Sunday, January 31, 2016

Vacation Visiting Tips for Members

Nobody knows the Aquarium's ins and outs like our members. But we wanted to share a few more insider tips that can help make your vacation visit a blast:

Tentacles of all types will amaze you starting April 15.

1. Grab your member card and head straight to the lobby

Expedite your entry by having your bar-coded membership card and a photo ID handy. Unless you need to purchase additional tickets at the Member Services desk, you can proceed directly to an entry scanner in the lobby. Need to renew or buy a membership?  You can do it online and then bring your confirmation email with you during your visit. (Note, there is a delay in receiving some benefits when purchased online.)
Myrtle the turtle, of course
2. Avoid peak times

As you probably know, the middle of the day is our busiest time. Make sure you get plenty of face time with Myrtle the green sea turtle or Sierra the sea lion, by arriving before 10 a.m. or later in the afternoon after 3:00 p.m. Be sure to check the website for any last minute changes.

Look for the nautilus on Level 1.
3. Take public transportation

Taking public transportation is the blue thing to do! The Aquarium stop on the MBTA's Blue Line is just a few steps from our Front Plaza. If you're driving, check out nearby parking options,—prices vary. Here's some more information about accessibility at the Aquarium. Only members get validated parking at the Harbor Garage next to the Aquarium!

Cownose ray in the Giant Ocean Tank
4. Get even closer with our Animal Encounter programs
Use your member discounts to add extraordinary experiences to your visit. Perch on top of the four-story Giant Ocean Tank to feed the animals. Smooch a seal. Go behind the scenes of your favorite exhibits. The New England Aquarium's immersive Animal Encounter programs take your visit to a whole new level. (Don't forget, members also get discounts at the Gift Shop and the Harbor View Café.)

5. See the world in incredible IMAX
See why Galapagos 3D: Nature's Wonderland is the
most popular film now playing at the Simons IMAX Theatre!
See why Galapagos 3D: Nature's Wonderland is the most popular movie now playing at the Simons IMAX Theatre. Our six-story movie screen will transport you to a diverse tropical ecosystem with sea-faring iguanas, tropical penguins, and dancing birds. You can also see 50 tons of breaching in Humpback Whales 3D and the smallest animals on the reef Secret Ocean 3D. Members, don't forget to use your member passes when ordering by phone, online or in person.

After you visit, don't be strangers! When you get home, there are plenty of ways that you can connect with the Aquarium online. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

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.

For the month of January we are pleased to award Lisa Martinek with the recognition of Volunteer of the Month! Lisa is a Yawkey Coral Reef Center volunteer, one of the smallest and most unique galleries we have. On Saturdays you can find her taking great care of our garden eels, dwarf sea horses, live coral tank, and more!

The dwarf seahorses are just one of the exhibits in the
Yawkey Coral Reef Center.
Here is what her Yawkey Coral Reef Center supervisor Kate Hudec had to say:
I would like to nominate my Yawkey gallery volunteer, Lisa Martinek. She has been a Saturday volunteer since April and, in all that time, has taken only two Saturdays off. Not only is she the most reliable volunteer I have ever had, but she epitomizes everything anyone could want in an aquarist volunteer. She is extremely careful, observant, hardworking, and detail oriented.  Her judgement is so sound that she is able to cover the Yawkey Gallery with very little supervision on the Saturdays I am not here and, in doing so, has made a real contribution to the Galleries team. I strongly encourage you to give her the recognition she deserves.
Please join us in congratulating Lisa!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

International Penguin Awareness Day is today, Wednesday, January 20. This is a big deal for us because we happen to have a prominent, popular and important penguin colony with nearly 90 birds of three different species.

Besides the demands of caring for these marine birds, our penguin biologists also run a successful breeding program as part of each species’ survival plans. The Aquarium has hatched dozens of chicks behind the scenes and we have shipped dozens of birds to many different institutions to support healthy breeding programs all around North America.

Rockhopper penguins

Below are some stats that might help build a better profile of the Aquarium’s penguins and the significant challenges facing penguins in the wild.

  • Number of penguins at the Aquarium — 89
  • Number of species at the Aquarium — Three (African, rockhopper and little blue)
  • Pounds of fish consumed by Aquarium penguins every day — 50
  • Number of continents the Aquarium's species are from — Three (Africa, South America and Australia) 
  • Number of Aquarium's full-time penguin biologists — Four
  • Number of volunteers and interns in the exhibit each week — 30–40
  • Minimum height for humans to work in the Aquarium's penguin pool — 5'4" (due to the depth of the water in the exhibit)
Gentoo penguins in Antarctica | Photo: Brian Skerry
  • Number of continents where wild penguins can be found — Four (African, S. America, Australia and Antarctica)
  • Number of species found in Antarctica—Five (Only Emporers and Adélies live there year round, see pictures of penguin in Antarctica by global explorer Jo Blasi)
  • Number of species found in the tropics — One (Galapagos penguins)
  • Number of species found in the Northern Hemisphere — Zero (so you can forget those polar bear/penguin photo ops)
  • Number of penguin species worldwide — 18
  • Number of penguin species vulnerable or endangered — 11, with seven vulnerable and four endangered
African penguin at the Aquarium
  • Estimated African penguin population in 1910 — 1,500,000
  • Estimated African penguin population in 2000 — 200,000
  • Estimated African penguin population in 2010 — 55,000
  • Estimated year African penguins go extinct in the wild — 20??
  • African penguin population at the Aquarium — 48
  • Life expectancy of an African penguin in the wild — 10–20 years
  • Oldest African penguin at the Aquarium — Alfred, 39 years old
Little blue penguin at the Aquarium
  • Height of smallest penguin species — 1 foot, little blue penguins from Australia
  • Height of tallest penguin species — 4 feet, emperor penguins from Antarctica
Little blue penguin chick named Fox, hatched at the Aquarium in 2015
  • Number of penguins hatched at the Aquarium since 1970 — 111
  • Number of penguins sent to other Aquarium for breeding since 2001 — 28

AEWA the African penguin

Now that you're armed with a whole slew of penguin facts, come impress your friends during a visit to the New England Aquarium this week!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dog Finds a Stranded Turtle

Giant Newfoundland dogs have been famous for centuries for their rescue of fishermen and the shipwrecked, but earlier this week a young Newfie might have established a rescue first for the breed as she found a stranded sea turtle!

Veda the Newfoundland dog who rescued a loggerhead

Monday morning, Veda—a two year old, 120-pound female Newfoundland—was walking Ellisville Beach in Plymouth with her owners, Leah and Brad Bares. A storm the day before had littered the sand with piles of sea weed and other debris. Veda, walking ahead of the pair, moved toward the water and laid down. There camouflaged against the beach sand was a sea turtle with a light brown shell that had just emerged from the frigid surf of Cape Cod Bay. The Bares feel that they would not have seen it without Veda’s vigilance. Aquarium officials are sure that given the air temperature in the 20’s, the loggerhead would not have survived a few more hours of that kind of exposure.

Veda’s quiet and focused response saved this turtle and is completely typical of Newfoundlands.

They moved the stranded loggerhead above
the high tide line and called rescuers.

The Bares were surprised and reached out to friends on their cell phone to find out what to do. A couple of calls later, William Gray, a near-by resident and a volunteer with the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay, helped carry the 40 pound loggerhead off the beach and brought it to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy. After four days of slow re-warming, the loggerhead’s body temperature has been brought up five degrees per day from the mid-40’s to the low 70’s. The animal is bright and alert with a guarded but promising prognosis.

This sea turtle coming ashore on January 11 is the latest to ever strand alive so late in the winter in the Aquarium’s 25-year effort to rehabilitate cold-stunned sea turtles off the Massachusetts coast. Besides the late date, this turtle was unusual as it was found on the South Shore versus Cape Cod where 99 percent of the strandings occur.

Brad and Leah Bardes

Beyond a sea rescue breed of dog finding a sea turtle, there were a couple of other interesting coincidences. Leah Bares is an artist, and one of her best-selling prints is of a loggerhead sea turtle. For years, she has donated 20 percent of those proceeds to the National Marine Life Center, a near-by marine animal rehab center. Prior to Monday, Leah had only ever seen loggerheads at the New England Aquarium.

The turtle is already getting treatment at the Aquarium's off-site sea turtle hospital in the Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass. Each year Aquarium rescue staff name many of the sea turtles after a particular theme, such as cartoon characters or constellations. Strangely enough, this year’s naming theme is dog breeds. There is no doubt or debate that this loggerhead will be named Newfie in honor of Veda and her giant but gentle breed.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Turtle Rescue on National TV

"Shell Shocked," the story of last year's epic cold-stunned turtle season, airs nationally on Sea Rescue this Saturday, January 16. See it locally at 10 a.m. on WCVB Channel 5. 

The New England Aquarium and Mass Audubon are featured in Saturday's (January 16) episode of Sea Rescue™. This special broadcast is Sea Rescue’s 100th original episode and relives the record-breaking turtle cold-stunning event in Massachusetts from November 2014 to January 2015. Hundreds of turtles were flown south for rehabilitation.

Rescued turtles start their journey to recovery.
A clip from Sea Rescue's 100th episode called "Shell Shocked," airing Saturday at 10 a.m.

Every year a number of turtles strand on the coast of New England because of frigid water temperatures, but no one expected the 2014 – 2015 season would shatter all previous records. Residents of Cape Cod began seeing high numbers of cold stunned Kemp’s ridley turtles, and every day for six weeks teams from Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary combed the beaches in heavy, freezing winds.  The numbers soon became overwhelming; on one day alone Mass Audubon rescued a staggering 148 cold stun turtles and within weeks over 1,000 turtles and every square inch of floor space was taken up with new patients.

Hundreds of turtles were triaged and cared for at the Aquarium's
Animal Care Center in Quincy.

The Mass Audubon “first responders” transported sick turtles to our Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass., for acute care, involving slowly rewarming the turtles over several days and treating them with antibiotic and antifungal to boast immune systems and fend off infection. They were also treated for dehydration, malnutrition, metabolic problems, infections, and any injuries. Once the patients were stabilized, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coordinated moving hundreds of turtles to 21 facilities around the country for long term rehab.

Working with the United States Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC), the turtles found temporary homes throughout the East and Gulf Coasts, and as far away as Texas. Long term rehab included keeping them in clean, warm water and continuing medications until the turtles slowly began to respond to treatment. All totaled over 730 turtles were recovered, rehabilitated, and began their second chance at life, seven times the average number treated.  

More than 700 turtles are swimming in the ocean today
after last year's epic rescues.