Posts Tagged 'jenn dittmar'



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

Week of Thanks: Jenn Dittmar on Rescue Partners!

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, our experts (and animal residents) will be sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Our third “Week of Thanks” post comes from the Aquarium’s Manager of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar

This year, I am most thankful for the collaborative relationships that allow us to respond to marine animals in need, and properly rehabilitate and release them! Our team is grateful to be part of a network of stranding response and rehabilitation facilities – which jointly cover the Northeast Atlantic coast – that work together to accomplish a common goal. This effort could not be more evident in the last year, as many of the animals we have responded to and rehabilitated were part of a larger group effort. It really does take a village!

Together, our network has been able to accomplish some amazing things this year! Here are just a few highlights:

In December of 2012, our friends at New England Aquarium were facing a severe cold-stun season for sea turtles. They reached out to us for help, and we answered by admitting 3 green sea turtles, 3 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and 7 loggerheads. This same friendship came into play in January of 2013, when we partnered together to transport 32 sea turtles to Jacksonville, Florida. The trip was long and tiring, but in the end, nothing will ever replace the gratification of sending healthy turtles back into the wild. It was such a memorable trip, we turned around and made the same trek, just 3 months later! This time, we transported and released a record breaking 52 sea turtles, which included turtles from 8 sea turtle rehabilitation facilities from New York to South Carolina.

seaturtletrek release national aquarium new england aquarium

After caring for a higher-than-normal influx of patients in 2012, our team was able to celebrate a huge milestone – the release of our 100th animal! We were excited to share this special day with our partners over at the National Marine Life Center!

national aquarium 100th release

Number 100 looking healthy and ready to journey back into the ocean!

All of this brings us to our current cold-stun sea turtle season. Due to a rapid drop in water temperature, our partners to the north have already seen an influx of sea turtle strandings. Last week, we shared that our team has admitted Maverick and Iceman, two Kemp’s ridleys that stranded along New Jersey, rescued by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. We have also just admitted a cold-stunned green sea turtle from Ocean City, Maryland yesterday, who was found and rescued by the US Coast Guard Station AND an additional 8 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys from the New England Aquarium that arrived late last night. All 10 of the Kemp’s are stable and eating, but will remain in rehab for several months.

national aquarium animal rescue

I am very thankful for the opportunity to be part of a truly amazing network of organizations, staff, and volunteers that support stranding response and the rehabilitation of these incredible animals!

Animal Rescue Update: Two Turtle Patients Now in Rehab!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

With water temperatures in the Atlantic steadily dropping, sea turtles that perhaps stayed north a little too long are now faced with a long journey south towards warmer waters. Some of these sea turtles become cold-stunned (an illness equivalent to hypothermia in humans) and strand on our shores. This week, we received our first cold-stunned sea turtle patients of the season, two Kemp’s ridleys named Iceman and Maverick!

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Our new arrivals both stranded within two days of one another off the coast of New Jersey, where water temperatures had taken a rapid dip into the low 60s over the last few months.

Iceman came in which a few small abrasions and a long laceration under his front flipper. He has weighed in at 7 pounds and has started to eat more regularly. His diet right now consists of squid, shrimp, and smelt.

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Maverick weighs in at only 2 pounds and the rescue team is currently trying to get him to eat more regularly. Just like most of us don’t like to eat when we don’t feel well, we can only imagine how these little sea turtles feel when they first enter rehabilitation. So, our staff try to entice him with different foods to stimulate his hunting instincts and get him to eat. As of today, Maverick has started showing more signs of an appetite. Although small, we’re very pleased with this great start!

Stay tuned for more updates on these turtles progress in rehab, and stay tuned to find out which Top Gun name we choose for our next patient! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Dolphin Stranding Update: Investigative Range Extends Through Florida

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently provided an update on the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) affecting bottlenose dolphins in the mid-Atlantic. Based on recent stranding patterns and test results from stranded dolphins, the NOAA and UME Investigative Team formally expanded the range of the event to include New York through Florida – which translates to roughly 1,600 miles of Atlantic coast.

Over the past few weeks, above ‘normal’ baseline strandings for this time of year have been reported in North Carolina and South Carolina, meanwhile, Florida is just beginning to see an increase in dolphin strandings. The population of bottlenose dolphins from New York to Virginia is mainly migratory. These dolphins are beginning to migrate south to warmer waters, which is the likely reason that North Carolina and South Carolina are seeing an overall increase in strandings.

NOAA dolphin stranding numbers

This graph from NOAA shows the total number of strandings reported this year, by state – since it’s creation, raw data from Florida’s strandings has also been collected by NOAA.

In addition to expanding the range of the event, NOAA is also awaiting final test results to determine if the virus that is attributed to this UME is also responsible for the deaths of other dolphin and whale species. Three humpback whales and two pygmy sperm whales have tested positive as carriers of the morbillivirus, however, further testing is needed to determine if these animals displayed any clinical signs and if the virus was the cause of death.

The beginning of this UME was classified as July 1, and to date the event has proven to be quite significant. According to the official NOAA website for this event, there have been more than 900 dolphin strandings from New York to South Carolina during the time frame of January 1, 2013 to November 4, 2013 – this number is 4.5 times higher than the average number of strandings.

National Aquarium continues to support this event by responding to live-stranded dolphins in Maryland. In addition to boots-on-the-ground response, our National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff are supporting the event by assisting the Incident Management Team that is coordinating the response plans within the designated UME area.

national aquarium animal rescue expert jennifer dittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Turtle Nest Excavated at Assateague

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff recently joined the National Park Service (NPS) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) to excavate a loggerhead sea turtle nest at Assateague Island National Seashore.

loggerhead nest

The nest during excavation (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

The nest, laid on July 1, 2013, has been monitored by NPS staff for the past three months. While the typical incubation period for sea turtle nests south of North Carolina is approximately 60 to 70 days, northern sea turtle nests, such as those laid in Virginia, Maryland and even Delaware, are known to incubate for a longer period of time due to typically cooler temperatures.

After 110 days, this nest had not hatched and an excavation was planned for Friday, October 18. Excavation of nests is a standard practice to determine hatchling success and stage of development. During the excavation, the team collected detailed data such as depth and dimensions, temperature, as well as number of eggs in the nest.

temp reading in loggerhead nest

The excavation team taking a temperature reading (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

It was determined during the excavation that the turtles had not yet hatched, and there was still a possibility that the nest was viable. The eggs were carefully transferred to a transport container and brought back to our Animal Care Center for incubation.

loggerhead egg transport

Our Animal Rescue staff carefully placing the loggerhead eggs in a transport carrier (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

Our team is working closely with the Aquarium’s senior herpetologists to carefully incubate and monitor the nest. We are slowly warming the nest in a temperature controlled, humid environment and should have the nest warmed to an ideal temperature within a week. Sea turtles are reptiles and are therefore sensitive to temperature changes, so the process must be done very slowly. While we have seen signs of a potentially viable nest, we are cautiously optimistic about the total number of live hatchlings that might emerge.

As you may recall, we experienced the first confirmed successful sea turtle nest in Maryland last year. Our team was ecstatic to hear that the lone surviving hatchling from that nest was released off the coast of North Carolina back in April!

This nest represents a larger joint initiative with our partners at NPS and MD DNR to plan for and respond to these events.

Stay tuned for more updates on the nest! 

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Rooney and Portsmouth Released!

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

As you may have recently read, our Animal Rescue team was set to release our last two turtles in rehabilitation, loggerheads Rooney and Portsmouth!

Yesterday, we packed up the trusty truck with supplies and our two sea turtles, and headed to the warmer southern shore waters of Virginia Beach. Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding team was set to release two loggerhead sea turtles of their own, so we asked if they wouldn’t mind our team joining them for a few days.

At 1pm, at Sandbridge, Virginia, the four loggerheads were met with a crowd of over 300 people who came to bid them well wishes and safe travels as they head back into their natural environment!

Each turtle was accompanied by a satellite tag and an acoustic tag for tracking purposes and research opportunities. Soon, you’ll be able to follow their travels on our website as we track their adventure and navigation through the open ocean!

Join me in wishing Rooney and Portsmouth the best of luck out there! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

How the Shutdown is Affecting Stranding Response Organizations

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update
The government shutdown, now in its sixteenth day, has caused a ripple effect that impacts not only federal entities, but local, state, and private sectors as well.

The National Aquarium is a private, nonprofit aquatic education and conservation organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. While we are not a federally-operated facility, we depend on many federal partners to fulfill our mission, as do many private zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations. Our Animal Rescue division at the National Aquarium, along with all of our stranding response associates, has felt a real impact from the government shutdown.

Our Animal Rescue division is federally permitted to respond to and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals, etc) and sea turtles.

national aquarium animal rescue

The on-going shutdown has had impacted our daily operations in several different ways:

  • Reduced response area and capacity to respond to sick or injured marine mammals and sea turtles on federal property. Over half of the Atlantic coast of Maryland is federal property, which includes Assateague Island National Seashore. With limited staffing, patrols of the federal beach have subsided, as has reporting of animals in need and access to those potential animals.
  • Slowed investigation of the on-going Unusual Mortality Event (UME) affecting bottlenose dolphins along the mid-Atlantic. The ongoing federal investigation into the bottlenose dolphin UME that is suspected to be a result of an outbreak of dolphin morbillivirus, has been slowed by the shutdown. Private stranding facilities are still actively responding to stranded dolphins (where they can access them on non-federal property) and taking samples from the animals, but those samples have been delayed in shipping for testing due to the shutdown, and the investigation has slowed.
  • Skewed data for UME response and normal stranding operations. In areas that don’t have access to federal coastal property during the shutdown, there has been a perceived change in annual stranding data, with a lack of information coming from federal areas. This has been true for the ongoing UME, with lower numbers being reported in areas that have coastal federal response areas. We are also preparing for a possible increase in stranding numbers once the federal areas return to normal operation and report the potential ‘backlog’ cases.

Despite the government shutdown, stranding facilities have banded together to assist each other and continue to plan the response for the on-going Unusual Mortality Event. Our perseverance and continual communication with each other has allowed us to stay on task as much as possible during the shutdown, and fill the shoes of those federal entities that we normally report to on a daily basis.

national aquarium animal rescue expert


Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 263 other followers