Posts Tagged 'turtles'



How Satellite Tagging Is Teaching Us About Sea Turtle Migration

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Aquarium and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center recently partnered to release four juvenile loggerhead sea turtles named Findlay, Rooney, Portsmouth, and Grenada at Sandbridge, Virginia on October 20, 2013. The animals were all treated for a range of injuries and illnesses and were in rehabilitation for varying amounts of time. While all four animals have unique rescue and rehabilitation stories, three of the four now have one significant factor in common – they are all taking part in a significant piece of research!

The U.S. Navy is supporting the conduction of research that will provide valuable insights into sea turtle habitat use of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia waters. The project funds the deployment of acoustic transmitters and satellite tracking tags on rehabilitated and released sea turtles with the goal of learning more about residency times, migration intervals, and foraging areas within the Bay and its surrounding waters.

Acoustic transmitter tags work by emitting a sound signal or ‘ping’ that can be detected by networks of underwater receivers, commonly referred to as arrays. These acoustic monitoring arrays are installed in many coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and have been valuable for understanding migration patterns and habitat use for many fish species, including endangered species of sturgeon!

Each tag transmits a specific coded signal that is used to identify the individual as it moves from one location to another. As the turtle moves around areas where receiving arrays are present, the arrays detect the pings from the tag and record the information, which is later downloaded by researchers for analysis.

Findlay, Rooney, and Portsmouth were also equipped with data logging satellite telemetry tags produced by Wildlife Computers and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.  These tags can record the behaviors such as dive depth and duration and transmit that data back to researchers via satellites.  In addition to the recorded data, each transmission also includes the GPS coordinates of the individual so that their movements can be tracked over long ranges.

national aquarium animal rescue, portsmouth release

As seen here, both tags were secured onto Portsmouth’s carapace before his release!

The goal of this project is to leverage the Navy’s existing underwater passive acoustic receiver array initially established to track sturgeon and the expertise of Virginia Aquarium researchers to tag sea turtles to gain insights into how sea turtles forage and migrate. From the underwater acoustic tags, we hope to learn about residency time and migration intervals by being able to tag more turtles at less cost. Analysis of data will be performed jointly between both the Navy and Virginia Aquarium.

Check out Rooney and Portsmouth’s rehabilitation pages on our website for more information and to track their progress!

Funding for the tagging work is provided by U.S. Fleet Forces Command and technical project management and collaboration on data analysis is being provided by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.

Here’s how YOU can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our sea turtle rehabilitation efforts!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Elizabeth Schneble

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet one of our Aquarists, Elizabeth Schneble!

beth schneble

How long have you been at the Aquarium?   

I have been working in the Fishes Department for a just a little over 6 years now.

What interested you to pursue your current career path? 

I studied wildlife conservation and resources in college, and during my studies I interned here for the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program and the Fishes Department simultaneously. I absolutely fell in love with the animals, the fast-paced environment, and the wonderful staff, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. As a bonus, I have always had a passion for conservation, the environment and the National Aquarium’s mission. Conservation programs provide the perfect platform for me to work with both.

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

In one word: “busy!” I take care of our Maryland Mountains to the Sea gallery, and my day starts around 7:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my day cleaning and preparing the exhibits for our guests and feeding the animals. Once the exhibits are clean and ready for opening, I work on cleaning the backup enclosures and feeding the animals in backup. The rest of my day is spent between working on various projects around the department, helping out and participating with other staff in diving and cleaning duties, and maintaining the life support systems on my exhibits. I also manage the wonderful aquarist assistant volunteers in Fishes Department. We currently have over 40 volunteers in the program. In the few moments I have time to sit at my desk, I catch up on emails. I am also planning the local collecting trips. The collecting season lasts approximately 6 months each year and I work very hard to plan trips to collect local animals, quarantine them and move them onto exhibit to share with our guests.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was able to participate in a lionfish collection trip in the Bahamas in 2011. I spent a week diving on the coral reefs conducting fish diversity surveys and collecting lionfish. It was by far the most rewarding and amazing aquarium experience I have had.

What is the next big project you’re working on?

I am currently building a backup turtle tank to house part of our collection of local turtles, including the diamondback terrapins and wood turtles.

What is your favorite animal?

That is a tough one, but at the moment I would have to say the diamondback terrapin! They are one of the most unique and beautiful turtle species, in my opinion. Plus, they have such interesting personalities and behaviors. How can you not love them?

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

Thoughtful Thursdays: Local Students Release Their Terrapins!

Since September, students from 32 schools across Maryland have cared for baby turtles in their classrooms. Through the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, hatchling diamondback terrapins are collected from Poplar Island in late summer and placed in partner schools. Throughout the year, students gain basic husbandry skills, collect growth data, and learn about the natural history of the Maryland state reptile.

“This is a once in a school-time experience,” said Andrew Hiller, a 5th grader from Naval Academy Primary School.

terrapin release

Thanks to the student’s dutiful care, the terrapins more than doubled in size and were ready to be released! Students and teachers took a boat ride to the island and a tour of the wetlands where the terrapins hatched. After carefully selecting a spot on the edge of the wetland, the students said goodbye to their terrapins and released them into the water.

“It was pretty exciting, letting it go. Even though it was nice having it, it was good to see it go have its own life,” said Matthew Szakmeister, a 2nd grader from Bushy Park Elementary School.

diamondback terrapin

Caring for, learning about, and releasing these turtles creates a unique and important connection between students and the natural world. Through this hands-on approach to conservation, our program hopes to inspire life-long environmental stewardship!

You can do your part to help diamondback terrapins by practicing turtle-safe crabbing this summer! Watch this video to learn how!

Thoughtful Thursdays: MARP Turtle Update

This year, our friends at the New England Aquarium have received a record number of turtle patients to their Animal Care Center. After more than 160 severely cold stunned turtles came through their doors in the past month, they reached out to our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team for help in rehabilitating some of these turtles for release.

New England Aquarium's Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!

New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!
Photo via NEAQ

We currently have seven patients in our Animal Care Center’s turtle rehab area – three Kemp’s ridleys, three green sea turtles and one loggerhead.

One of our green sea turtle patients

One of our green sea turtle patients

All seven of our turtle patients are being treated for cold stunning – a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged period of time. In addition to cold stunning, two of the turtles have also presented common complications including pneumonia and unstable blood pH. Our team is working hard to treat these specific problems and the overall health of each turtle.

This Kemp's ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

This Kemp’s ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

The loggerhead turtle was the first patient to arrive at our facility from New England. In addition to being cold stunned, this turtle had also suffered from a dramatic injury to its front-right flipper, sustained before the initial rescue. As a result, the flipper had to be amputated. Although we’re always saddened to see these types of severe injuries, this new patient is a great example of how far our animal rehabilitation efforts have come in recent years.

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

As many may know, our beloved 400-pound green sea turtle, Calypso, originally came to National Aquarium as a rescue. Weighing just 6 pounds, this small turtle was cold stunned and had an infected left front flipper. The flipper was not treatable and was amputated. After the amputation, Calypso was deemed “non-releasable” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 lbs!

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 pounds!

In more recent years, research has shown that many turtles with natural front flipper amputations can survive in the wild. In fact, we were able to rehabilitate and release our first turtle with an amputation, lovingly referred to as “Ed,” in 2006. Our MARP team tracked Ed via satellite tag to ensure that he was doing well after release.

We’re happy to report that our loggerhead patient is doing so well that we have an exit exam scheduled in early January. If all goes well, the turtle will be transferred to North Carolina for release!

Stay tuned for more updates from our MARP team! 

A Blue View: WIDECAST

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.

October 23, 2012: WIDECAST 

Listen to John discuss the important work that WIDECAST does to save leatherback sea turtles! 

The National Aquarium has had a long partnership with turtle conservation network WIDECAST, particularly in Costa Rica, where the leatherback sea turtle comes ashore to nest. This species has been listed as endangered since 1970. Very little is known about the turtles’ migratory behavior, population genetics or dynamics, inherent diseases, or mortality rates.

WIDECAST gathers research through rescue operations and satellite tracking to develop programs to help save this amazing species. As part of our partnership, Aquarium staff conducts training programs for local volunteers on veterinary care and stranded animal rehabilitation. We hope that through awareness and support from the international community, the WIDECAST network can continue to grow!


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