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!

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!

IMG_3828

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

 

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.

BSD_ACP_SeahorseStraw_Social_Graphic

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).

###

 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.

Stay Hooked In: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | YouTube | WordPress
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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