Friday, March 28, 2014

Ocean Explorium

Hey Sea Fans!

My latest stop on my world travels was at the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford, USA!  Thanks to Abbey (cool name!!) and Warren for hosting me, it's always nice seeing more of what goes on at other aquariums.  I got to check things out AND even got to lend a hand...

Like at the ray and shark pool where I taught a group of students all about these amazing elasmobranchs:
They loved being able to touch the animals and were amazed at the roughness of shark skin and the smoothness of the rays.  Shark skin is made up of denticles which are like small teeth, so the skin feels like sand paper.

At one of the aquariums that I used to work at, a Snaggletooth shark that had been rescued from fishermen came in and desperately needed some help.  It was so weak from lying still on the sand that it needed someone to help it swim. (Remember that many sharks have to keep moving to breathe!!  As they move through the water, fresh water filled with oxygen flows over the gills so that the shark can breathe.)  I volunteered and believe me, after a few hours, my arm that was around its body felt RAW from the skin rubbing me!!!  Well worth it though, I would do it again in a heartbeat to help these amazing animals!
Feeding time! See how the animals all gathered in the same spot?  They are fed from the same spot each time so they gather there when they see the aquarist ready to feed them.  This is called "conditioning".
One of the most interesting things I got to see was the Coral Farm. This is where tiny little pieces of coral, called fragments, are grown into decent sized corals for sale to hobbyists.  This means that the general public can buy captive grown corals rather than getting them from a place that sells corals collected from the ocean. Another way that aquariums aid conservation and education.
Me holding a coral fragment.
 I couldn't help myself, I just wanted to help out wherever they took me so here you can see Abby Aquarist (ME : )) in action:
Preparing to feed the coral reef tank.
Some new animals were going to be put into the exhibits so I offered to help with this because I know how much time this can take out of an aquarist's day.  New animals need to get used to the water parameters (eg. temperature, pH and salinity) of their new exhibit so water from the exhibit is SLOWLY introduced to them. This is called acclimitisation.
 I'm definitely more a warm water diver, but it was good fun working at the cold water touch tank with a spider crab:
Science on a sphere is a cool interactive they have where you can learn all about any country you like!  If you visit the Ocean Explorium, you must check South Africa, my home country, out and let me know what you found.

So that was my trip in a nutshell.  If you want to experience it for yourself, why not book your tickets today at

Have a great weekend Sea Fans!
Chat soon.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Shell Recycling

Hi Sea Fans!

Everybody's heard: "REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE" but that's usually when we're talking about paper, plastic and cans.  Now there are people who are recycling a natural resource…sea shells.

For generations, used oyster shells were used to build roads, driveways and for building houses, but now there’s another use for these ugly shells.  Natural oyster shell is the best material on which to grow new oysters and restore oyster reefs. 

Young oysters (spat) settle and grow on oyster shells. 
The shells can be placed on the bottom of the sea in areas with a natural supply of spat or in tanks with spat so that the young ‘spat-on-shell’ can be moved to the estuaries in restoration programmes.

Oysters and the reefs that they form provide extremely important functions in estuaries. They filter water, removing pollutants, sediment and excess algae; and they help control shoreline erosion (their shape helps reduce wave energy).  As oyster shell accumulates (collects) and builds up into hard sponge-like reefs, they also provide habitat (a home) for other marine animals including fish, shrimp, crab, eels, starfish, mussels and many other marine species. 

Given the shortage of shell, groups like the Oyster Recovery Partnership in the Chesapeake Bay area have developed shell recycling programmes to save this natural resource.
Shells that have been collected from restaurants and the public.
Hundreds of restaurants, caterers and seafood wholesalers are already a part of such recycling programmes.  What can you do?  Well, if you eat out or your mom buys seafood then tell her about the shell recycling and get her to check out the website that has the list of businesses that are members of the shell recycling programme (see for a list of members in the Chesapeake Bay area).

Other states have also taken to this idea so take a look, maybe your state has a recycling programme that you can help with:

New Orleans (
North Carolina (

When checking out the web, I found a programme in New Zealand ( too.  So whether you’re in South Africa, Australia, Europe or Asia, Google it, you may have a programme near you!

Have a great week Sea Fans, enjoy the weather and the snorkelling if you live by the sea in the southern hemisphere!

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