Archive Page 5

Conservation Re-cap: 15 Years at Fort McHenry


As the birthplace of our National Anthem, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is an important site for our nation’s history. Since 1999, Aquarium staff and Aquarium Conservation Team volunteers (ACT!) have joined community volunteers to clean up and enhance the natural areas around the Fort that provide habitat, food and shelter for an amazing variety of wildlife that rely the area.

Ft. McHenry

As of January 2014, almost 630,000 pieces of debris have been removed from the wetland during our conservation field days. Just this weekend, 150 volunteers filled two dumpsters full of debris!

In addition to cleaning up marine debris, volunteers remove harmful invasive plants, maintain hiking trails, maintain pollinator and rain gardens and plant native flowers/trees. These efforts have proven to be vital, not only for the care and maintenance of Fort McHenry and the many species that call it home, but for the Aquarium’s environmental education work as well.

ACT!’s work helps preserve the home of hundreds of animal species, including birds, butterflies, reptiles, insects and aquatic creatures, while educating students and the public about marsh ecology and urban wildlife. Wildlife at Fort McHenry include blue crabs, marsh crabs, comb jellies, grass shrimp, Atlantic silversides, snapping turtles, ospreys, loons, mockingbirds, monarch butterflies, red foxes, bats, river otters, leopard frogs, and many, many more!

red fox at ft. mchenry

A fox recently spotted at Fort McHenry by Flickr user drbeanes!

For the past 15 years, ACT! has recorded and classified the amount and types of debris collected during our events. This data is used by the Aquarium and others to look at long-term trends in debris effects on ecosystem health and to provide information that can help us prioritize our waste reductions efforts throughout the city, state and country.

Have you ever visited this historic landmark? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!

Laura Bankey

Happy Save the Frogs Day!

Did you know? It’s National Frog Month AND today is Save the Frogs Day!

Frogs are fascinating animals with distinctive adaptations. With about 6,000 approximate species of frogs worldwide, they have a multitude of traits and tricks suited to their unique environments. At the Aquarium, we have frogs of every color of the rainbow, from the vivid indigo of the blue poison dart frog to the vibrant green skin of the giant leaf frog.

Check out some of the frogs that call the Aquarium home:

Varying in size between the the 18 mm Splash-back Poison Dart Frog and the 220 mm Giant Marine Toad  frogs are some of the smallest animals at the Aquarium. Some species weigh only about 0.3 ounces.

national aquarium frog infographic

In celebration of National Frog Month and Save the Frogs Day, we encourage you and your family to consider adopting one of our frogs through Aquadopt. Aquadopt programs help our frogs by allowing us to provide them with the best veterinary care and food.

Not only will you be supporting our frogs, with each adoption, you’ll receive a Fun Facts sheet to learn even more about frogs and their remarkable features, as well as an 8×10 photograph of your frog and a frog plush. Your gift promotes our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures while taking care of those we have here at home!

How are you celebrating Save the Frogs Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

Animal Update – April 25

national aquarium animal update

Puddingwife Wrasse in Atlantic Coral Reef!

A puddingwife wrasse has been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

puddingwife wrasse

The puddingwife wrasse is native to the reefs of the western Atlantic (from North Carolina to Trinidad and Tobago).

This species prefers the shallow areas of the reef, where it can easily feed on sea urchins, crustaceans and brittle stars.

According to the IUCN Red List, the puddingwife is a fairly abundant species!

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

Arbor Day: Save a Fish, Plant a Tree!


Happy Arbor Day! Today is a special day set aside to celebrate the importance of trees and to encourage school students, community members and businesses across the country to plant a tree in their community. Since the first Arbor Day in 1872, volunteers from around the United States have planted millions of native trees.

Here at the National Aquarium, we are celebrating Arbor Day by planting trees at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.  Since 1999, more than 10,000 volunteers have partnered with us to plant 90,000 trees throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Ft. McHenry

Most people know that trees help to make our communities beautiful, improve air quality and provide essential habitat for many native terrestrial animals. But, did you know that planting a tree can also help fish and other aquatic species?

Trees play a critical role in keeping our waterways clean.  They absorb rainwater, slow down runoff, prevent erosion, and filter pollutants out of the water.

Trees along waterways improve aquatic habitat. By providing shade, trees help to regulate water temperature for sensitive fish species. Fallen trees create small protected areas in streams, lakes and estuaries where aquatic animals can thrive.

Trees are a key component of aquatic food webs. Fallen leaves are an important food source for the aquatic insects that many small fish rely on for survival. These small fish are the basis of freshwater food webs.

Planting a tree in your community is an easy way to help protect aquatic animals! Increasing the tree canopy in your community, will help to clean-up your local waterways and improve aquatic habitat. This Arbor Day, will you partner with us to help protect our blue planet?

Here’s what you can do to help out:

  1. Join our #48DaysofBlue initiative and pledge to do your part by carrying reusable bags and/or using public transportation!
  2. Volunteer at one of our upcoming conservation events
  3. Learn more about the benefits of trees

How are you celebrating Arbor Day? Tell us in the comments section!

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Putting Freshwater in Focus

Every living thing requires freshwater to survive—and there’s not much of it.

While a staggering 97.5 percent of our planet’s water is saltwater, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. And if you think that’s a small number, brace yourself, because it gets even smaller: We can access less than 1 percent of that freshwater. The rest of it is frozen and chilling, literally, in places like Antarctica and Greenland, or so far underground that we can’t get to it.

water defines our world

The freshwater we use exists in lakes, rivers, wetlands, reservoirs and in our soil. It’s replenished through rain and snowfall, making it a sustainable resource—if we use it wisely. This may come as a surprise, since many of us have seemingly unlimited water flowing out of our home faucets, but we have been taking advantage of it.

Global water use doubled between 1960 and 2000, and the number of people living in water-stressed countries is expected to increase from approximately 700 million today to more than 3 billion by 2025. Half of the planet’s wetlands that supply our freshwater have been drained or destroyed, and less than half of the world’s longest rivers are free-flowing, meaning they’re not blocked by dams or other barriers.

The good news is that there’s still time to change the future of our freshwater. If everyone pitches in, we can ensure there’s plenty of it for generations to come.

Don’t believe you can make much of an impact on your own? Consider this: A bathroom faucet runs at approximately 2 gallons of water every minute. By simply turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, you can save 200 gallons of water a month. That’s enough water to fill five bathtubs!

Turn the tide today. Use the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8) to make a difference. All it takes is one small change in your routine, starting today. Go to to take a pledge and protect our blue planet!

 Source: Map projection by Van der Grinten, GIS data from Natural Earth


A Blue View: Bringing Back Atlantic White Cedars

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.

April 23, 2014: Bringing Back Atlantic White Cedars

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and Aquarium Conservation
Project Manager, Charmaine Dahlenburg, discuss our
efforts to restore Atlantic white cedar forests!

Historically, Atlantic white cedar forests were common to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Over time, these trees were harvested, and the swampy areas they depend on for survival were drained and replanted with fast-growing loblollies as part of the forest industry to produce lumber and paper pulp.

Excessive logging wasn’t the only reason for the drastic decline of Atlantic white cedars. These trees require low, wet land, like swamps, to thrive, and many of these wetlands have been drained after too many ditches have been put in and caused these areas to dry up.

nassawango creek preserve

Now, the Atlantic white cedar is a rare, uncommon tree that has actually landed itself on the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s watchlist.

Atlantic white cedars are considered a highly-ecologically beneficial plant species. They provide habitat to a diverse array of wildlife, protect our watershed and act as a “sponge” to prevent flooding.

The National Aquarium, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, is trying to bring these unique native Atlantic white cedar forests back to the Eastern Shore.

Click here to learn more about how you can get involved!


48 Days of Blue: This Earth Day, Let’s Go Beyond the Green!


Happy Earth Day, everyone!  This year, billions of people around the world will be celebrating our Earth by pitching in to create a healthier environment.  We’ll be planting trees, picking up trash, installing rain barrels, eating no-waste lunches, recycling and using our bikes instead of our cars.  Our commitment to our environment and to each other will be reinforced and expanded.

While participating in Earth Day activities this year, let’s pay special attention to how our actions also impact our water resources.

Did you know that greenhouse gases (produced by cars and other sources) are directly linked to ocean acidification? Or, that by using one reusable water bottle for an entire year, we can eliminate as many as 168 plastic water bottles from our waste stream?  Everything we do on land has a “downstream” effect.  By helping to clean our neighborhoods, parks and streets, we will also be helping our local streams, rivers and oceans.

Today, we’re urging our online community to help us celebrate all of Earth – the green AND the blue – by joining our 48 Days of Blue initiative!

national aquarium 48 days of blue

During the 48 days between Earth Day and World Oceans Day, the Aquarium will be encouraging everyone to make conservation pledges to protect and conserve this blue planet.  These simple pledges include: using a reusable bottle; leaving the car at home twice a week; carrying all purchases with reusable bags; and turning off the faucet while brushing one’s teeth.

Participating in 48 Days of Blue is easy! Just head over to, choose your pledge and share it online with your friends and family using #48DaysofBlue!
Over the next few weeks, the Aquarium will be highlighting everyone’s experiences participating in 48 Days of Blue, sharing tips on how to maximize individual impact and fielding questions from participants! Together, we hope to show the online community what a positive experience taking conservation action can be!

Laura Bankey


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