Sunday, June 30, 2013

Volunteer of the Month: June

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 Volunteer of the Month!

Looking back to last August, when the Giant Ocean Tank being prepared to be drained and the penguins were trundled off to temporary digs, the penguins returning to their tray seemed VERY far away. Yet here we are, celebrating the New Aquarium Experience. Although the Volunteer of the Month is usually given out to a single individual, this herculean effort couldn’t happen without all 29 volunteers who served during June. Those 29 individuals donated 689 hours to the care, prep and transport of these endangered species for which we (and the birds) are very much thankful.

Little blue penguin in its temporary exhibit during the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank

Below, Paul Leonard, supervisor of volunteers and interns of Penguin Colony, congratulates the volunteers in his own words.

Last August the Aquarium’s penguin colony was split up and relocated to several temporary areas in preparation for the Giant Ocean Tank renovations. The African penguins and rockhopper penguins were sent to the Quincy Animal Care Center while the little blue penguins remained here in a temporary exhibit space on Central Wharf. Well, the penguins were not the only ones who were split up… The Penguin Colony Volunteers also had to be reassigned to one of the two cities for the duration of the construction. For the past 10 months, our volunteer support team has gone above and beyond the call of duty. They have assisted in the successful transport of over 90 penguins in and out of the Penguin Exhibit. They have mastered new husbandry procedures in a very short period of time and without missing a beat.

Many took on the burden of adding more time and miles to their already long commutes. While others added more volunteer opportunities helping cover short-handed days. Even after one of the worst blizzards in New England’s history, some of the volunteers took the initiative to make their way in and they were not even scheduled to work. Each person on this team embraced the challenged placed before us with excitement, stamina and a great sense appreciation for the Aquarium’s mission.

African penguins once again swimming in their exhibit at the Aquarium
For those reasons above and for their unwavering commitment and dedication to the welfare of the Aquarium’s penguins: On behalf of the entire Penguin Staff, we would like to recognize and nominate the Penguin Colony Volunteers & Interns for Volunteers of the Month.

The Volunteer Office would like to congratulate the 29 volunteers for being integral parts to the completion of our most transformative renovations to date. They are:

Rockhopper penguins home again in their exhibit at the Aquarium

Emily Anderson
Amber Hickey
Anya Battaglino
Marissa Martin
David Bazilchuk
Courtney McGuire
Paige Mooney
Meghan Burns
Cara Papakyrikos
Danny Byrd
Donna Paterson
Alessandra De La Torre
Brie Purcell
Kendra Eddy
Libna Ramos
Allyson Farley
Michelle Rowe
Kristin Feeley
Jen Stevens
Dylan Fitzsimmons
Kristyn Stock
Carly Foster
Mary-Jane Strom
Rose Gannon
Erin Taylor
Keegan Garnsey
Alissa Trepman
Raymond Hebert
Danica Watson

Throughout the renovations and as Paul mentioned above, many volunteers had to adjust their routines, schedules, commutes due to the split colony. In total, we had 68 volunteers who donated 8433 hours! If we worked 24 hours a day without any breaks, it would take 351 days straight to match their commitment. A BIG thank you to everyone who had a hand in our penguin moves, renovations, and care throughout the transformation!

Do you want to volunteer with us? Interested in working with the penguins? We ask for a one-day-a-week, six-month commitment, so if that can fit your schedule, check out our opportunities here!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Volunteer Stories: Rescue and Rehabilitation Volunteer

Volunteers serve beyond the main Aquarium on Central Wharf.  Read Kat DeStefano’s account of her inspiring experience volunteering at our Quincy facility during the record breaking 2012 turtle stranding season:

There is no way I can do the past stranding season justice in words, but I'll try. I'm blessed with having a job where I make my own hours. From December 1 to February 1 I feel like I spent so many evenings working into the wee hours of the morning playing catch up so I could spend most of my days at rescue and rehab—and I couldn't have been happier!

Kat hefting one of the record number of large loggerhead sea turtles into a rehab pool

Every morning that I was able to come in the energy was almost palpable, new faces from all departments, outside organizations, all with this amazing energy. And the staff, as exhausted as they must have been, always starting the day off with big smiles and "Ok, let's do this!" handling every challenge with grace and even a sense of humor, above all making sure that the volunteers were well cared for as well as the turtles.

All these empty banana boxes arrived full of turtles!

There were dozens of banana boxes filled with new turtle patients every morning and evening, and the patients got larger and larger as December came to a close. There were so many huge loggerhead turtles that came through the doors that there was absolutely no room for! But the staff kept finding room, finding other facilities to help us out, rearranging pools, and ultimately creating "Loggerland" where we put the dozens of giant turtles in the 24 foot pool together and staff and volunteers would don drysuits and walk around in the pool trying to coax these gentle giants to eat.

One of the large loggerhead patients

A loggerhead swims in a rehabilitation pool

I think my favorite case was #206 though. When you work with the turtles there is always that one case that you feel like you really had an impact on, or had an impact on you as it more often seems. #206 was it for me. She came in as one of the last Kemp's late in the season, lethargic, cold, on a day that I had swim room duty. When the turtles come in we take initial vitals—heart rate, respiration rate, temperature, and blood samples—and then they immediately go to the swim room to get them moving, so they can "remember that they are turtles" as the staff says. I remember supporting #206 in the 55 degree water with my hand until it went numb, moving her flippers, getting her stimulated, and then she started swimming very very slowly. I watched her for her ten-minute initial swim and then took her out for a rest.

#206 was a Kemp's ridley sea turtle like this

While waiting for her second swim, I noticed she had not taken a breath in her box in a while and alerted Adam. We moved her into the clinic and tried to encourage her to breathe but something wasn't right. Adam administered some medications to stimulate breathing and I took her back out to the pool to get her moving again. She was so limp and not very responsive, her flippers just dangling below her in the water, my palm under her carapace supporting her, her head resting on my wrist. It seemed like ages before she took a breath and started to move on her own again, and even then it seemed something was a little off. I'd reach in the cold pool as she swam around slowly and would have to lift her head for her and it was like she suddenly remembered and she'd take a breath. I must have spent hours watching that turtle over the next few days, making her my own personal ward, really wanting this one to pull through.

It was touch and go with that turtle for a long time, there was nothing that the staff could find wrong with her despite various diagnostics, but she wouldn't eat for the longest time which is often how some underlying illnesses manifest. We had to tube feed her for weeks, which requires extra handling and can irritate the throat so it isn't ideal, and as we watched some of our other patients go downhill I kept thinking "No, not that one. She's going to make it." It's so hard not to get attached to those little shelled patients, even though we know that we can't save all of them. But #206, now she's one of the healthiest turtles in the facility, she just can't get enough squid heads, and I'm so glad I was able to be a part of her recovery.

Learn more on the Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog!

Penguins Have Returned and Are Settling In

The familiar honks and brays of the penguins are echoing through the Aquarium once again! After their seamless return to Central Wharf, the birds are all settling into the routines of mealtime and exhibit cleaning. Some of the birds even hopped right back to favorite spots!

African penguins usually hang out in a favorite spot in the exhibit.

Because we can't get enough of the penguins after their months-long vacation, here's a peek at life in the African and rockhopper penguin colonies.

The little blue penguins are still in their temporary exhibit visible near the marine mammal center. Actually, some of the little blues are behind the scenes taking care of chicks! Learn more about breeding season.

Little blue penguin chick!

It's been a while, maybe you need a refresher on some of the happenings in the penguin exhibit!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Home again, home again, penguins return!

Dawn broke on a bustling Central Wharf this morning. Dozens of volunteers and biologists were working in the wee hours this morning for a very exciting homecoming—the penguins have returned to the Aquarium! Here's a peek at the some of rockhoppers' graceful (and not-so-graceful) splashdown into the exhibit.

The penguins have returned from their vacation in Quincy and we'll have lots more pictures and video on the Penguin Blog.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Look for sharks on the small screen tonight!

Just in time for summer, we have sharks on the (really!) big screen, and now the small screen. At 7:30 this evening, point your television sets to Channel 5's Chronicle for an exciting look at Great White Shark 3D, which is now playing at the Aquarium's Simons IMAX Theatre. The program's Indie Showcase feature will dive into this thrilling documentary and talk to Aquarium shark expert John Mandelman, PhD, about the forecast for this summer in local waters.

Great White Shark 3D is now playing at the Aquarium's Simons IMAX Theatre

Aquarium shark researcher John Mandelman examines a small shark

Learn more about shark research at the Aquarium
John Mandelman's research interests include the stress physiology of elasmobranch fishes (sharks, rays and skates). Hear him speak about conservation of sharks and rays in this video for visitors.

More about the film
Great White Shark 3D gives you a shark's eye view as you plunge straight into the underwater world of nature's most renowned predator. See the science at work behind that fearsome toothy grin, and discover the importance of this spectacular species. The whole family will 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. Skip the shark cage and explore our blue planet on the largest screen in New England.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day! We're celebrating this special day with some of the dads here at the Aquarium. Here are a few of them:


Isaac the Northern fur seal is Flaherty's dad. While this hulking fur seal is a master basker, he knows how to get moving. His little pup, now a year old and thick as thieves with his pal Leu, is always frisky.
Banggai cardinalfish

Look for the Banggai cardinalfish in the Level One living corals exhibit. These dad are very protective, they keep fertilized eggs in their mouths until their big enough to fend for themselves.

Munawar is a little blue penguin and one of the newest dads at the Aquarium. Meet his little blue penguin chick!

Bring your dad to meet some of the fathers at the Aquarium! And don't forget about the hundreds and hundreds of animals (including Myrtle) in the Giant Ocean Tank right now. We're all getting ready for the New Aquarium Experience, which starts July 1!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

One Penguin's Father's Day Family Story

A little blue penguin father at the New England Aquarium has something to crow about: He is helping to raise his first chick! Come behind the scenes and meet this little blue penguin chick, in all his adorable fluff. Paul, one of the chick's caregivers, tell us a little more about the chick in this video. Watch Paul weigh the chick, check it over to make sure it's growing big and strong and meet the proud papa!


And since it's Father's Day this weekend, we figured we would tell you a little bit about this chick's dad. As Paul mentioned in the video, his name is Munuwar, which is an Aboriginal name for little blue penguin. He is three years old and he came to us from the Taronga Zoo in Australia this past June. His partner, Carnac, is from the Aquarium's colony. She is six. And their baby? Well, we don't know its sex yet but it is 100 percent adorable. Take a look!

But wait, there's more to learn about penguins!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2013 Ocean Stewardship Award Winners

The Ocean Stewardship Awards are one of the ways that we recognize educators and schools who work to promote an ethic of ocean conservation and who are taking concrete steps to help protect our blue planet. This year, we received a record number of nominations and we were thrilled to hear about all the amazing work being done by both educators and schools in the New England area. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete a nomination. Congratulations to all of our winners!

Winners—Educator Category

Judith Luber-Narod 
Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School
Worcester, Mass.

Judith Luber-Narod, Ocean Stewardship Award educator of the year

Judith first became inspired about our ocean by her high school marine biology teacher.  From there, she studied marine biology as an undergraduate, and took marine biology courses in graduate school. She now brings her knowledge and enthusiasm on the subject to her students.  Since many of them have never visited the ocean, she finds it particularly important to highlight the interconnectedness of humans and the ocean.
Judith teaches environmental science at several levels and provides her students with engaging learning experiences.  In class, she leads her students through several water-related labs.  She also coordinates field trips to various locations, including local lakes for water experiments, Woods Hole for an ocean lab experience and the New England Aquarium.   In addition to her classroom work, Judith serves as the school’s Environmental Action Club faculty advisor which has done all types of projects to decrease global warming, including starting a recycling program, growing an indoor garden, holding a concert to educate the student population using bicycle powered instruments, and many other smaller projects.

Haven Daniels
Perkins Elementary School
South Boston, Mass.

Through Haven’s dedication to her students and ocean stewardship, she creates opportunities for her students to learn about our ocean. Haven has worked with the district’s science department to pilot a new curriculum based on ocean science. To supplement the classroom lessons on topics such as food webs, ocean pollutants and fishing regulations, Haven makes sure that her students connect to the physical marine environment. She takes her students on field trips to the harbor, writes grants to get her students to the harbor islands for tidepooling and actively collaborates with other teachers to provide enriching experiences. She organizes parent and community events where her students share their experiences, thereby making others more aware of ocean stewardship as well.

In addition to her work with students, Haven is a model educator who shares her expertise with others. Beyond using the harbor as a foundation for teaching complex science topics and environmental stewardship, Haven continually reflects on this practice with her colleagues involving herself in teacher research projects and multi-school field experiences. In collaboration with other teachers, Haven has presented this work at national conferences such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Research in Science Teaching (NARST).

Honorable Mentions—Educator Category

Alicia Carey
Oliver H. Perry K-8 School
South Boston, Mass.

Alicia creates an amazing ethic of care and respect overall in her classroom, and works with her students to extend that ethic of care to the natural world.  Since their school is across the street from the beach, that ethic extends easily to the ocean.  She is not the students' science teacher, but she wants her students to have an appreciation for their coastal environment and their place in it.  For the past three years, a required narrative project has focused on coastal organisms, tied to a field experience across the street to 'their' beach.  The students have also traveled to the Aquarium, where their work has focused on local coastal organisms.

Robert Coughlin
Brockton High School
Brockton, Mass.

Robert Coughlin, Ocean Stewardship Award educator of the year

Robert Coughlin’s classroom is full of life from across the trophic levels which is just one of the reasons that make his oceanography course so popular among students at Brockton High School.  During class, he leads students through many group projects in which they collect organisms, make observations and collect data.  In addition, he organizes a deep-sea fishing trip to Stellwagen Bank every spring.  This is an extraordinary experience as many of his students have never been on a boat and some have never been to the ocean.  On this trip, students discover an entirely new ecosystem and it is that firsthand experience that gives them reason to care about and become passionate about the environment.   Mr. Coughlin’s passion, exuberance, charisma and mastery of the subject matter are truly inspirational to his students and colleagues.

Rachel Cuddeback
Pollard Middle School
Needham, Mass.

Rachel has a contagious excitement about teaching and she works persistently to build out a dynamic, student driven, inquiry-based, ocean focused curriculum. She is an active educator who consistently seeks to further her own education of science and technology concepts and readily applies them to her instruction.  On a limited budget, she manages to excite and inspire her students to become ocean experts and stewards.  Rachel has created an ocean-focused theme that spans multiple units and largely directed by student-generated questions.  She utilizes a local pond to teach water quality and large-scale maps to outline watersheds.  In addition, she brings in guest speakers from the local wastewater treatment plant into her classroom.  Ocean literacy permeates the bulk of Rachel’s science curriculum.   She is a genuine educator who strives to improve her practice for the benefit of her whole community.

Look back at previous educator winners here!

Winners—School Category

Adams School Calvineers
Castine, Maine
(Faculty Advisor – Bill McWeeny)

Front row (L/R): Liam Griffith, Grant Forbes, Drake Janes, Tyler McKenney, Sam Ravell, India Janes, and Savanna Colson. Back row (L/R): Bill McWeeny, John Hassett, Yvonne Rogers, Ben Burton, Hannah Flood

The Adams School Calvineers are a group of 7th and 8th graders who work tirelessly to raise awareness about the plight of the North American right whales. The group is led by Bill McWeeny, an educator whose love for the ocean is only surpassed by his love for teaching. The Calvineers work hard both in class and after school to learn about these endangered animals. As a group, they act as scientists to gather information, collaborate and communicate with others. The Calvineers also take action to protect right whales by speaking with shipping companies and coordinating other projects.
But their work does not stop there – they take their passion for this important issue and work hard to spread the word! From presenting at schools and conferences to updating regular Tumblr (include hyperlink - ) and YouTube (include hyperlink - ) accounts. This fall, two students will even present their original work at the Right Whale Consortium (include hyperlink - ). The Calvineers, without a doubt, are true ocean stewards who are dedicated to taking steps to protect our ocean and its inhabitants and to promoting an ethic of ocean conservation in their community.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Marine Conservation Club 
Cambridge, Mass.
(Faculty Advisor – Paul McGuiness)

The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Marine Conservation Club is a group of 20 students who are dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges impacting right whales. Driven for by their love for the ocean and its inhabitants, the club works hard to incorporate an ethic of conservation into their school and community. This year, they organized an amazing week of events for a ‘Whale Week’ at their school – including school wide activities such as games and presentations. They also held bake and snack sales to raise money for the Right Whale Research Team. They are currently collaborating with middle and after school teachers to run a two-day session in classrooms. Through action and education, the CRLS Marine Conservation have proven to be ocean stewards, collaborating with both school and community to promote and protect our ocean.

Look back at previous award winning schools here!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

See super-sized great white sharks in 3D!

Our newest IMAX film brings you within inches of one of the most fascinating predators in the world. Get ready for a shark's eye view as you plunge straight into the underwater world of great white sharks!

See the science at work behind that fearsome toothy grin and discover the importance of this spectacular species. The whole family will 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. Skip the shark cage and explore our blue planet on the largest screen in New England.

Great White Shark 3D starts this Friday, June 7. Get your tickets today!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thursday Lecture Webcast - The Surprisingly Familiar Family Lives of Sperm Whales

The Surprisingly Familiar Family Lives of Sperm Whales
Shane Gero, Founder and Lead Investigator, The Dominica Sperm Whale Project
Thursday, June 6

About Aquarium Lectures
The Aquarium has been providing free lectures and films by scientists, environmental writers, photographers and others since 1972. The lectures are presented free to the public through the generosity of the Lowell Institute, which has been providing funding for free public lectures at universities and museums since 1836. You can watch archived lecture videos on our YouTube channel and check out the lecture schedule and register to attend upcoming lectures.

About the Lecture
Sperm whales are among the most enigmatic animals on the planet. The largest of the tooth whales, they have the largest brains of any animal, they are among the deepest divers of all mammals, they “see” in the darkness of the deep ocean with the most powerful natural sonar system housed in their nose, and they consume as much squid in a year as all of humanity’s modern mechanized fisheries on all species combined! Shane Gero (right) has been tracking families of sperm whales for the last nine years off the Caribbean island of Dominica.

Having spent thousands of hours in their company observing their behavior, Gero has come to know these leviathans from the deep as individuals with personalities, as brothers and sisters or as mothers and babysitters. They are truly a community of families, each with their own ways of doing things, their own traditions, and each with a unique story; all living together as neighbors in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Sperm whales are a lot like us, more so than some of us might like to admit; and their family lives are surprisingly similar to our families.