Takeover Tuesday: Animal Experience Specialist

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

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

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

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

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

hydrovaccuming

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

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

IMG_0587

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

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

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

Denver. loggerhead seaturtle

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

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

Bindi, blue tongue skink

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

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

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

Bindi, Blue Tongue Skink

Animal Encounter with Bindi, the Blue Tongue Skink.

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

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

Guest interaction

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Alligator Awareness Day

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

White Alligators:

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

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

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

Baby Gators:

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

baby alligator

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

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

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

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

Mighty Mike:

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

Mighty Mike

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

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

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

Feeding Mighty Mike

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

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

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

Most alligators prefer to live in fresh water.

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

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

 

 

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.

musk turtle

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!

White gators (2)

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

World Lizard Day 2016

This Sunday, August 14th, we celebrate World Lizard Day! With more than 6,000 species around the world, why wouldn’t we take the time to recognize this diverse and fun-loving reptile? Here are some fun facts about some of the different lizards guests will see when visiting Newport Aquarium.

To learn more, we talked to Newport Aquarium biologist and herpetologist, Ryan Dumas. “Lizards are important because they occupy many different niches throughout the environment,” Dumas said.

Yellow Tree Monitor

Yellow Tree Monitor

The Yellow Tree Monitor is the rarest of species of tree monitors. It wasn’t discovered until 2005 – on a small island in Indonesia. Visit two of these monitors in Canyon Falls at Newport Aquarium.

The Yellow Tree Monitor can only be found in the tropical rain forests on the small island of Misol in Indonesia. They can grow to become three feet long from head to tail and they mostly eat invertebrates. Did you know these monitors were discovered as recent as 11 years ago?

Chinese Crocodile Lizard

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is also called “the lizard of great sleepiness” as it often remains motionless for hours.

Chinese Crocodile Lizard

Chinese Crocodile lizards can live for at least 20 years. They are a Species Survival Plan (SSP) Animal, which means their population is managed under professional care, by biologists and herpetologists to ensure the species isn’t threatened. They are semi-aquatic creatures that enjoy cool and wet habitats. The interesting thing about these lizards is that they are ovoviviparous, which means they give live birth instead of laying eggs.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla

Chuckwallas like hanging out on top of rocks – it’s the perfect place to bask in the sun.

Some lizards are closer to home than you think. For example, the Chuckwalla can be found in the southwestern part of the United States. They can be highly susceptible as food for other animals but their bodies allow them to expand in smaller places to stay out of reach from predators. They also like hanging out on rock crops as it serves as the perfect place to bask in the sun.

Eastern Collared Lizard

Eastern Collared Lizard

The Eastern Collared Lizard is one of the lizard species that can run on their hind legs.

Eastern Collared Lizards also reside in the southwestern part of the United States. What makes these little ones unique is that the coatings on the males are brighter than the females. The brighter the male, the more attracted he is to the female.

Panther Chameleon
Panther Chameleons come from Madagascar. Males are more vibrantly colored than females which are tan or peach-colored.

Panther Chameleon

Chameleons are zygodactylous: on each foot, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance.

Panther Chameleon

Newport Aquarium biologist and herpetologist, Ryan Dumas majored in Biology at Northern Kentucky University. He began as a summer aide in 2005 and has worked at the National Aquarium, as well as the Bronx Zoo.

They are zygodactylous: on each foot, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance. Chameleons have unique eyes – they can rotate and focus on two different objects at the same time! Panther chameleons have very large tongues, often longer than their entire body! They extend their tongue very fast to catch prey. Males are more vibrantly colored than females which are tan or peach-colored. They also lay 20 to 30 eggs between two to three times per year. This species of chameleon has a very short life span that only lasts between three to four years.

Argentine Black and White Tegu

Black and White Tegu

Oreo the Argentine Black and White Tegu is one of Newport Aquarium’s Ambassador Animals.

 

The Argentine Black and White Tegu is the largest species of tegu. It has a six-inch forked tongue that it uses to smell its surroundings. Black and white tegus have unique coloring. When they’re born, they have a bright green head and darker body. As they mature, that green gradually fades to tones of black and white. They can grow to be 45 inches long and their diets consist of invertebrates and vertebrates. Tegus are not tree dwellers. They spend most of their life on ground, but they are excellent swimmers.

 

 

Solomon Island Skink

Solomon Island Skink

The Solomon Island Skink or “Monkey Tail Skink” is one of the few lizard species that has a prehensile tail.

The Solomon Island Skink or “Monkey Tail Skink” is one of the few lizard species that has a prehensile tail, which means it can grasp or wrap around something. Although they primarily eat vegetation, they are easily agitated animals and are considered “circulars” which means one male will lead in a group of females. One of a few ways you can distinguish the gender is by the shapes of their heads and bodies – females have narrow heads and pear-shaped bodies.

These are just a few of the many lizards you can see here at Newport Aquarium. Visit www.newportaquarium.com to plan your next trip and see the latest promotions.

Happy World Lizard Day from Newport Aquarium.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Discover the Wonder… Together

Facebook  l TwitterInstagram | WebsiteYouTube