By Anna Eekraw, ECHO high school intern, student in STEM Academy at Essex High School We recently received a new, vibrant group of ...

Welcoming a New Community of Sea Stars to ECHO

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By Anna Eekraw, ECHO high school intern, student in STEM Academy at Essex High School
We recently received a new, vibrant group of sea stars that are happily settling into their new habitat. Community members have been quick to spot the new group of echinoderms, marine invertebrates with radial symmetry and hard, spiny surface, due to their bright coloration.

The new sea stars have been seen displaying light-hearted behaviors in order to adjust to their new home. One of the critter was found hanging off the wall of the tank by just one arm. Biologists aren’t sure why they do this, but a theory suggests that they’re trying to get use to their new environment.
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A young sea star hangs off of rock, getting a feel for its new home, a peculiar behavior

Sea stars are a much loved member of the ECHO museum. Families love them, and children love to observe them. Visiting here as a young kid, the Champlain Sea Tank was always my favorite. It satisfied my curiosity as a little kid to see live animals and to interact with them. And the most interesting part of the sea tank? Although, all the animals are interesting and important. My favorite were always the sea stars. Their bright colors and quirky personalities were fun to learn about.
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The species of sea stars at ECHO are Forbes’ Sea Star
Sea stars are a favorite among other children as well since they’re the only animal that can be touched in the sea tank. However, volunteers and children have to be very careful with them.

When asked what the most challenging part of caring for sea stars at ECHO is, animal care expert, Jen said, “Getting them here is the hardest part. Transportation takes a long time, and getting them used to the water takes a while. We also get them from the wild.”

Currently, massive die-offs of sea stars are occurring due to Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD). The first observation of this disease was in 2013. Similar die-offs of sea stars have occurred before (possibly due to other factors and not SSWD) during the 70s - 90s, but not at this magnitude.

SSWD is a deadly disease for sea stars, able to rapidly cause damage in just 3 days. It is currently affecting a large population of sea stars on the west coast. Little is still known about SSWD. Scientists aren’t sure if the disease spreads from species to species, if some take longer to express symptoms, or if some species are immune. However, humans have made an impact on the conservation status of sea stars as well, such as harvesting and pollution.

How YOU can help sea stars:
According to the Smithsonian Ocean Portal, there are 5 general things you can do to help the ocean. This, in turn, will help sea stars. These tips will help Lake Champlain as well!
  1. Water - be water wise, such as using as little fertilizer as possible to avoid phosphorus runoffs, avoid foods with pesticides, and be conscious of where your food comes from.
  2. Trash - avoid littering and reuse or recycle containers whenever possible.
  3. Fish - try to harvest sustainable fish when needed as food and pets (consuming or keeping fish that are at a healthy population in the wild); buy sea-friendly souvenirs.
  4. Carbon - reduce energy use; reduce your carbon footprint.
  5. Recreation - when on the beach, boating, or scuba diving avoid touching and harming the animals in the wild and avoid disturbing their habitats.

In a greater sense, the sea stars and other animals in the sea tank represents life in the Champlain Sea 13,000 years ago. In addition to representing the significant history of Lake Champlain, sea stars are important and vital to the ecosystem. Therefore, conservation actions are much needed to keep sea stars in the ocean. Not to mention, they are a fun addition to the ECHO animal community.

























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