Posts Tagged 'national aquarium experts'

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!

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

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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 48daysofblue.com, 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

 

A Blue View: Floating Forests

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 16, 2014: Floating Forests

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
the important role mangrove forests
play in the health of our oceans!

Gardeners in Maryland know that most trees in our temperate climate don’t like having wet feet. And water that’s salty? Forget about it. Around here, having tree roots submerged in saltwater is guaranteed to kill off your landscaping.

But far south of the Chesapeake, fringing tropical and subtropical coastlines, there exist floating forests of mangroves, whose roots grow in a luxuriant tangle at the ocean’s edge. And there, they thrive.

Botanists call the 50 species of mangroves halophylic, or “salt loving.” Mangroves have adapted to putting down roots where other plants can’t: in areas inundated daily by the tide; in thin, nutrient-poor, low-oxygen soils; and in water that varies from fresh to brackish to salty. Just how much salt can mangroves tolerate? Well, typical seawater has a salinity of 35 parts per thousand; in other words, about 35 grams of salt for every liter of sea water. Some species of mangroves can survive in salinities of more than 90 parts per thousand!

To thrive in this salty abundance, these plants need strategies to clear the excess salt. Some species excrete it through glands in their leaves. Others use their roots.

The weird, knobby roots of mangroves actually make traveling to paradise for a tropical vacation possible—tough, woody evergreen mangroves stabilize the soil and prevent many islands from simply washing away.

Thank the mangroves, too, for the colorful diversity of fish and invertebrates you see on your next coral reef dive. Many oceanic and coral reef fish—including snapper, tarpon and lobster—spawn in the nursery provided by the mangrove’s submerged tangle of roots. A mangrove forest is a rich hub of biodiversity, supporting a unique ecosystem of bacteria, plants, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and birds—some found nowhere else.

Earth’s largest mangrove forest—the Sunderbans of India and Bangladesh—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to at least 250 species of birds, endangered estuarine crocodiles and even Bengal tigers!

In North America, mangrove swamps are found throughout the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Texas. The largest mangrove forest in the United States is in Florida’s aptly named Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This special place is home to many endangered species, including West Indian Manatees, and clouds of scarlet ibis and white pelicans.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

Although mangrove forests host so-called “charismatic megafauna” like manatees and tigers, truly their greatest treasure may be the thick mud of mangrove leaf litter—fertile with bacteria and fungi—that accumulates in the water below the trees. There, detritivores, like crabs and other animals, feed on decaying leaf litter and contribute to a complex food web that begins, literally, in the mud.

Other microfauna encrust the mangrove’s submerged roots, including a profusion of filter feeding mussels and barnacles. Like Chesapeake’s oysters, mangrove barnacles efficiently filter pollutants from the water.

These crustaceans and mollusks in turn support populations of shrimp and fish that are economically important to Gulf of Mexico fisheries. So, the next time you’re dining on sustainably-caught shrimp, take a moment to thank a mangrove for your meal.

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Animal Rescue Update: 13 Turtles Ready for Release This Week!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that 13 of our current sea turtle patients in rehabilitation are going to be released this week! Animal Rescue and Animal Health staff have been busy the last few weeks clearing patients for releasing, making sure all releasable turtles have their required tags, and making sure we have all the pertinent paperwork and permits for the transport and release.

This Wednesday, several staff from the National Aquarium will pack the turtles for their long road trip south. So, how exactly do you transport a sea turtle? Each turtle is fitted for an appropriate sized transport carrier, which is padded with foam and towels to provide lots of cushion and support.

Each turtle will receive some fluids just under their skin to help keep them hydrated, and they’ll also get a water-based lubricant massaged onto their shell to help retain moisture, and some sterile eye lubricant helps keep their eyes moist. Finally, each turtle will be packed into our temperature-controlled transport vehicle and will be safely secured for the transport.

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Once our vehicle is ready, our staff will make the 800 mile drive to northeast Florida to release the turtles. We’ll have a total of 9 Kemp’s ridley and 4 green sea turtles to release on this trip, and the much warmer waters of Florida are perfect this time of year.

Stay tuned for more updates on their release, as well as updates on our remaining rehab patients!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

A Blue View: Clownfish

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 9, 2014: Clownfish

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
clownfish and the important role
they play in the health of coral reefs!

Parents of young children know a thing or two about clownfish. These adorable orange and white fish rocketed to stardom in the animated classic Finding Nemo, which featured an adventurous clownfish hero.

Finding Nemo

Clownfish popularity, however, extends far beyond the preschool set. The movie led to an upswing in their demand within the exotic pet trade – they are now one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fish.

That was the downside of the Nemo-effect. The upside? More people became interested in coral reef conservation. It is an ecosystem of tremendous importance, fragility and interdependence, and clownfish are an indicator species for reef health.

Further, they are truly fascinating creatures. When Nemo’s dad, Marlin, names all of the eggs Marlin Junior, the moviemakers got the science right: all clown fish are born male. Many fish species are able to change sex, almost always from female to male. But the clownfish is different, changing gender only to become the dominant female of the group, and that change is irreversible. In a clownfish group living in an anemone the largest fish is female, the second largest a male. They are the mating pair.

But the adventure story of Nemo’s dad traveling far and wide to find his son? Unscientific. In the wild, clownfish never venture far from their anemone. It’s home…and pantry. It’s this interdependence that has earned the fish their full name: the anemone clownfish.

national aquarium clownfish

The relationship between anemones and anemone clownfish is a classic oceanic partnership of mutualism.

In science, mutualism is defined as a relationship between two species in which both benefit from the association. In fact, clownfish and anemones probably couldn’t live without each other, which qualifies them as “obligate symbionts.”

They couldn’t be more different, yet they need each other to survive. The clownfish is a vertebrate, while a sea anemone is an invertebrate, closely related to corals and jellyfish. And like them, its sting is deadly to most other creatures.

So how does the clownfish manage to live among the anemone’s lethal tentacles? Well, very cautiously. As the clownfish gets to know its anemone, it does an elaborate ballet of tentative darting movements, touching the anemone’s stinging tentacles gently, working up immunity and a protective layer of mucus.

Once they’ve acclimated to each other, they eat each other’s food scraps. The anemone’s tentacles provide the clownfish with protection from predators. The clownfish protects the anemone from predators like the butterfly fish and nibbles the anemone free of parasites. Cozy, right?

But scientists have recently discovered that there is additional complexity to the relationship.

The anemone benefits from the clownfish’s ammonia-rich waste. It’s like anemone fertilizer: it helps the animal grow.

After all, a bigger anemone is better for both; its larger tentacles can snare larger, more nutritious prey and the clownfish gets better leftovers and more spacious living quarters.

There’s also a fascinating nocturnal half to the anemone-clownfish routine. Scientists used to think that at night the clownfish snuggled quietly inside the anemone. But Dr. Nanette Chadwick and her team at Auburn University recently discovered that the clownfish moves around more than was suspected, reminiscent of a dog trying to get comfortable on its dog bed.

The clownfish’s movements oxygenate the water deep within the anemone’s tangle of tentacles. In effect, the clownfish helps the anemone breathe.

Clownfish and anemones literally cannot live without one another. In the sea, as in Hollywood, they call that chemistry!

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