Woods Hole Intern Adventure!


Here on the Cape, there are many organizations which focus on marine science and other related fields. Woods Hole, MA is a leader in marine research and discoveries with facilities like the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Today, we took a trip down to Woods Hole to visit the NOAA Woods Hole Science Aquarium, one of the oldest aquariums in the country.

After giving the Wood Hole Science Aquarium summer interns a tour of the National Marine Life Center, their interns gave us a tour of their aquarium and its residents. The burrfish were my favorite with the way they stared at us through the glass. Next, we were able to watch their seal program. Woods Hole Science Aquarium houses two non-releasable harbor seals. It was great to learn about each of their unique stories. It was very interesting to observe how the trainers worked with the blind seal, Bumper. Being blind, he depended on sound cues instead of visual cues. But, he could still retrieve a ring in the water because of his sensitive whiskers which were able to locate the motion of the ring sinking. Most behaviors the seals did were husbandry behaviors to allow the staff to take better care of the animals. They even have their teeth brushed twice a day! Other behaviors, like porpoising and spin, are meant for enrichment to add to the mental and physical well-being of the animal. Each day they have seal programs at 11 am and 4 pm.

Afterwards, we were able to go a public collecting walk with them. Here we explored a local marsh for critters like green crabs, fiddler crabs, killifish, and pipefish. Kate even found a horseshoe crab! Back on the shore, we were able to listen as the interns identified each critter in the buckets and gave interesting facts. Did you know pipefish are related to seahorses? If you look closely at their mouths, you can see why. The one huge front claw of the male fiddler crab is completely useless except for attracting females.We were able to identify the gender of the horseshoe crab. The males have boxing claws which are used for mating, but this horseshoe crab had none and all her claws were the same. Appropriately, we named her Silvia.  It was awesome seeing the faces of the young children as they touched the horseshoe crab or felt a fish squirm. I can’t wait to see the same enchantment during the Fins and Flippers Club this summer as children come here to learn about marine life!

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. Meeting other interns interested in the same field, being out in the perfect weather, and finding the horseshoe crab made this quite the enjoyable adventure! We’d like to thank the staff and interns at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium for such a great visit and we encourage you to explore their aquarium. Our own educational programs start with the Fins and Flippers Club on  July 5th with the theme of sea turtles! We hope to see you there!

Posted by Alexa S.
Alexa is a Summer, 2011 Intern at the National Marine Life Center.