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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for joining me today. We hope to see you soon in Stingray Hideaway.