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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

It’s Time to Reforest Northern Kentucky

Details:  The 10th Annual Reforest NKY event will be March 25, 2017 at the Piner property of Big Bone Lick State Park.  More information here.  All are welcome – from those who have no tree experience or knowledge to those in a life-long career in arboriculture.   If you like trees, you’ll fit right in.

By Ric Urban, Newport Aquarium

Spring is here officially and Reforest NKY is heading out to Big Bone Lick State Park to plant trees in an effort to bring some old farmland back to its natural state.  This year Reforest NKY has partnered with the Center for Environmental Restoration in planting one of their projects along Gum Branch Creek.  The site has been prepared and the stream restored to its original flow, which includes a newly restored wetlands area.

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Reforest Northern Kentucky is a successful, sustainable event.  Since 2007, more than 36 acres of protected public park and school land have been planted with native woodland trees and nearly 3,000 volunteers have participated.  Image courtesy of Northern KY Urban and Community Forestry Council

We have a water story to tell when planting trees.  Trees are important for stream and river health.  Have you ever spent time walking along a stream, to see a crayfish or a minnow darting along in the current? There is something about listening to the breeze through the leaves, being shaded from the sun and checking out all of the cool creatures that live in this watery habitat.

Throughout Northern Kentucky there are streams, creeks and rivers that have trees lining the waterways.  This is called the “riparian zone.” This riparian ecosystem is made up of trees, shrubs and plants that filter the water before it enters the stream, prevents soil erosion and sediment pollution in the waterway, and also creates shaded areas, keeping the streams cool and livable for the aquatic species. So putting it simply, trees save fish.

The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium is working with the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council (NKYUFC) to increase our public education and awareness of the importance of trees in our communities. By planting trees and preserving our riparian (riverbank) zones, we are improving our environments, creating clean and safe waterways and enhancing our quality of life.

On Saturday, March 25th, 2017, the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council will be hosting its Annual Reforest NKY Event at Big Bone Lick State Park in Boone County. This is the 10th year that Reforest NKY has planted trees throughout Northern Kentucky.  Nearly 3,000 volunteers have participated in planting thousands of tree seedlings in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

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Come out and join us planting trees on Saturday, the weather is going to be great!  Come dressed to get muddy and bring an extra pair of shoes for the trip back home.  Image courtesy of Northern KY Urban and Community Forestry Council.

The next time you’re at Newport Aquarium, check out the Water Story, which shows how important a role healthy streams and rivers play in our everyday lives.

Let’s Discover the Wonder…. Together – Plant a Tree and Save a Fish.

Immersive Stingray Experience Coming to Newport Aquarium in May

NEWPORT, Ky. — Today Newport Aquarium announced, Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World; the only stingray experience of its kind in North America, will open in May. The highly interactive new exhibit will allow guests to discover one of the ocean’s most mysterious animals from above and below the water’s surface and even the opportunity to touch them. stingray-hideaway-full-color

“When Stingray Hideaway opens, it’s quickly going to become a guest favorite,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “Anytime our guests are able to experience what it feels like to touch an animal, a personal relationship is built that leads to a lifetime of love and respect for those animals.”

Stingray Hideaway is the biggest development at Newport Aquarium since Shark Bridge opened in 2015. When it opens this summer, the 6,000 square feet signature attraction’s soaring 40-feet high atrium ceiling will allow sunlight to filter down on the wide-open, expansive area of tropical habitats below. The project represents a major investment in the aquarium of more than a million dollars.

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Guests will be invited to explore the tropical habitat from below the water’s surface. Once underwater, they’ll have a 360-degree view of stingrays swimming around them.

Highlights of the new experience include a 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool where guests can interact with two dozen stingrays. Among the most innovative of elements, the touchpool will feature a 30-f00t long tunnel where kids and adventurous adults will be able to see stingrays swimming from below the touchpool’s surface, effectively allowing them to enter the stingrays’ underwater world. Another special feature is a touch area for smaller children to get up close to several juvenile sharks at their level.  Rounding out the experience, guests will be able to explore the tropical island habitat around the touchpool featuring land-dwelling creatures like iguanas and lizards.

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Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World will open this May. The 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool features an innovative, 30-foot long tunnel where kids and adventurous adults will be allowed to enter the stingrays’ underwater world.

The extensive project will transform the space previously occupied by Canyon Falls, which closed in December. Stingray Hideaway: Enter Their World will be open year around and will be included with general admission.

WAVE Foundation Expanding Outreach with Stingrays

In conjunction with Stingray Hideaway, WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium is expanding its outreach efforts, with a new outreach vehicle and a new state-of-the-art mobile stingray outreach cart – the only one in the country.

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WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium is extending its outreach efforts with a new state-of-the-art outreach cart.

“By having these new outreach tools, WAVE will more than double its ability to serve more than 100,000 community learners annually, serving youth and community members in need who may not be able to visit the aquarium,” said Scott Wingate, Executive Director of WAVE Foundation.

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

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Newport Aquarium, named 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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African Penguin Awareness Days Oct. 8 – 16 at Newport Aquarium

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer

Newport Aquarium is celebrating African Penguin Awareness Week October 8th  through October 16th. On Saturday, October 8th we are kicking off African Penguin Awareness Day with an entire week focused on African Penguins. During this week, we want to tell the story of the African Penguins and what the WAVE Foundation and the Newport Aquarium are doing to prevent the species from moving closer to extinction. From Saturday October 8th-Sunday October 16th we are donating every “Dollar for Conservation” that we get to SANCCOB’s disaster relief and chick-rearing efforts.

African penguins

Over the past decade there has been a dramatic drop in the population for African Penguins. In 2006, there was estimated to be over 100,000 African Penguins in South Africa. Today it is estimated to be less than 50,000 birds in Namibia and South Africa.

Why have numbers dropped so drastically?  The answer is not very simple since there are several different levels of influence on the population.  But two areas to focus would be competition for food with the fishing industry and the oil industry.

Competition For Food
The Benguela marine ecosystem is one of the richest in sardines and anchovies in the world and located off the coast of South Africa and the breeding colonies of the African Penguins.  This is a main food choice for African Penguins.  However, there is competition for food for the African Penguins; this area is also heavily fished by commercial fisheries. The competition with the fisheries and warming sea waters, forces the birds to travel further out to sea to catch fish in order to feed the chicks on the nest.

The additional travel for the adult birds only compounds the situations, expending more energy requires more food for them and their chicks. This means more time in the ocean, and the threat of predators, both at sea and on land.  At sea, the adults can fall prey to Cape fur seals and sharks.  On land, the chicks and eggs can be eaten by Kelp Gulls and small carnivores that have access to mainland colonies.

The Oil Industry
The oil industry has just increased their goals for production and the construction of more oil rigs in the region.  In 2000, the MV Treasure sank in Table Bay, South Africa.  This event caused the oiling of over 19,000 African Penguins.  Crude oil is dangerous for the penguins; it breaks down the natural water-proofing of the birds while at sea.  The oil causes them to become water-logged, hypothermic, disoriented and sometimes not able to make it back to shore.  Once on shore, the penguins will begin to preen themselves; ingesting the oil, becoming ill and potentially dying if not helped.  Rescuing oiled African penguins is a regular occurrence in South Africa.
Making A Difference
The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium promotes and raises funds to support SANCCOB (The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) in Cape Town.  SANCCOB rescues, rehabilitates and releases approximately 1,000 African Penguins a year affected by oil.  The staff and volunteers of SANCCOB dedicate themselves every day to the African Penguins and other sea birds.  They need our support.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) initiated a program in 2015 called SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction); targeting 10 endangered species around the world.  Collaborative Conservation will identify and prioritize the needs of a species and build a 3-year Conservation Action Plan (CAP).

Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium, was appointed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to be the Program Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Project.

Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium, was appointed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to be the Program Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Project.

The Newport Aquarium is playing an integral part of this conservation plan.  Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) Tags are being used as part of the Individual Identification Project that the Newport Aquarium is responsible for coordinating.  A collaboration of AZA Partners – The Racine Zoo, Northeastern Zoo of Wisconsin, the Maryland Zoo, Sea World and the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium as well as our South African Partners are working together to individually identify 10% of the world’s population of African Penguins over the next 3 years. PIT Tagging will allow biologists to assess longevity and survival, nest site, natal site and mate fidelity, inter-colony movement, and many other metrics that will be helpful to management of the species.

Now is the time to Act – you can make a difference during African Penguin Awareness Week.  Everyone can contribute to the conservation of African Penguins by visiting the Newport Aquarium.  By visiting the Newport Aquarium Gift Shop, you can make a contribution to “Dollars to Conservation” when you purchase anything in the store, or you can just make a donation at the desk.  All the proceeds during this week to “Dollars for Conservation” will go directly to support SANCCOB and the rescue, rehabilitation and release of African Penguins.

The African Penguin is an endangered species, threatened with extinction that needs our help.  You can learn more about how to contribute by visiting, www.wavefoundation.org or www.AZASavingSpecies.org

Join River Sweep 2016 – June 18th, 2016

Once a year, nearly 3,000 miles of the Ohio River are patrolled by volunteers for the Annual Ohio River Sweep event.  Each year thousands of volunteers gather near their local tributary or the banks of the Ohio River and pick up the trash that has accumulated during the high water levels of winter. Ohio River  bank

From the headwaters of the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, PA, to Cairo, IL, volunteers in 2015 covered 86 counties in 6 states along the Ohio River; Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

The Annual Ohio River Sweep began in 1989 and since then volunteers have contributed to the management of the health of the river by removing tons of trash and debris along the shores of 7 tributaries and the Ohio River. The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium started getting involved in this annual cleanup in 2000. Riversweep ORSANCO

Join Newport Aquarium and the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium on June 18th. Team up with the many volunteers in this community effort to cleanup the banks of the Ohio River in front of Newport Aquarium. For more information on being part of this year’s cleanup, visit OhioRiverSweep.org.  and creating a great place for our families to enjoy the river.