Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Sea Turtle Trek success!

As most of us slept soundly last night, nine Aquarium rescue team staff and volunteers were driving three vehicles all night down the length of the East Coast with a precious cargo: 31 rescued and endangered sea turtles. 

Rescuers and volunteers pulled an all-nighter to bring the turtles to the warm Florida waters.

Today at 10:30 a.m., they were released into the warm Florida surf!

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle moments before its release

We're sharing some amazing images shot by an Austrian freelance photographer named Ether Horvath, who traveled with them. Stay tuned to the Rescue Blog for more on this epic Spring Break road trip—with a truly noble cause.

And they're off!
Happy Earth Day and safe travels, turtles!

One last look at a loggerhead before it heads out to sea

Learn about the start of these turtles' journey back at the Animal Care Center.

An Earth Day Conversation

Against the backdrop of Boston Harbor, one generation of prominent environmental leaders with Massachusetts roots had a conversation with the emerging generation of ocean stewards about their Earth Day inspirations today.

Teens present about effects of ocean acidification and climate change

Teens hauled up a lobster trap out of the harbor to illustrate the effect of warming waters on the declining range of lobsters in New England and the effects of ocean acidification on all marine animals with shells. Long glass tubes filled with sea jellies were displayed to show how they are the only group of marine animals that thrive as ocean waters become warmer, more polluted and more oxygen deprived. Lastly, another teen group spoke about the effects of sea level rise in Boston Harbor.

Visiting dignitaries listen to teen presentations and ask questions, including
Dept. of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, who is also an MIT professor (standing), 
EPA Chief Gina McCarthy (seated in green) and Sen. Ed Markey (seated to her left).

The officials also shared what originally motivated them to pursue environmental and leadership careers and discussed their own hopes and concerns for the future.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh addresses teens and shares what inspired him to care about our blue planet

This was a special opportunity for teens from the Aquarium’s three youth programs to engage with environmental leaders, and for the leaders to share their background and hopes for the future. Many of the teens are involved with an Aquarium group called ClimaTeens, which is a new highly selective and diverse group of teens that have been training since last fall to better engage other youth in discussion and action around climate change.

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy talks with Aquarium teens

Aquarium president and CEO Bud Ris served as moderator and also shared
some of his vast knowledge about climate change.
To cap off this special event, the Environmental Protection Agency's leader Gina McCarthy presented Aquarium President and CEO the EPA's Environmental Merit Award because of his long history of tackling important environmental issues, including climate change, sustainable seafood, endangered species protection and marine protection areas. For example, as head of the New England Aquarium, he has spearheaded nationwide collaboration of aquariums and zoos to educate millions of visitors about climate change, its impact on the oceans and what we can do about it.   

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy presents Aquarium President Bud Ris the EPA's Environmental Merit Award! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good luck to the Aquarium marathon team!

Tomorrow, runners with the New England Aquarium marathon team will motor out to Hopkinton and run all the way to Boston. The marathon is a physical feat that's to be respected. But these Boston marathoners are going above and beyond the exhaustion. They're helping to reach, engage and inspire future ocean protecters. That's because they've been fundraising in support of our education outreach programs at schools and community centers in addition to logging hundreds of training miles around Boston—and around the world.

Here we go! Marathon Monday is days away | Photo: BAA Facebook

The efforts of these runners and the significance of the Boston Marathon has not gone unnoticed by the media. We've collected just a few of the news stories about our local runners below. Recognize anyone? Is your hometown represented? Take a click around so you'll get to know who you're cheering for on Monday!

Meg Rabinowitz, the Somerville Patch, Massachusetts

Sean Marden, the Lowell Sun and Boston.com, Massachusetts

Sarah-Anne Johnson, Taunton Gazeztte and Danvers Patch, Massachusetts

Mark Goodwin, Boston Business Journal and Wilmington Town Crier, Massachusetts

Alex Shopov, the Lynn Daily Item and Swampscott Patch, Massachusetts

Amanda Stonely, Plymouth Patch, Massachusetts

Chris Bauernfeind, Jamaica Plain Patch, Massachusetts

This is less than a third of the runners on our New England Aquarium marathon team. Meet the whole team, and considering sponsoring a runner or the team as a whole.

2014 New England Aquarium marathon team shirts—give a cheer for these folks on Monday!

Good luck New England Aquarium Marathon Team!

High five! Way to go team—we'll be cheering you all along the way.

Look back at the training season with the Aquarium runners:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Volunteer Profile | Liz Burmester

The Aquarium recently celebrated National Volunteer Week. In 2013, our 938 adult Aquarium volunteers and interns donated over 100,000 hours towards our mission of protecting the blue planet. In posts all week, we're highlighting some ways that people donated their time to the Aquarium. Today's post profiles volunteer Liz Burmester.

Coral reefs are one of the world’s most fragile and important ecosystems. However, worldwide, coral reefs are declining at a precipitous rate due to a host of local causes (such as overfishing and pollution) and global impacts (like climate change and ocean acidification).

As a graduate student at Boston University, I work with professors at BU (Drs. John Finnerty and Les Kaufman) and Dr. Randi Rotjan at the New England Aquarium to address questions about the health of corals and their ability to recover from stressors in our changing world.

When most people think about corals, they think of sunny locales and warm tropical breezes. However, many aren’t aware that there are corals in our own local (and temperate) coastal environment! It is this special species—the Northern Star coral—that is the center of my research, and the research of the Rotjan Coral Lab.

The Northern Star coral, or Astrangia poculata, seen here with polyps extended, is a unique cold water coral that occurs in Woods Hole, MA, with (brown) and without (white) symbiotic algae.
Courtesy: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

The Northern Star coral (Astrangia poculata) is an interesting study organism in a number of ways. First, it has an incredible geographic range, extending from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Cape Cod (making it one of the most northern species of coral on earth!).  Second, and most importantly for my work, it has a unique relationship with a species of symbiotic algae that lives inside of its tissue.

In most corals, the relationship between the coral host and their algal symbionts (Symbiodinium sp.) is fragile and obligate, and corals obtain up to 95% of their energy from these algae. Under stressful conditions, these algae can be expelled from their hosts, causing the coral to appear white because you can see the white skeleton under the clear tissue (coral bleaching). This can be fatal to the coral if it is unable to take in new algal symbionts. However, the Northern Star coral has a facultative relationship with its symbiont, so it can live in stable conditions both with this algae (appearing brown) or without this algae (appearing white).  This special relationship gives us the opportunity to study the coral in healthy or stressful conditions (for example, where temperature is higher or lower than normal) and observe how corals can handle these stresses both with and without these important algal symbionts.

The Rotjan Coral lab | from left to right: TOP: Nick, Liz, Randi, Aaron, Tasia 
BOTTOM: Julio, Katrina, Lukas

Interns and volunteers in the Rotjan lab assist with and take on their own projects and experiments to help explore the biology of this fascinating coral. In the end, hopefully what we learn from the Northern Star coral can be applied to aid conservation efforts in the tropics and across the globe.

Volunteer Week 2014 | Service Leader Class

The Aquarium is celebrating National Volunteer Week. In 2013, our 938 adult Aquarium volunteers and interns donated over 100,000 hours towards our mission of protecting the blue planet. In posts all week, we're highlighting some ways that people donated their time to the Aquarium. Today's post is about live blue™ Service Corps leaders. 

The Office of Volunteer Programs and Internships is excited to announce the 2014 Service Leader class! These dedicated individuals will spend the next year and a half learning to design, implement and lead volunteers during field service projects throughout the Greater Boston area on behalf of the New England Aquarium’s live blue ™ Service Corps.

live blue™ Service Leader Sharon Lowe

This year’s service leaders come from a diverse range of backgrounds and history of involvement with the Aquarium. Each one of these leaders has demonstrated a commitment to service, leadership, and protecting the blue planet. The live blue™ Service Leaders will focus on bringing the Aquarium’s mission to the community and a whole new group of volunteers. In preparation for this role, Service Leaders will attend an 8-part workshop series and attend service events with the goal of developing their own service projects and leading volunteers in the field. The 2014 Service Leaders range from full time staff members to individuals who have never before volunteered with the Aquarium! We’re happy to have them on board and can’t wait to get started.

We asked Casey Galante to tell us why she is excited about taking on her new role, and this is what she had to say:
Casey Galante
My name is Casey Galante and I am a new member to the aquarium family, serving in a new position known as a live blue™ Service Leader.  I've lived in Boston for six years now, first as an architecture major at Wentworth Institute of Technology, and now as a full-time professional. Coming from New York, I didn't have the opportunity to explore the Aquarium on school trips like many of my college classmates had. After finally visiting the Aquarium my sophomore year, I realized how important it was to Boston and to the visitors that waited in line to see all the magnificent inhabitants that call the Aquarium home. Once I graduated from college last May, I decided to seek out information on becoming a volunteer. So many opportunities flooded into my email, but I found that the time constraints from working a full-time job made it difficult to be able to commit. I still wanted to get involved, but it wasn't until I received an email about a new initiative called live blue™ Service Corps, did I get excited about a possible position that seemed perfect for me. 
We are extremely lucky to have a resource like the Aquarium right in Boston. It is hard to comprehend how much our local Aquarium is involved in with projects all over the world. I'm excited to begin my adventure with the Aquarium and my new responsibilities as a live blue™ Service Leader. I believe that it is up to us as volunteers and community members to serve as ambassadors for the ocean and take responsibility for our personal imprint upon the environment. I hope that as a service leader I can reach out to people within the large 18–25 age group in and around Boston, involved and interested in the mission of the Aquarium and like-minded organizations. I look forward to learning new things, expanding on my experiences as a leader, meeting as many new people as possible, and inspiring others to make a difference. As a Service Leader I plan to coordinate service opportunities that are fun and exciting and allow volunteers to get a different view on how they can help. I hope to see you all at a future volunteer event!  Please don't hesitate to contact myself or the Aquarium for information or future volunteer opportunities.  

Here is a quick introduction to each of the 14 2014 Service Leaders:

Deanna Celi
Volunteer Programs and Internships Intern, Dive In Episodic Volunteer
Started June 4, 2013
Hours: 259
Deanna is a former intern in the Office of Volunteer Programs and Internships. Her commitment to and passion for service is longstanding and includes spending two of her college breaks volunteering in New Orleans and even led one of the projects in 2013. Currently, she serves as a Foundations Associate at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge.
Laura Donovan

Laura Donovan
Aquarium Guide Volunteer
Started October 10, 2012
Hours: 218
Laura is a current Visitor Education volunteer on Saturdays and works as an attorney for a local law firm during the week.  She grew up in Massachusetts and attended Boston College where she was an active member of Ecopledge, a student organization designed to increase environmental awareness in the student body and administration.

Ken Furuyama

Ken Furuyama
Aquarium Guide Volunteer
Started February 1, 2006
Hours: 1,198
You can see Ken at the Aquarium on Mondays during his shifts on the floor as a Visitor Education volunteer.  Ken works at Trader Joe’s, is a vegan chef and loves to fish.  His commitment to service and volunteerism is something you see the moment you meet him!

Casey Galante
live blue™ Service Leader
Started April 2014
Casey is new to the Aquarium but has a long history of volunteerism and service ranging from volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to leading orientations as a student at Wentworth Institute of Technology. You read about Casey and why she became a service leader above!

Erinn Hasselgren
Rescue and Rehabilitation Volunteer
Started May 4, 2014
Hours: 359
Erinn volunteers on Saturdays in Quincy as part of the Rescue and Rehabilitation team.  Though she is currently based on land as an Individual Giving Assistant at Harvard School of Public Health, she has spent time at sea as an at sea monitor and lead biologist on fishing vessels for National Marine Fisheries Service.

Noel Keady, 
Visitor Experience

Noel Keady
Current Visitor Experience staff member and
Former Marine Mammal volunteer
Started August 18, 2011
Hours: 567
Current Visitor Experience staff member
Noel works at the Aquarium as a Visitor Assistant/Educator and is a former Marine Mammal volunteer. During his time at Emerson College Noel volunteered as an orientation leader and served on the board of the SPEC student screenwriting organization. He has a degree in media production and is an ice breaker extraordinaire!

John Killeen
Aquarium Guide Volunteer
Started December 21, 2013
Hours: 148
John joined the Aquarium in January 2014 as a Visitor Education January term intern.  A current student at Endicott pursuing a degree in environmental science, John has volunteered as a Weymouth Youth Soccer Coach and ran a soccer drive to send soccer equipment to Haiti after the earthquake.
Anna dressed for
Fish, Fun and Fright—the
member Halloween party

Anna Krowczynska
Giant Ocean Tank Diver Volunteer
Started December 17, 2005
Hours: 2,031
Anna spends her Saturdays with Myrtle in the Giant Ocean Tank and in addition to being the Secretary for the New England Aquarium Dive Club.  Originally from Poland, Anna received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and currently works as an application scientist.  She has a passion for beach cleanups, especially ones that happen both in and out of water!

Tony LaCasse, the Aquarium's
Director of Media Relations
Tony LaCasse
Media Relations Director and
Spokesperson for the New England Aquarium
Started 2001
Tony has been in charge of the Aquarium's media relations since 2001. He has developed stories about the Aquarium that have been picked up by thousands of worldwide media outlets and has ensured that the work done at the Aquarium has a regional, national and global impact. In addition, Tony has been the Program Director for Thompson Island Outward Bound and a firefighter for the US Forest Service!

Sharon Lowe
Aquarium Guide volunteer, Episodic Fabrication Volunteer, Episodic Volunteer
Started September 1, 2011
Hours: 647
Sharon is a Monday Visitor Education volunteer, a Boston Cares Volunteer Leader, and holds board positions at a number of different nonprofits.  She’s interested in develop projects targeted towards cleaning the waterways that feed into the Charles River.

Kate McClure
live blue™ Service Leader
Kate is new to the Aquarium family but is no stranger to the Boston area.  She is currently pursuing her PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology with Northeastern University.  In addition to her studies, Kate has volunteered as a science tutor with Girls Incorporated of Lynn, a Teaching Laboratory Volunteer with the Museum of Science, and a Bottom Trawl Survey Volunteer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Survey Branch in Woods Hole, MA.

Paula Meyer
Penguin Colony Volunteers
Started June 28, 2013
Hours: 264
Paula spends her Saturdays in 50-degree water as a Penguin Colony volunteer. When she isn’t feeding the penguins, Paula is an Access Services Specialist with The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston. In addition to being a certified EMT, Paula has volunteered with organizations such as Pets on Wheels, the New England Wildlife Center and the MSPCA.

Donna Paterson
Penguin Colony Volunteer, Rescue & Rehab Volunteer, Field Volunteer, Episodic Marine Mammal Observation Volunteer
Started December 21, 2002
Hours: 2,247
Donna has spent time in a number of volunteer positions during her time at the Aquarium but was most recently a volunteer in the Penguin Colony. She is currently an office administrator but her passion lies with service. Most notably, Donna is a ski instructor/guide for visually impaired adults!

Meaghan Sorce

Meaghan Sorce
Marine Mammal Volunteer
Started November 11, 2013
Hours: 175

Meaghan volunteers with the fur seals, sea lions and harbor seals on Saturdays. In addition to volunteering, Meaghan works as a Dog Playgroup Attendant and Assistant Manager at a dog daycare in addition to attending the Harvard Extension School pursuing a Masters degree in Ecosystems and Sustainability.