Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Animal Rescue Update: Cold-Stunned Turtles Released!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

On June 21st, the National Aquarium and the National Marine Life Center jointly released sea turtles from this year’s cold-stun season!

Throughout their stay with the National Aquarium, each of the turtles we released had a different reason for being in rehabilitation, and a different path to recovery.

Let’s take a closer look at Maverick, Charlie, and Tombstone:

Maverick was one of the season’s first Kemp’s ridley patients in November 2013.  He was a cold-stun off of the New Jersey coastline.  Upon arrival here in Baltimore, our husbandry and veterinary staff put Maverick on antibiotics and monitored a shell fracture that we found under all of the algae on his carapace (top part of the shell).

Maverick

Maverick being released yesterday!

After just a couple months, the fracture was starting to stabilize and rejoin at the base of the carapace.  At an entry weight of 1.04kg, we are proud to say that Maverick has put on weight and is currently 2.58kg, eating about 38g of capelin, blue crabs, squid, and shrimp per day.

Charlie, also a Kemp’s ridley, was one of the more intensive cases for our team this year. During his initial exams here in Baltimore, we discovered a small mass near Charlie’s heart. At the time we found the mass, Charlie had also begun to refuse food, and became increasingly lethargic. Husbandry and Veterinary staff put all of their effort into finding out why this mass had developed and how to treat it.

Charlie

Charlie making his way to the water during yesterday’s release!

We started an innovative form of baby aspirin therapy, and the mass started to decrease in size. Earlier this month, our vet staff cleared Charlie for release. We could not be more proud of how far he has come!

Tombstone, who joined our ranks from Cape Cod, presented an interesting housing situation for our team. Tombstone started his rehabilitation with two other pool-mates, and staff noticed that he would float at the surface of the water, another turtle would take the midline of water, and the third would rest and eat along the bottom.  To ensure that the turtles are able to forage and swim properly out in the wild, we didn’t want to further encourage floating at the surface, so we transferred Tombstone to a separate pool by himself.

Tombstone

Tombstone being released at Point Lookout State Park!

Between battling the current and chasing food, he finally learned to dive to the bottom and look more comfortable in the water, exhibiting more normal behaviors!

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining sea turtle patients! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Conservation Update: Big News Out of the “Our Ocean” Conference

President Obama’s newest executive order, announced earlier today at the Our Ocean conference in Washington, DC, will go a long way towards protecting our oceans.

Primary areas of focus are increasing marine-protected areas, fighting illegal fishing practices worldwide and supporting sustainably-caught seafood.

We applaud these efforts and encourage everyone to support the work of international, national, local governments and conservation organizations in our efforts to create a healthy ocean – for all of us.

For more on the Department of State’s first-ever Our Ocean conference, click here

Laura Bankey

An Exciting Week for Ocean Conservation

This is an exciting time for the National Aquarium to be stepping up its engagement in the ocean conservation arena.  We are fortunate to be a part of several special events this month calling national and international attention to some very important issues.

National Aquarium is proud to have sponsored and be participating in Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2014, an event that promotes dialogue among all sectors of the ocean community and with the public around critical current issues. After three days of inspiring conversation, we look forward to being a part of the next steps as we help improve ocean health, protect special ocean places, ensure sustainable fisheries and plan for new uses like renewable energy production.  We applaud our partners at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for hosting another great ocean conservation event.

The momentum continues, and I am pleased to have been invited to represent the National Aquarium at the Department of State’s Our Ocean Conference next week. More than ever, our ocean conservation challenges require work at the international scale.  Protecting ocean health, managing migratory fish stocks and ensuring sustainable fisheries increasingly require coordination among countries and local communities around the globe.

Focused on the key pillars of Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Pollution, and Ocean Acidification, the conference will convene an international audience around pressing environmental issues.  Many of these same issues are also at the forefront of the National Aquarium’s conservation priorities.  This meeting of the minds aims to develop innovative solutions to some of the oceans’ biggest problems.

[youtube http://youtu.be/sOifRu6WdXs]

To highlight the forward-thinking solutions being sought, the event kicks-off this weekend with a Fishackathon.  Along with three other sites across the US, National Aquarium will convene hackers, coders, and other IT specialists to work on solutions to fisheries management problems in developing countries.  We are delighted to be a host site to facilitate the use of modern technology to address sustainable fishery issues in this new and exciting way.

I will not be the only National Aquarium presence at Our Oceans Conference – volunteer youth from our Climate Change Interpreters high school program will be assisting NOAA staff at the Science on a Sphere station in the expo hall.  Delegates from around the world will be able to learn how the National Aquarium uses this technology to engage our guests in active and solution-focused conversations around climate change.  In the past four years over 350 high school volunteers have become skilled in these communication techniques.  We are proud to have these outstanding young people represent our organization!

The Our Ocean Conference may be by invitation only, but engaging in ocean conservation is not.   Make your voice heard through social media campaigns or public comments on environmental legislation.  Or, take direct action by pledging to make a change in the things that each of us does daily in support of our oceans.  Volunteering for a a local conservation project, energy conservation, Bay friendly landscaping and wise seafood choices are just a few of the things each of us can do to support conservation of our oceans. To learn more about opportunities to take action, click here 

Eric-Schwaab

 

 

 

Turtle Tuesday: Three Animal Rescue Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

We are happy to share that three (Charlie, Maverick and Tombstone) of our remaining 6 sea turtle patients are ready for release!

In the past two weeks, these turtles have successfully come off their antibiotic treatments and have a clean bill of health from our veterinary staff! As typical with every release, we’re in the process of scheduling exit examinations, so that each turtle patient can be properly tagged for release later this month!

sea turtle tag

An example of one of the tags used to track some of our released sea turtle patients.

The patients still in-house receiving treatment are Cougar, Blade and Iceman.  Our team is currently trying to manage the ongoing shoulder joint injuries both Cougar and Blade presented with at the time of admittance.

Just yesterday, Cougar traveled to Annapolis with our Animal Health team for an arthroscopy procedure. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which an examination is performed using an endoscope inserted into the joint through a small incision.  This procedure allows our veterinarians to better assess the full scope of damages to the area for a better outlook on treatment options.

Cougar is back and resting in his pool with his tank-mate Blade, who is having the same difficulties with his forelimb joints.  Our husbandry staff and team of veterinarians are developing plans for both of these Kemp’s ridley sea turtles so that we can get them back on track and healing properly.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade

Iceman is still receiving treatment for some plastron shell abrasions.  Our team was able to remove infected tissue from the areas a last week so that his abrasions could heal properly.

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining patients, and as always, thank you for supporting our work!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Thoughtful Thursday: Ignoring the Unknown

The moon might seem like a mysterious, distant speck in the night sky, but, truth is, we know more about its backside than we do about four-fifths of our own planet.

Did you know? We have maps detailing every mountain and crater on the moon’s surface, but only 5 percent of our ocean has been mapped in high resolution. The rest has been captured in low-resolution maps that offer limited detail, often omitting volcanic craters, underwater channels and shipwrecks.

­Unsurprisingly, most of the seafloor we’ve been able to thoroughly map is close to shore and along common commercial shipping routes. And if you think “close to shore” at least incorporates America’s exclusive economic zone—the underwater territory spanning 200 miles off our coastlines—think again. We have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of our nation’s own EEZ.

mapping graphic

So why don’t we have more high-res maps of our blue planet? Well, considering the average ocean depth is approximately 2.2 miles, or 12,000 feet, it’s a massive project to take on. We’re talking about more than 200 years of collecting data via ships, plus billions of U.S. dollars.

That said, these maps are invaluable tools for understanding everything from the condition and extent of seafloor habitats to how tsunamis spread around the world.

Additionally, those detailed images could also be used by organizations as visual tools to help change the way humanity views and cares for the ocean. Think about it: You’re unlikely to care about something you can’t see and know very little about. Because the ocean is largely unknown, unseen and inaccessible, conservation efforts are often challenged by a sense of futility, apathy and even alienation. Seeing what lies beneath the water’s surface could help inspire the world to protect it.

To view the areas that have been mapped, check out Google Earth. Its 3-D maps—based on 20 years of data from almost 500 ship cruises and 12 different institutions—allow you to virtually explore some of the world’s underwater terrain.

google street view oceans

Another great resource is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, which offers sea floor maps of the world’s coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean.

There’s no denying that exploring and charting the vast ocean and seafloor is a difficult and costly endeavor; but considering it provides us with about half the oxygen we breathe, our main source of protein and a plethora of mineral resources, among other things we rely on daily, it may be a challenge worth tackling.

 

Happy World Turtle Day!

There are approximately 300 different types of turtles, including seven species of sea turtles. It is estimated that turtles have existed for over 200 million years, making them some of the oldest living creatures on Earth!

Turtles are best known for their hard outer shell, also called a carapace, which protects them. Turtles don’t have teeth, so they use their sharp beaks to tear up their food.

Currently, more than half of the world’s turtle species are threatened or endangered due to centuries of  poorly regulated trade, habitat loss and hunting.

In addition to terrestrial threats, the more the ocean is filled with plastic and debris, the more it is becoming a treacherous environment for sea turtles. Did you know? Plastic bags, for example, can look like jellyfish underwater, causing hungry sea turtles to devour them.

Marine Debris - Plastic Bags

If you were a turtle, could you tell the difference?

The bags are hard for the turtles to digest, and can be fatal if the plastic causes blockages in their digestive system. Research shows that young, ocean-dwelling turtles are eating twice as much plastic as turtles their age did 25 years ago.

Since plastic bags are petroleum-based, they do not biodegrade. By recycling plastic bags or using reusable bags, we can decrease the amount of plastic in the ocean and other water sources, therefore helping out our turtle friends!

Help us celebrate World Turtle Day by taking our 48 Days of Blue pledge to carry all of your purchases with reusable bags!

Thoughtful Thursday: Restoring Virginia’s Sand Dunes

Blog-Header-ConservationExp

Summer is fast approaching and soon many of us will be making regular trips to our favorite beaches along the Atlantic coast. Once you’ve made it to that special place where the water meets the sand, you are bound encounter the same warning sign, “Stay off the Dunes.” Have you ever wondered why we are asked to tread lightly on those seemingly ever-shifting dunes?

A healthy dune system is important for ecological and physical reasons. Sand dune vegetation is uniquely adapted to thrive in stressful conditions such as extreme heat, salt spray, drought, limited nutrients and shifting sands. This vegetation provides habitat, including nesting sites, to birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Dunes also provide a physical barrier to the harsh conditions of the sea and act as a reservoir for beach nourishment.

virginia sand dune

Sand dunes protect coastal areas from high winds, salt spray, storms, flooding and erosion due to wave and wind energy. Along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, wave and wind action cause these dunes to shift over time – a natural phenomenon. In many areas, human development over the past century has upset the balance of this natural system and the coastal dune system has degraded over the years.

Development has also made it necessary to minimize the natural migration of shifting systems in order to maintain the built infrastructure. Mankind is only now beginning to find ways to work with nature so that the dunes are preserved and development is better planned to reduce adverse impacts to this habitat.

Naval Air Station Oceana (NASO) – Dam Neck Annex maintains nearly 1,100 acres of land, including four miles of beachfront property on Virginia’s Atlantic coast. The base’s coastal habitat communities contain primary sand dune structures, and marshes. Many of the dunes at the base are degraded or require stabilization. In their present condition, they are eroding along the trailing edge resulting in lost habitat with the potential to hinder base operations.

It is a long-term objective to stabilize these dunes by planting native grasses and installing dune fencing so a protective barrier can be maintained while ensuring the mission of the naval base is not compromised. Working with community volunteers to plant these grasses provides an opportunity to educate local citizens about the importance of dune communities as coastal habitat and provide them with a hands-on opportunity for restoration activities.

The National Aquarium has been working with its partners at Command Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center since 2007 to restore sand dunes on the base. Our most recent project (May 16-17) included engaging more than 60 volunteers in the planting of 15,000 native dune grasses and installing dune fences to help stabilize the shoreline and provide habitat.

We will be returning again in the fall of 2014 to continue the work. If you are interested in joining us, click here!

Laura Bankey


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