Time to count some fish!

December is a busy month for all of us in the Giant Ocean Tank. As we try to wrap up projects and meet deadlines at the end of the year we also undergo a massive project that requires all of the staff and volunteers to work together. This project is our end of the year census which involves counting every animal in the GOT to ensure that everyone is accounted for. With over 1200 animals in the exhibit this is quite the feat!

Taking notes
We use underwater slates and pencils to write down our counts during each dive.

Slate with a list of fish. Yup, we use regular old pencils to take the notes.

The census is also an excellent opportunity for us to practice our fish identification skills. It is easy to get rusty on over 120 species IDs if you don't practice.

This year we are also trying something new. We are working to establish an average length for each fish in order to estimate a weight for that species. These PVC sticks are taped with sections of varying lengths to help us make these estimations.

A measuring stick allows us to approximate a fish's length.

At the end of our dives we record the number of fish we counted onto a worksheet which will get totaled and submitted at the end of the month. These totals are then made available to national organizations like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Fancy spreadsheet help when you have lots of fish to count

Having an accurate record of our collection is important because it also helps us better develop our collection plan for the following year. (Check out the blogs from our most recent collecting trip.) We aim to have as minimal an impact as possible when collecting animals and knowing how many individuals we have in the collection helps us ensure that goal.


Happy Holidays!

The Aquarium may be closed today but the animals inside still need to be fed and cared for. Some of our awesome GOT volunteers came in this morning to help care for the exhibit. Thanks guys!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from the GOT Divers!



The Twelve Days of Fishmas

Maris Wicks recently joined Aquarium divers on an expedition to the Bahamas. She was inspired by her trip, and spending so much time with all those beautiful fish, to create a holiday post for the Divers Blog. Enjoy! And best wishes for a delightful holiday season. — The Dive Team

Greetings humans!  It's me, Maris (previously seen on the Global Explorers blog).

Maris experiencing her very own Fishmas miracle with some salmon.

I was feeling quite festive this holiday season, and I thought that I would share with you one of my favorite carols: The Twelve Days of Fishmas. You heard me correctly: FISHMAS. This song celebrates just a few of the inhabitants of the New England Aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank (aka the "G.O.T."). Enjoy (and please feel free to sing along):

The coral reef habitat inside the GOT is actually made of fiberglass! Even though it's not real coral,
it still provides shelter and a place to rest for many of the tank's residents (including this parrotfish).

There are actually four sea turtles in the GOT: one green sea turtle (Myrtle), two loggerhead sea turtles
(Carolina and Retread), and one Kemp's ridley turtle (Ari).  Shown here are Myrtle and Ari.
Oh, and I would also like to mention that turtles are NOT fish; they are reptiles!

French grunts are often found schooling in the lower area of the GOT (and obviously not
in the above formation...they usually swim together in a group,
but not for any fancy Olympic-style synchronized swimming moves).

Peacock flounder, to be exact!  You kind of have to sing this one "Flooooouuunnnder" to make it work with the song.

What would the GOT be without its divers?  They go into the tank five times a day to feed the more than 1,000 animals that call the GOT home, and to clean and maintain the 200,000 gallon tank.  Oh, and divers are NOT fish; they are mammals!

The green moray eels are some of the largest fish in the GOT.  If you see one, it already looks likes it's
caroling on account of the way they open and close their mouths. They are not actually singing;
they are getting more water to pass over their gills via their mouth.
Follow this link to see how we care for our morays.

Snappers are another schooling fish; look for them hanging out with the French grunts!

There are three barracuda in the GOT, and they are most often found at the surface. Look for their black
spots on their back! Oh, and same with the Flounder, sign this one "Barr-a-cuda" to make it work with the song.

This is a rather utopian portrayal of damselfish considering how territorial they tend to be. The defense of
their habitat is not unjustified; damselfish are often protecting a clutch of eggs and have been
the focus of a breeding program here at the New England Aquarium.

ANOTHER schooling fish, lookdowns are often found swimming higher up in the GOT
(hence the whole "lookdown" part of their name).

Pufferfish, balloonfish, porcupinefish...they all have the ability to inflate when threatened
 (see this article for some recent research about HOW they do that).

The GOT is home to one big black drum that likes to hang out on the bottom. Black drums have little fish-beards (ok, the correct term is BARBELS) that help them sense prey. But that's not even the coolest thing about them; they actually DRUM!  Well, they make a noise like a drum. Listen for yourself. Black Drums make this sound with the help of a specialized
organ called a swim bladder. Normally, the swim bladder is used for controlling buoyancy, but in some species of fish,
it also makes sounds.

I hope that you've enjoyed my stirring rendition of The Twelve Days of Fishmas. May your holidays be filled with hot cocoa damelsfish and Candy Cane Shrimps on a Snowy (Grouper) night!



H2O! Frozen parody features GOT

Our volunteers are a talented bunch, and former intern turned GOT volunteer and Aquarium marathon team runner Lauren Mack is no exception. She created this fantastic parody of the hit song from Frozen, featuring the Aquarium and even some behind the scenes video from our food prep kitchen and dive support areas. Just try not to sing along with this one!

Lauren and our other 30 or so volunteers and interns are the heart of our operation regarding taking care of all of the Giant Ocean Tank denizens.  From keeping the support area spotless, answering questions from the public, feeding our sea turtles and surface fishes, and of course prepping all of the food for over a thousand fishes each day, they work their tails off... and we are so appreciative!

When she's not chopping food for the fish or scrubbing corals in the big tank, Lauren will be training for the Boston Marathon® with the New England Aquarium. She's fundraising to support the Aquarium education outreach programs, which bring ocean programming to local classrooms in underserved communities. So while her video raises awareness about all that goes on at the Aquarium, these outreach classes raise awareness about our oceans and what we can all to do protect them in the community.

When she's not chopping food for the fish, you might find her scuba diving in the big tank

Because as Lauren sings in her song:
I know what I must do
to teach the public how we all live blue
It's cool to be ocean-friendly—like me!
H-2-O, H-2-O
It's the basis of life on earth.
H-2-O, H-2-O
It's a resource with so much worth!
If you liked her video, you can support Lauren's marathon fundraising here.