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

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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

 

 

 

Easter Eggs at Newport Aquarium

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

Scott Brehob, Aquatic Biologist

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

Starting off our eggtastic festivities are our Eastern Collared Lizards:

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

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

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frog:

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

Port Jackson Shark:

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

Leopard Catshark:

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

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

Henkel’s Leaf-Tailed Gecko:

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

 

Meet Newport Aquarium’s Frogs during National Frog Month

NEWPORT, KY— In honor of National Frog Month, let’s meet some of our smallest and most colorful amphibians at Newport Aquarium—the frogs in Frog Bog!

There are 16 species of frogs on exhibit right now—see if you can find them all during your next visit! (Hint: one elusive species can only be discovered by your kids when they explore the Climber play area!)

But first…

Frogs vs. Toads

All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads.

It’s easy to get these confused! Frogs and toads are closely related amphibians, but there are some differences! For example:

  • Frogs have large legs and webbed back feet. Toads have short legs and no webbed feet.
  • Frogs jump and swim. Toads walk along the ground.
  • Frogs have smooth, moist skin and love being in moist environments. Toads are often warty!
  • Frogs lay their eggs in clusters, while toads lay eggs in a long clear strand.

Now, let us introduce you to the residents in Frog Bog!

African Clawed Frog

African clawed frog

Your kids can discover these frogs when they crawl through the Climber in Frog Bog.

Albino African Clawed Frogs are from South Africa. They came to the U.S. in the global pet trade, spreading a deadly fungus called chytrid to amphibians around the world.

African Clawed Frogs are named for the tiny claws on their back feet that they use to push themselves along the bottom of ponds and slow-moving rivers.

Amazon Milk Frog

Amazon Milk Frogs are native to the rainforests of Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Surinam, and Guiana.

They are incredible acrobats, and can grab onto a branch with a single toe!

American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog

Our American Bullfrogs love to snack on nightcrawlers! Our frogs will only eat insects that are alive and moving, just like in the wild.

You may have spotted these North American frogs locally! They’re found in freshwater across the United States.

Unlike most frog species, you can tell an American Bullfrog’s gender by its ears—if the ear is the same size as their eye, then it’s a female, but if the ear is bigger, it’s a male! (For most frogs, you have to look at the size of their toes—males may have larger thumbs or pads. Also, only male frogs call, so listen up to tell the gender!)

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frog

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Try to find the Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frog tadpoles in Frog Bog right now! It takes about 10 weeks for these baby frogs to grow from tadpole to froglet.

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs are found in subtropical forests in Ecuador and Peru.

Their skin secretions are studied by scientists for use as powerful pain killers! Other types of dart frogs have secretions that are used in medical research, too, as heart and neurological medications.

Brown Mantella

Brown Mantella

There are 220 species of frogs native only to Madagascar, including 16 species of Mantella. We have two species of Mantella here at Newport Aquarium.

Brown Mantellas live in the forests and savannas of western Madagascar.

The males guard their eggs as the tadpoles develop.

 Blue Poison Dart Frog

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Poison dart frogs are only poisonous in the wild, because of the ants and other insects they eat. Here at the aquarium, they’re fed non-poisonous bugs!

Blue Poison Dart Frogs come from Suriname, and tend to live in the leaf litter on the forest floor.

As tadpoles, Blue Poison Dart Frogs will eat their own siblings! To avoid this, their parents have to find a different water source for each hatchling.

Bumblebee Poison Dart Frog

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Male Bumblebee Poison Dart Frogs protect their eggs by carrying them to water sources on their backs

Bumblebee Poison Dart Frogs live in moist tropical areas in Central and South America.

They hibernate during the dry season in the wild. Other species “semi-migrate” to find oases and rivers to wait out dry seasons.

Colorado River Toad

IMG_9404Colorado River toads are known for their toxin. Ingest enough, and it can cause nausea or death. But, a small lick, and it causes psychoactive hallucinations. This toad is the only frog or toad not in Frog Bog. It’s in the Dangerous & Deadly gallery with the Gila Monster.

Colorado River toads are the largest species of toad native to North America. They are found in the Sonoran Desert (arid to semi arid grasslands). They are primarily active during summer rainy season and hide from the hot sun during the day. They even burrow down into the soil to find moisture and protection from the sun.

Fire-Belly Toad

Fire Belly Toad 2

Fire-Belly Toads are named for their red bellies, which they flash to warn predators of their poison.

Fire-Belly Toads are native to the coniferous forests of China, Korea, and southeastern Russia.

Unlike their poison dart frog cousins, Fire-Belly Toads do not secrete poison from their skin. They carry poison in sacs behind their eyes.

Gray Tree Frog

Tree Frog

The Gray Tree Frog is rather shy, and its coloring helps it to camouflage with its surroundings—see if you can spot one in Frog Bog!


Gray Tree Frogs can be found locally—even in your backyard!

They can be found in moist, wooded areas, and their coloring changes to blend in with tree bark.

Green/Black Poison Dart Frog

Green Black Dart 5

Like all poison dart frogs, Green/Black Poison Dart Frogs are brightly colored to warn enemies of the poison that they secrete.


The Green/Black Poison Dart Frog hails from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.

Newly hatched Green/Black Poison Dart Frog tadpoles ride on their dad’s back to the nearest pond for them to grow up in.

Green Mantella

Green Mantella 3

Though a little shy, see if you can spot these tiny Green Mantellas peeking up at you in their Frog Bog home.

Green Mantellas live in the extreme north of Madagascar, usually in dry lowland forest near streambeds.

Mantellas are the poison frogs of Madagascar

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs live in tropical rainforests in Central and South America.

They have blue arms and legs, red eyes, and stripes on their sides to warn predators.

Red Eye Tree Frogs have a special eyelid that has a lattice pattern on it. This hides their bright red eye but still allows them to look out for danger.

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frogs are nocturnal, so they may be sleeping when you visit them!

Tiger Leg Monkey Frogs are found in tropical habitats in northern South America.

They can change color based on their emotions and surroundings—so you may see a green or a brown frog on exhibit depending on their moods!

Solomon Island Leaf Frog

Solomon Island Leaf frog

The Solomon Island Leaf Frogs share a habitat with a Solomon Island Skink here at the aquarium—just like in the wild.


Solomon Island Leaf Frogs are from the rainforests of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Unlike most frogs, they do not have a tadpole stage! When their eggs hatch, they emerge as fully developed small frogs!

And last but not least…

Splash-Backed Poison Dart Frog

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Say hello to the Splash-Backed Poison Dart Frog in Frog Bog! You can often see them using the suction pads on their toes to climb up the glass!


These bright red frogs are found in the rainforests of Brazil.

They are very social frogs, unlike most poison dart frogs, and prefer to live in small groups. You’ll probably see a group of them together!

Jump In and Help Us Protect Frogs!

How can you help protect frog and other amphibians?

  • Keep your neighborhood and local waterways clean from pollution.
  • Make your backyard a frog friendly space, with local plant species, ground cover like rocks and logs, leaf litter, and a pond.
  • Participate in activities such as Frog Watch: https://www.aza.org/become-a-frogwatch-volunteer/

Hop over to Frog Bog on your next visit to Newport Aquarium to learn more about ways you can help protect frogs and amphibians during National Frog Month and year-round!

Takeover Tuesday: A day in the life of a Newport Aquarium Herpetologist

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

My name is Erin and I am one of the biologists at Newport Aquarium! I am a Herpetologist, which means that I work with the Reptiles and Amphibians. The place you are most likely to find me is in our Frog Bog where I care for most of our amphibian collection! Come with me on this #TakeoverTuesday as I show you a day in my life!

Erin Muldoon

Herpetologist, Erin, takes care of the animals in Frog Bog.

One of my jobs is to raise the next generation. These are Halmahera gecko eggs. We had Halmahera geckos running free in Canyon Falls and found these eggs when we were getting ready to start construction on the new Stingray Hideaway.

Gecko eggs

These Halmahera gecko eggs are from geckos that were running free in Canyon Falls. If these eggs hatch, the geckos will be released to run free in Stingray Hideaway.

If they hatch, we’ll release them and their parents back into Stingray Hideaway. So, keep your eyes out for geckos on the walls when we open our new exhibit this summer!

Sometimes, animals arrive too small to go into their future home. When that happens, I take care of them and help them grow up big and strong. Here is a baby Giant Musk Turtle who has a little more growing to do before he can hang out in our Shore Gallery.

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Baby Giant Musk Turtle

Some of the smallest animals I care for live in the Frog Bog. These are Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs in multiple stages of their development, from tadpoles just getting their legs, to a brand new froglet, to two adults.

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs are considered Near Threatened in the wild. Breeding efforts by Newport Aquarium and other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions will hopefully keep this frog and other amphibian species off the Endangered Species List.

You may ask yourself, what does a newly hatched dart frog eat? One food we offer is called a spring tail – it’s a tiny insect.

We also give them small fruit flies and newly hatched pinhead crickets. Here at Newport Aquarium, we breed our own fruit flies and crickets so that we always have a good supply of food ready for our smallest amphibians.

Not all of the animals I take care of are tiny. I also help take care of the biggest reptiles at the aquarium, Mighty Mike our American alligator, and the rare white American alligators, Snowball and Snowflake.

Mighty Mike (2)

Mighty Mike, the 14-foot long American alligator

 

They may look like statues, but believe me, they are alive. Part of taking care of them includes everyone’s favorite to watch: Feeding!

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Snowball and Snowflake, rare white American alligators

During the winter, they eat every three weeks. But in the summer, they eat every week. If you are lucky, you might catch us out on the beach feeding Mike some chickens, fish, or even a rabbit or two!

Mighty Mike

Herpetologists, Erin and Ryan feed Mighty Mike.

I hope you enjoyed #TakeoverTuesday with me. Now, like this Tiger Leg Monkey Frog, it is time to rest!

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

 

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts

Leap Day 2016, Celebrating and Saving the Frogs

By Megan Gregory, Newport Aquarium Public Relations Aide

While Leap Day’s true purpose is to keep the year aligned with the seasons, animal lovers across the globe are using it to celebrate the world’s best leapers, FROGS!

We can find our leaping friends around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The Romans believed frogs brought good luck into their homes while the native Aborigines of Australia thought frogs brought rain, which would help their plants grow. Now a days, they can be found close to water areas like ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.

Frogs are a member of the amphibian family. Amphi means both while bio means life which refers to frogs living both in water and on land. The frog’s life cycle starts as an egg which is hatched into larvae (or “tadpoles”), as the larvae grows it develops its back legs, then its front legs, and finally emerge from the water. This process could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years!

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Bumblebee Poison Dart Frog

Frogs are important to the earth for several reasons. First, they are an indicator species. This means we can look at frogs in a specific area and determine how well it’s doing. If the frogs are thriving then nothing needs to be changed, but if they are struggling with survival then something is wrong with the ecosystem and immediate action is required.

Second, frogs are both predator and prey. They serve as food for many animals such as birds, snakes, and large fish. But, frogs help control the population of insects, eating a variety of spiders, mosquitos, flies, and sometimes mice. Frogs are known for using their long sticky tongues to catch their food. Their tongues are about a third of the size of their body. If humans had the same tongue, it would reach all the way to our belly buttons!

And lastly, frogs are very beneficial to human medicine. Since ancient times, frog skin has been used to help regrow skin. It was also believed that the oil secreted from frogs contain a pain reliever and help strengthen the immune system. More recently, it was discovered that compounds from their skin could be the key to treating cancer and HIV.

There are currently over 4,900 species of frogs and toads worldwide. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that nearly 1/3 of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Major threats include:

  • habitat loss
  • global warming
  • Chytridiomycosis- a fungal disease that affects about 30% of the amphibian species.

How can you help?

Leap into action by becoming a FrogWatch USA volunteer with the WAVE Foundation at Newport. Aquarium. FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is always looking for passionate individuals to help collect data on local frogs and toads.

FrogWatch USA trains volunteers to identify local species, listen for their calls and teach them how to report their findings.

Leap day only comes once every four years, come spend your extra day leaping in Newport Aquarium’s Frog Bog, which is sponsored by CET and Think TV. You can see over 15 species of amphibians, play giant Frogger, and discover the sounds of frogs and toads from all over the world.

(Newport Aquarium Frog Bog Video: https://youtu.be/dLWuEFqmMRs)

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There are more than 20 Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs in Frog Bog, along with nearly 20 species of exotic frogs from around the world.