06/16/16 7:09am
06/16/2016 7:09 AM

Robert DiGiovanni, center, helps release Tucker, a seal found in East Quogue, back into the water after it was rehabbed at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Rehabilitation.

For more than 20 years the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has worked to protect the area’s marine environment through conservation efforts. It is the only organization authorized by New York State to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals and sea turtles.

Since its inception, Robert DiGiovanni had served as the nonprofit’s director and senior biologist. Now, it appears Mr. DiGiovanni’s tenure with the organization has come to an abrupt end.  READ

05/30/15 9:07am
05/30/2015 9:07 AM
Tucker heads for the water Friday. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Tucker heads for the water Friday. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

After a trip to Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, sixth graders Maddie Hansen, 11, and Abby Seifert, 12, felt inspired after seeing the foundation help animals.

Their efforts helped lead to Tucker, a seal found in East Quogue, to be rereleased into the water.

Read more about their efforts on northforker.com.

12/10/14 5:18pm
12/10/2014 5:18 PM
Daniella Ferina, Riverhead Foundation staff biologist, administering warmed IV fluids Wednesday morning to a sea turtle. (Credit: Riverhead Foundation)

Daniella Ferina, Riverhead Foundation staff biologist, administering warmed IV fluids Wednesday morning to a sea turtle. (Credit: Riverhead Foundation)

After rescuing two endangered sea turtles in just 24 hours, biologists with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation are asking residents to keep an eye out for cold-stunned sea turtles following Tuesday’s nor’easter.

High tides along the north shore after 3 p.m today could leave turtles stranded on north facing beaches, exposing them to frigid water and air temperatures, according to the organization.

(more…)

01/31/14 5:00pm
01/31/2014 5:00 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Noodle, a 2-year-old harbor porpoise, was successfully rehabilitated by the Riverhead Foundation after being found in a marsh in Brunswick, Maine by children on a school field trip in October.

The rescue and recovery of Noodle, the small toothed whale found marooned in a marsh just days before Hurricane Sandy knocked the East Coast, will be featured Saturday morning on ABC’s “Sea Rescue.” (more…)

12/02/13 3:51pm
12/02/2013 3:51 PM
Riverhead Foundation Courtesy Photo | A juvenile male harbor seal is in critical condition after he was found stranded early Sunday.

Riverhead Foundation Courtesy Photo | A juvenile male harbor seal is in critical condition after he was found stranded early Sunday.

A young male harbor seal is in critical condition after it was found stranded by Mattituck Inlet off Love Lane early Sunday, according to officials at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Robert DiGiovanni, director and senior biologist at the nonprofit foundation, said researchers were notified of the seal first thing Sunday – by noon volunteers had brought the distressed seal back to their marine center.

The seal came in underweight, at 86 pounds, and measured about 5 feet in length, Mr. DiGiovanni said.

Harbor seals are commonly found in Long Island waters this time of year, and can grow up to 6 feet long, weighing up to about 245 pounds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We were tube feeding it fluids and trying to get it to eat fish,” he said. “We did a physical examination and are assessing its condition. It is very lethargic and in critical condition – we still have a very long way to go.”

Mr. DiGiovanni said researchers are awaiting blood sample and medical culture results to determine what is wrong with the seal. It may take a couple of days, he said.

The cost to fully rehabilitate a harbor seal ranges between $10,000 and $12,000, depending on the length of stay at the foundation, officials said.

In the past week, two cold-stunned sea turtles have also showed up in Peconic and Mattituck, according to the foundation.

“The message we would like to get out is please report them to the hotline number immediately – and don’t assume the animals are dead. They may seem lifeless but they may not actually be dead.”

To report a sighing of a stranded marine animal call the foundation hotline at 631-369-9829.

10/10/13 5:00pm
10/10/2013 5:00 PM
MERRY RETUS COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Foundation scientists are researching what caused the death of a Loggerhead sea turtle that washed up in Orient Point on Tuesday.

MERRY RETUS COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Foundation scientists are researching what caused the death of a Loggerhead sea turtle that washed up in Orient Point on Tuesday.

Orient Point resident Merry Retus made a somber discovery Tuesday after noticing a turtle floating in Long Island Sound waters behind her home.

“It was very choppy out so I couldn’t tell if it was alive or not. I was just kind of keeping an eye on it,” she said.

A short time later, the turtle had made it to the shore off Sound View Road.

Ms. Retus said she called volunteers at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation to report the distressed turtle. Upon arrival marine officials found Loggerhead turtle, weighing more than 300 pounds, dead on the shore.

“It was the biggest they had ever seen,” she said.

“It was quite an ordeal getting him off the beach as there was no way to get a vehicle on the beach,” she said.

Ms. Retus said the turtle was about a half-mile from the nearest access.

With foundation members unable to move the turtle, Ms. Retus started calling anyone she could think of to try and help the researchers get the turtle back to the foundation.

“I called the town, the highway department, public works, the police and the bay constable, but everybody said the same thing,” she said. “They were unable to help.”

By Wednesday, volunteers from Douglass Marine Towing offered to tow the turtle from the beach so the foundation could research its cause of death, she said.

“He didn’t appear to have any injures from a boat or anything. I like to think it was old age,” Ms. Retus said. “Hopefully we can learn something from him.”

Coming across a distressed turtle is not that uncommon, Foundation officials have said in the past.

Because sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, they depend on external sources of heat to stay warm. During the impending cold temperatures, they must migrate to warmer waters.

When turtles are unable to travel south, they can become what’s called “cold-stunned” or hypothermic, according to marine researchers.

According to the foundation, the 2012-2013 winter season brought and “unprecedented number” of turtles to the Northeast, with more than 100 turtles needing rehabilitation from Virginia to Maine.

During that season the foundation responded to 37 cold-stunned turtles, 6 had died while being cared for by the foundation, 13 had died on arrival to the foundation, and 2 were found dead on the beach, according to a foundation spokeswoman.

Researchers are hosting a new “Save the Seat Turtles” campaign to educate residents on what to do should they come across a distressed turtle.

They will be holding educational classes at a number of locations throughout Long Island, including the Long island Aquarium in Riverhead. For more information and a schedule of classes visit the foundation website.

Researchers with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation were not immediately available for comment.

01/26/13 2:00pm
01/26/2013 2:00 PM

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A dolphin that washed ashore in Queens yesterday afternoon died during a rescue attempt as members of the Riverhead Foundation  for Marine Research and Preservation raced to help.

The dolphin reportedly died as it was being transported into a tank to be taken back to the Riverhead Foundation.

Click here for a full story from the N.Y. Times.

11/13/12 7:53am
11/13/2012 7:53 AM

RIVERHEAD FOUNDATION COURTESY PHOTO | Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, and a volunteer apply a satellite tag to a rehabilitated green sea turtle.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation announced this week that cold stun season has officially begun for sea turtles on the East End.

The foundation is asking people to walk local beaches and report any sea turtles they spot, even if they appear to be dead, to (631) 369-9840. After 5 p.m. you can  report any found turtles on the foundation’s 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829.

Turtles are often found deposited along the high tide line and may be hard to see, especially if they are covered with seaweed or barnacles.

Friday afternoon, a cold stunned Atlantic Green Sea Turtle was found in Hampton Bays, but turtles can be found along all of the East End’s shores, even on the Sound side.

Click to read more about cold-stunned sea turtles