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.

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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: Behind the Scenes with Seahorses

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

Hi, I’m Sidney and I’m a Biologist at Newport Aquarium. One of my main focuses here is culturing live foods for animals like seahorse babies (called fry).

Live food

It’s important to culture live foods because they are generally much smaller in size than any of our frozen foods; so when we breed animals where their offspring are tiny, we ensure that we have food to feed them when they are born.

In the picture above, you can see me measuring the density of microalgae called Nannochloropsis. When it is dense enough, I can harvest it to feed to other microscopic live foods to make them more nutritious for the animals eating them.

black stripe pipefish

African freshwater pipefish

These are African freshwater pipefish. They are in the same exhibit as the opossum pipefish. Look closely for these, though. They are normally hiding under rocks or deep in the plants! The males have pouches just like male seahorses do to hold eggs. Sometimes, these pouches swell and turn a pretty blueish color.

Out of all the animals under my care, my personal favorite is the dwarf gulf pipefish I have lovingly named Hank.

Hank

Hank, featured in the center of this photo, is a dwarf gulf pipefish.

I found Hank in a live food delivery as bycatch when he was barely an inch long and cared for him until he was big enough to go on exhibit. Hank can be found in the dwarf seahorse exhibit, usually blending in with the tall grass around the shell.

Mysis

It’s breakfast time for the dwarf seahorses! What’s on the menu? Mysis!

Right now I am feeding the dwarf seahorse exhibit. This is mysis shrimp in my container, a small shrimp that comes frozen. We thaw it out and then feed it to our exhibits with measuring spoons so that we give the animals the perfect amount of food each time.

Every month or so, I dive into the freshwater pipefish exhibit to scrub algae. This exhibit has live plants in it, so after I scrub, I prune everything and divide a few of the java ferns and sword plants to transplant to different parts of the tank.

 

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Because of the columns in the center of this exhibit, diving to scrub can be challenging. I often end up in acrobatic positions just to reach some of the corners!

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Male pipefish, just like all male seahorses, carry the eggs. Thanks, dad!

These yellow pipefish are called opossum pipefish. They are one of two pipefish species in this exhibit and tend to stay in the middle of the water column. They eat mysis and brine shrimp and sometimes you can see some of the males carrying eggs on their undersides.

Once a week I dive in the paddlefish tank to give it a good scrubbing. It is pretty big – 6,500 gallons – so it usually takes me at least an hour.

above paddlefish

Getting ready to go into the paddlefish tank.

There are roughly 50 paddlefish in the tank with me but they tend to stay out of my way while I work. I appear blue in this photo due to the lighting over the tank. This color light is just for exhibit aesthetics and doesn’t serve a purpose for the paddlefish.

Thank you for joining me for today’s Takeover Tuesday!

 

In Our Hands

By Ric Urban, Senior Biologist

Can you imagine a day when there is more plastic in the Oceans than fish and other marine life?

Newport Aquarium has joined 18 other aquariums around the country in a new initiative to “stand up” and take a stance against plastic pollution and our society’s dependency on single-use plastics.  Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium are the founders of this movement that invited Newport Aquarium to join other notable aquariums across the United States in this collaboration known as the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) in 2016.

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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.

This summer’s campaign is called “In Our Hands” and the mission is to encourage our guests and our communities to reduce their plastic use and find alternatives.  The ACP is setting a goal to eliminate or reduce plastic beverage bottles in our respective institutions by 2020.

Each member has already eliminated plastic straws and single-use bags, and intends to “significantly reduce or eliminate” other plastics over the next few years.  Our Aquariums want to set the example in our communities that we are concerned and want to make a difference.

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All known species of sea turtle ingest or are entangled by plastic in their lifetimes. aquariums in turning the tide, at http://www.ourhands.org #SkipTheStraw #LoseTheLid

The members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership are also members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  More than180 million visitors visit zoos and aquariums each year and our aquariums have a responsibility to educate of visitors of the dangers of plastic pollution and the effects it has on our freshwater and marine environments. New studies have shown more than 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean every year and the number is expected to double by 2025.  In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year.  The Aquarium Conservation Partnership members are not only raising awareness about plastic pollution, promoting behavioral changes with our guests, but also working with business partners and vendors to share good alternatives to single-use plastics and introduce new products and materials.

Our choices are transforming the ocean, lakes, and rivers

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Plastic is now found in almost every marine habitat on Earth, and we’re producing more than we can sustainably manage. Source: A. Lusher, Microplastics in the marine environment: distribution, interactions and effects, Marine Anthropogenic Litter, 2015.

Change takes time

You can help make a difference. Every time you go to the grocery store and every time you drink a bottle of water or soda.  By changing to a re-useable water bottle, you’re making a healthy change in your personal lifestyle and making a life-saving contribution to our planet. Last year, the U.S. used about 50 billion plastic water bottles; that is nearly 200 per person.

reusable water bottle

Our everyday choices are transforming the ocean – but the solution to the plastic problem is #InOurHands. Find out how you can help at www.ourhands.org

Where do all these water bottles go?  Are they recycled?  Studies say no.  Only 23 percent of the plastic bottles were recycled, meaning this plastic was ending up in our landfills or in our waterways.

 

It is time for all of us to “accept the challenge” to reduce our dependency on single-source plastics.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask for paper bags at the grocery store or bring your own re-useable tote bags
  • Skip the Straw at places you eat. Ask the staff not to bring straws to you or put them in your drinks.
  • Drink your beer from the tap or buy beer in growlers at the store. This reduces your use of cans and bottles and less recycling.
  • Start using a re-useable water bottle.
  • Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle – every little bit helps

Join Newport Aquarium and the Aquarium Conservation Partners in making this change to “Save Wild Animals and Save Wild Spaces.” Take pictures and tell us how you’re doing your part and we’ll share them on social media. Remember to use #InOurHands with your posts.

Ric is skipping the straw

We’ve eliminated plastic straws and bags, because we love our sea animals. Visit http://www.ourhands.org and find out what you can do for your favorite aquatic creature.

For more information on the “In Our Hands” campaign, visit:  www.ourhands.org.

Ric-Urban-portrait-120x120About Ric: Ric has more than 30 years experience working in AZA-accredited institutions. He will be presenting in two sessions at the upcoming 2017 AZA Annual Conference: Consume for Conservation and  Using Innovative Science to Refine Conservation Actions. Ric is the Project Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Program. He also holds a seat on the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Steering Committees, and is a member of the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee.

Shark Week: Meet our Sharks

Since 1988, Shark Week has become almost a national holiday, popularized by Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, these amazing creatures have been a source of our own curiosity for decades. Newport Aquarium, Shark Capital of the Midwest, is home to nearly 50 sharks of all sizes! Make your way down to the aquarium this Shark Week to discover the wonder of sharks!

Shark Central

Guests can touch five species of sharks in the Shark Central touch tank.

Shark Central

Shark Central is home to more than a dozen smaller kelp forest sharks that guests can touch. With the proper two-finger touch technique, guests can have a personal encounter with these amazing creatures. Here are some of the different types of sharks guest can meet in Shark Central:

Horn Shark

The California Horn Shark hails from the waters of Southern California, Baja California,

Port Jackson, California Horn Shark

A Port Jackson shark (left) rests at the bottom of the tank next to the smaller California horn shark.

Galapagos Islands, and off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. Growing up to 48 inches in length, these little guys prefer kelp forests, sea caves, rocky reefs, and sand flats as their home. The horn shark’s diet consists of mainly urchins, crabs, abalones and other small invertebrates.

 

Leopard Catshark

This shark, reaching only about 34 inches in length prefers to hide safely in the bottoms of rocky reefs in small crevices.

napping sharks

A leopard catshark rests on top a pile of pyjama sharks. These sharks often take a nap in a pile.

These sharks are found mainly around southern and western South Africa. At night, the leopard cat shark leaves its hiding place to hunt for small fish, octopuses, worms, and crustaceans.

Leopard Shark

Not to be confused with the leopard catshark, these sharks might be small now but one day they could reach lengths of up to 7 feet.

leopard sharks

Leopard sharks can reach up to 7-feet long.

They prefer shallow, muddy, rocky and sandy areas like kelp forests. Their diet consists of mainly rays, bony fish, shrimp, octopuses, crabs, clams and worms. You can find these sharks in the eastern Pacific, from Oregon all the way down to Baja, California.

Port Jackson Shark

At full size, Port Jackson sharks can reach lengths of about 5.5 feet. These sharks love the waters of Southern Australia where they feed on mollusks, crustaceans, urchins and fish.

Port Jackson

The Port Jackson shark has a unique color pattern with dark, harness-like markings that cover the eyes, back and sides.

You can find them roaming through sandy, muddy and rocky environments as well as sea grass beds. There are two Port Jackson sharks in Shark Central. Their names are Sheila and PJ.

Striped Catshark     

Also commonly known as the pyjama shy shark, these sharks grow up to 40 inches long.

Pyjama shark

The striped catshark is also known as the Pyjama shark or shy shark.

They prefer rocky reefs, seas caves and crevices during the day and leave at night to hunt for crustaceans, fish, sharks, rays, worms, and cephalopods. The striped catsharks is mainly found around southern South Africa and southwestern Indian Ocean.

Surrounded by Sharks

This exhibit provides a truly unique experience for all those fascinated by sharks. Walk through the tunnels under a 385,000-gallon tank and watch as these fierce-looking and beautiful creatures swim right over your head. On your way out make your way to Shark Bridge and see if you have what it takes to DARE TO CROSS. Surrounded by Sharks is home to sand tiger sharks, zebra sharks, blacktip reef sharks, a nurse shark and shark rays.

Zebra Shark

Reaching up to 8 feet long, these sharks live in coral and rocky reefs as well as sea grass beds.

zebra shark

Zebra sharks are born with strips, which change into small dark spots as they mature.

They are mainly found in the Indo-Pacific from South Africa to the Red Sea in the West. Our zebra shark is named Roo!

Shark Rays

Shark Rays, also known as bowmouth guitarfish, live in tropical coastal waters of the western Indo-Pacific at depths of around 300 feet.

SharkRay_Group

Newport Aquarium is home to four shark rays: Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike.

Usually found close the sea floor, the shark ray likes sandy or muddy areas where they can feed on bony fishes, crustaceans and mollusks. Newport Aquarium is home to four sharks rays: Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine, and Spike.

Nurse Shark

Nurse sharks rest during the day. They have the lowest metabolic rate of any other assessed shark species.

Nurse Shark

Ziggy the nurse shark, rests alongside one of the tunnels in Surrounded by Sharks.

Nurse sharks live in shallow mangrove forests, sand flats, reefs, seagrass beds, and man-made objects. Reaching lengths of 14 feet, this shark hails from the eastern Atlantic, western Atlantic, and the eastern Pacific oceans. They feed on mainly mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, octopuses, fish, sea snakes and rays. Look for Ziggy the nurse shark the next time you enter the tunnels of Surrounded by Sharks.

Sand Tiger Sharks

Sand tiger sharks reach lengths of up to 10.5 feet long. They are found in many temperate and tropical waters including shallow bays, inlets, coral and rocky reefs, shipwrecks and shelf drops.

Sand Tiger shark

All those teeth might make them look ferocious, but sand tiger sharks are a relatively docile, non-aggressive species.

These sharks are found almost everywhere except portions of the eastern Pacific. There are three sand tiger sharks at Newport Aquarium: Cal, Al, and Dan.

Blacktip Reef Sharks

Typically between 4 to 5 feet in length, the black-tip reef shark lives in and near coral reefs.

black tip reef shark

Here’s a rare view (not available to the public) of a black tip reef shark from the top of the feeding platform over Surrounded by Sharks.

They prefer to feed on fish, squid, octopuses, and shrimp that are old, injured or already dead. They are found in many spots including western Pacific, northern Australia, southeastern China and the western Indian Ocean. There are 8 blacktip reef sharks here at Newport Aquarium.

 

Epaulette Shark

Found in two locations in Newport Aquarium: Dangerous and Deadly exhibit and Stingray Hideaway. These sharks have a unique characteristic! The spot on their back acts as a defense mechanism because it looks like the eye of a much larger animal.

Epaulette shark

Epaulette sharks, Rocky, Clubber & Apollo were part of the first traveling Shark Cart outreach program with Wave Foundation. Guests can now see them in the Dangerous and Deadly exhibit.

Most predators will fear the large eye looking shape and back off. These sharks grow to about three feet long. They live around coral reefs and tidal pools around New Guinea and Australia. They usually feed on crustaceans, worms, and small bony fish.

Epaulette shark

One of the epaulette sharks guests can touch in Stingray Hideaway.

 

Coral Catshark
The coral catshark is a small, slender shark with a narrow head and elongated, cat-like eyes.

CoralCatShark

Two guests visiting Stingray Hideaway interacting with one of the coral catsharks.

They are found along shallow coral reefs across the Indo-West Pacific, from Pakistan and India to Malaysia and Japan. Guests can see and touch a coral catshark in the Stingray Hideaway touchpool, along with epaulette sharks.

Swell Shark

Swell sharks are found in rocky kelp beds from central California to central Chile. At Newport Aquarium, guests can spot a few in the Pacific Coast tunnel leading into Seahorses: Unbridled Fun. A swell shark can expand by filling its stomach with air or water when it feels threatened.

Swell Shark

The next time you pass through the Pacific Coast Tunnel, going into Seahorses: Unbridled Fun, see if you can spot a swell shark resting at the bottom.

To learn more about the sharks in Shark Central, and the Aquatic Biologist who takes care of the sharks, check out our Takeover Tuesday with Scott Brehob.

Celebrate Shark Week at Newport Aquarium

Newport Aquarium is the Shark Capital of the Midwest and with so many shark habitats to SEA, TOUCH and EXPLORE, it’s the best place to celebrate Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

See sharks like never before when you cross over the open waters of the 385,000-gallon Surrounded by Sharks exhibit on Shark Bridge. Experience what it feels like to touch six different species in Shark Central. Then, get nose-to-nose with sharks when they swim next to you and above you as you venture through more than 80 feet of acrylic tunnels.

Visit July 23 through July 30 to see nearly 50 sharks up-close, including sand tigers, zebra sharks, black tips, nurse shark, shark rays and more! Newport Aquarium currently features more than a dozen species of sharks from oceans around the world.

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Shark-Infested Activities:

Shark Bridge
– More than 2 million thrill-seekers have dared to cross Shark Bridge! Included with admission, Shark Bridge is a 75-foot-long rope bridge suspended just inches above nearly two dozen sharks.

Shark Talks and Dive Shows – Guests catch their first and largest views of shark rays and sharks in Shark Ray Bay Theater. Divers take questions from the audience about the biology and conservation of sharks and other animals found inside the tank.

Dive Show

One of the shark rays swims by during a Dive Show.

Shark Tank Feed – Guests can watch biologists feed the sharks and shark rays from either the Shark Ray Bay Theater, the Surrounded by Sharks tunnels, or through a biologist’s point-of-view from the Shark Tank Overlook.

Touch Sharks – Inside Shark Central, guests have the opportunity to touch dozens of sharks. An Animal Experience Specialist teaches guests the proper technique to touch sharks and helps them understand each species in this international collection.

Summer Family HoursGet free kid’s admission during Summer Family Hours. Sundays through Fridays, one kid (ages 2-12) gets in free after 4 p.m. with the purchase of one full-priced adult ticket. This offer is available until September 1, 2017 online only: https://www.newportaquarium.com/Visitor-Tips/Aquarium-Events/Summer-Family-Hours.

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

 

 

 

Lionfish Derby 2017: Conservation and Education!

A group of volunteers from WAVE Foundation and Newport Aquarium just returned from a conservation trip to Sarasota, Florida. Newport Aquarium Dive Safety Officer, Diver LC  shows us the importance of the Lionfish Derby.

What is a lionfish derby? This is an event that was put together by REEF and hosted at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. During this one day event on July 8th, volunteers from WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium and staff from Newport Aquarium set out to remove as many lionfish from the ocean as possible.

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Lionfish are a venomous fish whose native home is in the Indo-Pacific. Photo Courtesy: REEF

I bet some of you are wondering why 18 people from an aquarium would want to travel 972 miles to remove a beautiful fish from the ocean! Lionfish are a venomous fish whose native home is in the Indo-Pacific. In the 1980’s, it is believed that some people with lionfish as pets released them into the Atlantic. Now, this invasive species population has exploded and they are taking over the habitat and food that the native species need to survive. Their habitat range is huge! Lionfish can live as shallow as the shoreline and as deep as over 1,000 feet and can live in water temperatures from 50 to 90 degrees! Not only that, but each lionfish can produce 2 MILLION EGGS IN A YEAR! They are sexually mature at 1 year and can live for around 30 years – that’s possibly 60 MILLION EGGS from one single female lionfish in a lifetime!

Scientists believe we will never stop the lionfish invasion; the best that we will ever be able to do is control the problem. That’s what we set out to do – to help control the problem! (It doesn’t hurt that they just so happen to be tasty too… more on that later).

Lionfish Derby group photo

Here is most of the WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium/Newport Aquarium crew at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium after the Captain’s meeting the night before the Lionfish Derby!

At the Captain’s Meeting, we were educated on lionfish biology, safe handling, treatment, and the rules of the Derby.

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We learn that through lionfish derbies, institutions like REEF will weigh and measure each fish and dissect the stomach contents of each fish. This gives scientists an idea of how well the fish are thriving, and also how many different types of animals they prey on.

The next morning, I joined 11 divers and set off with the wonderful crew at Blue Water Explorers. Everyone there was very helpful, friendly, and well educated on Florida’s ecosystem.

Ready to dive

Six snorkelers set out on their own to different locations and some of them saw barracuda, crab, reef fishes, and one even saw a manatee!

Each diver got to experience two dives in different locations in the Gulf. Some of us saw grouper, barracuda, rays, and many beautiful reef fishes.

We captured every lionfish we saw!

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After a long day of diving and snorkeling, most of us catch some z’s, relax on the beach, and grab a bite to eat at the St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

The next morning, an educator from Mote takes us to a bay area for a Field Study. We aren’t just on a conservation trip, but an education trip too!

Field Study group

Group photo, getting ready for our Field Study. Our conservation trip is also educational!

Here the educator is teaching us all about Florida ecology in the bay and then she sends us in the water with nets to see what we can catch.

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The educator took a few of the best specimens to examine and put them in little Tupperware containers, so that we could get a better look. We caught whelk, sea stars, pinfish, pipefish, toadfish, and a sole. After the educator answered all of our questions, we released the animals back to their habitat.

After the Field Sampling, it is off to the Lionfish Derby Festival!

Lionfish Derby Festival

At the Lionfish Derby Festival. Jen and Matt turn in their lionfish to get measured and scored. Let’s see how they do!

At this station, a biologist is dissecting each fish and collecting the stomach contents to get DNA identification later on in a lab. One of our very own biologists assisted in a dissection!

Lionfish dissecting

We’re always learning. During the scoring, one of Newport Aquarium’s biologists assisted in a lionfish dissection!

 

After scoring, we went inside for the lionfish food contest. Five local restaurants made different lionfish dishes that will later be vote on by the tasters (a.k.a. us!). Of the dishes, there are raviolis, tacos, garlic toast, fried rice, and even a dessert all with lionfish. If you ask most of us, the garlic toast was the best!

lionfish food contest

Our “taste testers” Kathy, Diver Jon, and Erin, sample some of the lionfish dishes.

A representative from Whole Foods in Florida said it’s hard to keep up the demand for lionfish, which is a good problem to have! You can help if you are in Florida- go to www.myfwc.com for a fishing license to legally catch and sell lionfish to restaurants in Florida.

And now we wait for the awards ceremony!

If you think about it that is a potential 480 million baby lionfish that could have been produced by those eight fish. Thankfully, they were removed from the reef they were causing harm to!

Not only did we do our part to remove harmful lionfish and learn about Florida’s ecology during the Field Study, but we also picked up beach trash in our free time.

Reusable bag on beach

‘Picking up trash on the beach is more enjoyable than picking up sea shells.’

I would like to share this email from one of our volunteer divers, Mark:

“Early this morning, a local name Bob stopped me for a brief conversation. He thanked me for removing the trash today. I noticed that Bob also had a reusable bag and he stated he gets up every morning to collect the trash on the beach. He stated it is great to see people like you (I pointed to the WAVE Foundation on my bag) and your organization picking up trash. Bob left me with a fantastic quote… ‘Picking up trash on the beach is more enjoyable than picking up sea shells. It’s a good feeling knowing you doing something to help and start your day out right.’”

Conservation starts with you and sometimes it is as easy as picking up trash that you see and sometimes it involves driving 972 miles and diving to 70 feet to capture venomous lionfish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeover Tuesday: Raising a loggerhead sea turtle

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

Hello there, my name is Jen. I am a Senior Biologist here at Newport Aquarium. Thank you for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday.

I started out at Newport Aquarium 13 years ago as a diver in the tunnel tanks and as a dive show presenter! Most of our divers are volunteers through the WAVE Foundation.

Jen Hazerres, dive suit

I’m getting into our acclimation tank ahead of a special dive training. I started out at Newport Aquarium as a volunteer diver with WAVE Foundation. To learn more about the Volunteer Dive Program, visit wavefoundation.org

Divers receive special training on how to safely interact with the fascinating aquatic animals who call this place home. After 4 years of diving I joined the staff as a part time presenter/biologist where I worked all around the aquarium. I eventually took on a full time position as a senior biologist where I now work with the animals in the shore gallery, shark tank and anywhere else I am needed.

As a biologist I have the pleasure of working with our loggerhead sea turtles here at Newport Aquarium.

Feeding Denver

Denver, our adult loggerhead sea turtle is about 24 years old and weighs about 205 pounds! His favorite foods include fish, squid and salmon which he eats regularly, about 3-5 days a week.

Denver lives in our 385,000 gallon “Surrounded by Sharks” exhibit. Visitors have the chance to get a glimpse of Denver close up as he swims around. Due to medical reasons, Denver will continue to serve as an ambassador animal for his kind, helping to educate visitors about sea turtles, while giving them the opportunity for such a unique interactive experience.

Frank our younger loggerhead sea turtle is here as a part of the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project.

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Dr. Hill helps take shell measurements during Frank’s checkup. Frank now weighs 1298 grams (2.8 pounds). Right after this checkup, he received the green light to move into a bigger tank.

Frank arrived in October of 2016 and weighed only 96 grams (0.2 pounds)! My job is to make sure Frank grows up healthy and strong as he trains for his release back into the ocean in a few months.

Frank just entered the bigger tank in the Shore Gallery. Turtle Tuesday is the perfect day to celebrate his new home. When Frank is big enough he will be released back into the ocean near the Gulf Stream! Stay tuned for our blog posts when we take Frank back out to the ocean, like we did with Shack last year.

While we’re making an impact with sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, we’re also making a global impact with our Shark Ray Breeding Program and research here at Newport Aquarium. Our dedicated team of biologists has recently published a chapter on Shark Ray Husbandry.

We attribute part of our success in breeding due to their diet. Our four shark rays, Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike eat only the finest of seafood – it’s restaurant quality!

shark ray

We brought one of our shark rays, Scooter, into the acclimation tank.

The shark rays receive lobsters three days out of the week and bony fish two days of the week. Feeding the shark rays lobster is not common practice among many aquariums. Our high quality diets heavily contribute to the health and happiness of our animals.

Thank you for joining me today for #TakeoverTuesday. I hope I helped to spark an interest in these incredible animals, and how important it is to take care of their environment.

 

International Plastic Bag Free Day 2017

July 3rd marks International Plastic Bag Free Day. Today signifies the ability for the world to come together and create an environment that is plastic free and educating individuals about current alternatives to plastics and other wastes.

Sea Turtle and Plastic Bag

Did you know? About 80% of marine litter is plastic. This constant influx of litter and waste on a marine environment can have negative effects for the animals living there.

Today of all days, it is important to realize that anyone can help to make a difference in the environment. We hope the tips below will help you on your way to being a true advocate for marine wildlife preservation.

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Last year, Wave Foundation volunteers collected 95 bags of trash plus tires, and more along the Ohio River bank during Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) #RiverSweep

5 Ways to be a Marine Wildlife Advocate

  1. Make the Switch Away from Plastics
    • Small things like buying fresh and local products that avoid individual packaging and bulk packaging can be extremely beneficial. Bring your own cloth reusable bag to any store you shop at to avoid using plastic bags. Invest in a reusable water bottle, and help lower the amount of plastic bottles that end up in our oceans!  Shark Bridge swag
  2. Get Out There and Join in the Collective Effort
  3. Respect Marine Life
    • One of the best ways to gain a greater appreciation of wildlife and wildlife preservation is through education. Newport Aquarium is not only an exciting day of adventure but can also teach you a lot about different animal species and what the scientific community is doing to protect some of those species.
  4. Contact Local Officials
    • If you see an issue with a local body of water, say something. Remember your voice is important in making change in the world. Even if it is just a polluted creek, you never know where that debris could end up or what kind of wildlife could be affected.
  5. Spread the Word
    • Now that you know a little bit more about what you can do to make a difference, tell someone else. Reach out to family. Invite friends to join you in the next river sweep. Each person that is informed and that gets involved brings the world one step closer to creating a safer environment for our beloved aquatic animals.

 

North Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch

Trash islands in North Pacific Gyre. Photo Credit: Mario Aguilera / Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Around 1 million plastic bags are in use around the world every minute. On average, each of those bags will only be used for about 25 minutes. Once those plastics end out in nature it will take 100-500 years to disintegrate depending on the plastic.

 

 

 

 

To learn more visit: Newport Aquarium and WAVE Foundation

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One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444

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