Posts Tagged 'public radio'

A Blue View: A Free Spring Chorus, Courtesy of Frogs

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 2, 2014: The Sounds of Spring Peepers & Wood Frogs

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the
chorus of sounds produced by frogs to
attract mates during the breeding season!

Through the winter, woodlands and meadows are mostly quiet at night. But with the arrival of spring rains and warming temperatures, that silence is broken by loud choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers. These are the first frog species to come out of hibernation and begin the year’s amphibian breeding season.

Spring peepers are small, just one inch in length, but you wouldn’t know it from their sound. Each peeper can produce a call as loud as 90 decibels. Multiply that by the number of frogs in a wetland habitat, and you have a sound that can rival that of a rock concert.

Spring Peeper

Photo of spring peeper via Wiki Commons.

Why so noisy? That’s how the male spring peepers attract females from the surrounding woodlands. As the females come out of hibernation, they are carrying between 200 and 1,000 eggs, and the females are outnumbered by the males at about 9 to 1. Competition is intense, and females choose males based on the quality of his song.

Because of this competition, males wrestle for the best spots at the chorusing site. Interestingly, Dr. Don Forester and David Lykens of Towson University discovered that some spring peeper males were successful in breeding with females through a very deceptive strategy. Because calling requires a huge amount of energy, some spring peeper males, known as satellite males, don’t call at all.

Instead, these satellite males save energy by positioning themselves near the top singers. They then intercept females moving toward the calling males. Satellite males are smaller than calling males and would probably be at a disadvantage in trying to attract females with a less impressive voice.

Though the spring peeper is often considered the first frog to emerge from hibernation and therefore an early sign that winter is indeed over, the wood frog is usually ahead of the peeper. In fact, in mild winters, wood frogs have been observed arriving in woodland pools as early as February.

Wood Frog

Photo of a wood frog via Wiki Commons.

Wood frogs are often referred to as “explosive breeders” because they arrive in large numbers and have a short breeding season, usually only lasting the first few weeks of late winter or early spring. Wood frogs almost exclusively lay their eggs in vernal pools, which are small temporary bodies of water that form in depressions.

Because these pools dry over the summer, wood frogs must lay their eggs, the eggs must hatch, and tadpoles must fully develop and metamorphose before the pools dry. The wood frog’s strategy is to arrive first and maximize the time needed to make it the entire way through the process. Wood frog tadpoles often dine on the newly laid eggs of later arriving frog species.

Even as these frogs perpetuate their life cycle, they do face challenges. Their well-being is intricately linked to the survival of their woodland home and their vernal pools. Be considerate of these habitats in your neighborhood by preventing trash and other pollution from traveling through your waterways. Slow down while driving on warm spring nights, allowing amphibians to migrate safely across roadways. And when you pay these amazing creatures a visit in their natural habitat, observe but don’t disturb.

Want to buff up a bit more on your amphibian knowledge? Check out our latest infographic on all things frog

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A Blue View: Taking Care of Turtles

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.

December 18, 2013: Taking Care of Turtles

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and our Manager
of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar
discuss this
year’s influx of cold- 
stunned sea turtle patients!

Last winter was an historic year for turtle rescue, with a cold-stun incident stranding hundreds of turtles along the northeast coast. This year is off to another quick start, with many turtles stranded already and more coming in every day (In fact, our team is slated to get another 6-9 patients this afternoon!).

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

How cold-stunning works: A sea turtles body temperature will drop (from the ideal range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) to match the temperature of the water that surrounds them.  As the weather gets colder in our area and water temps dip, the turtles become hypothermic.

The hypothermia suppresses the turtles’ immune system, leaving them susceptible to pneumonia and infections, and can keep them from diving properly, which is how they collect much of their food.

So far this season,  close to 100 cold-stunned turtles have come into Animal Rescue facilities along the Northeast. While the numbers have yet to match last year’s historic influx, this season has already seen a lot of activity!

Click here to listen to Jenn describe how the turtles are rescued and released! 

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A Blue View: Seafood Fraud

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.

October 30, 2013: Seafood Fraud

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s Beth Lowell
discuss the importance of 
traceability.

Throughout October, we’ve talked about National Seafood Month and how our seafood choices and personal actions are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.

Americans love to eat seafood. In fact, the United States is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, only behind China. Unfortunately, although seafood can be healthy and delicious choice, the current lack of traceability in the U.S. seafood supply chain may be putting the oceans and seafood consumers at risk.

Americans are often left in the dark about where, when and how their seafood was caught. The only information that seafood consumers have to rely on is the label, which is often vague, misleading or even flat out false. From 2010-2012, Oceana conducted one of the largest seafood fraud studies in the world to date, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 21 states. DNA testing revealed that one-third (33 percent) of the samples were mislabeled, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Seafood fraud can impact everyone along the supply chain, whether it is the buyer, the seller, or the ocean itself. Consumers who avoid certain fish due to health concerns may be unwittingly ingesting a high mercury fish, as Oceana found multiple instances of in our testing. Many times, they also may be paying top prices but getting lower cost fish.

In July, Oceana released a report that evaluated the economic cost of seafood fraud. An eight-ounce fillet of tilapia, which would usually sell for about $15, could sell for as much as $22 if it was mislabeled as red snapper or $27 if it was mislabeled as grouper. In addition, a species of fish like salmon often sells for a higher price if it is labeled as wild-caught, versus farm-raised.

Seafood fraud also hurts our oceans. Illegal fishermen can launder their product into the U.S. market, not having to account for the capture method they used, or if their catch is an overfished species that warrants protection. Not only does this undermine conservation efforts, it puts honest fishermen at a competitive disadvantage.

Although some species of fish may have a distinctive look while swimming around in the ocean, they may look, smell and taste similar to another fish once they have been filleted and covered in sauce. In June, Oceana teamed up with the National Aquarium for a recent Fresh Thoughts dinner, focusing on seafood fraud. By offering dinner attendees commonly swapped fish side-by-side, Oceana demonstrated just how difficult it was for anyone, even experts, to tell between many species of fish.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Without requiring that fish are tracked from the ocean to our plate, it can be impossible to tell if our seafood is honestly labeled. Although U.S. fishermen are required to record where, when and how their fish was caught, much of that documentation does not always stay with the fish to the end consumer.

That is why Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) are leading the charge to fight seafood fraud. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act was introduced in March and would require traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S, allow the U.S. to block imports of seafood suspected to be mislabeled or illegal, and improve the information consumers receive about their seafood. The bill has since gained support from chefs, restaurant owners, consumers, fishermen and environmental groups.

Fighting seafood fraud is a win for consumers, fishermen, honest seafood businesses, our oceans and our health!

Beth Lowell is a campaign director at Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans.

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A Blue View: From Bait to Plate

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.

October 16, 2013: From Bait to Plate

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s
Beth Lowell discuss the importance of
sustainable consumer practices.

It’s National Seafood Month, and there’s more to talk about than what’s for dinner. Throughout the month of October, smart seafood choices, sustainable fisheries and the health benefits of eating a diet rich in seafood are highlighted to encourage consumers to make good decisions about their seafood selections.

We talked about the journey that seafood takes from boat to plate with Beth Lowell, Campaign Director for Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Beth kindly shared the following tips on how everyone can make better choices about their seafood:

How to be a Smart Seafood Consumer

  1. Ask Questions. Consumers should ask more questions, including what kind of fish it is, if it is wild or farm raised, and where, when and how it was caught.
  2. Check the Price. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you are likely purchasing a completely different species than what is on the label.
  3. Purchase the Whole Fish. When possible, consumers can purchase the whole fish, which makes it more difficult to swap one species for another.
  4. Trace Seafood. Until we have a national traceability system in place, consumers can support voluntary traceability programs like Gulf Seafood Trace or other traceable seafood.

Listen to this week’s podcast to get even more sustainable consumer tips from Beth! 

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A Blue View: Why Animals Strand

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.

October 2, 2013: Why Animals Strand

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the alarming
number of dolphins strandings observed along
the East Coast this year.

2013 has been a record-breaking year for dolphin strandings, with more than 500 dolphins stranding along the East Coast from New York to North Carolina since July 1. This number is almost 10 times the historical average for our region, and as a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared an unusual mortality event, or UME, working with partners throughout the region to respond to strandings and attempt to discover their causes.

A UME is declared when marine mammal strandings are unexpected, involve significant mortalities, and demand immediate response. Understanding and investigating marine mammal UMEs are important because they often serve as indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues. Since 1991, 60 UMEs have been declared nationally with the most common species cited as bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and manatees.

NOAA has tentatively attributed the mid-Atlantic dolphin die-off to a deadly strain of a measles-like disease, morbillivirus, based on tissue sampling. This same virus caused more than 700 dolphin deaths in 1987 and 1988, and—sadly—this current outbreak isn’t expected to fully subside until next spring.

Many marine animals, including dolphins, whales, seals, turtles, and sea lions, are known to strand. In late 2012, frigid waters off the coast of New England caused a severe cold-stun event, resulting in sea turtle strandings in record numbers. This winter was unlike any other for our partners in New England, who called in the National Aquarium and other animal rescue organizations to help with a mass stranding of more than 400 sea turtles. Over the next 6 months, more than 240 were rehabilitated and released into warmer waters.

On the West Coast this year, more than 1,000 sea lion pups washed ashore in Southern California, many starving and dehydrated. Though the cause of this mass stranding is still officially unknown, scientists believe that the young sea lions aren’t getting the food they need due to environmental factors that are limiting prey availability for pups. An investigation is ongoing.

These are just a few recent examples, and the fact is, animal strandings—of both individuals and entire populations—can occur for many reasons. Sometimes an animal is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other times, an animal gets caught in fishing gear or is struck by a fishing vessel. Or, as in the case of the dolphins this year, an illness spreads through a population.

Those who spend time at the shore have probably seen a stranded marine animal. Even still, it can be difficult for even the most savvy beach-goer to know what to do.

First, you should never approach a stranded animal. If you encounter a semi-aquatic marine mammal resting on land, such as a seal, count yourself lucky. Appreciate the animal from a safe distance of at least 4 or 5 car lengths, take plenty of pictures, and remember that these are wild animals.

How you can help: 

  • Report any aquatic animal strandings or mortalities to the local stranding response facility. In Maryland, call the Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.
  • If you can, document the event with photos or video from a safe distance!
  • While it is tempting to want to help stranded dolphins, whales and turtles by pushing them back into the water, this can actually be more harmful to the animal.
  • Make a donation to a local stranding response organization. Events like this require a lot of basic equipment, supplies and fees for processing tissue samples.

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A Blue View: Masters of Disguise

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.

September 11, 2013: Masters of Disguise – Marine Animal Camouflauge

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss how essential
camouflage is to the survival of many marine species!

This world of ours can be a dangerous place—and for many undersea creatures, camouflage means the difference between life and death. In some cases, it’s a strategy for defense against predators; in others, it enhances their pursuit of prey. One thing’s certain: a good camouflage can be an effective way to survive and thrive in the sea.

Take the ornate wobbegong, for example. This unique shark species is the opposite of eye-catching. Blending easily with the sea floor, a wobbegong can flatten its body, while spots and patterns resemble coral and rock. Skin flaps under its chin appear like seaweed, luring prey toward the shark’s mouth.

wobbegong shark

Other species employ different strategies. The double-ended pipe fish is actually able to emulate the swaying motion of sea grass. Decorator crabs adorn their shells with items from the sea floor to mimic their surroundings, often clothing themselves in sponges and seaweed. Peacock flounder settle into sandy bottoms appearing as one with the ocean floor. In laboratory tests, this fish has proven itself capable of matching striped, polka-dot and checkerboard flooring virtually instantaneously.

The camouflaging capabilities of ocean creatures take many different forms. A particular coloration may help an animal blend into its environment. Patterns can allow some creatures to better hide. Others may have the ability to morph their bodies into a particular color, shape, or texture to fool predators. And some animals can move in a distinctive way—or appear very still—in an effort to avoid detection.

Cephalopods, which include squids, octopuses, and cuttlefish, are the ultimate masters of disguise. Some species show 30 to 50 different appearances and can use every camouflaging strategy to maximum effect.

Scientists are still trying to understand the full scope of what these aquatic animals are capable of. Remarkably, octopus-like cuttlefish are able to rapidly adapt their body patterns and coloration—yet they are in fact colorblind. What’s clear is that some of these sea creatures are far more sophisticated in their use of camouflage than scientists currently understand, and this area of study is rapidly evolving.

A recent article in Current Biology examined the color-changing capabilities of the octopus and squid. Researchers found that some species can actually become transparent as they swim along the ocean’s surface, helping them avoid hungry predators. But in deeper waters, they can adopt a different behavior—turning red.

At depths below 2,600 feet, that same transparency that is so helpful along the surface actually becomes a liability, when light reflects off the transparent beings. Instead, it is more effective to be red, as red is the first color to lose visibility in deeper water, allowing creatures to become virtually invisible, albeit in a different way.

Some animals have different strategies for camouflage depending on the conditions they find themselves in. Exactly how these animals are able to interpret those conditions, and then change their appearance as a result, is still unknown.

As research on these animals and their amazing capacity for camouflage continues, a search for terrestrial applications is underway. Roger Hanlon, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and a leading expert on marine animal camouflage, is collaborating with engineers across the country to develop a material that mimics this camouflage capability. The hope is that their research with cuttlefish may hold the key to creating new kinds of camouflage for clothes, buildings and vehicles.

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A Blue View: Surprising Sharks

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.

August 28, 2013: Surprising Sharks

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and aquarist Jackie Cooper
discuss the hundreds of species of lesser-known
sharks that inhabit our oceans! 

John Racanelli: In your mind’s eye, picture a shark for a moment. Perhaps it’s 9 or 10 feet long, with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and a menacing look. Now, take that mental image…and forget it. Today, we’re going to talk about the sharks that people seldom consider, the hundreds of species of smaller shark that inhabit every ocean on our planet. With me today is Jackie Cooper, our Senior Assistant Dive Safety Officer Aquarist at the National Aquarium. Thanks for joining me, Jackie!

Jackie Cooper: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about something I’m so passionate about.

JR: How are these smaller species of shark like their larger counterparts?

JC: Well, all sharks are cartilaginous fish; they’re all carnivores; all sharks have 5 to 7 gill slits on the sides of their heads; all sharks have pectoral fins that are not fused to their heads. But that’s about where their similarities end. There is such a broad diversity of body shape and body size of sharks that is just amazing!

JR: What sizes are we talking about? 

JC: Well, the smallest shark is the dwarf lantern shark, which is only about 7.5 inches long. From there, they range up to the whale shark, which can be as large as 40 to 60 feet.

JR: So with these smaller sharks, it sounds like they really average to be relatively small compared to even humans. 

JC: Probably half of all the known shark species are 5.5 feet or smaller, and of that, half of the overall shark species numbers are shorter than 3 feet.

JR: Tell me a little bit more about those smaller sharks and their role in the food chain.

JC: We tend to think of sharks as apex predators, being at the top of the food chain. But in fact, most of these sharks are a part of the food chain. They’re similarly important, but they don’t sit at the top of it. Another thing that people tend to forget is that people eat shark meat much more than you would consider.

We tend to think of sharks as only being consumed in shark fin soup, but if you’re in Europe and you’ve had fish and chips, it’s more than likely you were really eating a shark called the spiny dogfish. They grow to be 3.5 to 4 feet long. The females don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 21 years old and produce only small litters. And yet, this species is fished commercially and sold as “fish and chips.” It’s simply devastating to that population.

JR: I know that’s an important species along the Mid-Atlantic shoreline, too. Can you even find some of these species of shark being sold as food in places like Baltimore? 

JC: Certainly. There are definitely grocery stores in the Baltimore metro area that sell shark. Sometimes under names that we would not necessarily recognize as shark.

JR: Why do you think it’s important to understand these smaller species of shark? 

JC: I think the most important reason is that they’re also being threatened. It’s important to keep in mind that when you think about conservation, it’s often driven by money and the glamour, and big species of shark are very exciting to think about and talk about and look at pictures of. These smaller sharks frequently aren’t as glamorous and don’t tend to draw the same kind of funding, so they’ve been much less studied.

JR: Well, I know they contribute to healthy marine ecosystems, too. They’re obviously vital to our ocean habitats, right? 

JC: Every spot in the food chain is critical to maintaining the entire chain in a healthy manner.

JR: Jackie, I want to thank you very much for coming in to talk to us. To learn more about some of the smaller species of shark that inhabit our waters and to see a live cam of the new Blacktip Reef exhibit, visit aqua.org/ablueview.

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