Entries from the Journey: Updates from Dr. Vagelli’s Banggai cardinalfish research trip

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts covering the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium’s Dr. Alejandro Vagelli’s current research and conservation trip to Indonesia. Follow Adventure Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Entries provided by Dr. Vagelli.

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Banggai cardialfish, photographed by Dr. Vagelli in the Banggai Archipelago

Preparing for the journey

Preparing for the journey

March 5: The journey is starting! Met up with a Swiss photographer and flew in from the Jakarta Airport. Rest of the team will be coming over in the next week. Plans on the horizon include visiting the regional governments, and in Banggai, inviting local officials to spend a few days on the boat to observe the census and data collection efforts.

The boat - home for the next couple weeks

The boat – home for the next couple weeks

March 6: The boat is a bit small, but very comfortable and the crew seems nice, so all indication is that we will be getting along with no problems and hopefully have a good time! Journey begins today at noon, heading toward Bangkulu Island, south of Peleng as the first stop. On a different note, things have changed a bit since my last travel. Weird to fly on a jet to Luwuk with air conditioning, seeing Luwuk Harbor with freight containers (and with that, an unbelievable amount of pollution and garbage), and was told that cell coverage is available in the Banggai Islands, and maybe in Peleng and another nearby island. Afraid that the Banggai Islands I knew are slowly starting to fade away…

Banggai Archipelago

Banggai Archipelago

Performing a census

Performing a census

March 7: Spent the night in North Banggai and tomorrow will meet with authorities. Before that, we will check in on a small Banggai cardinalfish population that have not been surveyed since 2002. Plan to meet officers from the fisheries office to check the veracity of reports related to conservation actions directed to the cardinalfish and collection/trade gathering, then will move to the collection center here in Banggai (Bonebaru) to investigate what has been happening there during the last years. Boat and crew are all good!

Diving for census and data collection

Surveys are done setting up random straight line transects in a particular habitat and snorkeling or diving along those counting the number of fish within a certain distance of the line. This is repeated several times to build a density estimate for a particular area.

Dr. Vagelli shows a homemade soda bottle bomb used for blast fishing

March 16: We are now safely in Masoni after yesterday going through the first and hopefully the only storm. The boat seems not equipped/designed to handle severe weather like we encountered last night (strong winds, lot of rain and waves 2-2.5 meters) so after 4 or so hours of pretty rough navigation and water starting to get into the engine room, the captain decided to seek refuge in the closer island and wait (we had departed from Peleng and were headed towards the “far east” (Taliabu area). Work is going well – a lot of surveys and data gathering. Saw more blast fishing and met with more locals and officials.

About Blast Fishing: Blast Fishing is a highly destructive fishing practice still used in many areas of the world, like Indonesia. It is primarily used to collect food fish. Fishermen use a soda bottle to create a small bomb that is then released in the water near schools of fish. As the bomb detonates, it sends a shockwave through the water that harms fishes’ swim bladders. Many of the fish die and sink to the bottom of the water, however, a small amount will survive and float to the surface. The fishermen then collect these fish and either eat them or sell them at market. Unfortunately, these bombs damage the local coral reefs, destroying critical habitats for many species, such as the Banggai cardinalfish.

Adventure Aquarium sponsors ocean trawl to research plastic polluton

Content and images courtesy of 5 Gyres

AdventureAquarium

The 5 Gyres Team from their Viking Gyre Expedition, a 2,500 nautical mile journey from Bermuda to Iceland. Adventure Aquarium sponsored Trawl #17.

We love our oceans! Unfortunately, modern times have led to negative repercussions on the health of our oceans, in part due to an overabundance of trash that has found its way into waterways.  Did you know that – in fact – in the world’s oceans, there are massive currents carrying floating debris in what are called the five (5) subtropical gyres: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Ocean Gyre.

The 5 ocean gyres

The 5 ocean gyres – illustrated

And while we can all agree that it’s a major issue, little is known about ocean pollution – specifically what role plastic pollution plays.  One organization leading the charge to change this is the team at 5 Gyres, an institute whose mission is to conduct research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and employ strategies to eliminate the accumulation of plastic pollution in the 5 subtropical gyres.

The manta trawl

The manta trawl

5 Gyres conducts the majority of their research via ocean trawls in which a data-collection device called a Manta Trawl is lowered into the water and towed behind their vessel to skim the surface. The goal is to collect samples of the ocean’s surface to quantify and research the mass, size, color and type of pollution floating in these massive gyres.  Fish caught during the expedition are examined for plastic ingestion.  Stomach contents are sorted and weighed with tissue samples being preserved for future analysis of persistent organic pollutants.  This research provides valuable data for scientists and others desperate to know the impact plastic pollution has on our environment.

Debris is separated and sent back to the United States for research.

Debris is separated and sent back to the United States for research.

Recently, Adventure Aquarium and our Fins for the Future Committee had the privilege of supporting the team at 5 Gyres during their Viking Gyre Expedition, a 2,500 nautical mile journey from Bermuda to Iceland.  We sponsored Trawl #17 that was taken more than 500 miles east of Nova Scotia, with whales and sargassum seaweed nearby.  An hour after the trawl was dropped into the water, the 5 Gyres team pulled out a sample containing multiple fragments of plastic pollution typical of ocean samples around the world. Each sample is then taken back to the US to be analyzed for plastic particle count and weight per square kilometer.

Check out this exclusive video from the trawl:

We’re honored to be part of the effort to increase research about and spread awareness of plastic pollution! Learn more about the expedition, and what you can do by visiting www.5gyres.org.

Adventure Aquarium volunteers help plant trees in the city of Camden

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.” – Thomas Fuller

Making the earth greener, one tree at a time! This past week, a team of Adventure Aquarium ‘Fins for the Future’ volunteers helped plant trees in the city of Camden. Working side by side with community and corporate volunteers and students, the Fins for the Future team – comprised of Adventure Aquarium employees – helped 35 lovely trees take root near the intersection of North 32nd & Hayes Street. The tree planting is part of a city-wide effort organized by the New Jersey Tree Foundation.

photo 1 (3)Together with the New Jersey Tree Foundation’s Urban Airshed Reforestation Program, Adventure Aquarium’s Fins for the Future team participates in several tree plantings in Camden throughout the year.

photo 4 (3)

The Program is dedicated to planting trees in New Jersey’s most under-served neighborhoods that help beautify the city, improve air quality, manage storm water, and provide shade. Tree planting is just one of Fins for the Future’s environmental initiatives. As Adventure Aquarium’s conservation program, Fins for the Future is committed to providing real opportunities for people to get involved and make positive changes to the environment.

For information on how you can help with a future tree planting, visit the NJ Tree Foundation online.

Adventure Aquarium Biologist Leads Local Horseshoe Crab Conservation Efforts

By: Matt Ferroni, Senior Biologist

Hello my name is Matt Ferroni, and I’m a Senior Biologist here at Adventure Aquarium. While my main responsibilities include overseeing our 550,000 gallon Shark Realm exhibit and several holding systems, I am also in charge of our Horseshoe Crab Head-Start Program, which began in July of 2011.

Over the past few decades Horseshoe Crabs have been harvested for use as eel and conch bait, as well as by the biomedical industry for the production of LAL (limulus amoebocyte lysate), which is produced from Horseshoe Crab blood. LAL is used to screen surgical implants, intravenous drugs, and vaccines for bacteria that could otherwise make you very ill. For that reason alone, Horseshoe Crabs are incredibly important to humans.

Horseshoe Crabs also serve a very important ecological role. Every spring and summer, females crawl onto the beaches of the Delaware Bay and lay eggs, sometimes up to 80,000 in one season. It is said that of these 80,000 eggs only ten might reach adulthood. So what happens to the rest of them? Unfortunately the majority of the eggs and hatchlings are eaten by fish, crabs, and even shorebirds. In fact, these eggs are the only food source for the threatened Red Knot, a migratory shorebird that stops in the Delaware Bay during its 10,000 mile flight from southern Chile to the Canadian Arctic.

Without these eggs as a food source, the Red Knot cannot finish the flight to its breeding grounds and many have perished as a result. Horseshoe Crabs are also an important prey item for sea turtles, and their numbers could directly influence the health of turtle populations.

For the reasons mentioned above, we felt it was important to get involved in helping to increase the Horseshoe Crab population. In July of 2011 I traveled to Kimbles Beach in Cape May Court House, NJ with Dr. Dan Hernandez of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Dan helped me locate and excavate several clutches of eggs that were buried below the surface.

HSC1.1

Excavating Horseshoe Crab Eggs

The eggs were brought back to Adventure Aquarium where they hatched and have been growing ever since. This process has been repeated every year and each year we are even more successful. Come this summer Adventure Aquarium will be releasing hundreds of crabs from both the 2011 and 2012 collections. These Horseshoe Crabs grow faster than those in the wild due to the conditions we raise them in as well as the food that they receive.

Each morning I come into work eager to see how many new molts there are, I then separate the crabs according to size, and offer them different food items based on those sizes.

It has been truly incredible watching these animals grow from just a few millimeters to the size of my hand in what is actually a very short period of time. I am excited to release these animals back into their environment and look forward to collecting some more eggs this summer.

Horseshoe Crab developing in the egg

Horseshoe Crab developing in the egg

Trilobite Larvae

Trilobite Larvae

Trilobite Larvae 0.3 cm 1 day old

Trilobite Larvae 0.3 cm 1 day old

2nd Instar.  One week old (now has a tail)

2nd Instar. One week old (now has a tail)

6th Instar 2 months old

6th Instar 2 months old

 

11th Instar 1 year old

11th Instar 1 year old

14th Instar 2 yrs 9 months

14th Instar 2 yrs 9 months

The inspiring story behind Ozzy the Sea Turtle – Adventure Aquarium’s newest addition!

One Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle’s Journey of Survival Leads to “Forever” Home at Adventure Aquarium

Ozzy the Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Ozzy the Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Meet Ozzy, an undeniably adorable rehabilitated Loggerhead Sea turtle yearling (toddler) who permanently joined the Adventure Aquarium animal collection this week! Ozzy is the first of what will be an extensive collection of turtles featured this winter during Adventure Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Turtles: Journey of Survival, opening to the public on January 14, 2014.

The new, limited-time exhibit will showcase an extensive array of land and aquatic turtle and tortoise species from all over the world, ranging from turtles no larger than a postage stamp to a sea turtle that weighs as much as a motorcycle! Unlike many of the new turtle species, which will be at Adventure Aquarium only for a limited time, Ozzy has found his “forever” home at Adventure Aquarium.

Dr. Hyatt and the Adventure Aquarium Veterinary team measure the width of Ozzy's shell during his exam.

Dr. Hyatt and the Adventure Aquarium Veterinary team measure the width of Ozzy’s shell during his exam.

“Ozzy is so unbelievably cute and we’re delighted to welcome him to the Adventure Aquarium family,” said Nikki Grandinetti, Curator, Fish & Invertebrates at Adventure Aquarium. “We’re equally thrilled that our guests will be able to see Ozzy up close and in person, ultimately inspiring them learn more about these amazing animals.”

As content as Ozzy is today, frolicking and exploring his new exhibit across from the Aquarium’s 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit, his life had a challenging beginning. From the moment sea turtles hatch, they face an uphill battle for survival. Fortunately, aquariums across the country, like Adventure Aquarium, aim to help as many sea turtles as possible. Thanks to an extensive network of organizations, volunteers and aquariums dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles, Ozzy’s future is now filled with hope.

Loggerhead Sea turtles often live for decades in the open ocean, but it is their first few minutes of life when they are most vulnerable. Nests deposited on coastal beaches typically hatch from July through October, and as they emerge, the “hatchlings” scramble out of their nests and toward the ocean in a race for life against predators, disorienting light sources and other obstacles. Each year, some of these hatchlings are too weak or disoriented to get to the ocean on their own, as was the case with Ozzy. Thankfully, organizations like the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores are able give turtles like Ozzy a second chance at life.

Ozzy receives one of his first physical exams at Adventure Aquarium - where he's checked out head to flipper!

Ozzy receives one of his first physical exams at Adventure Aquarium – where he’s checked out head to flipper!

WRC volunteers excavated Ozzy from his nest and transported him to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, where aquarists could help him recuperate. As Ozzy began to show improvement, aquarist noticed that he was not growing as rapidly as the others and that his back flippers were slightly deformed. Ozzy also had a condition that caused him to be negatively buoyant – a fancy way of saying that he has a tendency to sink to the bottom. These conditions made Ozzy vulnerable to predation in the wild so he was deemed “non-releasable” by US Fish and Wildlife.

“While Ozzy surely would not have survived in his natural habitat, we are confident that he can maintain a normal life under Adventure Aquarium’s specialized care,” said Dr. Michael Hyatt, Adventure Aquarium’s Veterinarian, who has previous experience working with rehabilitated sea animals.

Ozzy the Loggerhead has found his forever family at Adventure Aquarium

Ozzy the Loggerhead has found his forever family at Adventure Aquarium

As a permanent member of Adventure Aquarium’s collection, Ozzy will be monitored and well cared for by the Husbandry and Veterinary staff. He will also serve as an ambassador for Loggerhead Sea turtles worldwide, inspiring guests of all ages to admire, and ultimately help protect, sea turtles in the wild.

“One of the many cool things about having Ozzy join the Adventure Aquarium family at such a young age is that Passholders and returning guests will be able to see Ozzy mature through the years; so he’ll literally grow up along with our guests,” explained Grandinetti. “In that regard, Ozzy is not just a member of the Adventure Aquarium family, he’s a member of all of our families!”

Be sure to stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter #OzzyTheTurtle – for updates on our favorite new addition to Adventure Aquarium.