Humans have used song to serenade an intended mate since time immemorial. Could the same tactics work for other members of the animal kingdom? Leanna Matthews, a PhD candidate at Syracuse University in New York intends to answer just that. Matthews is studying how female harbor seals in estrus, the time that they are receptive to breeding, respond to recorded vocalizations of male harbor seals of differing maturities. Harbor seals are typically quiet, unlike the barking chorus of sea lions that greet coast-goers, and at most occasionally utter a grumble or growl.
Researchers know little about how marine animals communicate, and how sounds created by human activity affect their behavior. We know male harbor seals vocalize underwater during breeding season to establish territories, and some think these sounds may also help female harbor seals select mates,” Matthews said. Matthews hopes her research may help scientists understand how underwater noise from human activities may affect harbor seal breeding behavior in the wild.
To collect repeatable information, and minimize variables, Matthews could not answer her questions in the field. “My advisor has friends at the Hatfield Marine Science Center who said the Oregon Coast Aquarium has a lot of harbor seals,” Matthews said. The graduate student made arrangements, and flew out west for her first round of data collection. “I jumped at the chance to work with Leanna because it provides great opportunities to learn from the seals and provides them sound enrichment,” said Brittany Blades, a senior mammalogist at the Aquarium. Continue reading
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), in partnership with Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon State University, is building a team of volunteer AAUS divers to be trained in sub-tidal monitoring protocols to survey the marine reserves off Oregon’s Coast. A team of specialized divers work with the scientific research team–and the marine reserves are their living laboratories.
The team’s mission: to survey the shallow rocky reefs of Oregon’s marine reserves. This team is trained to collect data on fish, invertebrates, and algae in an environment that is often challenging to work in. These divers use a well-established survey method developed by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), and used by other scientists along the U.S. west coast to monitor changes inside and outside of marine reserves.
SCUBA dive surveys are one of the four core tools being used in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s monitoring of Oregon’s marine reserves. These scientific divers are volunteers with scientific diving certifications. They also must pass a special training put on by ODFW and their partners at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, PISCO, and Oregon State University. ODFW is currently looking for new volunteers to join the Marine Reserves Scientific Dive Team. Continue reading
A very mature 63-pound male olive ridley sea turtle stranded just south of Longview, Washington on December 20, followed by a mature 82-pound female of the same species near Del Rey Beach, just north of Gearhart, Oregon on December 21 were transported to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for treatment. With body temperatures of just 52 degrees Fahrenheit, far below the ideal of 75, the turtles were cold-shocked. At initial assessment, the male had sustained a wound to his head and was hypothermic. His responsiveness continued to slow, and despite the Aquarium staff’s best efforts, he passed away on December 23.
The female, now named Thunder, is showing progress and as of December 29 is swimming in a pool and her body temperature has climbed to 70 degrees. Thunder also passed waste this week, signaling that her digestive system is starting to function as her body temperature rises. Her transition to water on December 24 appeared to immediately calm her activity, but also confirmed that she has air trapped in her body that makes her buoyant. Continue reading
The Oregon Coast Aquarium will offer visitors a chance to claw into the science of Dungeness crabs, without getting pinched, to celebrate Crab Fishery Day on December 30. The annual event at the Aquarium serves up an in-depth look at these amphibious crustaceans. “It is so wonderful we have healthy, sustainable fisheries right here in Newport. Crab Fishery Day is meant to highlight the all that goes into the Dungeness crab fishery, from tossing crab pots to the market,” said Jenni Remillard, who organizes the event.
Animal keepers that care for the Aquarium’s fishes and invertebrates, known as aquarists, will host dissections and serve up a special meal for the Aquarium’s crabs so visitors can observe how they eat. The Aquarium’s theater will showcase films offering a first-hand look at life on a crabbing boat, and what happens inside submerged crab pots.
Aquarium staff, volunteers and partner organizations, including the Dungeness Crab Commission, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Parks, will team up to tell crabs’ stories. From their anatomy and behavior, to their role as one of Oregon’s most important commercial fisheries, to the marine environment that nurtures Dungeness crabs.
Crab Fishery Day activities are free with Aquarium admission. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day, except December 25, this winter from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-3474.
At first glance, a cube of PVC pipe trailed by a string of wires and cables is a puzzling presence for some Oregon Coast Aquarium visitors in the new exhibit, Secrets of Shipwrecks: Part History. Part Mystery. In the exhibit, it represents one of the tools researchers use for underwater exploration and archaeology, and pays homage to the fact that people from all walks of life can wield this technology.
The contraption sports scratches and wear, and zip-ties hold repurposed plastic water bottles to its control tether. The underwater remotely operated vehicle, or ROV for short, is the creation of three Taft High School students under guidance of Science Department Chair Noah Lambie.
Team RUWE (Robotic Underwater Exploration) created the ROV for the Northwest Regional MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) Competition. Each student assumed a role, with Kyle Macrae as CFO, Hunter Bishop as CEO and Eneki Trujillo as Head Engineer. RUWE took the title in the Ranger Class, qualifying them for the international competition at Newfoundland, Canada.
The opportunity to compete against 60 other teams from universities and prestigious prep schools across the globe presented a tremendous opportunity and set of challenges. Their winnings only covered a portion of the trip, Lambie and the students started a crowdfunding campaign, and sold totes and shirts to make up the difference. Continue reading
Oregon Coast Aquarium educators will enjoy a new set of wheels as they deliver marine science education programs to elementary schools across the Northwest this year thanks to a sponsorship from the Oregon and Vancouver, Washington Burger King® owners. Their support, coupled with contributions from Aquarium donors, enabled the Aquarium to purchase a new Aqauri-van to transport these programs. “Burger King® is proud to help bring this unique learning experience to elementary school children as part of our local community involvement and support,” said Luis Boyance, Burger King® Franchisee.
The Aquarium’s outreach programs reach over 30,000 students and an excess of 100 schools in Oregon, Washington and California each academic school year. The assembly-style presentations make marine science accessible to kids who may not have an opportunity to explore Oregon’s Coast with their families or on a field trip. The Aquarium offers four different outreach programs that focus on marine animal adaptations and are tailored to K-2 and 3-5 grades. The topics rotate so students see something different every year during the Aquarium’s annual visit. Continue reading
Green Moray Eel On Exhibit At The Oregon Coast Aquarium. (photo by Kiera Morgan)
Meet the green moray eel that stole the show in the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s new Secrets of Shipwrecks exhibit this summer. The special exhibition is designed to showcase the depths of archaeology hidden from most by the water’s surface. Interactive water jets and replicas of shipwrecks and archaeologic digs, inspired by actual sites, spring from the walls to take center stage. By far, however, visitor photos tagged #oregoncoastaquarium indicate the crawl-through exhibit, home to a neon green eel, stole the spotlight.
The hulking animal measures five feet from nose to tail, and often spends its days curled up next to the clear acrylic bubble in the middle of its exhibit. Typical of eels, the animal spends most of its time with its mouth open, as if posing for photos, when it is actually drawing water through its mouth and over its gills. The best time to view the eel at its most active is when the Aquarium first opens at 10:00 a.m.
(photo by Oregon Coast Aquarium)
The creature is fed every other day just before the Aquarium opens. The eel eagerly swims into a PVC tube where it gulps down squid, de-boned herring, gel food and an occasional vitamin. Moray eels are considered docile animals, but they have poor eye sight and an accidental bite from an animal of this size would pack a punch, even without the infectious bacteria it carries. The PVC tube contains the excited animal so that an aquarist can safely hand food into its hungry mouth. Secrets of Shipwrecks will remain open through December 2016. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Information provided by Oregon Coast Aquarium