Every year, on June 8th, the world celebrates World Oceans Day by taking into consideration the impact of our actions on the health of the ocean, and to help raise overall awareness of the negative effects that humanity has had on the ocean to this point. At the National Marine Life Center, we aim to rehabilitate seals and sea turtles as a means of protecting marine wildlife, but also to study how these animals are being impacted by their own environment. Additionally, part of our mission statement is to advance science and education as it pertains to marine wildlife health and conservation, so dealing with real world issues and threats to the ocean are very prevalent in daily conversation. On this day, as well as every other day, I personally strive to make choices that positively impact the ecosystem, most often by utilizing reusable mugs and water bottles rather than single use plastics, as well as forgoing harmful, non-recyclable plastics such as single use straws, plastic bags and microbeads found in select shower gels, as these are the plastics that end up in the ocean, irreversibly damaging the ecosystem in ways that we cannot quantify. A day such as World Oceans Day is so crucial in the preservation of the marine ecosystem, and continued protective measures should be endorsed and implemented daily if we hope to maintain the current state of the ocean.
Annually, the New England Aquarium puts on a World Oceans Day festival, where local organizations that are affiliated with the ocean come together in order to promote awareness of the ocean, as well as to educate individuals about the ocean and its inhabitants. The NMLC was given the chance to attend the event, and myself along with another one of our animal rehabilitation/education interns, Ginny, were allowed to go and represent the NMLC. Along with information about our organization, we brought two fun, educational activities for the kids: the blubber glove and tooth vs. baleen. The first activity, blubber glove, required that individuals put a silicone mitt on one hand, and then have them place both hands into a vat of chilled water to experience the insulator effects of the silicone glove, in order to simulate how blubber works in marine mammals. The second activity, tooth vs. baleen, demonstrated how the differences in the eating methods of toothed whales vs. baleen whales allowed for dietary specializations, namely how toothed whales are capable of capturing larger prey such as fish and squid, whereas baleen whales specialize in the consumption of much smaller organisms, notably krill, zooplankton and copepods. This activity was demonstrated using a vat of water containing both small sponges in the shape of various marine animals, as well as oregano to represent krill, and kids were given the choice between a pair of tongs (representing teeth) and a comb (representing baleen) and asked to determine what a whale with teeth like that would feed on. Both activities were somewhat simplistic, but both were incredibly effective in conveying their desired messages, and I personally feel a lot of children, as well as adults left our table knowing a little bit more about the amazing creatures that dwell in our oceans. Overall, I found it wonderful to see the public show up in such great numbers, and really heart-warming to see so many parents bring their children to an event that promotes stewardship of the sea.
Posted by Grant M
Grant is a summer 2018 Animal Care intern at the National Marine Life Center. He is a graduate of Roger Williams University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry.