Posts Tagged 'virginia aquarium'

How Satellite Tagging Is Teaching Us About Sea Turtle Migration

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Aquarium and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center recently partnered to release four juvenile loggerhead sea turtles named Findlay, Rooney, Portsmouth, and Grenada at Sandbridge, Virginia on October 20, 2013. The animals were all treated for a range of injuries and illnesses and were in rehabilitation for varying amounts of time. While all four animals have unique rescue and rehabilitation stories, three of the four now have one significant factor in common – they are all taking part in a significant piece of research!

The U.S. Navy is supporting the conduction of research that will provide valuable insights into sea turtle habitat use of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia waters. The project funds the deployment of acoustic transmitters and satellite tracking tags on rehabilitated and released sea turtles with the goal of learning more about residency times, migration intervals, and foraging areas within the Bay and its surrounding waters.

Acoustic transmitter tags work by emitting a sound signal or ‘ping’ that can be detected by networks of underwater receivers, commonly referred to as arrays. These acoustic monitoring arrays are installed in many coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and have been valuable for understanding migration patterns and habitat use for many fish species, including endangered species of sturgeon!

Each tag transmits a specific coded signal that is used to identify the individual as it moves from one location to another. As the turtle moves around areas where receiving arrays are present, the arrays detect the pings from the tag and record the information, which is later downloaded by researchers for analysis.

Findlay, Rooney, and Portsmouth were also equipped with data logging satellite telemetry tags produced by Wildlife Computers and the Sea Mammal Research Unit.  These tags can record the behaviors such as dive depth and duration and transmit that data back to researchers via satellites.  In addition to the recorded data, each transmission also includes the GPS coordinates of the individual so that their movements can be tracked over long ranges.

national aquarium animal rescue, portsmouth release

As seen here, both tags were secured onto Portsmouth’s carapace before his release!

The goal of this project is to leverage the Navy’s existing underwater passive acoustic receiver array initially established to track sturgeon and the expertise of Virginia Aquarium researchers to tag sea turtles to gain insights into how sea turtles forage and migrate. From the underwater acoustic tags, we hope to learn about residency time and migration intervals by being able to tag more turtles at less cost. Analysis of data will be performed jointly between both the Navy and Virginia Aquarium.

Check out Rooney and Portsmouth’s rehabilitation pages on our website for more information and to track their progress!

Funding for the tagging work is provided by U.S. Fleet Forces Command and technical project management and collaboration on data analysis is being provided by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.

Here’s how YOU can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our sea turtle rehabilitation efforts!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Animal Rescue Update: Rooney and Portsmouth Released!

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As you may have recently read, our Animal Rescue team was set to release our last two turtles in rehabilitation, loggerheads Rooney and Portsmouth!

Yesterday, we packed up the trusty truck with supplies and our two sea turtles, and headed to the warmer southern shore waters of Virginia Beach. Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding team was set to release two loggerhead sea turtles of their own, so we asked if they wouldn’t mind our team joining them for a few days.

At 1pm, at Sandbridge, Virginia, the four loggerheads were met with a crowd of over 300 people who came to bid them well wishes and safe travels as they head back into their natural environment!

Each turtle was accompanied by a satellite tag and an acoustic tag for tracking purposes and research opportunities. Soon, you’ll be able to follow their travels on our website as we track their adventure and navigation through the open ocean!

Join me in wishing Rooney and Portsmouth the best of luck out there! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Animal Rescue Update: Two Loggerheads Admitted for Hook Injuries

Animal Rescue Update

Two loggerhead turtles were recently admitted into the care of the National Aquarium Animal Rescue after having been hooked by fishing gear.

Portsmouth and Niagra arrived from the Virginia Aquarium yesterday afternoon, and were met with full medical exams and a new pool. Both turtles were brought to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Center because they had been hooked by fishing gear on a local pier. The fisherman did the best thing for the turtles by calling their local rescue team, who gladly took in the turtles and stabilized them before calling us for a transfer. After quite a ride up to the National Aquarium, Portsmouth and Niagra were ready to go back into the water. They have started a round of antibiotics, which is routine, and will have radiographs taken later this week to check those areas where they were hooked.

Hook injuries like these are not uncommon . Season after season, you will hear marine animal rescue facilities along the coastlines talking about safe viewing of marine animals and helping stranded or injured marine animals in their local areas. As protected species, there are federal laws that protect these animals from human activities such as harassment, poaching, hunting, killing, feeding, and touching within our waterways; however, reporting suspicious incidents, entanglement cases, and sightings or strandings of these animals is not a crime against them…it is actually helping them!

With summer in full swing, and boaters constantly out on the waters, we would like to take this time to talk about sea turtle safety and how YOU can help save them! First, we understand that it is not always easy to spot sea turtles in the open water, as they will only surface for a breath of air. This means that a hint of their carapace (shell) and their head will appear out of the water for a few seconds. Sea turtles are not basking turtles, so you will not find them lounging on rocks or beaches to rest. Spring and summer are often the months where we see an increase in boat strike injuries because of these subtle sightings. Another increase that we see is hook ingestion and entanglement cases that involve fishing gear and marine debris. There are ways to help save these animals, most of which are simple and thoughtful for all marine life!

If you capture a sea turtle while fishing in local waters, immediately contact the appropriate response team and await further instruction. Locally, these teams can be reached at:

Maryland, National Aquarium: 410-373-0083
Delaware, MERR Institute: 302-228-5029
Virginia, Virginia Aquarium: 757-385-7575
NOAA Fisheries Hotline: 1-866-755-6622

While you wait for the response team to arrive, here are a few things to remember:

  • Keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth and flippers.
  • Use a net or the shell to lift the animal onto land/pier, or into a boat. Do NOT lift the animal via hook or pull on the line. If the turtle is too large, try to guide it to the beach.
  • When you have control of the animal, use blunt scissors/knife to cut the line, leaving at least 2 feet of line.
  • Leave the hook in place, as removing it could cause further damage. NEVER take the hook out on your own and release the animal. The response team wants to make sure that the turtle is safe before releasing it back into the wild.
  • Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight, and cover the shell with a damp towel.

The response team will communicate with you to retrieve the animal for treatment and an exam. We take every precaution to make sure that these animals go back into their natural environment with the best chance possible at survival, and we would like you to join us in this effort by simply educating yourself on the laws for their protection, visiting our website for further insight, and using safe boating practices!

Stay tuned for updates on Portsmouth and Niagra’s stay with the Animal Rescue team!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Thoughtful Thursdays: Collaborative Conservation Efforts In the Name of Sea Turtles!

Animal Rescue Update

Staff with the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) recently returned from a several-day road trip adventure named ‘Sea Turtle Trek’ to transport and release 52 endangered sea turtles off the Florida coast. National Aquarium joined staff from the New England Aquarium to transport the precious cargo from both of our facilities and several of our regional stranding partners, including University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, National Marine Life Center, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, Virginia Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium.

The turtles that were transported for release had stranded during the record-breaking 2012 cold-stun season and were treated at the rehabilitation facilities mentioned above.

The overall transport began around 5 am on Saturday, April 6th in Biddeford, Maine and finally arrived to the release beach just north of Jacksonville, Florida around 9:30 am on Sunday, April 7. During the transport, we stopped several times to meet our partners and pick up additional turtles.

By the last stop to meet the South Carolina Aquarium, the transport staff were challenged to make all of the transport boxes fit safely into the four Chevrolet Suburban’s – it was like a big game of Tetris at 5 am!

By the last stop to meet the South Carolina Aquarium, the transport staff were challenged to make all of the transport boxes fit safely into the four Chevrolet Suburban’s – it was like a big game of Tetris at 5 am!

The turtles rode in a climate controlled environment, and were monitored by biologists from both transporting facilities. Since turtles have all the same bodily functions as every other animal, the staff were relieved to stop for short breaks every few hours and catch some fresh air.

After arriving to the release location, the turtles were unloaded from the vehicles to adjust to the sunlight and warm Florida weather. Staff massaged the turtles’ muscles to combat possible muscle fatigue, and many of the turtles became quite active in their transport crates. Finally, the turtles were lined up on the beach by facility and released in groups.

SeaTurtleTrek release

It’s always interesting to see all the individual personalities of the turtles – some turtles take off for the water as quickly as possible and don’t look back, while others need a little more coaxing.

seaturtletrek team

Turtle releases are always a cause for celebration, and this one was no exception. Staff gathered for lots of photos with the turtles, and several group photos after the releases.

Staff then celebrated with a much needed lunch on the water near the release location, where there were lots of smiles and sharing of photos from the release. By 4pm we were back on the road again and headed north to our overnight location of Jekyll Island, GA. Our friends at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center were gracious enough to let us use their facility to accomplish our final task of the day –cleaning transport crates. The team came together to wash, disinfect, and dry 52 transport crates in just under 40 minutes. By the time the vehicles were packed up with clean crates, we were ready for showers, some dinner, and lots of sleep!

52 clean transport crates_PC NEAq

Photo via New England Aquarium

After breakfast the following morning, we took a short walk on Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island – the beach there is amazing, and a photographers dream. After the walk, we returned to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to meet with our colleagues, tour the facility, and listen to a lecture from Dr. Terry Norton. After visiting the gift shop and saying good-bye to the wonderful staff at Georgia Sea Turtle Center, it was time to travel north once again and head home.

Driftwood Beach

This collaborative transport and release event is a true testament as to how stranding and conservation organizations work together to accomplish a common goal. We collectively responded to a record cold-stun season by bringing staff, resources, and facilities together to save as many endangered sea turtles as possible. The staff commitment from all these facilities is never in question – whether it’s providing animal care on holidays, responding to stranding events at moment’s notice, or traveling the entire East coast to transport and release turtles – we’re in it together!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

#SeaTurtleTrek Update – Back to the Big Blue!

The #SeaTurtleTrek release was a great success! 

After leaving Baltimore last night and driving through the night, our team and staff from New England Aquarium made it to the beach in Florida with 52 endangered sea turtles.

Welcome to Florida

Upon their arrival in Jacksonville, health samples were taken from each turtle.

Soon, it was time for the big beach release! The turtles were released by group in the following order: South Carolina Aquarium, Virginia Aquarium, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, National Marine Life Center, University of New England, National Aquarium and finally, New England Aquarium!

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support over the last few days, they meant a lot to the whole trek team!


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