Thursday, August 30, 2012

See 'The Dark Knight Rises' on New England's Largest Screen!

The Dark Knight Rises now playing at the Simons IMAX Theatre! Get your tickets today.

Experience the epic conclusion of director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy on the largest
movie screen in New England! The Dark Knight Rises stars Oscar® winner Christian Bale in the
dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman, who returns to deliver Gotham from an evil foe bent on
destroying the city.

Returning to the main cast, Oscar® winner Michael Caine plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman reprises the role of Lucius Fox. The film also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard, as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake.

Check out a preview here, and just imagine all the action blasting across the screen at the Simons IMAX Theatre. Trust us. You haven’t seen the masked hero's finale and its star-studded cast until you’ve seen them on this massive IMAX screen.

This film is rated PG-13 for language and intense action scenes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Win tickets by sharing your mischievous moments!

Win a family four-pack for New England Aquarium admission! Share your family's mischievous moments with us on our Facebook app by Friday, August 31, at noon. That's when we'll choose our favorite to win.

WHAT: Win four passes to the Aquarium by sharing your most mischievous childhood stories!
WHEN: Post by noon on Friday, August 31, to be entered
WHERE: The Aquarium's Mischief Facebook tab
WHY: Because Zoe and Sierra want to know!

This summer, the prime mischief makers at the New England Aquarium have enjoyed some face time on billboards, lamp posts and taxi cabs around Boston. Zoe and Sierra most definitely deserve the mischief label. Just ask any of the trainers at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, who have been on the losing end of a game of keep-away as the sea lions playfully toss a trainer's keys around the exhibit. Or how about their penchant for garden hoses, which they drag around the exhibit.

But who says the sea lions are the only ones who can have mischievous fun. We're pretty sure that you guys have some great stories of pranks and naughty merriment, too. So listen up, tricksters, we want to hear about your family's shenanigans now. Share stories of childhood mischief with us through our special mischief Facebook app by Friday at noon and you could win four passes to the Aquarium! We'll select our favorite and contact you via Facebook messaging so make sure that feature is turned on.

Here's what other people are saying about mischief at their house. Can you top these?

We can't wait to hear your stories. Good luck!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The transformation begins with little blue penguins

Something very special is happening, and it's evident when you first walk in the building. "Where are the penguins," visitors want to know. Well, the penguin islands are all empty because the birds have been moved to make room for the Giant Ocean Tank animals. The transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank is underway!

Visitors get to see little blue penguins in their new temporary holding exhibit.

Some of the graphics up in the temporary exhibit explaining the construction changes.

Most of the penguins that normally live at the Aquarium are at an off-site holding facility during this important construction project. But the little blue penguins are still delighting visitors just steps away from their usual home! Look for these full-grown birds near the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. From the looks of it, the little blues are settling in just fine. In fact, they're ready to take a dip in their pool.

Friday, August 17, 2012

$5.5 Million Grant for Climate Change Education

The National Science Foundation Awards $5.5 Million Grant for Climate Change Education at Aquariums and Zoos : New England Aquarium Leads Consortium

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.

The network is a national effort to enable informal science education institutions, such as aquariums and zoos, to better communicate the science of climate change and its impacts on marine ecosystems. The goal of the program is to research communication strategies that more effectively explain the complex processes of climate change and to train educational staff at informal science venues in those techniques. Bud Ris, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium stated, “We are aiming to shift the dialogue about climate change to a tone that is interesting, positive and leads to a problem solving mind set. The network’s challenge is to engage Americans in seeing themselves as part of the stories that they find in our exhibits.”

Among the partners are Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, FrameWorks Institute, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and National Aquarium in Baltimore. Evaluation will be conducted by the New Knowledge Organization, Pennsylvania State University and Ohio’s Center for Science and Industry.

In a given year, more than 60 percent of the American public visits an informal science venue, such as zoos or aquariums. Dr. Paul Boyle, senior scientist for conservation and education at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums noted, “People trust AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums for accurate science education. This climate change education partnership is applying social and cognitive techniques to give front-line interpreters skills in explaining complex topics like climate change in the widely engaging arena of informal science education.”

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is the science partner for the project. Senior WHOI graduate students will provide up to date scientific information about climate change, the role of the ocean in climate change and climate change impacts on ocean chemistry and its ecosystems.

FrameWorks Institute identifies and models relevant communications research that can help interpreters frame the public discourse about climate change at informal science education venues.

“The grant will allow the partnership to scale up its training to hundreds of informal science venues nationwide through both in-person and on-line training models,” said New England Aquarium vice president Billy Spitzer, “With the effects of climate change in the news on a near daily basis, there is an increasing need for more discussion and understanding of these complex issues and challenges.”

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."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ocean Health Index Provides First-Ever Global Benchmark of 171 Coastal Regions

New platform provides global leaders with an important baseline to track changes in ocean policy and practices  

Conservation International, The National Geographic Society, the New England Aquarium and the Pacific Life Foundation today unveiled the Ocean Health Index, the first comprehensive measure of ocean health for 171 coastal regions worldwide.

The new index is a quantitative measure of ocean health that considers human beings as part of the
ocean’s ecosystem. It assesses ocean health in terms of the benefits from the ocean, organized
as 10 goals that are enjoyed by people in a sustainable way. (Photo: K. Ellenbogen)

Findings from the Ocean Health Index, published today in the journal Nature, revealed a global score of 60 out of 100. Scores farther from 100 mean that we are either not maximizing the benefits from the oceans or we are not accessing those benefits in a sustainable way.

Global and U.S. scores for each of the goals:
Global        U.S.
Food Provision                    24 25
Artisanal Fishing Opportunities                    87 97
Natural Products                     40 35
Carbon Storage                    75 66
Coastal Protection                      73 79
Livelihoods & Economies                    75 97
Tourism & Recreation                    10 1
Sense of Place                    55 82
Clean Waters                    78 74
Biodiversity                    83 76
Total average score:                     60 63

The Index provides an important tool to policy-makers for making decisions in the future. Resource management decisions can be examined across the suite of goals allowing policy-makers to assess trade-offs.

The Index is a framework that can be used at scales from global to very local – wherever quality data exists.

“The Index is a tool to be actively used by policy-makers and business,” said Steve Katona, Managing Director of the Ocean Health Index. “The Ocean Health Index website is unique because it is a portal to the Index; it’s a direct route to the methodology, goal scores and the components within those scores for every country with a shoreline (i.e. Exclusive Economic Zones – EEZ’s). Users can dig down to the raw data behind every component.  For this reason, the research and website together are a breakthrough in taking science into action.”

The Ocean Health Index also reveals: 
  • Food Provision scored 24 out of 100, further reinforcing the need to improve fisheries management. 
  • Mariculture, a subset of Food Provision, also received one of the lowest scores (10 out of 100), revealing opportunities for countries to sustainably raise seafood to help meet the demands of the growing population and provide economic benefits. 
  • The highest-scoring locations included both densely populated and highly developed nations such as Germany as well as uninhabited islands, such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific. 
  • West African countries scored the lowest on the Ocean Health Index. These countries also rank low on the Human Development Index, suggesting a relationship between good governance, strong economies and a healthy coastline.

This photo shows a coral reef scene with a pink anemone (Amphiprion perideraion) fish in
a giant anemone with a school of small fish in the background. Coral reefs are the most diverse
ecosystems in the oceans and are a key component of the Ocean Health Index. Learn more.
(Photo: K. Ellenbogen)

Scientists from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us, Conservation International, the National Geographic Society and the New England Aquarium collaborated with ocean experts from universities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to develop this landmark approach and digital platform. It has been designed to raise awareness of ocean issues, guide policy priorities, and facilitate a more inclusive and proactive approach to managing the oceans.

By re-envisioning ocean health as a portfolio of benefits, the Ocean Health Index highlights the many different ways in which a coastal area can be healthy. Just like a diversified stock portfolio can perform equally well in a variety of market conditions, many different combinations of goals can lead to a high Index score. Consistent with this idea, the Ocean Health Index highlights the many options that exist for strategic actions to improve ocean health.

“We are very excited about the launch of the Ocean Health Index – the first comprehensive measurement tool for the health of the oceans,” said William Wrigley, Jr., former Chairman and CEO of the William Wrigley Jr. Company and Board member of Conservation International, Co-Chair of Marine Strategy and Co-Founder of the Ocean Health Index. “The index is backed by pure science and it is our intention to see that it is used to influence people who have the ability to alter policy for the oceans to make the right choices for our future before it is too late. We know what to do to save the oceans; we just need to convince people to change their behaviors. We can indeed co-exist in a way that benefits both humans and the oceans at the same time.”

A photograph of mangroves in Indonesia with exposed Heliopora sp. (blue coral) in the foreground.
Mangroves play a key role in coastal protection, one of the ocean conservation goals emphasized
in the Ocean Health Index. Learn more.

More than 40% of the world’s population lives along the coast and as the world’s population grows from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, people are growing more and more dependent on the ocean for their food, livelihoods, recreation and sustenance.  However, approximately 84% of monitored marine stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited, or even depleted. The capacity of the world’s fishing fleets is estimated to be 2.5 times sustainable fishing levels.

“The global score of 60 is a strong message that we are not managing our use of the oceans in an optimal way,” said Bud Ris, president and CEO, the New England Aquarium and co-author of the paper in Nature. “There is a lot of opportunity for improvement, and we hope the Index will make that point abundantly clear.”

“For the first time, we have a comprehensive measurement of what’s happening in our oceans and a global platform from which to evaluate the implications of human action or inaction,” said Dr. Greg Stone, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist for Oceans with Conservation International and co-author of the paper in Nature. “The Index provides a practical means to inform management decisions by government and business leaders through a robust and quantitative framework that uses the best available data for any particular place across ecological, social, economic, and political conditions.”

“The Ocean Health Index is like a thermometer of ocean health, which will allow us to determine how the patient is doing,” said National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala. “The Index will be a measure of whether our policies are working, or whether we need new solutions.”

“We believe that effective management of our oceans is critically important to help sustain the economies and people dependent on them,” said James Morris, chairman of the Pacific Life Foundation. “We are pleased to support the Ocean Health Index in order to help shape a new direction for global policy on the oceans.” The Pacific Life Foundation has committed up to $5 million towards the development and implementation of the Ocean Health Index.

A newly hatched green sea turtle heads out to sea in the Turtle Islands of the Philippines/Malaysia.
Protecting biodiversity is a key aspect of the Ocean Health Index. Learn more. (Photo: K. Ellenbogen).

The lead scientific partners of the Ocean Health Index are the University of Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analysis in collaboration with the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us. The founding partners are Conservation International, New England Aquarium, and National Geographic Society. The Founding Presenting Sponsor is the Pacific Life Foundation. Darden Restaurants Foundation was a founding donor. The founding grant was given by Beau and Heather Wrigley.

The authors readily acknowledge methodological challenges in calculating the Index, but emphasize it represents a critical step forward. “We recognize the Index is a bit audacious. With policy-makers and managers needing tools to actually measure ocean health—and with no time to waste--we felt it was audacious by necessity,” said Dr. Ben Halpern, lead author and scientist on the Ocean Health Index.

Ocean Health Index Expedition
Photographer and videographer Keith Ellenbogen traveled to Indonesia, the Philippines and the California coast gathering many of the photographs and video in used to present the information on the Ocean Health Index website. Read his expedition posts from those travels on the Aquarium's Global Explorers Blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Celebrity chef feeds celebrity turtle

At 565 pounds, Myrtle is a big eater. She grazes all day long, with lot of little meals spread out throughout the day. But this morning she had an extra special, extra large breakfast thanks to local celebrity chef Ming Tsai.

Diver Sherrie Floyd and Chef Ming Tsai prepared a smorgasbord for Myrtle's breakfast—broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and squid.

Tsai is designing the menu for the Aquarium's upcoming Wrecking Ball event on September 15, 2012, and he'll be doing a special cooking demonstration for guests. The event kicks off the transformation of Myrtle's home, the Giant Ocean Tank, and tickets are on sale now.

But this morning he put his kitchen skills to work for the tank's most famous resident—Myrtle. Diver Sherrie Floyd showed Ming how to prepare the Brussels sprouts (her favorite!), broccoli, cabbage and squid. With a big, strong beak, the big turtle is actually able to eat a head of broccoli or a whole squid. But the divers chop up the foods into sizable chunks so Myrtle thinks she's getting a little more!

Chef Tsai feeds Myrtle a lettuce leaf.

Then it was off to the dive platform where Tsai got to feed Myrtle the veggies he expertly prepared, plus a little side salad of lettuce leaves. Green sea turtles are mostly herbivores, which means they eat mostly plants. But Myrtle also gets squid for protein.

Check out this video of today's very special event!

Chef Ming Tsai is known for his famous restaurant, Blue Ginger, in Wellesley, Mass., and his "Simply Ming" cooking show on PBS TV. He is also an ambassador for the New England Aquarium as an Aquarium Overseer. Tsai has served on the board for two years.

Want to know more about Myrtle and her fellow residents? Check out the Divers Blog! Learn about another of Myrtle's close-ups, see what Myrtle's Thanksgiving feast is like, and find out how sea turtles visit the doctor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sharks: Op-Ed from Aquarium Explorer-in-Residence

It's almost like clockwork. Every summer, as people flock to New England beaches to escape the heat, sharks make headlines. This summer is no different.

Of course, there's no question that sharks deserve a healthy dose of respect. They are top predators after all. But these powerful animals have evolved to help maintain balanced marine ecosystems — and health oceans are integral for our survival.

In an op-ed piece on The Boston Globe's website, Aquarium Explorer-in-Residence Brian Skerry is asking for a sea change in the way we think about sharks. Here is an excerpt from his piece:

"So with sharks making headlines once again, we should pause to consider the value of these misunderstood animals. Lets take our curiosity and intrigue about sharks to the next level and seek to learn even more about them. Awareness will be followed by concern, followed by conservation."

Read the entire piece.

Aquarium explorers have long shared their encounters with sharks, from a solitary great hammerhead shark to the reef dwelling sharks in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to baby lemon sharks in mangroves. But these encounters may become fewer and far between. As Skerry writes, "we have lost an estimated 90 percent of shark populations to our own predatory behaviors like overfishing and “finning” sharks for shark fin soup." As Discovery Channel's Shark Week looms, consider the importance of these animals as you marvel the power and majesty of these apex predators.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Wrecking Ball and After Party

Come celebrate as we begin the transformation of the New England Aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank!

The Wrecking Ball and The After Party
Saturday, September 15, 2012
New England Aquarium

Buy your tickets today.

Join us for a celebration of the Aquarium's signature exhibit, the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT), as we kick off its 21st-century transformation. You can mingle, dine and dance during the whole evening’s festivities, or just kick up your heels at The After Party!

The Wrecking Ball 

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Main Building around the GOT
Cocktails and Hors d'Oeuvres

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Harbor View Terrace Pavilion

Chef Ming Tsai Cooking Presentation
Strolling Dinner Stations
Entertainment provided by: House Red

The After Party

9:00 p.m. to Midnight
Harbor View Terrace Pavilion

The After Party featuring entertainment, dancing and libations at Boston's most beautiful waterfront site as well as specialty martini bar sponsored by Grey Goose

Summer cocktail attire, please.

Buy your tickets to the Wrecking Ball and The After Party here. Your purchase will help transform the GOT!

Special thanks to the following companies for their contributions, which helped make this event possible:
Boston Photobooth
Boston Uplights
Grey Goose
Island Creek Oyster
Rentals Unlimited
Wild Flour Cake Co.