Sunday, March 24, 2013

Right Whale Podcast with Aquarium Researcher Scott Kraus

North Atlantic right whales are among the largest animals in the world. Because they're federally protected animals, boaters cannot approach them to be able to appreciate this. But scientists with special permits are allowed to get close to these endangered animals for research purposes.

Pico, Bay of Fundy 2009 (Photo: Cyndi Browning/New England Aquarium)

Take a listen to this podcast, which features insight from the Vice President of Research at the Aquarium Dr. Scott Kraus. You'll really get a feeling for the size and power of these gentle giants. For the young reporter/researcher presenting the podcast, being close enough to watch the whales during a surface active group (SAG) was a particularly memorable event.

Dr. Kraus knows a thing or two about right whales. He has been around these critically endangered animals for decades now: studying their behaviors and environment, getting to know individual whales and working with other Aquarium scientists to find ways to protect these whales in our increasingly-busy coastal waters. In fact, the Aquarium has the longest-running right whale research program in the world!

More Right Whales in the News

  • For a fascinating history of right whale research and human interactions with these animals, check out this article from Science News for Kids.
  • Learn about some hopeful signs in the right whale population in a recent Boston Globe article. Right now there are more than 500 of these critically endangered animals in the North Atlantic.
  • See what it's like to study these whales each year on the Aquarium's Right Whale Research Blog

Friday, March 22, 2013

Coral Podcast with Aquarium Researcher Randi Rotjan

When you think of corals, you might imagine gracefully curving lobes, textured blobs or branching antlers reaching up toward the water's surface. They are colorful and diverse. They are at once animal, plant and mineral. And, not surprisingly, they are the building blocks of coral reefs. As Dr. Randi Rotjan, coral biologist at the New England Aquarium, explains in a podcast on Encyclopedia of Life, corals build little cities.

Corals provide habitats to reef animals large and small. But around the world, corals are under threat. Overfishing, pollution and rising ocean temperatures are just some of the pressures facing these rich marine ecosystems. Aquarium scientists are studying the corals and animals in a very special corner of the globe—the Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area (PIPA). Dr. Rotjan explains in the podcast just why PIPA is so special.

Have a listen! And while you're tuned in, scroll through these images of coral reefs  in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and meet some of the animals that live there. Can't get enough corals? Come check out our IMAX film The Last Reef 3D and you'll get to see some supersized corals on the largest movie screen in New England!

Underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen traveled to the Phoenix Island in 2012. See more of his pictures.

Randi photographed and blogged extensively during the 2009 expedition to the Phoenix Islands

Corals up close from the 2012 expedition to PIPA, more pictures by K. Ellenbogen

More corals up close, more pictures by K. Ellenbogen
Some of the larger fishes Randi saw in the Phoenix Islands

Sharks are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, see more shark pictures

Many tiny animals call the coral reef home. See more pictures like this

Even at night the reef is alive. See more pictures like this

See more pictures like this

The Aquarium's PIPA blog is chock full of expedition pictures (from 2009 to 2012), history of the remote atolls (who knew the logbooks of Yankee whalers from the 1800s would be important for science today?) and important discussions about marine protection areas. Go ahead, take a trip to one of the world's largest MPAs and you'll know why it's so important to protect special habitat like this.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Member Hangout with the Penguins

The Aquarium recently hosted a very special Google+ Hangout on Air for our awesome members. The live webcast on Tuesday, March 19, at 4 p.m. took viewers behind the scenes of the little blue penguin temporary exhibit with our penguin experts. The director of Project Management and Design—the guy in charge of the massive the Giant Ocean Tank renovation—also chimed in with information about the construction progress.

Little blue penguins in the temporary exhibit on Central Wharf.

While only members had the opportunity to ask questions and watch this event live, we invite everyone to take a gander at this archived hangout. There's a lot to learn about the penguins on vacation, the little blue penguins on Central Wharf as well as the construction project. Our members had some great questions—like what do penguins feel like, what do they eat and what did it take to create their vacation home in Quincy!

Members who listened to the whole webcast were invited to take a survey about the experience. One lucky person who complete the survey got to win a one-of-a-kind piece of art and New England Aquarium memorabilia. Congratulations to Ian from Cambridge, whose name was randomly selected from those who watched our Member Hangout with the Penguins live and completed our survey within the allotted time. He’ll receive a unique artwork created from parts of the coral sculpture that were in our Giant Ocean Tank from 1984 until we started construction last fall, along with a letter of authenticity from Bud Ris, the President and CEO of New England Aquarium.

A one-of-a-kind artwork featuring old coral from the Giant Ocean Tank.

Ian and his family first became members of the New England Aquarium in 2010. He told us he’d like to see our staff discuss the rays or the Giant Ocean Tank if we do additional Hangouts, and commented that he would have liked it if we showed more video of the penguins to hold his young children’s attention. We had some great video to share, but technical difficulties limited what we were able to show during the event. Check out videos of the rockhopper and African penguins swimming in Quincy and the little blue penguins splashing around in their temporary exhibit on our Penguin Blog.

We want to thank Ian and everyone who joined us for this, our first online event. If you didn’t get to catch it live you can watch the video above. We’d welcome your feedback when you do!

Consider becoming a member of the Aquarium. Not only will you be able to visit your favorite animals as much as you want within the year, you'll hear about exciting member-exclusive events like webcasts, open houses and more.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with All Things Green

How could we let this greenest of holidays pass without shouting out about some of our awesome green animals! Let's start with one of the more humble animals at the Aquarium—the green sea anemone.

These invertebrates can be found in the Northern Waters Gallery on Level 3. Many of them are decades old! They get their green color from tiny photosynthetic animals and plants living in their tissues. So as long as there's nice bright lights or sunshine around, these guys will glow green.

One of the heavy-weights of the green team is the green anaconda. And we mean heavy-weights: Some weigh more than 500 pounds! You'll find these guys in the Amazon Rainforest exhibit.

These reptiles swallow their food whole after coiling around their prey and squeezing it so tightly that it can no longer breath. There's lots more to these snakes, too, like why they never blink and how often do they shed their skin.

But who could forget Myrtle, the green sea turtle. She is the undisputed queen of the Aquarium, now cruising the Tropical Ocean Exhibit on Level 1. This old lady is around 80 years old now, though it's believed these turtles can live to be over 100. So she has many St. Patrick's Days ahead of her!

Hope you celebrated this green holiday with good friends and a touch of green. If you need to add a little more green in your day, come visit the green sea turtle, green anaconda and green sea anemones at the Aquarium! Special construction pricing is in effect (so you'll also save some green, too).

Also, be sure to head over to the Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog to celebrate St. Patrick's day with the rescued green sea turtles.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Celebrate World Oceans Day with the Aquarium!

Join us for free, outdoor activities as the Aquarium celebrates World Oceans Day on Central Wharf. We'll have hands-on activities for kids, cooking demonstrations and lots to learn about ocean animals. There is plenty to do for the entire family. 

Sunday, June 9
11 a.m. — 4 p.m. 

Please Note: Admission to the Aquarium is not included

Here at the Aquarium, we like to think every day is oceans day. But there comes an occasion each year that we go all out and celebrate our blue planet. And that day is quickly approaching! Come learn how you can live blue™ and have some fun while you're at it with these activities!

Plus, the event will feature these exciting giveaways! 
  • 3 (three) free Boston Duck Tours given away on the Aquarium's social networks before to the celebration. Thanks for everyone who participated! Make sure you like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+ and for future giveaways! 
  • 2 (two) free 1-hour narrated Boston Harbor cruise tours provided by Boston Harbor Cruises, departing at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on June 9. Available on a first-come, first-served basis. Ask for your tickets at the Boston Harbor Cruises table in the tent behind the Aquarium during the World Oceans Day celebration. Boarding takes place a half-hour before the departure time.

The official media sponsor for World Oceans Day is:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Making a brighter future for manta rays!

Aquarium-supported project helps bring about a brighter future for manta rays

Thursday marked an important victory for manta rays when delegates from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to strengthen protections for these gentle giants. Manta rays are increasingly threatened by overfishing and bycatch, but thanks to the CITES vote, the trade of mantas will now be more tightly regulated to prevent overexploitation of these animals.

This photo was taking during a joint aquarium expedition to Fiji. See more spectacular images like this

Research that contributed to this CITES victory included a study by scientist Daniel Fernando, of the Manta Trust, that was funded in part by a grant from the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF).  MCAF, which is supported by foundations and individual donors, has funded over 100 high-impact conservation projects in over 37 countries since 1999. The Aquarium is excited to have supported the Manta Trust in their efforts to help secure this key victory, and with it hopefully a brighter future for the mantas.

Another dive in Fiji was nicknamed Mantapalooza. Here's why.

These rays have been harvested for their gill rakers, which are highly valued in Chinese medicine trade. Their protection is incredibly important because they have among the slowest reproductive rates of any marine animals. The Manta Trust explains more about the measure here. Learn more about the Aquarium's support of the Manta Trust in this Aquarium blog post.

In addition to mantas, several species of sharks will now enjoy protection under CITES. The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) will have to be traded with CITES permits and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally. According to CITES, these listings mark a milestone in the involvement of CITES in marine species. Learn more about the new animals and protections added to the CITES list this year.

See more pictures of manta rays and all kinds of sharks in these posts:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Construction Updates

With the reconstruction of the Giant Ocean Tank more than halfway over, we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, a major component of the new tank is in place now—windows! 

Come take a look. Let's walk behind the scenes and inside the empty Giant Ocean Tank to see the progress that's been made in the last couple weeks.

As you can see, all but one of the windows are in place and the coral has been uncovered in preparation for all the refurbishments. But don't let the quiet surroundings in the video deceive you! During work hours, it's a flurry of activity in the construction zone. Crews are busy installing a dramatic domed ceiling above the space as well as the clear railing that will surround the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, which will be great for our littest visitors! 

The protective covering will remain on the windows during construction.

The windows at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, seen here, are almost 2 inches thick. Closer to the bottom they are more like 3 three inches thick!
We're so excited that construction is moving ahead on schedule! In fact, later this month we'll be able to take down the protective fabric that covers the outside of the tank and you'll be able to see the windows (and their protective coverings) for yourself.

Special construction pricing means you can keep tabs on the construction as well as visit with some of your favorite animals—like the little blue penguins, the octopus and the mandarinfish! But discounted admission won't last forever. Now's the time! Will you be able to tell your friends and family that you visited the Aquarium during their most important renovations in years?

2013 Teacher of the Year

Every so often, the New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center recognizes an individual who has shown particular dedication to both teaching and marine science. The Teacher of the Year Award is presented to exemplary educators who integrate marine and environmental education throughout their entire curriculum while providing students with meaningful and real-world learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Furthermore, these educators show passion for and promote a sense of ocean conservation both at school and in the community.

This year we are thrilled to honor Dave Winchester of Lynn Classical High School in Lynn, Mass.

Lynn Classical Marine Biology teacher David Winchester shows a horseshoe crab to Angela Erelli, one of his students in AP Marine Biology on a field trip to the Saugus River on Friday. (Credit: The Daily Item of Lynn / Owen O'Rourke)

As a part-time aquarist and a full-time teacher, Dave is constantly immersed in his two favorite fields— marine science and education. In his classroom at Lynn Classical High School, aquariums with live organisms are scattered throughout. These aquariums provide both his students and his Environmental Club members with opportunities to learn about animals and how to care for them. Together with his students, he runs headstart, breeding and rescue programs for various animals including Blanding’s turtles and sticklebacks. [The Aquarium does headstart programs for red-bellied cooters!]

When they’re not in class caring for Gary, a rescued Garibaldi turned class mascot, Dave and his students are in the field conducting studies and organizing clean-ups at local salt marshes and beaches. These are just some of the ways that Dave works towards his main objective: to have students do and participate in real science.

Dave’s reach, however, does not stop there. From coordinating a recycling program to a city tree care program, he continually strives to support community initiatives to protect our ocean and planet. He also regularly participates in the New England Aquarium Career Pathways, a mentoring program for teens interested in marine science.  Furthermore, Dave always finds the time to help fellow educators incorporate marine science into their curriculum by sharing his experience and expertise at several of our summer courses.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Reviews are in for Weddings at the New England Aquarium

Whether your style is whimsical and colorful or classic and elegant, weddings at the New England Aquarium can make that special day all the more memorable. The waterfront venue never fails to wow guests. Our chefs know how to please many palettes. And the experienced events staff seamlessly orchestrate the evening so the guests of honor don't have to.

These positive experiences shine through in the thank you notes our coordinators receive from happy newlyweds. Here is some feedback from weddings hosted at the New England Aquarium.

"Everything was wonderful at the wedding...We could not be happier about the outcome of the event. The cocktail hour was a huge hit, which surprised even my local friends, who know the Aquarium well but did not realize that an event could be celebrated so perfectly in that space! I highly recommend that all couples have their cocktail hour IN the main building so to give guests a complete experience. Then there were so many people who just loved the moment that they entered the tent, not realizing that it was going to be such a beautiful ambiance, and were especially overcome by the easy access to the boardwalk throughout the evening...Thank you very much for all your help in making our wedding reception perfect, and for your warm welcome to us, and my family on the night of the event. It was truly a pleasure working with you!" — Christina F. 

"Let me start off by saying that you are top-notch...Jaime and I very much appreciate that you delivered on every commitment that the Aquarium made to us over the past year.  Moreover the energy, hard work, and time of your team on August 13 was obvious. We can't thank you enough for everything you and your staff did for us. Thank you again and we hope our paths will cross again!" – Kevin G.

"Just wanted to send you a quick note to thanks for everything. Amanda and Matt's reception was perfect! All of our guests were raving about the place, the food, the view and the access to the aquarium. It was amazing and many said the best wedding they have ever been to. Thank you for putting this all together for us. It is now a perfect memory for us. Can't wait to see the pictures so we can re-live it again. Thanks so much" – Denise C.

"I am most certain you are on to the next event with another happy couple, but I wanted to extend my thanks for your hard work during our wedding. You were great! The reviews coming back are fantastic! The food was great, venue was great, staff was superior, and the whole evening seemed so organized and planned out thanks to our hard work. Everyone just had so much fun and really enjoyed the aquarium ambiance." – Chuck F.

"Last night was perfect. I want to thank you and your staff for all the hard work, time and energy you put into James and my special day. You have become like family to us and we really appreciate all that you have done. Thank you again. " – Hilary and James 

Find more pictures and ideas from weddings at the New England Aquarium have been posted on this sitethis site, this site and this site.