Posts Tagged 'national aquarium experts'



Happy Maryland Day!

government affairs and policy update

Every year on March 25th the Old Line State celebrates the rich history of all things Maryland. Did you know? It was on this day in 1634 that colonists ventured up the Chesapeake Bay and arrived on Maryland soil!

Here at the National Aquarium we take pride in our Maryland roots. 70,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teaches and chaperones visit the Aquarium every year. Hundreds of National Aquarium staff and volunteers work tirelessly to restore the Chesapeake Bay. And the seals, sea turtles, and whales that get stranded off of Ocean City and other Maryland  beaches? National Aquarium resumes, rehabilitates and releases them back into the wild.

But the Aquarium’s Maryland pride does not stop there – we also have a strong representation of Maryland animals throughout our exhibits, both species native to our coast and ones that rely on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay to survive.

Everyone is quick to recognize Maryland favorites like blue crabs and terrapins, but here are some not-so-obvious animals that can be seen in Maryland waters: 

Lined Seahorse

This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.

lined seahorse

This species of seahorse can be found year-round in the middle and lower regions of the Chesapeake Bay, extending north to regions such as Calvert County and Kent Island. While usually found amidst the grasses in the Bay’s shallow waters, they can also be seen clinging to ropes and crab pots.

Sandbar Shark

Usually found along the North American Atlantic coast, these stocky brownish sharks can be seen in the shallows of the middle and lower regions of the Bay in Summer and Fall.

Sandbar shark

These Chesapeake Bay visitors are usually large schools of juveniles, usually ranging only about 2-3-feet in size, however, spotting an adult 7-foot sandbar shark in the Bay would not be unheard of. The Bay has become one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast and young sharks often feed on native blue crabs. The sharks prefer the protected waters and stay near the smooth sandy bottoms of the Bay before heading back into the southern waters when the weather gets cooler.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Adult loggerheads are common in the lower Bay from May to November, but can also be seen as far north as Kent Island during summer months.

Loggerhead turtle

They come to feed on blue crabs and horse crabs and to hatch their young. The lower Bay is an important growth area for young loggerheads before they are large and strong enough to make it back into the open ocean.

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in the summers, usually to Cape Charles and the James and Elizabeth Rivers.

dolphin count

They can go into fresh water for short periods and feed on a variety of the Bay’s fish, crabs, and other shellfish. You can find them traveling in pods ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 dolphins, staying in the Bay and rivers for a summer vacation before heading back to the open water when the weather gets cooler.

Cownose Ray

With a wingspan of up to 3 feet, cownose rays can also be found traveling in schools in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay during summer months.

national aquarium cownose ray

The schools traverse the lower and middle parts of the Bay, sometimes going as far north as Kent Island, from May to October, before heading back to southern coastal waters when autumn comes. They come to the Bay to search of oysters and clams and a safe place to mate in the late summer from June to July. The schools can be large and visible as they move through the Bay.

How are you celebrating Maryland Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

Animal Rescue Update: 11 Turtle Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Health and Animal Rescue staff have been busy continuing to care for the 19 cold-stunned sea turtles currently in rehabilitation. Over the last three months, many of our patients have been treated for critical conditions, including: fungal and bacterial pneumonias, infections in their flipper joints and severe shell lesions.

I’m happy to announce that we currently have 11 turtles that are no longer on medications and are considered stable! We are now working with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the state of Florida to schedule a release date in the near future!

All the stable turtles have been getting full exams that will act as pre-release screening  exams, which include recheck radiographs, blood work, physical exams, and tagging. All releasable turtles must be tagged in some way – either metal flipper tags, a PIT tag (a microchip like your domestic dog/cat might have), or both. The metal flipper tags are applied to the rear flippers and are the equivalent of getting your ears pierced.

sea turtle tag

These tags will stay with the animals for many years after release, but may eventually fall out as they corrode or as the turtle grows. As a more permanent method of identifying the animal, we implant a small microchip under the skin that will stay with the animal indefinitely. These forms of ID are passive ways researchers can track released turtles and provide insight to migration patterns, foraging areas and past medical history.

Meet some of our patients ready for release! 

Chipper

This green sea turtle stranded in Ocean City, MD as a cold-stun and arrived to the National Aquarium with a dangerously low body temperature of only 37o F. A temperature this low in sea turtles can be fatal, and our staff had to be careful to warm the turtle very slowly over several days. In fact, he was so cold on admittance, that in order to prevent his body temperature from rising too quickly, we actually had to utilize ice to stabilize his temperature.

national aquarium animal rescue turtle

Chipper has amazingly made a full recovery. He was prescribed long-term fluid therapy to combat blood changes due to the cold-stunning, but otherwise has had a clean bill of health.

Goose

Goose is a Kemp’s ridley that was cold-stunned in Cape Cod and transferred to us by the New England Aquarium. Goose is the smallest turtle this season – he was admitted weighing less than 2 lbs, and is now over 3.5 lbs! He was treated for anemia (low iron), a high white blood cell count, and mild pneumonia.

While Goose is the smallest turtle we currently have in rehabilitation, he has a big personality and makes our staff laugh. He’s not ashamed to scavenge small pieces of produce from his green sea turtle neighbors, even though Kemp’s ridley’s don’t typically eat plant-based foods.

Jester

Jester is a Kemp’s ridley that also came to us from New England Aquarium. He was treated for pneumonia, shell lesions, and mild skin lesions.

national aquarium animal rescue

Jester has gained 2 lbs on a diet of squid, shrimp, capelin, and crab while in rehab!

Stay tuned for details on their upcoming release! 

Thoughtful Thursday: March 22nd is World Water Day

Blog-Header-ConservationExp

It’s that time of year again.  Everyone’s favorite holiday – World Water Day!  What? Never heard of the holiday that celebrates the one substance that is the basis for all life?  Think about it, when scientists are looking for proof of life on other planets, what is the one clue they hope to find?  Water.  The simple presence of water.  They know that if there is water, there may be a possibility for life.  No water, no life.

Here on Earth, almost three quarters of our planet’s surface is covered with water.  The volume of water in your own body is made up of almost that exact same percentage.  We all need water to survive.  And by “we all,” I mean microbes, insects, kittens, people, polar bears, trees, frogs, flowers, birds, turtles, forests, ecosystems, etc.  We are all intricately linked through water.  As much as we try to separate these groups in our minds, as much as we disassociate ourselves with parts of the rest of the world, it would do us good to remember that we all have one common need.

blacktip reef

What do sharks and humans have in common? Their need for water. Clean water.

There is some great information now available that helps us visualize how truly dependent we are on water.  We can see how much water it takes to make a one pound of beef, one pint of greek yogurt, one cup of coffee.  It’s all very fascinating – mostly because it forces us to look at water in new ways.  We live in a world where “conserve water” or “save water” used to mean – stop letting the faucet run while you are brushing your teeth, or don’t water your lawn in the middle of the hot summer day.

This new view of water, puts a truer value on the resources required to produce the food we eat and makes us think about our daily choices in different ways.  For example, it takes three eggs to equal the amount of protein in one serving of beef, but the beef requires nine times the amount of water to produce.

If we are committed to being good stewards of this amazing water planet, we need to start with our own daily choices.  Figure out what is most important to you and then look for ways to make less of an impact!

Interested in learning more about the state of our of water supply and how it’s impacting marine life? Tune into PBS NewHour’s weekly Twitter chat (#NewsHourChats) at 1pm EST to hear from me (@LauraBankey) and our Chief Conservation Officer, Eric Schwaab (via @NatlAquarium)! 

Laura Bankey

Happy National Wildlife Week!

national aquarium conservation expert update

This year’s National Wildlife Week is dedicated to the Wonders of Wildlife and this year’s theme, “Wildlife and Water,” highlights our connections through water.  The National Aquarium is an obvious place to think of when you think about water and wildlife.  Like we do every day, we invite you to discover your connection to water and to the other plants and animals sharing this precious resource.

It is no coincidence that National Wildlife Week coincides with the beginning of Spring.  Both occasions start us thinking about the natural beauty and waking wildlife that begins to emerge this time of year.  We are already seeing flowers popping up from the snowy ground and frogs beginning their spring mating rituals.  Osprey are beginning to return to the region after a long migration north and soon we’ll see other birds leaving or passing through.  Fish are moving in and out of the bays and rivers as they are headed to spawning grounds.  All of these amazing sights and sounds are intricately tied to water and to each other.  How they move, the food they eat, what they drink, where they raise their young – it’s all about water.

World Water Day quote

As warmer weather approaches and snow starts melting, vernal pools are filling and streams and rivers are flowing.  Get outside and discover how these changes to the water around us are providing opportunities for wildlife to thrive.  Birds and frogs are active, animals that had been hibernating are emerging and looking for food, turtles are basking in the stronger sun.  The world is waking from the long winter and this is often the best time to take a pair of binoculars (or a magnifying glass) and see what is happening in your local area.

Also, don’t miss the chance to celebrate wildlife that shares our world during National Wildlife Week.  Our friends at the National Wildlife Federation are highlighting more than 50 species of wildlife throughout the week.  I’ll bet even the most savvy of wildlife enthusiast will learn something new!

Are you celebrating National Wildlife Week? Share your plans with us in the comments section! 

national aquarium conservation expert laura bankey

Bill of the Week: Capital Budget

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Governor O’Malley submitted his Fiscal Year 2015 Capital Budget to the Maryland General Assembly in early January. The $4 billion Capital Budget includes nearly $700 million for public school and university construction, $450 million for projects such as land preservation and Chesapeake Bay restoration, and $2.5 billion for transportation projects.

The Governor’s Capital Budget also includes funding for the National Aquarium for the second year in a row. If approved by the General Assembly, the State’s $1.5 million will help the Aquarium address critical infrastructure needs while simultaneously redesigning the way we communicate the remarkable aquatic treasure just beyond the Aquarium’s walls: the Chesapeake Bay.

chesapeake bay watershed

Addressing these infrastructure pieces will allow us to completely re-imagine the way we communicate the unique beauty and diversity of the Bay. Interactive exhibits – both in the main Aquarium building and outside the Aquarium walls that reach the edges of Inner Harbor – will share the success stories of and challenges still facing one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures.

The exhibit will surely give the Aquarium’s 1.4 million annual visitors – the majority of whom reside within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed – a sense of how water connects us all.

The General Assembly will be voting on the Capital Budget over the next few weeks. The 2014 legislative session adjourns on April 7th.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium


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