Friday, January 31, 2014

Volunteer of the Month: January

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 latest Volunteer of the Month!

We’d like to start of the new year by recognizing one of our most established volunteers here at the Aquarium. Having served more than 3,000 hours over the past 25 years, Noel is an Aquarium mainstay. As you’ll read in her supervisor’s nomination, Noel represents the values of the New England Aquarium volunteer community through the support and dedication she provides to other volunteers, interns, staff and our institution.

Here’s what her supervisor, Lisbeth Bornhoff had to say,
Noel Jette epitomizes all the best in an Aquarium Guide. She is articulate, knowledgeable and willing to attempt new challenges. She is a superb interpreter and an invaluable mentor of other volunteers (myself included) and interns. She exceeds expectations, both in terms of the quality of her communications with our visitors, but also in terms of her time commitment (she has donated her time  since 1989!). Most importantly, Noel is passionate about her work here and about the mission of the Aquarium.

Congratulations Noel, and thank you for your continued contributions to our community!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Creating an accessible and inclusive experience for all

There is a lot to enjoy at the New England Aquarium—from graceful sea jellies and charming penguins to educator talks, from hands-on touch tanks to the four-story Caribbean reef inside the Giant Ocean Tank. We are committed to creating an accessible, inclusive experience so everyone can enjoy all we have to offer.

Here are some of the services and opportunities that can enhance a visit for people with hearing, mobility or vision impairments:

  • Visitors using wheelchairs and visitors with visual impairments have free admission.
  • Service animals are welcome.
  • American Sign Language interpreters are available every first Sunday of the month from 12:30 –4:30 p.m.
  • Assisted listening devices are available at the IMAX and Info desk.
  • Closed-caption Blue Impact tour is available for free download to hand-held media players.
  • Groups of visitors with hearing impairments can arrange special guided tours or arrange for an ASL interpreter.
  • Wheelchair-accessible amenities include elevators, restrooms, ticket window and IMAX viewing spaces.
  • Aquarium wheelchairs are available upon request.
  • Several Aquarium exhibits include hands-on tactile elements, colorful graphics and large print.

Visitors with hearing impairments also benefit from description panels throughout the Aquarium. These panels include exhibit descriptions, species identification, discussions of conservation issues and much more. Many of the descriptive panels include photographs or diagrams as well as text. Many Aquarium exhibits incorporate elements that are helpful to visitors with visual impairments, such as oversized typefaces, bold illustrations and colorful graphics.

Visitor drop-off and pickup is allowed at the Aquarium’s main entrance. There is one automated doorway (enter from the front plaza). If you take public transportation—it's one way to live blue™ after all—the Aquarium is only 237 yards away from the MBTA Aquarium Station (on the Blue Line). An elevator provides wheelchair access to the Aquarium station and platforms.

Learn more about accessibility at the Aquarium. Another helpful resource for visitors is our Frequently Asked Questions. With the weekend here, it's time to plan a visit. You can buy tickets online! We hope to see you here on Central Wharf because there's something for everyone at the Aquarium!

Thanks to Guénaëlle Maria for helping prepare this information.

Behind the scenes with the fur seals: Chiidax meets Kit

We first introduced Chiidax last month. The Northern fur seal pup had been left in a box on the doorstep of an Alaskan Fish and Wildlife office—underweight and dehydrated. Not knowing where he came from or how to find his mother, Chiidax was hand raised by rescuers.

He arrived at the Aquarium's off-site holding facility late last year. After a brief quarantine period, Chiidax moved to a behind-the-scenes area at the Aquarium so he could start meeting the other animals in the exhibit. First member of the welcoming committee: Kitovi!

Kathy Streeter, Marine Mammals Curator, gives Kitovi and Chiidax a moment to get acquainted before opening the door of the kennel
Chiidax and Kitovi, nose to nose

Trainers weren't sure how Chiidax would react. It was the first time he'd seen another fur seal since he was a week old! After an initial moment of curiosity when the pair went nose to nose, they took to the water soon after and swam and played and got to know each.

The pair took to the water and seemed to have fun swimming and
checking each other out

Fast friends

Chiidax will remain behind the scenes for a while now while he's introduced to the other members of the marine mammal center. But you can come by and say hi to the rest of the youngsters!

Feeling right at home: Chiidax playing with his food

Meet the fleet of frisky pups at the Marine Mammal Center!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New stripes in the Pacific Reef Community

The Pacific Reef Community on Level 1 at the Aquarium is nothing if not a bouquet of vibrant colors, patterns and movement. Recently, the exhibit got even more colorful! A blue ring angelfish (Pomacanthus annularis) and a harlequin tuskfish (Choerodon fasciatus) joined the community this week.

Blue ring angelfish (Pomacanthus annularis

Harlequin tuskfish (Choerodon fasciatus)

Here's a taste of the bustling reef life inside the Pacific Reef Community exhibit.

So if the long winter nights and gray days get you down, pop over to see the sunny colors here at the New England Aquarium! Buy tickets online.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Climate Change Press Conference

Tuesday, the Aquarium hosted a press conference for Governor Patrick to announce a new $50 million capital program to promote climate change preparedness. In an effort to minimize the impacts of major weather events, such as Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey, the state is launching an initiative that would harden critical infrastructure such as transportation, utilities and critical business areas.

Aquarium president Bud Ris, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh

Tap into the Aquarium's resources to learn more about climate change. Get the basics in this brief introduction to climate change. Discover the effects of climate change on ocean animals—from coral bleaching events to, possibly, right whale migration patterns, as was mentioned during today's events. Find out what you can do to make a difference for the health of the blue planet.

In addition, read about the proposed investments in to help energy services, transportation, infrastructure and help coastal communities reduce the risk of damages from storm and sea level rise in these news stories:
The Boston Globe
WBZ Channel 4
Associated Press (via NECN)
State House News Service (via Nashoba Publishing)
The Patch

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Countdown to 2014 | 1. The New Giant Ocean Tank and the New Aquarium Experience

Here we are. The New Year is upon us, so it's about time that we look back on the amazing year that was 2013. The Aquarium celebrated some unbelievable moments—some much touted and others quieter. But they're all part of what makes the Aquarium so special.

Today we're concluding the countdown of the 10 most exciting, cutest, noteworthy and/or memorable ways that 2013 is one year that we won't forget. 

1. The Return of the Giant Ocean Tank and the New Aquarium Experience—what else?!

Without a doubt, the most anticipated event of 2013 was the unveiling of the new Giant Ocean Tank along with the New Aquarium Experience. And this spectacular gem, the heart of the Aquarium, returned even better than ever. With a brand new coral reef, sunny new lighting and thousands of marine animals, the exhibit officially opened to the public on July 1.

The brand new ceiling, lighting, railings and platforms make the top of the Giant Ocean Tank a brand new experience.

The city was abuzz with news about the new exhibit, the tremendous undertaking of renovating this 200,000-gallon exhibit and the Giant Ocean Tank has been wowing visitors ever since.

A diver feeds rays and tropical fishes inside the tank

Schooling jacks patrol the reef bristling with new colors and textures

While the Giant Ocean Tank is definitely the largest new exhibit, there are several displays throughout the building that deserve some attention. The lobster and shark nurseries in the Blue Planet Action Center quietly wow people in a quieter way. Visitors can learn about the Aquarium's lobster research program and how lobster shell colors can be changed through diet.

A baby lobster looks out at visitors from its cozy hideout.

The shark nursery never fails to drop jaw. Yes, many sharks hatch out of cases, and you can watch them develop in those egg cases right here at the Aquarium!

Yes, a baby shark is growing in there | via Instagram

And interactive touch screens engage visitors of all ages.

Learning about ocean animals in high-tech ways

But with so much new and wonderful things happening at the Aquarium, sometimes it's nice to know some things don't change.

Myrtle the green sea turtle, still large and in charge in the Giant Ocean Tank

Previously on the Countdown to 2014:

Happy New Year! Celebrate all that's new at the New England Aquarium and get ready for another year of fantastic interactions with our blue planet. Come visit! Buy tickets online and skip the line.

Happy New Year! Bundle up to see seals on ice

The Aquarium opens at 12 pm today for the New Year's holiday. 

Families are enjoying the ice sculpture for school vacation week

A sure sign of the holidays is ice sculptures popping up around Boston, and the New England Aquarium traditionally puts up the first for its school vacation week visitors to enjoy. This year, the multi-ton, ice sculpture will be of the Aquarium’s new fur seal pup Kitovi (Kit for short) and her parents Ursula and Isaac.

Kitovi photographed days after her birth in August 2013

Few things are cuter than a seal pup, and Kit’s first pictures after her birth at the Aquarium in August went viral appearing on entertainment and news sites around the world. Now, renowned ice sculptor Don Chappelle of Brilliant Ice Sculptures will capture that beauty in ice–an appropriate medium given that Northern fur seal habitat is centered off the coast of Alaska. The sculpture will feature the contrasting sizes of the pup, mother and father.

Born at 11 pounds, Kit currently weighs 20. She was recently weaned, now eats squid and fish when not playing with them and enjoys ignoring her mother. (Sound familiar, parents?) Mom Ursula weighs a svelte 98 pounds and unlike most other seal species does not have much blubber. Her luxuriously, rich coat keeps her warm in sub-Arctic waters. Father Isaac weighs a hefty, but athletic 300-400 pounds depending upon the season.

Our family of ice seals standing tall—even after a few days of warm weather!

The fur seals makes the Aquarium’s spectacular, harbor-side New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center their home, which has become a pinniped playground over the last couple of years with the addition two young sea lions, three fur seal pups and a rescued fourth pup on the way. Only a handful of aquariums feature northern fur seals, and the New England Aquarium has the largest colony in North America which continues to grow.

So bundle up to take a peek our ice sculpture on the Aquarium plaza. Then tuck inside where it's warm and tropical by the Giant Ocean Tank. The Aquarium opens at 12 pm today for the New Year's holiday. Buy tickets online and skip the line outside!