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+

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspiring the next generation of marine biologists

Last week the teens in the Aquarium’s Marine Biologist in-Training (MBIT) course tackled real-life conservation problems from across the world with visiting Peruvian scientist, Kerstin Forsberg. Forsberg, who is the co-founder and director of Planeta Oceano (Planet Ocean), is a passionate, dedicated and highly accomplished young conservation biologist. She traveled to the Aquarium to give a public lecture about her study of the manta and mobula ray fishery in Peru, work that has been supported by the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF).

Kerstin Forsberg (at center) and the MBIT class

In addition to giving her lecture, touring the Aquarium and meeting with Aquarium staff, Kerstin also conducted a workshop for the MBIT students. As the teens introduced themselves at the start of the class, it was clear that they shared her excitement about the ocean and the desire to protect it. Kerstin was eager to engage this highly motivated group in addressing real-world problems gleaned from her experiences. She had the students review and analyze sea turtle strandings data from Peru, make their own hypotheses about potential causes, and suggest ways to test those theories. Forsberg also presented a recent news story on the troubling use of dolphin meat as bait for shark fishing in Peru and asked the teens to think about how they would address this problem.

Kerstin (at left) leads the students in an analysis of sea turtle stranding data.

At the close of the workshop, Kerstin directed the students to reflect on the value of environmental education. The teens noted that educating and inspiring others was a crucial first step in protecting the environment. Certainly Kerstin has embodied this ideal herself. When starting her own grassroots conservation organization in Peru at the age of 22, she managed to recruit over 100 volunteers in the first month. 

During the workshop, Kerstin asked the students to reflect on their role in environmental education.

In the few years since this time, Kerstin has continued to engage communities, fishermen and school children in local research and conservation projects. Her leadership and skill as a social entrepreneur have been recognized with prestigious awards, including, the 2013 World Wildlife Fund International President’s Award. 

Although she is now internationally known, Kerstin noted that her journey started with the same passion for the ocean that led the teens to pursue the MBIT class. Kerstin encouraged the students to bring their excitement and knowledge of marine science out into their communities where it can help effect meaningful change for the ocean. 

Learn about Kerstin’s Aquarium-supported manta and mobula ray study and other inspiring MCAF projects in our latest newsletter. And be sure to check out the Marine Biologist in-Training. This program offers challenging opportunities for students in ages 13 – 17 to learn about marine science here at the Aquarium and build skills for problem solving, leadership and environmental stewardship. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cold-stunned turtles arriving at Aquarium's Animal Care Center

The sudden burst of winter temperatures and brisk winds has not only sent a chill through many New Englanders but also through twelve endangered sea turtles that were rescued from Cape Cod beaches Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Thirteen of the hypothermic turtles are juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are most endangered sea turtle in the world. The last is a juvenile green sea turtle.

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle patient at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center

The turtles are being brought to the New England Aquarium’s state of the art sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA where they will be slowly re-warmed over several days and treated for many weeks to months for a host of other life threatening medical problems related to prolonged severe hypothermia.

Rescuers were busy doing intake exams on all the turtles that arrived today.

The two- to ten-pound sea turtles with black shells were collected by staff and volunteers with the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay who walked the frigid beaches looking for the near motionless marine reptiles in the debris at the high tide line. With strong westerly winds creating steady wave activity, the floating turtles left the 50-something degree water to more dangerous conditions on the beach with early morning air temperatures in the 20’s. Getting to the turtles in a timely manner is important to avoid a further drop in body temperature.

Turtle exams include drawing blood, temperature and a thorough observation of the turtle's physical appearance

November and December is the sea turtle stranding season on Cape Cod as juvenile sea turtles that have migrated there for the summer to feed on crabs fail to return south to warmer waters. All of these strandings occur on the north side of the huge peninsula in Cape Cod Bay. The bay is surrounded by land on three sides with its only opening to the north, which is instinctively counter-intuitive.

Aquarium rescue personnel are bracing for another big season. On average, they treat about 70 sea turtles, but last year was record smashing as they received 242 cold-stunned sea turtles. Up until today, the season had progressed slowly with four sea turtles stranding over a week’s time beginning on Election Day, but the sudden burst of winter weather has changed all of that.

Follow the sea turtle stranding season on the Aquarium's Rescue Blog. Want to help? Support the Aquarium's rehabilitation efforts by giving to the Aquarium.

If you're on the Cape, volunteers are needed at Mass Audubon.
Volunteer to walk the beaches! If you can volunteer a couple of hours a week, day or night, you could help save the life of a sea turtle by helping to get it off the beach before it freezes. Does walking beaches in 30 to 40 mph winds with air temperatures hovering around 30 degrees seem like fun? Well, we have an opportunity for you! How about helping us at 2 am? We’re not kidding, we’re out there.

Volunteer to be a driver! All the live sea turtles are transported to the New England Aquarium Rescue Center in Quincy. We sometimes need to make two or three trips a day. To become a volunteer, please contact volunteer coordinator Diane Silverstein by calling, 508-349-2615.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Round-Up of Recent Visitor Pictures

We love it when visitors share their pictures with us through our social media outlets—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+. Some of them are too good to keep to ourselves! Here are some of those wonderful moments shared by visitors at the New England Aquarium. Enjoy!

Submitted to Facebook by Laura Veligor: First trip to the Aquarium!
From Facebook: Sleepy sea lion

From Tumblr by Kelly!Hamilton: Australian blue spotted jellies

From Tumblr: One of the loggerhead sea turtles

From Instagram user Mlast11: Beauties from the Pacific reef community

From Twitter user @MLastAce: Flowerhat jellies

From Twitter user @JacobLevenson: The new top of the Giant Ocean Tank

Thanks to all those who shared their wonderful pictures with us on the networks. Have some pictures you want to share? Connect with us online on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+! We can't wait to see your perspective of the New England Aquarium.

Planning a visit? Buy your tickets online and charge up those cameras!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Red Sox Shortstop Stephen Drew High-Fives

Reggae, an Atlantic harbor seal at the New England Aquarium, knows how to celebrate a World Series win. Just look, he gives a fantastic high five!

Reggae congratulates Stephen Drew on the World Series win!

2013 Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew and his family stopped by the Aquarium Monday afternoon to get a high-five from Reggae, a male harbor seal. Drew and his family had been regulars at the Aquarium much of this past summer, and they stopped by one last time before they head south for the winter.

Drew has surely been offered a thousand congratulatory handshakes of all types since last Thursday, but this one is one that neither he nor his family will soon forget. Reggae, a 210 pound, 20-year old, male harbor seal, is quite athletic and a bit of a show-off. He knows dozens of behaviors, but among his favorites is to vault straight out of the water several feet and enthusiastically slap the extended hand of the person standing on a rocky perch over the water. Top this for a congratulatory high five!

As you saw, Drew was the guest of honor Monday as his family and friends watched as Reggae’s front flipper smacked Drew’s throwing hand. His pre-school boys were delighted, but not yet ready to get a seal high-five themselves. Instead they waved to Reggae and other seals while getting close-up looks at the harbor seals inside the exhibit.

Side note: Reggae does not have just a casual Red Sox connection as the Red Sox Double A minor league team in Portland, Maine is named the Sea Dogs, which is an old Yankee term for harbor seals.

The Red Sox win was celebrated throughout the Aquarium. Isaac the fur seal showed his hometown pride after the Sox clinched the series. And the divers celebrated the big Red Sox win in their own way—underwater. Congratulations to the 2013 Boston Red Sox for winning the World Series—high five!

Visit the Aquarium and see the harbor seals, fur seals and scuba divers in the Giant Ocean Tank. Tickets are available online.