Friday, May 31, 2013

Volunteers of the Month: May

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!

Choosing the Volunteer of the Month is not an easy feat. With nearly 1,000 active service members, not only are they great in numbers but they are great people too. The Volunteer Office first tasks supervisors with picking among their volunteer team for top performers. The Volunteer Office then chooses from the cream of the crop. And boy, oh boy, do we have a stellar volunteer to announce today. Readers of the Aquarium's blogs, please help me congratulation a fantastic young man:

May Volunteer of the Month: Ian Smith!

Here’s his nomination from his supervisor Andrew:
Ian Smith, May's Volunteer of the Month
One of the greatest aspects of our facility is the profound ability to captivate our audience, leaving them awestruck and inspired by the natural world.  The same rings true for our volunteers, who find themselves so enthralled by our mission that they donate countless hours of their time, not only to aid in realizing our mission but also to gain firsthand experience on the inner workings of the organization itself. My favorite part of being a supervisor for volunteers is seeing that moment unfold where an individual realizes how truly amazing our work is! Ian Smith is the perpetual embodiment of that moment. Ian’s quiet enthusiasm for our work is nothing short of humbling, which compounded with his dedication, unflappable work ethic and attention to detail is staggering to say the least.  He is always eager to learn, taking on tasks with zeal, and is, without question, reliable beyond his years; every Sunday morning, rain, snow or shine, he comes in with a smile and a “can-do” attitude! That all being said, Ian is only 18, has just graduated high school with a focus on environmental science, and without a question will move on to do great things in our field.

Honestly, I have sat down to type up this email for the past few nominations but had been unable to articulate just how very proud I am to have Ian as a volunteer in Freshwater. There have been so many instances over the past several months where Ian has gone above and beyond to warrant this nomination that it is far too difficult to encapsulate in just one mere example. Perhaps the best way to end this Ode to Ian is to revisit that moment of self reflection we all experience: when Ian first walked into the gallery, eliciting an instantaneous “Awesome!”.  From then on, I am sure every step Ian takes in this building is with immense joy to be here.  For myself, it has been great having such a fantastic individual to work alongside, who truly inspires me to appreciate my role at the Aquarium.
Congratulations to this aspiring aquarist!

The Aquarium could not operate the same way without our volunteers and we are incredibly grateful to those who spend over 109,000 hours in service annually. You can find out firsthand how awesome our volunteers are by visiting us! Many of our volunteers are on the floor interpreting our galleries and our animals. Not to mention, many staff members got their feet wet in a volunteer or intern never know where an interest may turn into a career!

Learn more about our volunteer opportunities.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer starts early on Central Wharf!

Despite wild fluctuations in the weather, summer has definitely arrived on Central Wharf. That's because summertime around these parts means exciting new 3D movies popping up at the Simons IMAX Theatre, food and drinks with a view on the waterfront and amazing marine animals at the New England Aquarium—like the sharks and rays in the touch tank, the goosefish, the baby sharks in our nursery, the octopus and her toys, the fur seals and, of course, Myrtle, in the dazzling Giant Ocean Tank... oh, we could go on and on.

Myrtle is just one of the amazing animals now swimming in the Giant Ocean Tank. More animals are being added to the newly renovated exhibit every day!

Let's start with the spectacular new films coming to the Simons IMAX Theatre. Penguins 3D is making a splash this week with a regal king penguin on his journey of a lifetime. Set against a backdrop of dramatic snowy peaks and glacial crags, Penguins 3D follows one particular brave bird as he waddles past brawling elephant seals and hungry leopard seals in an effort to find his mate amid this colony of half a million penguins. Together they battle the elements to raise a chick in one of the wildest places on Earth. Watch this breathtaking, endearing and ultimately triumphant quest unfold on the largest screen in New England at the Simons IMAX Theatre.

Starting on June 7, get ready for a shark's eye view as you plunge straight into the underwater world of nature's most renowned predator in Great White Shark 3D. 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 from the comfort of our IMAX Theatre.

Now let's pop outside to the Aquarium's plaza to find one of Boston's best kept secrets. Where else can you dine in the open air or sip a cold beer just a few steps away from frolicking harbor seals, and where sea breezes and the Boston skyline meet? The Reef is the Aquarium's open-air restaurant and bar that opens this weekend! The menu features many seafood specialties like a steamer bar and lobster rolls, plus crowd-pleasing appetizers and other summer favorites. And of course, the beer and cocktails are delicious!

Now, back to the Giant Ocean Tank: The construction scaffolding is long gone and aquarists are busy building our Caribbean reef community inside the newly renovated tank. You'll find all our sea turtles  swimming among hundreds dazzling reef fish, and even more fish are being added each day.

Soon enough, the penguins will return from vacation. The New Aquarium Experience will be here before you know. With so much to do and see, let us help you get your summer off to an adventurous start! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Media Release: Myrtle Returns to the Giant Ocean Tank

Myrtle the 550-pound turtle is among the first animals introduced to the Giant Ocean Tank as Aquarium divers begin the transfer of 2,000 animals to the newly renovated tank.

The New England Aquarium’s signature animal, Myrtle the turtle—a 550-pound green sea turtle—is back in her dazzling new home. Since last September, the Aquarium has undertaken a $17 million renovation of the Giant Ocean Tank and its surrounding spaces. The four-story, 200,000-gallon Caribbean coral reef exhibit does not officially open until July 1, but most of the construction is complete, and biologists require nearly a month to introduce the 2,000 animals of nearly 200 species to their new home. Among the first animals introduced is the nearly 90-year-old sea turtle who has long been called the queen of the Giant Ocean tank by Aquarium divers.

As you can see in the video, moving a quarter-ton reptile requires a little planning, some quiet time and heavy duty hoists. Early Tuesday morning, three Aquarium divers guided Myrtle through her temporary home in the penguin pool where she readily swam into a five-foot-by-four-foot plastic crate. The box was then lifted from the pool by an overhead mechanical hoist. After the water drained off, the turtle container was placed on the exhibit floor where the Aquarium’s two veterinarians and several biologists did a physical exam of Myrtle. She looked good and was then wheeled to an elevator by a pallet jack and brought to the top level of the Aquarium. Her crate was then linked to another ceiling hoist, which slid her sizeable mass out over the new coral reef. The box was slowly lowered into the water where two divers turned the box at an angle, and Myrtle swam out to inspect her new realm.

The reef has changed dramatically, with popping new colors, thousands of new corals and new swim paths. About half-way around on her first lap, Myrtle was greeted by an old acquaintance, a 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle named Retread. They hovered in the water and faced each other quietly, then Myrtle’s massive right front flipper reached out and tossed the smaller sea turtle aside. With that imperious and dominant gesture, Aquarium staff knew that the ancient sea turtle would be fine. Now all she needs to do is find the best nap location on the re-configured reef and train the divers to feed her on demand.

The spiral walkway around the Giant Ocean Tank is open to the public, and Aquarium staff will be adding about 50 to 100 fish per day as it steadily builds one of the most diverse and dense aquatic exhibits in the world over the next several weeks.

Here are some other videos about the Aquarium's transformation:
The very first animal moves to the newly renovated Giant Ocean Tank
Myrtle's transfer to her temporary exhibit last fall
Myrtle enjoying that temporary exhibit
Little blue penguins in their temporary home for the renovations
And the rest of the penguin colony on vacation (they'll be back by July 1!)

And look for Myrtle on the news!

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Movie: 'Penguins 3D' now playing!

Our newest IMAX film is all about everyone's favorite tuxedoed birds! Penguins 3D will bring you into the thick of a penguin city, where one particular king penguin has just returned from three years at sea.  Get your tickets today.

First, sit back and check out the scenery and stars of this beautiful, family-friendly film.

Set against a backdrop of dramatic snowy peaks and glacial crags, Penguins 3D follows a brave king penguin on the journey of a lifetime. Watch our waddling hero dodge brawling elephant seals and hungry leopard seals in an effort to find his mate amid this colony of half a million penguins. Together they battle the elements to raise a chick in one of the wildest places on Earth. Watch this breathtaking, endearing and ultimately triumphant quest unfold on the largest screen in New England at the Simons IMAX Theatre.

Penguins 3D is a presentation of nWave Pictures Distribution and Serengeti Entertainment. Written and narrated by David Attenborough, the film is produced by Anthony Geffen and Sias Wilson and features cinematography by Simon Niblett and original music by James Edward Barker.   

Soak in the scenery of a sub-Antarctic wilderness. Watch stunning king penguins, with their stark orange bills and patches of vibrant feathers, navigate a crowded beach and go to extraordinary lengths to feed their chicks. And see how our fluffy brown chick grows up before your eyes. 

The Aquarium will be premiering this spectacular film this week, with our opening day splash on May 24. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Construction Update: The first animals return to the Giant Ocean Tank

This week marked a major step forward in the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank. The animals are coming home! Carolina and Retread—two loggerhead sea turtles—were the very first of nearly 2,000 to make the move. Follow along on their journey from the temporary exhibit to their new home.

So, what has changed about the Giant Ocean Tank? The complex coral sculptures you see inside are completely new and will provide safe homes for more than twice the number of fishes that lived in the tank before. There are also new crystal-clear viewing windows. The top of the exhibit will reopen on July 1 with expanded presentation and exhibit spaces, a reflective ceiling dome and a ramp providing access for wheelchairs and strollers. Here's more about the scope and features of the project.

If turtles smiled, Carolina would be smiling now.

Moving the animals is one of the final stages in the Aquarium's top-to-bottom, 21st-century transformation. Over the coming weeks, aquarists will move the animals from the first level temporary exhibit to the big tank. There are even more animals behind the scenes that will be joining Carolina and Retread in this vibrant Caribbean coral reef community. All the animals will be in place and the renovation of surrounding exhibits will be completed by July 1.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Volunteer of the Month: April

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

Every month, The Volunteer Office asks the staff members who supervise and mentor our volunteers to reflect on the previous couple of weeks and think about which volunteers went above and beyond their expectations. The supervisors attempt to sift through all of the stupendous volunteer efforts to find one to nominate for recognition as Volunteer of the Month.

Seadragons are just one of the exhibits you'll find in the Aquarium's temperate exhibit

The Volunteer Office then takes on the challenge to pick one volunteer to recognize out of all of the awesome individuals who work towards the Aquarium’s mission everyday. Volunteer of the Month is a coveted prize and earns the victor Aquarium-wide honor and praise (as well as a small token of appreciation from the Volunteer Office).

Per usual, this month was a difficult decision, but we think that this particular volunteer is a great representation of what the Volunteer of the Month aims to acknowledge.

So congratulations to... drum roll... Ellen Breslin!

Her supervisor, Jeremy, had this to say about Ellen:
I would like to nominate Ellen Breslin for Volunteer of the Month. This nomination is actually long overdue. Ellen started as an intern in late September 2012 and luckily for me decided to continue on as a volunteer after her commitment was up. Ellen has been a model of hard work, dedication and efficiency. She is always eager to help in any way and never shies away from a task regardless of how small, hard or disgusting it might be. Ellen has also helped me out of several occasions by coming in on non-scheduled days to help cover other volunteers who were out which has been a huge help for me.
I was also impressed, although not surprised, when I got an email from another aquarist not too long ago relating this story, '…the food prep room had been left in disarray, with dirty bins and cutting boards all about. Ellen finished her food prep and proceeded to clean all of the bins and boards, whether they were hers or not. I know it seems fairly minor, but I really appreciated it.'
It’s this consistent, high quality, 'even when she thinks no one is watching,' kind of work ethic that makes Ellen so valuable to me and the Temperate Gallery. Ellen has, in my mind, become the epitome of what we desire in an intern / volunteer (reliable, consistent, productive, and an overall pleasure to be around) and I sincerely hope that she is recognized for all her hard work and dedication.

Clearly a well-deserving individual. Ellen, we thank you for all of her hard-work and also for the 400 hours(!) you have already served in protection of the blue planet. The Aquarium is a better place because of your efforts!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Free movies at the Aquarium!

That's right, FREE! Join us on June 2 when we throw open the doors to the Simons IMAX Theatre for four free showings of our wildly popular movies—The Last Reef 3D and Penguins 3D (which opens May 24). Learn about our blue planet through some of the world's most beautiful and breathtaking animals on the largest movie screen in New England.

What: Free movies at the Aquarium!
Where: Simons IMAX Theatre, New England Aquarium
When: June 2, 2013
  • 12:00 p.m. — The Last Reef 3D
  • 1:00 p.m. — Penguins 3D
  • 2:00 p.m. — The Last Reef 3D
  • 3:00 p.m. — Penguins 3D

Set against a backdrop of dramatic snowy peaks and glacial crags, Penguins 3D follows a brave king penguin on the journey of a lifetime. Watch our waddling hero dodge brawling 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. Watch this breathtaking, endearing and ultimately triumphant quest unfold on the largest screen in New England at the Simons IMAX Theatre.

Ride along with sharks, sea turtles and tropical fish on a cruise through the world's underwater superhighways. From Vancouver Island to Palau, coral reefs pulse with colorful ocean animals of all sizes. The Last Reef 3D is your ticket to see their homes like never before. Experience the diversity, colors and rhythms of breathtaking reefs in vibrant 3D on the largest screen in New England. You’ll discover the natural connection we share with coral habitats and learn how together we can protect our planet's cities beneath the sea.

Seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. Head to the IMAX Theatre when you arrive at the Aquarium to pick up your free movie pass. You'll also find free family-friendly activities on the Aquarium's plaza from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.—including games, hands-on learning about our blue planet and even a photo booth.

This event has been made possible through the generous support of the Lowell Institute.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"No giant tank. No problem at the Aquarium." — Boston Globe

Progress on the Giant Ocean Tank transformation has been exciting in recent weeks. Still, we all miss the big tank a little bit. But what folks might not realize is that there's still a lot to see at the Aquarium right now. A whole lot. And you don't have to take our word for it.

Salmon exhibit | Photo: Geoff Edgers, Globe staff

An article in Sunday's Boston Globe shares the story of one Globe staffer's trip to Central Wharf with his 2-year-old son. The shark and ray touch tank and hands-on tidepool area were big hits. The pair spent time exploring the smaller, more intimate exhibits on each level. Then came the little blue penguins and the marine mammal center.

"Watching Cal’s nose pressed up against the glass, I realized we could have stayed for hours, giant tank or no giant tank." — Geoff Edgers, The Boston Globe

Read the article.
(Globe subscribers can log in to read the full version.)

Come see for yourself. There are four levels of exhibits, from sea jellies to the octopus and from tiny sea horses to our husky male fur seal. The touch tanks are a delight for people of all ages. The diverse and engaging aquatic world is teeming before your eyes at the New England Aquarium. Buy your tickets today.

Celebrate Mother's Day with other moms at the Aquarium!

Our Mother's Day giveaway is over now. Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about our activities on Sunday: We are celebrating Mother’s Day with free admission for moms!

Ursula and baby Flaherty, who is now one years old, just days after he was born

The perfect gift for mom is an unforgettable trip to the New England Aquarium. And this Mother's Day her ticket is on the house. We're offering moms free admission with any accompanying full-price ticket, plus free popcorn with an IMAX movie and 10% discounts at the Aquarium's café and gift shop

Come visit us on Sunday, May 12, 2013, and celebrate by exploring the oceans together. You'll feel cownose rays glide beneath your fingertips, watch supercharged seal pups at play and see hundreds more ocean animals gliding through three floors of enchanting underwater exhibits.

Ursula and Flaherty soon after he was allowed to explore the exhibit  
Adult admission: $19.95
Child (3–11) admission: $14.95 
Moms on May 12: FREE with any full-price admission ticket
Children 2 and under are free.

More Mother's Day Discounts!
Moms save 
10% at the Harbor View Café
10% at the Aquarium Gift Shop
and get a free popcorn at the IMAX Theatre!

Flaherty grows more and more every day! He's now very independent, bounding about the exhibit with his pal, Leu.

So get your tickets for the family for this Mother's Day, just remember: Mom's ticket is on the house!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Construction Updates

The New England Aquarium's transformation is taking place behind construction screens and below the water line. Learn more about the renovation project. Keep reading to meet some of the animals that will call the Giant Ocean Tank home this summer, and get an update on construction. Don't forget about our special construction prices available now during our transformation!

Blue chromis | Photo: Mark Rosenstein
The Giant Ocean Tank is going to reopen this summer with nearly 2,000 animals of all shapes and sizes—from the small and vibrant blue chromis to the unmistakable green sea turtle, Myrtle. Over the past several months, animal caregivers have been busy behind the scenes caring for many of these new arrivals. All the new and old fish will debut in the Giant Ocean Tank home this summer!

Balloonfish | Photo: Mark Rosenstein
Recently Aquarium scuba divers travelled to the Bahamas to collect some of these newcomers for the new exhibit. Join the divers on this year's collecting expeditions through the Divers Blog! The Aquarium works closely with the Bahamas Ministry of Fisheries on these collecting trips. A Bahamian official comes on board during the trip to monitor the capture techniques and examines our the animals we are bringing to the exhibit. The Aquarium would never take anything from the wild that is endangered or threatened, nor any animal without its bonded pair. This is one way that we can share the splendor of a pristine Caribbean reef and our blue planet with people who might never be able to visit. Learn more about the expeditions and conservation work here.

A worker puts a coat of paint on a fiberglass coral in the Giant Ocean Tank | Photo: L. Flanagan

Meanwhile workers are furiously putting the finishing touches on the coral reef structure in the Giant Ocean Tank. The coral produced by Peter Brady and his team is now adorning the hulking replica reef. Dramatic staghorn corals and lettuce corals will provide great nooks and crannies for all those smaller fish to hide.

Peter Brady stands on scaffolding in the Giant Ocean Tank.

Next on the docket: water! In the coming weeks divers and construction crews will fill the tank and make sure everything is ship-shape before the animals move in. We're hurtling toward our completion date for this massive project in July and we can't wait to show you the finished masterpiece. Until then, we are offering discounted construction pricing so you can see the thousands of animals that are still swimming right now—like Indo, the zebra shark! You won't have too many more opportunities to see the scuba divers feeding the fish and rays while laying down.

Divers in the Tropical Ocean Exhibit | Photo taken via Instagram

Right whale sighting: Wart and her baby doing ok

The right whale research team has been very busy surveying the whales off Cape Cod Bay, but they paused to share one nugget of excellent news: Wart and her calf have been sighted! Wart appeared in Cape Cod Bay in January with a newborn and hadn't been seen since they left the area the same month.  That's highly unusual and gave the researchers some cause for concern.

Wart with her calf in January, when the calf was about two weeks old
Photo: Allison Henry/NEFSC under Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies NOAA permit #14603

But having recently spotted the pair, they're thrilled that the calf is alive and both of them appeared to be healthy! Wart, along with more than 100 other right whales, have been sticking around the area to take advantage of the copious copepod food resource.

Wart and her calf less than two weeks ago, still swimming strong
Photo: Marilyn Marx/New England Aquarium under NOAA permit #14233

This happy update has been covered a bit in local media. Read more in the Cape Cod Times and on WCVB Channel 5. With so many right whales in the waters, whale researchers are urging local boaters to use caution. Ship strikes are a major cause for concern with this critically endangered species. Here are a couple more news stories about our seasonal neighbors—right whales: