What better time than World Oceans Day to receive an assessment of how Long Island Sound – and Norwalk Harbor – are doing, health-wise?

Results of the first-ever ecosystem-health “report cards” were released today in a special presentation by the Long Island Sound Funders Cooperative.

Not surprisingly, the Sound scored an A at its eastern end but the grades worsen until becoming an F at its far western end. As the report explains, the scores change “corresponding to the progression of less developed and lower populated areas to more developed and highly populated areas.”

The Sound was graded in five regions:

•  eastern – A.

•  central – B.

•  western (Bridgeport to Norwalk) – B-

•  eastern narrows (roughly New Rochelle to Darien/Great Neck to Eaton’s Neck) – D+

• and western narrows (essentially the back end of the bathtub, which gets little tidal refreshing, where the Sound connects to the East River in New York City) – F.

Norwalk Harbor received a C+.

The University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science determined the grades after analyzing locally collected data – for Norwalk Harbor, particularly data of the Harbor Watch initiative of Westport-based EarthWatch.

Caroline Donovan, program manager of that university center, presented the results today (6/8) in a ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport.  For the Sound’s grade, she said, rated factors included the water’s clarity and its levels of dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, nitrogen and phosphorus.

For Norwalk Harbor, she said, factors were water clarity and dissolved oxygen levels, and also the numbers of fish, crabs and other invertebrate creatures found.  Pollutants running off the land – pet waste, lawn fertilizer and leaks from cars and boats – are the harbor’s biggest issues.

“It’s getting better but it’s still not food enough,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told those in attendance representing numerous environmental organizations. “The citizen advocacy that you are providing plays a really critical role because government cannot do it alone. … This report card is a call to action.”

Blumenthal said he was about to return to Washington, DC, later on Monday.

“I’m going to tell my colleagues in New York, ‘You should be ashamed,’’’ he said, referring to the western narrow’s grade of F.

State Sen. Bob Duff reminded the group that many people in Connecticut rely on the Sound for recreation but also for their livelihood. He praised the idea of the report card, which will inspire us “to stay on and be vigilant about what is really our back yard.”

The Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative (LISFC) is a group of funders with missions that include protecting and restoring Long Island Sound.

“It’s not so much about the grades,” said Hugh Killin III, executive director of the Jeniam Foundation (one of the collaborative members). “It’s about starting a conversation about what happens next.”

Explore the Report Card at http://ecoreportcard.org/report-cards/long-island-sound.

– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

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When you were in high school, how great would it have been to have an educational mentor? Someone to help you with your understanding of the sciences?  Maybe to encourage and challenge your interest in certain sciences?  Someone who was helping you prepare for the whole college thing? To take you on college visits and introduce you to people working in careers that interest you? To just help polish you up and make you ready for the world after high school.

For many of us, that would have been a huge help. And a huge weight off our minds, right?

That’s what The Maritime Aquarium offers each school year to teens at the three Norwalk high schools through the TeMPEST program. TeMPEST stands for Teen Maritime Program Emphasizing Science & Technology. Its goals are to promote the teens’ STEM literacy, to prepare them for college, to make them aware of career opportunities and to develop skills that will help them in any profession.

Fifty-one students took advantage of the program this school year.


Dakota Thompson, Carla Valdez and Kimberly Aristizabal staff their shark-conservation booth titled “Sharks Don’t Bite” May 28 during the end-of-year celebration for teens participating in the TeMPEST after-school program.

The students this year met in three separate groups.  Some things, they all did. They hosted guest speakers from the Aquarium and other professions. They took field trips to the Museum of Natural History and other science-based institutions. They worked with Trout Unlimited to raise trout in the classroom and release them this spring. And some traveled to Boston for a three-day weekend for college visits, a whale watch, and a tour of the New England Aquarium.

They also took on separate special projects.

One group focused on using STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to explore the oceans, and ended up building a hydrophone and remotely operated vehicles.


Kiara Baguio, a junior at Brien McMahon High School, displays a maze she created that demonstrates threats to migrating sea turtles.

Another group zeroed in on the biological and genetic components of organisms, and how these can change to help a creature adapt to a changing environment. They produced news-style videos that explained animal evolution and adaptations.

The third group tackled how to communicate conservation issues. They created hands-on activities that would engage visitors to, say, The Maritime Aquarium on how and why such animals as amphibians and sea turtles are endangered.

During the end-of-the-year TeMPEST celebration on May 28 at the Aquarium, Thomas Seuch, chair of Brien McMahon’s science department, told the students that their participation in TeMPEST gives them an advantage when they apply to colleges.  Colleges, he said, will have two stacks of applications – a tall one full of average applicants, and a smaller one with quality applicants.


Nazareth Hernandez (left), a sophomore at Norwalk High School, and Daija Brunson, a freshman at Brien McMahon High School, operate remotely operated vehicles they built during TeMPEST.

“Which pile do you want to be in? Programs like TeMPEST will get you into these piles,” he said, pointing to the imagined smaller stack. “Colleges want to see your ability to communicate, to collaborate and to problem-solve, and this program does all that.”

Sign-ups for 2015-16 will start early in the school year.

A big thanks to Newman’s Own Foundation for funding the program.

Plus, next year, thanks to a grant from the PCLB Foundation, some of the TeMPEST students will work as paid Aquarium interns, giving them even more experience, personal growth … and an exceptional college application.

– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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From left: Hannah, Sarah, Michael and Nancy Herde of Boston, Mass. (formerly of New Canaan); Dr. Brian Davis, president of The Maritime Aquarium; Louise and Michael Widland of Norwalk; and Kit and Rob Rohn of Darien

We were pleased to honor and celebrate some of our biggest and best supporters on April 23 during our awesome annual Cirque de la Mer fund-raiser.

For their commitment to environmental education, the families of Rob and Katharine “Kit” Rohn of Darien and Michael and Nancy Herde (formerly of New Canaan), as well as the Norwalk law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, LLP, are recipients of The Maritime Aquarium’s 16th annual Red Apple Awards.

The awards honor companies, organizations and individuals who share The Maritime Aquarium’s concern for the natural world and environmental education.

The Rohn Family

Rob Rohn, a founding principal with Sustainable Growth Advisers, is current chairman of The Maritime Aquarium’s Board of Trustees. He’s been a board member since 2006.  Kit Rohn has worked for Inform, an environmental research organization, and the National Audubon Society, which was chaired nationally for 15 years by her late father, Donal O’Brian. She also is a founding member of Conservation International.

Kit and Rob Rohn chaired the Aquarium’s 2013 “Cirque de la Mer.”  Their children have been active at The Maritime Aquarium as well. Daughter Katie served an Aquarium internship, and son Nick has been a volunteer.

“As Board chairman, Rob guides the Aquarium with intellect, patience and commitment,” Davis said. “He and Kit always bring a warm graceful presence and passion to their involvement. They inspire us, and we are grateful for all they have done for The Maritime Aquarium.”

The Herde Family

The Herdes, formerly of New Canaan, now live in Massachusetts. Michael Herde, head of compliance for Fidelity Investments, is a former member of The Maritime Aquarium’s Board of Trustees.  Nancy Jumper Herde was a member of the Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk (one of the original founding organizations of The Maritime Aquarium).

In 2010, the Herdes sponsored an element of The Maritime Aquarium’s new exhibit, “Go Fish! Long Island Sound & Beyond.”  The exhibit’s Jumper Herde Café is a mock café that demonstrates how we – as seafood consumers – can make good choices in markets and restaurants to help support healthy fish populations and smart fishing methods.

One of Michael and Nancy’s four children, Hannah, while in high school, volunteered and interned at the Aquarium and served as co-chair of The Maritime Youth Advisors.

“We miss all of the Herdes, for their devotion to the Fairfield County community, for their influence on the Aquarium’s story and for simply being a collection of tremendous individuals all together in one admirable family,” Davis said.

Shipman & Goodwin, LLP

Senior Partner Mike Widland, his partner, Robin Frederick, and others at Shipman & Goodwin have donated countless pro bono hours to The Maritime Aquarium over the years. Widland is a longtime member of the Aquarium’s Board of Trustees, and has served as its chairman, vice chairman and – currently – its secretary.

Davis said Widland has been involved in virtually every major governance decision made during much of The Maritime Aquarium’s history.

“Mike has guided the Aquarium with wisdom over the years,” Davis said. “His connections, insights and expertise have been vital to us here in Norwalk and Hartford.”

Watch this space for more photos from this successful evening!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.


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We won’t be changing our name to the Shed Aquarium any time soon.  (There would be too much confusion with the venerable Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.)

But there’s sure a lot more shedding going on here at The Maritime Aquarium these days.

That’s because our reptile population increased with last month’s opening of “Dragons! Real or Myth?”  The exhibit features nine species – seven of them terrestrial lizards – that all have the word dragon in their names.

Some of the dragons in “Dragons!” are young, most notably the year-old rare black dragon that currently is about 2 feet long but will grow to reach 5 to 6 feet.

As part of their process of growing, lizards shed their skin. How often a lizard sheds depends on factors like its age, growth rate, time of year and environmental conditions.  Younger lizards grow faster, so they shed more often than older lizards.


Shedding skin, loose in patches, visible on the back of a frilled dragon in "Dragons! Real or Myth?"

Our animal husbandry staff knows to watch for signs that a lizard will shed soon. These can include a dulling in color of the animal’s skin, decreased appetite and the animal being a little more irritable.

Most lizards shed their skin in patches – unlike snakes, whose skin usually comes off in one big long cool piece.  The shedding process can take a week or more.

So don’t be alarmed if you visit “Dragons! Real or Myth?” and see an animal that looks a little … well, flakey or peel-y. It’s just growing!

Oh and while we’re talking about shedding skin to grow, remember that arthropods – the phylum of animals that includes crabs, lobsters, horseshoe crabs, shrimp, spiders and insects – shed, or molt, their exoskeletons to grow. Similar concept. Different process.

Do you shed?

Yes you do.  It’s just not as obvious in us mammals, where shedding is an unnoticed process in which dead skin cells continuously flake off.  We shed not so much to grow (a la lizards) but to ward off microbes – like fungus and bacteria – that could cause us problems. It’s estimated that you lose 30,000 to 40,000 skins cells every hour. (Don’t worry. You have about 10 trillion.) By the end of every month, you have shed enough to have an entirely new body of skin.

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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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.

Maritime-Aquarium-FCGivesIt’s called Fairfield County’s Giving Day, an online, 24-hour day of giving on Thurs., March 5. The goal is to raise $1 million for more than 250 nonprofit groups.

They’ve made it easy for you to make a contribution and direct it to The Maritime Aquarium. What’s even better: it’s also a competition in which more than $75,000 in prize money will be awarded to participating organization.

Here’s how it works. Every donation – whether it’s $10, $20, $100 – that is made to The Maritime Aquarium through the Fairfield County’s Giving Day website on March 5 counts as a point for The Maritime Aquarium. And the more points we get, the better our chances of receiving some of the prize money.

The nonprofit with the most individual donations (i.e., the broadest support) wins $25,000, and the nonprofit that raises the most money wins $20,000.

There are a whole mess of other prizes, such as: $1,000 for the most money raised between 6 & 7 a.m.; $1,000 to the first 12 nonprofits to receive 25 gifts of $25 or more; and so on.

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 to click for more information or to make your donation on March 5: www.fcgives.org. Follow along or tweet your support with #FairfieldCountyGives.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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So far, when it comes to picking a Super Bowl winner, The Maritime Aquarium’s harbor seals Rasal and Orange have been pathetic pinniped prognosticators.  Zero correct in three tries.

Polly gets the call off the bench this year. (Hey, if Ohio State can win the national championship with their third-string quarterback, maybe the Aquarium’s third seal can finally pick a winner.)

In a widely covered media event on Jan. 29, Polly made her choice for Super Bowl XLIX and it is … the Seattle Seahawks.

Given a choice by Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk aquarists Vicki Sawyer (left) and Ellen Riker, Polly the harbor seal leaps to touch a Seattle Seahawks helmet, signaling her pick for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX.

The 27-year-old seal is trained to leap out of the water and touch a “target pole” held by members of the Aquarium’s animal-husbandry staff. Aquarists Vicki Sawyer and Ellen Riker gave Polly the choice of touching two “target poles” – one with an image of a New England Patriots helmet attached to it; the other, a Seahawks helmet.

To prevent any confusion, Polly’s choice was decided by two out of three jumps.  (Also, rest assured that the colored balls at the ends of the two “target poles” were tested beforehand to ensure that neither was improperly deflated.)

Here’s a video of the big event.

So Polly picks Seattle.  But, based on the seals’ record at this, maybe you should bet on Patriots (who are, by the way, 1-point favorites with oddsmakers).

Come see Polly jumping – and all of the seals demonstrating entertaining natural behaviors – during the seals’ public feedings at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 & 3:45 p.m. daily.

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

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Scenes from Chocolate Expo, held at The Maritime Aquarium on Sun., Jan. 25 and sponsored by First County Bank.  Some 40 regional vendors offered samplings and sales of their delicious and decadent chocolates, baked goods and other specialty foods.

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And of course, there will be a chocolate fountain.

The Chocolate Expo returns for its third year at the Maritime Aquarium this Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.  We extended our hours, added more chocolate and more vendors and expanded the parking. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Maritime Aquarium is located at 10 North Water St., Norwalk, CT, 06854.


Non-members $15/adults $10/children ages 3-12
Members $13/adults $8/children ages 3-12

Skip the line! Purchase advance e-tickets here.

All tickets are non-refundable.

We’re sorry, but Aquarium members do not receive free admission for this special event. Member guest discounts do not apply.



For directions from I-95, The Merritt Parkway, and surrounding CT and NY areas, please refer to our website.

Or, get directions to The Maritime Aquarium from your location.

Public transportation

If you plan on arriving by Norwalk Transit, Metro-North Railroad, or by boat, please refer to the details on our website.

* Some GPS devices and computer map programs point to the IMAX® Theater entrance to our facility. The parking garage and Main Entrance are one block north near the intersection of Ann and North Water streets.


The Maritime Garage is located directly across from the Aquarium on North Water Street located between Ann and Marshall streets. The garage is maintained by the Norwalk Parking authority. Click here for rates. For more information on the Marime Garage and the three other lots in South Norwalk visit the Norwalk Parking Authority’s website. A new smart phone app “Parker” shows real-time parking space availability.

Additional parking is available at Veteran’s park. It is a .4 mile walk from the Aquarium. Free shuttles will run to and from the IMAX entrance all day.

Celebrity Chefs and Cooking Demo Schedule

In our IMAX® Theater. (Limited first-come, first-served, seating.)

Tony Albanese, pastry designer and former assistant to Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss.”
Barret Beyer of Fox TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen”
Larry Rosenberg, recipe-book author and owner of Bacon Bites.

11:00 am – Tony Albanese
12:30 pm – Barret Beyer
2:00 pm – Larry Rosenberg
3:30 pm – Tony Albanese
5:00 pm – Barret Beyer


40 vendors will set up throughout the Aquarium’s galleries. View the full list here.


What are your hours?

We’re extending our hours for Chocolate Expo. We’ll be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

What is the best time to attend?

People love chocolate so we expect crowds all day, but we anticipate our heaviest attendance will be between noon and 4 p.m.

Can I buy tickets online?

Yes, skip the line! Purchase advance tickets here, print them out and bring your web ticket with you. Go directly to the usher who will scan your ticket when you arrive.

Do you allow strollers?

Yes. However because we expect higher than average attendance, you may be more comfortable with a backpack style child carrier or smaller stroller. We expect our busiest time to be between noon and 4 p.m., so please plan accordingly.

Is the IMAX® theater showing movies during Chocolate Expo?

No. Celebrity chefs will perform their demos in the theater. All movies on Jan. 25 have been cancelled.

Will the new “Jiggle a Jelly” touch adventure be open during Chocolate Expo?

No. “Jiggle a Jelly” will be open Sat., Jan. 24, weekends, holidays and school vacation weeks after the expo. “Meerkats” will also be closed while we build a new exhibit around their space.

What’s with the free samples?

Think more like a tasting. This isn’t Halloween. Most vendors will offer small taste samples of their products. In many cases you get to talk to the folks who make the products you are trying. Then you can purchase take-home quantities of what you like.

Is it only chocolate?

Heavens no! Interspersed with fine chocolatiers and some fun products like chocolate infused Brussels sprouts and chocolate covered bacon are tasty treats like cotton candy made from maple sugar, Caribbean rum cakes, a guy with 40 varieties of seed and nut butters, edible cookie dough, exotic olives and pickles. There are non-food items too, some chocolate, some not, like chocolate soap. Check the vendor list.

Do you offer products for special diets?

Yes, vendors include those with vegan, organic, all-natural, no-sugar-added, gluten-free and kosher foods.

What about allergies?

Many vendors offer products that contain common food allergens such as wheat, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc., or are manufactured in facilities with these products. If you have food allergies, we suggest that you consult with your healthcare provider before attending Chocolate Expo.


Check back in with us for more updates and peeks 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 Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr.

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The Maritime Aquarium strongly encourages you to be a supporter of sustainable seafoods, and – along those lines – there was an interesting addition to the latest Seafood Watch consumer guide for the Northeast.

It involves seaweed.  More on that in a sec.

The Seafood Watch guides are handy little pocket guides produced as part of a program conducted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium aimed at helping consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. By monitoring species populations as well as how fisheries operate, Seafood Watch recommends which seafood products are “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives” and which you should “Avoid.”

(The Maritime Aquarium is a partner in Seafood Watch.)

Seafood Watch updates its pocket guides twice a year. In the recently released Jan.-June 2015 guide for the Northeast, a seafood item has newly appeared: farmed seaweed.

It’s a “Best Choice.”



A highly nutritious sustainable food source, seaweeds have long been a staple in Asia but only lately are finding their way into restaurants and menus in America. (Actually, we’ve been eating it for years, as seaweed extracts are key ingredients in everything from ice cream, evaporated milk, fruit and cereal bars, pastries, cakes, chocolate powder and countless other products.)

Proponents of seaweed farming say that – aside from bringing a “sea vegetable” to a growing market – seaweed aquaculture can improve water quality by removing nitrogen and creating good marine habitat. Bigger picture, they say, seaweed aquaculture can create jobs and reduce our national seafood trade deficit.

Of course, one of the biggest proponents of seaweed aquaculture in Long Island Sound is longtime good friend of The Maritime Aquarium, UConn’s Dr. Charlie Yarish.   (Here’s a story on Charlie.) 

Seafood Watch says seaweed farming “has very few environmental impacts” and “is regarded as a highly sustainable practice, which makes it an excellent industry for expansion.”

So, with Seafood Watch’s blessings, eat your seaweed!

Keep track of what other seafoods to eat – and those to avoid – by picking up a Seafood Watch pocket guide in The Maritime Aquarium’s Cascade Café or in our “Go Fish” exhibit. Or download one here.  (And get apps for your Android and iPhone too at www.SeafoodWatch.org.)

–  Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more from The Maritime Aquarium blog! 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 FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.


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The Maritime Aquarium is now exclusively showing Interstellar  in 70mm film projection our IMAX theater. The space epic starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain doesn’t just translate to the IMAX® screen, it was made for it.

If you haven’t seen Interstellar in theaters yet, or even if you have, here are five reasons you need to see it in 70mm film.

  1. Director Chris Nolan wants you to! Really. He filmed more than an hour of the movie with IMAX® cameras.
  2. In fact, he calls it “the gold standard” of IMAX®  movies. The 70mm film version offers 100 times the resolution of an HDTV.
  3. The crew did a lot of experimenting during filming. They treated IMAX® cameras like a GoPro to film parts of Interstellar. They mounted cameras on bodies and helmets and filmed with handheld cameras for a unique IMAX® experience.
  4. Because Matthew McConaughey says so! According to Matt, “You’re not gonna get the beauty of film, you’re not gonna  get that scope and size, that epic scale that Christopher Nolan puts on screen like nobody else unless you go see it in IMAX®.”
  5. The print of Interstellar is 49 reels and weights 600 pounds! That’s way more impressive than a movie on a microchip.
  6. We have the largest IMAX® theater in Connecticut. It’s six stories tall and as wide as two school buses placed end to end! (Ok, this one doesn’t have to do with 70mm film, but it still makes for an impressive experience!)

“Interstellar” will play at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26-Jan. 4, and then on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8-31. Click here for show times and ticket information.

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