Mighty Farewell: Famous Alligator Saying Goodbye to Newport Aquarium

NEWPORT, Ky. — After five years, wowing millions of people at Newport Aquarium, Mighty Mike, the largest American Alligator outside of Florida, is preparing to head back to the Sunshine State this summer.GoodbyeMightyMike_640x300

At 14 feet long and 800 pounds, Mighty Mike’s size makes it clear that he is truly a living dinosaur. Alligators have been around for 250 million years and seeing Mighty Mike up close reveals how these powerful creatures have survived so long. With his enormous teeth and muscular tail, this is one creature you may not want to come across in the wild, which makes it all the more important for the public to get to meet animal ambassadors like Mighty Mike.DSC_7713

Wowing guests with his amazing size, Mighty Mike has built connections with guests that will stay with them forever. “Getting the public to understand and appreciate these animals has been a critical factor in helping the American alligator achieve sustainable populations after being listed as endangered for decades,” said Eric Rose, Executive Director at Newport Aquarium. “We’re grateful to the Crocodilian Conservation Center and to our world-class animal care team for keeping Mike happy and healthy all these years, and to all the guests who’ve come to see him.”

Mighty Mike is going back home to the Crocodilian Conservation Center in Florida, where he will continue to share an important conservation message as an ambassador for wetlands habitat and preservation. He will create opportunities for others to care more about watersheds and ecosystems around them.Gator2

The last chance to see this living dinosaur at Newport Aquarium is September 9. Fans will have the chance to leave well wishes for Mighty Mike on a banner that will be on display in Gator Alley for the rest of the summer.

One Kid FREE – Extended By Popular Demand
For a very limited time, Newport Aquarium is offering one free child admission with each full price adult. The offer is valid Sundays through Fridays after 4 p.m. and is available exclusively online at NewportAquarium.com

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 Extended Summer Hours
Just for summer, Newport Aquarium is extending its hours and will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between May 27 and September 2.

Two Summers of Fun with an Annual Pass
For a limited time only, guests will get two extra months free when they purchase an Annual Pass.  That’s 14 months of fun and discovery for the price of 12 months, plus exclusive Passholder events, bring a friend free days and additional savings throughout the year. This offer ends July 22, 2018.

For more information, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

Celebrate #SharkSummer at Newport Aquarium

NEWPORT, Ky. — It’s just not summer without sharks! Newport Aquarium, the Shark Capital of the Midwest, is kicking off the summer season and Memorial Day weekend with free kid’s admission and a fintastic event celebrating sharks!

02SharkSummerLogoWithSurfBoards_PNG - CopyDuring #SharkSummer, May 27 to July 8, guests will get the opportunity to journey through the aquarium, discovering fun shark facts and shark related exhibits around every corner. They’ll even get to touch sharks including a new species of shark never before featured at Newport Aquarium. Plus, Sundays through Fridays, one kid (ages 2-12) gets in free after 4 p.m. with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket. This offer is available for a very limited time only from May 27 to July 8 and must be purchased online at https://www.newportaquarium.com/Visitor-Tips/Aquarium-Events/Summer-Family-Hours.

New Baby Sharks
Newport Aquarium is excited to announce the arrival of a new species of shark that is swimming its way into Shark Central. Wasabi and Sake, two baby Japanese Bullhead Sharks just joined more than a dozen other sharks in the Shark Central touch tank.

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Guests can easily spot the sharks as they make sand angels in the bottom of their tank, and by their long fins as they swim alongside the bigger sharks. They join the rest of their kelp forest “cousins,” including the Port Jackson, Leopard Shark, Leopard Catshark and Striped Catshark species. The aquarium is welcoming the new residents during Shark Summer from May 27 to July 8.


Extended Summer Hours

Just in time for summer, Newport Aquarium is extending its summer hours and will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between May 27 and September 2.

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Guests can touch more than a dozen different sharks in Shark Central.

 

Two Summers of Fun with an Annual Pass
For a limited time only, guests will get two extra months free when they purchase an Annual Pass.  That’s 14 months of fun and discovery for the price of 12 months, plus exclusive Passholder events, bring a friend free days and additional savings throughout the year.

#SharkSummer
With extra time and free kid’s admission, guests have the opportunity to visit Newport Aquarium for Shark Summer, which runs May 27 to July 8. See sharks like never before when you cross over the open waters of the 385,000-gallon Surrounded by Sharks exhibit on Shark Bridge. Experience what it feels like to touch six different species in Shark Central. Then, get nose-to-nose with sharks when they swim next to you and above you as you venture through more than 80 feet of acrylic tunnels.

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Explore the tunnels, and be Surrounded by Sharks!

Shark-Infested Activities during #SharkSummer

Shark Nursery – See shark eggs from three different species of sharks. Guests will have the opportunity to see the early stages of life as a baby shark grows in the egg. This brand new shark nursery is in the Shore Gallery.

Shark Bridge – More than 2 million thrill-seekers have dared to cross Shark Bridge! Included with admission, Shark Bridge is a 75-foot-long rope bridge suspended just inches above nearly two dozen sharks.

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More than 2-million thrill-seekers have dared to cross Shark Bridge.

Shark Talks and Dive Shows – Guests catch their first and largest views of shark rays and sharks in Shark Ray Bay Theater. Divers take questions from the audience about the biology and conservation of sharks and other animals found inside the huge habitat.

Shark Tank Feed – Guests can watch biologists feed the sharks and shark rays from either the Shark Ray Bay Theater, Surrounded by Sharks tunnels or through a biologist’s point-of-view from the Shark Tank Overlook.

Touch Sharks – Inside Shark Central, guests have the opportunity to touch more than a dozen sharks including the brand new Japanese Bullhead Sharks. An Animal Experience Specialist teaches guests the proper technique to touch sharks and helps them understand each species in this international collection.

For more information, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newport Aquarium Animal Caretakers Rally Behind Paralyzed Penguin

In honor of World Penguin Day, we’re sharing an amazing story that’s incredibly close to our hearts. It’s a story about one of our feathered friends who is on the road to recovery from a medical defect to her spinal cord. A year ago, Victoria the penguin couldn’t walk. Now, thanks to the care, attention and love of Newport Aquarium’s dedicated biologists, she’s making great progress.

Penguin loft - Victoria and Clifford

Victoria and Clifford in the penguin loft – November, 2016.

Victoria the Macaroni penguin came to Newport Aquarium in 2010, with her mate, Clifford. “She’s a real sweetheart – a super friendly bird,” said Dan Clady, Senior Biologist. Before her injury, guests could often find the pair spending time together in the loft area in the Penguin Palooza habitat.

Vet Visit
Senior biologist, Dan Clady, first noticed something was wrong with Victoria in February 2017, when she was seen laying around in Penguin Palooza, and not walking. Clady was baffled; he had been working with penguins since 1999 and had never seen anything like it. Initially, Clady thought Victoria had somehow broken her back when he found her in Penguin Palooza.

Penguin Palooza

Penguin Palooza is home to nearly 50 penguins.

But the bird’s condition was a mystery as “There was no possible way that she fell, causing a traumatic event that way,” said Jolene Hanna, Animal Health & Quarantine Manager, and Veterinary Technician.

Close to 50 penguins live in Penguin Palooza, including King penguins, Macaroni, Southern Rockhopper, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. Clady and Hanna turned to Newport Aquarium’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Peter Hill, who took X-rays, which showed no broken bones. “She could not bring herself into an upright position,” said Hanna. “We could not find through the radiograph why this bird was not able to stand.” Dr. Hill started Victoria on a round of medicine, including anti-inflammatories, pain reducers and steroids as part of her treatment.

Victoria Xray

Dr. Joseph Bruner (left), Jolene Hanna, and Dr. Peter Hill review Victoria’s X-ray at Greater Cincinnati Veterinary Specialists. The X-ray showed no broken bones.

“Because blood clotting was a possibility, we had to rule that out. So we put her on a series of drugs to try to figure out what we could rule out in terms of what could be the problem,” Hanna said.

Victoria exam

Victoria could not stand on her own.

After about a month, nothing changed. That’s when they decided to take Victoria in for a CT scan, which revealed a hole in her spinal cord. “It’s a defect and it was in the center of the spinal cord right at her pelvic girdle,” said Hanna, “it impacted her nerves.”

Victoria CT scan

A CT scan revealed a pin-sized hole in Victoria’s spinal cord.

Dr. Hill says he’s happy they were able to identify the lesion. “Often times these things go undiagnosed due to lack of equipment, and not testing for it.”

Swimming in Circles
Clady says the best physical therapy for Victoria was to get her back in the water, and Dr. Hill agrees. Another big step towards recovery has been to make sure she’s spending time with her fellow penguins.

“These are colonial birds, they don’t like being alone,” Clady said. Victoria gets physical therapy every day, and you can find her swimming in Penguin Palooza from 8:30-2:30 daily for her water therapy. Victoria is easily identified thanks to a red tag on both of her wings. She’s the one swimming in circles in the exhibit, as she makes progress on her left foot.  She now has full control of her right foot.

 “It’s a testament to the staff that we pursued this, and stuck with the physical therapy, and saw this treatment through, to where we are today,” said Dr. Hill.

Molting
Victoria couldn’t spend all her time in Penguin Palooza, especially when she started molting. All birds molt – they lose their feathers. Penguins have a unique molting process.

Victoria on Ice

Penguins have a unique molting process. They shed all of their feathers at once.

“When they molt, they get hot, like physically hot,” said Clady. That’s a natural condition normal in their native cold environment. Victoria went through her molt in early March, which is different than most birds because while other birds only shed a few feathers at a time, penguins shed all of their feathers at once.  During Victoria’s molting season, Clady moved her into the “cold room” behind the scenes, for a different form of therapy.

Snow Spa
Victoria started receiving a “snow spa” treatment. She spent her days lying in fresh snow that Dan shoveled daily just for her, until she finished molting. Dan described the process of molting as uncomfortable for Victoria, comparing it to a baby teething.

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Introducing Victoria to her “snow spa” behind the scenes. It helped her stay cool during her molting process.

Penguins have a core temperature of 101 degrees and can easily overheat. The “snow spa” that Dan set up for her helped her stay cool and comfortable while she was going through molting. Molting is a normal process but with her working on recovery from her spinal condition, the animal care team was happy to do anything they could to make her more comfortable.

“She sat in that snow, and started digging around. She enjoyed being able to cool off in there,” Clady said. “It alleviated the pressure on her chest too.”

Making Progress
A year later, Victoria has full control of her right foot, she’s still working on her left foot.

She’s now able to prop herself up, and Dan helps her stabilize herself. “She keeps taking a step in the right direction, and she’s constantly getting better.” said Clady.

Victoria

Victoria floats around on top the water, while Senior Biologist, Dan Clady, sprays the rockwork in Penguin Palooza.

Victoria is improving over time, and Dr. Hill says spinal cord lesions take a lot of time to improve. It’s thanks to the attentiveness of her dedicated animal care team that Victoria has made the progress she has so far.

“The upside is she is able to swim, and that’s ideal for her mental attitude and physical therapy. She’s maintained a sense of mental balance. Without that, I think she would’ve deteriorated. Without a stimulus, physical therapy and the enrichment of being around birds, she would’ve likely deteriorated quickly – from not only a mental state, but also muscle atrophy,” said Dr. Hill.

Victoria

Victoria takes a dip underwater. She’s easily identifiable by her red wing bands.

The animal care team continues to work with Victoria as she heals and improves. You might think Victoria’s the one getting all the benefit from this care. But it’s clear in talking with each of the Newport Aquarium animal experts, from Dan to Jolene to Dr. Hill and many others, they are each nurtured by their special relationship with Victoria.

Meet the “Mother of Volunteers”

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’re shining the spotlight on the “Mother of Volunteers,” the woman who single-handedly created our Volunteer & Intern Services program from the ground up for WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium. The woman with a vision is no other than Jenny Greber, Community Engagement Manager, and head of the Volunteer & Intern Services program.

Jenny Greber

“I started the volunteer and intern services program from scratch, which has been a wonderful opportunity.”

“I started at the aquarium in July of 1999, and the grand opening was May 15, 1999, so I came in less than two months later and after three weeks I had my first volunteer on the exhibit floor.”

“I actually created my job.  I was living in Seattle at the time and my mom sent me this newspaper clipping in the mail that said an aquarium was being opened (in Newport). I called and explained to them that I had volunteered and worked for the Seattle Aquarium and I told them I would like to come and help out there.”

Initially they told her that they were not going to have volunteers. They told her to call back later after they had officially opened, and call back she did.

“I called back every month for three months,” said Greber. “On the last call I gave them a list of reasons why they really should include volunteers in their aquarium.”  They were so impressed by her determination that they asked her to fax over her resume. From there, Greber would have a phone interview with the aquarium, they faxed her an offer, she accepted and the rest as they say is history.

Jenny Greber has been at the aquarium for almost 19 years. Her anniversary is this July.

“I started the volunteer and intern services program from scratch, which has been a wonderful opportunity.”

Jenny has been here every step of the way and has seen the WAVE Foundation and Newport Aquarium grow along the way. Believe it or not, at the time, not everyone was on board with the idea of having volunteers.

“There’s always road blocks with change, whether it’s good or bad, its human nature. People resist change, regardless of what it is. Coming in after the aquarium opened was challenging, people were worried that these volunteers were going to take their jobs, and they weren’t,” says Greber.

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“Volunteers are icing on the cake, they aren’t the cake, they are the icing, and they are here to help, they are here to share our mission, they’re here to engage our guests and add that extra sugar on top value that we want to keep giving on a consistent basis.”     

“My favorite part about my job is that I have the opportunity to allow the community to take part and be a part of this family. The community enhances that family dynamic. To have others experience that is awesome and that’s my favorite part.”

Of course with being the Community Engagement Manager for almost 20 years, there are many parts of Jenny’s job that she adores.

“One of the things I get really excited about is where people land after they get done having their journey here, this is just a stepping stone for a lot of the younger people in our community. It’s so wonderful to know the hundreds of people that we put into the industry that are now at AZA accredited institutions,” she said.

WAVE Award

WAVE Foundation was awarded the Inspiring Service Volunteer Engagement Award at the SVP Fast Pitch Awards.

“To see the teenagers who are now PhDs, to see some of the summer naturalists who are now veterinarians, to see some of the volunteers and interns who are now working here as employees, no matter what department they’re in.”

Jenny’s experience, “building  a program from scratch to having over 300 active volunteers,” is unparalleled, according to Dan Dunlap, the Conservation Education Curator at WAVE Foundation.

“Her knowledge of the volunteer industry and her connections in the community are irreplaceable,” said Dunlap.

WAVE Foundation’s Volunteer Department recently won a prestigious award at Social Venture Partners’ fifth annual Fast Pitch competition. WAVE was recognized with the Inspiring Service Volunteer Engagement Award.

“I love my job, this is my dream job, and I’m really excited to be able to see where we started, see where we are and to have an idea of where we’re going to go.”

Jenny Greber has changed the lives of thousands of volunteers and interns, and helped hundreds secure job opportunities within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

Want to volunteer? Come and join our family at WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium and check out our volunteer and intern services opportunities on WAVE Foundation’s website or give the Community Engagement Office a call at 859-815-1424 for any questions you might have! This is a family you will be proud to be a part of!

 

Easter Eggs at Newport Aquarium

With Easter just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at just how many eggs there are to be found at the Newport Aquarium! From shark eggs to turtle eggs, there is no shortage of the beginning stages of life here at the aquarium. As we go through our eggventure, we will be guided along the way by Scott, one of the biologists, as he shares fun facts and takes us behind the scenes for a look into the incubation rooms.  Scott has been with the aquarium for 19 years and is considered an expert on shark eggs. He was featured in a Takeover Tuesday blog post about Shark Central.

Scott Brehob, Aquatic Biologist

Aquatic Biologist, Scott, was featured in a previous blog post for Takeover Tuesday in Shark Central.

Starting off our eggtastic festivities are our Eastern Collared Lizards:

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Eastern Collared lizards, also known as the common Collared Lizard can be found in North America. Eastern Collared lizards lay a clutch of up to 14 eggs in the spring and summer months. Collared lizards As seen above, these particular collared lizard eggs were laid on February 20th, and due to hatch April 21st!

Fun Fact: Did you know collared lizards are the state reptile of Oklahoma?   Male collared lizards are identified by their bright blue and green coloration while females are a mix of gray and brown. You can find our Eastern Collared Lizard as you venture through Gator Alley!

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frog:

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Anthony’s Poison Arrow frogs are currently listed as near threatened by the IUCN. When females lay their eggs, they usually lay them on the floor of their environment, or on a large leaf.  This is when the male’s role as a parent becomes prominent.  It is now his job to guard the eggs until they hatch.

Port Jackson Shark:

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The beginning stages of life for a Port Jackson shark look just as unique as they do fully-grown. Port Jacksons are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs instead of giving live birth.

Leopard Catshark:

Leopard Catsharks are one of the few species of sharks that lay eggs.  In the picture below, it appears as though the catshark is asleep or possibly even dead, however that is not the case.

CatShark1The catshark is actually in the process of laying her eggs, which come out in twos. When they lay eggs you will notice that there are curly tendrils on each end of the pouch, known as a “mermaid purse”. The tendrils assist in anchoring the egg which secures it to the ocean floor.

Henkel’s Leaf-Tailed Gecko:

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Leaf tailed geckos hail from Madagascar. They are currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and are considered a vanishing species.

 

Takeover Tuesday: World of The Octopus Edition

It’s #TakeoverTuesday! Thanks for joining me, I’m Ty. I’ve been working here at Newport Aquarium for about 3 years. I moved here from Texas where I worked at the San Antonio Zoo as an aquarist. My favorite aspect of this job is propagation and culturing. I enjoy watching things grow and see something that was once nothing, grow into something.

Jellyfish nursery

Behind-the-scenes with our jellyfish nursery.

 

Octopuses have been known to form attachments and bonds with their keepers. We try to spend as much time as we can with Simon. He can taste with his suction cups. Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups in each arm.

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All GPOs (Giant Pacific Octopuses) are different and have different characteristics and personalities, so forming these relationships helps us understand the specific needs and behaviors of the individual. Also, it’s fun!

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Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups on each arm.

Octopuses have many well-adapted senses. One unique way they sense is through taste, but octopuses don’t use a tongue to taste, instead they use suction cups. Each suction cup on an octopus arm has taste receptors that allow the animal to taste its surroundings. This helps to not only identify food, but also understand his surroundings, and to identify objects. They can even tell the difference between people using this adaptation, and can tell who they are interacting with based on that persons individual taste.

 

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GPOs are extremely intelligent animals so providing daily stimulus and activities is critical to the animal’s health. We provide different forms of enrichment, all are in the effort to bring out the animal’s natural behaviors as well as to keep the animal entertained and healthy.  We introduce things like common tools used to clean the exhibit, offering him a chance to feel different textures and get used to recognizing the different items we use on the exhibit. This helps him to recognize these tools and learn that they are not a threat. We also use toys, and puzzles to keep the GPO’s mind occupied and stimulated. We use things like hamster balls with food inside and allow the octopus a chance to figure out how to get to the food. This gives the octopus a chance to problem solve, with the end reward of a nice treat.

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Giant Pacific Octopuses are not the only thing you can see in this exhibit. Other invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars can also be found in the #WorldOfTheOctopus. We hand feed these animals chopped shrimp or fish. Sometimes we use turkey baster to feed smaller food items like krill or brine shrimp, by simply squirting the food in front of them and watch them collect them with their out reached arms.

GPO and not a pumpkin

Here’s a closeup of Simon, the octopus, and what looks like a pumpkin at the bottom of the tank. But that’s a plumose anemone.

plumose anemone

The hamster ball is a form of enrichment, it has a piece of shrimp inside it.

Sometimes you will see what looks like a pumpkin on exhibit. These are not pumpkins, but anemones. The plumose anemones on exhibit will look like giant pluming flowers when open with their arms extending to collecting any passing food. Once they collect the food, they will retract their arms and bring that food to their mouths and start to digest. That’s when they stop looking like flowers and more like a pumpkin. They will also retreat into this ball form when agitated as a way to protect themselves.

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When you’re not looking at the octopus, you might notice several species of sea star crawling around the tank. Using what are called ‘tube feet,’ they slowly crawl around looking for any food items that might be hiding around. Like the octopus, these tube like feet have suction cups at the end of them that allow them to taste their surroundings and stick to objects.

Simon the Giant Pacific Octopus

Simon like to move across the front of the tank. Octopuses are nocturnal, but he’s active in the morning, after he’s fed.

Another fun fact… The way you can tell a male from a female octopus is by looking at its arms. With male octopuses, the 3rd arm on the left side of body is smaller and has no suction cups at the end.

Thanks for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday #WorldOfTheOctopus 🐙 edition!

Raising Baby Jellyfish: Behind the Scenes In the Jellyfish Nursery

The anticipation is building around Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit, The Ring of Fire, set to open March 9, 2018. The exhibit features the Giant Pacific Octopus, Japanese Spider Crabs and Moon Jellyfish. We recently sat down with Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium, whose team of biologists has been hard at work preparing for the landing of our Moon Jellyfish.

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Dvornak. “We want our guests to come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of all the animals on exhibit.”

Mark Dvornak

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium.

Dvornak described a two-pronged approach to developing the new exhibit. Teams of designers, engineers and biologists have been busy constructing the new gallery. At the same time, the biologists are also preparing a Moon Jellyfish nursery, which will be available for viewing on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“One of the challenges of acquiring jellyfish species for an exhibit is the constant change in numbers. Some years it is can be very difficult to source them,” said Dvornak. “So, in order to remove that unknown risk factor, we wanted to follow a sustainable approach by raising our own jellyfish.”

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We caught up with one of the main biologists in charge of the Moon Jellyfish nursery. Ty Jobson, our Moon Jelly “guru,” helped build the nursery, which consists of specialized tanks called kreisels for the jellyfish.

What is a kreisel?

“A kreisel is a tank specifically designed to hold jellyfish. Jellyfish move with the ocean currents, so the purpose of this design is to simulate that drifting, natural behavior that jellyfish have,” said Jobson.

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The nursery consists of a multistage set-up, featuring the Moon Jellyfish in their five stages of growth: planula, polyp, strobila, ephyra and medusa. Guests will have the chance to explore the Moon Jelly life cycle from larva to adult jellyfish on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“With the kreisel design, you’re trying to alleviate any edges that the jellyfish might get stuck in and also create that curve that helps water flow in a circular motion so that the jellyfish can drift.”

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Jellyfish “guru,” Ty Jobson, pauses to admire the moon jellyfish. He says they’re “almost alien, like tiny flying saucers.”

“Guests are going to have a rare opportunity to see our Moon Jellyfish through all of their life stages,” said Jobson.  “The amount of space required to display the different life stages is big, that’s why the behind the scenes tour is a great opportunity.”

Guests can see our Moon Jellyfish along with our Giant Pacific Octopus and Japanese Spider Crabs and a variety of other animals from the Ring of Fire on March 9, 2018! Stay tuned for a special edition Takeover Tuesday with Ty Jobson. To learn more, visit us at NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of Ring of Fire

The team at Newport Aquarium is counting down the days to the launch of the newest exhibit – Ring of Fire, opening soon in March 2018. The exhibit provides guests a chance to experience the animals and amazing stories of the Ring of Fire, one of the most seismically active areas in the world and home to some fascinating animals including the Giant Pacific Octopus, Moon Jellyfish and more.

We recently sat down with Jeff Gibula, Zoological Operations & Exhibit Design Manager at Newport Aquarium, who is busy coordinating the construction of the habitat for the Giant Pacific Octopus.

Did you know? Instead of bringing in construction crews, biologists at the aquarium are the ones influencing the design and constructing the new exhibit, the benefits of which are far reaching.

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“Crafting exhibits is a fantastic artistic outlet for the team,” said Gibula. “Our team is very talented and jam packed with various skill sets, we share this knowledge with each other and teach new skills to develop and expand their tool belts.”

One of the most special aspects of the new exhibit is guests will feel like they are in the habitat of the Giant Pacific Octopus with the rock work spilling out from the exhibit and while exploring the rocky Octopus Den. So far, biologists have spent over 170 hours packing cement for the space surrounding the GPO.

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“Our guests frequently ask to see an octopus on display so we’re pleased to be adding this special animal,” said Gibula. “Octopi are nocturnal, however, and sort of shy, so featuring them in a big exhibit can be difficult. That is why the rock work and very special lighting become so important.”

The design consists of several walls of volcanic, basalt-like rock and fossils, giving guests the look and feel of actually being underwater inside an Octopus’s den. In addition, the viewing windows and push-and-play components have all been placed at a child-suitable height, increasing guest interaction.

Jeff Octo Dan

Gibula looks at the rock work in the Octo Den.

“Our mission is to bring families closer together,” said Gibula. “We make mom and dad the hero by providing information close-by, so they can guide their children through this fun, entertaining and educational experience.”

Stay tuned to learn more about the construction, features and animals of the new Ring of Fire exhibit coming soon! To learn more, visit us at NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

Ring of Fire image

 

New Ribbontail Stingrays Explore New Home at Newport Aquarium

NEWPORT, Ky. – Two new stingrays representing a brand new species received a special escort into the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit at Newport Aquarium. The Ribbontail rays, affectionately named Chip and Lettuce, are brothers and come to Newport Aquarium from Georgia Aquarium where they were born and raised. Members of the aquarium’s animal care team spent the last couple months caring for the stingrays and getting them ready for their grand entrance. Divers helped guide the stingrays into the 385,000-gallon Surrounded by Sharks tank, where they were immediately greeted by Denver, the curious loggerhead sea turtle and Sweet Pea, one of Newport Aquarium’s famed shark rays. The ribbontail rays joined several species of sharks, tropical fish and other inhabitants of Surrounded by Sharks.

“The addition of a new animal to an exhibit is always fascinating as we observe the animal explore its new home and watch the other animals interact with the newest member of the community,” said Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium.

Newport Aquarium is now home to the only Ribbontail stingrays in the Midwest. Chip and Lettuce are larger stingrays, about 3 ½ feet wide by 5 feet long. They join other stingray species including honeycomb, mangrove and southern stingrays, and are easy to identify as they gracefully swim through Surrounded by Sharks. They are darker in color, and have a fascinating variation on their tail that resembles a ribbon.

1 Kid FREE
Now is the perfect time to visit Newport Aquarium while one child (ages 2-12) gets in FREE with each full price adult.* The deal comes just in time for visitors to escape from the winter weather outdoors and see the new ribbontail rays explore their new home. The one kid free offer is only available until February 28, 2018. The aquarium is also operating with extended hours on select days this month.1 Kid FREE

At Newport Aquarium, there is always more new to see and do:

  • Stingray Hideaway – Touch stingrays and explore their tropical world from above and below the water’s surface. Explore an underwater tunnel through the 17,000-gallon touch pool where you’ll be surrounded by stingrays.
  • Shark Bridge –This 75-foot rope bridge allows guests to walk just inches above nearly two dozen sharks, exotic shark rays, stingrays and more than 300 fish in one of the country’s largest open-air tank displays.
  • Surrounded by Sharks – Guests can walk through three underwater tunnels within a 385,000-gallon tank filled with rare and exotic shark rays, six species of sharks, and Denver, the mischievous 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle.
  • Seahorses: Unbridled Fun – This interactive exhibit features some of nature’s most amazing creatures, including several species of seahorses, sea dragons, razorfish and pipefish.
  • Gator AlleyGator Alley is the home of Mighty Mike – who at 14-feet long and 800 pounds is the biggest alligator in the country outside of Florida, as well as Snowball and Snowflake, two of fewer than 100 white alligators in the world.
  • Penguin Palooza – With five different sub-Antarctic penguin species totaling nearly 50 birds, Penguin Palooza boasts one of the most diverse collections of cold-weather penguins in the country.
  • Frog Bog – Children have never seen frogs like this before as they can find secret frog tanks visible only when they climb through tunnels and tubes in the kids-only Frog Bog jungle gym.

The offer of one kid free with each full price adult will be available at the Newport Aquarium ticket window, online at NewportAquarium.com or by phone at 800-406-FISH (3474). Advance ticket purchase online is highly recommended to guarantee prompt entry to the aquarium.

*This special offer cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons.

 

 

 

End of an Era – Ric Urban’s Return to the South

All of us at Newport Aquarium want to wish Ric Urban a fond farewell! After spending the past 14 years with us here at Newport Aquarium, sharing the wonders of wildlife and saving wild spaces, Ric is about to embark on his next chapter – and he’s returning to the south!

Ric Urban

Ric has left a legacy a thousand times over, giving people a greater appreciation for wildlife and wild places. – Eric Rose, Executive Director at Newport Aquarium 

Ric has more than 35 years of experience working in AZA-accredited institutions. He joined us at Newport Aquarium in 2004 as Curator of Birds and Mammals. During that time, he increased the aquarium’s penguin collection from two species to six by hand-raising several birds. He also helped bring American alligator, Mighty Mike, and albino alligators, Snowball and Snowflake, to the facility. While Ric’s role and title may have changed over the past 14 years, his dedication to conservation never disappeared.

 

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He has been responsible for developing partnerships that promote in-house and off-site conservation programs involving animals and ecosystems, as well as promoting the aquarium’s conservation efforts. Ric is active in the community as a member of Banklick Watershed Council, Sanitation District No. 1, the annual Ohio River Sweep, Reforest Northern Kentucky, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-up.

From transforming the Tri-State’s water shed and landscape, to protecting local species, Ric Urban has inspired the conservationist in all of us.

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“I always tell people that while I am living and breathing I don’t want these African penguins to be extinct, we’re not going to let that happen.” – Ric Urban

Our community is a better place because Ric lived here and spent nearly every waking moment of those 14 years inspiring others to care for the planet and its animals the way that he does. He showed us we can make a difference, that small conservation efforts add up to big ones, and that our environment is worth caring about. We’re going to miss him- and if you’ve ever met him you know there are too many reasons why to list.

My favorite conversations that Ric had with so many people went something like this.

Person: Oh, I’ve never seen a __________ (insert any animal) in-person before.

Ric: Yes, it is quite beautiful isn’t it?

Person: Definitely. Can I touch it? Will it bite?

Ric: Well, everything with teeth will bite if it feels threatened…but generally not.

                                                                                                                                –Chad Showalter

There are so many stories that I could tell about Ric Urban. He was not only the man who first hired me at the Newport Aquarium in 2011, but he quickly became my mentor. Later down the road he became my travel partner, conservation adviser and friend. I have seen first-hand the impacts he has had on summer-camp kids, volunteers of all ages, his own daughter and me.

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Ric and Alle traveled to Peru in 2012 to help protect endangered seabirds, including penguins.

One of my favorite stories was traveling with him to Peru for the Humboldt Penguin Guano Harvest in 2012. He had just undergone shoulder surgery, but still thought it would be a great idea to army crawl into a guano-filled penguin nest with one of our hosts. Why not!

If you get the chance, be sure to ask him about the “bear in the bathroom” story. It is one of my favorites! Ric truly is one-of-a-kind and will be missed greatly, but I know he will make a positive impact in Gulfport. Cheers! – Alle Barber

Ric is described by his colleagues as talented and good-natured, helping him to become quite the television and public personality. You might have seen him on Living Dayton with Nagini our red-tailed boa, or on WLWT talking to Randi Rico about Bindi the Blue-Tongued Skink and Oreo our Argentine Black & White Tegu, or sharing important conservation messages about African penguins while visiting every local and regional television station, as well as a Cincinnati Reds baseball game with Paula the African penguin, an important ambassador for her species. Ric often tells people, “When you get a chance to be close to nature and touch the animals, you begin to feel a personal connection with that animal. It’s a connection with nature, a connection with conservation.”

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Ric has made it his life’s mission to protect African penguins, an endangered species threatened by increasing competition from commercial fisheries for food and harmful crude oil spills. Ric is the Project Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Project. He also holds a seat on the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), and is a member of the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee. “I always tell people that while I am living and breathing I don’t want these African penguins to be extinct, we’re not going to let that happen,” said Ric.

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Thursday afternoon, Newport Aquarium cast members came together to share a final farewell. Reflecting upon these last 14 years, the positive relationships he has made and the legacy he will leave behind, Ric left us with these final words, “don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.”

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Ric’s new adventure will be at the Mississippi Aquarium as their Director of Husbandry & Conservation.

See ya later, Ric!