Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA
May’s article comes all the way from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California! Thank you so much to the Communications Manager Claire Atkinson for taking the time to answer BTG’s questions. Also a big thank you to Marilyn Padilla for all help!
Q: The Aquarium of the Pacific has so many great aspects to it! Could you tell us those different aspects of the aquarium?
A: The Aquarium is a fun and educational destination for families and people of all ages, providing countless opportunities to explore, discover, and learn. It features both indoor and outdoor exhibit areas, animals from around the world, and shows and interactive displays that offer both education and entertainment. The Aquarium allows visitors to get up close to some of the most amazing creatures on our planet. Some of our most popular exhibits allow visitors to touch or feed the animals, making for an exciting and memorable experience. Visitors can also learn more about the Aquarium and its animals on behind-the-scenes tours, see marine life in the wild on a whale watch or harbor cruise, or interact with an animal and member of our husbandry staff one-on-one during an Animal Encounter. The Aquarium addresses critical environmental issues, bringing together scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders through its Aquatic Forums. Exhibits, performances, and special events combining the arts and sciences to communicate ocean and environmental issues are also scheduled throughout the year. Recent examples include an ocean-themed dance performance by Monterey, California-based SpectorDance and an exhibit of stunning underwater photographs of marine life and coral reefs by National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry.
Q: How many different species do you have in your aquarium galleries? Which species is the most rare/unique?
A: Home to more than 11,000 ocean animals representing nearly 500 species, the Aquarium of the Pacific celebrates our planet’s largest and most diverse body of water: the Pacific Ocean. The Aquarium’s collection includes many endangered and threatened species, including the giant sea bass, freshwater sawfish, sand tiger shark, Queensland grouper, and olive Ridley sea turtle. The Aquarium is also participating in a Species Survival Plan program administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to care for and breed the Guam Kingfisher. There are currently fewer than 140 of these birds living at zoos and aquariums, and they are currently extinct in the wild. The Aquarium’s sea otters, among the most popular animals at the institution, represent an endangered species native to the California coast.
Q: What was the most challenging exhibit to install?
A: Each exhibit installation has posed unique challenges, but the life-sized blue whale model in the Great Hall was a particularly interesting case. The model of a female blue whale and its calf is 88 feet long. In the wild, these whales reach up to 100 feet in length. Blue whales are the largest animals ever to have existed on Earth. The Aquarium’s blue whale model was brought to the facility in pieces before the Aquarium opened in 1998, then it was assembled inside and secured to the ceiling of the Great Hall.
Q: What is the most popular exhibit with your visitors and why?
A: The Aquarium’s Shark Lagoon remains one of the most popular exhibits since its opening in 2002. Survey data collected each year show that visitors continue to rank sharks as among their favorite animals at the Aquarium. At Shark Lagoon, visitors can touch more than 100 sharks, including bamboo and epaulette sharks. They can also view large sharks and rays they can’t touch, including a freshwater sawfish with its impressive spiked bill, as well as the blacktip reef shark, sand tiger shark, zebra shark, and reticulate whiptail ray.
Q: How much food does the aquarium go through in one week for all of the species?
A: The Aquarium’s animals are fed restaurant-quality seafood prepared on site by the Aquarium’s animal husbandry staff each day. In addition, tiny brine shrimp and algae are cultured on site in the Aquarium’s live foods area for the fish and animals that feed on microscopic plants and animals. With such a large animal collection, this translates into several hundred pounds of food per week. An adult male sea otter alone can eat as much as fifteen pounds of food per day. Each animal’s dietary needs are carefully tracked by husbandry staff members.
Q: How many people are on staff to take care of the large amount of exhibits that you have?
A: The Aquarium’s staff comprises about 300 full-time employees and a volunteer corps of nearly 900 dedicated individuals that donate their time in each of the Aquarium’s departments, from animal husbandry to marketing.
Q: What is your newest exhibit? What inspired the aquarium to add it?
A: The Aquarium’s most recently added permanent exhibit is the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, which debuted in May 2012. This exhibit is home to more than a dozen Magellanic Penguins native to the coasts of South America. These birds are the first penguins in the Aquarium’s collection. The exhibit was added to help teach visitors about these magnificent birds. There are seventeen species of penguins around the world, and only a few species live in snow and ice. Many, like the Aquarium’s Magellanic Penguins, are native to temperate regions, like Australia and South America. Up to 75 percent of the world’s penguins are endangered or threatened. This exhibit also features some rescued penguins. On May, 24, 2013 we will open our new changing exhibit gallery called Wonders of the Deep. This is part of the Aquarium’s new Ocean Exploration program, which will continue through February 1, 2014 and will feature new deep-sea animals, live video feeds into the deep ocean and interaction with scientists at sea, lectures by ocean explorers, a new Explorers App for smart phones, the event Explorers Day in July in collaboration with NOAA, and more.
Q: The Aquarium of the Pacific has a state-of-the-art animal care center. Could you tell us some of the amazing work the Molina Animal Care Center has done?
A: The 14,000-square-foot Molina Animal Care Center (MACC) provides enhanced healthcare to our animals as well as opportunities for our guests to view veterinary medicine in action. It features advanced digital equipment, including a digital radiography system, a high-tech microscope with a camera imaging system, and endoscopy and laparoscopy equipment for minimally invasive techniques and viewing the patient internally with a camera. One of the most significant procedures performed at MACC was Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Lance Adams’ groundbreaking operation to repair the bill of the freshwater sawfish. This surgery is summarized in an interactive video kiosk presentation outside MACC.
Q: The educational aspects of the aquarium are as large and as extensive as your exhibits! There are many different opportunities for people to learn, whether at the aquarium of from their home. Could you tell us these different opportunities the aquarium offers? What is your most popular program?
A: The Aquarium offers educational opportunities for people of all ages, from on-site field trip programs for K-12 students to evening classes for adults. Offerings for children include summer camps, job shadow programs, sleepovers, and more. Teachers can plan field trips to the Aquarium, complete with a session led by an Aquarium educator and a chaperone-guided tour. Teachers can also coordinate a videoconferencing session that sends an Aquarium educator into their classrooms virtually via a live screen-to-screen format similar to video chatting. The Aquarium’s outreach truck, Aquarium on Wheels, travels to schools and community events year round. Educational offerings for adults include the Guest Speaker Series, featuring lectures from scientists, artists, authors, and other experts broadcast live on our website with live interaction through Twitter. Also, Aquatic Academy courses scheduled in the spring and fall allow members of the public to investigate current ocean and environmental issues with scientists and other leading experts in their fields in three- or four-week sessions. Further, visitors to the Aquarium’s website can view lectures live online, try out interactive web exhibits and games, or view live webcam feeds from the Aquarium’s exhibits.
Q: What is your personal favorite aspect of the aquarium?
A: One of my favorite things about the Aquarium is the special events that are held throughout the year, including nighttime events and weekend festivals. Visitors can enjoy live music, food trucks, art, and DJs at the Aquarium’s annual Night Dive events and live performances and cultural demonstrations at events like Southeast Asia Day and the Moompetam Native American Festival. We’ve even had performances here by the Long Beach Ballet, Long Beach Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, and Long Beach Opera. Seeing these notable performing arts groups present their works in the Aquarium’s Great Hall is a unique and impressive experience not to be missed!