Posts Tagged 'baltimore city'

Thoughtful Thursday: The Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge!

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National Aquarium is proud to announce that our circle of partners at Masonville Cove will now include a federal agency: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)!  Today, the National Aquarium and its partners joined with government officials and community members to formally announce Masonville Cove as the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in the United States.

John Sarbanes

Congressman Sarbanes speaking at today’s designation.

Through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership program, FWS offices across the nation embarked on a mission to join forces with their local, urban conservation counterparts.  Dozens of worthy applications were submitted for official recognition, and eight partnerships were accepted for designation and support.  We are thrilled to announce that our own Masonville Cove is one of these eight!

Masonville Cove

Part of the recently restored area at Masonville Cove!

About the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Program
While the FWS refuge system encompasses some of our country’s most pristine and unique landscapes, a majority of the refuges are in remote locations, making them inaccessible to large portions of the population.  With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, they identified the need to find innovative ways to share the FWS mission with this expanded audience. Cue the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  Through this new program, FWS aims to have a broader and more effective impact through partnering with existing urban conservation organizations.

At National Aquarium, our mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and we are proud to take that mission beyond our doors with our amazing group of conservation partners. Today was a special day for National Aquarium at Masonville Cove.

National Aquarium is working to engage students and other local citizens in the process of habitat restoration and we are thrilled to be a part of this unique project – one that highlights the importance of creating and supporting a home for wildlife within an urban center and one that helps bring opportunities to connect with wildlife to urban populations.

 Eric Schwaab, Chief Conservation Officer for National Aquarium. 

Eric Schwaab at Masonville Cove

Our CCO, Eric Schwaab, speaking at today’s event.

While this initiative does not make the land at Masonville Cove a National Wildlife Refuge, it does mean that the FWS presence will be felt at the campus.  Already, several benefits have been realized including a FWS intern stationed at Masonville Cove, and the creation of a Wildlife Management Plan to maximize habitat use at the site.  All of the organizations involved share a common goal of environmental conservation and restoration, and by working together we all increase our chances of making this goal a reality in urban centers.

About Masonville Cove

The Masonville Cove Nature Area was opened in 2012 on a restored site owned by the Maryland Port Administration on the Patapsco River, allowing public access to the cove for the first time in over 70 years. The nature area offers opportunities within the city limits for walking, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. Currently 11 acres of the nature area are open to the public and, after further restoration in the next few years, 52 acres will be open to the public. National Aquarium helps lead community-based restoration efforts on the sight, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers in planting more than 45,000 native plants along the shoreline so far, including a wetland restoration event just last week.

Conservation Team at Masonville Cove

Our conservation team checking out Masonville Cove’s new official Urban Wildlife Refuge signage!

If you are interested in visiting the cove, there are many opportunities for recreation and educational programming.  Visit www.masonvillecove.org for details.  Masonville Cove is also looking for volunteers who love nature and enjoy sharing their passion with others! Friends of Masonville Cove work to improve and manage this urban wilderness area, as well as introduce other community members to the educational and recreational activities Masonville Cove has to offer. If you are interested in a long-term volunteer opportunity involving everything from debris cleanups to gardening to scientific wetland monitoring, please e-mail friends@masonvillecove.org for more information.

The National Aquarium will be hosting another habitat restoration opportunity at the Cove next Spring.  Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on these and other volunteer opportunities!

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Thoughtful Thursdays: Inspiring Conservation in Future Generations

This week, National Aquarium is co-hosting the 33rd annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, which has brought together more than 1,000 scientists and conservationists from over 75 countries to discuss collaborative efforts to save all seven species of endangered sea turtle.

Currently, turtle populations worldwide are in dramatic decline due to issues like habitat destruction, cold-stunning, debris entanglement, incidental capture in commercial and recreational fishing.  The symposium is a tool to share knowledge and encourage discussion around sea turtles in our local community and how we create and/or affect these issues. This meeting provides Baltimore and the state of Maryland with a rare opportunity to participate in an international dialogue and gain exposure to new pathways in conservation science.

As part of our co-hosting duties, symposium participants were invited to visit the Aquarium for a Welcome Social earlier this week.

General Curator Jack Cover was on hand during the Aquarium’s “Welcome Social” for symposium participants to talk about the many species of turtle we have in our collection.

The theme of the symposium is “connections” and throughout the week, they hope to create connections not only with fellow researchers and conference attendees but also with the community and local students.

To encourage involvement, the symposium is providing teacher and educator workshops, live streaming of special sessions to local schools and universities as well as a sea turtle art contest in Baltimore City schools.

The art contest in particular is a powerful way to reach students and encourage them to express their love for sea turtles. Further, it presents an innovative avenue to reinforce the community’s need to respect and save these majestic creatures. Each school submitted art pieces in the hopes of winning an opportunity to learn more about the importance of turtles at special expert Q&A sessions at the symposium. The following local schools have their art featured at the symposium:

  • St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School
  • Poolesville High School
  • South River High School
  • Furman Templeton Prep
  • Dr. Rayner Browne Academy
  • Friends Meeting School

One local school in particular, St. Demetrius Bilingual Day School, took this art project a step further! Students did a month-long science unit on sea turtles leading up to the week of the event. During their visit to the symposium, students had lunch with biologists and conservationists and even took a trip to the Aquarium!

After learning even more about sea turtles, 4th and 5th grade classes at St. Demetrius were inspired to actually adopt a turtle at the Aquarium through our Aquadopt program!

Want to learn more about the dialogue happening at the symposium or the Aquarium’s efforts to save sea turtles? Leave us your questions in the comments section!

You can also join the conservation on Twitter (for symposium-specific news, follow the hashtags #ISTS33 and #ISTS2013).

Masonville Cove Grass Plantings

Baltimore Harbor shorelines are looking a little greener thanks to the work of local students and community volunteers!  The National Aquarium partnered with the Maryland Port Administration, Living Classrooms Foundation, Maryland Environmental Service, and BayBrook Coalition to restore wetlands at Masonville Cove, near the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay neighborhoods of Baltimore City.

On May 14 and 15, more than 6,000 marsh grasses were planted by 187 fifth-grade students and chaperones from area schools at the Masonville Cove wilderness conservation area.  This is one small part of a large-scale environmental restoration of the entire cove, which is creating waterfront access in an area that was once an industrial site.

On May 18 and 19, a second portion of Masonville shoreline was planted with 17,000 wetland grasses!  The Aquarium first brought volunteers to this fringe wetland in October of 2011 to plant salt bush shrubs, and this recent planting completes the shoreline by filling in all of the tidal zones with the appropriate plants.  More than 112 volunteers helped with this effort, including groups from Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove, Baltimore Maritime Academy, Canton Kayak Club and more!

Interested in further volunteer opportunities regarding Masonville Cove? Come to an informational meeting about the Friends of Masonville Cove group on Thursday, May 31, at 5:30 p.m. at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center. Find out more information below:

Click here for more information about Masonville Cove, including community programming and additional volunteer opportunities. You can also follow Friends of Masonville Cove on Facebook for more information!

Did the floating island float away?

If you’ve walked through the Inner Harbor lately, you may have noticed that the Aquarium’s floating island is missing! You may be wondering… did it float away? Is it vacationing in warmer, more-island-friendly climes? Has it been… dun dun dunnn… STOLEN?

Well, there is no Inner Harbor island-harboring thief on the loose. Conservation staff members removed it from the water because, after a year and a half, it needed a bit of repair and cleanup that could not be done easily or safely from the water.

The island getting towed out of the Inner Harbor

With the help of Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works trash boat and the Fire Department’s fire and rescue boat, it was moved to Fort McHenry.

As the water was too shallow for the boat, a Conservation team member pulled the floating island into shore in 40-degree water.

So, our island is not “LOST”… we just moved it temporarily. In the spring, it will be towed back to its original place and will again be visible, repair completed, and ready to provide habitat to all kinds of local critters.

At rest in the Fort McHenry wetlands

Thoughtful Thursdays: Help Us Heal the Seals!

Enjoy, Respect, ProtectGoing “green” isn’t about changing your entire lifestyle all at once. A sustainable lifestyle is achieved by making a series of Thoughtful Choices. Each week, on Thursdays, we will share a simple tip for how we can all help keep our planet healthy.

Our Choice
Since 1991, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program has responded to more than 480 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released nearly 100 marine animals back to their natural environment. Research, satellite tag tracking, and outreach education are also significant components of this program.

Your Choice
MARP needs a new hospital pool for rehabbing sick and injured seals. You can support our Marine Animal Rescue Program and local Baltimore-area businesses by donating to our Heal the Seals campaign through GiveCorps.

With GiveCorps, you can support causes that move you, and get rewarded for your generosity with great deals from local merchants. Today’s deal is $5 off at Bonjour French Bakery Cafe!

Reviving wilderness in Baltimore Harbor

The National Aquarium’s Conservation Team has been busy in Baltimore City this fall! The last week in September, we planted 2,100 shrubs at the site of a new wetland along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in Baltimore Harbor. This was the first planting in the creation of the Masonville Cove wetland, which began with the saltbush community. Three different species of salt-tolerant shrubs were planted: hightide bush, groundsel tree, and wax myrtle.

Volunteers planting at Masonville Cove

Volunteers hard at work

We couldn’t have planted all those shrubs without the help of our fantastic volunteers! A total of nearly 90 students from Curtis Bay Elementary and Middle School, Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School, and Benjamin Franklin High School assisted us throughout the week.

Community volunteers also showed up in force, as well—close to 50 people turned out! We even had a group of kayakers with the Canton Kayak Club brave the blustery, winter-like conditions we had one day and paddle out to the wetland.

This project is a part of the revitalization that is taking place in the Masonville Cove area as a result of Maryland Port Administration’s (MPA) new Dredge Material Containment Facility at the Masonville Marine Terminal. It will hold material dredged from the shipping channels of Baltimore Harbor.

In addition to the creation of the wetland, a bird sanctuary, hiking trails, and a fishing pier will be built as a part of the mitigation efforts by MPA. Also, the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was constructed to serve local students and connect them with their natural environment.

The wetland restoration at Masonville Cove is important for wildlife because it provides habitat, which is very rare in an urban area. At the nearby Fort McHenry wetland, more than 200 bird species have been counted.

Shrubs planted at Masonville Cove

After the shrubs were planted

Restoring the harbor’s surrounding land, like Masonville Cove, back to a natural state will increase the amount of habitat for not only the birds, but also the terrestrial and aquatic life found along the Patapsco River.

With the help of community members and students, we will continue to restore this area to a thriving wetland ecosystem. Work at this site will continue with a wetland grass planting in the springtime, so we hope to see you there!

Sign up to receive the quarterly Conservation News e-mail to be alerted to upcoming conservation events and volunteer opportunities.

Volunteers clean up Fort McHenry Wetland

Together, what can 83 volunteers accomplish on a Saturday morning?

In just four hours on Saturday, September 24, these volunteers, along with the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), removed 23,839 pieces of debris from the Fort McHenry Wetland in support of National Public Lands Day and the International Coastal Cleanup.

“Before I went through this experience, I never knew there was so much trash out there,” was one volunteer’s response to the overwhelming sight of the Patapsco River shoreline.

Fort McHenry Before Cleanup

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a well-visited piece of history for both Baltimore residents and out-of-town visitors. The Fort McHenry Wetland, located adjacent to the Fort, can be seen from the popular walking path. As one of the very few living shorelines in Baltimore City, the 8-acre Fort McHenry Wetland is well functioning, doing exactly what it’s meant to do: remove excess nutrients from the water; provide habitat for local wildlife; and filter the marine debris that is carried in from the tide. Since 1998, ACT! has hosted multiple community-supported debris cleanups here.

Fort McHenry After Cleanup

Volunteers have dedicated 250 hours to remove the urban debris (aka trash) and maintain the butterfly and rain gardens located on the site. Partners for this event included the Steinweg Baltimore, Maryland Port Administration, REI, Royal Bank of Canada, Constellation Energy, Maryland Environmental Trust, Toyota, and the National Park Service. To participate in a future Fort McHenry Field Day or another ACT! event, sign up to receive the Aquarium’s Conservation e-newsletter, and we’ll let you know about upcoming conservation events.


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