Thursday, August 29, 2013

The New Aquarium Experience: Something to Talk About

Don't let this summer pass you by without seeing our newly renovated Giant Ocean Tank (or GOT as we like to call it), just one part of the New Aquarium Experience. This Labor Day Weekend, come press your nose against the windows to take in the explosion of colors, movement and fascinating species: fish of all colors and sizes, sea turtles, eels, rays and sharks!

The reef | Photo: Webb Chappell 

Spiral around the familiar tank with plenty of nooks to nestle into, but enjoy the larger-than-ever windows with crystal clear views of the brand-new, intricate, colorful coral reef—home to thousands of marine animals, including stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, eels and tropical fishes.

Top of the Giant Ocean Tank | Photo: Webb Chappell 
The domed ceiling above the Giant Ocean Tank illuminates the reef and animals below in sparkling detail, and with a clear glass railing around the tank, everyone gets a look at the massive, textural coral structure while sea turtles come up for air and barracuda patrol the reef.

New Exhibits
At the top of the tank you'll also find even more exhibits to explore in the Yawkey Coral Reef Center, including the frogfish, sea fans and garden eels. These tanks showcase reef biodiversity and gives visitors a closer look at a hidden world filled with unique coral reef animals, like frogfish, flying gunard and garden eels.

Frogfish | Photo: Webb Chappell 

Garden eels | Visitor picture via Tumblr

The Blue Planet Action Center (BPAC) highlights three aspects of Aquarium expertise: the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on corals, threats facing the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and efforts to protect seafood resources through sustainable fishing practices.

Interactive screens in the BPAC highlight marine species and what the Aquarium is doing to help them.
Photo: Webb Chappell 

The Aquarium is open until 7 pm on Friday and Saturday, 6 pm on Labor Day. Here's a quick link to help plan your visit!

Watch the Whales
But the excitement doesn't end there! If you really want to squeeze every drop out of summer, consider a New England Aquarium Whale Watch to see where the really big marine mammals are feeding and splashing just a few miles from Boston Harbor. Our partners at Boston Harbor Cruises offer high-speed catamaran cruises with three outside decks for optimal viewing of whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine life. Combo tickets are available! See pictures of recent sightings on the Whale Watch Log.

Soak up what's left of summer. A visit to the New England Aquarium and a trip on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch will definitely give your family something to talk about during the long winter nights ahead. And don't forget about the excitement happening on Saturday evening at 9 pm—fireworks over Boston Harbor! Make it a Labor Day Weekend you won't soon forget.

Send summer off with a bang!

After enjoying a rainbow of colors and marine diversity at the New England Aquarium this Saturday, make it an extra special day in the city with a dazzling show lighting up Boston Harbor! Join Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Summer on the Waterfront for fireworks over the harbor this Saturday, August 31! The sparkles and bangs starts at 9:00 pm in celebration of (√§hts), the Boston Arts Festival (which is happening Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 6:00 p.m. at Christopher Columbus Park).

Stake out a nook on Boston's historic waterfront to enjoy the fireworks, or get the best seats on the harbor on one of Boston Harbor Cruises Fireworks Dinner and Viewing cruises! Choose from either our traditional fireworks viewing cruise featuring a D.J. and dancing or go all out for summer fun one last time with our scrumptious dinner buffet cruise.

Come to see exhibits bursting with colors at the Aquarium!
Stay for the arts festival and fiery colors over Boston Harbor

These fireworks also mark the finale to Summer on the Waterfront 2013 and were generously provided by the City of Boston, Boston Harbor Cruises, Bay State Cruises, Mass Bay Lines and hundreds of individual donors.

For some real vibrant colors, start your day with a visit to the New England Aquarium! Explore the New Aquarium Experience with the sparkling new Giant Ocean Tank with its pulsing rainbow of tropical fish, eels, stingrays, turtles and sharks. Tickets are available online—no service charge—and you're able to print them at home!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Colorful Chemistry of Lobster Shells

The Aquarium's Director of Research, Michael Tlusty, Ph.D., spoke with Bytesize Science about lobster shells. While most American lobsters are just a mucky brown color, there's actually a lot of chemistry happening to make the shells that color those. Watch this video for an explanation on lobster shell color—and why all cooked lobsters come out looking bright red!

Video: American Chemical Society's Bytesize Science

As you heard in the video, the Aquarium grows lots of lobsters through our American Lobster Research Program so that scientists can study lobster shell disease. Lobstermen are catching lobsters with signs of the bacterial infection all over New England. The disease doesn't effect the meat, but it makes the lobsters difficult to sell.

Now that you watched the video, you know why some lobsters are blue... 
...and others are orange, or brown!

Learn more about lobsters! Here are more posts about these iconic crustaceans from the Aquarium's blogs:
A youngster in the lobster nursery

And don't forget to visit some of the tiny lobsters and see the variations in shell colors in our lobster nursery exhibit. Pick up a timed ticket online and print it out at home — no service charge! You'll be marveling at these adorable bottom-dwellers in no time. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Know your sharks

Shark sightings always generate a lot of buzz. When people see a large dorsal fin cutting through the water, most of the public assumes that it is a great white shark. It's important to take these sightings seriously and clear the water—these are wild animals, after all. But the irony is that in Massachusetts, the vast majority of the time that fin actually belongs to a harmless basking shark.

Basking shark with divers | Photo: Chris Gotschalk via

The Massachusetts Fisheries Department has put together a fantastic video that points out some of the distinctions between these two species. As you try to squeeze in a few more trips to the beach before swapping swim suits for sweaters, here are some interesting facts to share with fellow beach-goers. Take a look!

Video by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries via YouTube

The fin of a basking sharks can also be confused with large ocean sunfish, or mola mola. Here's another video that illustrates the differences between these two ocean animals.

Video: NECWA1 with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries via YouTube

Sharks come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a couple more shark sightings on the Aquarium's blogs!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Cool New Addition to the Plaza

Visitors may have noticed an artsy new addition to the Aquarium's plaza recently—a massive globe, featuring the oceans, continents and many animals that call this blue planet home. The piece is part of a public art installation around the City of Boston called Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler  Planet that is raising awareness about climate change.

Look for the Aquarium's Cool Globe on the front plaza
It is part of a traveling exhibit that began in Chicago in 2007 and has appeared throughout North America and Europe. The creative minds behind this project say their hope is that the millions of people who see and enjoy the globes leave with a vast array of solutions to climate change, and with one clear message: we can solve this.

At the Aquarium, we're often talking about climate change. That's because the oceans are a leading indicator of climate change. They are affected by climate change, and they in turn affect the climate. As an ocean steward, the Aquarium supports important research on climate change and supports using the oceans as a source of information.

From buying fuel-efficient vehicles and choosing energy-saving appliances to exploring the aquatic world and choosing ocean-friendly seafood, there are lots of things that individuals can do to make a difference or, as we like to say, live blue.

A close-up of the beautiful images found on the Cool Globe

The Cool Globe won't be here forever, so come enjoy this lovely art piece and consider the message behind it: Climate change is real and it's happening now, but there are ways you can make a difference!

Fun facts about our Cool Globe:
  • It is about five feet in diameter.
  • With its stand, the globe is 84 inches high.
  • It weighs approximately 300 pounds, that's without the concrete base!
  • The continents are about 3/4 inches high, with some relief around the coasts and along
  • major rivers/mountain ranges.
  • The globe is made of fiberglass that is 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • According to the Boston Globe, there are 48 globes throughout the city, 26 at the Common alone.

Easy ways you can live blue™ for a healthy planet:
  • Choose ocean-friendly seafood.
  • Buy local and organic produce, coffee and other household products, or try growing some of your own produce.
  • Drive a fuel-efficient, low-polluting car.
  • Choose to walk, bike or take public transportation whenever practical.
  • Install energy-saving thermostats in your home.
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.
  • Eliminate lawn pesticides and choose native plants for your garden.
  • Stay well informed and vote with the environment in mind.
  • Use your consumer power—learn about the environmental practices of companies you buy from.
  • Inspire your friends and family to also take action.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Beautiful Day for a Sea Turtle Release

On this sparkling summer day, the New England Aquarium rescue team released two of the world’s most endangered sea turtles from a Martha’s Vineyard beach amid a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. The young Kemp’s ridleys are among the last to be released of the record 242 live sea turtles that washed up last November and December with hypothermia.

Just moments from its release into the ocean, bystanders got a good look at the turtle's satellite tag. 

Each of the sea turtles will be outfitted with a satellite tag, which is harmlessly glued to its shell. These small, plastic electronic devices with an antenna are sophisticated marine research tools, combining GPS capability with the ability to log dive depths and lengths as well as water temperature. This data can be transmitted to an overhead satellite when the turtle comes to the surface to take a breath. Satellite tags can last from several months to a year before they fall off. They allow biologists to see the detail of how these sea turtles use their habitat as they migrate up and down the East Coast.

A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Frank Hardy swims in a rehab pool after having a satellite tag attached to  his shell. 

An interesting side note: Each year, the Aquarium’s rescue biologists select a theme from which to name their long term patients. This year’s theme was crime fiction characters. So some of this year's patients included Frank Hardy and Benton Wesley.

Most of this year's crime fiction gurus/patients were released in the warm waters of southern states in the late winter and spring. But the pair just released had very complex and chronic medical conditions beyond their hypothermia including pneumonia, blood chemistry imbalances, kidney failure, fractures and emaciation. New England Aquarium veterinarians and biologists worked with these sea turtles for eight months to prepare them for return to the wild and the goal of helping to rebuild these endangered populations.

A second Kemp’s named Benton Wesley is in the process of having his satellite tag glued on by biologists. The data collected will be highly valuable to researchers and marine wildlife managers. 

The release happened at the Long Point Wildlife Refuge, a Trustees of Reservations property on the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Barbara Erickson, Trustees of Reservations President and CEO, said, “Long Point is a fitting spot for these endangered sea creatures to be safely released back into their natural habitat. With  more than 600 acres conserved, Long Point is one of the largest publicly accessible properties on Martha's Vineyard, it is also one of the most important wildlife habitats, featuring an expansive beach, dunes, and woodlands which serve as a protective barrier and buffer.”

More than a dozen Aquarium staff, volunteers and interns, who spent months nursing these creatures back to health, were on hand for the send-off. Many vacationing beach-goers also found themselves in the right place at the right time to witness this special event.

Learn more about this year's record cold stunning season: 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just for Members: Discounts to "A Christmas Story—The Musical"

The classic holiday story of Ralphie Parker's quest for an official Red Ryder® Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle is coming to the City Wang Theatre—and Aquarium members are getting special discounts!

The Tony Award®-nominated new musical, A Christmas Story, The Musical, is making its Boston premiere November 20 through December 8 only. Click here and use code NEAQ to receive a 25 percent discount on select tickets to the following shows:
  • Friday, November 22, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 24, 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 27, 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 5, 7:30p.m. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Second Fur Seal Pup Born at the Aquarium!

Update: See the pup live online during an upcoming Google+ Hangout on Air! Details.

As if the New England Aquarium doesn’t have enough to be excited about this summer, there’s a fuzzy new addition to its family of Northern fur seals. On Tuesday night just before midnight, the Aquarium’s overnight engineer realized that Ursula, a 15-year-old fur seal, was in labor. She immediately notified Kathy Streeter, the Aquarium’s marine mammal curator, who arrived shortly after to find that Ursula had given birth to her second pup.

Here is the very first video to be release of the new pup!

“I could hear Ursula calling as I walked down the hallway,” said Streeter. “I thought she was still in labor, but when I entered I saw the pup laying a foot or so away from Ursula. Shortly thereafter, the pup and Ursula called to each other, but Ursula seemed exhausted and lay on her side so that the baby could find her and nurse.” 

The trainers have not gotten close enough to the new pup to determine its sex.

According to Streeter, it was evident that the pair had bonded quite well overnight and were calling back and forth to each other the next morning, typical to what Northern fur seals practice in the wild. While Ursula has been very tolerant of the trainers near her pup, the sex and weight of the newborn has yet to be determined. The trainers are grateful that the mother has let them get so close and do not want to break that trust by handling the pup too soon.

Ursula and the pup frequently nuzzle and call out for each other. They are in a private space behind the scenes. 

“We are just happy the pup is healthy, and we are looking forward to finding out whether the pup is male or female,” said Streeter.

The New England Aquarium’s New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, an open-air exhibit space with expansive views of Boston Harbor, is home to the largest collection of the rare Northern fur seals in North America. With its committed breeding program, the Aquarium’s goal is to continue to expand the program in partnership with zoos and aquariums around the country.

Isaac, the proud father
The newborn pup’s father, Isaac, who weighs around 500 pounds and is 13 years old, came from the Seattle Aquarium. Ursula, who weighs 97 pounds, was brought to Boston from the New York Aquarium. The mother of two demonstrated great maternal instincts with her first pup, Flaherty, who was born in July 2012. Flaherty, an energetic 45-pound pup, has excelled in his training sessions, mastering a flipper lift and a full-circle spin.

Flaherty, Isaac and Ursula's first pup, turned 1 last month

The newest pup will not be visible to the public while it spends time behind the scenes nursing and bonding with its mother. Within two weeks, Ursula will return to the exhibit for short periods, alternating between swimming in the large exhibit pool and spending time with her pup. The as-of-yet unnamed pup will join the other fur seals and sea lions in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center sometime in early fall.

Northern fur seals are characterized by their thick fur coat which keeps them warm in the cold waters of the Northern Pacific. Although they were once hunted for their pelts, Northern fur seals are now protected under the Marine Mammal Protection act as a depleted species. The world population of this vulnerable species has continued to decline since then for reasons that are unclear.

More to explore:
Want to really get to know a Northern fur seal or Atlantic harbor seal? Try a Take a Dip with a Seal program!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

National Geographic photographer dives in the Giant Ocean Tank

Today, National Geographic underwater photographer and New England Aquarium Explorer-in-Residence Brian Skerry dove in for a closer look at Aquarium’s new Giant Ocean Tank, with camera in hand. The Uxbridge, Mass., resident has circled the globe as an award-winning underwater photographer and author for National Geographic. He's chronicled the lives of harp seals, Southern right whales, sharks, blue fin tuna and scores of other marine life in their natural habitats, which often face persistent threats from pollution, climate change and other hazards. He has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater and has an admirable ability to distill significant environmental messages in a single image.

Today, Skerry logged another hour underwater inside the Aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank. Skerry serves as the Aquarium's Explorer-in-Residence since he has such a unique window on our aquatic world.

Working for over 15 years at the magazine, Skerry has produced more than 20 lead articles with mesmerizing images of vast seascapes and poignant glimpses of fish swimming inside abandoned soda cans or heart-breaking moments with whales, sharks and dolphins, snarled in nets that threaten their lives.

A shark photographed by Brian Skerry

After a 10-month, $17.3 million top-to-bottom transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank, the Aquarium is now home to more than 2,000 aquatic animals from 140 different species, making it one of the most bio-diverse in the world. Since Skerry is an accomplished traveler who has seen coral reefs all over the world from the pristine to the damaged, he will brought unique perspective into the tank, where he observed and photographed with his underwater gear the coral reef, which re-opened on July 1.

See more of Brian Skerry's images beautiful images on the Aquarium's Global Explorers Blog

Get your tickets to see Myrtle through the windows of the Giant Ocean Tank! Timed tickets are easy to buy online and print out at home.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Check out the New Aquarium TV Ads!

For the first time since the 70s, the Aquarium is back on the air with a TV ad campaign. The campaign features a series of three spots focusing on the lionfish, balloonfish and blacknose shark. The ads mix astonishing animal imagery with creative and whimsical copy.


Blacknose shark


The ad campaign was covered in The Boston Globe today in this Business section article.

Ad Credits:
Conceptualized and produced by
Connelly Partners

Video edited by
Engine Room Edit

Footage produced in collaboration with
New England Aquarium
Boston, Massachusetts

Keith A. Ellenbogen
underwater photographer

Allan Adams
Assistant Professor of Physics, MIT Department of Physics

Jason O'Connell
Tech Imaging Services, Inc.

Want to see more of this amazing slow motion animal footage?
Check out this goosefish and cuttlefish feeding video. Plus, plan on attending a free lecture in the Aquarium's IMAX Theatre on Monday, August 12 at 7:00 p.m. with two of the team members who captured this footage, photographer/videograher Keith Ellenbogen and theoretical physicist Allan Adams.