Takeover Tuesday: Scuba Santa Edition

Ho, ho, ho, the holidays are finally here! I’m so excited to be back at Newport Aquarium for the 15th year in a row. There’s no better place to spread Christmas cheer than with my favorite aquatic animals. I’m excited to take you behind the scenes with the dive team for this special #TakeoverTuesday.

Safety Check

Dive Safety Officer, LC, helps me with everything before I get into the water. She makes sure my hat is secured tightly, that my full face mask is comfortable, and that my hair and beard are not tangled into my equipment… my beard is so long that it often gets caught in my face mask!

There is a lot of work that goes into being Scuba Santa. My milk & cookie filled stomach tends to make me float, so when I am diving at Newport Aquarium, I have to have about 100 extra pounds of weights to hold me down! These weights go in my belt as well as on other equipment I take in the water with me, like my compressed tank of air which can last up to two hours!

Safety check with LC

LC was definitely given the gift of patience, my elves and I tend to ask a lot of questions.

This is part of my dive team: my fellow safety elf and Dive Safety officer, LC. LC makes sure I have the fins and wetsuit that I need in the correct size – eating as many cookies as I do, XL is always my go-to size for my wetsuit.

I want to make sure I do everything I can to protect the animals that live in it, as well as myself at all times. Remember, you can help protect the ocean and its animals too, by using less plastic and recycling! #Conservation is important.

Magic Bubble wishes

Elves delivered Magic Bubble Wishes. I love hearing what each good little boy and girl wants me to bring them Christmas morning!

After I have my scuba gear on, I like to read Magic Bubble Wishes that guests left at my mailbox in Penguin Palooza. Some people wish for penguins, some wish for alligators, and some just wish for everyone to love one another. I get to help people with their wishes while fulfilling one of my own by swimming with such amazing creatures here at Newport Aquarium!

It gets pretty warm really quickly with a mask on and all of the extra weight, so after getting dive-ready I get into the acclimation tank where I can cool off and get used to the water temperature before diving.

Acclimation

When we are in the water I take down my special book that tells me who’s on the naughty and nice list so I can let the animals know, as well as all of you!

You may wonder though, why my elves carry large candy canes! This is to ensure that we keep ourselves at a distance from the animals who may not see us if they are sleeping. If the sharks are sleeping, they won’t sense that we are in the water and they could accidentally bump into us. The candy canes allow for the elves to let them know that we are sharing the same space, and it gives us a bigger personal bubble while under water. As always, safety is key!

Underwater

My safety elves are so helpful; they make sure that sleeping sharks don’t bump into me while I’m talking to aquarium guests.

Scuba Santa meet and greet

The absolute best part of my job is getting to hear all the wishes you hold so dear. Make sure you stop by the Shark Ray Bay Theater to tell me what you’d like for Christmas!

Although I am from the North Pole, staying in water for long periods of time can make you cold, and even I have to stay warm! So every now and then I will swim to the top of the water and get out for about five minutes to warm up in a special diver hot tub behind the scenes. While I’m in the hot tub I catch up with members of the Dive Team, eat cookies, and drink hot cocoa!

Cocoa by the hot tub

Diving can get cold, so I take a few hot cocoa breaks throughout the day. I like to spend some time in the diver hot tub warming up, and catching up with members of the Dive Team.

I have to hurry though because I don’t have long before I get back into the water to fulfill more wishes! Being Scuba Santa makes me so happy and all of you make it possible by coming to visit me! I’ll be at Newport Aquarium until December 31st — but remember, I take Christmas Day off.  Thank you for joining me for this Takeover Tuesday Ho Ho Ho!

Takeover Tuesday: Meet Dive Safety Officer LC

Hello Everyone! My name is Diver LC and I am a Dive Safety Officer at Newport Aquarium. What does it mean to be a Dive Safety Officer? Follow along with me on this #TakeoverTuesday, and I’ll show you!

diver lc

Here I am behind the scenes, getting into the acclimation pool.

I have been working at Newport Aquarium for 13 years and in that time, I have had many different roles; Exhibits Supervisor, Promotions Coordinator, Overnight Coordinator, and Penguin House- just to name a few.

All of the experiences in these different jobs that I had prior help me as a Dive Safety Officer, which I started two years ago!

I received my Dive Master Certification through Scuba Unlimited, which has also helped to give me the skills needed for such a diverse job!

In the picture below, Diver Ed and I get into the Blue Ash YMCA pool right before the new volunteer diver assessment.

LC and Diver Ed

Dive Safety Officers train divers, both staff and volunteers, on how to dive in the exhibits in the aquarium and what to do in the event of an emergency. We have over 100 volunteer divers and a lot of my day is spent working with them. They are the most amazing group of people I have ever met and make the job so much more fun and meaningful!

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Here I am behind the scenes in our acclimation pool with two staff members during our Diver Emergency Training. This is training all divers must go through to be a diver.

 

During this time of year, I also have a very important role – making sure Scuba Santa is safe. We help Scuba Santa suit up behind the scenes before he enters the Surrounded by Sharks tank. We make sure his air tank is turned on before he goes in, his full face mask is secure, and his harnesses are tightened. Insider scoop- he loves his milk and cookies while warming up in a hot tub between shows and he is a SUPER nice guy!

scuba santa

Helping Scuba Santa gear up before he enters our Surrounded by Sharks tank.

Another highlight is when I get to dive in the Shark Tank to give a dive show presentation. This time of year, dive shows are on hold while Scuba Santa is in the Shark Tank. Scuba Santa is accompanied by dive safety elves. The elves are usually some of our volunteers divers. On this occasion, I went in with Scuba Santa.

LC with Scuba Santa

Scuba Santa gets safety elves when he goes in the water. That’s me with the giant candy cane!

Dive Shows are one of my favorite things to do because I get to talk to you, the guests, from my favorite tank! I get to educate guests on what is in the tank and also what can be done for ocean conservation!

Some of the absolute highlights of my career have been doing guest dives for people that I really look up to – Dr. Lucy Hawkes, a physiological ecologist who studies migration in vertebrates (including sea turtles) and marine biologist, Dr. Wallace Nicholls, author of “Blue Mind,” and creator of the Blue Marble Project.

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It was an honor to get the privilege to lead them on a dive in the Shark Tank and share what I love doing with them and also the chance to talk one on one with these amazing people that are making positive changes in the World!

Diver LC and her son (2)

Bonding moment with my son in Stingray Hideaway. He visited while he was at Camp WAVE over the summer.

Some of my favorite moments are when I get to impress my 8 year old son, Connor, who wants to be a “Scuba Diving Paleontologist and in the military like Dad”. Last summer, while he was attending Camp Wave, he got to watch me diving in the shark tank and Stingray Hideaway.

When Dr. Nichols visited Camp WAVE campers this summer, he gave me this #BlueMarble.Blue Marble It’s part of his Blue Marbles Project, reminding everyone to take care of our blue planet. His goal is to pass a blue marble through every (yes, every) person’s hand on earth, with a simple message of gratitude. Ocean conservation is very important to me. If you think Kentucky is too far away from an ocean to make a difference, think again! Conservation is all around us! It can be as simple as picking up the trash you see so that it doesn’t go into the river and then travel to the ocean, turning off lights when you leave the room, or turning off the water as you brush your teeth. Thank you for joining me on this #TakeoverTuesday. As Dr. Nichols would say, you’ve got the whole world in your hands. –DiverLC

Takeover Tuesday: Tide Pool Edition

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet Margaret Elkanick, one of the biologists here at Newport Aquarium. She started out as an intern, and now she’s a biologist! Margaret’s been here for four years. Follow along on this #TakeoverTuesday 🐚 as she starts her morning at the Tide Pool.

Touch Pool Picture

We have quite a few Leather Sea Stars in our Tide Pool Touch Tank. They get their name from the smoothness of their skin- a result of the mucous they can excrete. In the photo, you can see hundreds of tiny “tube feet” on their underside. Sea stars use these for locomotion.Starfish Tube Feet

Most of the animals in the Tide Pool Touch Tank are fed a variety of food 2-3 times a week. These food items can include shrimp, squid, clam, or fish; the variety ensures they are receiving all the correct vitamins and nutrients.

Feeding sea star

Feeding a sea star in the Tide Pool.

You can find sea urchins moving around the tank, usually scraping algae off of the walls and rocks. They use five plates- called Aristotle’s Lantern- surrounding their mouths underneath their shell, or test, to scrape at the algae.

I am in the process of setting up a program to bring out animals for guests that might not be able to reach into the Touch Tank. I think it is important that all of our guests feel included in the experiences that we offer.

You can find this Decorator Crab in the tank right next to Tide Pool Touch Tank. They pick up pieces of seaweed and other small animals- such as the anemones you see here- and attach them to hooked setae on their shell. This helps them camouflage with their surroundings.

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The big-bellied seahorses’ prehensile tail is essential to their survival. They use it to cling on to plants or other objects so that the current does not cause them to drift away. Seahorses cannot handle stronger currents or fast moving water.

Big Bellied Seahorses (2)

Observations are an important part of a job. After dropping the food in, I go around to the front of the tank to make sure all of the seahorses are eating as a lack of appetite can be an indicator of a problem.

Watching Feed

Thank you for joining me for today’s #TakeoverTuesday!
To see previous posts click here.

 

 

 

NEW Ring of Fire Exhibit Coming to Newport Aquarium in March

NEWPORT, Ky.Ring of Fire, an all-new immersive exhibit will open this spring. The exhibit will highlight the mysterious creatures that make their home along The Ring of Fire where towering volcanoes and deep ocean trenches line the Pacific Ocean rim.

Guests will explore the new space filled with some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean, the Giant Pacific Octopus, Moon Jellyfish and Japanese Spider Crabs. They will discover their amazing shape-shifting, color-changing, exoskeleton-shedding behaviors that all take place in this constantly changing ecosystem, where fire meets water.

“The ecology and the biology around the Ring of Fire is one of the most intriguing elements of the oceans,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “It’s fascinating how awesome Mother Nature and the ocean are to have animals that thrive in that turbulent environment.”

The new exhibit will be unlike any that has come before, complete with unique light and sound effects. Inspired by the volcanoes and earthquakes that define the Ring of Fire, guests will experience a periodic display of glowing light and rumbling sound. The fun show element is a reminder for guests of the churning seismic activity that created the rippling sea floor, caves and other rock formations where amazing creatures like the Giant Pacific Octopus live.

Ring of Fire will feature three zones within the space where guests can explore each specific species:

Giant Pacific Octopus: After witnessing the unusual characteristics of the Giant Pacific Octopus, like their ability to camouflage and change shape, guests will get to explore the Octopus Den. An arched rock portal invites guests into this cave-like new space never before accessible to the public. There, they will learn more about this highly intelligent species through videos and interactives.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_GiantPacificOctopus

Moon Jellyfish: An all-new custom built display of Moon Jellyfish will showcase hundreds of the animals as they float and flutter. The picture window display starts just inches off the ground so both little kids and grownups can take in the mesmerizing view.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_MoonJellyfish

Japanese Spider Crabs: The spider crabs will be featured in a cylindrical tank where guests can watch them explore their surroundings with a 360-degree view. Wall graphics showing the full size of the species will serve as a fun photo op next to a man-size crab as they can reach up to 12 feet claw to claw in the wild.

NAPQ_RingOfFire2018_JapaneseSpiderCrabs

Annual Pass Deal:
From November 1 to December 31, Newport Aquarium is offering Annual Passes on a “Buy 3, Get 1 Free” sale. Annual Passes are valid for one year from the date of purchase, so guests can use them now to experience Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa and into next year, including a VIP Passholder-only preview party for the opening of Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire Buy 3 Get 1 Free

The new exhibit will be open by Spring Break, so the first guests will be able to explore the Ring of Fire in March 2018. To learn more about The Ring of Fire exhibit and the animals, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

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 Newport Aquarium, named one of the top 10 U.S. aquariums in 2017 by USA Today’s 10Best.com, one of the top U.S. aquariums in 2016 by Leisure Group Travel, and has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

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One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Shark Central Reopens after State of the Art Transformation

Shark Central, the 4,500-gallon immersive touch tank, that has captivated guests since 2006, just reopened to the public after a state of the art transformation over the summer. In August of 2017, the exhibit temporarily closed for an upgrade. This meant sending the nearly two-dozen sharks that call Shark Central home to the offsite animal health facility until the completion of the project.

What makes Shark Central  unique is the opportunity to see and touch sharks from around the world. Some of the sharks in Shark Central are from the West Coast, like the leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish, and California horn sharks. Others are native to South Africa, such as the striped catsharks (also called pyjama catshark), and the leopard catshark. There is even a shark that can only be found in Australia – the Port Jackson horn shark.

Shark Central

Guests can touch six different species in the Shark Central touch tank.

The biggest upgrade to Shark Central is behind the scenes, but vitally important – a new state of the art life support system. This new system was the major hype with all of the biologists working on it. Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob shares his enthusiasm about the new design and more efficient system.

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Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob eagerly shows off the new energy efficient life support system behind the scenes.

“I’m incredibly excited to have a brand new and more efficient life support system that gives these sharks great water,” Brehob said. Brehob takes care of the sharks in Shark Central. He has seen the evolution of the exhibit since it first opened in 2004, and shared his passion for taking care of the sharks in his Takeover Tuesday post.

The system is a technological upgrade; it’s less bulk and more bang, just like the ever evolving cell phones we use. We won’t get into the entire scientific nitty gritty; but the new pumps are VFD (variable flow drive) and they include their own computer systems. This allows for the biologists to manually type in what they need from the pump that feeds the tank and the bio towers. If they need more flow to the tank and less pull from it, they can simply type that in. Also with the upgrade, if one of the pumps goes down, the other one can do the work for it, ensuring optimal safety and efficiency.

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Other changes include resurfacing the tank walls, a new paint coat on the exhibit, new decking, and a new concrete ledge. When asked about his favorite part of the project, Assistant Curator Dan Hagley stated he “enjoyed the plumbing aspect and getting to use new things I’ve never played with before that will make it a lot easier for the biologists to maintain the tank.”

Teamwork played a big role in completing this project, and it would not have been possible without the help of the volunteers and interns who assisted our animal husbandry team, and engineers. Volunteers helped drain the tank and cleared out all of the gravel and river rocks so a crew could then come in and resurface the tank walls.

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A ton of work went into this transformation, some of which we could easily overlook like cleaning the new gravel before filling it in the tank! The new filtration systems could easily do that work over time; however, the gravel is very dusty and makes the tank cloudy if it isn’t cleaned beforehand. To save time and get the exhibit looking as nice as possible, several staff members and volunteers took on the task of cleaning the new gravel before shoveling it into the exhibit.

After filling the tank with freshly washed gravel, our biologists filled the tank with water. They made sure the temperature is 60 degrees – these sharks are accustomed to that cold temperature in their native environments,  Brrrr! Biologists also made sure the water has accurate flow rates, balance, and chemical levels before bringing the animals back in. The animals are brought back within a number of moves to ensure that all is well in the environment.Shark Central

“I love being able to educate people about these fascinating animals from around the world. Many people don’t even have the opportunity to see sharks up close, but our guests get to interact with them,” said General Curator, Mark Dvornak.

Dvornak shared his passion about the transformation and how the new water system will give the sharks the optimal healthy environment that a unique touch tank needs. His last big project was the new Stingray Hideaway. It is a larger scale touch tank project that is also open for visitors to experience along with our better than ever Shark Central!

Be sure to stop by and visit Shark Central to see the energy-efficient improvements on your next visit. There are sharks from all over the world awaiting your arrival right here, at Newport Aquarium.

 

Join the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge

By: Ric Urban, Senior Biologist

NEWPORT, Ky. — Mermaids are ambassadors for our marine environments and freshwater ecosystems. As they make their way to Newport Aquarium from around the world this week, it is the perfect time to kick-off our #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge. These mythical creatures will be swimming with their freshwater fish friends in the Amazon Tunnel through October 15. They’ll delight guests and share their conservation stories in daily meet-and-greets.

Mermaid Calliope

Mermaid Calliope took a break along the banks of Ohio River. The Ohio River is one of the largest watersheds in our region.

The #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge is one of the ways we bring awareness to the plastics we use every day and how we can work to reduce our dependency of plastics. The mermaids need us! Our oceans need us! Our rivers need us! Mermaids don’t like swimming with plastics.

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Seahorses don’t like swimming with plastic straws, and neither do mermaids.

Newport Aquarium is part of the Aquarium Conservation Partners (ACP) which is a first-of-its-kind collaboration created to increase the collective impact of aquariums on ocean and freshwater conservation. The ACP was founded by Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium, and Shedd Aquarium. These three major aquariums were joined by Newport Aquarium and 14 other aquariums throughout North America to make a change. Newport Aquarium and its ACP partners are committed to eliminating all plastic straws and single-use bags, and significantly reduce or eliminate plastic beverage bottles by 2020. We first told you about the In Our Hands campaign here on the blog, back in the summer.

BSD_ACP_OceanInOurHands_Social_Graphic

In Our Hands is a consumer campaign of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), a coalition of 19 U.S. aquariums taking action together to advance ocean and freshwater conservation.

When you visit Newport Aquarium to see the mermaids, you can share your stories with them in Shark Ray Bay Theater and tell them how you are ‘kicking the plastic’ habit. You can also see them swimming in the Amazon Tunnel, take a selfie with your refillable water bottle and the mermaid!

I have had some time to talk to the mermaids and hear their stories of where they live and the impact of plastic pollution on their underwater environments. Mermaid Coral is the protector of the coral reefs.

Newport Aquarium Mermaids

Mermaid Coral is the protector of the coral reefs.

While talking with her, I discovered the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world are dying. The oceans are fun places to swim. Mermaid Coral and her mermaid sisters are entertained by us humans as we jump and play in the sun on the beach. A big problem for the merfolk is we use sunscreens that wash off in the water and harm the coral reefs. Mermaid Coral would like us to start using biodegradable sunscreens that will still protect us but not harm the reefs and the fishes that swim in the oceans.

Mermaid Calliope

Mermaid Calliope is from the Caribbean and does not like plastics. You can’t swim with her if you use plastics.

Mermaid Calliope is from the Caribbean and does not like plastics. You can’t swim with her if you use plastics. She loves metal re-usable straws. They get nice and cold and make her sweet tea “yummy.” Plastic straws are in the Top 10 of plastic debris found on the beaches and in the oceans. Many seabirds and mammals have ingested plastic straws that have harmed them.

Ninety percent of all the trash floating in the oceans is made of plastics. The #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge is our way as leaders and part of the ACP initiatives to reduce sources of plastic pollution in the ocean and freshwater ecosystems.  Our “plastic pollution” problem is not just an ocean problem or a freshwater problem.  Plastic Pollution starts as a land problem!

Join us in the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge and tag us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to show how you are reducing your dependency on plastics. Everyone that shares with us will be registered for a raffle to win a “Plastic Free” Newport Aquarium package and a tour of the Newport Aquarium by yours truly.

Let’s take the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge Together!

Mermaids Return to Newport Aquarium – with Pirates!

NEWPORT, Ky. — Mermaids return to Newport Aquarium to enchant guests September 29 – October 15, and this year they’re bringing pirates with them! Visitors will be amazed when they see mermaids swimming gracefully in the 37-foot long, 120,000-gallon Amazon Tunnel alongside some of the biggest freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima. Mermaids will be swimming from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day.Mermaids 2017

Newport Aquarium guests also will have the opportunity to personally meet a mermaid while she’s sitting on her throne inside Shark Ray Bay Theater. Daily mermaid dive and meet-and-greet times are included with regular admission, and guests can visit NewportAquarium.com for more information.

New for 2017- guests will encounter swashbuckling pirates at every turn through their Newport Aquarium adventure and even have the chance to meet a pirate in the aquarium’s newest experience – Stingray Hideaway.

Newport Aquarium Mermaids

Visitors will be greeted by mermaids swimming in the 37-foot long, 120,000-gallon Amazon Tunnel.

“Newport Aquarium’s mermaids are a tradition Cincinnati looks forward to every year,” said Chad Showalter, senior marketing and communications manager at Newport Aquarium. “And this year’s addition of pirates will give guests even more to discover during their adventure.”

Mermaids and Pirates Ball
The festivities kick off with the Mermaids and Pirates Ball on Friday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. This after-hours family-friendly costume party includes appetizers and refreshments, dancing, an adventure map and mermaid and pirate-themed activities. There’s also a special mermaid meet-and-greet and much more. Tickets can be purchased online for this signature event.

Mermaids and Pirates Breakfast
Another add-on experience this year is the Mermaids and Pirates Breakfast on Oct. 1, 8, and 15 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Guests can enjoy breakfast with their families in Newport Aquarium’s Riverside Room. All guests get exclusive access to meet a mermaid and pirate. After breakfast, guests will be invited into the aquarium before it opens to the public.

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

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 Newport Aquarium, named one of the top 10 U.S. aquariums in 2017 by USA Today’s 10Best.com, one of the top U.S. aquariums in 2016 by Leisure Group Travel, and has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

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One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Celebrating Hogwarts Back to School in Newport Aquarium’s “Potion” Lab

September 1, 2017 marks nearly two decades from the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where a grown-up Harry Potter sees his own children off to Hogwarts.

In honor of little witches and wizards heading back to Hogwarts today, Newport Aquarium Water Quality Specialist, Cameo VonStrohe shares some “potions” she creates to analyze the water chemistry at the Newport Aquarium.


“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses.”

— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


Just as potions are important in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, chemistry, science, and water quality are important here at Newport Aquarium. Now, from our own Harry Potter fan, and “Water Wizard,” here’s a look at how everyday chemistry works in the potions water lab.

Hello. I am Cameo VonStrohe, the Water Quality Specialist for the Newport Aquarium. Thanks for joining me today. I thought I’d share some potions – that’s reagents for you muggles.test tubes

But first, let’s talk about the nitrogen cycle and why testing is important.

Ammonia produced by the fish in their waste, uneaten food, and decaying plant matter all contribute to ammonia levels which is quite toxic to fish (think cruciatus curse or worse).

However, there are necessary, beneficial bacteria living in the tanks that convert the ammonia (NH3) to a less toxic form of nitrogen, nitrite (NO2), and then to an even less toxic form, nitrate (NO3).  With proper filtration/life support systems and maintenance by our biologists and engineers, the bacteria is kept in check.  To ensure all these components are working properly and the fishes’ environment is healthy, I run a gamut of tests.  NH3, NO2, and NO3 are three of my top five tests performed a minimum of once a week on every tank in the aquarium and including our Offsite Animal Health Facility.

Time for Potions:

One ingredient in the ammonia test set-up is alkaline citrate, which I’m currently running low on.  So first, you need to don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including robes lab coat, goggles, and gloves.  Safety first!  Review your recipe and prep your lab bench with the supplies.

Potions Day

“Potions Day” is my favorite day in the lab!

The dry chemicals are weighed out on a scale and distilled water is measured in a volumetric flask – precision matters.

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Add a magnetic stir bar to the “glass cauldron” and place the beaker on a stirrer plate.  Mix to dissolve and like magic, the solution turns from milky white to clear.  Now the reagent is ready and it’s time to tidy up the laboratory.

ALWAYS keep your lab space clean and organized and you will have a very content Professor Snape.

Preparing the samples for testing:

sample bottles

To the right of the sample bottles are smaller containers called “cuvettes,” with the pink tinted coloring. These are for the nitrite testing.

The red test tube rack holds samples for the ammonia test.  Both of these will be tested on a spectrophotometer located in the fume hood.

spectrophotometer

The spectrophotometer (on the left) is a scientific instrument that measures the absorbance of light at specific wavelengths.

For each test, light (Lumos!) is passed through the sample where the amount of light absorbed/how much is transmitted is measured.  The machine puts a value to that measure and this is the data that I review.

Reviewing data

Reviewing test data for a new, improved nitrate test option.

For the Hermione types out there, you probably are curious as to the other two tests in the Top 5…These are salinity (tested with a refractometer) and pH (tested on a benchtop meter). Both are also highly important parameters to maintain for fish health and we can discuss those next time.

Thanks for letting me have a little fun with this post and joining me in the lab.  I wish you all a great school year!

#Hufflepuff

 

 

 

Takeover Tuesday: Animal Experience Specialist

Welcome to Takeover Tuesday! My name is Kristen Guevara and I have the pleasure of volunteering for the Husbandry department through the WAVE Foundation, as well as work for the Newport Aquarium as an Animal Experience Specialist. I started volunteering when I received a Husbandry Internship in the Fall of 2016 under the mentorship of Jen Hazeres, a Senior Biologist.

Kristen Guevara
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look above the ribboned sea dragons tank. I’m getting ready to start my day cleaning each seahorse tank with our scrub pad called a “Doodle Bug.”

Hoping to find a career in the field of animal husbandry, I have been able to continue gaining volunteer experience with Laurel, the primary seahorse biologist. Through Laurel’s guidance, I have learned how much time and effort it takes to care for all of the Seahorses in our Seahorse Gallery.

Each tank is deep-cleaned once a day, using the Doodle Bug to scrub the walls of each tank, as well as cleaning up any leftover food or other particles in the tank.

In addition to scrubbing the walls, we have to clean out each tank and filtration system. This is done by hydro vacuuming the gravel (shown here) or by syphoning out any leftover food or animal waste.

hydrovaccuming

Behind-the-scenes above the ribboned sea dragons tank, syphoning the tank.

Seahorses can be a little more susceptible to skin disorders because they lack the scales that fish have, but rather have bony-plated armor. Therefore, it is important to keep the seahorse tanks as clean as possible. To prevent any sort of cross contamination it is important that each tank have its own Doodle Bug, and syphon. Washing hands in between tanks is a MUST as well.

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A behind-the-scenes look at one of our spiny seahorses, also called thorny seahorse.

Seahorses will use their prehensile tail to hold on to seaweed and rocks in their environment, patiently waiting for their prey to swim by. They are ambush predators so once food comes within reach they will quickly suck them up using their pipe-like snout.

This is a video of our freshwater pipefish eating one of their favorite foods, brine shrimp! Pipefish are related to seahorses and they both fall under the Sygnathidae family. Seahorses spend the entire day foraging for food because they lack a stomach! They can quickly digest food and since they have no place to store it, continually search for food during the day. To accommodate their appetite, the seahorses are fed 2-3 times a day!

Denver. loggerhead seaturtle

This is the acclimation tank behind-the-scenes. We bring Denver, the loggerhead sea turtle, back here to find him. This tank is the same water system as our Surrounded by Sharks tank.

My personal favorite to feed is Denver, the loggerhead sea turtle. He eats separate from our sharks and shark rays because he would steal all of their food if he could! Here he is getting one of his favorite fish, Spanish mackerel.

Bindi, blue tongue skink

Here I am with Bindi, a Blue Tongue Skink. She is one of our ambassador animals that we bring out for guests to meet and learn about.

Blue tongue skinks are native to Australia, and just like their name suggests, they have a bright blue tongue. This is always a highlight to my day because not only do I get to interact with the animals, but I get to share my passion for these unique animals with the guests at the aquarium.

We have daily animal encounters right outside our new Stingray Hideaway exhibit.

Bindi, Blue Tongue Skink

Animal Encounter with Bindi, the Blue Tongue Skink.

You can meet one of our outreach animals, learn some interesting facts about them, and possibly even touch one of our animal ambassadors. Bindi is just one of our many animal ambassadors that you could meet! Times of animal encounters may change, check the Newport Aquarium website for more information on animal encounters.

Last, but definitely not least, are the penguins! Our penguins are repeatedly voted as one of our guests’ favorite animals.

Guest interaction

I like interacting with guest and answering questions they have. Here I am at Penguin Palooza, talking to guests who just watched a penguin feed.

Here I am after a Penguin Feed speaking with a few guests that had some great questions about penguins. You can see our Penguin Feed daily, check the Newport Aquarium website for times, as they may change. I am fortunate to be part of our dedicated team to ensure our guests get the most out of their visit and maybe I’ll see you on your next visit to the Aquarium!

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Alligator Awareness Day

Today is Alligator Awareness Day. Alligators are mainly spotted in the southeastern parts of the United States, including Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, but you can spot seven American Alligators right here at Newport Aquarium! American alligators are the first animals to ever be put on the endangered species list, but were later removed thanks to education and conservation of the species.

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White Alligators:

Our white alligators are the most unique because not many of them are found in the wild or even in zoos or aquariums. Snowball (14 years old) and Snowflake (12 years old) are two of fewer than 100 known white alligators in the world.

These unique creatures look the way they do because they are albino, specifically a type called amelanistic. Biologist, Erin Muldoon said this means the alligators have “a loss of the pigment, melanin. This gives them their white skin and red eyes.” This condition also gives them the inability to blend in with their surroundings, or protect themselves from the sun.

Just as certain genes are passed down from a parent to a child, Snowball and Snowflake would most likely pass down Albinism if these two were to have babies.

Baby Gators:

Newport Aquarium currently has four baby alligators. Carl, Willard, Edmund, and Murphy are ambassador animals for their species. They are part of our Animal Outreach Program. They were all born in August 2015 at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

baby alligator

Guests get a one-on-one interaction with a baby alligator during a Backstage Animal Experience.

In order to keep people interested and informed about these gators, guests at Newport Aquarium are able to get up close and personal with them. “Allowing guests to touch and interact with these animals helps to spark a connection that can inspire them to help preserve these animals and their wild habitat,” said Muldoon.

The WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium takes the baby alligators to schools, libraries, daycare centers and senior centers. To learn more about having the WAVE on Wheels Educational Outreach Program visit you, click here.

Our baby gators will eventually return to St. Augustine once they reach a certain length and size, and then we will welcome a new batch of baby gators!

Mighty Mike:

Our well known gator Mighty Mike made his debut return with us in 2013, and has been catching the eyes of many ever since.

Mighty Mike

Guests can get eye-to-eye with Mighty Mike in Gator Alley.

Guests can get eye-to-eye with Mighty Mike in Gator Alley. Mike is around 15 feet long and is estimated to weigh around 700-800 lbs.

You must be thinking…How do you feed such a BIG gator? “He is target trained, which means that he must come to a target to get his food. One of his current favorites right now is chicken,” Muldoon said.

Feeding Mighty Mike

Herpetologists, Erin Muldoon and Ryan Dumas have target trained Mighty Mike.

Alligator Facts:
There are only two species of true alligators in the world, the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the endangered Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis).

Compared to crocodiles, alligators have a rounder and wider “U” shaped snout. Also, when the alligator’s jaw is closed, the fourth bottom tooth cannot be seen.

Most alligators prefer to live in fresh water.

Stop by and discover the wonder of all of the animals at Newport Aquarium – the land-dwelling species, and aquatic animals, and we’re sure you’ll make memories worth repeating.

To learn more about the Backstage Animal Experience at Newport Aquarium, click here.