NOAA Day showcases agency’s work on environmental challenges

February 2018

On November 18th, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach hosted several NOAA agencies for the 11th Annual NOAA Day. This one-day event showcases how NOAA biologists, engineers, data scientists, oceanographers, meteorologists, and other public servants work in concert on our nation’s most challenging environmental issues.

NOAA volunteers included representatives from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, University of Southern California Sea Grant, NOAA Corps, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System.

Guests entering the aquarium passed through an outdoor corridor of artwork contributed by local high school students as part of the annual NOAA Day Art Contest. This year’s contest theme was “Rising Seas,” and an award ceremony later in the day recognized the winners. 

NOAA Day art contest entries outside the Aquarium of the Pacific

NOAA Day art contest entries at the entrance to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. CREDIT: Jim Milbury/NOAA Fisheries

NOAA art contest first prize winner along with her entry.

Left: NOAA Day Art Contest First Prize winner, Mona Submerged, by Hannah Rodrigues rethinks the classic portrait in a seagoing sense. Right: Eleventh grader Hannah holding her certificate as a diver in the aquarium's main tank shows a list of the winners. Credit: Jim Milbury/NOAA Fisheries

Beneath a life-size blue whale model suspended in the Aquarium’s great hall, NOAA staff mixed with the public, explained their work, gave demonstrations, and fielded questions.

“We had nearly 3,000 guests visit the aquarium throughout the day,” said Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries coordinator for the event. “The turnout was great as well as the discussions between the attendees and NOAA personnel.”

The West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network booth drew the largest crowd throughout the day as NOAA staff showed actual debris removed from live animals in the field. Visitors examined a buoy and line that had entangled a gray whale, fishing lures and lines removed from sea lions, and plastic debris ingested by sea turtles.

“When it comes to entanglement issues like these, if you’re a fisherman and you see turtles in the water, get your gear out of the water. Being a good steward as a fisherman is critical to preventing sea turtle and marine mammal deaths from entanglement,” said Justin Greenman, Marine Mammal Stranding Response Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

Aquaculture Coordinator Diane Windham emphasized the potential for growth in the United States aquaculture industry, pointing out that the U.S. is poised to be a global leader in sustainable aquaculture practices thanks to the extensive research and development we’ve invested thus far. Shellfish and kelp aquaculture in particular can help us fill production gaps and reverse the U.S. seafood trade deficit. Kelp and shellfish farms also help improve ocean water quality. Kelp helps sequester carbon dioxide and shellfish filter excess nutrients from ocean water.

View of hands serving sustainable seafood at NOAA Day

Servers help visitors to NOAA Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach sample different kinds of sustainably caught and prepared seafood. CREDIT: Jim Milbury/NOAA Fisheries

Linda Chilton from Sea Grant spent the day telling families and children about the most pressing invasive species crises in the country today. From quagga mussels in freshwater lakes to mitten crabs and rusty crawfish outcompeting their native counterparts, Chilton explained that we all play a role in preventing their spread through very simple measures such as draining bilge water and keeping watercraft clean.

NOAA employees speaking with kids at NOAA Day

Linda Chilton of University of Southern California Sea Grant shares materials with young visitors during a well-attended NOAA Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in November. CREDIT: Jim Milbury/NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries thanks the Aquarium of the Pacific for hosting NOAA Day yet again, and for helping support marine science education for younger generations. We are also grateful for our long-standing partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District, whose students competed in the NOAA Art Contest and produced many cherished works of art over the years. The artwork created through this collaboration conveys complex ecological and social issues around ocean science in ways that text reports often cannot.

“It was an amazing day,” said Milbury. “All of us, participants and guests, learned something about science and about the community that we serve.”

Home page photo: Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries