Thursday, November 16, 2017

Critter Tale - Smooth Dogfish Shark

Phoebe Finn, communications intern

Hello! I’m a Smooth dogfish shark, and I am new here at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium! I’m visiting the Exploration Center from Narragansett Bay, where I grew up and will spend the rest of my life. That is, after a short stay here. I’m only a couple of years old and probably won’t fit in this four-foot deep tank by the time I’m a full grown adult, but that’s okay, because one of my friends from the Bay will be happy to take my spot for me once I head back into open waters.

I was super-excited to hang out with some new friends, but the Chain dogfish in my tank are nocturnal and sleep all day long! So I swim around near the surface and watch them get woken up by the curious horseshoe crab. And I spend a lot of time trying to check out the little humans who seem so delighted to see me here.

These little humans try to touch me, and sometimes I let them, but my tank is deep enough to avoid their fingers if I’m feeling a little shy that day. They think I will swim right into their hands, but little do they know that I can feel their heartbeat through the water, similar to a wave. New humans kind of scare me, so I usually wait for them to hang around my tank for a while before I come up to say hello. Most people act afraid of me, but I am much more afraid of them.

Most dogfish love to play around in shallow waters anywhere from Massachusetts to Florida, but the Bay is my favorite place. I love to swim with other young sharks, horseshoe crabs and fish in the cold water. I am a bottom dweller in the Bay, which means I eat crustaceans and small bivalves off the ocean floor and rarely get seen by humans.

I will become a mom once I reach maturity in a couple of years, which is pretty exciting. I will lay up to 20 delicate egg pouches, called Mermaid Purses, which take close to eleven months to hatch into little shark pups! The Bay will be a safe and healthy place for me to raise my pups.

It’s cool that all of the marine animals at the Exploration Center have a safe place to live and the ability to teach humans about themselves and the environment. I am happy to be hanging out here for a couple of weeks before I get back into Narragansett Bay, where I will eventually grow into a mature shark and have shark pups of my own to protect!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Strength in Numbers Since 1970 - Tides

By Jackie Carlson, membership and individual giving manager

Save The Bay is a member-based, non-profit organization. For nearly 50 years, we have relied on the generosity of our members to carry out our mission “to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.” Membership dues and donations go directly to work supporting important programs and services in all areas of the organization, from the Baykeeper, Coastkeeper and Riverkeeper positions as “Watchdogs of the Bay,” to educators teaching the next generation of Bay stewards, to the restoration team helping to restore and improve the coastal habitats of Narragansett Bay and its watershed. Members also keep our aquariums running, our critters alive and healthy, our boats on the water connecting community members to our Bay, and our team of dedicated staff in the business of advocating for our natural resources.

In nearly 50 years, Save The Bay has grown from the small group of members who got us started, to the thousands of loyal families, and generations of families, who keep us going. What’s more, our members come from not only the Narragansett Bay region, but from around the country and even the globe.

The Exploration Center & Aquarium is a favorite place 
for our family members to spend an afternoon. 
We couldn’t do what we do without our members. And that’s why we are happy to offer member-only benefits, from discounts on Save The Bay merchandise, to member-pricing on Seal Tours and BayCamps, to discounts with local businesses and partners who appreciate our members and their commitment to the Bay as much as we do. Thanks to one of our partners, Corvias Solutions, Save The Bay Family Members also enjoy free admission to the Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport, where visitors can learn all about the critters found in Narragansett Bay and get an up-close experience with many of these marine animals. Since July 2016, 4,225 family members have taken advantage of this benefit at our aquarium.

You don’t have to be an individual or a family to be a member. Business Memberships are an essential piece of our membership base, because small and large company members educate their customers about the important work Save The Bay is doing and expand our membership base by reaching new audiences on our behalf. Our Business Members help us continue to make the Narragansett Bay region a great place to live and work.

As we reflect on the first nearly 50 years of Save The Bay and look to the future, we can confidently say that our members are essential to our success. From our first members, many of whom still support us today, to our new members who have just joined—we are thankful for each and every one, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.

Honoring Our Members
It takes a community to save a Bay, and our partners at Corvias help us to pay it forward by sponsoring Member Days at our Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport. One of our most popular member benefits is made possible by their generous support. This year more than 25,000 people visited the Exploration Center & Aquarium, and nearly 5,000 of those were members who received free admission thanks to Corvias. “Without the members of Save The Bay, a clean and healthy Narragansett Bay wouldn’t be possible,” said Corvias founder John Picerne. “A strong membership is vital to Save The Bay’s mission, which is why we choose to sponsor admission for members to the Exploration Center & Aquarium,” he added.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Harbor Seals in City by the Sea

By Ryan Ledoux, communications intern

Newport, Rhode Island has always been one of my favorite places to visit. From its unique architecture, beautiful beaches to countless seafood restaurants, it’s the type of place you find yourself going back to time and time again. It’s no surprise that countless people visit this city from all over the world to enjoy it just as I have. But aside from the groups of tourists that make a stop in the City by the Sea, another mammal makes itself comfortable here in these waters every winter.

The harbor seal.

Hearing that hundreds of these animals are swimming right here in Narragansett Bay came somewhat as a surprise to me. I mean, I’ve always known the abundance of marine life that makes this area its home for much of the year, but I’ve been living here for most of my life and never laid my eyes on these animals before. I would have thought they’d be found in deeper waters, somewhere far away from the likes of humans. Instead, I was told they were hanging out right underneath Pell Bridge, and not just a few of them, but a whole group of them.

At this point, my curiosity grew and I wanted to see them for myself. Luckily for me, Save The Bay offers seal cruises right off of Bowen’s Landing. They provide an up-close look at these marine mammals in their natural habitat. Awesome tour guides explain the migratory patterns of these animals and how they have made a tremendous comeback in the last 40-plus years, thanks to conservation efforts.

You can see many of the seals swimming for fish and others just lounging out on a large rock formation seemingly taking a quick rest before they dive back in. If you want an up-close look, Save The Bay provides attendees with some West Marine binoculars to zoom in on the seals and the surrounding landscape. Watching these mammals swimming comfortably in these waters was a sight to behold. Some of the seals were even curious enough to come check us out on the boat as we skimmed past.

This tour was definitely one of the more unique experiences I’ve had in Newport and one that made me feel good about the efforts being made to protect these waters and ensure a healthy environment for us all to share.

You can register for a seal watch and nature cruise at www.savebay.org/seals

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dam Removals This Fall will Help Fish and Restore Rivers

By Rachel Calabro, Narragansett Riverkeeper

Several dam removals are happening this fall across the Narragansett Bay region. The Bradford dam removal and natural fishway project is a continuation of a process to restore historic fish passage to the Pawcatuck River. This project comes on the heels of the removal of the White Rock dam last year, and previous projects at Shannock, Horseshoe Falls and Kenyon Mill. All together these projects are helping fish to access the state’s largest natural body of fresh water, Worden’s Pond.

Save The Bay has assisted with several dam removal projects in the Taunton River watershed, including on the Mill River in Taunton where two dams have already been removed. The third and final dam on this section of river will be coming out this fall. This dam at the former Reed and Barton silver factory is the key to finally getting fish access to Lake Sabbatia and the Canoe River. Other dams being removed this fall are the Cotton Gin Dam on the Satucket River in East Bridgewater, and the Barstowe’s Pond dam on the Cotley River in East Taunton.

Back here in Rhode Island, Save The Bay has been working on a project in North Kingstown to remove the Shady Lea Mill dam. This dam is upstream from one of the state’s largest fish runs at the Gilbert Stuart Museum. This dam removal will restore a sediment filled impoundment to a natural stream, allowing fish and other wildlife to access this new habitat. The project started last week with the removal of a section of the dam, allowing the impoundment to drain. Crews will be back in July to fully remove the dam after a channel has formed in the impoundment and sediment is stable.

Part of the funding for these dam removal projects has come through the Hurricane Sandy relief fund within the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Other funding for the Shady Lea dam removal came through NOAA and the Rhode Island Coastal Habitat Trust Fund.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Oh, See Sealia - Tides

By Eric Pfirrmann, fleet captain and education specialist

What does a hands-on education program do when winter rolls around and the environment gets cold? We go outside, of course!

Nature doesn’t take the winter off, so neither do we. Many plants are dormant. Many animals migrate south for warmer climes. By late fall, our trawls come up cold and empty. Salinity and oxygen levels in the water become less stratified. Plankton becomes scarce. But luckily for us, while some animals migrate out of our area in the winter, others migrate in. Schools of herring travel down from Maine and the Canadian coast to make the Bay and Rhode Island Sound their winter home. Harbor seals follow this plentiful food source and have become a prime focus of our outdoor winter education program.

Save The Bay’s education arm, also known as Explore The Bay, began developing our seal program 15 years ago, soon after a gift from the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust gave us our first education vessel, the M/V Alletta Morris. With Alletta, we had a way to show our students real seals in their natural habitat, without having to trudge a mile through the snow. Departing from Newport, we can easily reach the seals and return to the dock in an hour, keeping our students warm in all but the coldest conditions. We call it our Seal Switch program.

Top right: Save The Bay’s Celina Segala introduces our life-sized 
seal model, Sealia. Above: Sixth-and seventh-graders from The Rectory School 
in Pomfret, Connecticut learn about harbor seals from Save The Bay’s 
education team during a visit in March. 
From the start, we paired our school seal watch trip with our “Sealia” outreach program. Sealia is our life-sized, anatomically-correct seal model, complete with a zipper for exploring her internal anatomy. Together, our educators and students investigate the adaptations that harbor seals use in order to survive and thrive in cold water. With pelts on loan from the National Marine Fisheries Service, students can see and touch actual seal fur, discovering what it means to have fur so dense it is waterproof. Using everyday objects to mimic seal adaptations, such as swim fins for flippers, sweaters for blubber, ponchos for waterproof fur and goggles for the mucus layer that allows seals to see clearly underwater, students get to “dress like a seal” to learn both the similarities and the differences between humans and seals.

“Sealia” has always been a staple of our in-school outreach programs,

but combining the in-classroom learning with an on-the-water seal watch takes it to an entirely different level. Just a short ride out from our dock in Newport is one of Narragansett Bay’s best seal haul-out sites. There, we can reliably find seals throughout the seal season from November to April, but it is not a zoo. Students see seals resting on rocks. They see them bottling or swimming in the water. They count the seals as part of our monitoring program. This is a brand new experience for almost all of them, discovering a new animal practically in their backyard.
Local elementary school students explore Narragansett Bay and
look for harbor seals aboard Save The Bay’s M/V
Elizabeth Morris.
A prime goal of environmental education is to link classroom learning to the real world. Our seal program does that in just two hours. Students learn about camouflage, then see it in action. They learn about the insulating properties of blubber, then experience it in person with a “blubber glove” and a bucket of cold Bay water. They feel the cold air and water, yet they see another mammal living and thriving in it thanks to adaptations we humans lack. Direct classroom-to-real-world connections.

But beyond great teaching methodology, the seal program is just full of wonder. No one can forget the first time they see a seal. Big, cute, sometimes funny, seals spark something in all of us. For our students, they make a real connection with the Bay. And for us educators, the joy and excitement our students feel is infectious.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Day With The Dogfish Shark

By Phoebe Finn, communications intern

I spent a lot of time with the sharks during my day of volunteering at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium. For some reason, I was drawn to them—how they swam so effortlessly, the way other people approached their tank and they fact that they came right out of Narragansett Bay.

“Do you want to see some sharks?” I would ask the little kids as they walked into the back room of the aquarium. Most of them would freak out, either with excitement or nervousness. I enjoyed watching their faces shift as they ascended the wooden steps and peered into the tank of Smooth and Chain Dogfish sharks.

The Chain dogfish are nocturnal, so they slept in a group on the floor of the tank as the one Smooth Dogfish swam laps above them. Her constant circles around the top of the four-foot circular tank seemed effortless. She would occasionally poke her nose out of the water, and after a few minutes of shark tank duty, I realized that she was saying “hi” to me.

She seemed to like me, and I definitely liked her. I loved being able to teach other curious people about the sharks, and I could even throw in some shark-petting, which really impressed people. I told them that the one swimming shark was a couple of years old and that in a few weeks she would be released back into Narragansett Bay, where she will grow much bigger.

Everyone tried to touch the shark as she swam by them, never stopping her circular laps. The excited little fingers seemed to scare her off as she dove deeper into the tank, but she always came up for my hand. One youngster even stuck around for a half hour, unsuccessfully trying for chance to pet her.

Despite my being an intern at the Save The Bay headquarters in Providence, I felt like a real shark tank expert! People would ask me questions, and I tried to sound knowledgeable, but usually leaned over to a regular Exploration Center docent for the correct answer. All of the employees made my experience, and especially my time with the sharks, so enjoyable. The fun learning environment made it easy for me to jump in and quickly become an expert on all of the native species. I will definitely be going back to the Exploration Center and Aquarium to visit my Dogfish friends and brush up on my marine biology facts!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Whole New World


By Julia Akerman, Communications Intern

I live in a world of writing, media, and chaos. In other words, the world of public relations. As a communications intern at Save The Bay, I write blogs, press releases, and update media lists, all from the inside of a cube on a computer. I was lucky enough to leave my beloved cube for a day and take a field trip to explore a different component of Save The Bay. I volunteered at the Exploration Center in Newport, and I had an amazing experience.

The moment I opened the door, I felt like I was inside an aquarium. Kids were pointing at the tanks with excitement, and aquarists were describing exotic critters with words I didn’t know existed. Everywhere I looked, eyes from different types of critters glaring at me. I immediately became intrigued and excited for the day I had ahead of me.

The day began with an amazing start at admissions, because the open doors provided a cool ocean breeze and breathtaking views of the beautiful Easton’s Beach in Newport. Families came rushing in throughout the morning, the kids tugging on their parents’ arms, begging them to hurry up so they could go explore inside.

For the rest of the day, I was inside the Exploration Center stationed at the unique touch tanks. The first touch tank was crawling with horseshoe crabs and hovering skates. One by one, curious children popped their heads over the edge to see the horseshoe crabs, their eyes lighting up with excitement. To my surprise, many children were afraid of the horseshoe crabs, because they thought their spikey tails were harmful. I helped the courageous children hold the horseshoe crabs and shared with them that the tail’s purpose is to help the horseshoe crab flip over if they land on their backs.

I ended my day with my favorite exhibit, the shark touch tank. This touch tank interested me the most, because not only was it cool to observe the behaviors of the sharks, but also to see the reactions of visitors at the tank. When people first approached the tank, they were hesitant but very curious at the same time. After studying the sharks, a few daring souls gathered enough courage to stick their hands down to touch them. Witnessing this experience for people was amazing because I know many people fear sharks and, here they began to realize that the violent image society has painted about sharks - happens to be false.

My experience at the Exploration Center was unforgettable. I was fascinated to see so many different species of animals in the aquariums and to know that they were all found in the Narragansett Bay. I am thankful that I can return to my beloved cube and share my experience with all of you. Thanks to Save The Bay, the public is welcome to learn more about Narragansett Bay’s marine life at this amazing facility on Easton’s Beach and to help support its mission to protect and improve the Narragansett Bay area.