultrasounds, we found a mass near his heart that may have been causing some discomfort and/or health troubles.

national aquarium turtle charlie

Charlie

Over the last few days, Charlie has taken a great leap forward in his rehabilitation! He is not only eating the same amount as the healthy sea turtles, but the mass near his heart is getting smaller and smaller with each ultrasound that our veterinary staff complete!

Another Kemp’s Ridley patient, Blade, underwent surgery with our vet staff last week to repair a shell fracture. We’re happy to report that Blade is recovering well after the procedure and his fracture is officially on-the-mend!

national aquarium sea turtle blade

Blade pre-surgery on January 21, 2014.

As for our other patients, we are continuing to follow treatment plans and behavioral observations so that we can add more of them to our “stable” column. In the meantime, these 19 sea turtles are chowing down on three pounds of food per day — consisting of squid, shrimp, capelin ( a lean fish) and the occasional soft shell blue crab. With a diet like that, and the fantastic care from our staff many releases are sure to come for these beautiful sea turtles!

national aquarium animal rescue expert jennifer dittmar

Ocean Acidification: A Global Issue With Local Consequences

national aquarium conservation expert update

Only a few decades ago, scientists thought that the buffering capacity of the world’s oceans was so great that they could absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide (one of the greenhouse gases that is emitted when we burn fossil fuels) without much consequence. This was good news because carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were rising and while there were consequences for a changing climate, at least the oceans would be spared.

Unfortunately, there has been a growing body of emerging research that links dramatic changes in ocean chemistry to the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere – just in time for us to see the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide that has ever been measured – 400 parts per million. Typically, the new research focused on the effects of changing ocean chemistry, or ocean acidification, on corals and other carbonate-based organisms. It was discovered that the shells of these organisms could actually dissolve.

ocean adification graphic

A graphic representation of ocean acidification. (Via Seattle Magazine)

But the term ocean acidification is misleading. In fact, the process of converting carbon dioxide to carbonic acid is happening in all types of open water; our bays, our streams, our lakes; our rivers and more. It is affecting organisms in all of these water bodies. The impacts may even be greater in coastal bodies of water where the addition of pollution and nutrient sources from the land are magnifying changes in water chemistry.

Maryland is putting a tremendous amount of resources into Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, including supporting a robust oyster recovery plan in state waters. Ocean acidification has been shown to significantly affect the growth rate of oysters, slowing the growth of adult oysters, and, more importantly, impeding the development of larval oysters at critical life stages. Recent studies also suggest that changing ocean pH levels can affect the thickness of crab and oyster shells, possibly shifting the predator-prey balance of these two species.

national aquarium blue crab

If ocean acidification in the Chesapeake Bay goes untreated,
species like the blue crab will begin to disappear.

Furthermore, other important components of our Bay and ocean ecosystems can be affected such as calcareous phytoplankton- potentially undermining the very foundation on which other commercially and recreationally valuable species depend. At a time when we are just beginning to realize the successes of years of oyster recovery efforts and the rebuilding of important fish and crab stocks, we must work even harder to understand additional stresses these animals are facing and know how to manage against them effectively if we want to see long-term viability. We also need to take responsibility for our actions, both individually and as a community to reduce the two most significant contributors to this problem; rising greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient pollution from land-based resources.

As part of our mission at the Aquarium to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its wildlife. We have also worked in the field with more than 35,000 students and community volunteers restoring vital Bay habitat. We understand the importance of healthy intact communities and ecosystems and hope work with our communities to reverse the effects of ocean acidification on our local and global wildlife.

national aquarium conservation expert Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Bag Fee Coming to Baltimore in 2014?

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This coming Monday, the Baltimore City Council will vote on a bill that would require city businesses to charge a ten cent fee on all bags (paper or plastic) provided by retail establishments at point of sale.  If passed, Baltimore City will join the ranks of Washington D.C. and Montgomery County in trying to use economic incentives to decrease litter and promote the use of reusable bags. These laws, which took effect in 2010 and 2012 respectively, have been successful in substantially reducing the number of single-use bags distributed at retail stores in those districts. In fact, bag pollution in DC neighborhoods has been reduced by more than two-thirds!

Want to make this important environmental step a reality for Baltimore? Here’s how YOU can help:

  • Tell your Baltimore City Council member that you care about out city and our wildlife and you support council bill 13-0241.
  • Make bringing reusable bags with you as you shop a routine!

There is no denying that plastic bag pollution is a real problem in our city.  Discarded bags are almost always visible -stuck in tree branches and floating along our harbor, streams and rivers.  They can clog storm drain inlets and cause localized flooding and the city spends millions of dollars each year cleaning up bags and other litter.

debris at ft mchenry

They are also often seen being used as building material in bird nests and pose a threat to aquatic predators that mistake them as food.   Plastic pollution in our environment and waterways is well documented but its effects on wildlife are still being studied.   In one recent study, more than 50 percent of the sea turtles stranded on a beach in Texas, in a two-year period, contained traces of debris in their digestive tract – 65 percent of those animals had ingested plastic bags.

Our own Animal Rescue team has cared for animals that have ingested plastic bags, and while the deleterious effects of plastic digestion by animals may be obvious, the chronic effects of toxic chemicals found within these plastics and ingestion of degraded plastic (or microplastics) is just beginning to be characterized.

Paper bags are also being included in this legislation because they too require a significant amount of resources to manufacture and ship and ignoring this would be counterproductive to the intent of the bill.

It is important to remember that the intent of this bill is not to penalize our most vulnerable citizens by imposing another fee they will struggle to pay.  In fact, there are several exemptions that take into account the type of purchases and participation in public assistance programs.  We simply can no longer ignore the true cost of favoring single-use products like plastic and paper bags within the system. These items are not free.  There is a cost for their resource extraction, manufacture and shipping.  If they end up as litter, there is a cost to remove them from our waterways, city streets and storm drains – and when we aren’t able to do that, there is a cost to wildlife.

Laura Bankey

Underwater City: The Hustle and Bustle of Coral Reefs

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Bright, beautiful and overflowing with life, coral reefs are among the most incredible natural wonders in the world. 

national aquarium coral reef infographic

Often thought of as rocks or plants, corals are actually made up of invertebrates called polyps. These polyps can range in size from a millimeter to a foot in diameter. The polyps group together, forming a colony, and use calcium carbonate from the ocean to build a protective skeleton.

Generally, corals are classified as either hard or soft corals. Hard corals are the framework of the reef. As these corals grow in colonies, they create skeletons. Soft corals are soft and bendable, looking more like plants. These organisms form a visually stunning and biologically important foundation for many ocean inhabitants, from tiny fish to large apex predators like sharks.

Though coral reefs constitute less than one percent of the ocean floor, they support an estimated 25 percent of ocean life. They are incredibly bio-diverse, and provide critical spawning, nursery, breeding and feeding grounds for thousands of species. And, according to a report by the World Research Institute, 75 percent of the world’s reefs are considered threatened.

The Value of Coral Reefs

The loss of thriving coral reefs has real consequences, and not just to their many inhabitants. Besides being essential habitats for fish, coral reefs have a measurable value to those who live on land.

Because they essentially serve as mountain ranges for the ocean’s coastlines, they deflect the energy of brutal storms that might otherwise decimate coastal communities. In fact, in areas where we have experienced tsunamis, the areas with coral reefs fared much better than those without.

Chemical compounds unique to coral reefs are especially useful for medicinal purposes. Researchers have used coral amalgams to treat ailments including ulcers, skin cancers and heart disorders. Once the correct formula is identified, the medicines can be mass-produced synthetically.

And of course, the natural beauty of coral reefs makes them attractive for tourists, too. Visitors from all over the world flock to the Florida Keys, Barbados, Indonesia, Australia and other destinations to get a closer look. Most of these areas rely heavily on tourism for economic growth and sustainability, so preserving coral reefs is vital for their economies.

All told, the economic value of coral reefs has been estimated to be $375 billion per year.

Reef in Danger

Sadly, coral reefs are highly threatened. Storm damage, invasive species, climate change, coastal development and commercial use are just a few of the threats. Corals are extremely sensitive, so even small sifts in light, temperature and water acidity can be detrimental. Many of the choices that we make every day contribute to the devastation of coral reefs. Coral is able to grow and repair itself, but needs precisely the right environment to do so.

In order for many coral species to thrive, they must have exposure to bright sunlight. Clear-water environments are necessary for corals to receive the maximum amount of direct light. Pollution in our water from runoff and other chemicals can cause excessive amounts of algae to grow on its surface. This process, called eutrophication, clouds the water and prevents coral from getting the sun that it needs.

In addition to chemical pollutants, coral reefs are also threatened by ocean acidification caused by the burning of fossil fuels. This process sends a deluge of carbon dioxide into the air, forming carbonic acid. Destructive fish practices, such as the use of cyanide to attract specific types of fish, also contribute to the devastation of coral reefs.

To respond to the threat of ocean acidification, the XPRIZE Foundation launched the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE last year. This new contest, developed with help from the National Aquarium and other leading ocean healthy organizations, aims to spur innovators to develop accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors that will ultimately transform our understanding of one of the greatest problems associated with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

While the future of coral reefs may appear bleak, there’s still a lot we CAN do to protect these aquatic treasures! 

Jack Cover

Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Joseph Cotton!

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts headliner, our very own executive chef Joseph Cotton:

national aquarium executive chef

Executive Chef Joseph Cotton started his love affair with food at the early age of 9, by making meatballs for a local deli. A Johnson and Wales trained Chef; his passion for fresh, local and eclectic food aligns with the Aquarium’s mission for their guest experience.

After his work in hotels, fine dining establishments and in special event catering, Chef Joseph opened JC’s Grill House in Newton, NJ, in the summer of 2007. His first solo business, the restaurant sat 150 guests, catered weddings and events onsite, and simultaneously operated as the caterer for nearby Bear Brook Golf Club. When he and his family moved to Maryland, Chef Joseph joined the National Aquarium family in December 2012 as the Executive Chef for our main café, Harbor Market Kitchen, as well as overseeing Harbor Market Catering.

Using sustainable and local products whenever possible including seasonal produce, artisanal cheeses, grass-fed beef, humanely raised poultry, sustainably harvested seafood and shade-grown coffee, Chef Joseph’s menus are not only delicious and innovative, but an extension of the Aquarium.

In preparation for next week’s dinner, we sat down with Chef Joseph to talk about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region:

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?

Oysters are my favorite seafood to eat and also my favorite to prepare. I like how versatile oysters are – they can be fried, grilled, stuffed, raw or sautéed. In the summertime, I love to stuff oysters with local crabmeat and top them with a nice, light spinach cream sauce.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?

Sustainable seafood is finally becoming a standard for up and coming restaurants! Not only is this a great trend for the industry, but it shows that there’s a lot of awareness and demand from consumers.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?

The biggest challenge is definitely the availability of the product. By working closely with local fisheries, farms and distributors, we hope to see this problem solved in the very near future.

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …

I hope that they walk away embracing the concept of “fishing today for a better tomorrow.” My goal is that our guests leave satisfied and educated on how important sustainability is to the future of our ocean and the species that live there.

Tell us a little bit about Harbor Market Kitchen and how your team is always churning out such delicious meals!

It’s very important to myself and my team to provide our guests with fresh, homemade meals that showcase the best that Maryland has to offer! Whether it’s our members and visitors that come through the Aquarium everyday or our after-hours guests at catered events, we’re dedicated to making sure every bite of food is high-quality and delicious.

To learn more about our sustainable seafood program and other conservation initiatives, click here


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