Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Transporting cownose rays

Guénäelle Rubin, Delaware Expedition

Transporting 30 cownose rays is as easy as it sounds.

The first step was to haul a holding tank onto a fishing boat in Cambridge, Maryland, then catch the rays and place them into the tank. Lucky for us, the fishermen whose boat we were on have generations of experience catching and hauling fish, so we had plenty of help and good company for this first step. When the fishermen pulled up the weir net, about 40 rays splashed the water with their wings. As we had only expected to see maybe 9 or 10 in the net, it was an amazing site to see.

Here, a cownose ray is being placed into the tank. The lid, which looks like a slice of swiss cheese, is there to prevent the rays from jumping out of the tank and hurting themselves.

Chris D. checks the oxygen level of the tank.

Once the fishermen checked all their nets and collected buckets of menhaden and blue crabs, it was time to return to shore. The rays were carefully transported 2 by 2 into a larger holding tank in NEAq’s box truck.

I sat in the back of the truck for a portion of the 2 hour drive and learned how challenging it can be to continually monitor the oxygen levels of the tank all while convincing myself that motion sickness does not exist.

The inside of the truck has no windows and therefore no way to hold my gaze on a green calming landscape. Just a loud rattling noise and the splish-splashing of tank water can confirm that we must, in fact, be on some kind of road. Luckily, aquarist Chris was there to manage the care of the tank!

We finally arrived in Lewes, Delaware to transport the rays into a large holding tank.

This is where the rays will stay until we are ready to make the long haul back home to Boston.

The duration of this drive is expected to be about 10 hours, if all goes smoothly.
During this time, aquarists take turns riding inside the box truck and monitoring the holding tank for pH, ammonia and oxygen levels. These tests are done constantly throughout the drive so there is no time for "punch buggy" or Mad Libs.

Megan and I need to return to the Aquarium before the cownose ray transportation mission is complete. However, Dave Allen, another fellow educator at the New England Aquarium, will be coming down to Maryland to help with the transport of the rays. Stay tuned for Dave’s cownose ray blogging adventures!

Until next time…

-Guénäelle (excited about notebooks and hotels)

- Megan (enjoying a yummy hometown Maryland meal with Dave W. and Chris P.)

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