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Belugas, and penguins, and fur seals, oh my

August 9, 2010

What an incredible day!  Today was my day to do the beluga encounter, along with 6 others.  I’ve admired belugas for a long time, and I was spit on by one at the Vancouver Aquarium in the early 1990s, but today took the cake!  We put on waders, followed two incredible trainers out into the beluga exhibit at the Mystic Aquarium, and we were instantly turned into giggly 10-year-old kids!

At the first station, we worked with trainer Kim and Kela, a 29-year-old female beluga.  We each patted her tongue, used hand signals to have her make different vocalizations, and felt her teeth!  Then we moved over to work with trainer Kristina and Naku, another 29-year-old female.  This time, we got in the water with Kristina and Naku — we each got to pet her tongue, splash water in her face and get splashed in return, and touch her melon (which felt like a hard boiled egg)!  Most of us got very wet with the splashing, and we all were overwhelmed with the emotions of getting so close to such magnificent animals!

In addition, we learned about changes in migration and feeding patterns of caribou, harp seals, and belugas.  Belugas need cold water to survive, and with increased water temperatures in the Arctic, the belugas can overheat more easily.  They migrate to find food, and if their food items migrate differently, the belugas may have trouble finding the food and there may be additional competition from other species for that same food.

We left Mystic today and headed to Boston to the New England Aquarium.  Had a great tour of the facility and watched a fur seal training program with Jennifer Fiorino as one of the trainers’ helpers!  Tomorrow holds more wonder for us all — we’ll do a teacher workshop on right whales, and we’ll get more climate change information from the NEAQ education department.  And we’re going on a whale watch tomorrow afternoon!

We’re learning so much, and having such incredible experiences!  More sharing later!

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