Posts Tagged 'national aquarium washington dc'

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Nick Little

We’re joining zoos and aquariums from across the county in the celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week

Our team of National Aquarium animal experts, including aquarists, herpetologists, aviculturists, curators, veterinarians and marine mammal trainers, have dedicated themselves to providing our  living collection of more than 17,500 animals the highest possible quality of care.

In addition to providing care and enrichment for the animals, our staff members are consistently involved in research projects as well as conservation and outreach work. We are incredibly proud of the collective impact they’ve made on the lives of our guests and our local community!

This week, we’ll be introducing you to just a few of our amazing animal care staff members! They’ll be sharing favorite aquarium memories, how they got started in their respective fields and more!

July 23, 2013: Meet one of our Aquarists, Nick Little!

nick little

How long have you been at the Aquarium?

I’ve been working at National Aquarium, Washington, DC for 4.5 years in the native, freshwater gallery!

What interested you to pursue your current career path?

Like many others in the industry, I have been surrounded by animals my entire life. My father and I kept and maintained a collection of 40 habitats, which housed various species including: African, South, and Central American cichlids, tetras, soft and hard corals, reptiles, and amphibians. Over the years, we were quite successful at breeding and rearing many species. My fate with animals was sealed long before I ever thought about having to find a job. My desire to learn about these animals, their natural environments, natural history, and preservation/conservation could not be quenched. My fathers’ shared interest in the hobby was certainly the catalyst that began my fascination.

Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?

I am responsible for the care, maintenance, and well-being of nearly 30 freshwater systems. My fish naturally occur in heavily planted cypress swamps, streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. Knowing the requirements of each species can be challenging, especially when trying to create micro-habitats within a confined space. Most fish are fed on a daily basis and are monitored for any signs of  injury or ailment. From time to time, I am lucky enough to see fish spawning and will attempt to rear the young.

Favorite Aquarium memory?

Working with native fish affords me the luxury to travel across the eastern U.S. in search of the fish used to stock my exhibits. Going on 2,000—3,000 mile road trips with coworkers certainly has its share of memories and laughs for that matter. I spent a long week in the Bahamas, capturing lionfish (photo above) for a Fresh Thoughts dinner back in 2011. That was an incredible experience!

Next big project you’re working on?

Helping to transition the animals in our DC location to their new homes.

Favorite animal?

There have been plenty of great animals that have been in my care since I started back in early 2009. But by far, my favorite group of fish are darters. More specifically, the Redline darter (which I even have a tattoo of!). These mountainous, stream inhabitants brave the currents to feed on benthic invertebrates. They forage throughout the day, ‘darting’ from rock to rock—which is how they get their name. Aside from their outgoing personalities, male darters are among some of the most stunning and colorful fish in the U.S … if not the world, in my opinion!

Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!

Animal Updates – May 31

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!


Sea Raven

We have a sea raven in our Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit!

sea raven

Sea ravens, Hemitripterus americanus, are a species of sculpin, from the Scorpaenidae family. They are bottom-dwelling fishes that feed on small invertebrates, and are found in the northwest Atlantic and north Pacific oceans. They have a wide range of amazing colors including deep red, dark brown, purple and  various shades of yellow.

This ambush predator has fleshy protrusions extending from their large head that help disguise it against rocky bottoms. Their prickly skin (covered in small spines) and ragged looking dorsal fin come together to make this one bizarre, yet awesome looking fish.

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

Important News Regarding the National Aquarium, Washington, DC

As members of our online community, we would like to share some important news with you regarding the National Aquarium, Washington, DC.

Due to necessary renovations in the Department of Commerce building, our DC facility will be closing on September 30, 2013. The General Services Administration (GSA) requires us to vacate our current space in the building by March 2014.

This September 30 closing date allows us to meet GSA’s March deadline using a timeline that accommodates our main priority: the needs of our animals and staff. Our collection of more than 1,500 animals will be transitioned to new homes at either National Aquarium, Baltimore, or at other accredited aquariums.

Here at the National Aquarium, we value our DC venue’s rich history as the nation’s first public aquarium, and we are committed to maintaining a presence in the capital, where a public aquarium has existed since the late 1800s. A task force of National Aquarium Board members is exploring opportunities and funding options that would support this goal. The closure of our DC venue will not impact the operation of National Aquarium, Baltimore.

Established in 1873, the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, first opened its doors to visitors in 1885 with a collection of 180 species of fish, reptiles and other aquatic animals.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at

We’d like to thank our amazing online community for their continued support of the National Aquarium and our mission.

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!

A Blue View: Snakes In Our Backyards

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.

In a two-part interview series with Dr. Kat Hadfield, Associate Veterinarian at National Aquarium, CEO John Racanelli discusses the endangered status of the world’s seven species of sea turtle and how organizations like the Aquarium and working to save them.

February 20, 2013: Snakes In Our Backyards

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss snakes
and their bad reputation with humans.

As spring approaches, the stray warm, sunny day is going to start waking up our natural world from its winter sleep. Grass will grow, buds will burst from trees and shrubs, birds will migrate, and yes, snakes will come out of hibernation.

For many, the thought of a snake basking in the sunshine on their driveway is enough to send them running for the moving boxes. There’s no doubt about it, snakes—often thought of as creepy, crawly, slimy, and scaly—have an undeservedly bad reputation. Yet these creatures fill a critical role in our environment, and they’re pretty amazing animals, too.

Did you know that some snakes, despite their lack of legs, can climb trees and cave walls in search of food? Or that all snakes can swim, with some, like the water snake, able to dive beneath the surface to feed on fish and frogs? Some species even have infrared heat receptors, allowing them to find prey in the dark.

The emerald tree boa is just one species of snake that makes its home up in the trees!

The emerald tree boa is just one species of snake that makes its home up in the trees!

Snakes are uniquely designed to locate their prey. Though they don’t hear very well, they pick up vibrations from the ground. When snakes stick out their forked tongues, they actually smell the air, using the two-prong shape to establish a direction. “Odor” molecules caught on a snake’s tongue are translated by something called a Jacobson’s Organ in the roof of its mouth, so snakes literally taste the scent. This forked tongue is also used to avoid predators and to help male snakes locate female snakes during the breeding season.

Like other reptiles, snakes are ectotherms, meaning they control their internal body temperature from heat derived from an external source. When cold, they move into the sun; when hot, they move into the shade. Extreme heat or cold can kill them. In winter, snakes hibernate in areas below the frostline, and their dens can be found in narrow crevices in rocks, under trees and wood piles, and occasionally in basements. When snakes bask in the sun—like on those early days of spring—people are often faced with an animal they aren’t comfortable seeing up close.

It’s when snakes seem to encroach on our human space—like our yards or roadways—that many people get distressed, and they often take drastic action to get rid of snakes without thinking about the consequences. After all, snake populations are vital to maintaining balance in our ecosystems, helping to effectively control the population of small mammals, like mice and rats, and also serving as a valuable food source for hawks and other predators.

Here in Maryland, we have 27 species and subspecies of snakes. Of these, only two are venomous, the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. Neither is aggressive unless provoked, preferring instead to remain motionless and blend into their environment. Two species are endangered, but all native snakes in Maryland are protected under the state’s Endangered Species Conservation Act. This means that native snakes cannot be killed, possessed, bred, or sold without acquiring the proper permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

This spring, if you see a snake, don’t run in the opposite direction. Instead, reach for your camera. DNR’s Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, also known as MARA, is conducting a five-year program, using data collected by people to create a current distribution map of Maryland reptiles and amphibians. If you see a snake or amphibian, simply take a photograph of it, record the location, and e-mail it to the DNR.

This information helps the DNR to develop conservation strategies for native species so snakes and humans can live peacefully together.

Want to learn more about different snake species found around the world? Join us in Washington, DC for our annual Reptile & Amphibian day

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