Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 3.7 (fwd)

mike williamson (williams@www1.wheelock.edu)
Mon, 5 Jul 1999 09:32:31 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 18:31:00 -0400
From: Bruce Wyman <bwyman@neaq.org>
To: Seabits <seabits@neaq.org>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 3.7

S E A B I T S
New England Aquarium Monthly email Newsletter
<http://www.neaq.org/>
Volume 3, Issue 7, July 1999
Copyright, New England Aquarium 1999
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If you haven't been to the Aquarium lately, but have driven by and wondered
about that enormous bright orange glob covering our normally sedate silver
rooftop, I'll clear up the mystery for you: It's Buster, our 75-foot
inflatable giant Japanese spider crab. The best part about Buster is the
way his claws wave gently in the breeze, looking like he's waving hello as
you walk in. Don't you wish you had one?

Our 30th Birthday Splash on June 20 was quite a success, with thousands of
people joining us for free cake and entertainment throughout the day.
There's still more celebration to come and more summer activities to enjoy.
In this issue, you'll meet our reclusive anaconda, find out about our new
whale watch catamaran and prepare yourself for the Great American Fish
Count. Also, opening this month is a new IMAX film, Island of the Sharks,
at the Museum of Science. Why do their publicity for them? New England
Aquarium staff from various departments worked on the film, playing roles
from scientific advisors to education materials designers.


In this issue:
  Watery Words
  Stories
    - Sylvia Slithers
    - How Many Fish in the Sea?
    - New Cat Watches Whales
  Out on the Net
  Announcements
    - Island of the Sharks Opens
    - Summer Outings
    - Special Course for Teachers
    - Upcoming Special Events
  July Calendar
  Subscribe/Unsubscribe
  Contact Us

***** WATERY WORDS ********************************************************

     "A giant ocean sunfish lies basking on its side like a
      five-hundred-pound dinner plate. Sunfish have no commercial
      value at present, so they go on living placidly, eating their
      jellyfish, giving little grief and getting little trouble
      in return. I have met ocean sunfish from a small boat and
      found them surprisingly curious as they circled closely,
      fixing me with their man-in-the-moon faces, seeming to make
      direct eye-contact."

            -- Carl Safina, 1991 Pew Fellow, in "Song for the Blue Ocean"

***** STORIES *************************************************************
This month's stories
  1) Sylvia Slithers
  2) How Many Fish in the Sea?
  3) New Cat Watches Whales

----- SYLVIA SLITHERS -----------------------------------------------------
by Teresa Roberts, Roving Reptile Reporter

Snakes aren't the first animals we associate with the world of water, but
Eunectes murinus, the green anaconda of tropical Central and South America,
spends much of its life in freshwater rivers and lakes. And, one
affectionately known as Sylvia lives in the Freshwater Gallery at the New
England Aquarium.

When I ask to see Sylvia, Senior Aquarist Scott Dowd grabs a long-handled
hook and fishes around in the deliberately murky waters of her tank. "She's
up front," he says, but after some effort he pulls up a length of olive and
brown snake, black-spotted and as big around as my upper arm. He has
apparently snagged her mid-snake, because at first I don't see a head. Then
she whips around and glares at us before she swims away. Maybe I'm
humanizing this big reptile too much, but she looked pretty annoyed.

Scott agrees. Anacondas are bad-tempered. Some large snakes are placid and
like human attention but not these! In the past, some of the Aquarium's
anacondas tolerated handling, but those days are over. According to Scott,
that's the one downside of the Aquarium's in-house vet services. Quarterly
physicals help keep Sylvia healthy, but the exams are aggressive and
frightening. She now associates human contact with nasty experiences and
reacts accordingly. (And you thought taking your cat to the vet was bad!)
So much for my hope of a photo opportunity wrapped in snake=8A. Scott's nev=
er
felt threatened by Sylvia and feels comfortable walking around in her tank,
but says he has a healthy respect for her strength and her non-poisonous,
but painful bite.

At 4 years old, Sylvia is 8 feet long and weighs about 40 pounds. She may
live as long as 25 years and reach 20 feet long. Anacondas reach lengths of
around 25-30 feet long, which is pretty impressive, but they aren't the
world's longest snakes-that honor goes to the equally crotchety Burmese
python. Geologists working in Colombia in the 1940s reported a 37.5-foot
anaconda, but didn't produce a snake to match the claim. An anaconda does
hold the record for the heaviest snake, though. Their water-loving ways
mean they can be much heavier and denser than the tree-dwelling boas.
Interestingly, female anacondas are about 5 times as bulky as males.

Anacondas, like boas, are constrictors. They squeeze their prey to death
with powerful coils. They'll also use the water to their advantage and
drown animals. In the wild, an anaconda Sylvia's size would snack on fish,
rodents and birds. Larger ones eat deer, wild pigs and caiman, after which
they don't have to eat for weeks. (In case you're wondering, they do end up
with a deer-sized bulge in their mid-section!) Anacondas' lower jaws
unhinge from their skull so they can swallow such large prey.

Sylvia doesn't have to catch her meals. A couple of frozen guinea pigs and
she's set for a week to 10 days. I didn't get a chance to watch her eat
(aw, darn!) so I ask Scott Dowd if she squeezes her "pigsicles."  The
answer is yes. Is she trying to kill them, even though they're already
dead? More likely, she's holding them still so she can swallow them. "It's
kind of like a pie-eating contest," Scott says with a twisted grin, "but
with frozen guinea pigs instead of pies."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Droplet: Killer snakes sound like the stuff of bad horror films (Come to
think of it, there was a bad horror film called Anaconda=8A.) But sometimes
truth is more horrifying than fiction.
- A May 24, 1999 Reuters story tells of a young Colombian boy who was
pulled from a boat while fishing and crushed to death by an anaconda.
- The most dangerous place to encounter a large constrictor may not be a
Central American rain forest, but a North American living room. Many
species of snakes, including ball pythons and red tail boas, make excellent
pets, but some are best left to the experts.
- Cartoonist Gary Larson was attacked by his own Burmese python. He
survived, badly shaken.
- In 1993, a Colorado teenager was not so lucky. He was killed by his
family's pet Burmese python. It was a relatively small one, only 11 feet
long and 53 pounds, but it was big enough to kill a 15-year-old.
- Many other pet owners have had nasty, if not life-threatening, encounters
with these snakes. Human stupidity-underfeeding, mishandling, or playing
with a big snake while drunk-is often a factor. When you're dealing with
over 100 pounds of muscular carnivore, carelessness can be very dangerous!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

----- HOW MANY FISH IN THE SEA? -------------------------------------------
That's just the question a whole host of scuba divers and snorkelers around
the country will be asking during the Great American Fish Count (GAFC) this
month. Since 1992, volunteer fish counters have been taking to the waters
during the first two weeks of July to literally count the fish. Most of the
efforts are concentrated in 6 of our nation's 12 national marine
sanctuaries: the Channel Islands, the Monterey Bank, the Flower Gardens,
the Florida Keys, Gray's Reef and the Olympic Coast.

Counting animals and figuring out where they live has been a cornerstone of
terrestrial field biology (called "distribution and abundance" in the
literature) for hundreds of years. It's just now, as scuba diving has
gotten easier and safer through new technology, that we are finally trying
to figure out what's in our seas in the same way. The purposes of the GAFC
are fourfold: (1) To raise public awareness about trends in fish
populations, (2) to provide information on fish populations, (3) to provide
a sustainable, non-extractive diving activity and (4) to improve fish
population assessment techniques.

The first New England GAFC took place last year under the leadership of the
New England Aquarium Dive Club's environmental officer, Jim Stewart. After
a 10-minute fish identification course, 17 dive club members took their
underwater slates and counted fish in Folly Cove (Gloucester, MA). Another
17 divers from the MIT Scuba Club, United Divers of New Hampshire and the
Northeastern University Marine Science Center also participated in the
count at other locations around New England, including Magnolia Rocks, MA,
Nubble Light, ME and Great Island Common, NH.

At Folly Cove, divers counted a variety of fish, including winter
flounders, skates, sculpins, lobsters (not technically fish, but important
in New England) and a wolffish. The divers also found some "grubbies," a
kind of sculpin not listed in the usual "Marine Life of the North Atlantic"
guide book. Although the 10-minute fish identification course covered most
of what they found, if unfamiliar fish were spotted the divers would write
down distinguishing characteristics and try to figure it out on shore. This
led to identification from some, ahem, pretty unique drawings and
descriptions.

The results of this fish count were tabulated and sent to the REEF (Reef
Environmental Education Foundation) database at the University of Miami,
which keeps records collected from all the GAFC dives around the country.
The data are then posted on their website and made available to scientists
and resource managers. Besides just being an interesting site to visit to
find out what lives in your home waters, several scientific papers have
relied on data generated from these volunteer fish counts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Droplet: If you would like to participate this year, the New England GAFC
will be taking place on July 10 and 11 in three locations. You need to be a
certified diver, but do not need to be affiliated with a club to
participate. For more information, contact Don Eva or Jim Stewart at
<nediver@mediaone.net>.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

----- NEW CAT WATCHES WHALES ----------------------------------------------
by Sue Knapp, roving reporter

There's a new boat in town, and her name is Voyager III. The new whale
watching vessel at the New England Aquarium is a custom-made, 111-foot
catamaran built at the Gladding-Hearn Shipyard in Somerset, Massachusetts.
She holds up to 325 passengers on three decks, and is equipped with Series
2000 Detroit Diesel engines, Hamilton Waterjets of New Zealand, a full
galley, a wraparound deck for optimal viewing, a heated cabin area, a first
class lounge and new and improved education stations. From one who has
experienced this catamaran in action, I testify that the ride is smooth and
comfortable.

Whale respect and courteous boating have always been important to New
England Aquarium whale watch captains. And, with the recent concern over
boats accidentally hitting whales, whale watching safety is at the top of
our agenda. Working with the National Marine Fisheries Service, New England
Aquarium staff have helped draft new guidelines for whale watching vessels.

The new guidelines, in effect as of May 13, 1999, specify a top speed of 13
knots coming and going inside 2 miles of an area where whales are known to
be. Speeds should decrease to 10 knots within 1 mile and 7 knots within a
half mile. Plus, it is illegal under federal law to approach within 500
yards of an endangered North Atlantic right whale, or intentionally
approach within 100 feet of any other whale. You can contact the National
Marine Fisheries Service or the Studds Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary
for a copy of the new guidelines.

Voyager III offers a 3.5-hour round-trip excursion to Stellwagen Bank, the
summer feeding ground of whales located about 25 miles from Boston. On the
journey, naturalists share the history of Boston Harbor and the islands,
and offer a running narration of the wildlife spotted. And the captains
report that, so far this season, whale sightings have been great!

Plus, several on-board hands-on exhibits make this one of the best whale
watches in the region. A hands-on tidepool exhibit offers a one-on-one
experience with live ocean creatures. A new navigation station with chart
table, Global Positioning System instruments and radar equipment allows
budding oceanographers the chance to plot their course and learn about
geography. A whale identification computer program matches real individual
whales with fluke or tail photographs. Numerous television monitors
throughout the vessel plug into underwater cameras taking passengers below
the surface for a view usually reserved for researchers.

Call (617) 973-5277 for recent sighting information. To make whale watch
reservations, call (617) 973-5281.

***** OUT ON THE NET ******************************************************
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Anacondas
<http://www.unmuseum.mus.pa.us/bigsnake.htm>
<http://www.kingsnake.com/>
<http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian/issuesall/issues96/sep96/an=20
aconda.html>

Fish Counts
<http://www.fishcount.org/fishcount.html>
<http://www.reef.org/>
<http://www.americanoceans.org/>

***** ANNOUNCEMENTS *******************************************************
This month's announcements
  1) Island of the Sharks Opens
  2) Summer Outings
  3) Special Course for Teachers
  4) Upcoming Special Events

----- ISLAND OF THE SHARKS OPENS ------------------------------------------
One of the must-sees of the summer movie season happens to be an amazing
new IMAX film produced by NOVA/WGBH Boston and Howard Hall Productions with
the New England Aquarium called Island of the Sharks.

In this film, spectacular underwater footage takes viewers to a special
ocean oasis protected by the Costa Rican government, Cocos Island. Here,
you will hold your breath as a school of hundreds of hammerhead sharks
swims overhead. You will get caught up in the frenzy of a "bait ball," as
silky and blacktip sharks corral a school of frantic fish into a tightly
spinning wheel. Then, the sharks take turns passing through it, mouths
agape, until there is nothing left. You will giggle as you watch time-lapse
photography of sea stars tumbling over each other like puppies. You will
come away marveling at the variety of life around a volcanic way station
far out at sea, where enormous animals like manta and eagle rays, humpback
whales and 30-foot long whale sharks can visit and feed undisturbed.

In making this film, New England Aquarium president Jerry Schubel and
conservation director Greg Stone acted as scientific advisors. In addition,
our education and design staff created a host of educational exhibits and
programs to go with the film. Ken Mallory, Editor-in-Chief of Publishing is
also producing a companion children's book to be published by Houghton
Mifflin.

Island of the Sharks is playing at the Mugar Omni Theater at the Museum of
Science through the summer. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, all shows 7 P.M.
and later are $5 for adults.

----- SUMMER OUTINGS ------------------------------------------------------
July 9-11, Maine Weekend Kayak and Camping Trip
July 18, Misery Island, Salem Harbor Day Trip
July 24-25, Boston Harbor Island Camping
August 7-8, Boston Harbor Island Camping
September 11, Duxbury Harbor, Kayak Day Trip

For more information, please call Jeanne Rankin at (617) 973-6562 or e-mail
<jrankin@neaq.org>. To sign up for a trip call (617) 973-5206.

----- SPECIAL COURSE FOR TEACHERS -----------------------------------------
Introduction to the Aquatic Environment, a special course for teachers of
grades 5-8, will be held here at the New England Aquarium from August 9-13,
1999. The required follow-up fall sessions will take place on September 25,
October 16, November 20 and December 4, 1999. This course helps teachers
develop aquatic teaching themes aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum
Frameworks. Teachers can either pay $75 for 3 graduate credits from
Bridgewater State College or receive Professional Development Points and a
$225 stipend. The course will include behind-the-scenes tours of Aquarium
exhibits, coastal ecosystem fieldwork and use of HyperStudio and
Inspiration software. For more information and to register contact Dr.
David Chuckran at the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District, phone
(508) 697-6902 x267 or e-mail <chuckran@massed.net>.

----- UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENTS ---------------------------------------------
July 1-5 the New England Aquarium again participates in Harborfest by
presenting Whiskers, Flippers and Fur, where seal trainers talk about
training techniques and how harbor seals survive in their natural
environment. The program is free and takes place at our outdoor plaza seal
exhibit at 9:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. each day.

Our traveling tidepools are visiting local Stop & Shops. Come help us
celebrate the New England Aquarium's 30th Birthday with cake and enter the
Brigham's ice cream cone eating contest. Meet "Sammy the Seal", our new
costume character. Learn about and touch amazing coastal critters. We will
be at the following Stop & Shop locations from 12:00 P.M. - 2:00 P.M. on
the following dates:
7/10   Quincy
7/11   Malden
7/15   Saugus
7/16   Peabody
7/18   Framingham
Check the Stop & Shop Fun Club bulletin board for more details.

On July 16th and 17th our traveling tidepool goes to Framingham to the
Boston Bulldogs and Boston Renegades soccer games. At half-time soccer fans
can join us for the New Tidepool Review and be the Seastar of the show.
Meet "Sammy the Seal" and help him kick a few field goals . The times of
both games start at 7:30 P.M. at Boditch Field in Framingham, MA. Tickets
are $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children and senior citizens. Call
508-870-0057 for ticket information and directions.

On July 23rd JAM'N 94.5 FM will be at Central Wharf from 12:00 P.M. -2:00
P.M. with their Star Wars Jeopardy game. Answer Star Wars trivia questions
and win great Star Wars/Pepsi prizes. The is a free event held on the
Aquarium plaza.

On July 24th and 25th the Seaport Festival is being held near Boston's
World Trade Center and Peir on Northern Avenue. We will have our traveling
tide pools and New Tidepool Review. The festival times are from 10:00 A.M.
- 10:00 P.M. on Saturday and 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. on Sunday.

***** JULY CALENDAR *****************************************************
Wednesday, July 1 - Monday, July 5, Whiskers, Flippers and Fur, 9 A.M., 11
A.M. and 4 P.M. daily. As part of the 18th Annual Boston Harborfest,
Aquarium educators will be doing special presentations at the outdoor
harbor seal exhibit on our plaza about harbor seals, including how we train
them and how they live in the wild. Free on the plaza. For more information
on Harborfest, check www.bostonharborfest.com.

Friday, July 9 - Sunday, July 11, Maine Kayak & Camping Trip
Join Aquarium naturalists for a fun weekend of camping, kayaking and
nature-gawking in Maine. We provide the kayaks, tents and rations,
including home-made bread. For more information and fees, please call
Jeanne Rankin in the Travel Office at (617) 973-6562, or e-mail
<jrankin@neaq.org>.

Sunday, July 11, Seals in the Sea Explorer Class, 9:30 A.M.
Designed with the preschooler in mind, this program combines a story about
seals and a take-home art project, a related activity, or a closer look at
some live animals. One hour and fifteen minutes. Classes are limited to 20
children. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Fees: $4.00 per child
for members and $8.00 per child for non-members. No fee for adult
participant. The non-member fee does not include Aquarium admission. Please
call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

Wednesday, July 14, Fish, Form and Function Guided Tour, 9:15 A.M.
What does a shape tell you about a fish? Fish come in all shapes and sizes.
Some fishes have shapes so strange, they do not look like fish at all!
During this tour, you will discover how shapes are one way fishes have
adapted to live in their aquatic environments. With an Aquarium educator,
you'll see animals you may not have seen before. Fees: $4.00 per person for
members, $8.00 per person plus admission for non-members. Children must be
accompanied by an adult. Tours are approximately 30 minutes long. Please
call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

Saturday, July 17, Tidepool Trek, Marblehead, 10:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
Join Aquarium educators for a tidepool expedition. You will collect coastal
animals, observe them, and then return them to their habitats. With field
guides and microscopes, learn how to identify marine life and see how
animals have adapted to live in their "rocky" world. In this program,
participants can make and take home a personal tidepool diary. Fees: $8.00
per person for members, $16.00 per person for non-members. Non-member price
does not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-5206 for reservations.

Sunday, July 18, Gallops Island Day Trip, 9:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M.
Aquarium educators will provide information and activities for you and your
family on the ferry ride that brings us to our destination. Enjoy the
sights and sounds of Boston Harbor Islands as we head out to Gallops Island
and the tidepools that await us. We'll learn about island lore as we spend
the day exploring the rocky shore and sand dunes of the island and observe
the wide variety of birds that nest and breed there. Participants should
bring their own lunch and a swimsuit. An afternoon snack and beverages will
be provided. Cost includes round trip fee for ferry. Fees: $35 per person
for members, $50 per person for non-members. Non-member price does not
include Aquarium admission. Please call (617) 973-5206 for reservations.

Sunday, July 18, Misery Island, Salem Harbor
Enjoy a day on Misery Island, including a special island tour and tidepool
exploration led by an Aquarium naturalist. For information and fees, call
the Travel Office at (617) 973-6562.

Monday, July 19, Last Lowell Lecture, 1 P.M.
Dr. Walter Munk of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will give a
special talk on ATOC (Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate). ATOC is a
controversial program to measure changes in ocean temperature that relies
on measuring sounds broadcast thousands of kilometers in the deep ocean.
Lecture will be held in the New England Aquarium conference center. For
reservations or more information, contact Ken Mallory at (617) 973-5295 or
e-mail <kmallory@neaq.org>.

Wednesday, July 21, Dive Club Meeting, 6:30 P.M.
Dive Club Meeting at New England Aquarium. Guests and new members always
welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for details. Meeting location: Studio 2.

Friday, July 23, Pepsi/Star Wars Day, 12-2 P.M.
Join Pepsi, JAM'N 94.5 FM and the New England Aquarium to celebrate the
opening of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Put your Star Wars knowledge to
the ultimate test as we host the one and only Star Wars Jeopardy and give
away fabulous prizes! Free to the public on the Aquarium plaza. Aquarium
admission not included.

Saturday, July 24 - Sunday, July 25, Boston Harbor Island Camping
Join Aquarium naturalists for a fun weekend of camping and nature-gawking
on a Boston Harbor Island. We provide the tents and rations, including
home-made bread. For more information, please call Jeanne Rankin in the
Travel Office at (617) 973-6562, or email <jrankin@neaq.org>. For
reservations and fees, please call (617) 973-5206.

Sunday, July 25, Seals in the Sea Explorer Class, 9:30 A.M.
Designed with the preschooler in mind, this program combines a story about
seals and a take-home art project, a related activity, or a closer look at
some live animals. One hour and fifteen minutes. Classes are limited to 20
children. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Fees: $4.00 per child
for members and $8.00 per child for non-members. No fee for adult
participant. The non-member fee does not include Aquarium admission. Please
call (617) 973-5206 for reservations and information.

Wednesday, July 28, It's All In The Mouth Guided Tour, 9:15 A.M.
Do fishes with big mouths eat big foods and fishes with small mouths eat
tiny foods? During this tour, you will find out that looking at a fish's
mouth, its size, shape and orientation, can tell you much about what,
where, and how a fish eats! Guided exhibit tours are a unique opportunity
to see the Aquarium's hidden treasures. With an Aquarium educator, you'll
see animals you may not have seen before. Fees: $4.00 per person for
members, $8.00 per person plus admission for non-members. Tours are
approximately 30 minutes long. Please call (617) 973-5206 for reservations.

Saturday, July 31, Tidepool Trek, Marblehead, 10:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
Join Aquarium educators for a tidepool expedition. You will collect coastal
animals, observe them, and then return them to their habitats. With field
guides and microscopes, learn how to identify marine life and see how
animals have adapted to live in their "rocky" world. In this program,
participants can make and take home a personal tidepool diary. Fees: $8.00
per person for members, $16.00 per person for non-members. Non-member price
does not include Aquarium admission. Please call (617) 973-5206 for
reservations.

***** SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION ***********************************
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***** CONTACT US **********************************************************
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at
<jgoebel@neaq.org>.

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <bwyman@neaq.org>.

***** THAT'S ALL FOLKS ****************************************************
Just one little tidbit - a reader asked me about the entangled right whale
reported in the news in June. So far this year, 4 right whales have been
seen entangled and 1, in the Bay of Fundy, was successfully (mostly)
disentangled with the help of New England Aquarium staff who were actually
in Canada for a disentanglement training workshop at the time. More on that
in the next issue, so stay tuned. - Jen Goebel