Posts Tagged 'ocean health'

2013 Dolphin Count Results Are In!

Staff from the National Aquarium Animal Rescue program were joined by volunteers today for the annual Maryland Dolphin Count. This year, 113 dolphins were sighted!

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

Volunteers of all ages braved the rain to help record dolphin sightings at four locations along the Eastern Shore of Maryland – three beach locations in Ocean City and at the Assateague State Park Day Use Area.

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

In Ocean City, our team also spotted numerous pelicans and osprey diving for fish!

pelicans ocean city maryland

Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look at dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. Looking at the population numbers over the years can help to determine the health of the coastal ecosystem as well as the abundance of prey.

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

We want to send out a big thank you to all those who joined our team today!

Click here for more information on National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program and how the general public can assist with rescue efforts!

Going on midnight turtle patrol in Costa Rica

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

I’m back in the United States after an amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our last group adventure took us to Manuel Antonio National Park. Relatively speaking, the area around this National Park is pretty developed, and many Costa Ricans come here for the beaches. It has had some problems in the past from pollution from the nearby towns contaminating the streams and development cutting off access for the animals. It has gotten much better, but it will only stay that way if people continue to be diligent.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

The park has several trails that cut through the forest and end up on the beaches of the Pacific. Along the way, our group saw amazing insects like golden orb spiders, baby tarantulas, walking sticks, and huge grasshoppers. We also saw howler monkeys, crab-eating raccoons, white-tailed deer, two- and three-toed sloths, a yellow-crowned night heron, tree boa, and many black iguanas. The monkeys and raccoons have learned to steal food from the tourists on the beach, similar to the way raccoons take food from campers in our parks! If you want the comfort of an accessible park with nearby conveniences, all the while providing spectacular views and glimpses of local wildlife, this park is for you.

Bats, Howler Monkey, Heron

Lesser white lines bats, howler monkey, and yellow-crowned night heron

On Saturday I left the rest of the group at the airport and met up with one of our conservation partners for a trip to the Caribbean. Didiher Chacon, director of WIDECAST (Wider  Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) Latin America, drove us to one of his sea turtle nesting beaches just south of Tortuguerro National Park.

This project is being run by the wonderful people of La Tortuga Feliz foundation, and Didiher has been their adviser for the past couple of years. Like many turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica, it is run by just a few staff members and relies on volunteers to do much of the work. The good ones, like this one, also actively seek support from the local community. In this case, the community employs local guides for turtle walks!

We got to the site in the late afternoon after a short boat ride from the nearest town. The staff and volunteers were all amazing, several of them deciding to stay long term after falling in love with the place and the project during their three-week volunteer stint.

Within the hour, we had discovered that one of the leatherback sea turtle nests in the hatchery was erupting and baby turtles were emerging. We helped gather them up for weights and measurements and placed them in a container for a later release. We did not want to release them in the middle of the day when the black sand was too hot and predators could easily spot them. At dusk, we went back down to the hatchery to let them go. It was a truly wonderful experience. I have participated in several nesting events, but never before witnessed this part of the process. What a sight!

After the release, I gave a presentation to the local community and project staff and volunteers on the National Aquarium’s work with sea turtles. There was no electricity at the site, so we hooked the computer and projector up to a generator for the presentation. Since there are very few sea turtle nests in our area, I mostly spoke about the work our Marine Animal Rescue Program does with rescue, rehabilitation, and release of our local species. I talked about the care our patients receive by our veterinary staff and the technologies we use for diagnosis. I talked about the time and effort our MARP staff and volunteers put in to the care of each animal and the joy of watching them be released back into their natural environment. It was easy to connect with my audience (even through the translator) because it was obvious that we were all participating in different but equally important aspects of the conservation of these amazing animals.

At midnight I joined a turtle patrol. Each night during the nesting season, local guides and project volunteers walk the beach to look for nesting turtles. In this region, it’s important to relocate all nests to the hatchery because poaching and turtle hunting is still prevalent, even though it is illegal in Costa Rica. While walking the beach, we saw a group of civil police on patrol. They were there to catch poachers. Later on, we heard that they confronted nine poachers that night and had confiscated a machete, sacks, and other poaching equipment. At first, I was comforted by the police presence on the beach, but Didiher informed me that in his two years on this project, this was only the second time he’s seen them and that they don’t have the resources to patrol regularly. In fact, their presence that evening was only made possible because La Tortuga Feliz paid for the gas for their boat.

The locals I spoke with that evening were passionate about saving these animals, but were disheartened by the continued disregard for the laws, and the inability of local law enforcement to enforce the laws. They are working very hard in their outreach efforts, for both local communities and in national campaigns, to emphasize the importance of protecting sea turtles, but as with all movements, this will take time. In the meantime, groups like WIDECAST, La Tortuga Feliz, and, most importantly, the local citizens that are working with them are providing a necessary foundation for the conservation of these species.

Climate change, do kids get it?

Climate change is a complex issue that is a major concern to the public. The topic sparks debate and is gaining major attention around the world. Climate change is so popular that it’s this year’s theme for Blog Action Day, an annual web event held on October 15th that unites the world’s bloggers in posting an issue on the same day to trigger discussion.  So today we’d like to share what we know about kids and climate change.

In a recent study done by the Ocean Project, it was found that most people do not associate climate change and carbon pollution with ocean health. When the truth is, climate change is adversely affecting the marine environment in particular—evident through sea level rise, elevated water temperature, coral bleaching, and acidification.

At the Aquarium we spend a lot of time educating visitors on environmental concerns through our exhibits and outreach events, and we also spend a lot of time educating children, and listening to children. We know that general public awareness about the critical role the ocean plays in the Earth’s climate system is low but, strangely, we have found that youth seem to be more connected  to this issue than adults. More importantly, they are committed to understanding and talking about climate change.

Continue reading ‘Climate change, do kids get it?’

Wear Blue, Tell Two

World Oceans Day is Monday, June 8th. The  National Aquarium will be celebrating this weekend with a fun, family Sticker.jpgfestival  designed to teach people that ocean health begins at home.  Can’t make it to the Aquarium this weekend? You can still help by wearing blue on Monday to show your ocean pride, and telling people two things they may not know about the oceans and two ways they can take action to improve and safeguard the health of our oceans.

Need some ideas for what to tell people? Click here for a list of simple things you can do to keep our planet healthy.

Wear Blue and Tell Two was inspired by results from America, the Ocean, and Climate Change: New Research Insights for Conservation, Awareness, and Action, the largest-ever environmental study. A collaborative effort between The Ocean Project, the National Aquarium, and Monterey Bay Aquarium, the study points to the pressing need to accelerate knowledge and commitment to ocean health.

Continue reading ‘Wear Blue, Tell Two’

Live like you love the ocean

The San Jose Mercury News recently posted an opinion on its blog that caught the eyes of quite a few staff members here at the Aquarium. We loved its central message, to “live like you love the ocean.” The author, Wallace J. Nichols, is a senior scientist at the Ocean Conservancy – a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC – that serves to restore sustainable American fisheries, protect wildlife from human impacts, conserve special ocean places, and reform government for better ocean stewardship. 

To read the entire story, visit the San Jose Mercury News

For more ideas on how to shop, eat, vacation, and vote like you love the ocean, check out the Aquarium’s Beyond the Boardwalk events, which start tonight!

 


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