Monday, December 31, 2012

January Construction Updates

It's that time again: Time to go behind the scenes and check on construction of the Giant Ocean Tank! Since last time we ducked behind the scaffolding, crews have finished cutting the larger window frames and they've made great progress completing the concrete upgrades throughout the tank.  

Here's a look at some scenes of construction:

The floor of the annex is poured! Additional exhibit tanks featuring smaller fishes
like garden eels will be found in this area come summer. 

The new annex will be accessed from the top of the Giant Ocean Tank

The hoist used to haul large animals out of the tank—like Myrtle—has been equipped with a new motor.
(Check out the new, shiny white motor in the middle right of the image!)

A worker mixes concrete perched atop scaffolding in the Giant Ocean Tank. 

A pulley silhouetted against the scaffolding

So the next time you visit, take a moment to think: All this action is happening just around the corner as you're peering into the octopus exhibit or watching the tropical fish darting through the Pacific Reef Community! Just remember the Aquarium is opening at 10 a.m. on weekdays this January because of construction. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Frosty Fur Seals in the Making

The chilly, dry weather arrived just in time for visitors to see some cool creativity on Central Wharf today. Sculptors were on hand to chisel a family of fur seals from blocks of ice—the New England Aquarium's contribution to First Night festivities in Boston.



Many families paused to catch a glimpse of the creative process on their way inside to meet the actual fur seals. The sculpture represents resident Northern fur seals: Flaherty, a pup born here at the Aquarium in July, and his parents Isaac and Ursula. They are three of the six fur seals that call the Aquarium's New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center home, along with a pair of frisky sea lions.

Work in progress: The Aquarium's First Night fur seal ice sculpture taking shape

Ta-da! 

The family of fur seals was created by Don Chapelle, who has been one of the First Night ice sculptors for many years. Meet his frosty sea lions and penguins from previous years.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Five years at the Aquarium: An inspiring look back

Several years ago, the New England Aquarium set out on a mission to create the next generation aquarium right here in downtown Boston. We worked with partners and supporters to grow our conservation and research initiatives, expand our education programs and create exciting exhibits on Central Wharf. We also strengthened our connections to people across the world through our social media outlets and blogs just like this.

This is what progress looks like.



Learn how you can support the next generation Aquarium.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Members of the Week: Rebecca, Lillian and Abigail

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall.

Congratulations to our Members of the Week, Rebecca, Lillian and Abigail, who were visiting with Rebecca’s sister, Katherine! We met Rebecca and her family soon after they re-entered the exhibit area to take another look at the Jelly Exhibit in the Aquarium’s West Wing. Rebecca said the family just joined in the summer because her two daughters “love the Aquarium.”  Abigail and Lillian could barely take their eyes off of the moon jellies tank and because of their membership they’ll be able to enjoy them all year.


For being our Members of the Week, Rebecca and her daughters received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman, and plush stingrays for both Abigail and Lillian!

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and see seals and sea lions at play, visit Myrtle in her temporary home in the penguin exhibit, spot the camouflaged seadragons, watch the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New research: Coral trade could help preserve coral reefs

This media release about research into the live coral trade was issued jointly by the Aquarium, Boston UniversityRoger Williams University and Conservation International

Read more in the New York Times Green Blog.

The international trade in corals used to be primarily a curio trade of dried skeletons, but now focuses on live corals for the marine reef aquarium trade. A team of Roger Williams University (RWU), Boston University (BU), Conservation International(CI), and the New England Aquarium (NEAq) researchers has been studying this relatively new development and have published their findings about this unique trade and its long-term implications. The article, “Long-term trends of coral imports into the United States indicate future opportunities for ecosystem and societal benefits,” appears in the December issue of the journal Conservation Letters.

Photo: Keith Ellenbogen | explorers.neaq.org

Assessing 21 years of live coral import data for the United States, the researchers found that the coral trade increased over 8 percent per year between 1990 until the mid-2000s, and has since decreased by 9 percent annually. This decrease is mostly due to the current economic climate. The timing of the peak and decline varies among species, and is a result of the rising popularity of mini-reef ecosystem aquariums, the global financial crisis, and an increase in domestic aquaculture production.

The live coral trade for home aquariums has traditionally been viewed in absolute terms as a threat to these undersea areas of high biodiversity. However, realities are often grey. In the case of coral reefs, supplying the home aquarium trade with locally cultivated corals can provide real economic benefits to small island communities, and thus, an incentive to protect the reefs from which the mother colonies are obtained.

Photo: Keith Ellenbogen | explorers.neaq.org

In their article, the researchers highlight this dichotomy and demonstrate that recent changes in the trade of live corals for the reef aquarium hobby are resulting in new opportunities for conservation.  “The trade has moved from a wild harvest to mariculture production, a change sparked by long-term efforts to produce a sustainable income to small island countries such as the Solomon Islands and also by the government of Indonesia,” says Rhyne. This shift from a wild fishery to a mariculture product poses new opportunities and challenges for conservationists.  

Coinciding with the publication of this study, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just proposed to protect 66 stony corals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). An unintended consequence of this ESA listing would be to eliminate the benefits of the trade revealed by the study, which include elevated value for intact coral reefs, and an income source that is sorely needed in these island nations where hundreds of millions of people rely on reef resources for subsistence.

Photo: Keith Ellenbogen | explorers.neaq.org

According to the researchers, the trade is still rapidly evolving, creating challenges, such as the addition of new species that outpace effective management strategies. “New species in the live coral trade initially command high prices, but as they become common the price drops with feedback effects to the trade,” said Les Kaufman, co-author and Boston University professor of biology and research fellow at Conservation International.

 “The live coral trade offers opportunities for coral reef ecosystem conservation and sustainable economic benefits to coastal communities,” says Andrew Rhyne, lead-author and Roger Williams University assistant professor of marine biology and research scientist at the New England Aquarium.  Co-author, Michael Tlusty of the New England Aquarium adds, “that the realization of these externalities will require effective data tracking”.

Photo: Keith Ellenbogen | explorers.neaq.org

Coral reefs are under numerous human induced threats. These include the global threats of warming oceans that are becoming more acidic, and local threats such as improper land use resulting in increased nutrient loading, and overfishing, which can trigger an ecological cascade resulting in blooms of seaweed that inhibit coral growth.

While western countries are the source of the major threats to these corals reefs (because of globally-distributed carbon emissions), island nations have more than income at stake. Trade can be a powerful conservation incentive, but this emerging local conservation tool is at risk of being lost due to the well-intended but rigid rules of the ESA, here invoked to protect corals and coral reefs globally from the billions of tons of carbon released into the atmosphere by developed nations.  A more selective regulatory approach that gives credit to local efforts to manage reef resources wisely may be warranted.


Turtle Stranding Season: Loggerheads Wash Up on South Shore Instead of Cape Cod

This is a media release cross posted on the Aquarium's Rescue Blog. Learn how you can support the Aquarium and its efforts to rehabilitate and protect endangered marine animals. It's been quite a year, the 164 sea turtles rescued alive this year smashes the old record of 127 set in 1999!

Anyone who finds a sea turtle on the South Shore, whether alive or appearing dead, should call the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Hotline at 617-973-5247 or contact their local animal control officer.

Hypothermic sea turtles continue to wash up in record numbers on Cape Cod. But in an unusual twist, two large loggerhead sea turtles have stranded on South Shore beaches since Monday. Today, Hull animal control officer Casey Fredette retrieved a live loggerhead from Nantasket Beach while on Monday another 40 pounder was rescued in the Humarock section of Scituate.

A loggerhead rescued from Nantasket Beach

Cold-stunned sea turtles  strand annually on Cape Cod but almost always on the southern and eastern beaches of Cape Cod Bay from Sandwich to Truro. Typically, the northwest and northeast winds of late autumn create enough wave activity to drive the floating, nearly immobile marine reptiles ashore on those windward towns. Strandings on the South Shore are very rare events, and normally are confined to the discovery of long dead, smaller turtles early in the winter.

Hardy beach walkers on Cape Cod are familiar with the drill of what to do when they encounter stranded sea turtles as they call the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay, which is the sea turtle first responder organization for the Cape. However, for South Shore residents, this is an unusual event. Earlier in the week, well-meaning but misdirected beach walkers tried to return a hypothermic sea turtle to the frigid waters that it was trying to escape. Those finding a sea turtle on the South Shore, whether alive or appearing dead, should call the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Hotline at 617-973-5247 or contact their local animal control officer. Washed-up sea turtles with body temperatures in the 40’s and with heartbeats as low as one per minute may appear dead but can still be re-warmed and revived at the Aquarium’s off-site animal care center in the Quincy Shipyard.

The Aquarium's chief vet attends to a loggerhead sea turtle patient

Aquarium officials are puzzled by the unusual stranding locations but are asking for the public’s help in watching for more turtles on South Shore beaches. These two loggerheads were easy to see given their fairly large size and beautiful, chestnut brown shells,. However, most of the turtles that wash up are much smaller at 2 to 12 pounds and black in color, which blends in with other flotsam at the high tide line on a beach. These turtles are Kemp’s ridleys, which are the most endangered sea turtle in the world.

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle in treatment at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle during a medical exam

This most strange sea turtle stranding season for many reasons marches on. This past Saturday, 13 hypothermic sea turtles were brought to Quincy from Cape Cod. That is an unusually large number for a single day this late in December. Double digit admission dates are not common and normally happen in November. Among the 13 were 9 loggerhead sea turtles. In a typical year, the Aquarium might treat 4 to 6 large loggerheads in its two month long season. The two additional South Shore loggerheads over the past 24 hours brings the total number of stranded loggerheads total to 45! The 40 to 100 pound loggerheads create a strain on available tank space at the Aquarium’s new sea turtle hospital which has a capacity of about 100 sea turtles.



74 re-warmed and stabilized sea turtles have been transported to other marine animal rescue facilities up and down the East Coast, including 35 sea turtles that were flown from Cape Cod to Florida aboard a Coast Guard plane earlier this month. To help with the overwhelming clinical demand of caring for so many sea turtles, biologists from the Virginia Aquarium, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Riverhead Foundation on Long Island and IFAW on Cape Cod have been brought in to assist.

The Aquarium welcomes financial donations to help offset the cost of such an unexpected record event. Over the past twenty years, the Aquarium in partnership with Mass Audubon has rescued, rehabbed and released over 1000 endangered sea turtles.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Member of the Week: Rosalie

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall.

Congratulations to our Member of the Week, Rosalie, who was visiting with her grandson, Benjamin. We met them right after they picked up a treat for Ben in the Aquarium Gift Shop. Rosalie lives just a short distance from the Aquarium and she and Ben are regular visitors, sometimes coming more than once in a week. Rosalie has had her Aquarium membership for almost a year now and is nearing the expiration date. “I’m definitely going to renew,” she told us. “He really loves this place.”

Benjamin and Rosalie during one of their Aquarium outings


For being our Member of the Week, Rosalie received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman, and a plush shark for Ben.

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and see seals and sea lions at play, visit Myrtle in her temporary home in the penguin exhibit, spot the camouflaged seadragons, watch the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Going behind the scenes of our construction project

Have you seen the Globe Magazine's images of our comprehensive construction project yet?


Much of the exhibit path is still open to visitors and our marine animals (like Myrtle the turtle, the octopusgoliath groupers and seadragons) continue to delight visitors. However, Aquarium visitors can definitely  tell that change is in the air in our main building.

Sunday's spread gave Globe readers a special look at the incredible work happening behind the scenes and the off-site preparations that go into creating the new Aquarium experience.

An unfamiliar sight of the Giant Ocean Tank lined in scaffolding, with the coral draped in a protective covering.
Photo: Webb Chappell, Boston Globe Magazine

Hardhats are a must in the construction zone, including this space in the attic above the tank.
Photo: Webb ChappellBoston Globe Magazine

The renovation project will be completed in early summer, 2013. Come visit to see the Aquarium being transformed before your eyes! See all the the Globe's pictures here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Construction Updates

With scaffolding planted throughout the building and the Giant Ocean Tank obscured behind a scrim, it's hard to tell that a lot is happening behind the scenes. But you wouldn't recognize the tank today! Even more scaffolding is bristling from inside the tank while the remaining coral is protected underneath a white, fabric covering.


How many times have you peered over this railing into the blue waters of the Giant Ocean Tank? This is the view from the railing at the top of the tank today.



Workers have been cutting wider openings in each of the window frames so the windows will be bigger than ever.


 Looking up from a window frame

Myrtle's a big girl, there will be more window to see her from!


Looking through a window frame, then and now

And these changes to the windows are just the tip of the iceberg. Where the divers once donned their wetsuits and scuba tanks, demolition crews have cleared the space to make room for a renovated shower and locker room behind the scenes. Construction crews are working hard in the Aquarium's attic to create a domed ceiling above the Caribbean reef, crews are preparing to expand exhibit space at the top of the tank and vibrant coral is being manufactured off-site. Keep your eyes on the News and Updates blog for behind-the-scenes updates on the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank.



 Fur seal pups, goosefish feeding and little blue penguins

But really, the most exciting stuff is happening along the exhibit path! Flaherty the fur seal pup is growing more every day, the goosefish grin is unlike anything you've seen before and the close viewing access of the little blue penguins is a special part of their temporary home. So now you'll know what's happening behind the scaffolding when you come visit these amazing animals.


Members of the Week: Glenn and Nancy

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall. 

Congratulations to Glenn and Nancy from Waltham, our Members of the Week, who visited the Aquarium with grandchildren Katherine, Sydney, Amy and Harrison. The family was watching the moray eels peek out from barrels in the Tropical Ocean Exhibit when we met them, just before they noticed one of the Aquarium’s newest residents: Indo is a 6-foot long male zebra shark with bold spots on his body. Nancy told us that they used to visit the Aquarium with their children and now G’Mom and G’Dad, as the kids call them, come with their grandchildren. 
Glenn and Nancy, with their grandchildren (from l to r) Katherine, Harrison, Sydney and Amy
For being our Members of the Week, they received this free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman, and a plush seal for each of the kids.

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and visit Myrtle in her new home in the penguin exhibit, see seals and sea lions at play, search for seadragons, see the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's exciting transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sea Turtle Stranding Season: Sea Turtle Express


This is a media release cross-posted from the Aquarium's Rescue Blog. Find out how you can support the Aquarium and their efforts to rescue and protect endangered animals here.

With nearly 150 sea turtles rescued from Cape Cod beaches over the past four weeks due to hypothermia, the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital is over capacity, and more critically ill turtles are arriving every day.


Head Aquarium veterinarian Charles Innis loads loggerheads for transport to the airport with a volunteer marine animal rescuer from New York.

Recently, the Aquarium has been transferring re-warmed and stable sea turtles to other marine animal rescue facilities all over the east Coast. Monday, four large loggerhead sea turtles flew from Massachusetts to a sea turtle hospital in southern Georgia courtesy of Polar Beverages of Worcester, MA. The Crowley family, owners of Polar and longtime supporters of the Aquarium, arranged for the sea turtle express.


Aquarium rescue biologist Adam Kennedy loaded the recovering cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtle on to the private plane, CREDIT: New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium rescue biologists loaded the recovering cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtle on to a private plane owned by Polar Beverages of Worcester, Mass. for transport to a sea turtle hospital in Georgia. The near record number of stranded hypothermic sea turtles has been complicated by the record number of much larger loggerhead sea turtles that are stranding.


Nancy Dell'Aquila, Elizabeth Crowley, Julie Corwley and David Crowley check out a rescued, 80-pound loggerhead sea turtle scheduled to be flown from Worcester Airport to southern Georgia. CREDIT: New England Aquarium


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blue schools are cool


Living blue is about making lifestyle changes—sometimes big shifts, sometimes simple little things—that can have a positive impact on our oceans. These changes can take place in your home, during your commute or at your workplace. For thousands of children across New England, these changes can happen at school! Are you part of a Blue School? We want to know it! Nominate your school for a Blue School Award here.

Students at Village School, Photo: Carrie Schluter via

Here are some schools that are doing great things for the oceans:
Village School - Marblehead, MA—Last academic year as the 5th grade students at the Village School got started on their yearly persuasive writing assignment, they noticed a real problem on their campus. Overfull trash barrels were allowing refuse of all kinds to be blown around the grounds of the school. In order to do some real good, the students knew they needed to get the attention of others in the community. To do so, they invited representatives from BigBelly Solar, a company that makes solar compacting trash receptacles, local newspapers, town administration, the town parks and recreation officials and the school committee to hear them out. The students put on a convincing presentation and their hard work has led to the installation of BigBelly compactors on the school campus, keeping trash off the grounds and out of the ocean.

Carlton School – Salem, MAThe Carlton School prides itself on connecting its students to the ocean and the environment across subjects through both academics and experiential learning. The Carlton School is described by science integration specialist Greg Sheridan as a “green-themed school” and it definitely shows. Besides beach clean ups, environmental and ocean-related service learning projects, trips to the shore and academic learning about the ocean, the Carlton’s building itself has been built in a way that supports sustainability. 

Feeling inspired? Go for it! Whether you're a student or a teacher, try some of these ideas that can spur your class into living blue.

For Students
Here are some other small projects that can help your school live blue™:
  • Try Waste Free Wednesdays. Ask students in your classroom to pack all snack and lunch items in reusable containers and bags. Spread the word so other classrooms can join in. Perhaps you can make it a competition between grades.
  • Organize a campus or neighborhood clean up. This simple action brings awareness to students and teaches them how to respect their environment. It also sends a message to members of your community to keep the neighborhood clean.
  • Start a recycling program at your school
Try this website for even more ideas on how you can make a difference.

For Teachers
Teachers can start classroom projects and activities ideas to spur a blue movement in your school.

Persuasive Writing Project
Research some threats that the ocean is facing and encourage students to write a persuasive letter to their elected officials regarding the threat most important to them. Students can also write to a local CEO or school board member regarding issues that connect to their everyday lives such as trash disposal, energy use or land management. 
Objective: Students will understand threats facing the ocean and understand that they have the ability to make a change beyond their classroom or home. 
Standards-Based Topics: Research and Communication of Ideas, Writing informational text, Social Science, Problem solving 
Research WebsitesThe New England Aquarium
The Environmental Protection Agency-Student Page
The Ocean Conservancy
The Natural Resource Defense Council
League of Conservation Voters
Find your elected officials here and here
Teacher ResourcesCreate a Persuasive Writing Rubric or visit Scholastic Teacher for additional support.  
Student-Based Research and Education on Marine Endangered Species
Depending on grade level, students will understand what an endangered species is. Identify endangered ocean species and understand what humans can do to worsen or help animals on the brink of extinction. Students can also research the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
Objective: Students will research a marine endangered species and present a poster, paper, power point or other media to promote education about endangered species and teach others how to protect them. 
Standards-Based Topics: Math, Social Science, Law and Policy Ecology, Conservation and Biodiversity 
ResourcesIUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature
IUCN Marine and PolarMarine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NOAA FisheriesMarine Turtles, World Wildlife Fund 
Plastic Debris Analysis in Local Areas Students will understand the process of scientific research by conducting their own research project.  Students will carefully sample plastic debris from a sand surface using a provided research protocol.
Objective: Show students how to apply established methods of collecting data to a new research project. Students will understand that using multiple samples creates a richer data set that is more representative of the subject described. 
Standards-Based Topics: Math, Social Science, Ecology, Conservation, Scientific Investigation 
Teacher ResourcesFor full lesson plan see the lesson, “Discover Plastic Debris on Streets and Beaches” in Watershed Wonders a curriculum that can be downloaded here
Other Helpful ResourcesProtecting the Ocean, National Geographic Education
Why Do We live blue™? live blue™ profiles, New England Aquarium
The live blue™ Initiative, New England Aquarium
Helvarg, David, and Jim P. Toomey. 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. Makawao, HI: Inner Ocean Pub., 2006. Print.

At the Aquarium, we want to acknowledge the great things some students, teachers and schools are doing for the oceans. Nominate your school or teacher for a Blue School award or an Educator Ocean Steward award through our online forms found here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Members of the Week: Laura, Noah and Penelope

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall. 

Meet Laura, Noah and Penelope from Brookline, our Members of the Week. We found them at the Pacific Reef Community in the Tropical Gallery as Penelope was “finding Nemo,” pointing out to her mom the brightly-colored clownfish she had spotted. Their family recently moved here from Birmingham, Alabama. “Noah loves all things aquatic, so we knew we had to get a membership,” Laura told us, adding, “We’re here every week!”  


Laura, Noah, and a very camera-shy Penelope: our Members of the Week 

For being our Members of the Week, they received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman and plush polar bears from To the Arctic 3D, one of the films you can currently see in the Simon’s IMAX Theatre.

Sea Turtle Stranding Season: Some Turtles Being Transferred

This is a media release cross-posted from the Aquarium's Rescue Blog. Find out how you can support the Aquarium and their efforts to rescue and protect endangered animals here.

With more than 100 rescued sea turtles in care at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center, the rescue team is transferring 18 stable animals all over the East Coast to make room for the ever-growing number of cold-stunned sea turtle patients.

The mass stranding of hypothermic sea turtles on Cape Cod reached a new peak Thursday as 22 more of the endangered and threatened marine reptiles were collected by Massachusetts Audubon staff and volunteers and transferred to the New England Aquarium's rescue facilities in Quincy. Since Monday, 67 animals of three different turtle species have been found stranded on Cape Cod Bay beaches with body temperatures in the mid to high 40's.



This loggerhead sea turtle was among seven that were rescued in a 24 hour period from November 27 to November 28. That many loggerheads is more than usually are seen in an entire two month stranding season.


The mass wash-up of cold stunned sea turtles on this scale is believed to happen no where else in the world. Sick sea turtles do strand each November and December on Cape Cod. The Aquarium's record for treating sea turtles that arrive still alive is 144. Yesterday's 22 new patients pushed this season's total to 107 animals received, and Aquarium officials think that might just be at the half-way point.

Compounding the massive volume and pace of the strandings is a new phenomenon of a record number of large loggerhead sea turtles arriving. Usually, 90 percent of the sea turtles that strand are 2 to 12 pound juvenile Kemp's ridleys. On Wednesday and Thursday, eleven 50 to 100 pound loggerheads arrived. In a normal year, the Aquarium might handle four or five of the husky, chestnut brown turtles in an entire season. The big turtles quickly fill tank space in the Aquarium's state of the art rescue facility which is optimally designed to handle about 100 smaller turtles.

To make space for more incoming turtles, the Aquarium has been reaching out to fellow marine animal rescue facilities and aquariums up and down the East Coast. Thursday, eight re-warmed and stable Kemp's were driven to the National Marine Life Center on Cape Cod. Friday, four more Kemp's will be flown out of Norwood to the Virginia Aquarium on a donated flight from Lighthawk, which is a network of private pilots that help move endangered wildlife around the U.S.

Also Friday, six big loggerheads will be transported to the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Later this week, Worcester-based Polar Beverages will fly more sea turtles to Maryland and Georgia. The Aquarium is grateful for both the generosity and expertise of these partners in helping save endangered sea turtles.

Additional reading:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sea Turtle Rescue Season Ramping Up

This media release is cross-posted on the Aquarium's Rescue Blog, where you can learn more about turtle rescue and rehabilitation and keep tabs on the busy season in progress. Support sea turtle rescue efforts here.

Over the last few days, more than 45 endangered sea turtles of three different species have washed up on the shores of Massachusetts' Cape Cod Bay near death with body temperatures in the high 40's. Most people don't think of sea turtles being in New England waters even in the summertime so much as just weeks before the winter holidays.


Dr. Charles Innis, the Aquarium's head veterinarian and a renowned turtle specialist, listens for a heartbeat on a newly admitted 60-pound, sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle. Turtles with temperature in the low to mid 40's can come in with a heartbeat as low as one per minute and still be re-warmed. Reptiles are tough and amazing. 

Wednesday with winds blowing steadily out the northeast, the wave activity carried these mostly inert turtles on to the beaches of this beautiful but sometimes deadly peninsula. The juvenile two to ten pound Kemp's ridley and green sea turtles and the 40 to 70 pound sub-adult loggerheads migrated up the East Coast early last summer to feed mostly on crabs in these rich, marine waters. In September, the instinct to swim south was most likely clear but once on the north side of Cape Cod, these young turtles were not able to solve the difficult navigation problem of getting out of the deadly bucket of Cape Cod Bay. Swimming south, east or west leads to land barriers. Swimming in the counter-intuitive direction of north for 20 miles is the only safe passage out before turning south at the tip of Cape Cod.


A juvenile green sea turtle on medical intake on November 28. Note the fungus and build-up of materials on the shell due to lack of activity.

For those sea turtles that fail to do so, they slowly become hypothermic over two months as water temperatures steadily decline through the autumn. By November, the remaining turtles are near death with low body temperatures but are also usually severely dehydrated, malnourished and host to a variety of infections. If they are lucky, the first steady, strong winds of the winter push their inactive bodies ashore, mostly on the Outer Cape. There, dedicated staff and volunteers of the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay walk the beaches in often brutal weather conditions to find the stranded reptiles. It is a life and death game of beat he clock as rescuers try to find the sea turtles before scavengers such as coyotes, raccoons or sea gulls do.


This loggerhead sea turtle was among seven that were rescued in a 24 hour period from November 27 to November 28. That many loggerheads is more than usually are seen in an entire two month stranding season.

Turtles once found are collected and brought to the sanctuary headquarters. Four times on Wednesday, volunteer drivers left Wellfleet to drive the 90 miles to the New England Aquarium's state of the art sea turtle rehabilitation facility in a retrofitted, brick warehouse in the old Quincy Shipyard, ten miles south of Boston. There, Aquarium biologists, veterinarians and volunteers quickly and efficiently triaged, cleaned and treated the new patients. It was not unlike a scene out of a big city ER. The 45 new patients over the past three days are each being slowly re-warmed five degrees per day. They were greeted by about 45 other sea turtles that had stranded since early November were now busily swimming in the rehab's center large clear tanks.

With over 90 turtles rescued and several weeks remaining in the stranding season, Aquarium officials believe that this year might rank in the top three ever. What has made this year even more unusual is the large number of 50 to 70 pound loggerhead sea turtles stranding. Most years, the Aquarium treats a handful of the husky, chestnut brown colored turtles. In the past 24 hours, seven loggerheads have already been rescued. The large turtles strain the available tank space in a facility that is designed to care for about 100 sea turtles. Plans are already underway to move some of the healthier animals to other sea turtle facilities, particularly in the South. The Aquarium is seeking the services of volunteer pilots with their own planes who might have room for some unusual and precious cargo for flights to Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

The Aquarium and Mass Audubon have rescued, rehabilitated and released over 1000 endangered sea turtles in the past twenty years. Private donations have been key to sustaining this effort that has been making a tangible difference in the recovery of the world's most endangered sea turtle. Support sea turtle rescue efforts here.

Follow the Rescue Blog for the latest on this busy season. Watch video of previous sea turtle patients in treatment here.  See how dedicated rescue staff and volunteers celebrate holidays. And look for media coverage about this season's more recent sea turtle rescues here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Construction Update: Aquarium to open at 10 a.m. on weekdays

Due to ongoing construction, the Aquarium is opening one hour later at 10 a.m. on weekdays through December 21. Please keep this hours change in mind when planning your next visit.

Temporary Construction Hours
Dates: November 28 - December 21
Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. (no change)

We appreciate the support of visitors and members as the Aquarium's transformation continues. The new Aquarium experience is scheduled for completion in early summer 2013.
 
The Aquarium's interior during renovation (Photo: J. Correa)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Members of the Week: Julien and Reilly

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall.

We’d like to introduce you to Julien and Reilly, our Members of the Week. We met them in the lower level of our West Wing at the Jellies exhibit. Their family recently came to our area from Atlanta, but they had visited the Aquarium before and, as Julien told us, they became New England Aquarium members right after they moved.




This week’s visit was a special daddy/daughter day, “so [Reilly] could take her time and ask all of her five million questions,” as her mother told us via email. Reilly said that she likes to touch the rays in The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank, but that her little brother Ryan—who was having his own mommy/son day at home—likes sharks. In fact, she informed us that Ryan wants, “a flying shark that’s as big as my mom,” for Christmas. (We’re pretty sure this flying shark from our Gift Shop isn’t quite as big as Reilly’s mother.)

For being our Members of the Week, Julien and Reilly received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter; a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook; a copy of Ice Island, by Dr. Greg Stone Ph.D., Aquarium Senior Vice President of Ocean Exploration and Conservation; and two plush sharks—one for Reilly and one for her to take home to Ryan.


So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and visit Myrtle in her new home in the penguin exhibit, check in with those boisterous sea lions, search for seadragons, see the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's exciting transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week

Friday, November 16, 2012

Members of the Week: Dianne and Carter

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall.

This week, we are pleased to name Dianne and Carter our Members of the Week. Their Natick household joined as New England Aquarium members only a few months ago. In fact, they told us this is their first visit since receiving their membership cards in the mail. When asked why they chose to become Aquarium members, Dianne told us it was because Carter, “loves everything here.” She added, “My daughter is only one and already loves everything here.”



For being our Members of the Week, they received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guidebook, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman and a plush clownfish.

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and visit Myrtle in her new home in the penguin exhibit, check in with those boisterous sea lions, search for seadragons, see the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's exciting transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Members of the Week: Rachel, Rishi and Devan

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall.

This week, we are pleased to name Rachel, Rishi and Devan our Members of the Week. We caught these Westford residents in the Harbor View CafĂ© getting ready to enjoy some mid-day snacks with Rishi’s and Devan’s aunt Lauren and cousin Mikah. Our awardees recently moved to Massachusetts from the great state of Texas and joined as Aquarium members just this past August. (Rachel says two hurricanes hit Texas when they first moved there and apologizes for bringing them to New England as well.)  Rishi told us that he wanted to see “five things” at the Aquarium today – the first of which being our seadragons.


Left to right, in the front row: Mikah, Rishi. Back row: Rachel, Devan, Lauren.

For being our Members of the Week, they received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of the beautifully illustrated Aquarium souvenir guide book, a turtle shell glass paperweight handcrafted by artist Robin Lehman and each of the boys took home their own plush seal.

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and visit Myrtle in her new home in the penguin exhibit, check in with those boisterous sea lions, search for seadragons (like Rishi!), see the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's exciting transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

First hypothermic turtles being treated at the Aquarium

Cold Weather Turns up First Hypothermic Sea Turtles of the Season on Cape Cod

Beyond the wet snow, another sure sign of oncoming winter is the beginning of the sea turtle stranding season on Cape Cod each November and December. The first two hypothermic sea turtles of the season have arrived at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, with four more expected this afternoon. Beach walkers with the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay first found stranded endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Tuesday at Crow’s Pasture Beach in Dennis and another in Brewster. The wave activity from today’s storm washed ashore additional sea turtles that had been floating due to low body temperatures. Hardy beach walkers braved the nasty weather in search of the endangered reptiles and found three more young Kemp’s ridleys and a loggerhead that is estimated to weigh 50 pounds. (Learn the difference between Kemp's ridley and green sea turtles and how they're cared for in this webcast.)


The first two sea turtle patients. Each turtle will be receiving some physical therapy in the form of a supervised swim as seen in the images attached.

These two, juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are being slowly re-warmed about five degrees per day at the New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy. The 3 and 5 pound sea turtles were found in Dennis and Brewster with body temperatures of 55.7 and 58.6, close to the water temperature of eastern Cape Cod Bay. Humans would be long dead with that low a body temperature, but sea turtles are cold-blooded and with medical intervention can even survive body temperatures in the low 40’s. The black shelled turtles will have their body temperatures increased just five degrees per day for four days until their body temperatures are in the mid-70’s. This slow re-warming strategy helps the turtles fight off infections.


Samantha MacEwan  a volunteer with the New England Aquarium guides the short swim of a hypothermic sea turtles that had stranded just a day before.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtle in the world, and each summer hundreds of them migrate to the Cape to feed on crabs. However, each autumn, anywhere from 25 to 200 of these sea turtles will fail to migrate back south due to the difficulty of navigating out of Cape Cod Bay, which has land on three sides except to the north.

For two decades the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay has been rescuing these turtles on Cape Cod Bay and bringing them to the Aquarium for months long treatment and eventual release in warmer waters down south. (Here's a great video of a sea turtle release.) This partnership has resulted in the release of nearly one thousand of the world’s most endangered sea turtles in a population that numbers in just the low tens of thousands. This program has made a tangible difference in the recovery of the population of the world’s most endangered sea turtle.

Dedicated Mass Audubon volunteers and staff are walking Cape Cod beaches Thursday morning searching for sea turtles that may strand with the significant wave activity caused by the Nor’easter. More turtles are expected.

Additional sea turtle rescue reading
To get an idea of the work ahead during the cold-stun season, look back on the sea turtle posts from 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Learn how rescued sea turtles are treated with lasers. Check out these awesome pictures of a sea turtle release. Did you know other turtles take private airplanes to warmer climates? See how we make the turtles comfy while they're in rehab, how and what they eat and how they get their names.

Here is how local news covered the first cold-stun turtle arrivals this year:
The Patriot Ledger
WBZ Channel 4

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Climate Change Education Aquarium Hangout Video

The New England Aquarium Education Department hosted a climate change activity with two classrooms from across the U.S. using Google+ Hangouts on Air on November 7, 2012. Here's the video of that presentation.




 



About the Activity: Sink or Source
This activity helps explain the carbon cycle and the imbalance in the carbon cycle. A quick look at some of the largest carbon sources helps visitors understand that the imbalance is anthropogenic and leads to important discussions about actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprint. This activity is designed for adults, families, or kids ages 9 and older with their families. Some younger children have been engaged by this activity and can help with sorting. Get resources to do the activity in your own home or classroom.

 
The New England Aquarium and Climate Change Education
As public understanding of climate change lags behind the consensus among scientists, the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2009 has been developing the Climate Change Education Partnership program to help the public better weigh the evidence of human-climate interactions. Late Wednesday, NSF announced the awards in its most recent round of funding and granted $5.5 million over five years to the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation led by the New England Aquarium. Read more.

You can join in on future hangouts like this by connecting with Aquarium on Google+

RELATED: The Aquarium's climate change programming was recently featured in a New York Times article. Aquarium president Bud Ris is quoted in the piece saying, "We would like as many people, if not everyone, to leave encouraged to take action."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Members of the Week: Ann-Mara and Lara-Kate

There are a lot of perks that come with membership at the New England Aquarium, like express admission all year and discounts at the Cafe and Gift Shop. Now you can add our new Member of the Week recognition to that list. How can members participate? Just show up and visit your Aquarium! We'll be randomly selecting members for this special honor throughout the fall. 

Meet Ann-Mara and Lara-Kate from Wellesley, our Members of the Week. They visited this week with Lara-Kate’s “best friend in the whole wide world,” Amelia, when the girls had no school due to a power outage. They originally became members many years ago because Ann-Mara’s son and Lara-Kate’s older brother, Nathan, “loves animals and fish.” In fact, his mother told us that he wants to become a marine biologist. In a year or two Nathan might want to become a live blue Ambassador or participate in one of the Aquarium’s many Teen Programs

From left to right, Amelia, Lara-Kate and Ann-Mara

For being our Members of the Week, they received a free 4”x6” photo from our friends at SharpShooter, a copy of Ice Island, by Dr. Greg Stone Ph.D., Aquarium Senior Vice President of Ocean Exploration and Conservation, and each of the girls took home a stuffed shark.

So what do you have to do to be our Member of the Week? Just visit! You could win on any day of the week, any time of day. We'll be announcing winners right here on the News Blog every Friday. So come on down and visit Myrtle in her new home in the penguin exhibit, check in with those boisterous sea lions, search for seadragons, see the little blue penguins in their temporary exhibit  and experience the Aquarium's exciting transformation first hand. Who knows, you could be our next Member of the Week!