Posts Tagged 'national aquarium experts'



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

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

A Blue View: Inspiring Hope for the Ocean

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.

February 26, 2014: Inspiring Hope

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss how
“Her Deepness,” Dr. Sylvia Earle is
inspiring hope for the ocean’s future!

It’s been said that hope is the most powerful motivator in the world…a principle with which I happen to agree. I came to this, in good measure, due to a remarkable person named Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, scientist, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, and one of this blue planet’s most ardent champions.

Dr. Sylvia Earle

I had the good fortune of working with Dr. Earle a few years ago in launching a new organization called Mission Blue. What I learned while working with this ardent advocate for what she calls Earth’s blue heart, is that conservation is ultimately about the power of hope.

In this time of 24-hour news cycle, we hear endlessly about the world’s “hot spots,” bleak stories of civil wars, droughts and degraded ecosystems. Sylvia, however, took an entirely new tack when she launched the idea of “hope spots,” special places in our ocean that are critical to our planet’s health and worth restoring and preserving as marine protected areas.

These hope spots are found throughout world, including areas such as the Coral Triangle in the western Pacific – perhaps the most diverse marine ecosystem on Earth; the deep underwater canyons of Alaska’s Bering Sea – home to whales, fur seals, king crabs, and even cold water corals; the evocatively named White Shark Café – a critical breeding and feeding ground in the deep Pacific for great white sharks; and the Mesoamerican Reef – the world’s second longest coral reef, which spans three Central American nations. The message that Sylvia wants to share is that there is still hope, provided we take decisive action, now.

In fact, she has identified 51 existing or potential hope spots …impressive, until we learn that less than two percent of the ocean is currently protected, in contrast to over 12 percent of the world’s land area. Considering that the ocean covers 71 percent of the planet, we have a long way to go.

When Sylvia received the coveted TED Prize a few years ago, she declared that the next 10 years will likely be more important than the last 10,000 to the future of the ocean. What we do right now will set the tone for our relationship with this ocean planet for a long time to come.

So, where do we stand? Well, it would be easy to despair… we humans have eaten more than 90 percent of the sea’s big fish, nearly half the world’s coral reefs have disappeared or are at risk, dead zones continue to increase around the mouths of many of our mightiest rivers and we have now identified five massive trash gyres in the world’s largest oceans.

5 gyres

But in the midst of all this negativity, Sylvia reminds us that there is hope. Ten percent of those big fish still live—enough to restore most fish stocks, given time. Fifty percent of coral reefs are still thriving and worthy of saving. And we can bring those dead zones back to life just by taking better care of the water that flows down our rivers. In fact, the percentage of marine protected areas has doubled since Sylvia began this mission seven years ago by deftly steering former President George Bush into declaring two of the largest marine protected areas in US history.

In a storied career that includes leading more than 100 ocean science expeditions and logging more than 7,000 hours underwater, Sylvia knows the ocean as few do. She believes that a global network of hope spots can support biodiversity, absorb our carbon, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like adventure travel and artisanal fishing to thrive.

Now that’s reason for hope.

Learn more about our 2014 Marjorie Lynn Bank Lecture Series and get tickets and information on upcoming events.

national aquarium CEO john racanelli


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