Look who's borrowing the kiddie pool!

Usually the kiddie pools in our Northern fur seal exhibit are used for enrichment with the younger seals and pups, like this ice adventure with Leu:

But yesterday, Isaac decided to borrow one!

Looks like it's not quite deep enough for him to practice his speed swimming. This seems to be a first for Isaac. Occasionally Cordova the adult female fur seal would hop in there, but she's a much easier fit!

More about Isaac:


Seals in a Bubbly Wonderland

Instead of snow, there’s something else falling from the sky - - Bubbles!

Zoe, a California sea lion, and Kitovi (Kit), one of our young Northern Fur seals, are enjoying a Bubbly Wonderland!

You can see that Zoe prefers to catch the bubbles in her mouth and Kit who is just a few weeks old in this video just gazes at the bubbles falling from the sky.

Zoe and Sierra

Bubbles are just one of the many ways that we engage our seals and sea lions in enrichment.Check out some of the many ways we interact with our seals and sea lions through play from rain drops, jello, light reflections, ice toys . . . . the list is endless!

Be safe and have happy holidays everyone!!


Problem Solving Shenanigans with the Sea Lions

You may remember some of the shenanigans the California sea lions, Zoe and Sierra, got into last summer…see what mischief they are up to this time!

It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Watch what Zoe and Sierra do when they decide they want to fit a long pole through a doorway...

Whew, well done! Time for a nap.

Zoe and Sierra napping in the sun



Keeping things clean and comfy

So you want to be a marine mammal trainer? Indeed, it's an amazing privilege to interact with these clever, powerful and, yes, adorable animals. But it's not always seal smooches and high-fives. It takes a lot of work to keep the animals healthy, comfortable and clean.

And that job falls on the marine mammal trainers and volunteers!

Kim vacuums the bottom of the exhibit

Just like dog owners have to pick up after their dogs when they go the bathroom, the marine mammal trainers spend a lot of time cleaning up after the animals. That means balancing on rocks in the middle of the exhibit vacuuming the pool on a snowy day in Boston, like Kim here. The trainers also hose off the deck where the animals rest frequently. You might even see the trainers scuba dive with scrub brushes—even in the middle of winter!

But a healthy and clean exhibit makes for healthy and happy animals—so it's all worth it. The next time you visit to watch the frisky young fur seals racing through the water, take note of the trainer or volunteer quietly going about their business with a hose or vacuum. The trainers work hard maintaining the exhibit for the enjoyment of the animals and visitors alike!

Resting fur seals enjoying their clean and comfy exhibit


Fitness Friday: Playtime after the feasting

Since the feasts of Thanksgiving, many people are getting outside to work off that turkey and gravy today. Whether you're taking a stroll, hitting the gym, raking or playing an informal game of touch football, there are plenty of ways to get active.

Zoe paused just long enough for us to snap a picture. 

In fact, play is a great way for kids of all ages to move it! Take the sea lions, for example. Zoe and Sierra are almost always on the move, and they are indeed a playful pair. In honor of Fitness Friday this week, we thought we'd share just one of the ways these gals play.

Sprinkler time!

Zoe appears to love the way sprinklers and hoses feel in her mouth.

This picture shows how limber the sea lions are!   

Zoe comes right up to the glass when the sprinkler is on, giving visitors an up-close look at these powerfully playful marine mammals.

The sprinkler isn't always on in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. This activity is just a periodic form of enrichment that the marine mammal trainers use to keep the seals and sea lions active—both mentally and physically. Of course, we don't expect folks in the colder Northern climes to run outside to play in the sprinkler. But we hope you can get outside to play today—why don't you come see the sea lions play! And we hope it was a happy Thanksgiving for all our readers.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Hand- and flipper-made turkeys!

In the mammals department, a few of the trainers, interns and volunteers got together and made their own hand turkeys!  See if you can pick out the 'Flurkey'!  And just in case you missed Reggae’s flurkey (flipper-turkey) earlier this week, check that out here.

(Looks like someone is ready for a post-Thanksgiving nap!)

Sierra sleeping in the turtle pool!

Have a wonderful day!

– Marie


What's a Flurkey, you ask?

There are many traditions that go along with Thanksgiving. Some people have specific dishes they prepare each year, and others have specific activities or travel destinations. Last Thanksgiving, the seals received a fish feast!

The 2012 Thanksgiving feast—what's in store this year?

I’m sure many of you remember hand turkeys—tracing your own hand and coloring in the fingers. Hopefully more than a few of you made your own this year—everyone in the mammals department sure did! (Check back this Thursday to see a picture of all the hand turkeys the trainers and volunteers made!).

Here in the mammals department, we put a unique fishy spin on the idea: Flurkeys! Atlantic harbor seals do not have hands, but they have flippers! With the help from one of the trainers and some non-toxic water-based paint, Reggae, an Atlantic harbor seal here at NEAQ, made his own Flipper-Turkey: a FLURKEY!

 See how his flurkey measures up to a hand turkey.

Thanksgiving is also a time to remember everything we are thankful for. We are thankful for our amazing animals and for all of our visitors (first timers and returnees) who we get to share the aquarium experience with everyday.  Thank you!!!

 Happy Flurkey Day everyone! Eat lots and have a wonderful day.

The infinitely adorable Kit

— Marie


Flaherty butts in

When you have a youngster around, it's sometimes difficult to stay on schedule and get things done. When you have a curious young fur seal around, it's even more difficult. Watch as a training session with Ursula and Cordova gets derailed when a nosey Flaherty crashes the party.

Kids these days... Check out what Fitness Friday skill Cordova was working on during this training session before Flaherty interrupted.


See more of Flaherty and his antics:


Special visitor to the harbor seal exhibit

The World Series was a big deal for everyone in the marine mammal group—most everyone in Boston, really. Even Amelia and Isaac shared their team spirit. So you can imagine our excitement when we invited a member of the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox into the harbor seal exhibit!

Shortstop Stephen Drew poses for a picture with trainers and volunteers 

Stephen Drew and his family joined us to meet some of the harbor seals, learn about these animals and observe some of their skills. Reggae really showed off his flipper-to-eye coordination and leaping abilities when he congratulated the shortstop for his successes on the playing field. Just watch.

Way to Reggae and Boston Red Sox!


Congratulations to the home team!

Isaac may have been born at the Seattle Aquarium, but he's a strong, proud Bostonian now. And he's showing a little pride for the home team today—with some help from the trainers.

Congratulations to the World Champion Boston Red Sox! Enjoy your well-deserved victory parade today. If you're in the city for the parade, hop on over to the Aquarium and say hello to Isaac—one of the largest members of Red Sox nation.


Fitness Friday: Cordova shows off

We often talk about how athletic and graceful Northern fur seals are during Fitness Friday presentations, and here's some proof. Check out this video of Cordova showing off her flipperstand during a session at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

And if you think Cordova's flipperstand is impressive, just wait until you see Isaac's!

Besides her exemplary flipperstand, Cordova can also be distinguished by her long whiskers!

Those are some impressive whiskers!


Bobbing for Pumpkins

There are lots of activities we associate with Fall—apple picking, traversing corn mazes, picking out the perfect pumpkin, eating apple cider donuts, spending hours perfecting your jelly costume. The list goes on and on. 

Now for our California sea lionsZoe and Sierra, they found their own fall festivities to enjoy. Instead of bobbing for apples, they bob for pumpkins.

Did you notice how Zoe and Sierra use their noses, whiskers and mouths to play with a pumpkin!

Happy Halloween!


Halloween greetings from the sea lions!


Feels a little like Fall

The leaves are changing color.  The air is crisp.  It’s definitely fall in New England!

A refreshing breeze blew a couple leaves into the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center with our Northern fur seals and California sea lions. Zoe, a California sea lion, immediately found the perfect new toy. Check out Zoe playing with a leave she found in her exhibit!

Happy Fall everyone!


Learn more about Zoe and her favorite playmate, Sierra:


Exploring the Exhibit with Kit

Kitovi the Northern fur seal isn't even two months old yet, and she's already on the move! After her bashful public debut, some lucky visitors to the Aquarium's open-air exhibit can now see this energetic pup splashing about the public side of the marine mammal center. She spends time swimming, grooming and exploring the main exhibit with all the other seals.

When you see her next to adults (like her mum Ursula below), you can tell Kit still has a lot of growing to do. So she spends a lot of time behind the scenes with her Ursula, feeding and playing and learning how to be a fur seal. You might also catch her nursing (more on that later).

But for the lucky folks that get to Kitovi in the main exhibit, it's a real treat to see her on move. Here's a look at Kitovi in the pool, on the rocks and on the deck. You can bet Ursula is never far—what a good mom!

Kit was born in August and she's definitely made her mark in the media. Check out some of the deliciously cute pictures of her growing up!


Welcoming Committee: Interacting with the Harbor Seals

The first animals visitors see during a trip to the Aquarium is usually the harbor seals. Their outdoor exhibit on the front plaza lets you get within inches of these plump pinnipeds to watch them bask on flat rocks, bob or glide through the water. It's such a thrill watching people—young and old—light up when they see the seals' faces, especially when the seals interact through the glass.

A recent visitor shared this image of his daughter going nose-to-nose with Chacoda. Will you look at the delight on her face?! Thank you for sharing your picture, Bill Woods.

A young visitor interacts with Chacoda | Photo: Bill Woods

Chacoda is from our family of spotted seals. He's known for his painting masterpieces, clean teeth and his sporting prowess. But what really gets people's attention is his voice. Listen to him cheer for the Patriots. In fact, you can even download a Chacoda ringtone—no joke!

Come by the Aquarium this weekend and see if the seals want to interact through the glass. Want to get even closer to a seal? Like, in the water with a seal? Consider our Take a Dip with a Seal programs with the fur and harbor seals! Before the weather turns cold for good, don waders for one of these incredible interactive experiences. Get a front-row seat as a trainer teaches new skills, feel the seal's belly fur, maybe even get a kiss.


Sweet dreams!

Sometimes you just need a good nap.

Zoe and Sierra, two California sea lions at the New England Aquarium are doing just that.  When the sea lions are tuckered out from their shenanigans, you can sometimes see them cuddled up taking a snooze.  This is exactly how we found them yesterday afternoon right after lunch!

Sweet dreams!


Come visit the seals and sea lions in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center
Buy tickets online and print them out before you come.


Recorded Friday Fur Seal Pup Hangout!

We started the weekend with this behind-the-scenes look at the newest addition to the Aquarium--Kitovi the Northern fur seal pup. She is only 2-weeks-old and she will not be on exhibit until later this fall, so this sneak peek is your first opportunity to see her up close and interact with the Aquarium's trainers.

Who's speaking?
Marine Mammal Trainer Patty Schilling was on hand with the newborn pup to give you an update on her progress and describe the behaviors you see. Patty joined a recent expedition to the fur seal colony on St. Paul Island near Alaska. Check out all of her expedition posts and watch her Aquarium lecture on the subject.

 More video

Visit the rest of the family!
This little one might not be on exhibit yet, but after you see her in the Hangout, you can come congratulate her father, Isaac. He's the largest seal in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. Grab your tickets online and print them out before you come!

More Aquarium hangouts
Google+ Hangouts on Air are a great way to connect with the Aquarium no matter where you are around the world. Not only can you watch live and ask questions as we share information about the blue planet, but after each event the video is saved to our YouTube channel and embedded on our blogs so you can access it any time.

Connect with the Aquarium on Google+ to be the first to know about these events and be sure to check out these previous Hangouts on Air:

Member Hangout with the Penguins
Aquarium members were invited to have a behind-the-scenes peek at the Aquarium's penguin colony during the recent renovation project. Now, the recorded video is up for everyone to enjoy.

Predicting Climate Change Lecture Hangout on Air 
Predicting Climate Change Lecture
The New England Aquarium was pleased to welcome the MIT Lorenz Center's John Carlson Lecture to the Simons The speaker is Professor Timothy Palmer of the Royal Society of Research.


Lunch Break with the Sea Turtles
Visit with some rescued and recovering sea turtles at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center and learn about sea turtle rescue from the Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team.

Climate Change Education Activity Hangout on AirClimate Change Education Activity
Join students from around the country as they learn about carbon sources and sinks. The interactive activity is designed to explain the carbon cycle and the imbalance in the carbon cycle.

Cooking Demo with Chef Barbara LynchCooking Demo with Chef Barbara Lynch
Make some delicious nudi with a world renowned chef and the Aquarium's culinary partner, Barbara Lynch. It's a quick family friendly recipe that'll be ready in minutes.


It's a girl!

See the playful pup during a Google+ Hangout on Air back in 2013.

It's been just over a week since we shared the happy news about Ursula and Isaac's adorable pup, and we have even more exciting news to share this week: It's a girl!

That face!

All the trainers wanted to give mom and baby some space after the birth so the pair could bond and rest. After a couple days, the trainers did a closer examination on the pup and determined her sex. She's also tipping the scales at 11 pounds now! The pup continues to nurse, call and grow stronger every day in her cozy behind-the-scenes space she shares with Ursula. 

Ursula continues to be a great mom. She's eating well and teaching her little girl all about being a fur seal.

The pup does not have a name just yet. But you can bet the little one will have a name soon! Be sure to check back often to watch this little one grow.

Notice that little patch of white fur at the base of the pup's flipper—it's a sweet little birth mark!  

See Kitovi at the Marine Mammal Center with her mom, Ursula. Pick up your tickets online. You'll be watching the fur seals and sea lions splash it up in no time.

And relive the a splash the pup made online! We've been getting well-wishes from all over the world. And that cute little mug has been making the rounds online. Here a smattering of media coverage about the pup:
ABC's Good Morning America


Take a dip with a seal!

These baking hot summer days call for a dip in some refreshing, cool water. Well, what if we said you could take a tip in a seal's pool at the New England Aquarium, and meet a seal face to face?

Take a look, you'll see what we're talking about.


The Take a Dip with the Seals program is a terrific way to interact with these popular and friendly animals. Kneel in the shallows of the marine mammal center and get to know one of the fur seals, some of the rarest marine mammals found in North American zoos and aquariums. Or you can choose to get to know a harbor seal in their own exhibit on the front plaza. Now there's an opportunity that you'll high-five your friends about!

Some visitors may get to high-five a harbor seal! 


Happy Birthday Isaac!

To celebrate Isaac's 13th birthday, everyone who came out to watch his show on Sunday sang to him! I think he enjoyed the sentiment and thanks you all for the ditty...

There have been a couple of other birthday bashes recently, too. Flaherty just turned 1 year old! Check out his party here. And check out the harbor seals' seal-abration.



Birthday Seal-ebration!

Most Atlantic harbor seals are born in May and June. At the New England Aquarium, the trainers like to help the seals celebrate the o-fish-al birthday season. These special occasions only come around once a year so it’s a big celebration for our six Atlantic harbor seals!

An ice toy layer cake for Reggae!

You may think we celebrate in a slightly unconventional way, but for seals, it’s a party! In lieu of birthday cake and icing, we concoct tasty fish surprises for our aquatic mammals.

Heart shaped ice toy surprise for Trumpet!
This year we chose a different way to celebrate for each Harbor seal. Check out some of the ways we celebrated.

Happy Birthday everyone!!




Catch me if you can. . .

Each seal here at the New England Aquarium has its own personality. Some are more curious than others and some seem to enjoy exploring new places.

The fur seals in the marine mammal center all have very distinct personalities.

This sense of adventure can sometimes lead to interesting situations.

Leu, a two year old juvenile Northern Fur seal, likes to play with jello, snow and his fellow juvenile Flaherty.  Here, Leu gets into his own brand of mischief when he sneaks behind the scenes…

Thankfully, Leu gave us the dive mask back after showing off his find to Sierra, one of our California sea lions.



Isaac's First Father's Day

Isaac got already got a little shout-out on the News Blog for Father's Day. This is how the trainers celebrated with the big guy at the marine mammal center.

We were all very excited to celebrate Father's day with Isaac, but no one was more excited than his son Flaherty. Being new to gift giving, Flaherty couldn't decide on what to get his old man, so we suggested a couple of things: a traditional tie and a beautiful bouquet of fresh herring.

As Flaherty anxiously watched his dad choose his favorite of the two and after careful consideration, it was obvious which gift he thought was best.

Hope all you dads had a Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there and a very special shout out to first timers like Isaac!



Self Reflection Time

A big part of any trainers' day is making sure that we enrich the lives of all the animals in our care. For those of you who follow our blog often, or have seen our animals playing on exhibit, you know that enrichment can take many forms. Whether it's ice cubes, toys, or simply playing in hose spray, the possibilities are endless. 

Recently, we added an acrylic mirror to this list. It's fun to see how different animals react to their own reflections. Watch as Northern fur seals Leu, Cordova and even Flaherty take a peek in the mirror!

Do they know they are looking at themselves? Do they think it's another animal? You decide.


A restful sound for Mother's Day

Ursula makes this soothing sound when feeling zen and calm.  She has been heard "clicking" when resting on land and when nursing her pup, Flaherty.  Listen carefully...



Fitness Friday Goes Mental

Usually when you hear the word "fitness," being physically fit is what comes to mind. Not only is it important for our marine mammals to stay in shape physically, but here at New England Aquarium, it's our job to make sure our furry friends stay in shape mentally as well. How do we do that? One way is through training new behaviors. Our training sessions often give our animals a mental workout by providing them with puzzles to solve.

A great example of a behavior that does this is something we call "innovative" training. Here's how it works. The trainer gives the animal a hand signal that basically means: do whatever you want to do this time. There's only one rule to this fun exercise. In order to get a reward, the animal needs to think of something different to do each time. This is one of my favorite types of training sessions because it shows just how creative these marine mammals can be!

Don't miss this video of Amelia, an Atlantic harbor seal, getting a mental workout!

Our harbor seals aren't the only ones that can be creative. Click the video below to see Isaac, a Northern Fur Seal, stretch his imagination!


Fitness Friday: Marathon High Fives!

The Boston Marathon is right around the corner, and the Aquarium's marathon team is gearing up for race day. Besides five months of training runs, there's another key skill needed to survive the 26.2 mile chute to Copley Square—high fives! Thousands of spectators turn out on the race course and that's a lot of hands to slap.

Fortunately Reggae the harbor seal is happy to help sisters Jocelyn and Justine Lescarbeau train for this. Watch Reggae as he leaps out of the water to give each sister a high five. (You might remember this sporty seal from his speed swim a while back...)

Reggae's high five is just one of the skills that he's learned while working with the trainers. These exercises help him stay fit physically and mentally.

The Aquarium's harbor seals are quite athletic, watch this guy spring out of the water!

Don't miss last year's marathon post with video of how harbor seals and fur seals get around. Hooray, runners!


Splashing into Spring

Here at the New England Aquarium the Atlantic harbor seals are ready for Spring! Reggae can barely contain his excitment for the coming warm weather. It's been a long and snowy winter! Check out Reggae's flashy speed swim. Look closely at the beginning and you can see him practically launch himself out of the water he's so excited.

In the wild, swimming fast is important to avoid predators and to move around quickly. He certainly can swim fast! Reggae also shows how quickly harbor seals can turn and maneuver in the water. 

Check out some other speed swimming seals, and speaking of launching out of the water!

Happy Spring!


Fitness Friday: Making the Leap

At the Aquarium's New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, Sierra the California sea lion has been practicing her porpoising skills, and she's getting pretty good.

Check out her moves in the video below.

See Sierra loll about in a spray of water, play in the snow (remember that stuff?) and play with a garden hose.


Fitness Friday: There's always room for ...

JELL-O! Check out Leu as he enjoys a game of catch with some solid pieces of gelatin. Stay tuned for another blog showing our sea lions joining in on the fun as well!



Fur Seal Nap: With this thick fur, any surface is comfy.

Why would I get in the water when there’s a perfectly nice spot right here? This photo shows Isaac the Northern fur seal getting some quality time snoozing on the deck on a chilly February afternoon.

 You might notice that he's tucked into a giant pear shape. Those tucked flippers indicate the seal is trying to conserve heat. Splayed flippers, particularly spreading the webbing of the hind flippers indicates a seal is trying to dissipate heat. So, changing a flipper position helps Isaac maintain a consistent core temperature.

He does this more often when he's molting in the summer.


Northern fur seals - perfectly adapted for snow

A winter full of snow storms... and we’re all set here at the Aquarium! With their thick fur coats, Northern fur seals are perfectly adapted for cold weather. Check out how the seals and their trainers faired during Winter Storm Nemo.

A thick layer of snow covering everything in sight!

Not a problem, Roxie, Ursula and Cordova did not let these frosty conditions interfere with their lunch.

Those snow drifts are bigger than 7 month old Flaherty!

Snow angels!  (those silly trainers)

Looks like the seals had fun in the snow!  How do you play in the snow?