A watershed is an area where all the water that falls onto the land will flow off the land and be stored into a large body of water like our bay. The water that falls into the watershed flows from the highest peaks like mountains down towards the Bay which is the lowest point in the watershed. As water falls on top of a mountain peak, it will drain down either side of the mountain and drain into different watersheds. No matter where you are, you are always in a watershed.
As water falls into our watershed the water can flow directly into the bay through rivers and streams or it can fall on the land. Rain that falls on the land can be absorbed by pervious or absorbent surfaces like soil, grass, and plants. Water absorbed by plants becomes a part of groundwater that will slowly move into the bay. When rain falls on impervious surfaces or areas that can’t absorb water (parking lots, roads, buildings) the water is quickly funneled into storm drains that can be overwhelmed and cause flooding.
Narragansett Bay Facts:
- Narragansett Bay is a body of water that is 196 square miles, the Narragansett Bay Watershed is 1,705 square miles.
- ~ 40% of the Narragansett Bay watershed is in Rhode Island, with over 60% of the watershed in Massachusetts. The Watershed is home to 1.95 million people.
- There are 3,578 miles of rivers and streams that carry water into the Bay. The Narragansett Bay watershed includes 4 river basins: the Taunton, Blackstone, Pawtuxet, and Coastal Narragansett .
- Narragansett Bay has 3,321 acres of salt marsh.
- Narragansett Bay has 513 acres of seagrass.
The Bay’s coastline is more than 560 miles long with more than 30 islands in the Bay; the three largest islands are Aquidneck, Conanicut, and Prudence Island.
Narragansett Bay is an estuary. Estuaries are areas that are partially enclosed where fresh and saltwater meet and mix to create brackish water. Estuaries like Narragansett Bay are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Many animals rely on estuaries for food, habitats, places to breed, and migration stops.
Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and salt water. Narragansett Bay receives fresh water from its three main river basins (Taunton, Blackstone, and Pawtuxet) and salt water enters the Bay from the Rhode Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean.
Pollution is anything that enters our environment that has a negative impact. Examples of pollution include litter, sewage, fertilizers and pesticides. Pollution can enter our Bay through point-source pollution and nonpoint-source pollution. Point-source pollution happens when pollution is dumped directly into the Bay and we know exactly where it comes from. Nonpoint-source pollution occurs when pollution comes from many different places and it’s hard to identify the source of the problem. An example of nonpoint source pollution is stormwater runoff.
Stormwater runoff is the water that enters our Bay during intense storms and heavy rainfall. The water that falls onto our watershed during these storms will rush across the land and pick up any pollutants that are on the ground and carry them into our bay. This is a big issue for many cities that have lots of impervious surfaces such as roads, buildings, and parking lots that can not absorb water. These impervious surfaces can send water to streams and storm drains very quickly where they could cause flooding.
- Litter. When we look outside along our streets, buildings, and parks we often find a number of different types of litter that has been left behind. Most common litter items include plastic bags and wrappers, aluminum cans and cigarette butts.This litter will not break down for many years and instead will be carried into our Bay.
- Fertilizers. We add these extra nutrients to our lawns, gardens, and farms to help our plants grow. However sometimes we add too much and our plants do not absorb the excess. The extra fertilizer can be washed away by rain storms and enter our bay.
- Pet Waste. As we walk our pets, it’s important to pick up after them because their waste contains harmful bacteria that will eventually end up in our Bay and could hurt the health of our water.
- Septic systems. Many homes within our watershed use septic systems that remove the harmful bacteria from our waste. However, septic systems don’t always remove all the nutrients and these extra nutrients can leak into our groundwater and flow into the Bay.
- Pesticides. These common chemicals can be overapplied to our lawns, gardens, golf courses, and farms. Similar to fertilizers, we often add too much. The best practice is to follow the directions and never apply before a rainstorm to ensure your plants have the opportunity to absorb everything they need.
- Oil and gas. These may be washed by stormwater runoff along the street, gas stations, or driveways. Leaky cars can have a large impact on the amount of oil and gas that enter our watershed and Bay.
- Household chemicals such as cleaners, batteries, and paints. Never pour these down your drains since wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to remove toxic chemicals from wastewater. We want to make sure chemicals such as these are properly disposed of or dropped off at local recycling centers.
- Road salt. This is a common practice to keep our roads safe in the winter from ice and snow. However, it is still a chemical that could have negative impacts on our Bay and we want to make sure it is used in correct amounts.
Overall there are many small sources of pollution that enter our Bay through stormwater runoff but together they can add up to have a big impact on the health of our bay.
The addition to extra nutrients such as fertilizers, pet waste, and septic systems can lead to Eutrophication. Eutrophication is what happens when we add a lot of nutrients to our bay. Just like plants on land, as we add nutrients the plants and algae in our bay will grow. As these plants grow they can block out sunlight for the plants on the bottom of the bay which will cause them to die. As more algae dies, the bacteria in the water begin to decompose or break down the plants. This process of decomposition uses up lots of the dissolved oxygen and creates dead zones where fish, shellfish, and other animals in the bay can not breathe.
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic about the size of a sesame seed that pollute the environment. Some microplastics were made this way such as microbeads that were found in face washes, the microfibers that make up some of our polyester clothes, or nurdles which are the tiny beads that are melted down and used to create many plastic materials we use everyday. Other microplastics were created by larger pieces of plastics like bottles, bags, and straws breaking down through sun exposure, wave action, and animal interaction.
Microplastics are often mistaken as food and ingested by marine animals of all sizes, from tiny plankton to huge whales. As animals consume microplastics they can give the animal a false sense of fullness, preventing them from eating the food and nutrients they need. These microplastics could harm their digestion, growth rate, reproduction, and behavior.
Not only are plastics indigestible, but they may also be toxic to the animals that consume them. Some plastics are toxic, like BPA, and other plastics are absorbent and take in additional toxins from the water column. Once ingested, the toxins are introduced into the marine food web where they can impact more wildlife. Marine organisms at the base of the food chain such as plankton and small fish larvae are known to consume microplastics as well as filter feeders like oysters, mussels, and clams.
A habitat is a scientific term describing a plant or an animal’s home. In order for an organism to survive successfully in a habitat it needs five basic essentials:
Narragansett Bay has a wide variety of habitats and the four most common that we are going to focus on include:
Beaches are habitats where the Bay meets the land and the land is covered by sand. This sand is created mostly from broken down pieces of rocks and shells. It is a difficult place for animals to live because it is so windy, wavy and constantly exposed to sunlight. Creatures are adapted at hiding and burying in the sand to try to protect themselves from these elements.
The most common animals you will find living in this habitat include worms, crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, isopods), mollusks (clams, whelks) and shorebirds (gulls, plovers, oystercatchers)
Beaches provide important coastal recreational areas for many people. Beaches also serve as buffer zones or shock absorbers that protect the coastline and sand dunes from direct wave attack.
Rocky shore ecosystems are coastal shores made from solid rock. Rocky shores are characterized by the life that lives in the intertidal zone, the area between the high tide and low tide water levels. Ecosystems on rocky shores have groups of different species across the intertidal zone. Some organisms can withstand being exposed to the sun for most of the day and live in the upper parts of the rocky shore. Other organisms need to be covered by the tide for most of the day and are only found lower on the rocky shore.
The most common organisms that live in this habitat are mollusks (mussels, oysters, snails), crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, barnacles), echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins), algae, shorebirds, and even seals.
Rocky shores are great places to observe a wide variety of plants and animals. If you look closely at the shore at low tide, or in tidepools, you’ll be able to watch lots of animals moving and feeding. This habitat is also a productive food source and an essential nursery area for many commercially important fish and crustaceans.
Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. They are marshy because the soil may be composed of deep mud and peat. Peat is made of decomposing plant matter that is often several feet thick. Peat is waterlogged, root-filled, and very spongy.
The most common animals living in this habitat are crustaceans (fiddler crabs, blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, shrimp), mollusks (ribbed mussels, marsh snails), diamondback terrapins, juvenile fish, insects, and lots of birds (herons, egrets, red-winged black birds).
Salt marsh habitats are essential for healthy fisheries, coastlines, and communities. They provide essential food, shelter, or nursery habitat for more than 75 percent of fisheries species. Salt marshes also protect shorelines from erosion by buffering wave action and trapping sediment. They reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater and protect water quality by filtering runoff.
Eelgrass is an underwater plant that can grow together to form patches or beds to create a habitat. Eelgrass grows in estuaries, bays, lagoons, and other marine environments where water is clear and light is plentiful. Eelgrasses grow in shallow salty waters with muddy or sandy bottoms. Eelgrass may be found growing just a few feet under water or at depths up to 100 feet if the water is unusually clear.
The most common animals living in the eelgrass are fish including fluke, flounder, bluefish, striped bass, porgy, tautog, black sea bass, sea robins, sculpins, cunner, seahorses and puffer fish. Scallops are a shellfish that is also commonly found living in eelgrass.
Eelgrass is important because it helps prevent erosion and maintain stability near shore by anchoring sediment with its spreading rhizomes (roots). Its leaves also point upward and have a slowing effect on water flow. Eelgrass provides food, breeding areas, and protective nurseries for many commercially important fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
Habitat: Rocky shores, tidepools, dock pilings, Bay bottoms
- Have the ability to regenerate their arms
- Can detect light with five purple eyespots at the end of each arm
- Have a bright orange dot at the center of their body called a madreporite which they use to pump water into their body
- Have hundreds of tube feet on the underside of their arms that they use for suction, movement and feeding
- Covered in spiny skin to defend them from predators
Fun fact: Sea stars have a very unique method of feeding. They wrap their bodies around hard-shelled clams and other bivalves, using the suction from their tube feet to pull shells apart. When the clam is opened, the sea star pushes its stomach out of its body and into the clam, secreting enzymes that digest the clam’s soft body. The liquified clam is then absorbed into the sea star’s stomach. They feed often, and their size depends on the amount of food they eat, not on their age.
Habitat: Attached to rocks and shells in tide pools, on seaweeds, along rocky bottoms
- Hard exoskeleton covered in spines
- Use their spines to dig small depressions among the rocks and sand
- Have an organ in their mouth called “Aristotle’s Lantern” which resembles a bird beak with five plates which they use to feed and scrape algae from rocks
- Sensitive to light and hide in rock crevices during daylight
Fun Fact: Some species of urchins found in tropical water have venomous spines. This means if you were poked by one of these spines it would be similar to a bee sting where a small amount of venom would be injected. These venomous spines help protect urchins from any predators. The urchin species that live in our bay are non-venomous and are completely harmless to touch.
Habitat: Sandy or muddy bottoms
- One of the largest species of snails in our Bay and has a massive shell for protection
- Have a large muscular foot which they use for movement and for digging through the sand or mud
- Have an operculum – a hard, brownish-black, shell like organ used to close the opening of the shell for protection
- Feed using an organ known as a proboscis, which includes the mouth, esophagus and radula. Use their radula, a drill like organ with small teeth, for grasping either flesh or plants
- Have a long, tubular siphon, which they use to draw in oxygenated water
- They are aggressive predators and eat other invertebrates, especially clams. They feed by prying a gap between the two valves of the clam and forcing the shell open with their strong muscular foot. Once the valves open, the whelk wedges in the sharp edge of its shell, inserts the proboscis and devours the soft body of the clam
Fun Fact: Whelks produce an egg casing that is a long strand of parchment-like disks that resemble a necklace. Its unique shape is sculpted by the whelk’s foot. Egg cases can be two to three feet long and have 70 to 100 capsules, each of which can hold 20 to 100 eggs. Newly hatched whelks escape from small holes at the top of each egg case with their shells already on. Egg cases are sometimes found along the Bay shoreline, washed up with high tide debris.
Habitat: Sandy, intertidal areas
- Have a large, round, circular shaped shell that is used for protection
- Have a large fleshy foot that is three times as long as the shell and enables it to move relatively fast
- Have an organ called the proboscis, which includes the mouth, esophagus and radula, all of which is used for feeding
- Females construct a collar-shaped egg case, often called a “clergyman’s collar”. The female secretes a gelatinous sheet from her shell in which the eggs are laid. Sand sticks to the collar, making it tough and durable. Once detached from the shell, the collar is tough enough to withstand the elements until the eggs are ready to hatch
Fun Fact: These creatures secrete an acidic material that softens the shell of their prey, allowing them to easily drill through it. Once the hole has been made, the moon snail removes the flesh of its prey. They are voracious yet selective predators, feeding solely on one species of bivalve in an area at a time, including other moon snails. So if you are combing the beach and notice a perfect circle shaped hole drilled through a shell that you find, it was most likely made by a hungry moon snail!
Habitat: Bay bottom, rocky shores, harbors, pilings
- Have a round and spiny carapace with nine small spines running down the center of the back for protection
- Attach bits of algae, shell and seaweed to many fine, sticky hairs all over their bodies for camouflage
- Have eight long legs that come to a point at the tips to help hold climb rocks underwater
- Have narrow, long pincers that are slow moving and used to scoop up bits of detritus and algae
- Have poor eyesight, however they do have sensitive tasting and sensing organs on the ends of their walking legs
- Like all crabs, spider crabs molt to grow. They shed their old exoskeleton and produce a new larger exoskeleton
Fun Fact: Males and females can be distinguished by observing their stomachs on the underside of their carapace. Males will have a “V” shaped stomach that is long and narrow and some say it resembles a lighthouse or a rocket ship. Females have a large, round “O” shaped stomach known as an apron. Females use their apron to store and care for their eggs which appear brown or bright orange and can carry tens of thousands of eggs in their apron each breeding season
Habitat: Rocky tidal zones, tide pools, salt marshes, open shores
- Live in shells created by mollusks and have a tendency to withdraw into those shells when threatened
- Not considered to be true crabs because their exoskeleton does not cover their entire body, which is why they steal shells to protect their soft abdomen
- Bodies are curved, and their last set of legs towards the end of their abdomen are modified to form a clamp which enables the crab to maintain its position in its shell
- Omnivorous scavengers that eat small bits of fish, shrimp, dead plants, algae and even other hermit crabs that they find along the bottom of the bay
Fun Fact: Hermit crabs are nomadic, always searching for new shells when they grow too big for their old ones. They move about actively, pausing only for the inspection of possible food or a new shell. A hermit crab will never leave the safety of its old shell until it finds a replacement.
Habitat: Salt marshes, ponds or estuarine waters with sandy or muddy bottoms
- Have a brown horseshoe-shaped helmet of a shell that protects them from sharks, turtles, and seagulls
- Have a spine-like tail that may look like a weapon, however its only function is to help them turn their bodies over when they are upside down and to act like a rudder as they plow along the bottom of the bay
- Walk along the bottom using five pairs of legs
- Have “book gills”, gills that resemble folded leaves of paper which they use for breathing and swimming
- Grow larger by molting – shedding the old shell and replacing it with a larger, soft shell from underneath that hardens in a few days
- Can live in extreme hot or cold temperatures and can even withstand being frozen in ice
Fun Fact: Considered to be “living fossils” because they are one of the most primitive crustaceans and have a fossil record from about 360 million years ago. They also play a key role in medical research. Their blue, copper-rich blood contains the compound lysate, which is used in cancer research and the diagnosis of spinal meningitis.
Habitat: Shallow water, sandy and muddy bottoms
- Skeleton made entirely of cartilage
- Body is shaped like a flattened, rounded triangle and is well-adapted for life on the bottom of the bay
- Armored along its back and tail with sharp spines that are used defensively
- Breathe through specialized organs called spiracles, which are slit like openings near their eyes. Water is taken in through the spiracles, passes over the gills and then leaves the body through five pairs of gill slits underneath
- Many rows of blunt teeth, resembling sandpaper, that help grind food between two well-developed jaw plates. Feed on a diverse diet of shellfish, crabs, sea squirts, worms, squid and small fish
Fun Fact: Females lay two large eggs that develop inside capsules, or egg cases, which are often found attached to seaweed. The empty black capsules wash ashore after the young skates have hatched. Resembling square coin purses with prongs at each corner, the capsules are commonly called “mermaids’ purses”.
Habitat: Deeper water near the mouth of the Bay; bottom dweller
- Cartilaginous fish, meaning its skeleton is made of cartilage
- Small teeth with sharp points bending outward in several rows and are used for grinding rather than tearing
- Two dorsal fins with two large, sharp, mildly venomous dorsal spines located in front of each dorsal fin. It uses these spines defensively by curling up its body and striking at an enemy
- Skin is rough and covered by a toothike, scale surface called dermal denticles
- While migrating to find food, they swim in schools of similar-sized individuals
- Diet consists of fish, worms, shrimp, crabs, comb jellies and especially lobsters
Fun Fact: They are by far the most abundant and commonly seen species of shark in the Bay. Full grown adults only reach a size of two to three feet long. Rather than laying eggs, this fish bears live young and can have up to six pups per litter
It is important to know the difference between climate and weather. Climate is the average temperature, humidity, cloudiness, precipitation, and wind that takes place over a long period of time (30 years or more). Weather is the condition that people experience day to day. “Weather is what you’re wearing today; climate is what you have in your closet”.
Climate change is the long term significant changes of the “average weather” in an area. Climate change is primarily caused by the introduction of rampant or extra carbon dioxide into our atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal. We use fossil fuels to run our cars, to create electricity that we use to light and heat our houses, and in many factories that produce everyday items. As we burn more fossil fuels we release rampant carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which creates a heat trapping blanket effect around the Earth. Rampant carbon dioxide traps the sun’s heat in our atmosphere increasing the Earth’s temperature and amplifying the Earth’s heat trapping blanket effect.
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that occurs when the sun’s rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere to heat up the Earth’s surface and oceans. Lots of this heat is then reflected off of our planet and sent back into outer space. However, our atmosphere naturally keeps some of this heat to keep our planet warm enough for plants and animals to survive. As humans begin to burn fossil fuels and release rampant carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, this extra carbon dioxide traps the sun’s heat in our atmosphere and increases the temperature on Earth.
Rhode Island is experiencing warmer air and water temperatures, more extreme weather events (droughts, intense storms, flooding), sea level rise, and changes to our seasons. Since the 1960’s Narragansett Bay’s average annual water temperature has increased by four degrees fahrenheit. As the temperature increases, more water is being evaporated and stored in our atmosphere.This excess water means there’s more water to fall during weather events such as rain storms, blizzards and hurricanes. This excess water causes more intense and frequent storms and flooding.
One cause of sea level rise is the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets. Water that was once trapped on land as a solid is beginning to melt, turn into a liquid, and collect in the oceans. But the main cause of sea level rise is thermal expansion. Thermal expansion is when water molecules get larger because they are warmer. As the oceans warm, each water droplet expands and causes the ocean to rise. As the sea levels rise in coastal locations, habitats are being flooded or destroyed and the animals that live there are being displaced. Sea level rise will also impact infrastructure such as our roads, bridges, and buildings that people rely on
Ocean acidification is a result of excess carbon dioxide entering our water. The ocean acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help regulate our planet’s natural climate. However, when our oceans absorb too much carbon dioxide, the ocean becomes more acidic which can be harmful to ocean life. As the water becomes more acidic, animals with a shell or exoskeleton such as clams, crabs, corals, and plankton are no longer able to absorb calcium to build their shells. Without calcium, animal’s might not be able to grow or they will be soft and vulnerable to predators.
Warmer temperatures in our Bay can shift sea creatures’ habitat ranges, spread disease, alter food webs, and change the timing of natural events such as spawning and migration.
As temperatures warm, animals may have to find a more suitable habitat causing them to shift their habitat range. This shift in species can impact our local food web as well as the commercial fishing industry that rely on certain species to make a living. As new species are introduced and become more abundant in our bay they can become invasive meaning they have a negative impact on our native species. If these species do not have any predators and are able to rapidly reproduce and grow they can outcompete our native species for food and space. Invasive species currently present in Rhode Island coastal waters include Asian shore crabs, smallmouth flounder, the common reed and many more!
Changing seasons can cause vegetation to bloom earlier impacting migrating animals that rely on coastal habitats for feeding, nesting, and breeding at specific times. Sea level rise is also threatening to destroy these important habitats and impact animals. For example the Diamondback terrapin is endangered in Rhode Island due to the loss of salt marshes.
Warmer waters also enable diseases to spread more easily from different regions. Lobsters in our Bay have been impacted by Shell Rot, a disease that starts to break down a lobster’s shell making it vulnerable to predators. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, is another disease that impacts our oceans and causes sea stars to break down and die.
Questions for the Captains
Navigating on the water certainly presents some challenges! There are no roads. Hazards such as rocks and sandbars lie hidden beneath the waves. Which way is Newport? Where is Providence? How do I get to Wickford? Luckily we have tools, instruments and techniques to help us find our way. Some are modern and high tech. Some have been used since people first jumped on a raft.
Primarily we use what’s known as Coastal Piloting to find our way around the Bay. Coastal Piloting is the practice of finding your position and determining how to get safely to a destination using simple tools such as a Chart (Marine Navigation Map), a Magnetic Compass, and visual observations of landmarks on shore and Aids to Navigation such as buoys.
Most days navigation is a simple task, but what about when it gets dark? What about when the visibility is restricted by fog, by rain, by snow? Coastal Piloting can still get you safely where you want to go. By starting from a known position, steering a set course and using simple math (Distance=Speed * Time) you can find your way. (Dead Reckoning)
Today of course we have the benefit of modern electronic navigation instruments. The Global Positioning System or GPS, is a satellite based navigation system owned and operated by the US Department of Defense (now Space Force) Using the signals from at least two satellites, a GPS receiver can determine its position anywhere in the world. Receivers are found in all kinds of products including your smartphone. On board our vessels we have Chartplotters that use GPS to determine our position. The Plotter then projects that position onto an electronic chart greatly simplifying the task of navigation.
Tides are the rhythmic rise and fall of water level due to the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun. Narragansett Bay like most places around the world has two High Tides and two Low Tides each day or Semi-Diurnal tides. As the tide rises, Salt water from the ocean enters the bay. At that time the water movement or current in the Bay is South to North. We call this a Flood Current. As the tide falls, the water movement is North to South. We call this an Ebb current.
How does a boat that weighs 17,000lbs float? How does a ship that weighs thousands of tons Float? The answer is Buoyancy.
Buoyancy is an upward force exerted on an object immersed in water (or any other fluid or gas) that is equal to the weight of the water displaced by the object. So if an object weighs 10lbs but displaces only 5lbs of water, the object will sink. If an object weighs 10lbs and displaces 12lbs of water it will float.
Boats and ships are shaped so their displacement will be greater than the weight of their hull and cargo.
Narragansett Bay is a “No Discharge Zone” meaning it is not legal to release any treated or untreated boat sewage into our waters. While it may not seem like much, boat sewage can contribute to unhealthy levels of harmful bacteria in the water, especially in confined coves and harbors. Because all of that head (marine toilet) waste must be stored on board in a holding tank until it can be safely pumped out either three miles from any shoreline or into a pump out facility on shore. Some harbors even have a pump out boat which will come to you!
Narragansett Bay sees boats of all kinds and descriptions. Sail and power, commercial and recreational; they are all here. Just some of the craft on the bay are great boxy car carriers transporting automobiles both new and used. Research vessels like URI’s Endeavor or NOAA’s Henry Bigelow. Tug and barges carrying fuels like gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Fishing trawlers and lobster boats ply the Bay alongside yachts and mega yachts. America’s Cup Race boats old and new make their home in the Bay including American Magic the New York Yacht Club’s team in 2021.
Exploration Center and Aquarium
All of the animals at our aquarium can be found in Narragansett Bay by our team of aquarists and educators, local scientists and local fishermen. Some of the animals are rescued and would not be alive without our facility. Other animals are in our nursery program where we take them in as hatchlings, grow them larger for about a year, then release them back into the wild once they have grown larger and stronger. We even have a breeding program with our sharks and skates where they are born in our aquarium and released into the Bay. All of the animals here are on display and we educate the public about the importance they play in the Narragansett Bay ecosystem.
Currently the aquarium has 35 tanks full of animals found in Rhode Island waters. Our newest and largest tank was just installed in March of 2020 and it is where you can view our shark species, skates, and horseshoe crabs.
The number of species fluctuates at the aquarium depending on the time of the year. We are constantly breeding and releasing all sorts of different species at the aquarium. But on average we usually house at least 40 different and unique animal species.
The animals all have a very calculated diet based on their individual needs. Most food consists of a variety of mackerel, herring, squid, butterfish, clams, and mussels. This helps to simulate a very natural diet that these animals would normally be eating in the wild. Also, all of our food is sourced locally from bait fishermen around Rhode Island waters. The purple sea urchins may have the funniest diet, they enjoy eating sliced carrots which are filled with many of the same nutrients they naturally eat in algae.
It takes a large team to help maintain, clean and care for all the animals at our aquarium. We staff about 50 interns each year who can be found helping 2-5 days a week. We also have about 80 volunteers who donate their time to help each year. And of course we have 2 full-time staff that work 40 hours a week and a very talented part-time aquarist. All these helpful personnel stick to a scheduled cleaning and feeding regimen that maximizes efficiency to give our animals the best possible care. Specific cleaning procedures include scrubbing algae off the glass, siphoning the gravel and substrate for any left over food or fish waste, scheduled water changes to remove 20% of the old water and replace with new water, and a filtration system that was designed by water filtration engineers to maintain a safe and healthy indoor ecosystem.
Yes! Every year, more than 4,000 volunteers play a vital role in every aspect of Save The Bay’s work—from supporting special events and tackling beach cleanups to assisting administrative housekeeping, habitat adaptation and more. Without volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish all that we do to protect and improve Narragansett Bay. Whatever your interest, whatever your availability, chances are we have a volunteer opportunity to fit your needs!
Save The Bay leads International Coastal Cleanup efforts in Rhode Island, organizing volunteer-led cleanups across the state, September-November. The International Coastal Cleanup is a global event uniting more than 1 million volunteers in an effort to collect litter and debris from shorelines around the world. In Rhode Island, thousands of volunteers join this effort to collect both trash and data for the initiative.
Those interested in volunteering for a cleanup will find plenty of opportunities to help, as Save The Bay plans dozens of cleanups during each International Coastal Cleanup season.
In 2021, 1,940 community members participated in 219 cleanups across Rhode Island. The volunteers removed 11,778 pounds of trash and debris from 231 miles of the state’s coastline. You can learn more about the 2021 effort in Rhode Island by downloading the 2021 ICC Report. And, if you want to learn more about the results of the global effort, head on over to the Ocean Conservancy’s website.
We all know the bay is made of water and therefore cannot speak up for itself. But one of the most important jobs at Save the Bay is advocating, or being the voice of Narragansett Bay. We work with government officials to help pass laws and regulations to keep our water safe, healthy and clean. Every member of our community can advocate for the Bay by supporting local, state and federal environmental sanctions that are intended to protect our Bay and watershed. And any community member old enough to vote, make your voice and vote heard!
- Don’t litter.
- Pick up after your pet.
- Don’t feed the ducks, geese, or any other waterfowl.
- Refuse plastic, and opt for buying products in natural materials like glass.
- Buy second hand.
- Use your product’s warranty or choose to get items refurbished before buying new.
- Shop at local farmers markets to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Plant, keep, and cut your lawn so it saves water.
- Plant native trees and shrubs.
- Respect storm drains.
- Join or start a Walking School Bus.
- Walk, bike or take public transportation whenever you can.
- Drive electric cars
- Direct rainwater and runoff from your house into a rain barrel, garden, or even your lawn.
- Maintain your septic system.
- Leave a smaller footprint by using energy efficient appliances.
- Support policy initiatives in your town and state that will help reduce carbon emissions communitywide.
- Register to vote, learn about issues on the ballot, and vote for the changes you wish to see.
To learn more check out our Bay-Friendly-Living guide! https://www.savebay.org/wp-content/uploads/Bay-Friendly-Living.pdf