National Zoo Keeper Week 2018

This week is National Zoo Keeper Week. Even though we don’t have “Zoo Keepers,” our Biologists give exemplary care to the animals that live here at Newport Aquarium. Follow us throughout this week to see what our biologists do every day! #NZKW

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Mission: To recognize and promote dedicated zoo and aquarium professionals year round, culminating in an annual celebration during the third week in July – National Zoo Keeper Week.

Newport Aquarium has twelve biologists that care for all of the fish, reptiles, amphibians, and penguins that have their home here. Care for these animals is more than just simply feeding and giving the animals some attention. They also have a lot of cleaning, food preparation, and maintenance work to do! #NZKW

Training is an important part of the care of many of our animals here at Newport Aquarium. Animals like Mighty Mike and our Sharkrays are target trained. This means that they know to come to a target pole to get their food. This helps the biologists safely work with these animals and ensures that every one of them gets the food they need.

Kelly and Erin feeding Mike (2)

Kelly and Erin target feed Mighty Mike, our 14-foot long, 800-pound alligator.

Our biologists give animals enrichment. Enrichment can be anything from a new object in their space, changing around their furniture, a new scent, sounds of their wild cousins, or a new food item. Our biologists use enrichment all of the time to stimulate our animal’s minds, keep them active, and help our animals engage in natural behaviors.

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Kristen celebrated Dr. Seuss Day by reading to the penguins.

There are many types of animals at the aquarium, which leads to many types of biologists who care for them. We have biologists who prefer work with the big sharks and those that work with the tiny dwarf seahorses. We have biologists who prefer to work with penguins and those that would rather work with frogs. But whatever our biologists do, they always work as a team to make sure the animals get the best care possible!

Tamara penguin house (2)

Tamara is one of our resident penguin biologists. Her main job is taking care of our African Penguins. Tamara also works with our outreach reptiles.  Tamara says, “My favorite part of my job is learning the different personalities of all of the animals I work with!”

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Scott feeds Shark Central in the morning. The sharks like to eat squid.

Scott is a jack of all trades. He is an aquarist, a plumber, and one of the local news station’s favorite interviewees. Scott did our first Takeover Tuesday blog post. One of his favorite tanks to work with is our shark touch tank, Shark Central. “I love working with Shark Central because it has sharks from all over the world.”

IMG_3652 (2)Erin works with our reptile and amphibian collection. We featured Erin in A Day in the Life of a Herpetologist. While she is in charge of the care of our alligators and venomous reptiles, there is a special place in her heart for the frogs of Frog Bog. “Frogs are incredible animals. The way they change from their fish lifestyle as a tadpole to becoming a frog has always fascinated me!” #NZKW

Kristen Paddlefish (2)

Kristen is one of our new biologists. She was first featured in our Animal Experience Specialist Takeover Tuesday. Because of this, she helps take care of a little bit of everything. “I love that I get to take care of many different kinds of animals. It helps to make every day interesting!”

Rob cleaning coral (2)Rob takes care of our live coral tanks. He also helps out in our Seahorse Gallery with the Ribbon Dragons and Dwarf Seahorses. “I love corals because they are colorful, challenging, and confusing to many people. They are a reminder to everyone that the health of our oceans is very important.”
Ty jelly tank (2)

Ty has a passion for the invertebrates at Newport Aquarium. He leads team in the care for Simon the Octopus and the Jellyfish. “My favorite part of working with jellyfish is the culturing and propagation.” Learn more about Ty in his Takeover Tuesday: World of the Octopus Edition.

Health care is always on the mind of a good biologist. Daily observation of the animals helps to spot a problem before it starts. And if the need arises, our biologists work closely with our Vet Team to address any issue.

Our biologists realize that there is more to their work than simply taking care of the animals right in front of them. Conservation is a vital consideration at any aquarium. We at Newport Aquarium play our part as well. Our biologists have taken part in such projects as freshwater mussel studies here in Kentucky and sea turtle headstart programs in North Carolina.

Kelly feeding caiman (2)

Kelly target trains the caiman lizard.

Kelly helps our reptiles live a happy, healthy life. She knows that training helps the animals get better care and helps to stimulate their minds. She is currently working to train many of our reptiles, including Nester, our caiman lizard. “I feel proud of Nester when he targets correctly. It is very satisfying.”

Jen

Jen is with one of our shark rays in the acclimation pool.

Jen is an aquarist who works with all of our tunnel systems. This includes her favorite tank, Surrounded by Sharks. She says her favorite part of her job is “definitely the incredible animals she gets to work with!”

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Michelle hand feeds the stingrays in our stingray touch pool.

Michelle spends much of her day caring for our stingrays in Stingray Hideaway, and was featured in a special Takeover Tuesday all about Stingray Hideaway. Because stingrays are so intelligent and curious, she also makes sure they get the enrichment they need to live a stimulating and happy life. “Each stingray interacts with the enrichment in a different way. I love to watch the way each one expresses her own quirks when I give a new enrichment item.”

Dan, Jolene, and Victoria1

Introducing Victoria to her “snow spa” behind the scenes. It helped her stay cool during her molting process.

Dan is our senior penguin biologist. He spends most of his day cleaning and caring for our cold weather penguins in Penguin Palooza. He’s taking care of Victoria the penguin. He says his favorite part of his job is penguin breeding. “It is challenging to breed them. I get one shot a year and if it doesn’t work, I have to try and figure out why.” Dan also wrote a Takeover Tuesday for World Penguin Day.

Feeding Starfish PictureMargaret is an aquarist who works with a variety of saltwater fish. She was featured in a special Tide Pool edition of Takeover Tuesday. She gives her time and talent to the animals that live in our Shore Gallery. “I am currently target training the Snowflake Eels and Trumpet Fish. It is cool to watch them learn and engage with me.”

IMG_1730 (2)Laurel works closely with our quarantine animals and those that live at our offsite animal health facility. She and the vet team are the first people that our animals encounter before they make their way to the exhibits here at Newport Aquarium. “The best part of this job is bringing animals to people who may never get to see them otherwise. It makes an impact on these people and helps them become more aware of the world and conservation needs.”

Thank you for following along and learning more about our talented team of animal care takers. Next time you see one of them,. #ThankAKeeper

 

 

 

Raising Baby Jellyfish: Behind the Scenes In the Jellyfish Nursery

The anticipation is building around Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit, The Ring of Fire, set to open March 9, 2018. The exhibit features the Giant Pacific Octopus, Japanese Spider Crabs and Moon Jellyfish. We recently sat down with Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium, whose team of biologists has been hard at work preparing for the landing of our Moon Jellyfish.

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Dvornak. “We want our guests to come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of all the animals on exhibit.”

Mark Dvornak

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium.

Dvornak described a two-pronged approach to developing the new exhibit. Teams of designers, engineers and biologists have been busy constructing the new gallery. At the same time, the biologists are also preparing a Moon Jellyfish nursery, which will be available for viewing on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“One of the challenges of acquiring jellyfish species for an exhibit is the constant change in numbers. Some years it is can be very difficult to source them,” said Dvornak. “So, in order to remove that unknown risk factor, we wanted to follow a sustainable approach by raising our own jellyfish.”

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We caught up with one of the main biologists in charge of the Moon Jellyfish nursery. Ty Jobson, our Moon Jelly “guru,” helped build the nursery, which consists of specialized tanks called kreisels for the jellyfish.

What is a kreisel?

“A kreisel is a tank specifically designed to hold jellyfish. Jellyfish move with the ocean currents, so the purpose of this design is to simulate that drifting, natural behavior that jellyfish have,” said Jobson.

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The nursery consists of a multistage set-up, featuring the Moon Jellyfish in their five stages of growth: planula, polyp, strobila, ephyra and medusa. Guests will have the chance to explore the Moon Jelly life cycle from larva to adult jellyfish on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“With the kreisel design, you’re trying to alleviate any edges that the jellyfish might get stuck in and also create that curve that helps water flow in a circular motion so that the jellyfish can drift.”

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Jellyfish “guru,” Ty Jobson, pauses to admire the moon jellyfish. He says they’re “almost alien, like tiny flying saucers.”

“Guests are going to have a rare opportunity to see our Moon Jellyfish through all of their life stages,” said Jobson.  “The amount of space required to display the different life stages is big, that’s why the behind the scenes tour is a great opportunity.”

Guests can see our Moon Jellyfish along with our Giant Pacific Octopus and Japanese Spider Crabs and a variety of other animals from the Ring of Fire on March 9, 2018! Stay tuned for a special edition Takeover Tuesday with Ty Jobson. To learn more, visit us at NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

Celebrating Hogwarts Back to School in Newport Aquarium’s “Potion” Lab

September 1, 2017 marks nearly two decades from the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where a grown-up Harry Potter sees his own children off to Hogwarts.

In honor of little witches and wizards heading back to Hogwarts today, Newport Aquarium Water Quality Specialist, Cameo VonStrohe shares some “potions” she creates to analyze the water chemistry at the Newport Aquarium.


“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses.”

— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


Just as potions are important in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, chemistry, science, and water quality are important here at Newport Aquarium. Now, from our own Harry Potter fan, and “Water Wizard,” here’s a look at how everyday chemistry works in the potions water lab.

Hello. I am Cameo VonStrohe, the Water Quality Specialist for the Newport Aquarium. Thanks for joining me today. I thought I’d share some potions – that’s reagents for you muggles.test tubes

But first, let’s talk about the nitrogen cycle and why testing is important.

Ammonia produced by the fish in their waste, uneaten food, and decaying plant matter all contribute to ammonia levels which is quite toxic to fish (think cruciatus curse or worse).

However, there are necessary, beneficial bacteria living in the tanks that convert the ammonia (NH3) to a less toxic form of nitrogen, nitrite (NO2), and then to an even less toxic form, nitrate (NO3).  With proper filtration/life support systems and maintenance by our biologists and engineers, the bacteria is kept in check.  To ensure all these components are working properly and the fishes’ environment is healthy, I run a gamut of tests.  NH3, NO2, and NO3 are three of my top five tests performed a minimum of once a week on every tank in the aquarium and including our Offsite Animal Health Facility.

Time for Potions:

One ingredient in the ammonia test set-up is alkaline citrate, which I’m currently running low on.  So first, you need to don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including robes lab coat, goggles, and gloves.  Safety first!  Review your recipe and prep your lab bench with the supplies.

Potions Day

“Potions Day” is my favorite day in the lab!

The dry chemicals are weighed out on a scale and distilled water is measured in a volumetric flask – precision matters.

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Add a magnetic stir bar to the “glass cauldron” and place the beaker on a stirrer plate.  Mix to dissolve and like magic, the solution turns from milky white to clear.  Now the reagent is ready and it’s time to tidy up the laboratory.

ALWAYS keep your lab space clean and organized and you will have a very content Professor Snape.

Preparing the samples for testing:

sample bottles

To the right of the sample bottles are smaller containers called “cuvettes,” with the pink tinted coloring. These are for the nitrite testing.

The red test tube rack holds samples for the ammonia test.  Both of these will be tested on a spectrophotometer located in the fume hood.

spectrophotometer

The spectrophotometer (on the left) is a scientific instrument that measures the absorbance of light at specific wavelengths.

For each test, light (Lumos!) is passed through the sample where the amount of light absorbed/how much is transmitted is measured.  The machine puts a value to that measure and this is the data that I review.

Reviewing data

Reviewing test data for a new, improved nitrate test option.

For the Hermione types out there, you probably are curious as to the other two tests in the Top 5…These are salinity (tested with a refractometer) and pH (tested on a benchtop meter). Both are also highly important parameters to maintain for fish health and we can discuss those next time.

Thanks for letting me have a little fun with this post and joining me in the lab.  I wish you all a great school year!

#Hufflepuff