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 17, 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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Vacation Week Visiting Tips

Enough with the snow, already. There's only so many snow forts you can make and sledding runs you can take. Now do we have an escape for you! Head down to the Aquarium to meet some fascinating marine animals from our blue planet—warm-water lovelies dripping with color and charismatic creatures that can restore your smile.

Seek out your tropical escape in the Pacific Reef Community

But before you visit, here are a few visiting tips (psst, members, look for some tips especially for you in this tropical turquoise color):

1. Buy your timed tickets online
Buying your timed tickets online and printing them at home or showing your print-at-home PDF in the Main Lobby means you can skip the line! Don't worry if you miss your time, though. We'll get you in. Here are other Frequently Asked Question about timed tickets.
Members with valid membership cards can head straight into the Main Lobby! Expedite your entry by having your bar-coded membership card and a photo ID in hand. 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.)

2. Avoid peak times
The middle of the day is our busiest time. If you want plenty of face time with Myrtle the green sea turtle or Sierra the sea lion, plan to arrive 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. You know, because of the weather.

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!

4. Get even closer with our Animal Encounter programs
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. 
Members enjoy special discounts to this program—plus at the Gift Shop and Harbor View CafĂ©!

Take a Dip with a Seal is one of the Animal Encounter programs. Book ahead to reserve your spot
by calling Central Reservations at 617-973-5206.

5. See the world in incredible IMAX 
The Simons IMAX Theatre's six-story movie screen is the largest in New England. Now imagine 50 tons splashing down during an epic breach in Humpback Whales 3D! With Great White Shark 3D and Journey to the South Pacific 3D also playing, there's something for everyone.
Members, don't forget to use your member IMAX e-passes when ordering by phone, online or in person.

Still have questions, like can I leave and return to the Aquarium during my visit? Is photography allowed? What about food options in and around Central Wharf? Poke through our FAQs for answers to these questions and more.

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