Posts Tagged 'chesapeake bay'

Thoughtful Thursdays: Chesapeake Bay Lined Seahorses

Many people don’t realize that there is a species of seahorse that calls the Chesapeake Bay its home.  The lined seahorse, hippocampus erectus, lives in shallow eel grass beds during the summer and moves to deeper submerged aquatic vegetation during the winter.  It can typically be found in the lower to middle Chesapeake Bay and, in particularly dry years when the water is saltier, as far north as Kent Island and the Bay Bridge.

Lined Seahorse

Lined Seahorse at National Aquarium, Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Michael Bentley

The lined seahorse varies drastically in both coloration and ornamentation.  Individuals can range from a yellowish color all the way down the spectrum to a nearly black color.  Some may have intricate ornamentation on their backs and their heads.  Additionally, they can change color slightly to match their surroundings.  As with all seahorses, males carry a pouch which they use to hold their young after breeding.  Breeding itself is complicated, it includes a drawn-out ritual of dancing and clicking between the male and female.  At the end of the courtship, females deposit their eggs into the male’s pouch where they are fertilized and held until ready to be released (about 2 weeks).

Lined Seahorse

Lined seahorses vary in color, pattern and ornamentation

Seahorses as a whole are ineffective swimmers.  They only use three of their fins (two pectoral fins and one dorsal fin) to swim.  They beat these fins rapidly to provide propulsion, but it is not enough to keep them stationary in even the most gentle of currents.  It is because of this that they require something to hold on to.  For our local lined seahorses in the Chesapeake, that something is often eel grass, as well as other submerged aquatic vegetation.  These grasses are vital to the seahorses’ ability to hunt, breed and just plain survive.  Seahorses are ambush predators and so they need something to anchor themselves to while hunting.  As they hide, prehensile tails attached to the eel grass, they wait for prey to float by their snouts.

lined seahorse

Lined seahorses have very small fins, making it hard for them to swim.

Unfortunately, eel grass is in trouble in the Chesapeake Bay.  Nutrient pollution from farms, sewage and other human activities often leads to large algal blooms, which grow near the surface of the water and block light that the grasses need to grow. Additionally, destructive fishing techniques like bottom trawling can rip up huge swaths of submerged aquatic vegetation, causing wide-spread loss of habitat.  Because they are so specialized in their habitat needs, lined seahorses have little hope of successfully hunting and breeding without the grasses.  These pressures are threatening seahorses worldwide. As a result of these and other conservation pressures, it is estimated that the world’s lined seahorse population has declined by at least 30 percent in the past 10 years. We must begin to take steps to preserve the local habitat, or we risk losing this very interesting and important Chesapeake Bay species.

What you can do to help:  Reduce waste runoff, which pollutes waters like the Chesapeake Bay.  

  • Control insects using natural controls instead of pesticides. Americans directly apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to home lawns and gardens each year and, in so doing, kill birds and other wildlife and pollute our precious water resources.
  • Dispose of motor oil and anti-freeze through a local service station or recycling center. A one-quart container of oil disposed of at the local landfill can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water and the water home of our seahorse friends.
  • Don’t pour anything down storm drains because they lead to the bay, which connects to the ocean. Most sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants do not remove poisonous cleaners, and yard and car-wash chemicals make their way into local waterways, and, eventually, into our ocean, harming animals along the way. You wouldn’t want to swim in those chemicals, and neither do animals!
  • Learn more!
    To find out more about the lined seahorse and the troubles threatening them in our area, listen to this special seahorse edition of WYPR’s Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton

Thoughtful Thursdays: 7th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum

In late September, our Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteer, Stephanie Pully, and Conservation Technician Maria Harwood attended the seventh annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum.  The forum, held by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, took place at the beautiful USFWS National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

An aerial shot of the incredibly lush Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Services

At the forum, watershed organizations and local government agencies provided updates on current Bay conservation initiatives and provided informative sessions on the current state of the Bay. The forum also included sessions on the latest in conservation research from other organizations that have been successful in the Bay watershed.

During the forum, Stephanie presented a poster, sponsored by the Aquarium, entitled “Protecting Valuable Habitat with Living Shorelines” as well as an update on the National Aquarium Conservation Department’s work and research in creating living shorelines.  Both Maria and Stephanie enjoyed the great opportunity to engage with members of the community trying to save the Bay!

Click here to learn more about our Chesapeake Bay conservation initiatives! 

Poster presented at Chesapeake Watershed Forum

In support of the Conservation Department’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, we held our annual “Rock the Boat” fundraiser last night. On behalf of everyone here at the National Aquarium, thanks to everyone who came out and made last night such a success! We can’t wait until next year!

Rock the Boat and Support the Chesapeake Bay TONIGHT!

Join our staff and volunteers on the USS Constellation tonight from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM for our 8th annual “Rock the Boat” fundraiser, supporting our Chesapeake Bay Initiative (CBI)!

the USS Constellation

With a $10 donation, guests are welcome on board to enjoy free tours, live music from local band Wolve, and great, sustainable food from local restaurants. Beer, wine, and soda will be available for purchase. Guests will also receive a glow in the dark mug with their donation. All proceeds support preservation and restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Tonight’s donations will help our CBI team purchase much-needed field equipment for upcoming habitat restoration projects! This event will be a great kick-off for our team who will be doing a week long tree planting  at Indian Head next week. Every year, our staff and volunteers plant a variety of Chesapeake Bay native wetland grasses, trees, and shrubs along the water’s edge to help stabilize the area, reduce the potential for erosion, and protect existing land while providing habitat for many animal species.

These funds will also help support a second habitat restoration project in March, stay tuned for details on how you can get involved!

This is a family-friendly event and all are welcome! No RSVP required; just make your $10 donation at the entrance to the ship. Come out and rock the boat for conservation!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Students Help to Restore Atlantic White Cedar Population

As part of this year’s Wetland Nursery Program, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) is working with schools along Maryland’s Eastern Shore to repopulate Atlantic white cedar trees.

This project teaches students sustainable methods of raising tree saplings in an indoor ‘greenhouse’ and how to transplant them into nature, with the hope that we can slowly but surely bring back the species!

Juvenile Atlantic white cedar trees

Once common in freshwater wetlands, Atlantic white cedars are now rare. Lumber from these cedars is water-resistant and highly valued for use in boats, furniture and houses. Overharvesting of this natural resource has decimated the population and the species is now on the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Watch List.

After learning about the history of Atlantic white cedars and the need to restore them, students used clippings from older trees to propagate 500 new trees and helped to re-pot 200 trees that had outgrown their planters and were ready for transfer.

Students show off their healthy juvenile Atlantic white cedars!

All year, our group of students will continue to regularly monitor the trees’ growth and, with the help of their teachers, learn more about freshwater wetlands. In the Spring, the students will join ACT! at Nassawango Creek Preserve to plant their trees.

Owned by the Nature Conservancy, the Preserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres and is home to cypress swamps and upland forests. The planting will take place in a newly cleared 8-acre plot adjacent to Nassawango Creek!

This project would not be possible without the support of our partners: The Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Trust, The Munson Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, and the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.

A Blue View: Dolphin Intelligence and Cognition

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. EST as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

Dolphin Intelligence Series
October 9, 2012: Dolphin Intelligence Series – Part Two: Underwater Keyboard Study

Listen to Dr. Diana Reiss and John Racanelli discuss her latest experiment with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins here

Dr. Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist, professor of psychology at Hunter College in New York, and research scientist, joined John Racanelli for a two-part series on the intelligence and cognition of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Dr. Reiss has taken a truly innovative approach to working with these highly-intelligent mammals. In a recent experiment, she gave the dolphins the ability to ask for things by using an underwater keyboard!

September 25, 2012: Dolphin Intelligence Series – Part One: Bubble Ring Play

Listen to Dr. Diana Reiss and John Racanelli discuss her examination of  “bubble ring play” with our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins here

Dr. Diana Reiss has conducted research on dolphin cognition all over the world, including here at the National Aquarium. One of the studies Dr. Reiss has conducted examines what she calls “bubble ring play.”

Our youngest dolphin Bayley starting exhibiting “bubble ring play” at only two years old! Check out this video on how we train our dolphins:


**Due to some technical issues with WYPR’s broadcast, our session originally broadcast on October 4, 2012, discussing Eastern Oyster Recovery, was unavailable to post until now. Click here to listen to John discuss the importance of restoring oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Thoughtful Thursdays: Save the Bay!

Oysters play a critical role in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. As natural water filters, oysters strain out plankton and other food suspended in water. They also provide a critical habitat and growing surface for a large number of other species, including fish like striped blennies, anked gobies, and skillet fish, as well as mud crabs, blue crabs, grass shrimp, and eels.

We were incredibly honored to host the “Mermaid’s Kiss Oyster Fest” benefiting the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) last night at our Baltimore venue.

During last night’s event, ORP announced its largest restoration effort on the East Coast ever. This new project will streamline large-scale efforts to improve the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay through oyster planting and water quality improvement.

Chef Karen Nicolas preparing her delicious tasting dish at last night’s Oyster Fest!

There are many ways you can help support oyster recovery: 

  • Become an oyster gardener
  • Buy local: enjoy Chesapeake Bay farmed or harvested oysters
  • Patronize restaurants that are participating in the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance—making sure used oyster shells go back to support restoration efforts
  • Celebrate Maryland seafood by dining out at any of the restaurants participating in the From the Bay, For the Bay event the week of October 6–13, 2012. Participating restaurants will be serving fresh, locally caught Maryland seafood and will donate a dollar for every Maryland seafood dinner sold to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works to replenish the population of our native Chesapeake Bay oyster.
  • Join our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) and REI staff in our bi-annual field days at the Ft. McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. In the Fall and Spring, our team, along with an amazing group of volunteers, helps to  restore habitat,  remove debris, do trail maintenance  and plant native flowers! Since we first took ownership of this stewardship in 1999, our teams have removed more than 600,000 pieces of debris!

Thanks again to everyone who came out last night in support of our local habitats! We are one step closer to a thriving Bay!

Volunteer Spotlight: Aquarium Conservation Team Welcomes Its Newest Member!

The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) is pleased to welcome its newest volunteer, Steph Pully! She will be volunteering with us for one year as a part of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. The Corps, now welcoming its third class, was founded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust as a program to promote the health of the bay through environmental education, community engagement in conservation and energy efficiency. The trust’s 26 volunteers are working with various environmentally-focused host organizations throughout the state of Maryland.

Steph Pully doing restoration work in the field

Throughout the year, members undergo a series of trainings on leadership, professional development, environmental education and watershed restoration.  These trainings are aimed at developing skill sets that will help them in their future careers, as well as teach the members more about the Chesapeake Bay and what we can do to protect it.

Steph, originally from Frederick, Maryland, graduated in May from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  She earned her B.S. degree in Environmental Science.  Steph also spent the summers in Ocean City, Maryland working for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program where she gained valuable, hands-on experience in watershed restoration.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps allows Steph to combine her love for both restoration events in the field and environmental education programming.  In her short time as a member, she has already connected with her fellow corps members and looks forward to working with them throughout the year. She also appreciates the numerous networking opportunities that the corps provides for young environmentalists.

As a volunteer with ACT!, Steph hopes to gain valuable experience and contribute to the rebuild and preservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  In the near future, she is looking forward to her first trip with the ACT! to Virginia Beach for a sand dune restoration project this September.  She cannot wait to spend her days out in the field and to get involved with the community volunteers!

Sign up for any one of our conservation events and come meet our newest member!

Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates