EXCITING HANDS-ON ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS ON LONG ISLAND SOUND THIS SUMMER

Oceanic Research Vessel
Oceanic Research Vessel

Go aboard The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s research vessel this summer to journey out onto Long Island Sound and discover first-hand “what’s down there?”

The Aquarium’s hands-on Marine Life Study Cruises offers exciting introductions to fish, crabs, skates and other animals brought up right out of the water and onto the research vessel Oceanic for examination.

The study cruises will depart on Saturdays at 1 p.m. through June 29 and will push off at 1 p.m. daily in July and August.

“Before people can be inspired to take actions to preserve and protect Long Island Sound, they first must understand what animals are in the Sound and how complex, diverse and alive this marine environment is,” said Jamie Alonzo, the Aquarium’s director of education. “Our best exhibits within the Aquarium can’t top the immediacy and impact of seeing dozens of animals come up out of the water right in front of your eyes.”

During each 21/2-hour Marine Life Study Cruise, animals are brought onboard from different water levels and bottom habitats of the Sound. A video microscope provides a magnified look at wriggly plankton gathered at the sunlit surface. Tiny crabs and worms emerge from a sampling of the anaerobic muddy bottom. A biodredge reveals a hidden world of sponges, snails and mollusks. And everyone inspects the trawl net’s bounty: varieties of fish and crabs, skates, lobsters, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic
Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic

Maritime Aquarium educators involve participants in the processes, from sorting through samples to helping to pull in the trawl net and returning animals to the water.

Besides being fun and eye-opening, Marine Life Study Cruises also contribute to local scientific research. Water-chemistry and weather readings are taken. And details about the animals brought onboard are entered into the Aquarium’s Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, a database of physical and biological features available online to teachers and researchers.

Also during the study cruises, as part of a Horseshoe Crab Census conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, The Maritime Aquarium tags and records data about all horseshoe crabs collected.

“Boat rides are always great for some family fun, but the animal encounters and learning opportunities make our study cruises even more memorable,” Alonzo said.

Cost of a Marine Life Study Cruise is $20.50 per person ($18.50 for Maritime Aquarium members). All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.

Reservations are strongly recommended; walk-up tickets will be sold space permitting. The Oceanic can accommodate 29 passengers.

Marine Life Study Cruises also are available for weekday charters for schools on field trips, summer camps, Scouts and other groups at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cruises depart from the dock near the Aquarium’s IMAX Theater entrance.

To reserve your spot on a Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise or for more details, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. For area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

African Penguins Return to Maritime Aquarium At Norwalk through April 22

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is bringing back one of the most popular species it’s ever displayed: African penguins, who will waddle in for a celebratory encore exhibit through April 22, 2013.

Aquar.AfricanPenguin

African Penguins” will be open through April 22 in an outdoor exhibit on the Aquarium’s riverfront courtyard. It’s free with admission. The small colony of penguins will be on loan from the Leo Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich (www.LEOzoo.org).

Educating visitors on where penguins live may be one of the first basic goals of the exhibit. None of them live at the North Pole, or with Eskimos or polar bears. Some species do live in Antarctica. But many penguins can be found in warmer climates of the southern hemisphere, like African penguins in South Africa and several species that live up the western coast of South America, all the way to the equator and the Galapagos Islands. The African penguins – whose conservation status is listed as endangered – will help call attention to Africa’s troubled coastal environments, which receive far less conservation protection than the continent’s inland savannahs, plains and jungles.

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) stand about two feet tall and weigh 8 pounds. They’re recognizable by the black stripe that loops up across their chest and their pink “eyebrows.” The pink “eyebrows” actually are an adaptation that helps them to survive in a warmer habitat like South Africa – or Norwalk. The “eyebrows” are featherless patches with lots of blood vessels underneath. When a penguin gets too hot, these patches get brighter as the penguin circulates more blood there to dissipate body heat.

African penguins also have evolved shorter feathers because, unlike Antarctic species, they do not face extreme cold.

The previous penguins exhibit at the Aquarium was open from February 2009-December 2010. For more details about The Maritime Aquarium’s exhibits, programs and IMAX movies, go to http://www.maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700.

Study Cruises at Maritime Aquarium Opens Through June 20

Oceanic Research Vessel

Share a memorable boat ride with crabs, fish, lobsters and other creatures brought up right out of Long Island Sound right before your eyes in a new season of hands-on study cruises with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

The Aquarium’s exciting Marine Life Study Cruises will depart on Saturdays at 1 p.m. through June 30. They’ll push off at 1 p.m. daily in July and August.

The recent ‘FINtastic RefurbFISHment,’at The Maritime Aquarium’s exhibits are devoted to teaching visitors about Long Island Sound. The best exhibits can’t top the immediacy and impact when study-cruise participants see these animals come up onto the boat right in front of them.

During each 21/2-hour Marine Life Study Cruise aboard the research vessel Oceanic, animals are collected from different water levels and bottom habitats of the Sound. A video microscope provides a magnified look at wriggly plankton gathered at the sunlit surface. Tiny crabs and worms emerge from a sampling of the anaerobic muddy bottom. A biodredge reveals a hidden world of sponges, snails and mollusks. And everyone inspects the trawl net’s bounty – varieties of fish and crabs, lobsters, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

The outings are much more than a boat ride. Maritime Aquarium educators involve participants in the processes, from sorting through samples to helping to pull in the trawl net and returning animals to the water. These animal encounters have immediate and incredible value in showing participants that the Sound is very much alive and worthy of protection.

Besides being fun and eye-opening, Marine Life Study Cruises also contribute to local scientific research. Water-chemistry and weather readings are taken. And details about the animals brought onboard are entered into the Aquarium’s Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, a database on the physical and biological features of the Sound. The database, available online for teachers and researchers, will reveal any changes in the Sound over time.

Also during the study cruises, as part of a Horseshoe Crab Census conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, The Maritime Aquarium tags and records data about all horseshoe crabs collected.

Cost of a Marine Life Study Cruise is $20.50 per person ($18.50 for Maritime Aquarium members). All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.

Reservations are strongly recommended; walk-up tickets will be sold space permitting. The Oceanic can accommodate 29 passengers.

Marine Life Study Cruises also are available for private weekday charters for schools, summer camps, Scouts and other groups at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cruises depart from the dock near the Aquarium’s IMAX Theater entrance.

To reserve your spot on a Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise, or for more details, call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.

T-Rex Extinctions Imminent Again With “Dinosaur Summer” Ending Sept. 5 At The Maritime Aquarium At Norwalk

Dinosaurs are about to go extinct again, with only a few days left to enjoy the “Dinosaur Summer” exhibit at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

It may have been a comet that did in the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but it’s the looming end of a contractual lease that will doom the Aquarium’s life-sized moving roaring robotic beasts, which include a young and adult Tyrannosaurus rex.

“The exhibit will definitely become extinct at the end of the day Sept. 5 – Labor Day,” said Chris Loynd, the Aquarium’s marketing director. “We’ll miss them. They’ve been very popular with our visitors, especially with kids, who have been able to compare their world with what it was like to be a young dinosaur growing up.”

The robotic exhibit delves into how quickly young dinosaurs grew, how big they got, what they ate and how they were protected from danger. It explores these concepts by pairing young and adult dinosaurs of four species: Stegosaurus, with the line of bony plates across their backs; the long-necked Apatosaurus; the crested Parasaurolophus; and Tyrannosaurus rex (no introduction needed).

The dinosaurs move, roar – even blink their eyes – in realistic fashion. But they’re fully lighted – not dark and scary – in an educational dinosaur exhibit fit for even the youngest visitor. An extra “cut-away” T-rex offers a peek inside a robotic dinosaur, so kids can see how it works and even control it. And an outdoor “fossil dig” has been entertaining budding paleontologists.

The exhibit is presented by Purdue Pharma L.P.

“Dinosaur Summer” is free with paid Aquarium admission, which is $12.95 for adults, $11.95 for seniors 65+, and $9.95 for children 2-12.

“Dinosaur Summer” opened June 18 as part of a summer-long dinosaur triple play that also includes the IMAX movie “T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous” (showing at noon & 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 31, then at noon daily from Sept. 1-5) and the simulator ride-film “Dino Island II: Escape from Dinosaur Island” (running every 10 minutes daily). The IMAX movie and the ride-film both also close on Labor Day.

“T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous” is a fictional tale of a teen-ager magically transported back through time, where she meets famous dinosaur experts doing field research and eventually ends up 65 million years in the past. She – and audiences – encounter Pteranodons with 20-foot wingspans, duck-billed Hadrosaurs and and one miffed T-rex momma, rendered in incredible detail on the giant IMAX® screen.

Tickets for the Aquarium (including the dinosaur exhibit) and an IMAX movie are $19.45 for adults, $17.95 for seniors 65+ and $14.45 children for 2-12.

And in the rollicking simulator ride-film, “Dino Island II: Escape from Dinosaur Island,” riders join an international team of scientists trying to save prehistoric animals from an island about to be destroyed by a volcano. From within an all-terrain/submersible vehicle, the team must deal with flowing lava, an angry Stegosaurus, a primordial swamp and Tony the T-rex.

The ride-film runs every 10 minutes. Riders must be 36 inches tall to board.

Tickets for the Aquarium (including the dinosaur exhibit) and ride-film are $19.20 adults, $18.20 for seniors 65+ and $16.20 children 2-12. Maritime Aquarium members pay $4.50.

For the full “Dinosaur Summer” triple play (Aquarium with dinosaur exhibit, IMAX and ride-film), tickets are $24.45 for adults, $22.95 for seniors 65+ and $19.45 for children 2-12.

For more information about The Maritime Aquarium’s exhibits, IMAX movies and programs this summer, go online to http://www.MaritimeAquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700.