Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Video: Blog Highlight Reel

We've taken a nice long look at the beautiful and arresting still images of 2011. Now it's time to snuggle up and chose your favorite video clip from the past 12 months. We have tiny turtles behind the scenes and giant whales spouting in the wild. Let us know what you think!

Bob the green moray visits the vet.

The pioneering scientists with the Right Whale Research team demonstrate how to capture right whale blow for hormone studies.

The Aquarium helps raise tiny red-bellied cooters behind the scenes so they get a head start on growing up in the wild.

Check out the big guy Baranov getting in a good scratch.

Flowerhat jellies are quite beautiful, and quite the predators. Here's a glimpse at feeding time.

An aquarist was at the right place at the right time for this hermit crab hatching event.

Ever wonder how Myrtle celebrates holidays at the Aquarium? Divers in the Giant Ocean Tank give us a look at life on Central Wharf on Thanksgiving day.

There's always a lot happening here and sometimes a movie is the best way to give folks a taste of life at the Aquarium. How did we do? Do you have a favorite? Let us know with a comment below.

Happy New Year! Looking forward to lots more videos so be sure to keep tabs on the blogs in 2012!

Check out the best of still images from the blogs of 2011 here. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in Images: The Best of the Best

It's the time of year when we reflect on the adventures, lessons and special moments of the last twelve months. The New England Aquarium family has experienced all of the above. In no particular order, here are our picks for the top ten photos from 2011's blog posts.

Just click on the images to link to the original posts.

The right whale research team caught Porcia silhouetted against the sunset in the Bay of Fundy this summer.

Aquarium Senior Vice President of Ocean Exploration and Conservation Greg Stone illustrates the plague of plastics in our oceans in this photo from this year's Indonesia Expedition.

This is what the Aquarium's Rescue Team works for: The thrill and satisfaction of releasing healthy sea turtles back into the ocean!

Brian Skerry, the Aquarium's Explorer in Residence, used this photo of a lemon shark pup to illustrate the immeasurable importance of sharks.

Penguin biologist Paul Leonard traveled to South Africa to help study the health of wild African penguin breeding colonies.

Keith Ellenbogen contributed this photo of underwater fluorescence in Fiji to the Explorers Blog. 

The Exhibits Blog brought us behind to scenes to learn how sea jellies grow up at the Aquarium.

Aquarium educator Jo Blasi was volunteering in a seabird rescue facility in South Africa when this abandoned African penguin chick arrived for care.

Explorers Blog contributor Keith Ellenbogen caught this photo of a fisherman hooking a salmon in Alaska. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is an ocean-friendly seafood choice.

What is wrong with this picture? The Rescue Team points to this picture as a lesson in what NOT to do if you spot a seal resting on land. Here are other tips to keep in mind if you see see a seal on the beach.

So... which one is your favorite?! Did we miss any? We welcome your comments and suggestions below!

Check out the best videos from the blogs of 2011 here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ice Sculpture Sea Lions

Boston’s first ice sculpture of the holiday season made its debut on Monday at the Aquarium and will be up all week until First Night. Hopefully, this spectacular ice art will weather the slightly warmer temperatures to join the other New Year’s Eve ice sculptures across the city. Thousands of families have been welcomed by the sea lions as they head into the Aquarium to touch sharks and rays during December vacation week.

 Photo posted on tumblr by off-to-new-adventures

The sea lion sculptures get the crowd's attention on the Aquarium Plaza.

This year’s ice sculpture is of the Aquarium’s two new adorable sea lion pups, Zoe and Sierra. They both came to Boston this past summer from California after being rescued. The sea lion ice sculpture weighs several tons, is larger than life but is thankfully motionless.

Zoe and Sierra the California sea lions

In contrast, Zoe and Sierra are in constant motion and each eat 15 pounds of fish per day to fuel their 70 pound bodies. That is eating 20 percent of your body weight every day. You do the math for yourself to see how much food that is! See the ice sculpture on the Aquarium’s front plaza and meet the real girls on the Aquarium’s harbor-side in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

The sculptures were done by Don Chapelle, ice sculptor extraordinaire, who has been one of the principal First Night ice sculptors for many years. Here's a post about his work at the Aquarium from last year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Roast Beef goes shopping

Did you see Roast Beef at the Prudential shops this week?!

The sociable African penguin from the New England Aquarium hit the town to herald the arrival of the newest 3D flick at the Aquarium's IMAX Theatre—Happy Feet 2!

The Academy Award®-winning penguins of Happy Feet have returned with a new film that delights all ages with dancing penguins and a gaggle of new animals. Come by the Simons IMAX Theatre this weekend to follow the fuzzy youngster Erik, who is reluctant to dance like his talented tapping dad. The penguin chick journeys through magnificent frozen landscapes of Antarctica along with some curious sidekicks.

Here's a peek at the film:

Click here for tickets and show times!

Roast is an old hand at visiting the sights in Boston. He was the star of the Penguin Pursuit contest during the summer of 2010. When he's nestled into his climate controlled cart, he's quite happy to watch the world go by. You might even catch him tossing around his enrichment toys. If you missed him at the Prudential, come by the Aquarium to see him and more than 80 of his closest feathered friends!

Curious shoppers, camera phones in hand, paused to visit with Roast Beef and his handlers at the Prudential this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Educator Ocean Stewardship Award Winners

An Ocean Steward is passionate about the ocean and works to promote an ethic of ocean conservation in their classroom and school. These educators ignite a sense of wonder towards marine ecosystems and inspire students to care for and take action to protect our ocean.

The Aquarium recognizes these teachers, who have been working to promote an ocean conservation ethic in their classroom. Congratulations to the 2011 winners of the Ocean Stewardship Award!

From left: John Anderson, Director of Education at the New England Aquarium, with 2011 award winners

Judith Hebert , Selser Memorial School School
Nominated by her principal, Mrs. Lemieux

Judy goes above and beyond when providing educational opportunities to her students. She has an enormous amount of energy and is quite a resource for the students and the school itself. Over the years, Judy has worked on projects with the state parks that included creating a Parks Passport Program and has started the Green Team recycling program at the Selser School. Judy likes to involve her 5th grade students with real world experiences by participating in activities like World Water Monitoring Day and collaborating with the Chicopee Water Department and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Judy also participates in the Aquarium’s Free to Learn Free Admission Program and has given her 5th grade water curriculum she created to the Teacher Resource Center so that we may share it with other teachers.

Courtney Jones, Whitman-Hanson Regional High School
Nominated by: Mark Stephansky, Science Curriculum Coordinator

Courtney has been a marine biology teacher at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School for the past 13 years. Since she arrived at Whitman-Hanson she single-handedly developed their Marine Biology curriculum from a one-semester program to three very popular courses, each dealing with a different aspect of Marine Science.

Stemming from the popularity of the marine science program, Courtney has also started the Marine Biology academic club which meets regularly after school to discuss issues surrounding Marine Science such as over fishing, pollution and other conservation measures. One of her largest contribution to the district’s Marine Science program is the creation of Marine Biology Club Student Ambassadors. These groups of students learn about a specific marine science topic and then present it to elementary classes in the district by way of teacher invitation. With Courtney’s direct influence, students at the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School have gone on to seek careers in Marine Science or other technological fields. A number of these students have even come back to speak to the Marine Biology Club to talk about their current work in the field and encourage others to seek out careers in these fields.

Dr. Chuck Fidler,  Wheelock College
Nominated by Heather Bundy, faculty assistant, Department of Mathematics and Science, Wheelock College

As Assistant Professor for Department of Mathematics and Science, Dr. Fidler’s reputation among his undergraduate students at Wheelock College is that of a professor who absolutely loves the ocean. His physical science courses are very popular due to his passion for the ocean and being a good steward, which he has incorporated into his teaching strategy. Dr. Fidler feels it is important to get his students out in the field by planning trips to many of New England’s local coastal areas. These field trips not only provide a break from the classroom they also help students see first-hand the impact that humans have on our coastal and oceanic ecosystems. It could be said that the true measure of success for any college professor is the number of students that want to take their classes. Dr. Fidler consistently finds himself with a sizable list of students each semester waiting to get into his class, even after it is full.

Nominations are open to all teachers, and teachers can even nominate themselves. Nominate someone you know.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bob the eel goes to the vet

CENTRAL WHARF, Thursday, Dec. 8 — Bob is elderly and has not been feeling well. His appetite has been waning, and he has been markedly more cranky. His caregivers reluctantly have decided to make a diagnostic medical intervention. You might say he is feeling a little green about the gills, except he really is green about the gills – a bright electric green in fact. Bob is a large green moray eel who is a resident of the New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank since the mid-1990’s.

Thursday morning, Dec. 8, Aquarium divers wrangled all five feet of Bob from his favorite hide-out in the coral reef and gently placed him in a nylon bag for transport to the Aquarium Medical Center, where he underwent an endoscopy of his gastrointestinal tract in the hope that it will yield some clues as to the cause of his hunger strike. (Learn more about eel medical exams here.) Aquarium veterinarians inserted a slender scope equipped with a tiny video camera into the eel’s mouth and worked its way into his body cavity. The medical procedure used the same technology and techniques as used in human medicine and can be seen by Aquarium visitors. Medical procedures on moray eels are uncommon even for a major aquarium.

Bob's procedure caught the eye of local media (Channel 5 and The Boston Globe). But this is not his first time in the spotlight, he also swam his way into a Divers Blog post. The veterinarians did not find anything unusual during the medical exam, though several tests are still pending. It could be that Bob is just not that hungry. The divers will continue to keep a close eye on this long-time resident of the GOT.

Bob has an interesting back story. He came to the Aquarium in the mid-1990’s as a refugee from a bar in Maine! Bob is a poster boy as to why exotic animals do not make good pets. Eventually, most such animals become too large, too expensive or too dangerous for non-professionals to keep. When Aquarium divers drove to Maine to get the moray, their vehicle broke down in an unexpected snowstorm. Two kind Mainers named Bob and Bob helped get the Aquarium staff and their unusual cargo back to Boston. In honor of their help, the moray was named Bob.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stressful times for sharks

Continued research into the mortality rates and stress physiology of elasmobranchs, more commonly known as sharks, skates and rays, has recently been published by New England Aquarium researcher Dr. John Mandelman.

Caribbean reef sharks (Charchahinus perezii) swim over a coral reef in the Bahamas. (Photo: Brian Skerry)
Bycatch, loosely defined as the capture of any non-target species in a fishery, is a serious problem facing animals, fisherman and scientists alike. When the wrong species is caught it poses real economic, environmental and safety concerns. For the animals themselves, the stress from capture and handling event can degrade health and lead to immediate or delayed mortality. Mortality can also occur indirectly (e.g., such as in a case where the stress from capture/handling compromises the ability to avoid predators). In this paper, The physiological response of the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) to longline capture, the response of the Caribbean Reef sharks to longline (fishing) capture is investigated.

It has been demonstrated in previous studies that elasmobranchs, such as sharks, can be deterred, to varying degrees, from fishing gear “protected” by certain lanthanide metals and alloys that can perturb the sensitive electrosensory systems in these fishes. In this paper, the effectiveness of one of these metal types is examined in two species under laboratory conditions: Behavioral responses to weak electric fields and a lanthanide metal in two shark species.

In the paper Seasonal variations in the physiological stress response to discrete bouts of aerial exposure in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, the physiological response to prolonged air exposure, one inevitable component of fishing capture and release, is examined. Because seasonal effects are important to consider in fisheries, the study also examines how seawater and air temperature (i.e. differences between the two) influence the responses and associated rates of mortality.

Despite a continued need for more research, an increasing number of studies have sought to evaluate the effects of human-induced stressors on sharks, rays and skates in recent years. The work to date is characterized in the newly published review, The physiological response to anthropogenic stressors in marine elasmobranch fishes: A review with a focus on the secondary response. In this review, Dr. Mandelman and co-lead author Dr. Greg Skomal reveal those areas in most dire need of research attention, and conclude that a lot more work is necessary to help maximize the conservation benefits of this area of work.