Saturday, April 28, 2012

Little fish with a big impact starting comeback?

New England Aquarium biologists are cautiously optimistic about a rite of Spring that could be on the rebound. River herring are returning to the Back River in Weymouth and other coastal New England waters in encouraging numbers this year!

Alewife and blueback herring are species of herring that can be found in New England waters.
(Photo credit: Jim Nagus, TN Wildlife Resources)

For centuries each spring, the diminutive river herring returned from the sea to spawn in the freshwater streams and ponds of coastal Massachusetts. Despite pollution and development, hundreds of thousands of the fish still returned to suburban South Shore communities well into the 21st century. Then throughout New England, the river herring numbers crashed. The natural spectacle of the spring migration up coastal streams suddenly became much more quiet. In 2006, the state of Massachusetts imposed a ban on harvesting the river herring from coastal waterways. The federal government is currently in the process of evaluating if river herring merit protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Aquarium biologist Scott Dowd (in green) teaches teen volunteers about fish ladders during a herring run clean up in Weymouth in 2010.

However, over the past two weeks in Weymouth, Mass., dedicated volunteers and local officials are abuzz about the number of herring that have returned to the built-up Back River. Nearly a quarter million of the fish have been counted with weeks to go in the spawning season. In 2005, there were only 80,000 during the entire spring. This positive trend has been reported in many other coastal rivers throughout New England. Biologists are cautiously optimistic.

New England Aquarium biologists hope that we might be at the beginning of an environmental success story, but they warn that that the numbers are far from their peak. They also emphasize the importance of herring ecologically to all kinds of local marine animals and the people who enjoy them. For sport fishermen chasing striped bass and bluefish, river herring are what bring these migratory fish species to New England. For commercial fishermen and restaurant diners, herring are an important food source for such popular table fish as haddock, halibut and cod. For whale watchers, river and Atlantic herring are staple foods for the Big Three whales most commonly seen locally – the acrobatic humpback, the enormously long finback and the pretty, little 30 foot minke. For beach walkers and boaters, the sight of a seal or dolphin is a lifelong memory. Healthy herring populations make those sightings possible.

Herring are the backbone of the Gulf of Maine food chain. This little fish plays a very BIG role in maintaining healthy marine wildlife populations and directly affects the ability of New Englanders to enjoy the wonders that the ocean brings to our shores.

Look for herring at the Aquarium's Schooling Exhibit. Learn more here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Travel To the Arctic in 3D!

While it may feel like summer is around the corner here in New England, the Simons IMAX Theatre is about to get a chilly dose of Arctic air. Our newest 3D IMAX film — To the Artic 3D, narrated by Oscar(R) winner Meryl Streep — playing now!

Join us and discover the softer side of the frozen North as you tag along with a mother polar bear and her two growing cubs. Watch the trio pad across the largest screen in New England as they struggle to survive and thrive in a changing environment of immense glaciers, spectacular waterfalls, snow-bound peaks and melting ice. Plunge into icy waters to meet walrus, ford frigid streams with newborn caribou, dodge ice floes and learn what makes this harsh ecosystem an important part of our blue planet, and how you can help lessen the impacts of climate change.

While we're on the edge of our seats in anticipation of opening day, we want to treat some of our lucky friends, fan and followers to an experience of this very special slice of life in the Arctic. Keep tabs on the Aquarium's Facbook page for a chance to win tickets to see our newest 3D IMAX film.

Take a peek at the trailer to learn why you'll definitely want to join the fun and a chance to win tickets:

"Now as we get these formats that are smaller and smaller and smaller, there is some great impact in seeing something huge, especially on a subject matter that is so monumental," says Meryl Streep.

Experience the melting glaciers, migrating ungulates, hungry polar bears and the majesty of the Arctic on the largest film screen in New England. Buy advance tickets today, or try your luck and win passes on our Facebook page this week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tough Mudder: Teamwork

This is the fourth in a series of posts from a team of Aquarium staff and supporters who are participating in an extreme obstacle course event called the Tough Mudder this spring. They will be posting about their training methods, animals that inspire them to work hard and they will be raising funds to support the Aquarium. You can help them out by donating to support their efforts.

Today’s blog post comes from Deb Bobek, also known as Flame.

Teamwork. It’s one of those concepts that’s easy to talk about but not always easy to execute. And as noted in our first post, the only way to get through the Tough Mudder is through teamwork and collaboration. There are many examples of teamwork in the oceans, but here are three quick ones that Team Tiburon looks to for inspiration.

Schooling fish coordinate their movements to make themselves look bigger, which provides protection from predators.

Visitors can see schooling fish like these blueback herring in the Temperate Gallery of the Aquarium.

Aquarium researchers have been studying Surface Active Groups (SAGs) link in North Atlantic right whales for many years and have discovered that these groups provide opportunities for mating, social bonding and play.

Surface active groups (Photo by Tracy Montgomery on the Right Whale Research Blog)

And finally, check out this teamwork between our two baby sea lions who often make appearances during the Aquarium’s training sessions in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

So how did we put all of this inspiration to work? Team Tiburon recently spent a day at Hale Reservation on a ropes and wall course where we faced our own daunting challenges that could only be surmounted through teamwork – coordinating our movements, communicating and working together.  Check out the video here:

And if you really want to see some teamwork, join us on Friday at 12:30 or 2:45 p.m. in the Marine Mammal Center where we will take on the challenge that was extended to us by Team Phoca (made up of our Northern fur seals) and see which one of us is better adapted to survive the obstacles that the Tough Mudder is going to throw at us. 

Note: The Northern fur seals will not actually be participating in the Tough Mudder competition, although they’d be right at home in the cold water.

Team Tiburon practicing the Aquaman pose for our upcoming challenge.  Hopefully it will help! (Photo credit: Tina Mallios/Koukla)

Come cheer for your favorite team and see which team prevails!


Stay tuned, there will be more posts from Team Tiburon as they prepare for this event. Please contribute to their fundraising efforts for the New England Aquarium and share this post to spread the word. Catch up on their previous posts here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sea lion shenanigans

In case you haven't heard, the young California sea lions at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center are a real hoot to watch. Zoe and Sierra are always up to something — romping with the hose, playing slip and slide, learning new skills and amusing visitors every splash of the way.

With so much to see, the trainers have amassed quite a collection of their antics on home videos. Sit back and get a chuckle as you watch these pups in action. Better yet, come visit and see if these busy bodies have picked up any new skills or behaviors! Just be sure to keep your camera and video recorder on hand.

Learn how the sea lions make exercise fun every Fitness Fridays!

Sierra's knows one heck of a two-step.

It doesn't take much to amuse these two, even a garden hose is a good time!

Enter the splash zone with Zoe.

Sierra is an eager learner, watch one of her new skills!

Taking a stroll with a sea lion.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to sea lion soccer.

Make your vacation even better with the Aquarium!

School vacation is a fantastic break from routine when you can spend time with family, friends... and the marine animals at the New England Aquarium! Visitors of all ages are dazzled by our exhibits, the gigantic IMAX movies and even the real giants on display during a whale watch.

From Lauren Margaret Alberini via facebook. Caption: I took my 8 month old daughter to her first of many trips to the New England Aquarium with my best friend and they were both absolutely enthused! Truly wonderful! Thank you!

In fact, it's so much fun here on Central Wharf that you probably won't be alone. We want to make sure you're in the door and having fun as soon as possible. Here are some ways to make the most of your visit during the very busy school vacation periods:
  • Skip the line and buy online! Buy tickets online so you can skip the line at the Aquarium and start touching sharks and rays. Better yet, consider a membership so you can come back again and again all year.
  • Our special venues—like the Simons IMAX Theatre and Whale Watch—often sell out during vacation week. Pick up a combination ticket and save.
  • Arrive early or later in the day to avoid peak times. Beat the crowds by arriving before 10:00 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. We always recommend checking online for our hours of operation and special notices before setting out from home. 
  • Take public transportation. The Aquarium is right on the MBTA’s Blue Line, so taking the T is easy as well as affordable. If you do plan to drive in, check for local parking options.
  • Leave the large stroller at home. The Aquarium bustles during school vacation week and large strollers are pretty difficult to navigate through the crowds. If possible, bring an umbrella stroller. If not, we ask that you check your stroller in our designated area by the Marine Mammal Center during your visit. (REMINDER: For safety, strollers of any size are prohibited in the IMAX Theatre and the touch tank area.)
  • Find lots of options for food. The Aquarium's tasty Harbor View Cafe has something for pretty much everyone, but there are plenty of additional local food options.
  • Yes, but what about... Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions if you still have some unanswered questions.
Of course, another important tip is to remember your camera! We would love to see your pictures with Myrtle, the hefty green sea turtle in the Giant Ocean Tank. Folks are sharing their pictures with the old lady on her Facebook page! We love this vintage picture from the 70s.

From Michelle Jones Brown via Facebook. Caption: Here I am with Myrtle in 1973.

And there are plenty of other photo ops, too. Can you top these! Share your pictures and video with us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google + and flickr. Just be sure to tag the New England Aquarium.

Most importantly, have fun!

From Sherrie Lortie Rasetta via facebook Caption: Thanks for the fun at the Shark & Ray Touch Tank !!

 From off-to-new-adventures via tumblr. Caption: Having a nice dream Baranov?

From vnatera via flickr

From @yasumoto via twitter. Caption: We found Nemo!

Friday, April 6, 2012

How long have you known Myrtle?

It's hard to ignore the queen of the Giant Ocean Tank. Myrtle, the 560-pound green sea turtle, naps and swims where she wants and when she wants. She's also greeted millions of visitors in her years ruling the roost in the GOT. She's been with us since 1970!

So were you one of those visitors?

One of our favorite old photos posted to facebook of visitors with Myrtle in 1973 

We have seen some fantastic pictures and video of visitors with Myrtle over the years. We want to see your pictures, too! Head over to her facebook page (did you know she had her own facebook page?) and upload your favorite pictures of you and the old gal. Old, new, kids, adults: We want to seem them all! Here's some of our favorites so far...

Myrtle Photo Submissions 
Here's some photos Myrtle fans have posted on the Aquarium's facebook page and Myrtle's facebook page. Add your own! 

"Hello - my new friend from the Boston Aquarium" - Posted by Peter Hooley

 "My favorite picture of Myrtle!" - Posted by Gabrielle Kalet

"Love this picture, looks like she's waving at me. I've known all 24 years of my life. I call her 'Big Mama' though because I used to think she was the mother of all sea turtles when I was a kid." - Posted by Jamie Ann Graham

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tough Mudder: A Training Montage of Aquarium Supporters

This is the third in a series of bi-weekly posts from a team of Aquarium staff and supporters who are participating in an extreme obstacle course event called the Tough Mudder this spring. They will be posting about their training methods, animals that inspire them to work hard and they will be raising funds to support the Aquarium. You can help them out by donating to support their efforts.

This post is from Aquarium Dive Safety officer John Hanzl, pictured here at work in the Giant Ocean Tank. (Check out his first post here.)

Some Tiburon teammates squeezed in an extra workout in the Giant Ocean Tank.

Well, Team Tiburon has been had at it for over three months now, and the main event is only a month away. Both individually and as a team we’ve struggled, strained, gritted and sweated our way through countless workouts. I don’t think a single one of us has come through unscathed, but regardless of the collective aches, pains and more, we’ve all put our heart and soul into this team. And a team we have become.

A team workout near the Aquarium

So with the Mudder looming less than a month away, I thought it might be a good time to share with you a little of what we’ve been doing all this time.

I wanted to thank Tina Mallios at Koukla salon and both Thomas and Frosty of Hordon Health for helping grab some of the images that I hope have brought you a little into Team Tiburon’s world.

– Elasmo

Stay tuned, there will be several more posts from Team Tiburon as they prepare for this event. Please contribute to their fundraising efforts for the New England Aquarium and share this post to spread the word. Catch up on their previous post here.