Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of Ring of Fire

The team at Newport Aquarium is counting down the days to the launch of the newest exhibit – Ring of Fire, opening soon in March 2018. The exhibit provides guests a chance to experience the animals and amazing stories of the Ring of Fire, one of the most seismically active areas in the world and home to some fascinating animals including the Giant Pacific Octopus, Moon Jellyfish and more.

We recently sat down with Jeff Gibula, Zoological Operations & Exhibit Design Manager at Newport Aquarium, who is busy coordinating the construction of the habitat for the Giant Pacific Octopus.

Did you know? Instead of bringing in construction crews, biologists at the aquarium are the ones influencing the design and constructing the new exhibit, the benefits of which are far reaching.

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“Crafting exhibits is a fantastic artistic outlet for the team,” said Gibula. “Our team is very talented and jam packed with various skill sets, we share this knowledge with each other and teach new skills to develop and expand their tool belts.”

One of the most special aspects of the new exhibit is guests will feel like they are in the habitat of the Giant Pacific Octopus with the rock work spilling out from the exhibit and while exploring the rocky Octopus Den. So far, biologists have spent over 170 hours packing cement for the space surrounding the GPO.

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“Our guests frequently ask to see an octopus on display so we’re pleased to be adding this special animal,” said Gibula. “Octopi are nocturnal, however, and sort of shy, so featuring them in a big exhibit can be difficult. That is why the rock work and very special lighting become so important.”

The design consists of several walls of volcanic, basalt-like rock and fossils, giving guests the look and feel of actually being underwater inside an Octopus’s den. In addition, the viewing windows and push-and-play components have all been placed at a child-suitable height, increasing guest interaction.

Jeff Octo Dan

Gibula looks at the rock work in the Octo Den.

“Our mission is to bring families closer together,” said Gibula. “We make mom and dad the hero by providing information close-by, so they can guide their children through this fun, entertaining and educational experience.”

Stay tuned to learn more about the construction, features and animals of the new Ring of Fire exhibit coming soon! To learn more, visit us at or call 800-406-3474.

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2016 National Zoo Keeper Week

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer

This is one of my favorite times of the year, National Zoo Keeper Week. Since 2007, when Congress declared the 3rd week in July as NZKW, we get to celebrate the dedication of the thousands of men and women that dedicate themselves daily to professional animal care in our nation’s zoos, aquariums and wildlife centers. During my 35 years in the industry, I have seen many changes in our profession. Keepers are the ‘front line educators’ for our guests. People want to know more about the animals under our care, and they want to hear it from the person who takes care of the animals. We are out in the elements 365 days a year. We are out in the freezing snow and ice, we are out in the blazing heat; but we are always out there providing the highest standards of care to the animals that are in our institutions.

As a long-time zoo and aquarium professional, I want everyone to know and appreciate my colleagues in conservation. Our mission is to ‘save wild animals and save wild spaces.’ More keepers today are species population managers. Within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are over 600 managed species of animals around the world. Many of these programs are managed by keepers. They travel to the range countries where these animals live, they work with local governments on protecting this species as well as the other flora and fauna that lives in that ecosystem. Keepers do amazing things.

A keeper’s day is more than just feeding and cleaning. Keepers may be involved in environmental enrichment, exhibit design and landscaping, administering medical treatments, or training. They are ‘jacks of all trades.’ Keepers are dieticians, carpenters, designers, horticulturists, public speakers and educators. NZKW

Zoo Keeper is such a generic term sometimes… we are called aquarists, biologists, aviculturists, herpetologist, animal technician or animal care specialist. Whatever you call us… please recognize us as passionate and dedicated to our profession.

At the Newport Aquarium, we are proud of the contributions our biologists make for the preservation of species. They work on committees for the management of the North American populations of animals, they work for the preservation of our local waterways and wetlands, they develop guidelines for care of captive wildlife, and they work for the conservation of habitat and ecosystems for wildlife where they live.

Biologists from Newport Aquarium partnered with Thomas More College, ORSANCO and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to help save endangered freshwater mussels in Kentucky.  Pictured: Jen, Ryan, and Ty.

Biologists from Newport Aquarium partnered with Thomas More College, ORSANCO and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to help save endangered freshwater mussels in Kentucky. Pictured: Jen, Ryan, and Ty.

Newport Aquarium is an accredited member of the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), which means we meet exceptional standards in animal care, wildlife conservation and public education. Newport Aquarium is one of only 233 accredited institutions in North America, where there are over 3,000 professional animal keepers providing invaluable roles as leaders in animal conservation and the frontline educators.

Spend some time this week visiting and let the keepers know they’re doing a great job!