Posts Tagged 'National Aquarium in DC'



Amazing Experience Sweepstakes Winners Meet Our Loggerhead!

In December of 2012, as part of our Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes, Darren Brooks from Williamsburg, Virginia won the chance to go behind-the-scenes and meet our baby loggerhead turtle at National Aquarium, Washington, DC!

Meet our baby loggerhead turtle, Brownie!

Our baby loggerhead turtle!

Recently, Darren and his family came on-site to meet our loggerhead, learn a bit more about the species and give the little one a name! After observing our baby sea turtle on exhibit, everyone went behind-the-scenes to actually meet the turtle and learn a bit more about him from our Aquarist Dana. Darren and his fiancee Denise decided to name the loggerhead ‘Brownie,’ after it’s sweet personality and love of food!

During their meet and greet with Brownie, Darren and his family also had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about our participation in the Loggerhead Head Start Program. Run by the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll, this program gives baby sea turtles a better chance at survival in the wild. Sea turtle hatchlings found stranded far from the ocean, spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow. After being given a clean bill of health and an extra boost of nutrition, they are tagged and released back to the ocean!

Brownie will spend two years at National Aquarium and then released off the coast of North Carolina!

Stay tuned for more stories on our Amazing Experience Sweepstakes winners!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Sustainable Sturgeon Farming

Chef Xavier Deshayes, the creative genius behind our Washington D.C. Fresh Thoughts dining series has a real passion for sustainable seafood. In preparing for dinners like Fresh Thoughts, it has become common practice for Chef Deshayes to  travel and investigate the sources of his fresh ingredients first-hand! Earlier this month, Chef Deshayes and members of our conservation team traveled to an aquaculture facility in North Carolina that will be providing both the sturgeon and caviar for our upcoming dinner on April 24th!

Chef Deshayes observing the sturgeon in North Carolina.

Chef Deshayes observing the sturgeon in North Carolina.

The Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company began selling their products just last year, but operations at the facility began as early as 2008. They’re located in the hills of Lenoir, North Carolina, at the foot of the Appalachians and within sight of Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. The business is cooperatively funded by private business partners, North Carolina State University and experts from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The 720,000 gallon aquaculture facility sits on the site of the family farm of one of its founders and contains 36 large tanks.

An aerial shot of the nursery facility.

An aerial shot of the facility.

Three species of sturgeon are raised at the farm; Atlantic , Russian and Siberian. The Russian Sturgeon is the source of the famous Osetra caviar. Atlantic sturgeon are native to the United States and can be found in distinct populations along the east coast and in the rivers from Canada to Florida. They spend most of their adult lives in the ocean but will return to the river in which they were born to spawn. Like their Russian counterparts, Atlantic sturgeon populations are diminishing and there are limits or outright bans on fishing these animals.

The Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company was founded in order to help fill the demand for quality seafood and caviar without over-burdening wild populations of fish stocks. Fish are fed and maintained for several years – until they are 3-5 years old and are approximately three feet in length. Around this time, experts at the facility use ultrasound technology to determine the sex of the animal and males and females are separated.

A sturgeon being given an x-ray to determine sex.

A sturgeon being given an ultrasound to determine sex.

Males are raised to the desired size and harvested for their meat. Fresh sturgeon meat is white and firm and popular in restaurants around the region.

Once the females are separated they are monitored through ultrasound for proper egg development. We watched this process and it’s an amazing marriage between science and art. The subtle differences between “exactly right” and “a tad too far” are impossible to detect from a layman’s perspective but are extremely important if you want to maximize profits by providing the best caviar product possible. The process of extracting caviar is delicate, exacting, detail oriented and extremely time consuming.

Once the caviar has been harvested, it's canned by hand.

Once the caviar has been harvested, it’s canned by hand.

The staff at the Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company are passionate about creating a successful business that is sustainable in the long-term!

Join us at the next Fresh Thought dinner in Washington, DC to see the success of their work! Want to learn more about our sustainable seafood program in DC? Watch this video: 

DIY Craft: Make a Kite out of Recycled Materials!

The Blossom Kite Festival is an annual event that takes place during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., where kite fliers can show off their skills and compete for awards, while spectators get to watch the beautiful kites fill the air. This year’s Blossom Kite Festival will be held on March 30th and National Aquarium, Washington, DC have a booth on the National Mall where visitors can make their own aquatic-themed windsocks out of recycled materials!

If you can’t join the festivities in D.C., you can still participate with this kid-friendly craft! Here’s how you can make your very own “green” kite, using recycled and household materials:

Materials:

  • Plastic grocery bag
  • String
  • Any thin sticks
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Popsicle stick
  • Ruler or other straight edge

Instructions:

  1. Make the frame of your recycled kite by laying the sticks on top of each other to form a cross, then securing them by winding some string around the intersection of the sticks. Make sure the string is wrapped in a criss-cross diagonal pattern so the sticks remain in place.
  2. Next, cut the grocery bag on one side and across the bottom, and lay it out flat. Place the sticks on the grocery bag. Using your marker and straight edge, draw lines on the grocery bag connecting the corners of the sticks to make a template for your kite. When you are finished with this step you should have drawn a full square on the grocery bag.
    diy kite
  3. Take your scissors and cut along the guidelines you just drew. Then, tape the grocery bag to the sticks at each corner. If your square is big enough, you can fold the corners slightly over the sticks and tape it that way for extra strength.
  4. If you have any scraps from your grocery bag, cut them into streamers of various lengths, and attach them to the tail of your kite with tape.
    DSC_0832
  5. Finally, tie the string around the intersecting sticks and make several secure knots. Unspool several feet of string, then tie the other end of the string to the middle of the popsicle stick to create the line for the kite.

Don’t forget to join us out on the National Mall this weekend for the Blossom Kite Festival! 

Animal Updates – March 8

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!

Rainbow shiner fry!

Last month, the adult rainbow shiners in our Southern Stream exhibit began to “color up” and turn an electric blue. This is an indicator that they are ready to breed.

Rainbow shiner

The rainbow shiner will transform from its normal reddish coloration to an electric blue to signal that it’s ready to breed!

Soon after their color change, our aquarist, Nick Little, observed many pairs spawning in hidden areas throughout the exhibit. After a couple of weeks of incubation, we now have fry in the exhibit!

rainbow shiner fry

Shiner fry!

This is the second time National Aquarium, Washington, DC, has successfully spawned and reared rainbow shiners!

Sailfin sculpin eggs

Our sailfin sculpins started laying eggs in mid-December and have continued to lay clutches almost weekly.

Sailfin sculpin eggs

Sailfin sculpin eggs

We hope to have sailfin sculpin fry swimming around the exhibit soon!

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

Thoughtful Thursdays: Invasive Species Spotlight

As National Invasive Species Awareness Week draws to a close, we’re dedicating today’s “Thoughtful Thursday” post to an invasive fish found in our local waters – the northern snakehead.

snakehead

This species is native to China and parts of Korea. It first appeared in the U.S. as an invasive species in Crofton, Maryland in 2002, and now can be found throughout the east coast, from New York to Florida.

Experts believe that snakeheads (also referred to as “frankenfish”) were introduced into our waterways by home aquarium owners and through the live fish food trade.

snakehead

How snakeheads are negatively impacting our native ecosystems: 

  • These fish compete with native species for food. As snakehead populations continue to grow in U.S. waters, their predatory nature will continue to “knock out” a wide array of native species.
  • They are passing diseases onto other fish.
  • Snakeheads are air-breathers capable of on-land migration. This means that their reach to new waterways is virtually limitless! Researchers are now reporting that the species is slowly making their way out west, wreaking havoc on ecosystems as they go.

What’s being done (and what YOU can do) to help manage the population: 

  • Learn more!
    National Aquarium and like-minded organizations are working to raise awareness of this species. Our DC venue actually has a snakehead on exhibit to make visitors aware of its invasive status!
  • Fish responsibly!
    Both local and federal government agencies, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working together to manage current populations and prevent future introductions of the fish into native environments. If captured, it is now illegal to release snakehead back into native waters.
  • Eat it to beat it!
    Local restaurants are beginning to use snakehead as a sustainable seafood option! They were also the featured ingredient for one of the Aquarium’s Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinners!

Have you ever experimented with cooking an invasive species? Tell us about it in the comments!


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