Monday, November 21, 2011

Party with the Penguins!

Looking to host a holiday party your guests will never forget? Book a private holiday event at the at the New England Aquarium and give them the opportunity to dine privately among penguins, sharks and sea turtles. Our event management team will assist you every step of the way--from finding the ideal space for your event to creating the perfect menu.

Sip cocktails and party with our African penguins. Feast on a delicious selection of catered food while gazing at predators of the deep, or let your guests celebrate the season by touching sharks and rays in our newest exhibit! Come experience the only event space in Boston where you can dine alongside schools of tropical fishes.

Hosting your event at the Aquarium makes your day special in more ways than one, too. You will be supporting our animals, exhibits and our efforts to protect the blue planet. The Aquarium is a certified member of the Green Restaurant Association and is committed to furthering good environmental practices in our food services operations.

For more information about hosting an event with us, contact the Special Events Department at 617-973-5205, by email or by completing our online event inquiry form.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ocean Soul Lecture with Brian Skerry at the New England Aquarium

Brian Skerry shared images and stories from his new book, Ocean Soul at the New England Aquarium on Thursday, November 17. That lecture was live webcast here. Video from the event will be posted here soon.

About Ocean Soul
The book is a love story. It is a story of discovery. It is a story of hope. The story begins when a boy who loves the sea attends an event with underwater photographers and has an epiphany: “I had always wanted to explore the oceans, but I now understood how I would do this. I would do it with a camera.”

 The cover of Brian Skerry's new book, Ocean Soul.

With sheer determination, hard work and a little bit of luck, Brian Skerry realized his dream. A major focus of Brian’s work in recent years has been to produce stories that both celebrate the sea and raise awareness about its problems. Now, with Ocean Soul, he showcases his stunning photography and describes his adventurous life in a gripping portrait of the ocean as a place of beauty and mystery, a place in trouble and, ultimately, a place of hope that will rebound with the proper attention and care.

 Soft corals called sea pens and a blue cod appear in shallow waters in Long Sound Reserve,
New Zealand, in a photo from Brian Skerry's new book, Ocean Soul.

Read more of Brian's expeditions, and see some of his amazing images of sharks, penguins, corals and more in these posts from the Aquarium's Global Explorers Blog.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giant endangered sea turtle dies of entanglement wounds

Marine Animal Rescue Team biologists examine a stranded leatherback turtle on a Cape Cod beach.

DENNIS AND QUINCY, MA—A 400-pound, endangered leatherback sea turtle died of complications from severe entanglement wounds at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy Sunday. It had been rescued from Crow’s Pasture Beach in Dennis late Saturday afternoon. The sub-adult female was found on  Cape Cod beach minimally responsive. The sea turtle had severe, deep, rotting wounds at the base of each of its front flippers. These are the type of injuries commonly found when sea turtles get one of their large, paddle-like flippers caught around a vertical line in the water.  Such ropes are most commonly from boat mooring lines or fixed fishing gear like lobster pots. This turtle had either freed itself or was cut out of the entanglement by a person. Unfortunately, such entanglements happen every year in the waters around Cape Cod, which abuts a major seasonal migratory route for these black, soft-shelled giants.

The New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team responded mid-afternoon on Saturday. They were greeted by Dennis Murley of the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay. Mass Audubon provides first responder services for  stranded sea turtles on the Cape. Aquarium rescue biologists and veterinarians found the animal still alive but barely breathing on its own. The animal was thin, not reactive to people and had terrible, large flipper wounds that had dying tissue on them and were probably at least a couple of weeks old. Aquarium staff administered emergency medications and fluids. With the aid of volunteers, the town of Dennis’s natural resources and animal control staff, and biologists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the 400-pound turtle was carried through the loose sand by 14 people to the Aquarium’s emergency vehicle.

The leatherback is examined at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy.

It was then transported to the Aquarium’s new off-site holding and treatment facility in the Quincy Shipyard. Aquarium staff continued intensive treatment, and chief veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis and senior biologist Kerry McNally attended to the leatherback overnight.

Rescue team members give the leatherback turtle hydrotherapy.

In the early morning, the animal’s already poor vital signs deteriorated, and she passed away relatively quickly.  A necropsy later on Sunday revealed abnormality in her organs. Whether this was a result of the infections in her severe wounds was not known. Tissue samples were taken for further pathology testing.

Leatherback sea turtles are the world’s largest turtle and the largest reptile by weight. This animal at 400 pounds was not yet reproductively active. Adult leatherbacks in Massachusetts waters commonly weigh 600 to 1,000 pounds. They are seasonal visitors here arriving during the summer and early autumn to feed exclusively on sea jellies. They commonly migrate up the East Coast in late June and pass between southern Cape Cod and the Islands. The autumn migration normally begins later in September, although turtles that had traveled deep into Gulf of Maine waters do pass by southward later in the autumn.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eight arms and a lot of smarts

A former Aquarium octopus named Athena is the subject of a new, fascinating and lengthy article in Orion, an international nature magazine. On a cold day last winter, Athena absolutely enthralled Sy Montgomery, a former Boston Globe columnist and prominent nature writer, with a very interactive visit. Aquarist Scott Dowd was filling in for Bill Murphy. The article is a very firsthand look at the remarkable intelligence of these short-lived creatures.

But your octopus-apalooza doesn't have to end there! On November 15 at 7 p.m., Scott will participate in an Orion-sponsored online discussion about the article and octopus intelligence. Be sure to click through and listen for some more information about our clever giant Pacific octopus.

And don't forget to check out this classic blog post about an octopus in a box!

Dancing for Climate Change

UPDATE: The group of singers and dancers from Kiribati came to the Aquarium during their visit to the Boston area. What they had to say stopped the penguins in their tracks. 

"Seeing the penguins swim to the rocks to watch and listen to the singers was one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen--certainly at the Aquarium," says one onlooker. 

Continue reading below to see what brought this special group of artists to New England. 

As one of the leading forces behind the creation of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in partnership with Kiribati, the New England Aquarium has long recognized the tiny atoll nations of the Pacific as bellwethers for global climate change. The remote and far-flung islands of countries like Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvalu are on the front lines of climate change, experiencing such climate change symptoms as coral bleaching events and rising ocean levels. The people who live on these vulnerable atolls also risk becoming the first cultures on Earth to be submerged by rising sea levels.


For hundreds of years, the islands’ history, spiritual teachings and social values were danced and sung rather than written. Now, as their fragile way of life is threatened, the 36 dancers and musicians of Water is Rising create an elegant, sensual and exuberant performance that expresses their deep connections to nature and the legacy of their traditions as well as their feelings about global climate change. Their shared spirit and intense energy represent the joyful vitality of their collective ethos.


Water is Rising performed on Saturday, November 19, at 8 p.m. at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. The performance was a wild success and the singers and dancers from Water is Rising later found time to visit the Aquarium during their stay in the Boston area. During their tour they serenaded the penguins, that were unusually quiet during this impromptu performance. Here's a taste of that beautiful moment right here at the Aquarium.

Ecolabeling for better seafood

While many readers may be familiar with the Marine Stewardship Council seafood ecolabeling program, they may not be aware that there are nearly two dozen such certification programs for seafood worldwide. Are all those programs necessary?

A school of bluefin tuna. Photo: Brian Skerry

The Aquarium's Dr. Michael Tlusty asked the important question of whether improvement in the environmental impact of seafood production is best achieved by adhering to a single one of these programs or multiple certification programs. He recently published his theory in the journal Fish and Fisheries, explaining how multiple certifications can significantly reduce the seafood industries’ negative environmental impacts. That's compared to if only a single certification is followed. The use of multiple standards provides shorter, more reachable steps toward a high-level standard, and also allows a greater proportion of the industry to make improvements, thus increasing overall sustainability.

In our ongoing work on improving the quality and quantity of seafood, Dr Tlusty has also figured out how to increase aquaculture production by 60 percent without adding more farms. His work, published in the open access journal Sustainability, found that instead of growing a species such as rainbow trout to a large 2-pound size, if farmers grew their fish smaller, they would more than double the total biomass of fish produced. Growing smaller fish would also help solve another environmental problem of aquaculture – it would reduce the amount of fish meal (from wild species harvested just for this purpose) needed to make the aquaculture feed. Smaller animals grow more efficiently than larger ones, and thus need less feed. This research was highlighted at the most recent Celebrate Seafood Dinner Series, where we featured small trout (smoked, served with a jerk sauce over jicama salad... mmmm!).

The Aquarium is putting Dr. Tlusty's theories into action by helping many of the leading certification programs to make sure their programs are rigorous in requiring environmental improvements. Our conservation experts also offer Sustainable Seafood Advisory Services to some of the world's largest seafood retailers and suppliers. Learn about some seafood options for your own table that the Aquarium considers to be ocean-friendly, or consider joining us for a Celebrate Seafood Dinner to discover some tasty and elegant ways to enjoy sustainably caught seafood.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Hypothermic Turtle of the Season

QUINCY, Mass. In the middle of Sunday’s historic October N’oreaster, a beach walker on Martha’s Vineyard found a cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle species in the world. The 5-pound juvenile, with a black and green shell and a serrated edge, was found just before noon near a tidal pond in Edgartown.

The turtle had an in-take temperature of 52.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The turtle was taken off island immediately and brought to the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay, which late each autumn acts as the frontline center for gathering hypothermic sea turtles from around Cape Cod and the islands. This annual event occurs each November and lasts through December. Last year more than 120 endangered and threatened sea turtles were brought to the New England Aquarium’s new Marine Animal Care Center in Quincy.

Despite the exceptional stormy weather, this turtle was right on time. Aquarium staff often comment that you can set your ancient timepiece within a couple days of November 1 with the arrival of the first cold stunned turtles. This little guy officially stranded October 30 and was brought to the Aquarium’s off-site, state of the art rescue facility on Halloween, October 31. The turtle had an intake temperature of 52.5 degrees Fahrenheit – a true zombie-like state! Sea turtles are reptiles, which makes them cold-blooded and tough. Unlike warm-blooded animals, they do not need to maintain a constant body temperature. Cold-blooded animals will assume the environmental temperature around them, or in this case the ocean temperature. The water off the Vineyard likely took a significant rapid downturn with the storm turning the water over quickly and cooling it.

Volunteer Carrie Thistle is supervising the Kemp’s ridley during a short swim in a baby pool swim that acts as progressive physical therapy. 

This turtle should have begun migrating south in September, but something kept it from doing so. Most often, young cold-stunned sea turtles cannot figure the difficult navigation to get out of Cape Cod Bay, which is bounded on three sides by land. But this turtle was found on the Vineyard, which is on the swim route south. In their initial physical work-up, Aquarium veterinarians and biologists found that the turtle might have had some underlying medical issues. It was moderately thin and had lameness in its right front flipper from an apparent old orthopedic injury in the elbow there.

The turtle will be slowly re-warmed a few degrees each day until its body temperature is in the low 70s. Beyond life-threatening hypothermia, nearly all of the sea turtles that come in also suffer from dehydration, malnutrition and metabolic problems. About half of these cold-stunned creatures will also have pneumonia. Orthopedic problems and infections are also common. Rehab will take anywhere from a few to 10 months. Once a turtle is healthy, it will be transported for release. In late winter, the warm water is in Florida or Georgia. In August, the release site can be in the waters south of Massachusetts.

Over the last 20 years, the New England Aquarium has rehabilitated and released over 800 Kemp’s ridleys. There are only a few tens of thousands of this species alive today. The Aquarium funds the great bulk of this significant expense through its own monies and private donations.

The prognosis for this animal is guarded but optimistic. Once Aquarium staff are confident in its recovery, they will give it a name. Each year, rescue biologists choose a theme from which to choose names. In the recent past, constellations and national parks have been among the themes. This year, it is superheroes and villains.

Follow the rescue effort all month on the Aquarium's Rescue Blog.

See skates in Providence!

See hockey skates, goals, pucks and players thanks to a special deal from our friends at the Providence Bruins! For a limited time, fans in the Aquarium community can buy one ticket and get one ticket free.

This special offer is valid for lower level seats at regular season home games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Order tickets online or call 401-273-5000. Choose from their many giveaway nights, including T-shirt nights, rally towel nights, poster nights and more.

As valued members of our Aquarium community, we want you to enjoy a fun night out with your family, friends or co-workers. Order as often and as many games as you would like. Go P-Bruins!

NOTE: This offer is not valid at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Box Office. Not valid for tickets already purchased.