Thursday, December 27, 2012

Aquarium Christmas!

Hi Sea Fans!

Once again, many of the aquariums around the world got into the festive spirit and had Christmas-themed goings on at their facility.  Here are some of what happened this year:

The Deep (England)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGVvgdDaM0Y&feature=youtu.be

Maritime Aquarium (Norwalk CT, USA)



Florida Aquarium (USA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gSKQGNivYs


Two Oceans Aquarium (Cape Town, South Africa)


I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas!

Chat soon
Cheers!
Abby
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mexico II

Hi Sea Fans!

I spent quite a bit of time in Mexico so I still need to tell you more.  If you remember, Paty was my host at the Veracruz Aquarium and she made sure that I got to have an action-packed visit.

After seeing the sharks, jellies and marine fish, I got to meet the vet, Alejandro, and spend the day with the baby boas (snakes).

I also got to spend time in the Rainforest Gallery where I had my photo taken with Toto the green macaw and his friends the toucans (I love those birds, they're soooooooo pretty!).



Veracruz is a perfect example of the variety of animals that an aquarist can get to work with.  It's not just the animals under the water, but those that live above the water too.  Modern aquariums and zoos prefer to show ecosystems (all the living things that live together in one area) rather than just one single species (type of animal) in an exhibit because it's more natural that way.

To end this fun day, I went to see Miguel in the water quality lab.


This is one of the most important places in an aquarium because all the animals depend on clean water for their health.  Dirty water and low oxygen water is not something we want in an aquarium so someone needs to check the water every day.

I helped Miguel write down all the data from the water tests, ready to input onto the computer data sheets.
On my second last day, I got to spend some time with the teens from a local high school who visited the Education Department.  Boy did we have fun!


 
I made lots of new friends!
 The aquarium celebrated its 20th anniversary on this day and guess what...I got the honour of eating the first piece of anniversary cake!  YUMMY!!  : )


My last day was the most amazing, it was the day a baby manatee was born!  It was the fourth baby manatee to be born there.  The Veracruz Aquarium was the first centre in Mexico to have baby manatees born in captivity so this was even more special.

Baby and mommy - baby was not even a day old!

A close up of the baby with his mom, Silvia.
Thanks Paty and thanks Veracruz Aquarium for your hospitality!  I loved my stay and am so glad I can share it with the kids of the world.

My friends at Veracruz Aquarium.
So if you're planning a holiday to Mexico, see if you can visit my friends at Veracruz.

Have a great weekend Sea Fans.
Cheers!
Abby
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mexico!!

Hi Sea Fans!

I have been so privileged, but I won't spoil the surprise, I'll tell you all about my visit from the beginning...

Paty Estrada from Acuario de Veracruz the aquarium in Veracruz, Mexico, invited me to visit and boy am I glad I went!!  My week there was jam-packed full of fun things:

I was straight away introduced to the Director, C.P. Armando Fern├índez R., what a nice man.  



He told me all about the history of the aquarium from before the opening in 1992 up to this year.  If you'd like to know more, check out their website at http://www.acuariodeveracruz.com/history.html

Veracruz Aquarium has fresh water as well as sea water exhibits, they've got dolphins, manatees, sharks, jellyfish and lots, lots more. You can read all about these on their website so I'll rather tell you about what I got to do!  Paty got me a pass to go behind the scenes so that I could join the staff in their day to day work.  The first stop was a marine turtle that had swallowed a hook - poor thing!


It's all in a day's work for aquarists!  Working at an aquarium doesn't just mean that you feed the fish on display, it also means looking after any animals that are brought in from outside that need help like this turtle.

After that, I got to sit up top and watch the nurse shark feed.


They make sure that their hands don't get mistaken for food by using a feeding stick.
Ramon, one of the aquarists, took me behind the scenes while he fed the fresh water exhibits.


He let me feed them too - once I'd washed my hands of course!
Antonio told me about the invasive Lionfish when I went behind the scenes of the salt water exhibits with him.  I also met their Green Moray and fed some of the fish there too.



The jellyfish culture lab is always interesting because that is where you get to see how jellyfish multiply and you get to see how they change as they grow. Claudio was my tour guide here.

Here you can see how the jellies start off looking like a tree (called a polyp).  A whole lot of the jellyfish shape that we know grow and pile up on top of the tree before they eventually swim free.

Checking out the polyps in a beaker.

Jellies, jellies and more jellies!

More containers with polyps.  The sheet inside the container is there for the polyps to attach to.

 I think that's it for today Sea Fans.  Keep an eye out for the rest of my Mexican adventure in the next blog.
Have a great week and enjoy the lead up to Christmas.

Cheers
Abby
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Monday, November 12, 2012

San Diego


Hi Sea Fans!

While travelling through California I got to stop over in San Diego to visit Keli, the illustrator of my books.  It was so cool, she took me to her office to show me what she gets up to when she's not drawing pictures for me.
Me and Keli.
These days, she says that a typical day at work includes doing some web design - maybe coming up with a promotional banner or email campaign - then doing some vinyl lettering for a window display, then creating a logo for a new restaurant on campus, and then she might design the menu boards. 
I loved the way Keli kept notes for herself on colourful sticky notes on her computer screen.
Her office is on a university campus and her department is responsible for creating all the signage and artwork that one would see - posters, 



promotions, window displays, 

you name it! 

She says, "It's a fun, fulfilling job as I'm always doing something different. I also manage to incorporate character design and illustration, like the 'Obama/Romney as Halloween characters' display I worked on."

Sounds like she's having fun at work, like I do!  Nothing better than really enjoying what you do for a living...you spend most of your time at work so it may as well be fun, right Sea Fans?!

Chat soon.
Cheers!
Abby
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, Canada

Hi Sea Fans!

I hope you've all had a great weekend and I'm sure you're looking forward to the week ahead.  Well, I'll tell you, I'm loving weekends and week days at the moment with all the fun I'm having.  America and Canada are awesome! My latest stop on my travels around the world was Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre (SODC) in Canada.  Let me show you some photos and tell you a bit more and you'll see why I'm having so much fun:

Paula invited me to stay with her for a few days and show me around where she works.  I got to meet SODC's baby wolf eels that are only 7 months old!  How cute are they?!   When wolf eels are young, they're brightly coloured so that they look different to the adults who are grey. (Quite a few animals do this to prevent them from being fought with). The babies are pelagic (they swim in the open ocean) for up to 2 years and feed on hard shelled invertebrates (Remember the invertebrates are the animals without a backbone).


I got to meet Steve, their Giant Pacific Octopus or GPO for short.  Steve gets enrichment (stimulation so that he doesn't get bored ) and interacts with the aquarists everyday.  The octopus I used to work with got enrichment in the form of a hamster ball with his food inside and he had to figure out how to open it - either he'd twist it open or if we taped the two halves  together, he'd figure out how to open the little trap door on the top.  An octopus is a very clever animal!

I got to chat to Steve and watch him being fed.
Paula also took me out on a field trip to the Cowichan Bay Nature Centre.  This is where I got to make a new friend, Anna and both of us got to learn more about the animals that live in an estuary.  (The estuary is where a river and the sea meet, making fresh and salt water mix.)


My new friend Annie and me.
On my last day there, I got to drive an ROV!  What's that you ask?  Well, it's a remote operated vehicle, which means that it's like a remote control car but even better!!!  Scientists use ROV's to go discovering at depths in the sea where they can't go.  Normal sport diving allows you to go down to a maximum depth of  30m, special commercial divers can go to 50m...these are depths to which they can dive breathing air.  Deeper than that they have to start breathing a mixture of gases and diving becomes a whole lot more complicated and dangerous!
The ROV.  The way to see the sea floor without getting wet!
The controls that stay at the surface whilst the ROV goes underwater.  I got to see some cool Rockfish with the ROV.
So that was the end of my Canadian part of my adventure.  I loved it and would go back to see that beautiful country and the friendly people any day!  Thanks for having me Paula and SODC!!

Have a great week Sea Fans.
Cheers
Abby
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Fun crafts

Hi Sea Fans!

I've just found some really cool ideas on the internet again for crafts, have a look:


Water bottle (recycled) penguins from  Creative Preschool Resources (Heather).

Lobster origami from Origami Madness (John Montroll).

Jellyfish plates from Creative Preschool Resources (Heather)>
I love these ideas and I thought you may want to try them or...hopefully they spark some new ideas!  I often get inspired by other people's art and crafts, it gets the creative juices flowing and is SO much better than just copying other people's work.  I wanted to make a gift recently and was inspired to make these table weights:
They're very simple.  All you need is metal clips with loops on (the loop goes into the plaster of paris to hold the clip in place), plaster of paris, paint, chocolate moulds and varnish.  Try it, I had loads of fun!!!

Have fun Sea Fans!
Cheers
Abby
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Training fun

Hi Sea Fans!

I just have to share these cool pictures with you.  Friends of mine who train the animals at the Dubai Aquarium have managed to really enrich their animals' lives (make it more interesting) as well as the presentations for the public.  Have a look:

Dennis with a nutria (Giant Water Rat).

Dennis with an otter.

Gam with the nutria.

Gam with a nutria.
Training helps the aquarists to look after the animals.  Doing physical examinations of the animal's body is a lot easier if it has been trained to accept being touched by humans.  Giving the animals medication also becomes a lot easier.  It's not just for their physical health, but training also helps with boredom...mental stimulation is good for everyone!

Trained animals (not like in the circus mind you!) ensure that the job also becomes safer - for the animals and the humans - because there is no stress involved in the day to day activities.

If you'd like to know more about training, have a look in the archives on the right side of my website where I interviewed Gabby the dolphin trainer.  Otherwise, you can contact me through commenting on this page or e-mailing me at: abby@telkomsa.net.  I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Cheers
Abby
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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aquarist accidents

Hi Sea Fans!

It's been such fun watching other people do what I do...I miss all the fun.  Sometimes the fun can go a bit wrong though and an incident I recently saw reminded me of this.

Aquarists are always carrying heavy things like buckets of water and bags of sand, they're often up ladders and in small, tucked away places, they work in and around water and electricity every day and they are almost always walking over slippery surfaces.  This is a recipe for disaster right? Well, it is for some people more than others.  I know an aquarist back home who manages to hurt himself every few months, whether it's slipping down the stairs with his dive cylinder on his back, being bitten by the usually docile (relaxed) Tawny Nurse Shark, falling off a ladder, having a gate fall on him, getting stuck in a small space or being stung by the jellyfish.  Whatever the accident, it's usually him.  I've often suggested that he get a padded uniform to protect him as a joke, but sometimes I think it would help!

Anyway, the incident I was talking about this time involved a baby crocodile.

 Small, cute, lying still...not a picture for disaster you say, but you never know!  The aquarists needed to feed the new babies by hand to ensure that they were eating. Lots of the new animals need special attention like this and aquarists come to the rescue.  The crocs weren't too happy with being handled on this occasion though and one took a nice little taster snap at the hands feeding him...a few stitches later and that aquarist was back at work and ready to try again.  You can't fault him for his dedication and love for the animal!
The moral of the story is: Be careful when you do things and please, Sea Fans, be aware of working around water.  Some people are scared of sharks, but water itself can be more scary.

Just my 2 cents worth this week.  Have a good one Sea Fans!
Cheers
Abby }(*)8

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Aquarium people from all over at the IAC

Hi Sea Fans!


While I've been in America, the most amazing thing has been happening back home...the International Aquarium Congress took pllasts the week before last at the Two Oceans Aquarium.  Around 400 aquarium-related people from around the world (Japan, Korea, China, America, England, Turkey...and many more) came together at their 4 yearly conference to talk about the aquarium industry.  Heidi (the author of my books) popped in and caught up on what's been happening.

Looks like aquariums are really looking to the future with captive breeding, collaboration (aquariums working together and sharing) and education. There were talks on using more high tech technology in aquariums ,the amazing work that's been done on whale shark husbandry (training them to reduce stress when the vet comes to take a blood sample to check on their health), collection techniques, climate change and a whole lot more!  If you want to read more go to :  
Www.iac2012.co.za/blog

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Chat soon.
Cheers!
Abby
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Global adventures

Hi Sea Fans!

I bet you're wondering where I'm off to next, well, I'm going to visit Fred the Monkey in Washington to find out more about ocean litter and ocean education, I'm going to the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, Canada, I'm going to pop in and say hi to the illustrator of my books, Keli, in San Diego, I'm going to the Marine Science Institute at the University of California to learn about REEF and lots lots more so stay tuned! : )

Have a great week Sea Fans!
Cheers
Abby
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Monday, September 3, 2012

Good News!

Hi Sea Fans

Things have been going great guns here in America.  I've got one more stop in California and that's to see the illustrator (the lady who draws the pictures) of my books. Yippee!  I get to see what she gets up to in the day and she said that she might take me to one or two aquariums in her neighbourhood.

Keli - the person behind the amazing pictures in my books!
I'm still trying to get the photos off my USB of my visit to the Marine Science Institute, as soon as I manage that, I'll post them for you to see.  I got to help out at Tech Trek (a week-long, residential, summer, science program where girls, going into 8th grade stay in a UCSB dorm and learn about science), visited REEF Aquarium with a special friend and got to read a super special book...but more about that next time : )

I heard some great news ...a blogger did a survey in May asking people what their favourite ocean-themed children's book is and my first book, "Abby's Aquarium Adventures", was listed!!!  Facebook and Twitter was used to find out what people think...how clever!



My first book is now also available as an app!!!  Check out iTunes or go to this web page:
http://www.topappstoday.com/apps-book/548224380/auracle-abby-rsquo-s-aquarium

Keep in touch Sea Fans (abby@telkomsa.net) and let me know what you like and don't like about the sea, maybe you'll see your comments/poem/story posted here!

Chat soon.
Cheers!
Abby
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Mobile Fish Exhibit


Hi Sea Fans!

I’m back! : )  I’ve been chatting to so many people here in the US and am loving the hospitality.  After the California Science Centre, I got to visit James Frank and his Mobile Fish Exhibit at the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland, California.  He even let me drive it!!



Fish Guy Joshua and Ranger James gave me a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium lab, where all the fish that go into the exhibit spend most of their time.  

Every couple of weeks, these fish get to travel to a new school or festival to teach people about the importance of keeping our waterways clean and healthy.  I got involved by showing the kids how to do scientific drawings of the fish.  

Scientists use these kinds of drawings to document behavior patterns and other observations, so it’s a great skill to learn. 
  
We also had a bit of a laugh by making drawings of Ranger James and Fish Guy Joshua! 
James does some great work and part of what he does is to teach kids about why it is important not to set pets free in the wild.  When people let their pet goldfish go free in a pond or lake, they use resources (food etc) that the native fish (the local fish that are meant to be there) and other aquatic animals need to survive. 


Thanks for having me James, I hope you had as much fun as I did! : )

Next time you're in Oakland, Sea Fans, keep an eye out for the Mobile Aquarium and say hi to Ranger James!!

Cheers
Abby
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