The company that owns the Long Island Aquarium and the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead is looking to restore a dilapidated 113-year-old building it recently purchased across the street instead of tearing it down.
Several actors, athletes and celebrities will be at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead on Friday for the Contractors For Kids annual fundraiser.
The Long Island Aquarium announced its April lineup, which is filled with family-friendly events. Check it out on northforker.com.
Long Island Aquarium’s former senior aquarist Christopher Paparo has been hired as the director of Stony Brook University’s new Marine Sciences Center in Southampton.
Mr. Paparo spent more than 14 years at the Riverhead aquarium, starting there when it was in the building stages, eventually taking on the position of senior aquarist. He also served educational coordinator for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, Stony Brook University officials said.
The new marine sciences center is run by Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and is slated to open this September.
The 15,000-square-foot, $8.5 million center will enable SoMAS to expand their program, facilitating further research of Long Island’s bays and estuaries. It will offer more students the opportunity to learn through Stony Brook, according to a release from Stony Brook University.
SoMAS will also be using the space to hold public meetings, summer camps, and for expanded K-12 outreach programs among other activities, according to the release.
“Mr. Paparo’s strong background in maintaining marine animals, public outreach and education, and seawater systems make him the ideal fit for this position,” said Minghua Zhang, dean of the SoMAS program at Stony Brook. He attended Southampton College and received his Bachelors of Science in Marine Science there in 1999, Stony Brook officials said.
“As construction of the new Marine Sciences Center is completed in the coming weeks, Mr. Paparo will be on hand to learn the details of the state-of-the-art systems within the building including the computerized seawater circulation system, teaching and analytical labs, and quarantine and culture rooms,” said Christopher Gobler, director of academic programs. “This hire comes at a perfect time.”
As the seven-foot-long sand tiger shark glides through the water, it brushes against the glass of Long Island Aquarium’s huge 120,000-gallon tank. For most visitors, that encounter is close enough.
But some would like to get closer, much closer, and the aquarium is only too happy to oblige.
The aquarium’s shark diving program — open to any and all brave enough to enter a steel cage and spend half an hour with a trained diver as sharks circle around — is now in its fifth year.
The aquarium is also set to open a new “shark keeper” program on July 1, allowing guests to feed the sand tiger sharks, tour the facilities and bring home a shark’s tooth.
The sharks are at the top rung of the food chain in the “Lost City of Atlantis” exhibit, the aquarium’s largest.
The tank is home to two species of shark; five jagged-toothed sand tiger sharks caught off Jones Beach Inlet in 1999 and the more docile nurse sharks that prefer to rest on the bottom of the tank, said aquarist Maggie Seiler.
The diving program follows no set schedule. When someone calls and asks to swim with the sharks, the aquarium sets up a time.
Divers take a quick safety class in the morning, then return to the tank later in the day to don a special diving mask and a wet suit to keep them warm, Ms. Seiler said.
The mask is specially designed for use by amateurs and isn’t prone to problems that can befall standard scuba masks, such as water leaking inside. The masks also feature communication systems that allow divers to speak with the trainers and fellow divers.
“These things are great,” Ms. Seiler said, holding the black plastic mask in her hand.
Up to three guests can fit inside the cage, along with the aquarium’s professional diver. After the cage is lowered to the bottom of the tank, guests spend 30 minutes learning about the sharks that swim by.
Ms. Seiler said the sharks occasionally swim past the cage to see what’s inside.
The sand tiger sharks may appear especially frightening, but they wouldn’t want to make a meal out of a visitor, Ms. Seiler said. They’re simply too well fed.
“They get fed two, maybe three times a week,” she said. “During the week they’ll get five to seven pounds of food per shark. That’s very well fed for a shark. In the wild, naturally, these guys would be lucky to see food once a week.”
That’s why the sharks rarely attack the tank’s other fish.
And despite what “Jaws” might show, sharks don’t purposely feed on humans in the wild, she said.
Shark attacks are almost always the result of a shark mistaking a human for easy smaller prey, like an injured seal, she said.
“Let’s face it,” she said. “In the water, we’re not really graceful.”
Once a shark realizes its victim is not a seal, it generally swims away, she said, adding that shark attacks are actually quite rare.
“Getting in the car every day is more dangerous than going and taking a swim at the beach,” Ms. Seiler said. “There are so many more things you should be cautious and fearful about than getting bitten by a shark.”
The aquarium’s new program will also let visitors help feed the creatures. The sharks find the food, usually a dead fish, on prongs at the end of a PVC pole. An aquarist dangles the fish in front of the shark’s mouth, often tracking its movement until the shark takes a bite.
Ms. Seiler said people taking part in the dives often are afraid of the sharks at first but learn to conquer that fear.
That, she said, is the most rewarding part of her job.
“That’s always a lot of fun for me, being that person who exposed them to something new,” she said. “At the end of the dive they love it. You get to get close and have that experience, while staying safe.”
For more information on the shark diving and feeding programs, contact the Long Island Aquarium at 631-208-9200, ext. 426.
The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead closes during most overnight hours — but nature doesn’t stop.
That was apparent Saturday morning, when staffers discovered four newborn North American river otters in the Otter Falls exhibit, which opened in 2008.
The pups were born to the aquarium’s river otter couple, Peanut Butter, the male, and Jelly, the female. Officials say the pups are healthy, and are being kept in a secluded area — away from the public’s eye — with their mother as they nurse, sleep and grow.
“While it’s still very early, they all seem to be doing well and Jelly is being a fabulous mother as expected,” aquarium officials said in a release. “The otter pups and mom are inside in the holding areas of the exhibit while the male, PB, is still on exhibit.”
The pups won’t be visible to the public until they start moving on their own, which will take about a month. They’ll nurse for four months.
In the meantime, the aquarium released photos of the newborns.
From the aquarium:
The playful North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is equally at home in the water as it is on land. Once abundant in U. S. and Canadian rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, the North American river otter can today be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, upper Great Lakes area, New England, and Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.
Members of the weasel family, river otters enjoy sliding down muddy and snowy hills, bouncing objects on their paws, playing tag, and wrestling.
North Babylon resident Nick Galioto and his girlfriend drove to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead Saturday to spend the day interacting with penguins as part of a Christmas gift from his mother.
But what happened after the young couple left the aquarium still has them both “shaken.”
“You see it in the movies and you see it on TV, but you never think it’ll happen to you,” Mr. Galioto said in an interview. “Out of all the days, leaving the aquarium, you think it’s a pretty safe location.”
After hours of fun at the aquarium, Mr. Galioto, 24, and his 19-year-old girlfriend were robbed at knifepoint by a man on a bike as they walked back to their parked car Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve never been in any type of situation [like this] … never of a magnitude like this, never in my life,” Mr. Galioto said.
The young couple were huddling under an umbrella to stay dry from the rain while walking north along the sidewalk of Ostrander Avenue about 4 p.m. when they heard a voice behind them mutter to get out of the way, Mr. Galioto recalled.
The two moved over to the side up against a fence when the man, wearing a jacket with the hood up, rode up close next to them on a bicycle, blocking them from moving, Mr. Galioto said.
“Give me your wallet,” the man demanded while straddling the bike.
Mr. Galioto said that when he hesitated, the man pulled a knife on the couple.
“When the knife was brought out, there’s only so much you can do,” Mr. Galioto said.
The man took Mr. Galioto’s wallet, then demanded his now-crying girlfriend’s wallet too. When the couple gave him both wallets, the robber told them to give up their cell phones, Mr. Galioto said.
Shaken, his girlfriend dropped the umbrella during the robbery. Once the man took their phones, he “backed off a bit” from the couple and told the girl, “you can pick up your umbrella now,” Mr. Galioto said.
The robber pedaled off on his bike south on Ostrander Avenue, toward East Main Street, according to the police report.
The suspect was a black man, taller than 5’9″ and most likely in his mid-20s or early 30s, Mr. Galioto said.
After the robbery, the two rushed to the parking lot, where they got the attention of a passerby in a car and called the police. An officer quickly arrived on the scene and searched for the suspect but wasn’t able to find him, Mr. Galioto said.
The victims were not injured in the mugging, police said. Detectives are investigating the incident, police said.
“If you’ve never experienced something like this, you have no idea what it’s like,” Mr. Galioto said, adding that both he and his girlfriend rarely visit Riverhead.
Mr. Galioto said he had spoken to representatives at the aquarium, but wanted to see steps taken to beef up security in the area.
“I know that this place is a major tourist attraction … To help rebuild an area you need those great attractions,” he said. “[But] it makes it very difficult when people are afraid to go there.”
He was surprised to hear that the aquarium does not provide security guards for the parking lot located blocks away.
“That’s an issue that needs to be looked into,” he said.
A Long Island Aquarium employee said Monday that the parking lot was a public lot off aquarium property and not subject to its security. Long Island Aquarium executive director Bryan DeLuca was unavailable for comment.
However, Mr. Galioto noted that the aquarium collects parking fees from the lot during the summer.
“Someone should be responsible for [safety],” he said, “Whether they should hire a security guard or have a shuttle bus, because that parking lot is pretty far away.”
Margaret Galioto, Nick’s mother, said she wanted to make sure this incident never happened again to any other visitors.
“I understand that this could happen anywhere but I do think a more proactive stance by the aquarium and the surrounding community is needed as this is supposed to be a family-friendly area of attractions,” she wrote in an email.
Mr. Galioto said the mugging is still fresh in his mind.
He said he was shocked to read news reports about a robbery at Tanger Outlets where an employee was tied up and her car stolen, as well as a fatal hit-and-run accident a few blocks from where he was mugged, all happening in less than a week.
For now, Mr. Galioto said he won’t return to Riverhead, not until he sees that something has been done to protect tourists and residents. He is focused on canceling his credit cards and getting a new driver’s license.
But now there is an added stress for him as well, he said: his mother gave the same Christmas present to his brother and his girlfriend.
They are planning to go to the Long Island Aquarium this weekend, Mr. Galioto said.
“I don’t want him going,” he said. “I don’t feel safe for them.”
Program these digits into your phone: 631-369-9829.
That’s the number of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, and you never know when you’re going to need it.
That’s what James Sullivan of the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle program told a small group of attendees last week at the first of four cold-stunned sea turtle lectures being presented this month and next at Long Island Aquarium.
“You never know when you’re going to come upon a sea turtle, seal or another marine creature washed up on a beach,” Mr. Sullivan said. When that happens, you’ll need the number of the Riverhead Foundation, the only entity in New York state certified to rescue stranded marine animals.
Four species of sea turtle can wash up on any of Long Island’s beaches — Atlantic green, loggerhead, leatherback and Kemp’s ridley — and all are endangered.
Mr. Sullivan said at last Monday’s meeting — attended by about a dozen people — that the foundation is predicting this year will be a bad one for turtles, similar to 1995, when more than 70 were found.
“We’ve already seen more sea turtles this year than all of 2011,” he said. Last winter, though, was unusually mild.
Lecture attendees asked several questions about sea turtles, including how to identify the different types, which beaches they can wash up on, and how long they can survive in a cold-stunned state, as well as what to do after a turtle is found.
Cold-stunned sea turtles may appear to beachcombers as if they’re already dead, Mr. Sullivan said, stressing the importance of calling the foundation even in those cases.
“The sea turtles that get washed up have likely already lost movement in their extremities,” he said. “At this point, the blood is focusing on getting between the brain and heart and their respiratory and GI tracts have shut down.” This happens, Mr. Sullivan explained, when sea turtles that have traveled into the Sound or other inshore waters fail to leave before water temperatures cool to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This morning the water was 61.4 degrees, so we’re getting close,” he said.
Because turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, their bodies do not warm themselves but instead match the temperature of surrounding waters.
At 50 degrees, cold-stunning symptoms begin to hit smaller turtles first and then affect bigger ones.
“Eventually they just turn into a piece of driftwood, wash up on the beach and get deposited along the high tide line,” he said.
The rescue window for cold-stunned sea turtles, which can be found along any of Long Island’s beaches, is six to eight hours maximum from the time they wash ashore, Mr. Sullivan said.
Getting the turtle out of the wind and safe from predators, if possible, is as important to saving its life as is calling the foundation, he said. Equally important is not attempting to heat the turtle.
“If you can handle the turtle and they aren’t snapping, get them out of the wind and sheltered, but don’t turn on the heat in the car or inside because you can quickly send them into heat stroke,” he said. Those that remove turtles from the beach should keep them in a truck bed, unheated garage or shed until the foundation arrives.
The foundation’s process for safely warming up turtles takes hours, expertise and equipment, he said, including possible tracheal intubation if the respiratory system has completely shut down.
As the weather cools through autumn into the winter, the Riverhead Foundation is asking the public to comb the beaches and search for cold-stunned sea turtles over the coming months.
Mr. Sullivan said cold-stunned turtles can be incredibly hard to spot because they are often covered in barnacles and the same color as the seaweed deposited along the high tide line.
“We’ve had calls about a sea turtle and it’s taken four times up and down the beach to find it,” he said.
Rick Kedenburg, with the North Fork Audubon Society, said in an interview after the meeting that he hopes people will use their recreational walks on the beach to do some good by calling 369-9829 if they should see a marine animal in need.
“It’s very important to carry the number with you and call the Riverhead Foundation if you see a stranded turtle or anything else,” he said.
Attend one of the upcoming cold-stunned turtle lectures in the Peconic Room at Hyatt Place East End, 451 E. Main St., Riverhead, to learn more about how you can help.
Sunday, Oct. 28, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:30 p.m.