It’s World Sea Turtle Day! Meet Frank

Happy World Sea Turtle Day! Say hello to Frank, Newport Aquarium’s resident loggerhead sea turtle rescue!

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Frank the Loggerhead Sea Turtle was rescued from North Carolina and will be returned to the ocean in October.

Every year, biologists at Newport Aquarium rescue a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling from North Carolina as part of the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project. Volunteers watch the sea turtle nests to look out for any stragglers who remain in the nest after the other hatchlings have made their way to the ocean.

Here’s a slideshow of images from last year’s hatchling release:

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The volunteers rescue these stragglers and send them to aquariums and other organizations around the country for rehabilitation.

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We joined teams from Mystic Aquarium, Adventure Aquarium (our sister aquarium), Virginia Aquarium, National Aquarium in Baltimore, and NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Frank is one of those hatchlings, and he’ll be here at the Newport Aquarium until he’s returned to the ocean this October.

How Did Frank Get His Name?
Frank may seem an unusual name for a turtle, but there is an inspiring namesake behind it!

According to Senior Biologist Jen Hazeres, Frank was named after a very sweet gentleman who was on the boat that went out with her and Water Specialist Cameo VonStrohe to get the sea turtles. As you can guess, the man’s name was Frank!

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Last fall, Jen and Cameo returned Shack, our previous rescued loggerhead sea turtle, back to the ocean.

He was there with his sisters, who were volunteers helping with the turtle rescue. Frank, who has Down’s syndrome, had accompanied them on the trip to see the turtles. Hazeres and VonStrohe got to know them and their story during the trip, so when it came time to name their new turtle, they knew what name they wanted to choose.

“We’re always looking for inspiring stories to help us name our animals,” Hazeres said, “So when we got our new turtle, we asked if we could name him after Frank.”

Just Keep Swimming
As part of the rehabilitation process, our biologists and veterinarian take regular measurements and give regular check-ups to Frank.

“We have a growth chart that we’re required to follow,” Hazeres said, “and Frank is right on track with where he should be.”

 

According to Hazeres, Frank is a naturally strong swimmer and diver, which is great news for when he returns to the ocean later this year.

“He’s been diving ever since he got here and we put him in the water,” Hazeres said. “He’s also a superior swimmer for his age, compared to past turtles we’ve had.”

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Usually, it’s a longer process to make sure that the baby turtles are on par with the swimming and diving abilities they need to survive in the wild, but Frank has been a natural swimmer right from the start, and he’s only improved since!

What Happens Next?

Hazeres and the other biologists will continue monitoring Frank and looking after him during his time here at Newport Aquarium. Frank is fed a diet of an aquatic sea turtle gel food each morning, and in the afternoons, he’s fed fish, squid, or other types of food he’ll likely eat in the wild.

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Frank receives regular vet visits as part of his rehabilitation.

As he grows bigger and stronger, he’ll eventually be moved to the larger tank in the Shore Gallery, next to Shark Ray Bay Theater, so he can continue practicing his diving and swimming.

You can visit Frank in the Shore Gallery until he is returned to his home in the ocean this October!

Takeover Tuesday: The Guest Experience

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

Hello, my name is Greg Moore, I’m a Guest Experience Supervisor here at Newport Aquarium, and I’m taking over your Tuesday!

Greg with baby gator

Baby alligator, Willard, is one of the ambassador animals at Newport Aquarium. Guests have an opportunity to meet an ambassador animal, during a daily Animal Outreach in the Stingray Hideaway lobby.

As a Guest Experience Supervisor, my focus is making sure guests have the most memorable experience, and create memories worth repeating! At the Tide Pool, guests can touch amazing creatures including sea stars, horseshoe crabs and anemones.

At Newport Aquarium, guests can Sea, Touch, and Explore… Together!

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Throughout the day, our team is stationed throughout the aquarium, to welcome guests, answer questions, and teach you about the amazing animals you’ll meet.

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Denver the loggerhead sea turtle joined our morning meeting. He welcomes guests to Shark Ray Bay Theater, and often likes to hang out in that window.

I love leading the team.  It can be a stressful job, but so rewarding.  All the jobs my team does, I also will do at any given day.  In the morning, we’ll have a team clean all the acrylic throughout the aquarium, to get rid of any smudges or salt residue.  Cleaning the penguin window is the best, because they’re so active in the morning and sometimes follow the pole.

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Some of the King penguins go for a morning swim in Penguin Palooza.

Interacting with guests, especially kids, is one of my favorite things.  To see a child’s excitement as they get to walk four feet above the shark tank, touch a shark for the first time, or even learn something new about these beautiful animals and what we can do to keep them around for future generations, is the highlight of my day!

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A diver poses while in the Amazon tank.

When I was a kid, my all-time beloved animals were the penguins. So naturally, my favorite part of working at Newport Aquarium is working with the African Penguins.

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When guests visit Newport Aquarium, they can purchase a Penguin Encounter and get up close and personal with these adorable birds. 

When a guest is surprised by how they feel, about their crazy characteristics, how their population is declining, makes me proud to be a part of that. African penguins are an endangered species. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums launched the Invest in The Nest campaign to help save these endangered penguins in the wild.

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So, when you come to the aquarium, I may be helping you touch a shark, teaching you about our sea turtle, or showing you some penguins. Hope to see you soon!

Plan your visit to Newport Aquarium: Things To Do, Visitor Tips, Additional Experiences, Penguin Encounters, Aquarium Activities, Shows and Feeds.

#Takeover Tuesday

Newport Aquarium offers free kid’s admission during Summer Family Hours

NEWPORT, Ky. — Newport Aquarium is kicking off Memorial Day weekend with free kid’s admission during Summer Family Hours. Sundays through Fridays, one kid (age 2-12) gets in free after 4 p.m. with the purchase of one full-priced adult ticket. This offer is available between May 28 and September 1 online only: https://www.newportaquarium.com/Visitor-Tips/Aquarium-Events/Summer-Family-Hours. 

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Extended Summer Hours
Just in time for summer, Newport Aquarium is also extending its summer hours and will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between May 27 and September 2.

With extra time and free kid’s admission, guests have the opportunity to visit Newport Aquarium’s newest attraction, Stingray Hideaway, as well as cross the recently celebrated Shark Bridge.

Two Summers of Fun with an Annual Pass

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For a limited time only, guests will get two extra months free when they purchase an Annual Pass.  That’s 14 months of fun and discovery for the price of 12 months, plus exclusive passholder events, bring a friend free days, and additional savings throughout the year.

Stingray Hideaway

Newport Aquarium’s newest attraction is open and ready to make a splash this summer. Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World includes a 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool and a 30-foot tunnel for guests of all ages to enjoy an interactive experience unlike any other in North America.

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These animals are majestic and they do need to be protected in the wild.

Stingray Hideaway offers a tropical getaway experience for everyone:

  • Guests of all sizes can interact with stingrays at the tank’s different height levels.
  • A smaller touch tank of epaulette sharks provides a touch experience for even the smallest guests.
  • The 30-foot tunnel lets guests experience the stingrays from below, and the pop-up area allows them to enter their world with a 360-degree view.

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

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

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Takeover Tuesday: Stingray Hideaway Edition

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

Hi, my name is Michelle. Thank you for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday. I’ve worked at Newport Aquarium for more than 13 years.  During those 13 years, I have worked with every type of animal: mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. I am an Aquarist, and I work with saltwater fish and freshwater fish as well as some of our elasmobranchs. Elasmobranchs are a sub-class of cartilaginous fish, which includes all species of sharks, skates, and stingrays. Most of my time is spent in our new exhibit, Stingray Hideaway, which opened earlier this month.

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Aquarist, Michelle, has worked at Newport Aquarium for more than 13 years.

 

Cownose Rays have a high metabolism because they swim around so much, this translates into lots of food prep.  Food prep is a large part of my job as well as observing the animals.  Right now, they are fed 7 days a week at a little over a pound at each feeding. It takes about an hour every day to prep all of their food. Their favorite food is shrimp, but they will also eat clams, squid, herring, mackerel, silversides and ocean smelt.  During the feeding I have an opportunity to assess the health of the stingrays.  Sometimes we also hide their food throughout the tank as a form of enrichment for them, which stimulates them to hunt.

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Their favorite food is shrimp, but they will also eat clams, squid, herring, mackerel, silversides and ocean smelt.

A great way for us to share our passion for the animals we work with and take care of every day, is to educate the public. That’s why you’ll see biologists being interviewed on TV. For a short amount of time, we can bring you into their world and hopefully share with you how critical conservation is to the survival of that species.

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Live TV interview with Brandon Orr, from Local 12. Brandon helped feed the stingrays.

Stingrays are truly majestic animals, it is a joy to watch them glide through the water. In the new exhibit, guests can see so many aspects of their physical abilities. There are three types of stingrays in Stingray Hideaway: cownose, southern, and yellow stingrays. Some are even so memorable; the staff has already given them names.  We have Miss Piggy, she is always the first to come up to eat and she will eat a lot.  We also have Rambo Ann, when she comes over to eat she swims over very fast and rams into your hand to get at the shrimp. As well as the stingrays you will also have the opportunity to see and touch coral cat sharks and epaulette sharks.

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A southern stingray swims by the viewing window inside Stingray Hideaway.

The most memorable stingray for me has to be Finn, our baby cownose ray.  He was born here on March 3rd. When stingrays are born, they come out as little “burritos” and are ready to face the world.  They don’t need Mom or Dad to take care of them but they will hang around the group, or fever, of stingrays.  This allows them to learn from the group how to hunt and avoid predators.  Because I am such a Star Wars fan, yes, he was named after the Stormtrooper, Finn, in the Force Awakens.

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I hope that when our guests enter Stingray Hideaway they make a connection with these wondrous animals, they are truly unique and deserve not only our respect but our protection.  I want our guests to leave with a sense of understanding about how protecting their wild habitat is important and even the little things, conserving water and recycling plastics, done in Kentucky do make a difference to animals that call the East coast home.

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Thanks for joining me today. We hope to see you soon in Stingray Hideaway.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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: Celebrate World Penguin Day at Newport Aquarium

Happy World Penguin Day! My name is Dan Clady, I am the Senior Biologist in charge of penguins. Thank you for joining me on this special Takeover Tuesday. Every day, I take care of the almost 50 penguins in Penguin Palooza.

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Senior Biologist, Dan Clady, has worked at Newport Aquarium for 13 years. He takes care of almost 50 penguins in Penguin Palooza.

Feeding is my favorite part – I’m like a waiter, working the room (Penguin Palooza) and feeding anybody (any penguin) that looks hungry.

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Two Gentoo penguin eggs.

I’m holding two Gentoo eggs in this picture. I’m getting ready to “candle” the eggs, to see if they’re fertile. Stay tuned, if we have baby penguins, we’ll announce it on our social media pages.

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Spike, one of the Chinstrap penguins, just turned 30 years old.

Spike is a Chinstrap penguin. She just turned 30 years old in January. She is blind in one eye – she has a cataract in her right eye. When I feed her, I feed on her left side, because she cannot see on the right side. Even with the cataracts, she is as vocal as any other bird.

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King penguin, Madonna, is standing at center of attention in this photo.

Madonna  is a King penguin who is in love with people. She follows us around anytime we are in there, she “courts” us the whole time. Madonna is a wild collected egg from 1996, and is one of the original birds in Penguin Palooza.

 

 

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Penguins eat about 65-pounds of fish every day.

Feeding penguins is my favorite part of the day. Our flock of penguins eat about 65-pounds of fish every single day, 365 days a year. We hand feed them herring. They also eat ocean smelt and silver sides whenever they want.

Listen to Madonna, the boastful King penguin. In this video, she is showing courtship behavior, the sound she’s making is a courting call. She is “courting” us; it might be me, but she follows anyone around in Penguin Palooza.

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King penguins take time to play in the snow.

Oops, someone left the snow machine on all NIGHT!

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I give the Macaroni penguins and Gentoo penguins rocks to build a nest. The igloos in this picture are for the Rockhoppers. They prefer grasses instead of rocks. I leave the rocks and igloos in there all year, it helps the penguins pair-bond for when breeding season comes around. Late fall, the Macaroni, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Chinstrap penguins all breed. The King penguins lay their eggs around Christmas time.

Thank you for celebrating World Penguin Day and #TakeoverTuesday with me today!

To learn more about all of the species of penguins at Newport Aquarium, and how we, along with other AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are working to save species, read our previous World Penguin Day blog post here.

 

 

 

 

 

Help Protect the Earth on Earth Day and Every Day

As we get ready to celebrate Earth Day, here are some things you can do to help protect the Earth. The National Ocean Service put together this list 0f 10 choices you can make for a healthier planet.Earth Day NOAA

Living with less plastic
Reduce the amount of reusable plastic in the world. According to a recent report, by the year 2050, there will be more plastics in our ocean than fish. Small changes over time add up to a big difference, especially when using plastic.Less Plastic

Protecting endangered animals
When guests visit Newport Aquarium, not only do they get to see amazing animals, but they also get to learn about how to help those animals and their environment. Newport Aquarium and other AZA accredited zoo and aquariums work to protect some of the world’s most endangered animals in their facilities.

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Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Newport Aquarium is a part of a sea turtle rehabilitation program, to rescue and release baby sea turtles back in to the wild.

Aquariums allow for people to see and interact with animals that they never would get the chance to normally. Aquariums also give a chance of a close and personal interaction with animals that can allow for guests to develop a special connection and help develop a passion to protect the animals and their environment.

Importance of Water
Newport Aquarium hopes to educate people about the importance of water and about the everyday things they can do to help protect our oceans, planet, and animals. A “Water Story” sign welcomes guests to exhibits. Guests can discover diverse ecosystems, the source of our planet’s water and threats to the world’s water as they visit.

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The World Rivers exhibit allows for guest to learn about a highest density and diversity of nine different rivers from five different continents.

Newport Aquarium also strives to improve water quality and conservation efforts to help the aquatic life in both ocean and fresh water environments all over the planet. Learn more in our World Water Day post.

Learn to love sea life
Through education; you will grow to appreciate ocean and marine life and take a more caring and careful approach to all things oceanic. A great way to do this is to visit local aquariums and AZA institutions, like Newport Aquarium.

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Overhead view of the Coral Reef, guests can see on a behind-the-scenes tour at Newport Aquarium.

Reduce plastic
Stop one time plastic. Plastic bottles, straws and containers are dangerous for the environment. Try to use reusable products as much as you can. Whether it is water bottles, tuber wear containers, or reusable straws, using these items help cut down on the use on one time plastics. This in return, can reduce the amount of harmful plastic found in wildlife.

Always recycle
Recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste. Try to make full use of the recycling depots in your local area.

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Volunteer and Donate
Volunteer to clean up local rivers and beach areas. Join thousands of volunteers at this year’s ORSANCO River Sweep, and clean up the Ohio River, its tributaries and riverbanks on June 17, 2017.  Volunteer with the WAVE Foundation  to excite, engage and educate our community about the wonders of aquatic life and the importance of conservation.

Most of us want to make a difference and do something good for the planet. Earth Day is the perfect time to reflect and see what we can do to protect our planet.

 

Transformation of Stingray Hideaway

A Hideaway for You… and for Stingrays, Too!
This is Part 2 of the Transformation of Stingray Hideaway. Read Part 1 here.

Everything is coming together so that Stingray Hideaway can be an interactive, tropical “hideaway” for all of our guests… and also for our stingrays!

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Cownose stingrays will be the exhibit’s highlight species. The exhibit was designed with them in mind.

Cownose stingrays are the exhibit’s highlight species, so the touch tank was designed specifically with them in mind. The design of the water flow and the rounded edges of the tank were created for them and the flat rays and fish that will be joining them in their new home. There is also going to be gravel at the bottom of the touch tanks, so the rays can burrow in and have their own hideaway if they want it.

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The 30-foot lit tunnel is the perfect size for small children (and for their parents to crawl in with them if they wish!)

As you walk through the construction site, you can see the various areas of the exhibit coming together, each designed for a specific age group. The walls of the touch tank change in height to accommodate younger kids, older kids, and kids-at-heart.

The 30-foot lit tunnel is the perfect size for small children (and for their parents to crawl in with them if they wish!). A shorter touch tank will house epaulette sharks and other small animals for the smallest aquarium visitors to get in on the interactive touch experience. There’s a little bit of everything, and something for everyone!

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Stingray Hideaway has touch experiences for everyone, including a smaller touch tank for our littlest guests.

“This is one of the most unique touch tanks I’ve ever seen,” Gibula said, “because it’s not just a touch tank, but an adventure and an experience for the kids. It gives kids a chance to explore on their own if they want to, to go into the tunnel and have an adventure while their parents watch from outside. Or, parents can go in with their kids if they want to!”

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When kids go through the finished 30-foot tunnel, they will be able to see cownose rays smiling down at them from the tank above!

Getting the Water Ready

One area of Stingray Hideaway that Gibula is most passionate about is a vitally important part of the tank that most people will never see: the water filtration system that sits underneath the exhibit.

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Before the water can go into the tanks upstairs, it has to cycle through the filtration system for 6-8 weeks. Here, a colony of good bacteria grows thanks to a vat of bioballs of ammonia, simulating fish waste in nature.

Much research and thought went into the design for the system. Gibula modified the existing filtration system from Canyon Falls as much as possible, but other equipment was added and created, too. There are brand-new protein skimmers for removing large organic waste, an ozone sterilization tower that is used to polish the water for animals and guests alike, sand filters to remove particulate, pumps for flow, a cooling and heating control system… and it’s all be primed and seeded weeks ahead of filling up the tanks upstairs.

“It takes six to eight weeks to cycle the water through all of the systems to prepare it for the animals,” Gibula said. Right now, that means recruiting beneficial nitrifying bacteria. The water is circulating in a giant 1000 gallon vat, and raining over the bioballs. These bioballs give the bacteria a large amount of surface area for them to colonize and concentrate. We “feed” the bacteria a chemical call ammonium chloride. This chemical addition to the bacteria, simulates as though there are animals in the water creating natural toxins / waste. As the bacteria concentrates, the waste products are removed from the system at a quicker and quicker rate. Eventually reaching a point safe point for the animals.

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You may have a small protein skimmer on your home aquarium, but Stingray Hideaway has two huge ones! They’re designed to clear away organic waste and pump up to 300 gallon per minute each.

“In our industry this is call inorganic cycling. It is a way to get the water conditioned for animals without putting any animal at risk.” Gibula adds. Newport Aquarium has been using variants of this technique since its inception.

The Big Day is Almost Here!

Thanks to Gibula and all of the behind-the-scenes efforts by so many people here at the aquarium as well as all the local Cincinnati contractors and suppliers who have helped along the way, the transformation of Stingray Hideaway gets a little closer to completion every day.

Cownose

From inside the 30-foot tunnel, kids of all ages will be able to look up to see cownose rays smiling and waving at them from above.

There are three things Gibula looks forward to seeing with regard to a new exhibit build. First is when the final fill happens and the water is running in the system. Second is when the animals are added to the exhibit and are doing as well or better than expected. Third, is the day he gets to sit in street clothes and watch family after family playing, learning, and gaining a respect for our planet’s amazing diversity, “Seeing their expressions, laughing together and wondering if what Newport Aquarium built may have inspired the next Sylvia Earle, Eugenie Clarke, Paul Watson or Jacques Cousteau,” Gibula said.

That third day is Gibula’s favorite moment, main motivation and mission for doing what he does. And that day is getting closer and closer—stay tuned!

Experience the Transformation of Stingray Hideaway

NEWPORT, Ky—Since the announcement of Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World in January, the site has undergone an incredible transformation as we prepare for our stingrays—and for all of you!

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Stingray Hideaway is Coming Together!

Walk into the construction zone and you can see everything taking shape: the 17,000-gallon stingray touch pool’s waterproofing has begun, the almost 30-foot tunnel is in place and the silicone seals are drying, the rock work décor walls are being reconstructed, and much more. Soon, the tanks will be 100% waterproofed and leak testing will commence. Then we will convert it to saltwater. Once the environment has passed its evaluation and quality control process … the stingrays will arrive!

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Zoological Operations and Exhibit Design Manager Jeff Gibula has been working on Stingray Hideaway for two years, helping oversee all aspects of design and construction.

According to Jeff Gibula, Zoological Operations and Exhibit Design Manager, Stingray Hideaway is becoming one of the biggest transformations to an attraction space since its expansion in 2005.

That transformation did not come about overnight, or even in a couple of months! The project has been two plus years in the making, and has involved the coordinated efforts of a lot of people and skill sets to make it happen.

Soon, we’ll all get to see the brand-new finished space, but for now, let’s take a look behind-the-scenes at Stingray Hideaway’s transformation.

Two Years in the Making

From the beginning, many teams have been involved in the process: concept and design, animal husbandry, finance, architects, construction, specialists in concrete and acrylics, and more. That’s a lot of people to coordinate! Gibula has his hands in all aspects of the planning and construction, acting as an animal, exhibit, and water quality liaison between the involved teams.

But before any of the construction could even begin, the basic criteria of what we wanted the guest to experience had to be formed. After that, every part of the exhibit had to be designed to fit that —from the types of animals, to the features of the exhibit and the touch tank itself. Colors and backdrops were decided, dimensions measured out, and a custom-designed water filtration system built.

An interactive experience was important from the beginning. Stingrays were decided on because not only are they popular, but they are a hardy, sustainable species—and one that doesn’t mind letting humans touch them!

Every detail has been discussed and decided beforehand… including the name!

Meaning Behind the Name

“A lot of names were thrown around, but we chose Stingray Hideaway for a reason,” Gibula said. “We designed it to look like we’re in a cove, away from all the pressures of the city and of everyday life. It’s designed to look like a lagoon opening up from the ocean.”

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Stingray Hideaway is set to open in May. “We designed it to look like we’re in a cove, away from all the pressures of the city and of everyday life. “The exhibit was designed to look like a lagoon opening up from the ocean,” Gibula said.

This lagoon idea has a personal connection for Gibula. When his daughter was younger, he used to take her on vacation to Puerto Rico, where they would stay in a beach house on a lagoon. And every day, they would go out to the water of the lagoon and the tide would sweep in fish and other sea creatures that they would scoop up in jars. Gibula remembers her excitement at getting to see and interact with these creatures up close before they let them go back into the water. “This memory expanded into something to share with everybody,” he said.

Stay tuned for Part 2: A Hideaway for You… and for Stingrays, Too! Learn about the vitally important part of the exhibit.

Takeover Tuesday: Meet Diver Jon

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 Jon Nonnenmacher and I am the Lead Dive Safety Officer for Newport Aquarium. My main job is making sure every volunteer or staff SCUBA diver is safe in and out of the water. Not only do I make sure that all the equipment is in working order and within safety standards, I also make sure that the dive team is up-to-date on safety requirements and procedures followed by OSHA.

Diver Jon

Jon Nonnenmacher is the Lead Dive Safety Office for Newport Aquarium. He joined the Dive Services program as an intern from Wright State University, and has been a Dive Safety Officer for 7 years.

I have been a SCUBA diver for 10+ years now and I am currently working on becoming a PADI dive instructor with our local dive shop named Scuba Unlimited in Blue Ash Cincinnati.

Diver Emergency Training
I joined the Dive Services program as an intern from Wright State University. After my internship was up, I loved being a volunteer for the aquarium, and committed at least two days every week to come down and volunteer. The Lead DSO at the time saw my passion for diving, and she decided to bring me on the dive team. I have been a DSO for 7 years and the Lead DSO for 2 years.

Rescue Diver Emergency Training (2)

Diver Emergency Training is training that all divers must go through to be a diver; this way if an emergency happens, the divers will know how to respond and what they can do to help the victim.

In this picture, you can see me leading a group of five volunteer divers through Diver Emergency Training. This is training that all divers must go through to be a diver; this way if an emergency happens the divers will know how to respond and what they can do to help the victim.

Passion for Shark Rays

My passion for the shark rays grew quickly while working at Newport Aquarium. With the approval of the Husbandry staff, I was given the opportunity to work with the shark rays. In this picture, you can see me getting close to our large female shark ray, Sweet Pea, and placing my hands on her.

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Diver Jon works closely with the shark rays. With the help of the Husbandry staff, we are able to perform routine health evaluations in our shark tank acclimation pool.

We do this type to help the animal get used to having divers around them, and to make sure they’re not stressed. With the help of the Husbandry staff, we are able to perform routine health evaluations in our shark tank acclimation pool. You can see and learn more about our acclimation pool on a Behind the Scenes tour offered at Newport Aquarium.

Safety First

The main job of a Dive Safety officer is to make sure that all the divers are safe. We have about a dozen Husbandry staff divers and more than 100 WAVE dive service volunteers. The best part of the job is letting a new diver know when they are going into our Shark exhibit for the first time.

Diver Jon

“The smile and joy they have before and after the dive is always an awesome story.”

The smile and joy they have before and after the dive is always an awesome story. In this picture, you can see me helping  one of our husbandry/vet staff members get ready for a dive in the shark tank. I am making sure that all of her equipment is in working order by doing a buddy-check before she gets into the water.

Dive Equipment

Another fun aspect of my job is maintaining all the dive equipment and making sure it is in safe working condition. I have taken classes on servicing and repairing the 1st and 2nd stages of a regulator (that is how a diver can breathe the mix gases from his cylinder to his regulator) (mix gas in a cylinder is roughly 22% oxygen and 78% Nitrogen).

Dive Equipment

The main job of a Dive Safety officer is to make sure that all the divers are safe. We have about a dozen Husbandry staff divers and more than 100 WAVE dive service volunteers.

There are other types of mix gas blends for different types of diving, but at Newport Aquarium, we dive basic mix gas. I also take care of the maintenance of the cylinders, which include the valve that the air comes from. I work on gear from the Buoyance Compensator Device or BCD for short, to the Full Face Mask, which is the mask that divers wear underwater, and they can talk to the guests.

Dive Signals

In this picture you can see me giving an under dive sign. A clinched fist on top of your head means that the diver is “OK” and ready to start the dive or to signal to the topside divers that they are OK after a dive.

Diver Jon

A clinched fist on top of your head means that the diver is “OK” and ready to start the dive.

I am giving my topside Standby an OK sign before I go into the Shark tank exhibit for some basic maintenance. Next time you see a dive in the water be sure to give them a high-five and a big wave.

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts.