Posts Tagged 'turtles'

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Elizabeth Schneble

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet one of our Aquarists, Elizabeth Schneble!

beth schneble

How long have you been at the Aquarium?   

I have been working in the Fishes Department for a just a little over 6 years now.

What interested you to pursue your current career path? 

I studied wildlife conservation and resources in college, and during my studies I interned here for the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program and the Fishes Department simultaneously. I absolutely fell in love with the animals, the fast-paced environment, and the wonderful staff, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. As a bonus, I have always had a passion for conservation, the environment and the National Aquarium’s mission. Conservation programs provide the perfect platform for me to work with both.

Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?

In one word: “busy!” I take care of our Maryland Mountains to the Sea gallery, and my day starts around 7:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my day cleaning and preparing the exhibits for our guests and feeding the animals. Once the exhibits are clean and ready for opening, I work on cleaning the backup enclosures and feeding the animals in backup. The rest of my day is spent between working on various projects around the department, helping out and participating with other staff in diving and cleaning duties, and maintaining the life support systems on my exhibits. I also manage the wonderful aquarist assistant volunteers in Fishes Department. We currently have over 40 volunteers in the program. In the few moments I have time to sit at my desk, I catch up on emails. I am also planning the local collecting trips. The collecting season lasts approximately 6 months each year and I work very hard to plan trips to collect local animals, quarantine them and move them onto exhibit to share with our guests.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was able to participate in a lionfish collection trip in the Bahamas in 2011. I spent a week diving on the coral reefs conducting fish diversity surveys and collecting lionfish. It was by far the most rewarding and amazing aquarium experience I have had.

What is the next big project you’re working on?

I am currently building a backup turtle tank to house part of our collection of local turtles, including the diamondback terrapins and wood turtles.

What is your favorite animal?

That is a tough one, but at the moment I would have to say the diamondback terrapin! They are one of the most unique and beautiful turtle species, in my opinion. Plus, they have such interesting personalities and behaviors. How can you not love them?

Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Local Students Release Their Terrapins!

Since September, students from 32 schools across Maryland have cared for baby turtles in their classrooms. Through the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, hatchling diamondback terrapins are collected from Poplar Island in late summer and placed in partner schools. Throughout the year, students gain basic husbandry skills, collect growth data, and learn about the natural history of the Maryland state reptile.

“This is a once in a school-time experience,” said Andrew Hiller, a 5th grader from Naval Academy Primary School.

terrapin release

Thanks to the student’s dutiful care, the terrapins more than doubled in size and were ready to be released! Students and teachers took a boat ride to the island and a tour of the wetlands where the terrapins hatched. After carefully selecting a spot on the edge of the wetland, the students said goodbye to their terrapins and released them into the water.

“It was pretty exciting, letting it go. Even though it was nice having it, it was good to see it go have its own life,” said Matthew Szakmeister, a 2nd grader from Bushy Park Elementary School.

diamondback terrapin

Caring for, learning about, and releasing these turtles creates a unique and important connection between students and the natural world. Through this hands-on approach to conservation, our program hopes to inspire life-long environmental stewardship!

You can do your part to help diamondback terrapins by practicing turtle-safe crabbing this summer! Watch this video to learn how!


Thoughtful Thursdays: MARP Turtle Update

This year, our friends at the New England Aquarium have received a record number of turtle patients to their Animal Care Center. After more than 160 severely cold stunned turtles came through their doors in the past month, they reached out to our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team for help in rehabilitating some of these turtles for release.

New England Aquarium's Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!

New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!
Photo via NEAQ

We currently have seven patients in our Animal Care Center’s turtle rehab area – three Kemp’s ridleys, three green sea turtles and one loggerhead.

One of our green sea turtle patients

One of our green sea turtle patients

All seven of our turtle patients are being treated for cold stunning – a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged period of time. In addition to cold stunning, two of the turtles have also presented common complications including pneumonia and unstable blood pH. Our team is working hard to treat these specific problems and the overall health of each turtle.

This Kemp's ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

This Kemp’s ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

The loggerhead turtle was the first patient to arrive at our facility from New England. In addition to being cold stunned, this turtle had also suffered from a dramatic injury to its front-right flipper, sustained before the initial rescue. As a result, the flipper had to be amputated. Although we’re always saddened to see these types of severe injuries, this new patient is a great example of how far our animal rehabilitation efforts have come in recent years.

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

As many may know, our beloved 400-pound green sea turtle, Calypso, originally came to National Aquarium as a rescue. Weighing just 6 pounds, this small turtle was cold stunned and had an infected left front flipper. The flipper was not treatable and was amputated. After the amputation, Calypso was deemed “non-releasable” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 lbs!

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 pounds!

In more recent years, research has shown that many turtles with natural front flipper amputations can survive in the wild. In fact, we were able to rehabilitate and release our first turtle with an amputation, lovingly referred to as “Ed,” in 2006. Our MARP team tracked Ed via satellite tag to ensure that he was doing well after release.

We’re happy to report that our loggerhead patient is doing so well that we have an exit exam scheduled in early January. If all goes well, the turtle will be transferred to North Carolina for release!

Stay tuned for more updates from our MARP team! 


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 23, 2012: WIDECAST 

Listen to John discuss the important work that WIDECAST does to save leatherback sea turtles! 

The National Aquarium has had a long partnership with turtle conservation network WIDECAST, particularly in Costa Rica, where the leatherback sea turtle comes ashore to nest. This species has been listed as endangered since 1970. Very little is known about the turtles’ migratory behavior, population genetics or dynamics, inherent diseases, or mortality rates.

WIDECAST gathers research through rescue operations and satellite tracking to develop programs to help save this amazing species. As part of our partnership, Aquarium staff conducts training programs for local volunteers on veterinary care and stranded animal rehabilitation. We hope that through awareness and support from the international community, the WIDECAST network can continue to grow!

National Aquarium Celebrates Rescued Turtle Release

This morning, National Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) joined the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program for a release of three rescued sea turtles. The rehabilitated turtles, Olympian, a juvenile green sea turtle; Merigo, a juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle; and Charlie, a loggerhead sea turtle, came to both facilities either sick or injured.

Olympian, a 9-pound green sea turtle, was brought to the National Aquarium MARP team after being spotted floating off the coast of New Jersey in August. Olympian was treated for over-inflated lungs and possible pneumonia in the new MARP sea turtle rehabilitation center. Staff closely monitored the turtle’s behavior, diet and health and within a few weeks, found him resting on the bottom of his tank.

marine animal rescue

National Aquarium team members joined in South Carolina to say farewell and good luck to Olympian. Photo Courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium

Olympian has been outfitted with a satellite transmitter that allows the Aquarium team to track the location and speed following the release. These tags help researchers learn more about sea turtle migration and travel patterns.

The public is invited to keep an eye on Olympian’s journey at:

green sea turtle

Olympian, the green sea turtle, is outfitted with a satellite transmitter & the public is invited to keep an eye on Olympian’s journey! Photo courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium


Merigo, a 9-pound juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, was brought to the South Carolina Sea Turtle Rescue Program in January with a large group of Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead sea turtles found cold-stunned off the coast of Massachusetts. Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles but become hypothermic when exposed to cold water temperatures for extended periods of time. Kemp’s are the most endangered and the smallest of all sea turtle species, making them particularly vulnerable to severe changes in water temperature. Merigo is the last of the original January rescue turtles group to be released.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle

Merigo, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, prepped and ready to be released.
Photo courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle

Merigo getting ready to jump in!
Photo courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium

Charlie, a 150-pound loggerhead sea turtle, was found by the Department of Natural Resource’s research vessel, the Lady Lisa, in June. Charlie had a stingray barb in his front flipper and a puncture wound in his neck. South Carolina’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program provided antibiotics as well as wound treatment and he has now fully recovered from his injuries.

loggerhead rescue turtle

Being a much larger turtle, it took a few people to lift Charlie! Photo courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium

loggerhead sea turtle

Charlie, a loggerhead sea turtle, ready to jump in the warm waters!
Photo courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium

Prior to release, all three turtles had been very active in their rehab tanks, with healthy appetites and desire for enrichment activities.

About MARP

Every year, thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, seals and manatees become sick or injured, often due to human-related reasons. National Aquarium is part of the Northeast Stranding Network, and is responsible for responding to live sea turtle and marine mammal strandings along the nearly 7,000 miles of coastline in Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts.

Since 1991, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) has responded to more than 480 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released nearly 100 marine animals back to their natural environment. Many of these animals are endangered or threatened, so every individual introduced back into the natural environment has the opportunity to add to the genetic diversity of the species.

Research, satellite tracking and outreach education are also significant components of MARP. Every animal that is rehabilitated and released is an opportunity to raise awareness and get the public involved in helping to conserve and protect our marine resources.

YOU can help protect marine animals too! Here are some quick tips:

  • Be responsible with your litter: recycle and dispose of trash properly, including fishing line, cigarette butts, six-pack rings, plastic debris, and metal cans.
  • Never release balloons. Balloons can fall into bodies of water, where animals confuse them for food or become entangled in them.
  • If you come across a stranded marine animal in Maryland that may be in need of medical attention, please call the National Aquarium’s Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083, or the Maryland Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.
  • Donate to MARP! Every dollar counts!
  • Visit to find out even more ways that you can help!

MARP Turtles Update: Halloween Enrichment

October has brought a frightful amount of excitement from our staff.

Enrichment, a crucial part of our Marine Animal Rescue Program’s (MARP) rehabilitation of sea turtles, is designed to further engage the animals’ natural behaviors of investigation, foraging and exercise!

Our staff took this opportunity to encourage some Halloween-inspired investigation with our two sea turtle patients. We added spooky window decals to the turtle pools and observed their behavior.

London, our Kemp’s ridley, was initially very curious about the new Jack-O-Lantern and frightening ghost placed on his window, but quickly turned his attention back to his delicious diet of soft-shell crab and shrimp.

Olympian investigated his ghostly crew for more than 20 minutes (with the occasional attempt to bite at them).

In addition to this spook-tacular enrichment update, stay tuned for some additional exciting details about Olympian in the next couple of weeks!

MARP Turtles Update

Greetings from the sea turtle rehab area!

Our veterinary and husbandry staff have been working hard to make sure our two turtle residents, London and Olympian, are receiving the best care during their stay here at National Aquarium. When we first introduced you all to London, a Kemp’s ridley, and Olympian, a green sea turtle, they had just arrived to our care center and we had just identified their injuries.  These two turtles have come quite a long way since their arrival from New Jersey!

London has been receiving daily wound treatments and antibiotics.  His wounds, although healing at a slow pace, are healing properly.  We’ve also seen an increase in his diet –  he is now eating 75 grams of food per day, including shrimp, squid and soft-shell crab.  London spends a good bit of time “hiding” in his pool, but don’t worry, this is a natural behavior. Our team has given him large half-moon cuts of thick PVC so that he can find shelter.  When he is not swimming and diving, that is where you can find him.

London has been taking it easy since he arrived

Olympian, who came to us with buoyancy problems, was found to have hyper-inflated lungs which could have attributed to the difficulty diving.  However, upon arrival one morning to feed the turtles, our staff found Olympian resting on the bottom of the pool! He had no problems diving to the bottom for food throughout the rest of the day and his diving continues to improve daily! Olympian is almost never found resting now that he knows he can dive again.

Olympian is starting to explore his surroundings more now that buoyancy is no longer an issue

Olympian’s appetite is keeping us on our toes! He’s currently consuming 117 grams of food per day, including lettuce, brussels sprouts, green peppers, shrimp, squid and soft-shell crab.

Olympian has us on our toes now that he can freely dive and swim about!

We’re happy to report that these turtles continue to improve every day. Look out for more updates from our team soon right here on our WATERblog!

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