Posts Tagged 'laura bankey'

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

Thoughtful Thursday: Restoring Virginia’s Sand Dunes


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

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

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

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


Thoughtful Thursday: 300 Trees Planted at Masonville Cove


Last week, the National Aquarium teamed up with local school students and community volunteers to restore vital habitat right here in Baltimore City. Through the Students Restoring Urban Streams initiative, 80 student and community volunteers planted more than 300 trees in Farring-Baybrook Park, a vital part of the Masonville Cove watershed.

Located in the heart of South Baltimore, Farring-BayBrook Park is one of the largest green spaces in Baltimore City.

Since 2011, the National Aquarium has partnered with the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks to plant native trees and improve the habitat in the park.

By planting trees along the small stream that runs through the park, volunteers helped to create an important buffer between the heavily urbanized communities and local waterways to help filter pollutants! These urban trees will also provide islands of essential habitat for native plants and animals and help to improve local air quality.

If you are interested in helping the National Aquarium restore Masonville Cove, join us next month for our next shoreline restoration project in the watershed.

The Students Restoring Urban Streams initiative is a city-wide project in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, Tree Baltimore, Parks and People Foundation and Blue Water Baltimore.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Go Light’s Out for Earth Hour

national aquarium conservation expert update

2014 marks the eighth year of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Earth Hour, the world’s biggest and most engaging grassroots movement that brings together communities from across the world to demand action on climate change through a global “LIGHTS OUT” event.  People from around the world will celebrate Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th beginning at 8:30 pm local time.

Major landmarks and entire cities will go dark during this symbolic action that showcases how we, as global citizens, must take personal accountability for our daily impact on the health of the planet. By turning off the lights, switching off our electronics and turning away from our screens, we are highlighting the individual and collective actions we can make to produce real change – a change that can make a difference if we continue to commit to its ideals.

What can you do at home or at work to participate in Earth Hour?

  • Join for Earth Hour! Pledge to switch off your lights at home and show your support by registering your commitment.  Share this time with family playing games by candlelight or discovering fun ways to reduce household energy on a regular basis.
  • Go beyond the hour by supporting crowd funding or crowdsourcing environmental and social projects through Earth Hour Blue.
  • Amplify the hour. Encourage friends and family to get involved by sharing the Earth Hour video so they get a better sense of the magnitude and inspiring nature of this event.
  • Plan an Earth Hour Party! Block parties, candlelight vigils and candlelight dinners are just a few things you can do to celebrate as a community. Share the moment and consider, together, how you can reduce your footprint beyond the hour.

How is the National Aquarium participating?
From 8:30 pm-9:30 pm on Saturday, March 29th, the National Aquarium will go dark alongside hundreds of iconic landmarks and natural wonders ranging from the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, Niagara and Victoria Falls, and China’s Forbidden City.  We join over 7,000 cities and towns in 154 countries and territories with hundreds of millions of participants across seven continents in using our power to make change a reality.

This one hour of darkness may result in a small reduction of energy consumption, but more importantly paints a powerful picture of behavioral change needed to combat climate change.

Join us as we stand among hundreds of millions of people to call for action on climate change!

Laura Bankey national aquarium conservation expert


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