Thursday, July 31, 2014

Penguins on TV!

There is a whole fleet of penguinologists out there this summer. That's after we started sharing the secret world of penguins with visitors through our Penguinology program. Not only are Aquarium visitors getting to see these popular birds up close, they are learning cool facts (have you heard? penguins have ears) during their visit through nifty decoder stations throughout the building.

Turn on the tube today and you'll see we're putting penguins on the small screen, too. Here are all three of those spots for your binge watching pleasure!

If you wandered around Boston this summer, you may have noticed penguiny advertisements throughout the city. For example, Park Street T station was plastered with penguins and Back Bay had a smashing new look thanks to these perky little birds.

The African, little blue and rockhopper penguins splashed across Park Street station!
Back Bay station in penguin finery

Big thanks to our advertising partners at Connelly, our photographer friend Keith Ellenbogen and Engine Room Edit for helping us put together this campaign. Because if there's one thing we all need, it's more penguins!

Plan a visit to the Aquarium to see what all the fuss is about. You'll get to see more than 80 penguins—three different species—and learn a whole lot about penguins at the Aquarium and around the world. It's time to explore the secret world of penguins!

Volunteer of the Month: July

Every month our Volunteer office sorts through piles of nominations from supervisors (and sometimes entire departments!) and honors one of our volunteers for their truly stupendous efforts. Meet our latest Volunteer of the Month.

In June, we celebrated a whole department (Water Quality). Now, in July, a whole department nominated a volunteer! The entire Marine Mammals department nominated Sarah Ward to receive the Volunteer of the Month award. She represents many aspects of a great volunteer: She’s personable, versatile, takes initiative and is a great mentor to new volunteers!

Here’s the Marine Mammals Department’s enthusiastic nomination for Sarah:
We would like to nominate Sarah Ward from the Marine Mammal department for Volunteer of the Month! Sarah has been with the mammal department for almost one year. She loves the aquarium so much that she now works in the gift shop as well.  Her customer service skills are superior and she has handled difficult guest interactions professionally and appropriately.  
Sarah gets a smooch from one of the fur seals
This nomination was a group decision from all the staff that has the pleasure of working with Sarah on a weekly basis. Our department, like many others, could not run smoothly and effectively without our committed volunteers. Sarah participates in many tasks that are important to our animal’s welfare including diet preparation and exhibit cleaning. She is also creative in enriching the animal’s lives through play sessions and provides guests with valuable information about the animals during public presentations.  
Sarah takes the initiative to complete tasks and has proved to be a valuable mentor in training new volunteers and interns. She goes above and beyond to ensure the cleanliness of the area by completing the tedious job of locating and removing fish scales that get stuck everywhere. The team is lucky to have Sarah as a mentor for newer volunteers and interns because she is a very thorough and understanding teacher. She follows protocols perfectly and is never afraid to ask questions. She understands the importance of following these protocols for safety reasons and trains people accordingly.  
Sarah has a quiet presence and remains professional at all times. This ability to stay even keeled is highly valued in our department. The joy she gets from working on the mammals team and giving the animals a great day is clear in her expression and attitude. Her positive personality and work ethic makes her a great role model for everyone she is around.
Not only is she a Marine Mammals volunteer, but she also works as staff in the Gift Shop!  Join me in congratulating Sarah!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Massachusetts Passes Ban on Shark Fin Trade

Flanked by a coalition of ocean protection and animal welfare organizations at the New England Aquarium, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today a ban on the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, an historic milestone deemed critical in the decades-long push to close an economic loophole that has led to a massive decline in shark populations.

The signing ceremony took place at the Aquarium overlooking Boston Harbor

"With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship," said Governor Patrick. "I congratulate the passionate animal welfare and ocean conservation leaders who worked together to ensure the conservation of sharks and our oceans for generations to come."

Governor Deval Patrick with 9-year-old Sean Lesniak (far left) and his siblings,
Aquarium president Nigella Hillgarth and Aquarium Overseer Chef Ming Tsai

The bill, also known as, “An act relative to ocean ecology and shark protection,” passed the Massachusetts House and Senate with bipartisan support last week, making Massachusetts the ninth state along with Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to restrict market access to the shark fin trade.

Photograph by Aquarium Explorer in Residence Brian Skerry

A broad coalition of ocean conservation and animal welfare advocates, including the MSPCA-Angell, New England Aquarium, The Humane Society of the United States, Fin Free Massachusetts and others, worked tirelessly to establish the ban, under the stewardship of lead sponsor Senator Jason Lewis, and with support from Representative David Nangle and nine-year-old shark advocate Sean Lesniak of Lowell, Mass.

“Today marks an historic milestone in the fight to preserve the health of our oceans,” said Lewis.  “I commend my colleagues at the State House for voting to protect sharks and take a stand against animal cruelty.  I extend my gratitude to the animal welfare organizations and ocean conservation groups who collaborated on this effort.”

Aquarium president and CEO Nigella Hillgarth introduced the governor after giving remarks
about the threat posed by shark finning on marine ecosystems worldwide.

Nigella Hillgarth, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium, lauded state lawmakers for their leadership.  “We are thrilled that the legislature has taken action to protect sharks by restricting market access for their fins,” said Hillgarth.  “Massachusetts’ shark protection efforts also complement and build upon the momentum of the Obama administration’s recent commitment to combating black market fishing and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the U.S. marketplace.”

Chef and Aquarium Overseer Ming Tsai was in attendance to lend his support for the signing of the bill. He spoke about a chef's responsibility to consider ocean sustainability when deciding what to serve in restaurants. “Every day we can decide to cook this or not cook that. And we have one sea,” said Tsai as he addressed attendees at today’s event. “But as chef’s we have a responsibility to make smart choices, and this by far is one of the smartest choices. And the only thing we can do as chefs is continuing to get that out to all the chefs of this country.”

Chef Ming Tsai addresses attendees in support of the bill

“The trend lines are clear: both the federal and state governments are ramping up efforts to protect sharks and save species so vital to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell.

After addressing the crowd, Sean Lesniak pumped his fist in support of the bill

Sean Lesniak has been a strong proponent of the bill since writing a letter to State Representative David M. Nangle. He was later invited by Nangle to speak in front of 400 people at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, where he explained the importance of saving sharks.

Sharks are usually alive when the fins are cut off, and are thrown back in the water afterward, where they die slow deaths because they are unable to swim. Photo: Brian Skerry

Shark “finning” refers to the slicing off of a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive.  The animal is then thrown back into the ocean where, unable to swim, the shark dies a slow and painful death. The demand for shark fins, used to make shark fin soup, a bowl of which can cost upwards of $100, drives the unsustainable exploitation of sharks worldwide. The practice of shark finning is prohibited by both federal and state law, but the market for fins continues to promote the practice in foreign and international waters.

Cheers all around after the signing of the bill

The law went into effect immediately after signed by Governor Patrick.

The bill

Read media coverage about the ban and the signing:
Mass. becomes ninth state to ban shark fin tradeThe Boston Globe
Massachusetts to ban shark fin trade — The Boston Globe
No Shark Fin Soup for YouBoston Magazine
Lowell boy in spotlight as Patrick signs bill to protect sharksThe Lowell Sun 
New Massachusetts Law Bans Shark Finning — WCVB Channel 5

Monday, July 21, 2014

Contest: Penguin in the city!

Have you seen the ads about town? The Aquarium's beloved penguins are in the spotlight this summer with our new Penguinology program. When you visit, you'll pick up gobs of fascinating facts about these beloved birds—from their super speed to their sneaky hearing.

One of the ads around Boston featuring our penguins

And if you just can't get enough penguin (because really, who can?) then you'll want to be tracking our social media this summer. That's because we're going to bring our penguin ambassador to several hotspots around Boston. Roast Beef (yes, that's his name) will be there with his air-conditioned penguin-mobile, while his minders will be armed with nifty bookmarks to hand out to penguin fans of all ages. Our penguin mascot might even join the fun! Definitely, bring the camera.

But wait...there's more.

Look for Roast Beef in his penguinmobile this summer!

Each time we give our followers on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ a hint about Roast Beef's travels, we'll be posting a particular penguin fact. Say, the fact that penguins have amazing hearing—above and below the water, for example. Remember that fact. Because FREE Aquarium passes will go to the first 10 people who wow us with their penguin knowledge of this fact after successfully solving the clues to find Roast Beef! 

We can't wait to see you here at the Aquarium. And if you want a fix between visits, be sure to follow us on social media to find out where Roast Beef will be appearing next. Here's where he'll be today, August 19!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Penguin chicks in The Boston Globe!

The hatching of penguin chicks never ceases to thrill us. And now we're excited to share news of these new arrivals with you! The Boston Globe published a story in the G section of the paper about our happy news about the arrival of five little blue penguin chicks this summer.

Click here to read the Globe article and see all the pictures.

Little blue penguin chicks losing their downy feathers and growing their sleek adult plumage
Photo: David Ryan, The Boston Globe

Little blue penguin chicks in the penguin exhibit
Photo: David Ryan, The Boston Globe

This summer it's truly all about penguins in these parts. We even have a special opportunities where visitors are invited to don their penguinologist hat (figuratively speaking) and learn heaps about these amazing little birds. Pick up a Penguinology guide book when you arrive and you can hit up the decoder stations to uncover penguins secrets—like the science behind their super speed underwater! Then learn what it's like to work with the penguins during insider presentations. Ask all about working with penguins—including what it's like to be bitten by those powerful beaks. You can even check out behind-the-scenes footage from the penguin breeding area like this. Talk about cute.

Besides raising chicks behind the scenes and sharing gobs of penguin secrets, there are more than 80 penguins gamboling and splashing through their exhibit—just a few feet from visitors! The 150-thousand gallon pool is studded with rocky islands, giving the penguins plenty of space to swim and hop out of the water.

Visitors watch the penguin biologists feed the African penguins

OK, you just have to see and experience this summer of penguins. Seriously. Come visit the Aquarium! Get started with planning your visit online. Pro tip: Zip in the fastest by buying your tickets online and printing them at home. The penguins are waiting for you!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TV reporter turned Aquarium intern

Ted Reinstein with WCVB's magazine show Chronicle recently donned an Aquarium uniform and spent the day as a summer intern with us. We put him to work preparing food for the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank—including fish tacos for the loggerhead sea turtles (you'll see what we mean when you watch the clip)—giving talks at the top of the tank and helping visitors at the Edge of the Sea tidepool touch tank.

Click here to watch the clip on to see whether this TV reporter can hack it!

Behind the scenes in the Giant Ocean Tank "kitchen" 

Our competitive internship program welcomes nearly 70 people each summer, from all walks of life. New England Aquarium interns gain hands-on experience and explore career options while networking with Aquarium professionals and their peers.

Want to see the interns at work? Come visit the Aquarium today! They're brimming with information to help answer all your questions. Buy a timed ticket online and print it out at home, you could be watching the loggerheads eat their fish tacos in no time.