#67: What's Happening - Counting Grunts

It's that time of the year again - our annual census of the Giant Ocean Tank critters. Some species are harder to count than others, for example the smallmouth grunts. Check out this video of the school, and see if you can count them yourself. A smallmouth grunt has 5 or 6 yellow stripes on its elongated cylindrical body, and yellow fins.

Look for a future post to see our final count.



#66: Dive Buddies - Fall Interns, Sammy and Kristen

Hi Blue and Happy Friends!

So we are seeing our last days as interns at the most wonderful and colorful organization in both of our whole worlds! Although, we will be back as volunteers for as long as we can. How could one go from hanging out with little burrfish and being caressed by Mystic, to then not? We remember our first days diving (Kristen was a good thirty minutes late to her check out dive ...), and how we were absolutely nervous to get into the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) for the first time. We thought our ears would never adjust to the almighty twenty-three-foot depth. However, they eventually did! From then on, everything was 100% awesome.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

We had so many exciting experiences in and out of the GOT. For example, we saw necropsies of lookdown fish, trunkfish, porcupine fish and a little baby fresh water turtle. Sam went herring net collecting and handled the anacondas and Athena the octopus (who gave her cute little hickies). We also went to offsite holding tanks where we cared for young sharks and rays. Yet, one of our most memorable experiences was when we greeted over twenty juvenile green and Kemp's ridley sea turtles, who arrived at the Aquarium after beaching themselves on the Cape.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

You could say we never have an average, boring day here. Our favorite part of the day was obviously diving in the miniature ocean. Sometimes it was weird to see rain and snow outside right before we jumped into the 76-degree water.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

However, nothing can compare to when we fed our favorite fish. We loved it when some of them came right up to us--giving us their cute puppy eyes--and swimming away excitedly when we fed them. It was like we gave them the best birthday present ever.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Nevertheless, we must say goodbye to our seven millimeter wetsuits, for now, and hand them off to the next group of interns. We would like to thank everyone who worked with us and put up with our shenanigans. Also, we want to thank the best supervisors in the universe. You were always playful, answered our millions of questions, and are fantastically passionate! It was inspiring and endlessly hilarious to work with you!

We miss you already; especially the 600 fishes who gave us kisses.

- Sam and Kristen

See photos of Sam (as an angelfish) and Kristen (as Where's Waldo?) diving in costume from the Aquarium's Fish, Fun and Fright event here. You can also read about the Aquarium's Summer and Spring interns.


#65: Our Reef Residents - Up Close with Bimini the Nurse Shark

Our female nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is named Bimini after an island in the Bahamas. She's about 9 years old and is 7.5 feet long. She weighs 175 lbs. (You can read more posts that mention her here, here and at the very end of this one.)

Bimini is a strikingly beautiful shark and one of my favorite animals in the exhibit. Without anthropomorphizing her (that means giving her human features) too much, she's got spunk. I remember one time when I was sitting at the bottom of the tank just watching her be her sharky self. When she got tired of being stared at, she knocked my mask off my head and swam away. Gotta love that attitude!

I decided to take some photos of Bimini so our blog readers could see her up close too. I hope you enjoy them.

Here are two photos of her snout.

These are her long barbels (used to find food).

Here you can see her broad, sub-terminal mouth.
(If you're interested in shark teeth, check out this earlier post.)

Here's an eye and tiny spiracle (small upside-down U shape to the right).

You can see inside her gills in this one.

Here's a close up of her dermal denticles which protect her skin (this is why she feels sandpapery to the touch).




#64: Why does John Hanzl Live Blue?

Recently the Aquarium launched the Live Blue Initiative, an online tool that allows people from all over the world to share their commitment to protect the blue planet. The divers are sharing their own live blue profiles describing how they care for the oceans. Here's a look at Dive Safety Officer John Hanzl's Live Blue profile.

John Hanzl
Dive Safety Officer

Complete the Sentence:
I live blue because the ocean is both my passion and my second home.

Why do you care about the environment?
The question really should be "How can you NOT care about the environment." It is what makes life possible. Without it our planet is nothing but an airless, lifeless hunk of rock.

How has your environment affected your career/education decisions?
My love of nature in general, and of the aquatic world in specific, is what led me to make a drastic change in careers many years ago. I transitioned from career in electrical engineering to being a diver for the New England Aquarium and is a decision I've been grateful for ever since.

Read more here and follow this link to see John's plot of ocean in the Phoenix Islands.



#63: What's Happening - Happy Thanksgiving

The Aquarium may be closed for Thanksgiving day, but as I posted last year at this time, the animals still need to be fed. No turkey for Myrtle, but she sure has a feast!

A wonderful spread was prepared by Kimmie...

... and fed to her from her own special platform by Deb.

Myrtle doesn't miss too many meals!

Watch her devour this head of red leaf lettuce.

Happy Thanksgiving from Myrtle and the Giant Ocean Tank staff.




#62: What's Happening - Video of Halloween Divers: Jumping Hot Dogs and Fighting Pirates

As you know from this previous post, the Giant Ocean Tank was a big part of the Aquarium's Halloween fun this year. Not only do we have some amazing still photos, but (just like last year) we also have some great underwater footage of our costumed divers.

Click play on the embedded movies below to see the hot dog jump into the Giant Ocean Tank (left) and an underwater pirate battle (right).



#61: What's Happening - Divers, and Costumes, and Pumpkins, Oh My!

On October 23rd the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) staff and volunteers took part in our annual event called "Fish, Fun, and Fright." (See photos and videos from last year's event.) We opened up the Aquarium for our members after scheduled hours for an evening of tricks, treats and, most notably, our costumed divers in the GOT.

This is me! My name is Kimmie Banks and I'm currently the GOT co-op from Northeastern University. I've been here for about 4 months now, and I've quickly learned that there is never a dull moment in the GOT. I was really excited to wear a costume in the tank, but isn't easy to think of a costume that is hydrodynamic and won't look like delicious food to our animals. The angelfish were really interested in eating my Bumble Bee outfit, but luckily it stayed intact.

Earlier that day our volunteers and interns had fun carving pumpkins to put in the GOT.

This year we had such a great turn out for volunteer divers, and Lizzie and Brian were no exception.

Amidst all the candy, Popeye encouraged children and adults alike to eat their spinach.

A fearless Spiderman scaled the windows of the GOT with ease. If you could hear her speak underwater, visitors would hear: "My Spidey senses are tingling."

Luckily, we also had the most graceful of creatures in the tank.

Sam as an angelfish and Ariel as a ballerina.

Anna as a jellyfis. I hope Myrtle didn't try to take a bite!

Being at the top of the GOT was so exciting, you never knew what costume would jump in the tank next.

Where's Kristen? Oh, there she is! As Waldo she's tricky to pick out among all the fish.

We thought the tourist season was over, but Andrea just couldn't miss out on such a fun dive.

We've never tried giving the sharks hot dogs, but apparently they wanted a sample.

All staff and volunteers had a blast this year, and based on the smiles and waves we saw through the windows, we're sure families and their friends had a great time too.

Until next year, have a safe and happy Halloween!