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The Beginning…

August 15, 2011

I woke up this morning and looked at the green glow of my alarm clock.  It read 2:56 am and was set to go off in 4 minutes.  I figured I might as well get up and start the day.  It wasn’t very hard to get going despite the early hour.  For today I was heading to  Raleigh for the first leg of the Marine Mammal Institute adventure; an experience that was going to take me up the East Coast visiting aquariums and museums with a focus on marine mammals and how climate change is impacting these amazing animals.

18 educators from North and South Carolina met at Prairie Ridge, packed the bus, and headed down the road, full of anticipation and excitement!  Little did we know that excitement was right around the corner…or rather a bend in the highway.  Our fearless driver, Martha, executed a smooth maneuver and pulled the bus onto the shoulder of the road after the front left tire burst.  The tire was replaced, and we were on the road again. Unfortunately we missed our visit to the NC Aquarium on  Roanoke Island, but we did get to stop at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head for a quick tour and lunch.

Jennette’s Pier was first opened in 1939 by Warren H. Jennette, Sr. and the Jennette Brothers.  It was purchased by the NC Aquarium Society right before Hurricane Isabel blew through the Outer Banks in 2003.  The Aquarium transformed this 1,000-foot-long concrete pier into a top notch fishing pier, education center and LEED certified structure.  During our tour, it was obvious to us that fishermen and beach-goers love the pier.  What an amazing educational tool for fishery information, ocean studies and green technology.  Panels on the pier provided information on catch and creel limits, local fish species identification, ocean currents circulation and how the three wind turbines on the pier generate electricity.

Following our visit to Jennette’s Pier, we headed back to the bus and down the road to the Virginia Aquarium where we were met by Susan Barco, who heads up the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program and Team.  The program’s mission is all about response, research and rehabilitation of marine mammals that are stranded along our coast.  Susan was a wealth of information on stranding trends, species identification studies, human interaction issues, etc.  Also, that evening the stranding team was in the process of locating a whale that had been sighted and seemed to be in distress.   More details on that later!

The day ended at the Double Tree Hotel in Virginia Beach.  What a day it had been, and it was only the beginning!

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