Posts Tagged 'national aquarium in baltimore'

Animal Update – September 20

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Meet one of Blacktip Reef’s most colorful residents – the harlequin tuskfish! 

Harlequin Tusk Fish

The harlequin tuskfish, a species of wrasse, can be found throughout the reef habitats of the Indo-Pacific (from the Red Sea to Australia).

Typically, the tuskfish will make its home in the sandy, shallow areas of coastal reefs. Their diet mostly consists of hard-shelled invertebrates, including small crabs and shrimp.

Harlequin tusk fish

Did you know? The harlequin tuskfish gets its common name from its bright coloration and sharp blue teeth!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

New ‘Walking’ Shark Species Discovered in Indonesia!

A new species of epaulette (carpet) shark was recently discovered off the coast of an island in Indonesia!

New species of epaulette shark. Photo via Conservation International.

New species of epaulette shark. Photo via Conservation International.

The walking shark, Hemiscyllium halamhera, was first seen walking along the sea floor by divers in 2008. Only recently has it been officially recognized as a new species.

This is the third walking shark species found in Indonesia in the past six years! Walking sharks use their fins to navigate along the sea floor in search of small fish and crustaceans. Watch a walking shark do its thing: 


Although new species are discovered almost daily, this finding has given the conservation community new hope for the future of Indonesia’s elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). The local government and emerging dive tourism industry are excited by this discovery and have taken precautions to protect these sharks!

There are nine known species of walking shark in the world, all of which inhabit the shallow waters of very restricted ranges.

Got a question about this new discovery for our experts? Ask them in the comments section! 

Thoughtful Thursday: International Coastal Cleanup


The International Coastal Cleanup is an annual coordinated volunteer effort to remove debris that has accumulated in our oceans and on our coasts. It is a chance for world citizens that are concerned about the health of our oceans and waterways to participate in meaningful action that will make a difference. In 2012, more than 560,000 volunteers from 97 countries picked up more the 10 million pounds of trash. This year’s efforts begin this weekend and will last throughout the coming weeks.

ft. mchenry cleanup

All types of volunteer groups will join forces over the next couple of weekends to remove and quantify the trash ending up in our waters. Because this is a coordinated effort led by the Ocean Conservancy, each volunteer will be asked to fill out a standard data sheet. This allows event coordinators to track the amount and types of trash that end up on our coasts every year and to make comparisons across the globe and through the years. Ultimately, it informs and focuses the efforts being made to change behaviors that will benefit our natural world.

The top ten list of items found on our beaches during the cleanup should come as no surprise to anyone. The list includes cigarettes, plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers and straws – all single use items that we’ve come to rely on in our society of convenience. With the exception of cigarettes, the global list closely mirrors the list the National Aquarium has been tallying at Fort McHenry over the past 14 years. Of the 600,000+ items collected in this area over the years, more than 95 percent has been plastic or foamed plastic.

These items weren’t born in the ocean or the harbor, they were carelessly discarded on land and delivered to the nearest stream (often via storm sewers). From here, there are carried downstream by the tides and water flow until they end up on a shoreline somewhere.

Plastic debris at Ft. McHenry National Monument and Shrine here in Baltimore. Plastic pollution is seriously hurting the ocean and its inhabitants!

We know, if we want to make a difference, we need to stop the debris at its source – cleaning it up after the fact is not a long-term solution! We need to look at our own behaviors and determine how to eliminate the flow of debris from our homes to our streets to our waterways. We thought that if we focus on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) we would be successful.

For many years, the emphasis has been on recycling. In truth, recycling should be our last choice. Our ultimate success will depend upon how well we can assimilate the fourth R into the equation – Refuse. This world does not have unlimited resources and we need to stop acting like it does. We need to be thoughtful in our everyday consumer decisions so that we look beyond the gratification of that warm cup of coffee or cold soda and begin to consider the real-world costs of the decisions we make. The real-world cost of using non-degradable, oil-based, disposable drink ware instead of carrying a reusable coffee mug.

In the mean time, while we are figuring out how to turn our consumer society on it’s ear, we have a big mess to clean up. In my job, I get to see much of the Chesapeake Bay. I get to travel to it’s islands and remote wetland habitats and enjoy all of the benefits our natural world has to offer. In all of those travels, I have never seen a shoreline unmarred by the sight of trash. It’s everywhere. Baltimore and the more populated areas of the watershed are admittedly more affected by debris, but there is no place that is immune. If we want to truly champion a healthy Chesapeake (healthy for humans and animals alike), we need a trash-free environment. It is possible and we can start today.

If you haven’t already, register to join us at our October 5th Fort McHenry event in Baltimore or find another International Coastal Cleanup event near you!


Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Chef Patrick Morrow

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts chef, Patrick Morrow of Ryleigh’s Oyster:

Patrick MorrowMorrow was born and raised in Texas and North Carolina. And it shows through in his broad-shouldered, but still sophisticated cuisine. Attention to detail, inventive ingredients, and a skillful balance of elements within each dish are hallmarks of Chef Morrow’s style, and they keep his menus fresh.

His adamant focus on local and sustainable produce, meats and seafood began during his tenure as sous chef at VIN in Towson and then as executive chef at Ryleigh’s Oyster in Federal Hill. After firmly establishing Ryleigh’s Oyster as part of the Baltimore food scene, Morrow left to open Bluegrass Tavern, a restaurant of his own conception, where he operated as executive chef during the opening year to the delight of restaurant critics and patrons alike.

Always keeping an eye to the horizon, seeking new challenges and tackling new cuisines, the restaurant group responsible for Ryleigh’s Oyster has recently been able to lure Chef Morrow back into their folds. He is currently embarking on several new projects for the group.

In preparation for next week’s dinner, we chatted with Patrick about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region:

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?
It’s tough to choose just one favorite ingredient, but would have to say the farmed oysters would be at the top of my list.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?
I think in the recent years, chefs have become more aware of what they are buying and how they are sourcing the foods they purchase. So you are seeing an increase of sustainable seafood on different menus.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?
The hardest part was finding a good seafood supplier that understood what we were looking for and was willing to supply us with the highest quality sustainable seafood available.

What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?
Maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but would love to see more people using catfish!

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …
Just to spend extra time figuring out a little more about the seafood products that they are buying and how there is a lot of alternatives out there.

How can people better understand sustainable seafood issues concerning oysters?
I think with increased education of how the wild oyster beds are depleting and side effects that it has caused in the bay. And to show people alternatives to wild oysters, with the growing number of high quality farmed oysters in the market place.

To learn more about our sustainable seafood program and other conservation initiatives, click here

How to Train Your [Insert Subject Here]

national aquarium animal expert update

We have all been there…contemplating how to change a behavior you don’t like in yourself or another subject. It can manifest in many ways – How do I get my dog to stop pulling on his leash? My husband to stop leaving coffee cups around the house (true story for me)? My kids to clean up their rooms? It can also be a positive behavior you want them to keep doing, such as colleagues keeping the workplace clean and organized.

Whether you are trying to decrease an unwanted behavior or increase behavior you want to see more frequently, it can all be achieved (or conditioned) the same way.

Here at the National Aquarium, and in most marine mammal facilities across the country, we use a method of training known as “operant conditioning” or positive reinforcement training.  Simply defined, this means that behavior is likely to increase or decrease in frequency based on the consequences that follow.


Think about the last time you did something and what followed; if you experienced a positive outcome, you are probably more likely to do that specific something again. However, if the outcome was negative, then most likely it is not something you would want to repeat.

We use the same training technique with our dolphins. When a dolphin does a behavior correctly, we blow a whistle that basically says “good,” and then we follow it up with reinforcement. Reinforcement for the dolphins can be fish, enrichment, toys or tactile rubs.  If the behavior is incorrect, then we simply do nothing. We can choose to ask again or simply move on to something else. By not giving a reaction, we communicate to the animal that the particular behavior requested was not correct, but they still have the opportunity to earn reinforcement so the session does not become negative.

A really important lesson for any animal (or human) to learn is that it is OK to fail! Failure is all part of learning; however, it is what you choose to learn from it that provides the opportunity to grow and then succeed.

Say a child is not cleaning his or her room. The first step is to make sure that the child is capable of accomplishing such a task (i.e., is the task age appropriate?). The child receives a signal that asks them to perform the desired behavior (clean a room). Once the task is complete, they receive their reinforcement. Now I am guessing most kids do not find cold, dead, raw fish very reinforcing, so something they would like, such as piece of candy, a game of catch or sometimes something as simple as a nice big hug and lots of verbal praise, could be used as the reinforcement.

Let’s take that same scenario, only the child doesn’t perform the behavior.  Depending on the child, you can ask them to try again or even provide some help.  If not done correctly, they simply lose the opportunity for that special treat.  However, the next time you ask them to clean their room, they may remember that consequence and hopefully change their behavior. One strategy is to start simply and have them just pick up a few things, then gradually increase the amount they have to clean. In training, these steps are called approximations.

Remember the key: Always set your subject up for success!


Animal Updates – September 13

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Leidy’s comb jellies on exhibit! 

leidy's comb jelly

These amazing creatures can now be seen in  Jellies Invasion: Oceans out of Balance!

Did you know? Leidy’s comb jellies are bioluminescent, meaning they can make their own light (which they flash when disturbed).

leidy's comb jelly

This species looks different from other jellies because it’s not made up of a bell and tentacles. Instead, it is a translucent walnut-shaped body with wart-like bumps. For this reason, it’s sometimes called a sea walnut.


They make look “out-of-this-world,” but the natural range of this species is much closer than you think! They’re commonly found in the coastal waters of the Atlantic, from Cape Cod down to the Carolinas.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Thoughtful Thursday: How Will You Spend Your Day To Serve?


Last year more than 14,000 volunteers at 750 community service projects donated their time and talents during the first-annual Day to Serve. This unique event “unites people of all faiths, races, cultures, and backgrounds with the shared goal of helping those in need and improving the communities where we live”.

In 2013 event organizers hope to double the effort. They have set aside September 15-29 for the event and have asked organizations around the region to rally their volunteers to “Feed the Hungry. Heal the Planet.”

Governor Martin O’Malley says, “Starting September 15th, we’ll work together as a community – as Marylanders and Virginians, West Virginians and Washingtonians – to harness the incredible power of service. Marylanders are a compassionate, generous people who know the way forward can be found by helping our neighbors in need. For the second year in a row, we encourage all our citizens to join us in recognizing the connections between the health of our people, and the health of our land, water and air. Together, we can eradicate hunger, and protect and restore our environment.”

In honor of this year’s Day to Serve, the National Aquarium will host a wetland restoration project at Masonville Cove!

Masonville Cove

Local students and community volunteers will be planting 15,000 native wetland grasses along the banks of the Patapsco River. This event is part of a much larger restoration project that will be part of the long-term mission to revitalize the Baltimore Harbor, and will help to create valuable aquatic habitat right here in Baltimore City! This fringe wetland will create foraging ground for fish species like striped bass and white perch, and will provide nesting habitat for shorebirds.

Click here if you would like to join this greater effort to improve our communities. Hope to see you there!

The Masonville Cove Project is a partnership between the National Aquarium, Maryland Port Administration, Maryland Environmental Service, and The Living Classrooms Foundation.


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