Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland Celebrates 16 Years at Newport Aquarium

NEWPORT, Ky. — Just as it’s getting cold and icy outside, experience a taste of the tropics inside Newport Aquarium, as Scuba Santa returns for his 16th year. Newport Aquarium invites the public to experience the Cincinnati holiday tradition under the sea Nov. 23 – Dec. 31 at Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland.NPAQ_ScubaSanta_HR_2015_Steve_Ziegelmeyer-8386-REVISED

Imagine, walking up to the 385,000 gallon Surrounded by Sharks tank, watching sharks swimming all around, and being greeted by Scuba Santa who knows your child’s name. Scuba Santa’s friendly elves also welcome guests to Shark Ray Bay Theater throughout the holiday season. Whether it’s singing along to the “12 Days of Christmas,” dancing playfully in the theater amid colorful holiday lights, or popping bubbles that fall from the ceiling, families are sure to make lasting memories.

“Every year Newport Aquarium transforms into a truly wondrous setting where families can discover the wonder of an undersea holiday celebration,” said Eric Rose, executive director of Newport Aquarium. “It’s the only underwater holiday tradition in Greater Cincinnati, and who wouldn’t want to celebrate the holidays in the tropics? You can at Newport Aquarium!”

The Water Wonderland journey will also take guests through a number of illuminated and holiday-clad galleries, culminating in a truly wondrous experience where families connect and interact with the magic of an undersea holiday celebration:

  • Shark Ray Bay Theater – Guests will be surrounded by lights, bubbles and holiday music as they join Scuba Santa’s elves in song and discover how some of Newport Aquarium’s most iconic animals celebrate holidays under the sea. Children will have the unique opportunity to meet Scuba Santa® one-on-one, as he dives inside the 385,000-gallon Surrounded by Sharks tank, and tell him their holiday wishes.
  • Seahorses: Unbridled Fun – Hundreds of twinkling sea-creature lights will hang from the ceiling of the Seahorses: Unbridled Fun exhibit over some of nature’s most amazing creatures, including pipefish and several different species of seahorses.
  • Stingray Hideaway – Visit the tropical paradise getaway where Scuba Santa goes to relax after the busy holiday season. His elves are already there decorating with festive tropical decor ready to welcome guests to Stingray Hideaway. Plus, guests can interact with and touch two dozen stingrays in the 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool, while enjoying the tropical holiday oasis.
  • Gator Alley – Honky-tonk holiday lighting, music and decorations welcome guests at Gator Alley, the home of Snowball and Snowflake, two of less than 100 rare white alligators in the world.
  • Kroger Penguin Palooza – Children can write their holiday wish on a magic bubble and mail it at Scuba Santa’s Post Office inside Kroger Penguin Palooza, where five species of cold-weather penguins – a total of nearly 50 birds spread their own brand of holiday cheer.

* Scuba Santa® will not be diving on Christmas Day – he will be resting after a busy night traveling to homes all around the world.

Buy3Get1FREE_SnBRA_640x350

Buy 3, Get 1 FREE Annual Pass Sale: In time for the holidays, guests who purchase three Newport Aquarium Annual Passes will receive a fourth Annual Pass FREE. The Annual Pass Holiday Special ends on Dec. 31. Annual Passes are valid for one year from the date of purchase, so guests can use them now to experience Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland. Passes are also valid into next year, to enjoy all the new surprises coming for Newport Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary.

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

 

Closing a Door and Opening a Window… With a Beach View!

Farewell Scott Brehob

Newport Aquarium prepares to say so long to one of the longest tenured staff members here. Aquatic Biologist, Scott Brehob has been at the aquarium since the doors opened in the summer of 1999. Scott started out in guest services, selling admission tickets and has advanced through the ranks to become a resident shark expert. Passionate about his work and conservation, now he’s taking his talent to the Gulf Coast where he will continue to be an ambassador for wildlife and wild places.

20180316_140212(0)

“One major thing that I love about working here is educating people about all the amazing animals in our oceans, rivers, and lakes of the world,” Scott said in his Takeover Tuesday post. “I have had the joy of doing this in several different facets. From talking to the guests directly on the front line to caring for the animals and making amazing exhibits as an aquarist.”

Scott became an Aquatic Biologist trainee in 2003. Three short years later, he fulfilled his dream of becoming an official Aquatic Biologist (inspired by the show SeaQuest) and has been inspiring the inner biologist in us all ever since. Often mistaken (by interns) for Charlie Hunnam, it’s hard to miss his ponytail! Whether it was greeting guests on tours, feeding sharks in Shark Central, or giving personal tours behind the scenes, Scott is never shy about sharing his enthusiasm about the animals he takes care of every day.

He took that enthusiasm outside of the aquarium as well, with several reoccurring TV segments, including Wild Wednesdays on Local 12 – most recently showing Jen Dalton baby sharks, and with Nagini the red-tailed boa constrictor on Living Dayton, as well as WLWT and  Fox 19. Scott is not only an amazing biologist, he also cares deeply about educating the public about marine life and why we should care about saving it.

“Everything we strive for is that conservation message. I love these touch tanks because they (guests) can get up close and personal with animals that they would never otherwise see in Kentucky,” Scott told Lyssa High from WTVQ, when she visited Shark Central.

What Scott’s Colleagues are Saying:

“Scott is a perfect example of a dreamer. He knew he wanted to work with sharks at age 7, and never lost focus of achieving that dream. He shares that story sometimes with guests on tours, as inspiration for the kids,” said Sydney Sharer, Newport Aquarium exhibits team member, who has worked with Scott for 18 years.

DSC_0029

This was one of Scott’s very first TV interviews.

“What I am going to miss about Scott is his ability to be available to help with whatever was going on, no matter the hour, be it an animal transport, a tank break down or set up, and anything else that needed to be done,” said fellow biologist, Michelle Fry. “He is a wonderful co-worker and an even better friend who I will miss working with but I am so excited for his new adventure.”

“Scott is like the little brother I’ve always wanted! It’s been fun watching him grow through the years, and watching his passion grow. We have such great memories being out in the ‘Shark Squad,’ the very first shark outreach cart.” said Tina Newberry, marketing manager. Tina has worked with Scott for 14 years.

IMG_E9982

“I have learned so much from Scott and appreciate all the struggles, holidays, diving, transport trips, presentations, feeds, training sessions, inventive MacGyver moments, and much much more. Love you, brother, and I’m proud to have worked with you.”   – Jen Hazeres, Biologist

IMG_3862C

“They’ve taught me a lot on how a team should function, and I definitely am taking that with me,” Scott said. The team of biologists got into the Halloween spirit and welcomed guests to Jurassic Park.

“I’ll miss Scott’s consistent dependability and calm demeanor,” said Jolene Hanna, Animal Health & Quarantine Manager, and Veterinary Technician.

Husbandry

Scott, Jen, and Jolene were part of the original team of biologists that worked closely with the shark rays.

Scott, Jolene, and Jen Hazeres were the three biologists who work with our shark rays the most. “It was such a learning curve with the adults and pups. He took everything in stride and was a major part of the success we’ve had with the species,” Jolene said.

“He has held many roles and enriched many of our lives in his time here.  While I am proud and excited for him, I am also saddened.  Scott will be sorely missed,” said Chris Pierson, Newport Aquarium operations director, who has worked with Scott for 17 years. “Having worked with him for so long, and watching him grow and move up to a higher position is very rewarding. We all share in that success. It makes me proud of him.”

“It’s very rewarding for me to see Scott grow in multiple roles to the leader and professional he has become. His unique personality and captivating presence comes through, showing his love and passion for wildlife and conservation,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium’s Executive Director.

Scott gatorcheckup

Chris Pierson and Scott Brehob circa 2005

“As long as I’ve been at Newport so has Scott. I can’t condense my 15 years of working side by side with him down to one story.  We have done countless projects together.  He’s helped me out of some tight situations, usually of my own doing but he was always there to lend a hand,” said Dan Hagley, Newport Aquarium Assistant Curator. “Over the years I’ve learned to lean on Scott for his honesty and perspective on all the complex situations animals have presented us over the years. I’ve seen him grow from “Hottie Scottie” to a mentor for interns and his peers. Scott has left a lasting impression in my life that will always be there and he has left his mark on the Aquarium that will last for years.”

Diver Scott

Scott will be moving to warmer weather and larger bodies of water, as his new adventure is taking him to the Gulf Coast.

Good luck Scott! We will miss you!

Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure Opening at Newport Aquarium in January

NEWPORT, Ky. — Newport Aquarium announced plans today to kick off a year full of surprises as it gears up for its 20th anniversary. A new experience, Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure will open in January. The new addition for kids and families will kick off a year of surprises including new exhibits, animals, events and more.

SplashAndBubblesReefTownAdventure_018_640x300

Straight from the TV show to Newport Aquarium, Splash and Bubbles’ Reeftown Adventure will transform the space and expand the footprint of the area between Frog Bog and Stingray Hideaway. Kids can climb and play their way through Coral Cove and become a Reeftown Ranger as they learn about our One Big Ocean and the animals that call it home. The experience will also include the Kelp Forest, a completely new area to guests. Through technology, families can color their own fishy friends and bring them to life in the animated world of Splash and Bubbles.

“We’re inviting our youngest visitors to explore the undersea world of Splash and Bubbles where they can start learning about animals and conservation,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium’s executive director. “And our goal is to show that exploring and learning about the ocean is so much fun!”

Highlights of the new experience include:

NPAQ_SnBReeftownAdventures_Entrance_1080

Just like Splash & Bubble do on TV, guests will “Catch a current” as they enter this fun new experience on their way to explore and play in Reeftown, Coral Cove, Kelp Forest and other environments from the show.

Reeftown Adventure:
Just like Splash and Bubbles do on TV, guests will “Catch a current” as they enter this fun new experience on their way to explore and play in Reeftown, Coral Cove, Kelp Forest and other environments from the show.

 

Reeftown Ranger:
Kids can learn about the importance of ocean conservation through fun hands-on games as they earn their status as an official “Reeftown Ranger.”

NPAQ_SnBReeftownAdventures_ReefftownRangerStation_1080

Kids can learn about the importance of ocean conservation through fun hands-on games as they earn their status as an official “Reeftown Ranger.”

Kelp Forest:
Parents and kids can color a fish that reflects their own personality. Then, through the magic of technology, they’ll bring their creations to life and watch them swim through the world of Splash, Bubbles, and other popular characters from the show.

NPAQ_SnBReeftownAdventures_KelpForest_1080

Parents and kids can color a fish that reflects their own personality. Then, through the magic of technology, they’ll bring their creations to life and watch them swim through the world of Splash and Bubbles among popular characters from the show.

About Splash and Bubbles:
Splash and Bubbles are the stars of the ocean-themed animated kids’ series of the same name on PBS. The show encourages children to explore the natural undersea world and features endearing and humorous characters on fun-filled adventures. Splash and Bubbles can be seen on local PBS station, CET. The TV show is co-produced by Herschend Studios and the Emmy Award winning The Jim Henson Company, creators of Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train.

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 this year to experience Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland. Passes are also valid into next year, to enjoy all the new surprises coming for Newport Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary. Annual Passes can be purchased at NewportAquarium.com or by calling 800-406-FISH (3474).

Buy3Get1FREE_SnBRA_640x350

To learn more about Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure, and to follow more announcements for Newport Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary, visit NewportAquarium.com.

###

 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.

 

 

 

 

Mermaids Return to Newport Aquarium

Mermaids return to Newport Aquarium to enchant guests September 28 – October 14. And for the first time ever, guests will get to explore the all new Mermaid Cove, where a mermaid can swim right up and meet them. With this new addition, guests will now have three opportunities to see and interact with mermaids throughout Newport Aquarium. Add a couple of pirates, and it’s a swashbuckling good time!

The magical mermaid experience begins in Shark Ray Bay Theater where Newport Aquarium guests will be greeted by a mermaid while she’s sitting on her throne. It’s the perfect photo opp, while ocean friends like Denver the sea turtle, Sweet Pea the shark ray, and our sand tiger sharks all swim up to the Surrounded by Sharks window to say hi.

Next stop on the journey to find mermaids is the tropical habitat of the Coral Reef. Visitors will be mesmerized when they see real-life mermaids swimming gracefully underwater, alongside cownose stingrays and other tropical fish friends in the 30-foot long, 60,000-gallon Coral Reef Tunnel.

New for 2018 – The mermaid pod has taken over Stingray Hideaway, and transformed the tropical locale into Mermaid Cove. This unique new interaction will allow a mermaid to swim, show off her glorious tail and talk to guests. With the mermaids visiting from different parts of the world, it’s the perfect spot for them to tell their new friends all about their adventures and how important ocean conservation is for them and all sea life.

“Newport Aquarium’s mermaids are a tradition families looks forward to every year,” said Eric Rose, Executive Director at Newport Aquarium. “Mermaids are ocean advocates, and help share important conservation messages like saying ‘no’ to plastic bags, and skipping single-use plastic straws.”

Daily mermaid appearances are included with regular admission, and guests can visit NewportAquarium.com for more information.

Mermaids and Pirates Party
The festivities kick off with the Mermaids and Pirates Party on Friday, Sept. 28 from 7 p.m. – 10 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.

Mermaid and Pirate Breakfasts
Another add-on experience this year is the Mermaids and Pirates Breakfast on Oct. 7 and 14 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).

 

National Zoo Keeper Week 2018

This week is National Zoo Keeper Week. Even though we don’t have “Zoo Keepers,” our Biologists give exemplary care to the animals that live here at Newport Aquarium. Follow us throughout this week to see what our biologists do every day! #NZKW

nzkw-2018-logo

Mission: To recognize and promote dedicated zoo and aquarium professionals year round, culminating in an annual celebration during the third week in July – National Zoo Keeper Week.

Newport Aquarium has twelve biologists that care for all of the fish, reptiles, amphibians, and penguins that have their home here. Care for these animals is more than just simply feeding and giving the animals some attention. They also have a lot of cleaning, food preparation, and maintenance work to do! #NZKW

Training is an important part of the care of many of our animals here at Newport Aquarium. Animals like Mighty Mike and our Sharkrays are target trained. This means that they know to come to a target pole to get their food. This helps the biologists safely work with these animals and ensures that every one of them gets the food they need.

Kelly and Erin feeding Mike (2)

Kelly and Erin target feed Mighty Mike, our 14-foot long, 800-pound alligator.

Our biologists give animals enrichment. Enrichment can be anything from a new object in their space, changing around their furniture, a new scent, sounds of their wild cousins, or a new food item. Our biologists use enrichment all of the time to stimulate our animal’s minds, keep them active, and help our animals engage in natural behaviors.

IMG_5499 (2)

Kristen celebrated Dr. Seuss Day by reading to the penguins.

There are many types of animals at the aquarium, which leads to many types of biologists who care for them. We have biologists who prefer work with the big sharks and those that work with the tiny dwarf seahorses. We have biologists who prefer to work with penguins and those that would rather work with frogs. But whatever our biologists do, they always work as a team to make sure the animals get the best care possible!

Tamara penguin house (2)

Tamara is one of our resident penguin biologists. Her main job is taking care of our African Penguins. Tamara also works with our outreach reptiles.  Tamara says, “My favorite part of my job is learning the different personalities of all of the animals I work with!”

IMG_8321 (2)

Scott feeds Shark Central in the morning. The sharks like to eat squid.

Scott is a jack of all trades. He is an aquarist, a plumber, and one of the local news station’s favorite interviewees. Scott did our first Takeover Tuesday blog post. One of his favorite tanks to work with is our shark touch tank, Shark Central. “I love working with Shark Central because it has sharks from all over the world.”

IMG_3652 (2)Erin works with our reptile and amphibian collection. We featured Erin in A Day in the Life of a Herpetologist. While she is in charge of the care of our alligators and venomous reptiles, there is a special place in her heart for the frogs of Frog Bog. “Frogs are incredible animals. The way they change from their fish lifestyle as a tadpole to becoming a frog has always fascinated me!” #NZKW

Kristen Paddlefish (2)

Kristen is one of our new biologists. She was first featured in our Animal Experience Specialist Takeover Tuesday. Because of this, she helps take care of a little bit of everything. “I love that I get to take care of many different kinds of animals. It helps to make every day interesting!”

Rob cleaning coral (2)Rob takes care of our live coral tanks. He also helps out in our Seahorse Gallery with the Ribbon Dragons and Dwarf Seahorses. “I love corals because they are colorful, challenging, and confusing to many people. They are a reminder to everyone that the health of our oceans is very important.”
Ty jelly tank (2)

Ty has a passion for the invertebrates at Newport Aquarium. He leads team in the care for Simon the Octopus and the Jellyfish. “My favorite part of working with jellyfish is the culturing and propagation.” Learn more about Ty in his Takeover Tuesday: World of the Octopus Edition.

Health care is always on the mind of a good biologist. Daily observation of the animals helps to spot a problem before it starts. And if the need arises, our biologists work closely with our Vet Team to address any issue.

Our biologists realize that there is more to their work than simply taking care of the animals right in front of them. Conservation is a vital consideration at any aquarium. We at Newport Aquarium play our part as well. Our biologists have taken part in such projects as freshwater mussel studies here in Kentucky and sea turtle headstart programs in North Carolina.

Kelly feeding caiman (2)

Kelly target trains the caiman lizard.

Kelly helps our reptiles live a happy, healthy life. She knows that training helps the animals get better care and helps to stimulate their minds. She is currently working to train many of our reptiles, including Nester, our caiman lizard. “I feel proud of Nester when he targets correctly. It is very satisfying.”

Jen

Jen is with one of our shark rays in the acclimation pool.

Jen is an aquarist who works with all of our tunnel systems. This includes her favorite tank, Surrounded by Sharks. She says her favorite part of her job is “definitely the incredible animals she gets to work with!”

Feeding stingrays (2)

Michelle hand feeds the stingrays in our stingray touch pool.

Michelle spends much of her day caring for our stingrays in Stingray Hideaway, and was featured in a special Takeover Tuesday all about Stingray Hideaway. Because stingrays are so intelligent and curious, she also makes sure they get the enrichment they need to live a stimulating and happy life. “Each stingray interacts with the enrichment in a different way. I love to watch the way each one expresses her own quirks when I give a new enrichment item.”

Dan, Jolene, and Victoria1

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

Dan is our senior penguin biologist. He spends most of his day cleaning and caring for our cold weather penguins in Penguin Palooza. He’s taking care of Victoria the penguin. He says his favorite part of his job is penguin breeding. “It is challenging to breed them. I get one shot a year and if it doesn’t work, I have to try and figure out why.” Dan also wrote a Takeover Tuesday for World Penguin Day.

Feeding Starfish PictureMargaret is an aquarist who works with a variety of saltwater fish. She was featured in a special Tide Pool edition of Takeover Tuesday. She gives her time and talent to the animals that live in our Shore Gallery. “I am currently target training the Snowflake Eels and Trumpet Fish. It is cool to watch them learn and engage with me.”

IMG_1730 (2)Laurel works closely with our quarantine animals and those that live at our offsite animal health facility. She and the vet team are the first people that our animals encounter before they make their way to the exhibits here at Newport Aquarium. “The best part of this job is bringing animals to people who may never get to see them otherwise. It makes an impact on these people and helps them become more aware of the world and conservation needs.”

Thank you for following along and learning more about our talented team of animal care takers. Next time you see one of them,. #ThankAKeeper

 

 

 

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.

Dan, Jolene, and Victoria1

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.

Ambassadors2

“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!

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

suction cups

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

baster in water

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

IMG_3495

“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.

alle_ric_perubound

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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”

cake

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

See ya later, Ric!