Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Volunteer of the Month: December 2013

Every month our Volunteer Office sorts through piles of nominations from supervisors and honors one of our volunteers for their truly stupendous efforts. Meet our latest Volunteer of the Month!

The final Volunteer of the Month award for 2013 goes to the multi-talented Dave McLean of the Rescue and Rehab department!

Here’s what Adam Kennedy had to say about his contribution to the Aquarium community:
Dave has been an awesome addition to the rescue family since he started in November 2011. Dave always comes in with a smile and his energy and charismatic nature is contagious!   
Dave transports a rescued turtle
He's always willing to lend a hand and is critical in helping out with the heavy lifting. One such occasion we required his muscle was with the 2012 live leatherback. Dave had heard about the leatherback incidentally and being from Quincy quickly came to the facility. Dave was extremely helpful to staff in maneuvering the turtle out of the IFAW vehicle and getting the turtle into the facility.  
This large loggerhead was rescued from Cape Cod. Dave helped with its transport 
Dave is certainly not afraid to get dirty. He never hesitates to help out with any task. Whether it is cleaning up our necropsy freezer after a malfunction or assist in cleaning up after we had a sewer back-up. 
With Dave’s mechanical background he has helped us out tremendously with vehicle problems as well as life support pump issues. He is eager to learn new things and help impart his knowledge to new volunteers and interns.  
Dave also looks out for his fellow volunteers. One of our volunteers just left to be a snow bird ☺ and Dave made sure we had a “going away” party for him. He will always be one of the first to bring in articles about the program that he sees in local papers, or make sure that we are up on the goings on in the turtle/ marine mammal world at large. 
Dave has done so much here that I am positive I am missing all kinds of things. For that I would hope you consider Dave for Volunteer of the Month!
Congratulations to Dave!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 2. The Birth of our Second Fur Seal Pup

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

We're nearing the end of our countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

2. Birth of the Aquarium's second Northern fur seal pup

Few things on this blue planet could be as adorable as the fur seal born here at the Aquarium this summer. Kitovi was born late one night in August and named after a rookery where wild fur seals are born in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska. She was a media darling—because look at that face!

Remember when Kit was this adorably tiny at just a few days old?

From the start, Kit was independent and spunky. She spent a lot of time behind the scenes with her mom Ursula, nursing and learning how to be a fur seal. She was quick to explore and spend time apart from mum. But when it came time to step flipper into the public exhibit, Kit had a moment of stage fright!

Kit spends a lot of time rough-housing with her buddy Leu

But those initial moments of trepidation are long gone. These days she's eating fish, exploring the exhibit and playing with her big brother Flaherty and his buddy Leu. But she still has a lot of growing up to do before she can hold her own with the rambunctious sea lions Zoe and Sierra.

Kit is growing up to be a smart, independent and thoroughly adorable fur seal!

Previously on the Countdown to 2014:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 3. The Historic Sea Turtle Trek

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

We're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

3. The Historic East Coast Sea Turtle Trek

One of the triumphant scenes from 2013—rescued sea turtles heading home!

Every year the Aquarium works with the Massachusetts Audubon at Wellfleet Bay to rescue and rehabilitate stranded sea turtles. Last year was one for the record books, with more than 200 turtles washing up on the shores of Cape Cod. That meant dozens of turtles needed to be released once they were healthy enough. And that was the impetus behind the historic Sea Turtle Trek!

The turtles were packed safely in their carriers for the long journey to Florida

The goal was to work with rescuers up and down the East Coast to ferry some 50 turtles to Florida for an historic release into the warm waters down south. The caravan started in Quincy one sunny Saturday in April, all the turtles tucked safely in their carriers.

The first stop of this important endangered species express was in an unassuming parking lot in CT 

The group met up with the Riverhead Foundation of New York to pick up a few more loggerhead sea turtles. This stranding season was unique in that many more loggerheads stranded than usual. Housing and feeding these turtles was an incredible challenge during an already busy season.

A nighttime meet-up with our partners at National Aquarium added a few more vehicles to the caravan

It was dark by the time we met up with our partners at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. They presented our cars with some terrific adornments that let fellow drivers track our journey through a special Twitter hashtag—#seaturtletrek.

Even on the road, we coordinate an unplanned stop with the folks at the Virginia Aquarium
to add even more turtles to the trek.  

The teams drove through the night with one unplanned stopover in Virginia to add a few more turtles to the trek. This pushed the number of turtles to be released over 50! It was an exciting moment when the caravan crossed into Florida.

Getting closer!

Hours and hours and miles and miles after the Sea Turtle Trek started in Quincy, the weary rescuers were all smiles when dozens of endangered sea turtles returned to the ocean. The turtles shuffled and dragged themselves over the wet sand until they were once again swimming free in the ocean. Definitely a triumphant moment of marine animal conservation!

How can you not smile?! Such a long journey—from near-death on Cape Cod to swimming free in Florida
The Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team is at it again, caring for dozens of endangered sea turtles after the cold-stunning season. You can support their efforts by sponsoring a Kemp's ridley sea turtle through our Animal Sponsorship program!

Previously on the Countdown to 2014:
  7. A rescued fur seal pup arrives for the holidays
  6. A victory for right whales
  5. Little blue penguin chicks hatch
  4. The amazing sights of the Aquarium Whale Watch
  3. Sea Turtle Trek

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 4. Some Amazing Sights of the New England Aquarium Whale Watch

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

4. A fantastic year for the New England Aquarium Whale Watch

Salt, the so-called Grand Dame of Stellwagen Bank, was definitely an exciting sighting

This is the first year of the Aquarium's partnership with Boston Harbor Cruises to give visitors a front row seat to see some of the largest and most impressive marine animals in their home turf—Stellwagen Bank. The New England Aquarium Whale Watch launched from Central Wharf and ferried passengers to this rich marine animal feeding ground just a few miles from Boston several times each day.

Nile, seen here flipper slapping with another humpback whale, was a regular on the Whale Watch Log

Some humpback whales made regular appearances, like Nile. Other whales were more elusive but their sightings were extra special for the knowledgable naturalists on board every trip. Along with humpbacks, minke and finback whales were spotted.

Few things are more exciting than a breach!

The whales wowed visitors with dramatic behaviors such as breaches and flipper slapping. All along the way, visitors learned a lot about these animals and the threats they face in the wild.

A curious harbor seal pup surveys the scene

The list of marine life doesn't end whales on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch. Seals, dolphins, sea birds and even those other-worldly fish Mola mola had a moment to shine on the Whale Watch Log.

Sunset on Stellwagen Bank

With three boats each running trips several times each day, it meant many people had an opportunity to hit the water this season. It's always wonderful to be able to share the beauty and majesty of our blue planet with visitors. While the season ended in November now that the whales have headed south to feed in warmer waters, we're already looking forward to March when the trip start up again!

Previously on the Countdown to 2014:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 5. Little Blue Penguin Chicks

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

5. Our Growing Colony of Little Blue Penguins Got a Little Bit Bigger

Little blue penguins spent last year's construction period in a special viewing nook where families got
a chance to see these birds up close

Earlier this year, we shared the happy news that the little blue penguin colony just about doubled in size. 14 little blues arrived from Australia last winter and went through routine quarantine periods, just to be sure they weren't introducing foreign bugs. Then in March the birds met our colony of 15 little blue penguins! And that's when the sparks started to fly.

Incubation is a dirty job, but the penguins parents are dedicated. They take turns sitting on the egg
while the partner feeds or takes a swim.

In all seriousness, the penguin biologists made careful pairings to encourage breeding. The Aquarium is part of a Species Survival Plan for this species, which means we work with other zoos and aquariums to raise genetically diverse and healthy birds. By and by eggs were laid and the parents set about incubating the eggs. Hey, it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it!

Lots of people think the full-grown little blue penguins are babies. Of course, they're not.
But this downy chick is one of the little blue penguin chicks born here this year! 

And then...pip, pip... the babies hatched! And that's when the parents started the big job of feeding their youngsters. After a month or so, they weighed nearly as much as their parents at about 2 to 3 pounds.

Feed me!

This fledgling retains most of its down feathers but has started
growing its sleek swimming feathers on its belly 

It took around three months for our pair of chicks to grow up and lose their downy feather. That's when they joined the rest of the colony in the Level 1 exhibit. Even though Granite and Thigaraa are still less than a year old, they look just like all the other birds in the exhibit. Come say hi!

Little blue penguins are part of our Animal Sponsorship program! You can support important breeding programs like this by sponsoring these endearing birds, or another animal at the Aquarium. Not only will you be paying for food and medical care, you'll also receive more information about the species.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 6. A victory for right whales

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

6. A victory for right whale conservation

The Aquarium has a long-standing right whale research program. Earlier this month the researchers celebrated an important victory in the protection of these critically endangered marine mammals: the elimination of the sunset clause in the ship speed reduction rule. This means that regulations that limited ship speeds in areas frequented by right whales will never expire!

Ship strikes are a major threat to right whales up and down the East Coast. But dropping speeds in these sensitive areas were predicted to reduce the probability of fatal ship strikes of right whales by a whopping 80-90%! And it's proven to have made a difference: "no right whale ship strike deaths have occurred in Seasonal Management Areas since the rule went into place" (from NOAA). These measure had been set to expire in December 2013—but not now!

Previously in the Countdown to 2014:
10. The goosefish and her egg veils  
9. Three new IMAX films for the year  
8. Jaw-dropping slow motion video  
7. A rescued seal pup arrives for the holidays

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Countdown to 2014: 7. Rescued fur seal pup

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

7. A rescued fur seal pup arrives for the holidays

Even though Chiidax is not on public exhibit right now, he's already made a big impression! 

We announced his arrival just last week, and he quickly became a darling on our social media pages, like Facebook. He's currently settling in and getting to know the trainers at our off-site holding facility in Quincy. Soon enough, he'll head behind the scenes on Central Wharf to get to know the other animals—like Kit, the fur seal pup born here in August. Visitors can expect to meet him late next month.

This fur seal pup turned up in the box on the doorstep of an Alaskan Fish and Wildlife office. He was cared for and fattened up in a wildlife rescue facility in Seward, Alaska. Once he big and healthy enough to travel, he made the long journey back to New England, escorted by an Aquarium veterinarian and marine mammal trainer. 

Chiidax (pronounced Chee-dax) has quite a story. But we're happy to say that he's home for Christmas! Hope you and your families and friends are enjoying a lovely holiday season.

You can help! Support the Northern fur seals at the Aquarium through our Animal Sponsorship program. You'll help pay for food and medical treatment for this rescued animals, as well as the pups born here at the Aquarium.

Previously on the Countdown to 2014:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Countdown to 2014: 8: Jaw-dropping slow motion video

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing to countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

8. Jaw-dropping slow-motion video

Technology is always evolving and that means we have more and more impressive ways to share the unbelievable underwater world. This year we had help from underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen and MIT physicist Allan Adams with tech support from Jason O'Connell at Tech Imaging Services. Remember this?

As we explained in this media release, this jaw-dropping, split second footage was shot at 500 frames per second versus the normal 30 frames for video. It shows how these cunning cephalopods capture their food, with two retractable tentacles snagging a fish and pulling it into the grasp of eight waiting suction cupped arms.

Cuttlefish in its first floor exhibit

Ellenbogen and Adams also pointed their lens at the goosefish, the lionfish and other animals throughout the Aquarium and our off-site holding facility. In fact, these incredible clips also spawned our first television ads in decades, which tout the New Aquarium Experience (more on that later in the series, of course)!

Previously in our Countdown to 2014:
10. The goosefish and her egg veils
  9. Three new IMAX films for the year

Monday, December 23, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 9: Three new IMAX films

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're continuing the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

9. Three new IMAX films

The Simons IMAX Theatre boasts the largest movie screen in New England. It's 65 feet high by 85 feet wide—that's taller than a six-story building! So when a nature film is splashed across this impressive canvas, you can imagine that it transports viewers to some wild places and introduces some amazing marine animals. Now multiply that by three and you have one exciting year!

Tickets and showtimes

Our newest film—Journey to the South Pacific 3Dopened just last month and you will truly find yourself on your own journey to the South Pacific. Movie-goers are plunged into the sparkling turquoise water to swim alongside gentle whale sharks and curious sea turtles. Gliding through shimmering schools of fish and getting a taste for the island culture of South Papua are just some of the moments that show the incredible diversity of this marine gem.

Tickets and showtimes

Now this summers splash hit was Great White Shark 3D, another immersive experience that puts you up close with a majestic marine animal. The film provides moviegoers with a shark's eye view of the underwater world. Seeing the science at work behind that fearsome toothy grin helps illustrate the importance of this spectacular species. While these predators are indeed formidable, the whole family can enjoy an exhilarating experience that demonstrates how great white sharks are perfectly adapted hunters that play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our oceans.

Tickets and showtimes

And our wintery favorite has to be Penguins 3D. By getting to know a single, plucky individual in an enormous colony of king penguins, you can appreciate the struggle and triumph of raising a chick in the rugged wilderness of South Georgia Island. Watch this waddling hero dodge belching elephant seals and hungry leopard seals in an effort to find his mate amid a colony of half a million penguins. Together they battle the elements to raise a chick in one of the wildest places on Earth.

During a trip to the Aquarium's IMAX theatre, you can explore the world—from wind-blown icy beaches of the southern Atlantic Ocean to dazzling sunny reefs of the South Pacific. These engaging and gorgeous new ways to discover our blue planet are just one reason that 2013 was so special!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to 2014 | 10: The goosefish and her eggs veils

We're blazing toward the New Year, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're starting a countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

10. The goosefish egg veils

The goosefish wowed everyone by laying several egg veils this year, and this year the camera (phones) were rolling! Her egg veil is a beautiful, gossamer sheet composed of thousands and thousands of eggs held together in a single layer.

Close up of the egg veil

The eggs aren't fertilized because there is only one goosefish in the exhibit. But they are quite beautiful. Each egg veil remained in the exhibit for a couple days so visitors could enjoy watching it billow and flow throughout the exhibit.

The goosefish rests after 

The goosefish spends most of her time laying flat on the bottom of her exhibit, impressing everyone with her huge size, enormous mouth and intricate fringe. Sometimes she raises her modified dorsal fin, her lure flitting about to entice a meal near her giant maw. You might even see her eyes tracking something on the other side of the glass—like a camera!

The goosefish spends most of her time laying flat on the ground, sometimes dangling her 

Here's a look back at some of the other egg veils that have graced this exhibit over the years:
And here are a couple posts about the goosefish and other residents of the Northern Waters Gallery:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Year, A New Rescued Fur Seal Pup

For many of us as kids, we dreamt of holiday gifts coming from the North Pole via a mythical sled. Recently, New England Aquarium staff got  a real life variation of that with the dream gift of a rare, rescued Northern fur seal pup from Alaska via a FedEx cargo plane!

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

The Aquarium is pleased to announce the arrival of Chiidax (pronounced Chee-dacks), a lovable but feisty four-month old Northern fur seal pup. He will not be exhibit until later in January as he still has to go through a standard 30-day quarantine, but he has a story that might tug at your holiday heart strings.

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

The 9.5 pound newborn bundle of fur was found during August in a box at the doorstep of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game offices on the remote Aleutian island of Sand Point (see Point A on map below) with a note attached stating that its mother must have died during childbirth. The male northern fur seal pup was underweight and dehydrated and was a rare find even in the Aleutians as that species nearest pupping islands were more than 200 miles away in the Pribilofs. Named Chiidax by the local Aleuts, it means “small, young animal” in their native language. Alaska Fish & Game officials arranged for the pup with enormous eyes and even bigger ears to be sent to the nearest rehab facility over 500 miles away at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward (see Point B), about 100 miles south of Anchorage. There, the little fellow regained his health and doubled in weight to 18 pounds.

See video of the young pup while in rehab via the Alaska Dispatch.

View Larger Map

The Alaskan rescue biologists were challenged to care for Chiidax as he was the first fur seal that they had ever taken in. With Chiidax being hand-raised by people and his birth area unknown, federal wildlife officials decided that he was not releasable back into the wild. Ironically, the people with some of the most experience raising northern fur seals were located 3000 miles away across the continent in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas. The marine mammal staff at Boston’s New England Aquarium several years ago had decided to start a breeding program for northern fur seals in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. Northern fur seals populations had declined over the past several decades, and they could only be found in a handful of North American aquariums.

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

To get Chiidax to Boston, the Aquarium sent veterinarian Julie Cavin and marine mammal trainer Belinda Brackett to Alaska to escort the pup on a 14 hour FedEx cargo flight from Anchorage to Indianapolis and eventually Hartford, CT. There, Aquarium staff transported the pup to its off-site animal care center in Quincy, MA, 10 miles south of Boston. Chiidax will spend a standard, 30 day quarantine period there before he is brought to a behind-the-scenes pool at the Aquarium. Then, he will first meet Kit, a female fur seal pup born at the Aquarium this past August that will undoubtedly become his same age playmate. They will later be joined by Flaherty, a male one year old also born in Boston and Leu (Lou), a two year old rescued in California. Chiidax will most likely go on public display with his mates sometime in January in the Aquarium’s spectacular, harbor-side seal exhibit that has truly become a fur seal playground.

Meet the fleet of frisky pups at the Marine Mammal Center!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Now Playing: Journey to the South Pacific 3D

Thanks to all those who participated in our contest on Facebook, and congratulations to our winners. Plug in to our online social community on FacebookTwitterTumblr and Google+ pages so you can be in the know when we're giving away tickets.

Can't wait?
 Get your tickets online!

Come glide through shimmering schools of fish, swim alongside gentle whale sharks and soak in the warm sunlight of West Papua during your own Journey to the South Pacific 3D. This far-off island paradise is home to the most diverse marine habitat in the world.

Here, just watch the trailer. You'll see just a hint of the dazzling cavalcade of sea life—from tiny sea turtle hatchlings to giant manta rays—that will splash before your eyes.

Got that? OK, now imagine it all in incredible IMAX 3D on the biggest screen in New England. And while you’re soaring over vibrant reefs and learning about the beauty of this enchanting island culture, you’ll also discover the importance of living in balance with our blue planet.

Swim with schooling fish | Photo: from Journey to the South Pacific 3D

The turquoise waters of West Papua | Photo: from Journey to the South Pacific 3D

Experience the diversity and richness of the reefs in West Papua | Photo: Journey to the South Pacific 3D

Stay plugged in to our online social community on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ pages for chances to win tickets to Aquarium IMAX movies and more. Can't wait? Get your tickets online.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Share your passion for the oceans as an Aquarium volunteer!

Did you know that about two-thirds of our visitor education team are volunteers? These Aquarium Guides help visitors have an engaging educational experience by sharing information about the exhibits, answering visitor questions, assisting live animal presentations and engaging visitors at our touch tanks…all while graciously donating their time to the community!

A volunteer answers visitors' questions at the Edge of the Sea touch tank.

With more than 1.3 million visitors each year, it takes a lot of help from some enthusiastic volunteers to make sure the visitors have a quality experience. We are looking for individuals who are excited about communicating our mission of protecting the blue planet with weekday availability (sorry, all our weekend slots are full!). In addition, there are two major requirements to being a volunteer at the Aquarium: 1) successful completion of the Aquarium Guide Training (AGT) course, and 2) having one set day a week free for six months.

The AGT course ensures our volunteers are armed with all the helpful information about our animals, exhibits and the blue planet. These courses are held three times each year. The next AGT course is starting January 15!

Once you learn more about Aquarium Guides, then fill out an online application form. If we have vacancies that match your availability, staff from the Volunteer Office will then be in contact for the next steps (unfortunately, weekend positions are not available at this time). 

A volunteer mans a Live Animal Presentation with an epaulette shark!

Still not sure? Here’s a testimonial from Taylor Engelsman, a AGT graduate:
I was thrilled when I received the phone call informing me I had been chosen to be a part of an amazing group of people who had been selected to begin Aquarium Guide Training. I soon received an email from Kim McCabe welcoming me to AGT. She was really great at outlining everything we would be learning. She also made it clear they would give us all the tools we would need to be excellent Aquarium Educators.  
I was blown away by the diversity of the people in my class and their motivation for volunteering at the Aquarium. There was everyone from high school students to retirees and everyone in between. Despite the small group it seemed everyone had a different reason for being there. Some were considering majoring in Marine Biology, others were thinking of changing careers, others wanted experience interacting with visitors and still others just loved the Aquarium so much they wanted to give something back.  
We learned not only what I affectionately call ‘fish facts,’ we also learned about several important major themes central to the Aquarium’s mission, including climate change, sustainable seafood and conservation. We were also given techniques and tools for sharing these important messages with visitors and customer service skills to help make everyone’s experience the best possible. By the time I hit the Aquarium floor on my first official day as an Aquarium Visitor Educator I felt completely prepared to share my excitement and new knowledge with visitors.  
As you may be able to tell from my post I absolutely love volunteering at the aquarium. If you are considering volunteering, do it! And if you aren’t considering it, you should be! You won’t regret it!

If you have any questions, see the FAQ page or feel free to email vols@neaq.org!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Volunteer(s) of the Month: Kim Podesta and Greg Lamoureux

Our Volunteer Office sorts through piles of nominations from supervisors and honors one of our volunteers for each month to recognize their truly stupendous efforts. Meet our latest Volunteers of the Month!

We love our volunteers!

This month, we are announcing awardees from both October and November. One is a Marine Mammals volunteer and the other volunteers with Visitor Education. What do they have in common? Not only do they go above and beyond what is expected of them, but they also bring incredible positive energy to the Aquarium!

Here are their nominations:

Kim Podesta
Kim joined Marine Mammal department in July of 2012. When I first met Kim she was what I would describe as a bit on the shy side. It wasn’t long before Kim broke out her shell and became a part of what we refer to as our “Tuesday dream team.” These days, that shy girl I met in 2012 can be found teaching coworkers her oh-so-lovely jig that she loves to show off during our end-of-the-day dance parties in the kitchen. 
In addition to her enjoyable personality, she is an incredibly hard worker and always brings her best attitude to work. You can tell that she really appreciates the animals, and always goes above and beyond to make sure they have the best enrichment possible. 

Kim shows off her sea lion enrichment mobile
Kim even has gone so far as to spend her own time and money constructing a seal mobile that hangs from the ceiling for enrichment for the seals and sea lions. She spent a lot of time and energy looking into what the seals might most enjoy in this toy, mirrors, dog toys, car wash strips and even tubes to house different scents that the seals enjoy. This toy has fast become a favorite of our sea lions in particular. Enrichment is an incredibly important part of the animals’ day, and having someone on our team that values it as much as Kim is an amazing asset to our department. 

Greg Lamoureux
When he's not volunteering at the Aquarium,
Greg makes kites!
I’d like to nominate Greg Lamoureux for volunteer of the month. Greg is always the first face I see when I come in in the morning, over an hour early for his shift, because he has to catch an early boat from Hull to be here on time. He always has a smile on his face, and is ready for whatever is put in his path. When other days are tight on volunteers, Greg is quick to come in and volunteer additional days to help out the team. He works a longer day than most of the volunteers, and never loses his enthusiasm for the Aquarium!  

Check back in January for our final Volunteer of the Month of 2013!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Large rescued sea turtle has reason to be thankful

A 175-pound, rescued loggerhead sea turtle from Cape Cod will celebrate Thanksgiving by being offered its first meal of herring and being transferred from its small, intake pool to a large tank.

Several New England Aquarium rescue staff transfer a 170 pound loggerhead sea turtle into a larger tank after receiving some medical treatments after her re-warming.

This thin, near-adult female was rescued from Crosby Beach in Brewster last weekend. She was caked in mud and barnacles as she was hunkering down low in the water column trying to avoid the frigid temperatures that gripped the region then. She is the second largest sea turtle ever rescued during the annual November/December cold stunning season on Cape Cod. Only a 225 pound turtle named Tiny rescued about a decade ago was bigger. Despite her large size, she is still very underweight. Aquarium veterinarians believe that she has probably been debilitated since summer with an underlying medical condition that has yet to be diagnosed and kept her from migrating south.

A rescuer examines a Kemp's ridley sea turtle that arrived earlier this month

In true Thanksgiving tradition, Aquarium staff were gleeful this morning at the prospect of fattening her up in the coming months. She will be named early next week. Each year, Aquarium rescue staff and volunteers pick a theme from which to choose names. Past themes have included national parks, detective novel characters and constellations. This year’s theme is breakfast cereals and their mascots!

The stranding season this year on Cape Cod has gotten off to a very fast start with nearly 70 hypothermic sea turtles brought to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in the old Quincy shipyard. Eighteen animals have been re-warmed and stabilized and shipped out to other rehab facilities, including ten to the National Marine Life Center in Bourne and eight to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. In this season of thanksgiving, the New England Aquarium is truly grateful to its stranding network partners from Florida to Maine which take in sea turtles that require months of rehab.

The recent cold weather has resulted in a higher percentage of small, stranded sea turtles dying on beaches due to exposure as overnight temperatures have been in the 20’s. Today’s storm with its very strong, southeast winds might result in some sea turtles being washed on the South Shore versus the norm of the Outer Cape. The Aquarium asks post-Thanksgiving beach walkers to keep their eyes peeled for unusual objects in the debris at the high tide line.

If someone finds a turtle, please call Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay at 508-349-2615.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Art and the Aquarium: Creativity comes in many forms

Many people say the ocean is an inspiration. We know. When our visitors share photographs of their Aquarium visit on social media, we are treated to glimpses of the animals and exhibits through their eyes. Take this adorable photo of a young visitor that was shared with us on Facebook. Or this visitor's compilation of photographs on Tumblr. The photographs are stunning, inspiring, engaging and sometimes funny.

But the creativity doesn't stop with a camera. It's always a special day when visitors share their artwork with us—from sketches to oil paintings to digital drawings, from professionals to amateurs. We want to introduce a couple of the artists who've shared their work with us, and let them explain a bit about their work and how the Aquarium inspires them.

Brandon Strathmann
I worked as an animation artist for Disney, DreamWorks and Fox in the past. I am presently an art professor for Lesley University.

I have loved the ocean for as long as I can remember, and I have always visited the ocean and aquariums whenever I had a chance to continue studying these fascinating life forms. The New England Aquarium has been inspirational to me for many years. I visited it many times in 2007 while I was a graduate student that needed to capture the feeling of the deep in my paintings and drawings.

I cannot overemphasize how valuable drawing the living animals you have on exhibit is to developing animators. You are forced to capture life in motion when you draw fish, the dynamic nature of water makes everything that moves far more apparent. All of this artwork, which I posted on Facbook, was done digitally in Adobe Photoshop. I started off by drawing and then felt moved to make a fast painting of the main exhibit immediately before the Aquarium closed.

Seeing the realistically sculpted and colored corals in your newly refurbished aquarium was so inspirational that I needed to draw and paint it. The films that my wife and I made required us to build, color and texture three dimensional computer models of coral reefs. It was very challenging to create them based off of photos! I was thinking of how much easier the process of making our films would have been, had we been able to study your beautiful exhibit while we were animating it.

I used a radial gradient to create the feeling of blue depth in the water of this painting. Then I used a semi-transparent series of greens and yellows to fill in the stag horn corals and sponges that make up the shapes of the middle ground of the painting. I saved redder and more opaque color for the sponges and brain coral in the fore ground of the painting. Some reddish brown calligraphic lines bring out the wrinkles of the brain coral. The whole painting was done in under 5 minutes.

I would like for people to know that protecting the wonders of the ocean inspire most of my personal artwork. I am interested in saving the oceans because they are the greatest potential resource to help humanity, and they are being polluted and wasted currently. I’m an animation professor who works with my wife on short films dedicated to protecting the ocean from environmental hazards. We jointly designed the osprey license plate for the Audubon Society and Save the Bay for the state of RI. The oceans are a magical place and my wife and I want to do what we can to help protect them. Our films have screened all around the world, teaching people about the problems with plastics in the ocean and the danger ocean acidification poses to the balance of marine life.

We found Brandon's pictures and captions on Facebook.

Elsa Senner
I am currently a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. I grew up outside of Boston and have been going to the New England Aquarium since I was a child. The sea turtles and sea lions have always been my favorites.

Spending time in the waters of the north shore, Cape Cod, and Acadia National Park is a major part of my summers. I can’t get enough of the salt water when the weathers warm. But it strikes me how massive the oceans are and how much we rely on them (like how they cover the majority of the Earth and supply us with half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, etc.). The sea inspires most of my artwork, and I am currently working on a series of oil paintings depicting marine life.

With my painting “Myrtle”, I wanted the viewer to experience the enormity and grace that this sea creature possesses. I also hoped the viewer would perhaps relate to Myrtle, seeing her as an individual and almost human because that’s how I felt when I experienced this moment with her at the aquarium.

See Elsa's sea turtle painting on Facebook. See more of Elsa's work on Facebook and her website.

Ami De Lullo
I am an animator and have my bachelor's degree in Computer Animation from Ringling College of Art and Design. Being an animator brings me to constantly pay attention to the world around me so that I may bring characters to life. How animals think and move is incredibly interesting. These particular sketches were simply and very quickly done in ink, part of an Inktober challenge.

I love the New England Aquarium! The ocean is an ever changing world, one that is vastly different from our own terrestrial one. My favorites have to be the mammals that live between the worlds: the penguinsthe seals, the sea lions. They are just so appealing! Their movements are beautiful and tend to be comedic at the same time.

Ami's pictures of the penguins and the sea lions crossed our dash on Tumblr.

Candi Imming
Photography remains my first love, however I started painting animals shortly after I moved to Massachusetts from Nebraska. While I have taken art classes at museums, I never see myself as anything but an amateur who enjoys realizing her own ideas in paint.

The turtle held by gloved hands remains a favorite since 
it reminds me of the Aquarium team that cares for the turtles.

The New England Aquarium visits inspire my artistic efforts every time I go. The diversity and accessibility to see animals inspires photographs and later paintings. The ocean and its health need to remain a primary focus of humans. The Aquarium helps connect people to that fact, by reminding us of the inhabitants who live there every day. I also like to stay virtually connected through Facebook and the associated blogs, where I learn about ocean health and the impact on the inhabitants.

In high school, I wanted to study marine biology, especially dolphins, but I lived in Nebraska, not really close to an ocean. Eventually I did make it to Massachusetts, and the story of the cold stunned turtles really touched me. I never knew this happened and I remain impressed on how people help them recover. When the BP oil disaster happened, it struck me again how human beings continue to contaminate the ocean.

I painted the turtles, since I often wonder what happens to them after they return to the sea, even though I do know some get tracked for awhile. The Aquarium takes such care with them to help them recover. Human beings place so many things in the ocean, a finite space, that can hurt them.  We must do better and not remain a selfish species. The Aquarium and other groups provide a brief respite, but the rest of us need to step up and immensely improve.

Candi shared her pictures with us on Facebook.

Chris Garby
I have no formal background in art. I simply started sketching wildlife on my Amtrak commute between New Hampshire and Boston. I use photographs for my wildlife studies. My favorite artist is the US Fish and Wildlife Service artist, Bob Hines. The ocean inspires me in the sketches I do and in my everyday work. My actual job is with the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management.  I'm the finance / budget manager but have been fortunate enough to be part of the science staff on three ocean research surveys.

The sketch was done from a Boston Globe article so not sure this applies. This is a simple sketch done in fine pencil, pen, and colored pencil. I'm inspired by nature and hope my sketches bring that across.

Here's a link to Chris' charming sketch of Kit the fur seal from Twitter, which we shared on Tumblr.

Have you been inspired by the animals and exhibits at the Aquarium, or a trip to the shore? We'd love to see your work! Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Google+