Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursdays'



Thoughtful Thursdays: The Impact of Marine Debris on Animal Strandings

On Sunday, July 15, the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team was alerted to a live stranded dolphin at the northern-most end of Assateague Island National Seashore. The body condition of the animal appeared normal, but the animal’s behavior indicated it was stressed.

The animal was identified as an Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), strandings of which have been rarely documented in Maryland. Atlantic spotted dolphins are different from Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, but share similar habitat off the coast of Maryland during the summer months. Spotted dolphins are typically a darker purplish-gray and have variable spots that develop with age, and are often found in groups of 20 or more individuals. When an individual animal of a social species strands, it can be an indicator that the animal separated from a group due to reasons such as health or social issues.

Trained first responders arrived on the scene and acted quickly to provide triage and coordinate a plan to move the animal off the island. Unfortunately, the condition of the animal deteriorated during transport and the animal was humanely euthanized by Aquarium veterinarians to relieve suffering.

While this outcome is unfortunate, there is still a great deal that we can learn from the experience and from all stranded animals. For every animal that does not survive, we perform a complete necropsy (an animal autopsy). In this case, we worked closely with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Final necropsy results are still pending, but there was one surprising find – an intact nitrile-coated glove was found in the stomach of the animal. This was likely a contributing factor to the cause for stranding.

Sadly, our MARP team sees this sort of case all too often. Many animals mistake trash for food and ingest all sorts of manmade, toxic items. To an endangered leatherback sea turtle, a plastic bag floating in the water looks like a tasty jellyfish—its primary prey. Trash and contaminants in the water pose health threats to humans, as well. Whether we live along the shore or hundreds of miles inland, our lives are all intimately connected to the ocean.

We caused this problem, and it’s up to us to fix it. We need to work together in international camaraderie to prevent items from reaching the water in the first place.

A member of the National Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) cleans up garbage at Ft. McHenry

There are a number of ways you can help!

  • Be mindful of safely disposing of all your trash, especially while on the beach or out on the water. What washes up on our shores is only a fraction of the garbage that ends up in the ocean.
  • Sign up for a conservation event like the International Coastal Cleanup (happening September 15, 2012).
  • Help out with one of the Aquarium’s conservation projects around the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic coast.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Green Innovations in Racing

In recent years, motor sport competitions have been critical to the development and advancement of energy-efficient technology. Not only is racing an internationally loved sport, making it a global platform to help introduce important technology that can reduce greenhouse gases and exhaust pollutants, but it also provides innovators the testing ground to demonstrate the durability of these improvements under the most demanding conditions.

In fact, some of the most essential green technologies used in our average cars first debuted on the race track. From transmissions that give drivers better control of their power flow, to more durable tires and the use of alternative fuels.

In addition to the eco-friendlier technological innovations that have specifically come from racing, many of the bigger series, including the American Le Mans, have encouraged the use of regenerative energy powertrains (hybrids), better control of exhaust pollution, and the use of catalytic converters as effective emission-control systems. These efforts have helped to improve air quality and better the experience for racing fans!

A green ALMS race car. The series has developed multiple models of eco-friendlier cars, including one that is completely fuelled by natural gas!

ALMS, the series running the Grand Prix of Baltimore, is considered the greenest racing series in the world. As a global leader in green racing, it’s partnered with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the “Green X Challenge,” a scorecard to measure the environmental performance of race cars. Scores are based on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, petroleum consumed, and the amount of energy required to complete each race (efficiency). The ALMS has championed this challenge as a “race within a race to an energy-secure and economically vibrant future.”

These monumental changes in the sport are not only critical to the continued transition of industries to adopt environmentally friendly practices, but they also ensure that racing will continue to develop as a world-class competition to be enjoyed by millions of fans for years to come!

 

 

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Giant Kelp, the World’s Fastest-Growing Species

The fastest-growing species in the world actually makes its home in the ocean: giant kelp!

The Kelp Forest exhibit at our Baltimore venue

Forests of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) are spread out along the Pacific coast from Alaska to the Southern Channel Islands; Baja, California; South America; South Africa; and Australia. Tiered like terrestrial rain forests, expansive mazes of giant kelp provide food and shelter to some of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems.

Individual strands of kelp can grow up to 2 feet per day, ultimately reaching heights of 148 feet, according to NOAA. The tops of these strands fuse together to create floating canopy beds, making an ideal home for animals like seals, sea lions, sea otters, gulls, terns, snowy egrets, and great blue herons. Underwater, kelp forests provide a great array of habitats, from the holdfasts to the surface mats, supporting thousands of invertebrate species like shrimp, crab, and brittle stars.

Much like their above-ground cousins, these rain forests of the ocean are gravely threatened by climate change. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia reports that in some cases off the coast of Tasmania, giant kelp forests, similar to those off the coast of California, have shrunk more than 95%. The threats to these ecological communities are so severe, they’ve now been categorized as endangered.

The biggest threats to these forests? Warming sea surface temperatures, invasive species, and biodiversity loss due to runoff and sedimentation. Although these magnificent underwater forests grow at extremely fast rates, they are swiftly being taken down by human impacts on the environment.

There are a few easy things you can do to help protect this amazing species!

  • Make yourself aware of what chemicals you use in your everyday life. Check for dangerous and/or harmful ingredients and, whenever possible, do not use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that can be harmful to the environment.
  • Plant a native garden and practice sustainable gardening techniques. Click here to find out more.
  • Get involved! And inspire others to follow your lead.
    Click here to find out more about the Thoughtful Choices you can practice at home.

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