Divers in the Pacific Northwest faced a gruesome landscape of over the past few months. Sea stars, stricken with a wasting syndrome whose cause has puzzled scientists across the globe, were disintegrating arm by arm into pale piles of gelatinous goo.
A glimmer of hope appeared on Florence’s North Jetty this month in the form of juvenile stars. Aquarium volunteer science diver, Diane Hollingshead, co-owner of Eugene Skin Divers Supply, first noticed the tiny invertebrates during a recreational dive. She let the Aquarium know and a team was deployed the next day to survey the area.
Aquarium Dive Safety Officer, Jenna Walker, who lead the science dive team said, “It was overwhelming, when we first got down there it looked like the rocks were covered with barnacles. We soon realized those white spots were thousands and thousands of stars. I have never seen them in numbers like that, it was pretty incredible.”
The thumbnail-sized stars were so abundant, as many as 202 in a square meter, that divers had to change their survey protocol to get a representative sample of the stars’ numbers before they ran out of air. The stars are still too small for Aquarium staff to discern their species accurately, but they plan to return to the site regularly in the coming months to monitor their progress. Continue reading
Oregon Coast Aquarium Divers recently conducted submarine Science for Oregon Marine Reserve Managers in Port Orford. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife does not currently have a dive program, so these policy makers rely on contracted American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) certified divers from the Oregon Coast Aquarium to serve as their eyes underwater. The Aquarium, in partnership with researchers from Oregon State University, is doing all of the surveys to establish baseline population information for Oregon’s new marine reserves. These reports will help create a picture of what these areas look like underwater so ODFW can make informed decisions while managing these sites.
Over half a dozen divers plunged into a cold water reef near Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast in early September. Sustained winds were just six miles per hour, creating relatively calm boating and dive conditions for these seasoned divers. With slates and cameras in hand, they swam through surge that pitched them back and forth as far as 5 meters, carefully identifying and sizing every fish they spotted within their survey area. Redfish Rocks is the location of one of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) marine reserves. Continue reading
Six species of seabirds made way for busy parents and tiny chicks over the past week when two common murres pipped their way through egg shells and into the world. “They’re just a handful right now, no bigger than a lemon, and most of that is feathers,” said aviculturist Heather Olson. The baby birds’ diminutive size is temporary, and they are already packing on grams by the day.
The proud parents spend their time snuggling with their young chicks to keep them warm, delivering them tiny silverside fish to eat and shielding them from their curious feathered neighbors. Despite the parents’ suitably protective spirits, they tolerate daily checkups by the Aquarium’s aviculturists. The staff performs a careful visual examination of each chick and weigh them every day to ensure they are growing at a healthy rate. No word on the new additions’ genders yet, that requires a blood test, and the little birds need to grow a bit more before they are ready for that.
Common murres, which are frequently mistaken for penguins, nest in the open on top of rocks, just like their Antarctic cousins in the southern hemisphere. Parents take turns tucking the tiny two and a half ounce chick under their wings and delivering it small whole fish. Keen-eyed visitors may spot one of these baby birds nestled up against their parents’ bellies in the Seabird Aviary exhibit.
Baby birds in the Seabird Aviary are an exciting and uncommon event at the Aquarium. Aviculturists carefully assess the existing population, the genetic compatibility of each breeding pair and requests for birds from other AZA-accredited facilities. If there is no place for a chick from a certain breeding pair, the keepers will replace the couples’ egg with a similar looking plaster-filled dummy egg. This allows the birds to practice natural breeding behaviors without overpopulating the Aviary.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day this summer from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-FISH.
Information and photos provided by the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Visitors to the Oregon Coast Aquarium will be treated to a surprise perfectly suited to the summer season starting Tuesday, August 5. Each group that purchases Aquarium admission will receive an Oregon State Fair Fun Pass, good for one child or senior citizen’s admission to the August 22 to September 1 Oregon State Fair in Salem. The Aquarium partnered with Oregon State Fair because, to quote the Fair’s campaign, “Fun loves company,” and the two organizations hope these free passes will encourage Oregonians to enjoy the best summer possible. Just 12,000 passes are available, so Aquarium visitors may have less than a week to collect this special offer. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day this summer from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-FISH.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s animals and keepers are honoring this weekend’s upcoming Relay for Life event in Newport (8/1-2 at Newport High School) with a stroke of generosity. California sea lion Lea took up a paint brush, while turkey vultures Olive and Ichabod strutted their stuff to create artwork for a cause. The Aquarium will donate all proceeds from these pink and purple paintings, currently listed for auction online, to the American Cancer Society. Supporters have until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 6 to place their bids to support cancer research, and to commemorate their gift with their own original piece of animal artwork.
The Aquarium teaches marine mammals and birds to paint as a part of their enrichment program. Treats, toys and trained behaviors provide the animals constantly changing environments to help maintain their mental and physical wellness. These animals, which were unable to survive on their own in the wild, face the challenge of creating art or fetching a toy, rather than fleeing from predators or hunting for food as they would in the wild.
Painting is a regular enrichment practice for these animals and Aquarium visitors may spot seals or sea lions plying their paintbrushes during daily educational feeding presentations. Artwork painted by the Aquarium’s animals is also available in a rainbow of colors in the gift shop and through the Aquarium’s Facebook page. Proceeds from the sale of these paintings benefit the Aquarium’s animal care fund.
Information and photos provided by Oregon Coast Aquarium