Monday, April 30, 2018

For the Love of Rhode Island

Rachael Lewin, Communications Intern

          I’ve always thought Rhode Island is a special place—the smallest state, nestled in the corner of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Although Rhode Island’s land area is only 1,045 square miles, the ocean, a resource that gives us our beautiful rivers and an expansive 400 miles of coastline, makes it feel much greater. Unfortunately, these waters are facing more threats than ever. Shorelines are shrinking, creatures and their habitats are dying, and water temperatures are rising. The idea of climate change may be overwhelming, but we still have time to help our Bay and its inhabitants. Since 1970, Save The Bay has been working toward its mission to protect and improve the waters of Rhode Island through multiple programs involving education, advocacy and habitat restoration. Located at Easton’s Beach in Newport, Save The Bay’s Aquarium and Exploration Center teaches community members just how special these habitats are, by giving visitors an up-close and personal experience with many of the creatures of Narragansett Bay.
          As a youngster, I visited Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium for a field trip in elementary school. I remember encountering animals I had never seen before, as well as species I once believed to be plants. Now, as a college intern in the communications department, one of my very first projects was to spend the day at the Exploration Center and Aquarium, taking photos, helping visitors navigate the exhibits and teaching about the critters living in them. Because the last time I went to the aquarium was on a field trip over a decade ago, I was really excited to experience it again as an adult.
Save The Bay's Exploration Center and Aquarium is
located right on Easton's Beach in Newport
at 175 Memorial Boulevard.
          The friendly staff and volunteers at the aquarium are eager to share their knowledge and answer any questions—creating a positive and welcoming energy felt by all who step through the double-doored entrance. With over 40 different species all coming right from our Bay, this little space in the center of a uniquely-shaped round building, tucked in the corner of the parking lot of Easton’s beach in Newport, is a hidden gem within our tiny state.
The Exploration Center and Aquarium gives visitors a close up and intimate view of delicate critters and their habitats, a unique experience not found at many other places. Since all of the creatures at the Aquarium come straight from Narragansett Bay, holding some of them and learning how their habitats are being destroyed can help instill in both adults and the youth of Rhode Island a sense of how delicate the natural ecosystem of the Bay is and how we as humans are accountable for its health and the well being of the inhabitants, from the smallest mollusk to the largest seal.
Much like the ocean, the Exploration Center and Aquarium is always changing. The creatures living here are mostly just visiting, brought in at a young age and released back into the wild when they have a higher chance of survival. Also, a monthly theme features a different animal crucial to the Bay, and usually, on the third Thursday of each month, the Aquarium gives visitors a special, after-hours chance to help feed the critters during Feeding Frenzy. At this registration-only activity, visitors see how and what the creatures eat and get the unique opportunity to help! Private tours of the Aquarium are also available, a perfect option for classes or birthday parties. These one-hour tours give guests an even closer look at the exhibits and more focused interaction with the volunteers and staff.
Anyone can see Rhode Island is beautiful. The state’s expansive coastline, majestic lighthouses, and tiny towns are all very similar yet still unique in their own ways. Learning about how habitats are being destroyed and whole species are in danger of extinction has, for me, shined a new light on the impact humans are having. The time I’ve spent working with Save The Bay has not only taught me more about the various creatures inhabiting the Bay, but also about issues on a larger scale pertaining to both the wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole.
          Introducing these issues to young minds creates active adults who help Save The Bay in its mission to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, from its water condition to its marine life. Places like Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium show exactly how special these little details within our state are and why it’s so crucial that we all work together to protect our Bay and its inhabitants. The passion from each individual working or volunteering at the Aquarium is central to its success, and this is what makes Save The Bay an integral part of the states overall conservation effort.

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