Photo by Hannah Doyle, Stamford Advocate

Whales are making an appearance in Long Island Sound for the second summer in a row! One has even made an appearance at the Aquarium’s hometown in Norwalk. They’ve also been seen recently near Greenwich, Darien, and New Rochelle.

We believe that the unusually high numbers of menhaden (or as you may call them, bunker) are a tempting treat luring the humpbacks into the Sound. If these are the two whales that appeared in the Sound last year, they may remember that this is a plentiful place to eat, and could be adapting their migration route. We’re not positive yet, but it’s possible.

Most recently, a Greenwich, CT, resident witnessed a whale breaching last Saturday, July 23. You can watch the video here. The Thursday before that, there was a humpback whale sighting off of New Rochelle.

Last year, in 2015, there were seven whale sightings: three humpback whales, three beluga whales and a minke whale.

What should you do if you see whales in Long Island Sound?

  1. Boaters should stay at least 100 yards away from a humpback whale. If a whale approaches your boat, disengage the propellers.
  2. Stay alert. Look for schools of fish and/or a “bubble net.” Whales will blow bubbles in a circle under a school of menhaden, concentrating them in an area, then swim up through the net, swallowing large amount of fish. If you see a bubble net, stay outside of it!
  3. Report it! Please report all whale sightings to us. Try to note where you saw it, what direction it was traveling, what it was doing, approximate size, how many whales you saw, and of course, take some photos/video! With your help, we can do our best work in tracking these sightings.

Contact Joe Schnierlein, Research & University Liaison, at (203) 852-0700 ext. 2304, or email at jschnierlein@Maritimeaquarium.org .

NOAA has even more information on whale watching guidelines.

When was the last time humpback whales were in Long Island Sound?

2015 was the first year we’ve had confirmed sightings of humpback whales in Long Island Sound.

Reported whale sightings timeline:

7/20/16 Greens Ledge Light toPear Tree Pt Darien 1 whale, possibly 2
7/21/16 Greens Ledge Light 1 whale
7/21/161:30 PM Between New Rochelle and Exec. Rocks Whale breaching
7/22/16 73o 24.4’ W by 40o59.5 N mid-Sound between Norwalk & Eaton’s neck 1 young humpback about 25’ length
7/22/16 40.94888 lat,73.6449 long.  off Stamford 1 humpback
7/23/166:45 AM South of Longneck point, Darien 1 whale about 28 to 33 feet in length
7/23/1612:30 PM Mid-Sound between Zieglers Cove Darien, CT and Northport LI 2 whales
7/23/1612:28 PM Off Greenwich 1 whale
7/23/1612:30 PM Off Darien 1 whale

 

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Today, meet aquarist Maxine Montello!

What are 3 of your normal daily tasks?

Every morning I start the day off by checking on all my animals. Temperature is very important for reptiles and amphibians and I need to make sure that are all within their ideal range. Once everyone is accounted for I can start cleaning and feeding. Some of the reptiles are a bit spoiled and are given a healthy balance of insects as well as vegetables and fruits. A very fun part of my job is enriching the animals. I try and enrich the black dragon daily with new items or smells for him to explore. One of his favorite things is when I give him fresh towels from the dryer!

How/why did you become an aquarist and what was your major?

As a young girl I always knew I wanted to do something with animals especially marine species. I graduated from Manhattanville College with a degree in Animal Behavior. Soon after graduation I got hired at the Maritime Aquarium. While working in the aquarist department I decided to go back to school and obtain my Masters in Wildlife Ecology/Environmental Science from Pace University where I focused on sea turtle nesting behavior.

Favorite animal you’ve ever worked with?

I will always have a place in my heart for sea turtles, but I must say working with the black dragon has been awesome. I have been responsible for his care since he was only couple months old. It has been really exciting to watch him grow over the last two years. He is such an intelligent animal and he is always surprising me daily.

What has been your funniest experience as an aquarist?

Part of my job at the aquarium is conducting field research on the island of Barbuda. During my first season to the island I came across a snail that I had not seen before. I decided to pick it up and take lots of photos to help identify it. Minutes went by and I noticed that I had a purple stain on my clothes. I quickly noticed that a majority of my right hand was a deep purple color. It was clear then that I had just come into contact with the wide-mouth purpura. A well-known snail on the island that released a clear liquid from its body as defense mechanism that just so happens to turn purple! Not only did this snail make my hand purple for over a week, but left a nice smell of sulfur. Let’s just say I was not welcomed at the dinner table for a little bit.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) TwitterPinterest,  and Tumblr.

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Today, meet aquarist and Jamie Veth!


What are 3 of your normal daily tasks? 

Three of my daily tasks are performing water quality on tanks, taking care of the poison dart frogs I am raising, and performing tank checks.

How/why did you become an aquarist and what was your major?

I have always loved the ocean and have wanted to work with marine animals since I was young. I did not realize my passion for animal care until my senior year of college while pursuing a B.S in Marine Biology at the University of New Haven. As a senior I interned with the aquarist department at The Maritime Aquarium while performing research for my senior research thesis. I was fortunate to be hired by The Maritime Aquarium after my internship as a seasonal aviary keeper for the aquarium’s Lorikeets! exhibit as well as a part-time educator in the education department. After my summer with the lorikeets, I was hired as a full time veterinary technician at a nearby veterinary hospital.  While working as a veterinary technician, I interned with the Beardsley Zoo as well as volunteered at the Wolf Conservation Center. Through all of these experiences I furthered my passion for animal care and was able to land my dream job as an aquarist.

What your favorite animal you’ve ever worked with?

My favorite animals that I have worked with are the lorikeets and the giant Pacific octopus.

Funniest experience as an aquarist/animal care staff member at The Aquarium?

My funniest experience as an aquarist happened my second week on the job.  I was water changing a tank and missed the floor drain and spilled the water on the floor. When I went to clean up the water I naturally slipped and fell into the water in front of a bunch of guests. I was so embarrassed but quickly jumped up and ran behind the scenes. Although I walked away with ripped jeans looking back now it’s a pretty funny story!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) TwitterPinterest,  and Tumblr.

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Today, meet aquarist and Tyler Mourey!


What are 3 of your normal daily tasks?

I am a float so every day I am in a new section, thus my daily tasks change frequently. However, the three tasks that tend to stay the same regardless of what section I am in are preparing animal diets, monitoring water quality to ensure correct pH and salinity, and cleaning and scrubbing tanks of algae.

How/why did you become a aquarist  and what was your major?

I became an aquarist to pursue a passion for aquarium husbandry that I have had since I was a little kid. As far back as I can remember I was keeping fish tanks. In college, my major was Psychology with a minor in Marine Biology. I worked in an aquaculture lab on campus where I first gained experience with maintaining large aquarium life support systems. I loved it so much that I decided to pursue it further. After an internship and some time working at a hobbyist fish store, I ended up here! It is a dream come true to be working with such a diverse array of aquatic animals on a daily basis. To me, there is little that is more rewarding than successfully replicating ecosystems and watching animals exhibit natural behaviors.

Favorite animal you’ve ever worked with?

My favorite animals that I’ve worked with are definitely Atlantic Lumpfish. They have almost human-like faces and are voraciously hungry little beasts! Their biology is also very interesting, as they have characteristics of a bottom dwelling fish, such as no swim bladder and a suction cup for holding onto surfaces, yet they spend most of their adult life high in the water column in the open ocean.

Funniest experience as an animal care staff member at The Aquarium?

The funniest thing that has happened to me so far is when I was pole-feeding our sand tiger sharks one day, and one of the sharks bit the pole so hard that it snapped in half!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) TwitterPinterest,  and Tumblr.

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Wow, what a week! The first week of the trip has come to an end, but we are definitely not slowing down. Over the last week we have surveyed several of the reefs, collected water quality from the lagoon, and have covered more than half of the nesting beaches on the island. This coming week we will continue to gather more data focusing on some of the more preferred nesting beaches for sea turtles.  As we approach the full moon this week, we are in prime nesting territory!

As of right now we have recorded over 150 recent sea turtle nests on the island. So what happens when we come across a nesting female sea turtle? Well first, we have to make sure we do not disturb or spook her before she begins to nest. When patrolling we ensure that our head lamps shine only red lights to make ourselves as invisible as possible to her. Once we have come across a nester we keep our distance until she has begun laying. Female sea turtles will go into a trance while laying their eggs. During this time the female is unaware of us being near her. While the female is laying her eggs (up to 150 eggs depending on species) we can take measurements of her size, GPS coordinates and LOTS of photos! Each female is different in her own nesting technique, but on average it takes a 1-2 hours for a female to complete nesting.

This week we were able to watch a female nesting out at Outback heading towards Palmetto beach, on the western shore of the island. She came ashore around 10:45pm and did not head back towards the water until after midnight. We were able to take lots of photos and videos to share with you all!

Meet the Researcher
Maxine Montello started working at the Maritime Aquarium in 2008. She is currently the primary Aquarist for all our reptile and amphibian exhibits. Before starting in the Aquarist department, she worked in Education on the research vessel.  Maxine has a Masters in Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Science from Pace University and her thesis focused on site selection of nesting sea turtles on the island of Barbuda. In addition, Maxine is an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Manhattanville College. Maxine will be continuing her sea turtle research in Barbuda this July. Stay tuned for weekly updates and amazing photos!!!

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Today, meet aquarist and seal trainer and Sarah Penfold!

What are three of your normal daily tasks? 

On a daily basis the first thing I do is check on the health of the animals. No matter what section I am taking care of that day I do a walk around and ensure all of the animals are healthy and have the requirements that they need. The next thing I do is feed them and make sure they are eating as well as giving any sorts of medications that may be needed. To top off the morning I go around and clean everything within each animals’ exhibit. The goal is to make sure their enclosure is as clean as possible and this gets done every single day, whether a it’s cleaning algae or giving the tank a water change. Those three tasks are then performed again in the afternoon!

How/why did you become a trainer and what was your major in college?

I went to school at the University of New Haven and received my degree in marine biology. Throughout my college career I learned more in-depth about marine animals and knew that I wanted to learn even more. I began an internship at the Aquarium while in college and realized I wanted to continue after college working at an aquarium and caring for all of the animals there. We have so many different species which need different care and requirements and I love learning what each and every one needs in order to live a healthy life.

What is your favorite animal that you’ve ever worked with?

It’s so difficult to choose my “favorite” animal because I love them all so much! I move around a lot from section to section but there is definitely a connection when I step out on the rocks to work with our harbor seals. I’d have to say that Polly has a special place in my heart. Besides Polly I do love all of my thousands of rotifers which I take care of that help feed the jellies.

What’s the funniest experience as an aquarist/animal care staff member?

My funniest experience still to this day would be the morning I enriched our octopus with a Mr. Potato head doll. She took off his arm and put it at the end of her tentacle and placed it by the window as if to say “Good morning, thank you for this tasty piece of herring!” I would have to say every day has a fun experience attached to it whether it’s working with the reptiles, fish, mammals, etc. no matter what seeing them receive the resources to make them healthy is a fun experience for me!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) TwitterPinterest,  and Tumblr.

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Join us all week for National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! We’ll introduce you to a new animal care staff member everyday.

Today, meet seal trainer Azzara Oston!

What are three of your normal daily tasks? 

Three things I do every day are work on new training with the harbor seals, clean and reorganize the meerkat exhibit (from rearranging their logs to hiding new enrichment, or toys, in their exhibit to keep them challenged all day) …and do a mountain of dishes that could probably rival Mount Everest on some days.

How/why did you become a trainer and what was your major in college?

Once I realized I was interested in animal behavior, I did a number of internships at aquariums and zoos along the east coast, having the chance to work with animals ranging from beluga whales to primates to walruses. I majored in Biology in college and was able to focus on animal behavior with my course load, but experience in some top notch zoos and aquariums was a big part of where I am today.

What is your favorite animal that you’ve ever worked with?

Northern fur seals are amazing – I worked with animals from young to old and their personalities and dispositions were all incredibly different, and very fun to get to know. And although they’re called seals, they are not actually true seals like Maritime’s harbor seals. They should actually be called Northern fur sea lions. Fun fact.

Honorable mention to beluga whales; the training they had was pretty complex, and it was so rewarding as an intern to help with furthering it on a daily basis.

What’s the funniest experience as an aquarist/animal care staff member?

One of our maintenance staff accidentally knocked a drain valve off large vat of water once. (Don’t worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this funny experience.) In trying to stop the gushing water, we accidentally flipped a switch that caused the top of the vat to start overflowing and by the end we both looked like cats that had fallen into a swimming pool. Needless to say, it was pretty funny to everyone that got to see us afterwards!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) TwitterPinterest,  and Tumblr.

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View of Barbuda from the plane!

We have arrived safe and sound to Barbuda! The 20-minute flight from Antigua was a breeze, unless you are not a fan of small planes. The plane only sits about eight people, including the pilot! Word traveled quickly that we had arrived on the island and old friends came to greet us.

Since our arrival we have been working on planning our week and setting up our equipment. We have a lot to do in a very short amount of time. Today marked the first day of our reef fish and benthic cover survey. Within minutes of putting our faces in the water we had a welcomed visitor, a 15-20 pound juvenile hawksbill sea turtle! We hope this is a good omen for the rest of the trip!

In addition to the hawksbill, we saw numerous juvenile and adult fish species including various parrotfish, surgeon fish, sergeant majors and many more. As we were heading back to shore we swam alongside a southern sting ray. Overall a great start to the week.

We will be beginning our beach sea turtle nesting patrols tonight. More to come, stay tuned!

Meet the Researcher
Maxine Montello started working at the Maritime Aquarium in 2008. She is currently the primary Aquarist for all our reptile and amphibian exhibits. Before starting in the Aquarist department, she worked in Education on the research vessel.  Maxine has a Masters in Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Science from Pace University and her thesis focused on site selection of nesting sea turtles on the island of Barbuda. In addition, Maxine is an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Manhattanville College. Maxine will be continuing her sea turtle research in Barbuda this July. Stay tuned for weekly updates and amazing photos!!!

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Let the countdown begin! In less than a week, I’ll be traveling down with my research team to the island of Barbuda to continue our study of sea turtle nesting behavior. Some of you may think, “Is she spelling that wrong? Does she mean Barbados, Bermuda, or even the Bahamas?!” I swear Barbuda is a real place, located in the Lesser Antilles and a sister island to Antigua. The island is home to many unique marine and terrestrial creatures.

I have been traveling down to Barbuda with my research team each year since 2010. The team consist of Dr. Wendy McFarlane (Manhattanville College), Dr. Nancy Todd (Manhattanville College), our research assistant Melissa LaCroce and of course me.  We have been involved in numerous research projects, but spend the majority of our time focusing on sea turtle nesting behavior. Three species of sea turtles nest on the island (leatherbacks, hawksbills, and greens). All three species are considered endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. A large problem is human interference with nesting females and hatchlings. Turtle nests are often poached for eggs for human consumption. In Barbuda, it is illegal to collect sea turtle eggs, but it is legal to hunt adult sea turtles for food.

Over the past five years, we have been able to mark over 500 sea turtle nests throughout the beaches of Barbuda. With this information we are able to show how important the island is as a nesting site. In addition, we are looking at the physical characteristics (slope, grain size, temperature and pH) and vegetation coverage of each beach. All these characteristics play a key role in how each species chooses a beach for nesting. We have found that beach selection is species specific. This means that each species of sea turtle seeks their nesting grounds based on their ideal beach requirements.

I am lucky enough to be traveling back down to Barbuda this July for two weeks. We will be continuing our research by gathering additional data on the nesting sea turtles. We also will be working one on one with the local park rangers and helping them with monitoring their island.

So what should make the cut while I’m packing? Clearly, I will need to bring the essentials: headlamp, underwater camera, mask and snorkel, and plenty of sunscreen! Though it is hard to part with my pet bearded dragons, Ruca and Roo, I think they should probably sit this trip out. Stay tuned for I will be posting on our Instagram (@maritimeaquarium) and Snapchat (@maritimeaqua) accounts throughout my trip to keep you updated on some of our findings while in the field.

 

Meet the Researcher
Maxine Montello started working at the Maritime Aquarium in 2008. She is currently the primary Aquarist for all our reptile and amphibian exhibits. Before starting in the Aquarist department, she worked in Education on the research vessel.  Maxine has a Masters in Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Science from Pace University and her thesis focused on site selection of nesting sea turtles on the island of Barbuda. In addition, Maxine is an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Manhattanville College. Maxine will be continuing her sea turtle research in Barbuda this July. Stay tuned for weekly updates and amazing photos!!!

 

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In collaboration with Bank of America, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is planning a special day to generate support for The Maritime Aquarium and many other important non-profit organizations throughout the region.

It’s called Fairfield County’s Giving Day, an online, 24-hour day of giving on Thurs., March 10. The goal is to raise more than $1 million for nearly 400 nonprofit groups.

They’ve made it easy for you to make a contribution and direct it to The Maritime Aquarium. On Thursday, just click here or on the “Giving Day” logo at right.

What’s even better: Giving Day also is a competition in which more than $85,000 in prize money will be awarded to participating organization. There will be prize awards in such categories as:  the two organizations that raise the most money;  the two organizations with the most individual donors;  the organizations that raise the most money in certain time slots;  and more.

By designating The Maritime Aquarium to receive your Fairfield County’s Giving Day donation, you’ll be helping to feed our seals, maintain the perfect aquatic environment for our sea turtles, and buy needed materials for the environmental-education programming that’s important to so many school students in the tri-state area.

Spread the word among your friends, family and colleagues because every donation is important in the Giving Day contest, no matter the amount.

Here’s the link for more information: www.fcgives.org.

 

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