Friday, May 30, 2014

Volunteer of the Month: May 2014

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.

This month, we’d like to nominate a volunteer for skills he can demonstrate at hardly any other institutions than the Aquarium. Over the past 9 months, Conor has volunteered over 272 hours of his time working with one of our signature exhibits: the Giant Ocean Tank.

A diver glides over the top of the Giant Ocean Tank's four-story reef

Every so often when we update the tank with new fish, we have to collect some of its current inhabitants to live in other exhibits. One of the major challenges of this is collecting the fish, of course!

Conor Getchell

Giant Ocean Tank Senior Aquarist Chris Bauernfeind offered this nomination because of Conor's efforts in this process:
I would like to nominate Conor Getchell. Here’s why: A few weeks ago when we began our days at 5:00 am for our night-dive fish collections, Conor was there 3 of the 4 mornings which really showed dedication (it doesn’t hurt, too, that he’s an awesome fish collector) and honestly we couldn’t have done it without him. Calling him reliable and dependable is an understatement. He really went above and beyond what we expect from our volunteers. Also, he’s got a calm demeanor and witty sense of humor, which fits really well with our team.
Thank you, Conor for your skills and dedication!

Conor shows off his creativity with a Where's Waldo costume in the tank
for the annual members-only Halloween party Fish, Fun and Fright.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Just for Members: Choose your Cirque du Soleil discount!

Cirque du Soleil is in town and we have a special opportunity for our members to choose the discount they want! Everyone likes choices, right? Enjoy either a 20-percent discount off a family four-pack of tickets OR a free food/drink/souvenir pack for each ticket you purchase. (Note: Discounts cannot be combined.)

This year's show, Amaluna, takes the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon.

Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next.

In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before they can achieve mutual trust, faith and harmony

Click if you'd like discounted tickets (minimum four tickets with a limit of 8 tickets, adult or child)

Click if you choose tickets with a free souvenir pack ($31 value, limit 19)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whale Watching Nirvana

MEDIA RELEASE—Over the past two weeks, visitors on board New England Aquarium whale watches have been probably spoiled for life from enjoying just an average whale watch in the future. A good whale watch is normally spotting two to three whales fairly close up, but since the beginning of May, these marine wildlife tourists have been seeing six, eight or even a couple of dozen whales in a three hour trip. What is happening to draw so many whales so close to Boston?

Three humpbacks feeding | Photo: Boston Harbor Cruises

Well, the feast is on! Laura Howes, Director of Marine Education and Conservation for the Aquarium’s whale watches, which are presented by Boston Harbor Cruises, notes that the object of this whale mania is a slender, 6-10 inch long, eel-like fish called sand lance.

Sand lance | Photo: Anne Smrcina SBNMS

These schooling, finger-wide fish, also known locally as sand eels, are like Godiva chocolates to humpback whales. Even though sand lance are found in schools of tens of thousands, they can be elusive to both whales and scientists. To more efficiently hunt sand lance, humpbacks often work together by blowing walls of bubbles around sand lance schools to scare the fish into tighter groups that are easier  for the 40 ton acrobats to lunge into and feed on.

Group feeding in a bubble net

Dr. David Wiley, Research Coordinator at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, says that sand lance might be the most important forage fish in the southern Gulf of Maine, but little is known about their life cycle.

Schooling sand lance on Stellwagen Bank

This week, Wiley is leading a three day research survey for sand lance over 52 sites in Stellwagen, the federally designated whale feeding sanctuary about 25 miles east of Boston and just north of the tip of Cape Cod. Last autumn, a similar survey found almost no sand lance anywhere in the sanctuary. Sand lance populations have long had a reputation of being highly cyclical, but that impression might be more of a reflection of how little is known about the species locally.

What is known is that the sandy bottom and relatively shallow waters of Stellwagen are ideal habitat for the burrowing fish that feed voraciously on the bounty of animal plankton in the area. Learning more about the life cycle dynamics will help federal officials better manage this vitally important  forage fish that is a foundation species of the oceanic food chain. Tuna, cod, striped bass, haddock, mackerel – all also rely on sand lance as an important food source. Better protecting forage fish stocks like sand lance and herring is good for bigger fish, good for the ecosystem, good for the humpbacks and good for the people who are awed at such an amazing and accessible natural spectacle so close to one of the biggest metropolitan areas in North America.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Caption Contest

So we had a little fun on the social networks today. We posted a picture of a stoplight parrotfish and challenged friends in our online neighborhoods to come up with a caption for this picture.

Oh, man, we got some good ones—including some deliciously meme-y picture comments! It was really hard to pluck out a few. But here are some of our favorites:

Angel Kemp got in the game with this one: Red light, green light -----
Lizz DuBois added: I'm feeling a bit blue, please come visit me here at the aquarium!
Read all the comments here.

kaiyves read our minds with this answer: Summerrrrrrrrr!
See all the notes here.

Jim Carver wrote: Just got back from the dentist, like my new smile?
Find us on Google+ here.

And finally, this gem of an image from Kelshmier Rydant on Facebook

Thanks to everyone who played along! Come by the Aquarium this weekend to see if you can snap some caption-worthy images, we'd love to see them! Find and tag us in your images on your favorite social media.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WATCH: Earth Day Event with Aquarium Teens

As we look ahead to World Oceans Day next month, we wanted to share a video from an Earth Day event at the Aquarium. Boston Harbor served as a backdrop as Aquarium teens interacted with environmental, local and national political leaders. The topic: challenges facing oceans today.

Local news outlet Boson Neighborhood Network was there and spoke with teens about why they're passionate about climate change issues and how they're motivating their peers. Elected officials and political leaders also touched on climate change issues and the impact it has on people and the economy.

Earth Day Education at N.E. Aquarium from Chris Lovett on Vimeo.

At the event, teens presented on a variety of topics including the effect of warming waters on the declining range of lobsters in New England and the effects of ocean acidification on all marine animals with shells. Long glass tubes filled with sea jellies were displayed to show how they are the only group of marine animals that thrive as ocean waters become warmer, more polluted and more oxygen deprived. Lastly, another teen group spoke about the effects of sea level rise in Boston Harbor.

Teen presentation at Earth Day event