Thursday, April 20, 2017

Creatures of the Deep - STB Podcast 17

Adam and Matt cover the April theme for the Exploration Center & Aquarium, in this episode of the Save The Bay Podcast.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Eight-Legged Fun at the Aquarium

By Andrew Gorham, Communications Intern

If you’ve been to Save the Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport recently, you may be familiar with one of the aquarium’s smartest residents, who—for the purposes of this story—we’ll call Olly the octopus. Why, exactly, is Olly one of the smartest? According to some studies, octopuses have the same problem-solving skills as five-year-old humans! With their intelligence and eight legs, octopuses can open jars and bottles filled with food. Also, just like five-year-olds, Olly is very curious about everything and loves to play. “Every octopus is unique in personality… [Olly] is extremely curious and active,” says Exploration Center and Aquarium director Adam Kovarsky.

Because of his curiosity, Olly was recently moved to the larger Big Fish of the Bay exhibit so he could have more to explore! In his new home, he can roam freely and put his curiosity to good use. Olly enjoys spending most of his time crawling among the rocks and on the walls of the tank and playing with the toys that the friendly aquarium staff give him to play with. Olly is even so nice that he sometimes likes to share his toys with others. “Today [Olly] gave one of my interns a Lego structure that we gave him to play with a day ago,” Adam proudly proclaimed. What a nice guy!

The curiosity and intelligence of Olly and other octopuses can sometimes get them into sticky situations, which is exactly how Olly ended up at the Aquarium. He was brought to the Aquarium after being hauled up in a fish trap in the Rhode Island Sound, off the southern coast of Rhode Island. Despite his initial misfortune of being caught, we’re happy to now have Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium. His curiosity and friendliness bring so much positivity to the Aquarium, and everyone wishes they could have as much fun as Olly does.

If you visit Olly at the Aquarium, he may first appear to be missing from the tank. Make sure to look very closely before assuming Olly is out of sight though. He may be right in front of you without you even knowing! Olly and other octopuses possess the ability to change the colors, patterns and even textures of their skin to match their environment. In the wild, this helps them defend against other animals looking for a tasty octopus meal. They can also change the color of their skin to talk with or warn other octopuses of danger. How cool is that? There’s no creature truly as fascinating as Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium, and we’re so happy to have him.

Not only are we happy to have Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium, but we are happy to see that Olly and other octopuses call the Bay and surrounding waters home. The octopus is a vital part of Narragansett Bay’s ecosystem. Their presence indicates a healthy food web, as they are top predators and also an important food source for many shark species, seals, and fish. On top of that, they are indicative of good water quality in the Bay. Having Olly at the Aquarium is a great way to spread the word about keeping Narragansett Bay healthy and clean.

Olly and his octopus friends tend to come and go frequently at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium, so visit and say hello to Olly and learn more about him and the Bay while you still can! Our winter hours (Labor Day–Memorial Day) are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will also be open daily from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. for April school vacation, April 14–April 23. The Exploration Center and Aquarium is located at 175 Memorial Blvd., Newport, Rhode Island 02840.

You can even feed Olly and see him in action along with sharks, skates, and many more animals at our Feeding Frenzy events that are held on the third Thursday of each month, from 5–6 p.m. General admission is $10; call 401-324-6020 to register.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Paper, Plastic, or Neither?

By Nate Lukas, Save The Bay Advocacy Intern

Choosing the material your shopping bags are made out of may be of greater importance than mere personal preference. Plastic bags and other plastic products such as straws, plastic bottles, facial scrub beads, take-out containers, fishing line, and even polyester clothing are just a few examples of the plastic waste that makes its way into aquatic habitats. This plastic debris does more than just cause aesthetic issues; it causes a serious concern for ecosystem health and food chain stability in our aquatic environments.

This plastic bag looks like a jellyfish lunch to
this unsuspecting turtle.
At this moment, you may be visualizing whole plastic objects suspended in the currents and yes, this is certainly sometimes the case. However, did you know that the majority of plastic found in aquatic environments is microscopic? You may have heard about the pacific garbage patch, but rather than being just one, there are actually six or seven major garbage gyres located throughout the Earth’s oceans. Furthermore, this garbage cannot be seen with the naked eye, but rather it is a dense collection of degrading micro-plastic that at one time existed as tons of disposed plastic materials. Various species of plankton and fish feed on this micro-plastic, and this accumulation of chemicals becomes magnified as it goes up the food chain in a process known as bio-magnification, all the way to the fish we eat! Birds will also collect these bits of plastic thinking they are food, which they will then bring back to their young.
A reusable bag reduces the need for paper
or plastic resources, energy to manufacture
those products, and the risk of pollution!
This imbalance is something that we as consumers have the power to change. When deciding at the grocery store whether to take another single-use plastic or paper bag, perhaps consider bringing reusable bags or containers. Bringing your own reusable bags to the store may not seem as convenient as simply accepting what is available at that moment, but this simple change in behavior can go a long way toward protecting aquatic critters in our ponds, bays, and oceans.
Plastic is an amazing invention and it has countless important uses. However, we need to be wary of how much we use by reducing our reliance on new plastics, reusing plastics whenever possible, and recycling the rest. By making this change, we can “bag” this pollution problem and save our aquatic friends!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Two Different Intern Perspectives On Save The Bay’s Aquarium, One Delighted Impression

Rebecca’s Inside Look Outside Visiting Hours

When first visiting the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, I was surprised at both the curious building and location. Right on Easton’s Beach in Newport, the aquarium is nestled inside a small circular building. Don’t let the size fool you though. The cozy, 1,500-square-foot space is teeming with aquatic life, ranging from local regulars to tropical fish and impressive rarities.

As an intern for Save The Bay, I visited on a day when the aquarium was closed to the public and had the privilege of receiving a tour from Exploration Center and Aquarium Manager Adam Kovarsky, who knows the stories and importance of every creature present. It was amazing to hear about the range of species that came from our very own Narragansett Bay. It was even more impressive to hear the efforts taken on behalf of the organization to protect these species.

Adam pointed out that many of the species present are temporary guests, because whenever possible, Save The Bay returns the critters to their native habitat. In the case of a creature that comes to the aquarium unable to survive on their own in the Bay, the aquarium becomes their new home. Aquarium staff and interns diligently look after all the marine life and enthusiastically educate visitors on the importance of every species there. In leaving, I found it impossible not to walk away with a newfound appreciation for all the aquatic animals that make our Bay so beautiful and diverse. Don’t just take my word for it though. Andrew, a fellow intern, also made a visit and had his own thoughts about the experience.

Andrew: Happy as a Kid in an Aquarium
My first time at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium was to help out during the City of Newport’s Winterfest week in February. As a kid, I was always fond of aquariums, zoos and any other place that involved seeing and touching animals. The Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium was like stepping into a time machine back to my younger days, and I felt the same excitement return to me as I approached the building.
It was an unusually warm afternoon for February and bound to be a lively day at the aquarium. As soon as the first group entered the building, anticipation filled the air. People and families of all ages flowed through the aquarium from one exhibit to the next. At one moment, learning about tropical strays in Narragansett Bay and the next, handling horseshoe crabs and skates in one of the touch tanks.

Although the Center is a rather compact space, it offers a surprising number of different animals and exhibits to take in. If anything, the coziness makes it a more intimate environment for getting up close and personal with the animals. You’ll never get an experience like you will at the Save The Bay Aquarium at any other of larger size. I have seen my fair share of animals in the Bay, but getting to experience such a fascinating array of them in one place was an eye-opening experience.

Visiting the aquarium is a really great way to gain a better understanding of the Bay and the animals that live in it. Even more importantly, Save The Bay’s aquarium is visual proof as to why the health of Narragansett Bay is so important. Without a healthy Narragansett Bay, we would lose all sorts of incredible animals and our whole ecosystem would struggle. Thanks to Save The Bay’s efforts, the Exploration Center and Aquarium is an excellent reminder of the vitality of Narragansett Bay to the community and a fun place to pass the afternoon with friends and family.

Come visit the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium to say hello to all of our incredible species soon! Our winter (Labor Day-Memorial Day) admission hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are located at 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840.