Takeover Tuesday: Raising a loggerhead sea turtle

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Hello there, my name is Jen. I am a Senior Biologist here at Newport Aquarium. Thank you for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday.

I started out at Newport Aquarium 13 years ago as a diver in the tunnel tanks and as a dive show presenter! Most of our divers are volunteers through the WAVE Foundation.

Jen Hazerres, dive suit

I’m getting into our acclimation tank ahead of a special dive training. I started out at Newport Aquarium as a volunteer diver with WAVE Foundation. To learn more about the Volunteer Dive Program, visit wavefoundation.org

Divers receive special training on how to safely interact with the fascinating aquatic animals who call this place home. After 4 years of diving I joined the staff as a part time presenter/biologist where I worked all around the aquarium. I eventually took on a full time position as a senior biologist where I now work with the animals in the shore gallery, shark tank and anywhere else I am needed.

As a biologist I have the pleasure of working with our loggerhead sea turtles here at Newport Aquarium.

Feeding Denver

Denver, our adult loggerhead sea turtle is about 24 years old and weighs about 205 pounds! His favorite foods include fish, squid and salmon which he eats regularly, about 3-5 days a week.

Denver lives in our 385,000 gallon “Surrounded by Sharks” exhibit. Visitors have the chance to get a glimpse of Denver close up as he swims around. Due to medical reasons, Denver will continue to serve as an ambassador animal for his kind, helping to educate visitors about sea turtles, while giving them the opportunity for such a unique interactive experience.

Frank our younger loggerhead sea turtle is here as a part of the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project.


Dr. Hill helps take shell measurements during Frank’s checkup. Frank now weighs 1298 grams (2.8 pounds). Right after this checkup, he received the green light to move into a bigger tank.

Frank arrived in October of 2016 and weighed only 96 grams (0.2 pounds)! My job is to make sure Frank grows up healthy and strong as he trains for his release back into the ocean in a few months.

Frank just entered the bigger tank in the Shore Gallery. Turtle Tuesday is the perfect day to celebrate his new home. When Frank is big enough he will be released back into the ocean near the Gulf Stream! Stay tuned for our blog posts when we take Frank back out to the ocean, like we did with Shack last year.

While we’re making an impact with sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, we’re also making a global impact with our Shark Ray Breeding Program and research here at Newport Aquarium. Our dedicated team of biologists has recently published a chapter on Shark Ray Husbandry.

We attribute part of our success in breeding due to their diet. Our four shark rays, Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike eat only the finest of seafood – it’s restaurant quality!

shark ray

We brought one of our shark rays, Scooter, into the acclimation tank.

The shark rays receive lobsters three days out of the week and bony fish two days of the week. Feeding the shark rays lobster is not common practice among many aquariums. Our high quality diets heavily contribute to the health and happiness of our animals.

Thank you for joining me today for #TakeoverTuesday. I hope I helped to spark an interest in these incredible animals, and how important it is to take care of their environment.


JOURNEY OF SURVIVAL: Newport Aquarium’s young loggerhead is a hungry, hungry hippo


For a lot of parents, getting their child to eat a healthy meal can be a challenge. A right of passage for many parents includes resorting to turning peas on a spoon into imaginary airplanes or spaceships to trick their kids into eating their veggies.

The importance of eating healthy is no different when it comes to raising newborn animals. Luckily for Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres, getting Newport Aquarium’s six-month-old loggerhead sea turtle to have a well-rounded and nutritious meal is easy peasy.

Check out this video of our young loggerhead devouring her breakfast within 60 seconds.

In the video, the baby loggerhead was eating a piece of Mazuri Sea Turtle Gel made specifically for carnivorous turtles. When mixed with water, the gel hardens into a clay-like substance. Based on how fast she eats these chunks, it must be pretty tasty. The ingredients include salmon meal, fish meal, fish oil, squid meal and a ton of vitamins to supplement her growth and immune system.

As you can see from the video, it’s quite an ordeal for her to eat because her buoyancy does not allow her to remain at the bottom of the tank for very long. This is why it is crucial that she continues to progress with adding weight.

During her weigh-in on Jan. 20, she tipped the scale at 597 grams (or about 1.3 pounds), which is 69 more grams from the previous week. Not only is she gaining mass, she’s also getting larger as her shell, front to back, measured slightly more than six inches long, and almost 4.75 inches from side to side.

Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres (left) takes the young sea turtle's measurements.

Aquatic Biologist Jen Hazeres (left) takes the young sea turtle’s measurements.

It’s little wonder this young loggerhead is not shy about eating as she has shown a natural pension to put her mouth on anything in her sight when she’s curious or excited.

One of the funniest sites featuring this particular sea turtle is when Hazeres and her assistants clean out her tank. They use a small, clear water hose to siphon out dirt and feces and oftentimes the mischievous loggerhead spots the hose and immediately begins to chew on it, delaying the entire cleaning process.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – aquariumworks.org – to read #TurtleTuesday updates on the baby sea turtle’s progress.