Posts Tagged 'NWF'

Conservation Re-cap: NWF Annual Meeting

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Conservation partners from the 49 state affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) met in Baltimore last week to hear and learn from each other’s efforts to protect and improve our blue planet.  This year’s conference theme was WATER: It Connects Us All.

As the host affiliate for the state of Maryland, the National Aquarium not only helped steer some of the conversation, we also had a chance to display some of our aquatic conservation initiatives to a national audience.

Highlights of the conference included:

  • Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, addressed the audience during the Opening Session and spoke about government transparency and the critical importance of public participation in the federal regulation and rule-making processes
  • Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, spoke about the explicit need for individuals and communities to create a groundswell of positive change to both hold the public sector accountable and support and reinforce good work
  • Conservation organizations from across the country shared innovative ideas on improving both water quality and water quantity in local and regional jurisdictions, and managing invasive species in our ecosystems
  • Conservation policy resolutions were passed that would help provide the future framework for NWF work.  These included initiatives focused on alternative energy, deforestation, invasive species, fisheries management and climate change
  • George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water spoke about “making our cities work” and improving urban infrastructure to help relieve development pressure put on rural landscapes

As the local sponsor, National Aquarium had a chance to highlight healthy aquatic communities around the world by inviting meeting participants into our Baltimore venue for an evening.  We were also able to show our partners our successful education and stewardship work at both Fort McHenry and Masonville Cove through off-site field trips.

Aquarium staff also shared our expertise in climate change communication and social media strategies to build the capacity of other organizations in those areas!

At the end of the meeting, participants had an opportunity to hear from Collin O’Mara, NWF’s newly appointed President and CEO.  He left us with the following charge: “Confronting the pressing conservation challenges of this generation will require that Americans from every corner of our nation and every walk of life work together community by community and state by state to drive change at the national and international level.”  We couldn’t agree more.

Laura Bankey

Happy National Wildlife Week!

national aquarium conservation expert update

This year’s National Wildlife Week is dedicated to the Wonders of Wildlife and this year’s theme, “Wildlife and Water,” highlights our connections through water.  The National Aquarium is an obvious place to think of when you think about water and wildlife.  Like we do every day, we invite you to discover your connection to water and to the other plants and animals sharing this precious resource.

It is no coincidence that National Wildlife Week coincides with the beginning of Spring.  Both occasions start us thinking about the natural beauty and waking wildlife that begins to emerge this time of year.  We are already seeing flowers popping up from the snowy ground and frogs beginning their spring mating rituals.  Osprey are beginning to return to the region after a long migration north and soon we’ll see other birds leaving or passing through.  Fish are moving in and out of the bays and rivers as they are headed to spawning grounds.  All of these amazing sights and sounds are intricately tied to water and to each other.  How they move, the food they eat, what they drink, where they raise their young – it’s all about water.

World Water Day quote

As warmer weather approaches and snow starts melting, vernal pools are filling and streams and rivers are flowing.  Get outside and discover how these changes to the water around us are providing opportunities for wildlife to thrive.  Birds and frogs are active, animals that had been hibernating are emerging and looking for food, turtles are basking in the stronger sun.  The world is waking from the long winter and this is often the best time to take a pair of binoculars (or a magnifying glass) and see what is happening in your local area.

Also, don’t miss the chance to celebrate wildlife that shares our world during National Wildlife Week.  Our friends at the National Wildlife Federation are highlighting more than 50 species of wildlife throughout the week.  I’ll bet even the most savvy of wildlife enthusiast will learn something new!

Are you celebrating National Wildlife Week? Share your plans with us in the comments section! 

national aquarium conservation expert laura bankey

Thoughtful Thursdays: Get Out & Explore Nature!

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This Summer,  National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There initiative is encouraging families to get outdoors and explore the natural beauty around them!

We all know spending time outside is a lot of fun but did you know it is also great for our bodies and brain development? Since the average 9 – 13 year old child only plays outside 6 percent of their week, it’s even more important than ever to spend time in nature. The benefits are wide-reaching and well documented: playing in nature decreases stress levels, increases creativity, increases focus in school and improves eyesight.

Wow! If the s’mores weren’t motivation enough, those are great reasons to campout with the family this weekend!

When you do camp and explore the outdoors, there are a few simple environmental manners to keep in mind. I find these 7 principles from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics particularly helpful:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
 – Whether it’s your neighborhood trails or a National Park, it’s always best to know the rules when it comes to food, camping equipment, etc.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 
- When choosing a place to set-up camp or the day’s rest area, keep it to the established trails/site areas. Not only is it in the best interest of your safety, but it ensures that we don’t further disrupt the natural environment you’re enjoying!
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
 – When you’re ready to leave, ensure that all your products, waste and litter leave with you!
  4. Leave What You Find 
- Avoid taking natural objects and organisms with you. The transport of non-native species and cultural/historic artifacts from their natural habitat can have a lasting, negative impact.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
 – Where campfires are permitted, take the precautionary measures to ensure that fires remain small and controlled.
  6. Respect Wildlife – One of the greatest parts of getting outside is being able to experience an abundance of wildlife (sometimes even in your own backyard)! As exciting as those experiences are, it’s important to remember that animals need to be observed from a distance and that feeding animals can be extremely harmful to their health!
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors – Let’s make sure that the families coming after us also have a great experience! By following the above principles, we can all ensure that these natural areas can continue to be enjoyed for years to come!

Planning on getting outside and exploring your natural surroundings this weekend? Share your plans/ideas in the comments section! 

Blog-Header-HeatherDoggett

A Blue View: Understanding Ocean Acidification

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

May 29, 2013: Understanding Ocean Acidification

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss how the changing
global climate is impacting on our oceans.

Say you visit the same spot on the same ocean every year. You take a swim, and it feels pretty much like the last time. The temperature doesn’t seem all that different. You certainly can’t tell that the pH is changing.

Yet just as the global climate is changing, so too is the ocean’s chemistry. Alongside atmospheric climate change, ocean acidification is one of the most serious issues affecting the waters of our planet and all of its inhabitants.

Ocean acidification has only recently entered the public’s consciousness, though scientists have been studying and predicting the phenomenon for some time. Many estimate that the ocean absorbs approximately 30 percent of human-generated carbon dioxide, which reacts with sea water to form carbonic acid. The resultant decrease in pH means the water becomes more acidic, with disastrous effects on animals that depend on their shells and exoskeletons to survive.

Though the media has taken to calling ocean acidification our “new climate threat,” it is not a new problem. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide has been increasing in our atmosphere and therefore our seawater. Now, over 200 years later, we can no longer ignore the threat. Even conservative estimates suggest that by 2100, global ocean waters will warm nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit on average and acidity will increase by 150 percent.

So what does this mean for ocean wildlife? Clearly, the sea’s complex food web will be disrupted. Highly mobile animals will be forced to expand their home ranges as they search for more hospitable waters. Sadly, coral reefs as we know them will be forever altered and could even disappear. Animals will struggle to build skeletons and shells in waters that literally dissolve them. And growth and reproductive capabilities of numerous marine animals will be at risk.

Ocean acidification has caused coral bleaching on parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo via CS Monitor

Ocean acidification has caused coral bleaching on parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo via CS Monitor

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is not immune to these dramatic changes. In fact, according to NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, the Bay is being affected at a faster rate than the global average because land in this region is already subsiding naturally. Bay temperatures have already increased almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960 and are projected to increase by an additional 3 to 10 degrees by 2100—a tremendous change that will have a profound effect on the nation’s largest estuary. Increased acidification of the Bay will alter its delicate balance in other ways. For example, according to marine geologist Justin Ries of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, blue crabs could grow larger, while the creatures they eat, including oysters and clams, could suffer from weaker, slower-growing shells. These bivalves, in addition to being an integral part of the food chain, also contribute to healthier water quality by filtering huge quantities of Bay water. The moral: damage one small species and you affect the entire Chesapeake Bay.

We cannot simply undo the impacts of ocean acidification. The carbon dioxide we are putting into the atmosphere today will continue to accumulate for decades. There is hope, however, and as always, it starts with each of us. Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and minimizing our collective carbon footprint isn’t just the best way forward, it’s the only way. As Fyodor Dostoevsky said in The Brothers Karamazov, “For all is like an ocean. All flows and connects. Touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world.”

Let’s Make Baltimore the Largest Community Wildlife Habitat along the Chesapeake Bay!

For years, Baltimore has been known as “Birdland” and now, thanks to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the National Aquarium, it’s official. Today, First Lady of Maryland Katie O’Malley joined leaders from NWF, National Aquarium and city officials to launch a program aimed at greening city streets, backyards, schools and places of worship.

First Lady Katie O'Malley speaking about the importance of "greening" Baltimore.

First Lady Katie O’Malley speaking about the importance of “greening” Baltimore.

“We believe that your backyard can be a place for exploring and unleashing children’s curiosity,” said Hilary Harp Falk, Regional Executive Director for National Wildlife Federation.  “Baltimore has always been a city for the birds, and we intend to work with partners in the City to create beautiful places which will offer opportunities to learn, connect and play.”

By greening the city for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, residents of Baltimore will also help to improve both air and water quality for humans. The more native plantings that are used to attract wildlife, the greater potential the city has of reaching its Healthy Harbor goals and helping to clean the Chesapeake Bay.

“As a conservation organization it is our goal to inspire people to do their part, starting here in our backyard of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “We are dedicated to a Healthy Harbor and we believe that can happen if we all get involved in the greening of our city.”

Did you know? Our Waterfront park is a certified wildlife habitat!

Did you know? Our Waterfront park is a certified wildlife habitat!

Community Wildlife Habitat certification will bring many organizations and individuals together to work on a common vision, and, when successful, Baltimore will achieve certification for more than 600 homes, 10 parks, and 6 schools and be recognized as one of the 60+ Community Wildlife Habitats nationwide!

In celebration of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife month in May, people across the country – from bird watchers to butterfly lovers – are joining the residents of Baltimore in transforming their gardens into havens for wildlife.  The National Wildlife Federation has also pledged to plant a tree for every Certified Wildlife Habitat during the month of May to honor its garden supporters! 

May is Garden for Wildlife Month!

Our partners at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) have designated May “Garden for Wildlife month!”

This month’s warm weather is perfect for getting out there and sprucing up your home or community garden! NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program makes it easy to ensure that your efforts are supporting local wildlife and helping to restore habitats in commercial and residential areas.

Our Waterfront park is a certified wildlife habitat.

Our Waterfront park is a certified wildlife habitat!

How to create a wildlife-friendly environment: 

  1. Provide food – Planting native shrubs and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species need to survive! 
  2. Provide water – Animals also need clean water sources to drink and bathe! Give them a helping hand by including a rain garden or bird bath in your garden.
  3. Provide shelter – Local wildlife needs shelter from bad weather and predators. Shelter created by native plants and shrubs can also double as a great place for animals to  raise their offspring!
  4. Get certified! – Show others in your community that your yard is beautifully done AND helping to support the environment!

So, ready to get gardening? Share photos of your wildlife habitat with us using #Garden4Wildlife!

Arbor Day: Doing Our Part Right in the Inner Harbor

Did you know? National Aquarium’s Waterfront Park is populated entirely with plants native to Maryland!

waterfront plaza

Our goal in maintaining the park, the organization of which follows the principles of conservation landscaping (also known as Bayscaping), is to reduce the impact of pollution felt downtown and improve the health of our local ecosystem.

Here in the city, the trees and other plants of the Waterfront Park provide habitat and refuge for local and migratory birds, insects and other animals that either live in Baltimore permanently or are just passing through. In our Appalachian Highlands planter, we have a variety of trees and shrubs: Red Cedar, Redbud, White Pine, Sassafrass, White Oak, Chestnut Oak, Witch Hazel, Fragrant Sumac, Flowering Dogwood and Red-Panicled Dogwood that provide critical food and shelter for wildlife.

A bloom from one of our dogwood trees.

A bloom from one of our dogwood trees.

The Piedmont planter is dominated by Red Maple, but also includes such trees and shrubs such as Sweetbay Magnolia, Southern and Maple-Leaved Arrowwood, and Serviceberry. Our Coastal Forest planter is home to Loblolly Pine, Marsh Elder, and Inkberry, and in our Salt Marsh planters can be found more Marsh Elder, Groundsel Bush, Swamp Hibiscus and Winterberry. Many of the trees and shrubs on the Plaza produce fruit and berries that are enjoyed throughout the year by birds, including the Serviceberry, Red Chokecherry, Fragrant Sumac, Inkberry and Winterberry. The foliage of these trees provides an environment in which native birds can nest and rear their young.

Our park is a certified wildlife habitat.

Our park is a certified wildlife habitat.

Many of the flowering trees and plants also provide pollen and nectar through the growing seasons for various pollinating birds and insects, and the foliage of many trees is a valuable food source for the larvae of various butterflies and moths. The “leaf litter” underneath the trees generated by years of deciduous accumulation also supports a vast array of insects, spiders and other arthropods. The insects supported here are also a useful food source for the birds and bats that live in and pass through our city!

This thriving environment of native plants has evolved immensely in recent years to support a growing number of native animal wildlife. We hope the community here in Baltimore city can continue to enjoy it for many years to come!

John Seyjagat, the Curator of our Animal Planet Australia exhibit, also manages the development and maintenance of our exterior parks. To learn more about John, click below: 

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