Friday, September 3, 2010

The MERR Institute's bone yard

Dave Allen, Delaware Expedition

Since we had gotten to Lewes too late to see the rays the night before, we were anxious to check them and their holding tank out. I volunteered to ride in the back of the transport vehicle to prepare myself for the long trip home.

Rays holding tank

Unfortunately, I would have to wait to see the rays. The water in the holding tank and the nearby Delaware Bay was dark brown. Much of this color comes from sediment running from nearly 350 square miles of salt marshes into the bay.

Next door to the holding tank was the MERR Institute, a non-profit stranding response and rehabilitation organization that works with marine mammals and sea turtles.

The MERR Institute's bone yard. Like the New England Aquarium, they use biofacts—preserved animal parts—to help educate the public.

Biofacts don't magically appear white and clean. First they have to be prepared. Here MERR executive director Suzanne Thurman shows off her compost area where she uses manure to strip the bones clean of soft tissue.

Here two of our teen interns Libna (left) and Sheena (right) show off our impressive collection of biofacts. Biofacts like this sawfish rostrum and bull shark jaw allow visitors to physically interact with animals that are otherwise kept behind several inches of glass or acrylic.

Tomorrow we pack up our rays and head back to Boston. Better get to bed early because it's going to be an early morning.


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