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Fare-Whale to Another Great Season!

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 12:10pm

The sun has set on yet another successful whale watching season. This was the 16th year of partnership between Birch Aquarium and Flagship Cruises and Events. Despite having some challenging weather days, the diversity of whales and dolphins spotted was some of the best in years!  Below is the breakdown of our season numbers:   Baleen Whales Toothed Whales Gray Whales: 621 False killer whales: 30 Humpback whales: 45 Common dolphins: 8490 Fin whales: 39 Pacific white-sided dolphins: 300 Blue whales: 13 Bottlenose dolphins: 50 Minke whales: 2 Risso’s dolphins: 20               Some whales, like Blues and Minkes, have not been seen from the Marietta during winter in multiple years. The sighting on February 3rd of the approximately 30 false killer whales was exceptionally rare and exciting. Going back five years, we have only one other unconfirmed sighting of false killer whales back in January 2014 (It had been very choppy that day and the naturalist was unable to get an absolutely positive ID before the whales swam off). Some other highlights included female/calf pairs seen on 16 cruises, the first of which was observed on January 9th. Many lucky guests were able to get an […]

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Members Baja Trip 2016: An Intimate Encounter

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 3:41pm

Each year, Birch Aquarium Members have the opportunities to participate in the trip of a lifetime. This adventure to the breeding and birthing lagoons in Baja California, Mexico allow for intimate encounters with curious Gray Whales. In this post, Education Specialist Sarah gives us a first hand account of 2016’s fantastic Baja experience.  I recently made an awe-inspiring and life-changing journey to explore the lagoons in Baja with a wonderful group of Birch Aquarium members. This trip is nothing compared to the 5,000+mile journey the adult whales have made from the Bering and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska to give birth in the lagoons of Baja. At the end of March 2016, there were over 1000 cow/calf pairs in the larger Scammon’s Lagoon with very few solitary individuals mating. In the smaller, more southern San Ignacio lagoon, there were about 200 cow/calf pairs. Most all of the males and solitary females have started to travel back up along the Pacific Coast to their feeding grounds. The fact that these beautiful giants choose to come over to visit the boats full of splashing and lively whale-enthusiasts makes it very difficult to avoid using human features such as friendly and curious to […]

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SEA Days: Earth Day

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 11:07am

  Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft. Name: Tara Sayuri Whitty Hometown: Poway, CA Schooling Background: B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and certificate in Environmental Studies, Princeton University 2005 M.S. in Biological Oceanography, Ph.D. in Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Lab groups website: tswhitty.com; artisanalfisheries.ucsd.edu; gulfprogram.ucsd.edu One word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: Empathy How does your work impact a persons daily life?   My work aims to change how we think about conservation, so that we think more broadly about solutions that help sustain human rights as well as protect the natural world.  As this work progresses, it will impact: fishing communities and how they are involved in conservation; conservation researchers and how they think about working with fishing communities and designing conservation plans; and, hopefully, members of the public, by promoting a big-picture, compassionate view of how human needs and livelihoods […]

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SEA Days: World Water Day

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 4:29pm

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft. Names: Sasha Peter Carter Hometown: Riverside, California Schooling Background: Bachelor of Science, UC Santa Cruz; PhD University of Texas at Austin Use one word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have:  Imagination How does polar research affect a person’s everyday life?  The polar regions do two things:  Store water on land, and reflect solar energy into outer space.  As our planet continues to heat up they become less effective in both these departments.  Locally, this means more water in our ocean, and thus ocean water in places we might now only see it at very high tides.  Regarding the ability of polar regions to reflect heat out into space:  it’s more complicated.  In short, wind as we know it is a mechanism to transfer heat quickly, but also transports a lot of other key pieces of our earth system in […]

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Updated Exhibit: Ocean Acidification – Can Corals Cope?

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 2:50pm

Birch Aquarium has teamed up with Scripps Oceanography researcher Dr. Martin Tresguerres to provide an updated look at how ocean acidification impacts corals. As is often the case with ocean research, there was much to learn about coral biology before Martin and his team could understand how ocean acidification affects corals.  Check out the above video and don’t miss the updated ocean acidification panels in Birch Aquarium’s Feeling the Heat exhibit.

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Are you ready to be a Birch Aquarium Intern?

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 10:01am

Are you a student in high school or college looking for an exciting and engaging internship this summer? Then a Birch Aquarium Internship might be the fit for you. Interns help visitors from around the world discover the wonders of the ocean and help shape children’s views of ocean conservation, all while gaining a behind the scenes look at Birch Aquarium and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. There are two different internships offered each summer: The Youth Summer Internship is geared towards high school students who are enthusiastic about science! Youth Summer Interns are an essential part of Birch Aquarium’s Shark Summer Event. Interns gain valuable science communication skills, learn to snorkel at La Jolla Shores, and will be able to meet Scripps Oceanographers and explore labs at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Summer Learning Adventures Informal Educator Internship is designed for high school and college students who will be an important part of Birch Aquarium’s summer camp. This is an active internship where participants gain valuable experience working with children ages 4-15 in Birch Aquarium classrooms and at the beach. Interns work hand-in-hand with Birch Aquarium educators and Scripps Scientists to teach everything from oceanography to surfing and snorkeling. Qualities of […]

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First Northbound Gray Whale

Fri, 02/19/2016 - 4:00pm

Guests aboard the Marietta spotted the first northbound gray whale of the season this past Saturday, February 13th. Since we are so close to the Mexican border, we are very fortunate in San Diego that there is no gap between the south and north gray whale migration sightings. Over the next several weeks we expect to see both northbound and southbound gray whales, sometimes on the same cruise. This will fizzle out in early to mid-March when all the gray whales observed should be headed north. Usually off San Diego, we find adult gray whales slightly further off the coast in the northbound migration leg than the southbound and researchers are not completely clear why that is. Later in the season we also may begin to see an uptick in female/calf pairs as the calves have had time to grow stronger in the breeding lagoons. Since the gray whale mothers have been virtually fasting since the previous feeding season, there is good reason to rush on the way back north as her stored calories are greatly depleted. Female/calf pairs tend to stay closer to the coast and move fairly quickly to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic, doing their […]

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SEA Days: Ocean Love & Plankton

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 4:26pm

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft. This month, SEA Days features some pretty amazing ocean drifters, also known as plankton. Plankton is found throughout the world ocean and is essential to life on Earth. Check out researchers Kayla and Laura’s stories below and meet them at SEA Days on February 20, 2016. Names: Kayla Blincow & Laura Lilly Hometown: Kayla: Born in Dallas, TX, but grew up in the Middle East Laura: Sacramento, CA Schooling Background: Kayla: B.S. Ecology Behavior Evolution Biology from UCSD Master of Conservation Biology from University of Queensland, Australia Laura: B.S. (2012) M.S. (2013) Stanford University, Earth Systems program (Oceans)   1 word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have:  Kayla: Creativity Laura: Awareness How does plankton impact a persons daily life? Kayla Blincow: Phytoplankton are responsible for producing half of the oxygen that we breathe in the atmosphere, without them terrestrial […]

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Grays, Humpbacks, and Blues (Oh My!)

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 2:11pm

By Audrey Evans, Education Specialist While the number of gray whales sighted this season has reached 424, we have also been seeing an increasing number of other baleen whales as well. To date we have seen 14 humpback whales and 2 blue whales for the 2015-16 season. While not uncommon off our coast, both species are not frequently spotted from the Marietta in winter. To give some perspective, during our regular whale watching season (which spans December through April each year), we spotted 11 humpback whales last season and only 2 the year before. Blue whales were an even more uncommon sight as we didn’t see any last season and only one the season before. In the case of humpback whales, they are similar to gray whales in that feeding and breeding drives migration. Like the gray whales, most northern hemisphere humpbacks feed in summer months in northern latitudes and breed in warmer tropical or subtropical waters during winter. Instead of being strictly coastal migrators like gray whales, north Pacific humpbacks may cross thousands of miles of open ocean to breed in Hawaii, Mexico, or Japan. Humpbacks are found throughout the world’s oceans and in both northern and southern hemisphere. […]

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Video: Sea Turtle Mystery Solved

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 1:36pm

Since its arrival at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in 2014, the sex of our Loggerhead Sea Turtle has been a mystery. Learn how we solved the puzzle with the help of a researcher who specializes in turtle hormone analysis.

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Whale Watching: Leaping to New Heights

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 2:17pm

Whale Watching Updates: We are nearing the 300-mark for Gray Whales sighted this season. Highlights this past week have included a pod of over 100 Common Dolphins and a Gray Whale double breach! That means two Gray Whales breached, or jumped with most of their bodies out of the water, at the same time. In the past 4 seasons we have only observed a double breach one other time in January 2014. Though seeing two whales breach in the same area at the same time is really just a lucky coincidence, scientists aren’t totally sure why whales breach in the first place. Part of it seems to be social and it may even be purely recreational. Some researchers have suggested maybe whales breach to discourage parasites. In any event, whale breaching is an awesome sight when you are able to witness it. Thanks to passenger Bob Bolsinger for sharing his beautiful pictures. Photography Tip: If you are lucky enough to see a whale breaching once, keep your camera ready. Though we never know for sure what these wild animals will do, whales often breach two or more times in succession. If your camera has an action setting, use that option on […]

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Photos: Fabulous Dolphins and Migrating Grays

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:49pm

Whale watching is in full swing as we passed the 200-mark in mid January for Gray Whales sighted. Mixed in the Gray Whale sightings we have already seen three mother and calf pairs. While these animals are on their way to the lagoons of Mexico to breed and give birth, it’s not unusual for females to give birth farther north, including off our coast in San Diego.  Dozens of Common and Pacific White-Sided Dolphins also made appearances this week. More acrobatic than Gray Whales, they are exciting to see riding the bow or wake of the Marietta.

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SEA Days: Whale Tales

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 2:43pm

Written by: Marissa Mangelli, Volunteer Programs Assistant Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft. If you have ever been lucky enough to see a pod of wild dolphins, their majestic and playful manner is a wonderful display. Without our primary sensory organs, our eyes we wouldn’t be able to marvel dolphins in the first place . As humans rely on eyesight to interpret their surroundings, a dolphins hearing is its number one tool to view the world! Dolphin sound scientist, Anne Simonis, joins us for this month’s SEA Days to share her research on dolphin acoustic ecology. Below, she answers a few questions about her background and what she will be sharing with us! Where did you go to school? Undergrad: Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN and Deakin University in Warrnambool, Australia Graduate: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA What is your area of research? I study […]

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