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May 20, 2015
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

visitors touch  whale baleen
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Visitors touch a piece of baleen from a North Atlantic right whale held by Dana Gerlach from the Protected Species Branch (right) during Endangered Species Day activities at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium. Photo Credit: Shelley Dawicki, NEFSC/NOAA

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Hundreds Attend Endangered Species Day Activities

NEFSC Staff Also Participate in Stone Zoo Event

Families from Falmouth and as far away as Alabama, Ontario and Australia were among the hundreds of participants in the Endangered Species Day activities at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC)’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium May 15 and 16.

People of all ages moved in and out of the Aquarium’s Clark Conference Room, where various stations set up each day between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. focused on Atlantic salmon, sea turtle and whale research conducted at NEFSC. Visitors met the researchers conducting field and laboratory studies on these species and learned about current and upcoming projects. Computer screens showed examples of research, and handouts were available on a variety of topics.

Hands-on activities included measuring turtle shells with Henry Milliken and Heather Haas from the Protected Species Branch, and looking under a microscope at Atlantic salmon scales to determine their age and growth in fresh water and at sea with Ruth Haas-Castro from the Northeast Salmon Team. Dana Gerlach, Genevieve Davis and Grace Simpkins from the Protected Species Branch helped visitors identify North Atlantic right whales using the pattern of callosities on their heads.

Visitors could touch baleen and whale teeth, see a sperm whale vertebra and compare it to their own, or learn how baleen and toothed whales catch their prey. Shells provided an opportunity to learn about different species of sea turtles, while a scanner enabled visitors to find a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag on one of the turtle shells. Computer screens showed images of how turtles are captured and tagged at sea, how salmon research is conducted in Maine’s Penobscot River and the Gulf of Maine, and the sounds made by various species of marine mammals.

The arts and crafts table was a popular spot for younger visitors, who used colorful markers, glitter, and an assortment of materials to decorate a paper turtle or a whale, make an Atlantic salmon wind sock, or color images of various endangered marine animals. Woods Hole Science Aquarium intern Samantha Hussey, a senior at Falmouth High School, helped the younger visitors with their projects.

The Aquarium’s interactive exhibits and displays on sounds made by whales and other marine mammals, information about sea turtles, and a tank holding Atlantic salmon complemented the event’s focus on endangered species. Many visitors watched the seal feeding at 11 a.m. with Kristy Owen and MaryAnne Alliegro before entering the Aquarium to look at the fish tanks, spend time in the conference room on the various activities, and then returning to see more of the Aquarium displays.

Special attention is being given in the coming year by NOAA Fisheries to Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon and seven other marine species recently designated as the eight most in danger of extinction. Through a new initiative called "Species in the Spotlight: Survive to Thrive," these endangered species will be the focus of recovery and public education efforts to stabilize the populations and prevent their extinction. In addition to the Gulf of Maine population of Atlantic salmon, the "Species in the Spotlight" are the Cook Inlet beluga whale, central California coast coho salmon, Hawaiian monk seal, Pacific leatherback sea turtle, Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon, Southern resident killer whale, and California coast white abalone.

Grace Simpkins from NEFSC’s NOAA Outreach and Education on Protected Species (NOEPS) program also participated in Endangered Species activities May 16 at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., with Zach Jylkka and Ainsley Smith from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) in Gloucester. An estimated 150 - 200 visitors stopped by their booth between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to learn about endangered sturgeon, sea turtles and marine mammals.

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