Shark Summer Takeover Tuesday: Raising Sharks

Hello, my name is Sam and I am one of the aquatic biologists here at Newport Aquarium! If you are looking for me around the aquarium you will most likely find me behind the Dangerous and Deadly gallery or working in Shark Central. Working with aquatic animals, especially elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) is my passion and I am thankful every day that I have the opportunity to use my passion here! Sam

 

Fuji is one of our Japanese Bullhead Sharks in Shark Central. He came to us malnourished and not eating on his own. Scott Brehob, the biologist who took care of the sharks in Shark Central before me, developed a method of tube feeding him nutrient-packed slurry and Fuji started to gain weight and his health improved. I was able to use what Scott started to get Fuji eating solid foods with little assistance and I am excited to say that he is doing better than ever!

It’s breakfast time in Shark Central. I hand feed Fuji, one of our Japanese bullhead sharks.

One of my favorite parts about being a biologist is seeing the animals I take care of grow and show signs of improved health. A method I use to measure the growth of my animals is to periodically record weight and length. Here two other biologists, Matt and Jen, are helping me measure the length of Fuji. I am very fortunate to be part of such a supportive and helpful team of biologists here at the Aquarium!

Assistant Curator, Matt, and Senior Biologist, Jen, assist during our Shark Central checkups.

One way that I ensure my animals are getting proper nutrition is by feeding them a variety of food sources and supplementing their diets with vitamins.

Most animals will not just eat the vitamin tablet by itself, so I have to hide it in the food I feed them!

Another cool animal I get to take care of is an electric eel! If you notice I am using a plastic feeding stick because full grown electric eels, such as this one, have been known to produce electrical pulses of up to 700 volts! So when I work with him I have to be sure to use equipment that does not conduct electricity!  electric eel

This little guy is a porcupine pufferfish. He has one of the biggest personalities out of all of my animals. When I come up to his tank he will swim right up to the surface of the tank expecting food. If I am not feeding him that day he will actually spit water at me! I never realized that fish could have such different personalities until I started working with them on a regular basis!

porcupine pufferfish

Meet this friendly pufferfish in our Dangerous & Deadly gallery.

 

Lionfish are as beautiful as they are dangerous. They have 18 venomous spines and so I have to be extra careful when I am cleaning their exhibit. While they are not a problem in their native Indo-Pacific habitat, they have become a destructive invasive species in the Caribbean Ocean and are a threat to many of the native fish.

Lionfish

Lionfish are beautiful and dangerous. They’re also an invasive species.

Although most people think piranhas are vicious, they are in fact quite docile when they are well-fed. They run in packs for safety, not strength. And, they aren’t apex predators—they’re prey. Piranhas will leave you alone if you leave them alone. They travel in “shoals” to protect the inner fish in the group from attacks. When they swim in groups like this, they tend to have a hierarchy of larger, older fish towards the center and younger fish on the outer edges.

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Thanks for following me along on this #TakeoverTuesday. I grew up watching Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin, and they inspired my dream and passion to be a biologist at an Aquarium. I absolutely love working at Newport Aquarium and I can honestly say that I have started my dream career here!

Thanks for following me along on this #TakeoverTuesday. I grew up watching Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin, and they inspired my dream and passion to be a biologist at an Aquarium. I absolutely love working at Newport Aquarium and I can honestly say that I have started my dream career here!

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.

Southern stingray

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.