Thursday, February 26, 2015

Volunteer of the Month: February 2015

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!

Volunteers at the New England Aquarium add value to our community, not only for their enthusiasm in completing the oftentimes unglamorous tasks necessary to provide our animals with incredible care, but also because they are incredible people to work with!

This month we are awarding Erin Carpenter, West Wing Volunteer for both of these reasons! Here’s what Austin Brayton (who's blogged about the shorebirds before) wrote in her nomination:
Erin has volunteered with the West Wing for over a year. We were excited when, after taking a summer hiatus, she returned to volunteer with us again this past fall. I am nominating Erin because she is such a pleasure to work with. She is always happy to be here and that makes the staff who works with her happy as well. She enthusiastically tackles even the dirtiest and most mundane tasks and sincerely wants to help with whatever work just needs to get done. She really cares about the quality of her work and maintaining high standards of animal care. Erin is simply a nice person and every week I look forward to seeing her and hearing amusing stories about her life. She deserves to be recognized as Volunteer of the Month!

Join us and the jellies in our appreciation of this dedicated West Wing volunteer!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meet our 2015 Marathon Team

For the third year in a row, the Aquarium is fielding a team of runners who will take on the Boston Marathon. Runners hail from all corners of the United States: Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Washington, DC, and Washington state. There's also a large contingent from the Boston area, which means runners can gather for training and camaraderie during weekly long runs.

One of the early team long runs for some of our local runners, plus the most excellent support team, 
who lug sports drinks and snacks to runners along the way! 

In addition to training, these runners are all raising money in support of the Aquarium's outreach programs, which bring ocean education to local classrooms and after-school programs throughout the Boston area. These encounters with traveling tidepool animals and Aquarium educators are sometimes a child's first encounter with the sea. Engaging with these bright and enthusiastic students is a way to inspire future ocean protectors!

Local students enjoying an Aquarium outreach program

But before the classroom magic and the runners' dates with the finish line, they have to make the miles. It's been a challenging year to train for our local runners because of all the snow. 8 feet of snow, in fact! Microspikes and other traction tools are a helpful addition to sneakers on icy, snow-packed sidewalks.

This year in particular, micro spikes were an important part of the runners' uniforms  

Across the country, teammates are having to contend with winter weather (like this recent shot near Washington, DC)

Warm hats, mufflers, gloves and lots of layers are also key in the numbing cold.

Kim and Lee get in the miles despite the snow
Joe is still smiling
Meg, Kim, Danielle and Keegan pound out a quick 14

So far this group has been up to the challenge! There has been some creative fundraising (have you seen the "H2O" Frozen parody? did you try the cookies at those tasty bake sales?) and hundreds of combined miles logged on snow-muffled streets and sunny sidewalks around the country.

Visit the marathon page on our website and get to know the runners. Each has created a personal fundraising page that shares a little bit about why they're running this race, including many inspiring connections with the oceans. Consider supporting a runner or the team as a whole. And stay tuned for more updates about the team as we count down to race day on April 20, 2015.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Limited Time: Special Charlie Card Discount!

Here's one fun thing you can do with your Charlie Card: Show your T pass at the Aquarium’s Box Office for $5 off admission for up to four people! The offer is eligible to all Charlie Card holders now through March 1.

Cownose rays soar through the Giant Ocean Tank

School vacation is not over yet so grab your T pass and come visit us at the Aquarium. See harbor seals and sea lions, penguins and sea turtles, plus more tropical fish than you can count. Because you deserve a little fun after all that shoveling and those commuting woes.

Winter in Boston. I know, right?

Here's all the fine print:
Valid through 3/1 only. This offer is good for four general admissions to the New England Aquarium per Charlie Card. One coupon per group. Discount offers may not be combined with other offers. Charlie Card must be presented at time of purchase. Not valid on IMAX Theatre or Whale Watch tickets. No cash value and not valid on tickets purchased online.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Whales on the Windows

You might notice a playful touch of color on the windows of the Aquarium's Gift Shop. There's a story behind those illustrations! Maris Wicks is a part-time Aquarium educator who is also a local illustrator. She's the creative hand behind our beautiful new whale mural and here's how it happened.

Closeup of one of the humpback whales in the mural

Hi there! It's Maris. (You might remember me from these previous blog entries here and here.) I'm a part-time Program Educator here at the New England Aquarium, but when I'm not teaching kids about sea stars and whales and snails, I draw! Yup, I am a freelance illustrator that specializes in comics and science (and I consider myself lucky to have TWO very awesome jobs).

A few weeks back, the Aquarium approached me about painting the windows of the Gift Shop to celebrate the release of Humpback Whales 3D.  The movie came out this past Friday, and the windows are all painted, but I wanted to share a bit about the process...think of it as a sort of "behind-the-scenes" tour of the painting.

Sketches of whales by Maris Wicks

First up: research and sketching.  I knew the theme for the window would be whale-centric, so I set to work looking at pictures of Humpback Whales and drawing them in various poses: breaching, tail-slapping, etc.

Whale mural sketches by Maris Wicks

Next: proposal sketches. An illustrator will usually do 2-3 preliminary sketches of different ideas based on the theme. The first one, the "animation" of the breach, was actually the idea of Marketing Dept/Megan Riley. The second sketch features a life-size Humpback calf, and the third sketch focuses more on the broader habitat of the humpback whale.

Whale mural finishing process

Once I submit the sketches, I wait to see which one is picked to get further developed, and if there are any changes I need to make. First sketch it is! Now's it's time to tighten up the drawings, ink them and do a quick color sample.

Everything is good to go; I just have to get all those whales on the windows! I drew each whale at about 3" x 3" time to big-ify them. I do this with a projector (very "old school") and trace the new, big whales on large paper.

Let me tell you that I was extremely thankful to be painting on the inside of the windows, because it was COLD outside.
Making the murals

The whole painting took about 20 hours; I was able to paint it over the weekend while the Aquarium was open. It was great to be able to chat with folks and for them to see the painting take shape (I even felt a bit like a fish in a tank).

Maris at work filling in the color on the murals

So, if you're visiting the Aquarium, check out the windows of the Gift Shop to see the 2D painting, and enjoy Humpback Whales 3D!

Maris Wicks is a local illustrator who also happens to work as a Program Educator at the New England Aquarium. When she's not teaching kids about the wild, wonderful world of the ocean, she can be found writing and illustrating comic books. Wicks is the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Primates, written by Jim Ottaviani. She has also created comics for Marvel, DC and Spongebob Comics. Her next book, Human Body Theater, is coming out this fall from First Second Books.  Maris is particularly fond of snails.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Now Playing! Humpback Whales 3D

Our Facebook ticket giveaway is over. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Humpback Whales 3D is now playing at the Simons IMAX Theatre! Here's a taste of the extraordinary plunge into the world of these massive, yet elegant, marine mammals.

Fifty tons of life-size adventure is splashing down on New England's largest movie screen Friday! Humpback Whales 3D brings you into an underwater world packed with feeding frenzies, magnificent breaches and enchanting whale songs—now filmed for the first time in IMAX 3D. Get ready, this is no ordinary whale watch.

Bring the whole family on this extraordinary journey to witness awe-inspiring marine mammals socializing, singing, feeding, playing and caring for their young. Join a team of researchers as they unlock the secrets of these humpbacks and find out what makes them the most acrobatic of all whales, why only the males sing and why they migrate more than 6,000 miles every year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

FedEx Makes a Special Delivery: A Rare Northern Fur Seal

The is a media release distributed by FedEx, the Seattle Aquarium and the New England Aquarium. Commander will not be able to be seen by the public at the Aquarium until early March. 

A couple of special Northern fur seals will have an unforgettable Valentine’s Day this year with a little help from FedEx Corp. Commander, a nearly 300-pound 11-year-old male Northern fur seal, was transported via a donated FedEx flight from Seattle to Boston. Commander will soon meet Ursula, a 16-year-old female Northern fur seal, one of the species’ last reproductively viable females in an American zoo or aquarium.

FedEx captured the cross-country move in this delightful video:

The number of Northern fur seals in U.S. aquariums has dwindled to just nine, and the rendezvous, just in time for Valentine’s Day, is part of a breeding collaboration between the Seattle Aquarium and the New England Aquarium designed to increase the population.

“Sustaining a population of Northern fur seals in high profile facilities like the Seattle Aquarium and the New England Aquarium allows visitors to learn more about this amazing species, and creates the human/animal bond necessary to inspire conservation,” said Traci Belting, curator of mammals and birds at the Seattle Aquarium. “Biological data collected from Northern fur seals in human care contributes to the development of conservation plans for Northern fur seals in the wild.”

Commander | Photo courtesy of FedEx

Commander was transported by FedEx in a specially-designed enclosure, and he was accompanied by his veterinarian and one of his trainers throughout his journey. He will make his new home at the New England Aquarium, where he will be introduced to a community of fur seals, including Ursula.

“Commander will be introduced to our colony of fur seals well before breeding season, which begins in the summer,” said Kathy Streeter, New England Aquarium marine mammals curator.  “This will give him enough time to adapt to his new home and engage in courtship behaviors with Ursula.

Ursula with New England Aquarium Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals Jenny Montague | Photo courtesy of FedEx

Ursula has successfully raised two pups in the past. Hopefully, she and Commander will mate and contribute to the genetic diversity of northern fur seals in the U.S.”

“FedEx is committed to sustainability, and is grateful for the opportunity to play a role in this important initiative,” said David J. Bronczek, president and chief executive officer, FedEx Express. “We wish the best for Commander and Ursula and commend the work of the Seattle and New England Aquariums in this effort.”

The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut and the New York Aquarium are also part of the nationwide breeding effort. Northern fur seals, which have some of the thickest fur of any animal in the world, were once hunted for their pelts, but are now protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as a depleted species. It is estimated there are about 666,000 in the wild, but that number is decreasing. They can be found throughout the northern Pacific Rim, and their main breeding colonies are in the Pribilof and Commander Islands in the Bering Sea.


About FedEx Corp.
FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $47 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world's most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 300,000 team members to remain "absolutely, positively" focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. For more information, visit

About the Seattle Aquarium
The Seattle Aquarium is one of Washington State’s leading environmental education and stewardship institutions, and the region’s gathering place for discussion and sharing information about marine conservation. It maintains a number of research initiatives in cooperation with federal, state, zoological and university partners. The Aquarium is located on Pier 59, at 1483 Alaskan Way.

About New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is one of the most prominent and popular aquariums in North America and is a recognized international leader in ocean conservation, education and research. The Aquarium is among New England’s most-visited tourist attractions and is cultivating widespread public awareness about the benefits and responsibility in improving the health of the oceans and the Earth.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Special Offer Celebrating the New England Patriots!

Congratulations to the New England Patriots on their Super Bowl XLIX victory. The team got the job done, and fans from all over New England will be gathering for a Duck Boat parade in Boston on Wednesday, February 4.

If you’re attending the parade, we invite you to come to the Aquarium after the parade. Visitors wearing their Patriots fan gear will get a super deal on admission. 

Special Buy-One-Get-One Patriots Offer 
On Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Aquarium invites Pats fans to come celebrate the extraordinary win with a visit to the Aquarium and receive special buy-one-get-one free admission for visitors wearing their Patriots fan gear (or at least red, white and blue).

Valid on 2/4/15 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. only. This offer is good for one general admission to the New England Aquarium with the purchase of one full-priced admission of equal or greater value. One coupon per group. Discount offers may not be combined with other offers. This coupon must be presented at time of purchase. Not valid on IMAX Theatre or Whale Watch tickets. No cash value and not valid on tickets purchased online.