Friday, May 30, 2014

Georgia Aquarium II

Hi Sea Fans!

It's been crazy busy, but here's the other half of my Georgia Aquarium visit (told by Megan, my host from Georgia Aquarium).  Enjoy!

Here is another one of our Education Stations, located in Ocean Voyager.   
Abby educated guests all about our Seafood Savvy program, where consumers are empowered to know the right seafood to buy and why (This program teaches visitors which seafood is better to buy and why.  Seafood is now grouped into 3 groups that will tell you whether it is best to buy it or whether it's best to steer clear of it....if you want to find out more about green, red and orange fish, just go to
and you'll see what I mean.)  Simple actions taken like this can make such a big difference!  This program is modeled after Monterey Bay Aquariums Seafood Watch program (you can download the Seafood Watch app for free from the app store).

Why do seafood choices matter?
Our choices drive the seafood marketplace. Your purchasing power makes such a huge difference (What you buy makes a difference!!). With almost 85% of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, these issues are more important than ever. By using the Seafood Savvy or Seafood Watch Guides, you are making educated choices: supporting sustainable fishing methods and environmentally friendly farming practices helps protect these ecosystems so that they may be around for generations to come!

For our younger guests, we teach them all about the different types of jaws and teeth fish can have at the Education Station in Ocean Voyager!
Abby taught kids about the bowmouth guitarfish jaw (above left) and the wobbegong jaw (above right) and how sharks and rays have different teeth for a reason. Shark teeth tend to be sharp and pointy for grasping, ripping, tearing. Ray teeth tend to be flat and smooth for crushing and grinding.  (If you'd like to learn more about different sharks and other predators, you can order a copy of my book: " Predators", the second book in the Abby's Aquarium Adventures series.  
Go to:

Lastly, Abby visited our Tropical Diver gallery where tons of colorful fish and graceful jellies enjoyed her presence.
Here she taught guests all about the amazing diversity (lots of different kinds) of life in our world’s oceans and waters. This gallery is literally a living piece of art! 
Abby discovered curious garden eels popping out of the sand here. 

And was amazed by the graceful moon jellies.

Did you know that these are a primary (main) food source for leatherback and several other species of sea turtles, as well as other marine creatures?  Many marine animals die every year ingesting (eating) floating plastic bags, mistaking them for these moon and other jellies.  This is why it is so important to recycle and keep litter in the trashcan!  (Try this:  Take a small plastic bag, shred it a bit and put it inside a jar of water with a bit of sand and a few other bits of plant, etc. that you'd find in the sea.  Close the lid tightly, shake and see how a bag can so easily be mistaken for a jellyfish.)

So you can see, I really get treated to an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the aquariums that invite me to visit.  If you're a new Sea Fan, welcome and please take a look at previous blogs where you'll see more amazing facilities that I've visited.  If you're a regular, I hope you're enjoying my adventures as much as I am.

Have a great weekend Sea Fans and see you soon.
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Georgia Aquarium

Hi Sea Fans!

What good memories!  I'm making amazing memories EVERY day and it's all thanks to the folks who have been nice enough to invite me to their facilities to have a look at what they get up to in a day. Georgia Aquarium was my most recent stop - Thanks to Kim and Megan, I had a ball!!!  And thanks to Megan, I'm not even writing this latest blog because she already did such a brilliant job with telling everyone in Georgia so I'm just reprinting her words.  Here is how she described my stay with them:


Abby had a fantastic time exploring the Georgia Aquarium these past few days. She participated in educating our guests about beluga whale biology (These guys are BEAUTIFUL!  Imagine a dolphin without it's beak and a very big forehead and you've got yourself a beluga..oh yes, and they're white.) and how to eat seafood sustainably (This means that we don't polish it all off and leave nothing for future generations.) with our Seafood Savvy program. She met a few beluga whales, African penguins (a little bit of home), groupers, jellyfish and more! We are big fans of Abby and can’t wait to see where her next big adventure takes her!(Gee, thanks Megan, I'm a big fan of Georgia Aquarium.)

Abby loved our Beluga Education Station located in our Cold Water Quest Gallery, home to four beautiful and beloved beluga whales. You can see some of the belugas swimming in their habitat in the background of the pictures.

Here Abby is teaching all about what a beluga whale skull actually looks like!  Belugas have about 30-40 short conical shaped teeth. They are used for grabbing their food, not chewing! Unlike humans, beluga whales do not have molars!

Abby also taught guests about the kinds of food belugas like to eat.  Belugas are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can find around them! In the wild, they can eat salmon, capelin, herring, shrimp, artic cod, flounder, crabs and mollusks. Here at Georgia Aquarium we feed them mackerel, capelin (in the picture) and squid!  They can eat up to 50lbs of food a day!
In this picture you can see one of the belugas in the background diving!
Abby also loved teaching our guests about how beluga whales are mammals and drink milk when they are babies, just like us!  Beluga calves get their milk from their mom. Their milk is much richer and thicker than human milk. You might drink 2% cow’s milk at home (2% fat content), but humans produce 4-5% milk.  And beluga milk consists of 28% fat!  Beluga milk is so fatty because babies have to put on lots of weight and fatty layers in order to stay warm and survive in their cold arctic habitats. Beluga blubber’s primary function is insulation (protecting them from the cold) but it can also store energy. Blubber accounts for 40-50% of an adult’s body weight.

Abby discovered our African penguins and learned all about some of the ways in which Georgia Aquarium is participating (taking part) in research and conservation efforts on behalf of this IUCN endangered species.
Georgia Aquarium is participating in a study of African penguin nutrition. Declines in breeding populations (there are fewer and fewer of them) of this species are thought to result from scarcity of prey (not much around) due to environmental changes and overfishing.  Proper nutrition (food to keep them growing) is a critical determinant in the successful conservation and propagation of all penguin populations (In other words, it's really important that they get the right kind of food for them to survive)!

We have also partnered with SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) to assist in a health assessment of African penguins in their natural habitat (have a look at my previous blogs and you can see my visit there with Ed the's in my home town.). We also participate in SSP (Species Survival Plan) breeding programs.

Abby’s next stop was Ocean Voyager. 
This tank is almost the size of an American football field and has over 6 million gallons (almost 23 million litres!!) of water! It is also home to four whale sharks, 4 manta rays, predatory trevally jacks, small and large stingrays, goliath groupers,
 and several shark species.  Another one of our Education Stations lives in this gallery as well!

...I think I'm going to leave it at that for now and keep you in suspense for the second part of this blog.  Trust me, it's worth the wait!  :)

Have a great week Sea Fans.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pier Aquarium

Hi Sea Fans!

The seasons are changing and some of us are gearing up for those of you back home, we've had the cold so it's your turn now!  : )

Anyway, seeing as I haven't written in a while, I'd better get to it...

Pier Aquarium.  I was here a while ago, but I was battling to get my photos off the camera for some strange reason.  The Pier Aquarium has been going since 1988 and they've had nearly 4 million visitors walk through their doors.  Needless to say, they were looking for a way to expand and the answer has been "The Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Centre and Aquarium" (SSMECA) which only opened in November last year.   I was lucky enough to be invited to visit.  I packed my camera and hopped on a plane.  Here are some pics:
Me helping Chrissy, one of the aquarists at the Touch Tank.
 I find that touch tanks are one of the best ways to give the visitor an experience they won't easily forget.  That's one of our missions as aquarists, we need to make visits to the aquarium memorable (not easily forgotten).  This makes sure that people feel an attachment to the sea and it's animals so that they feel like they want to do something to help conserve (save) and protect (defend/guard/keep) our marine biodiversity (the variety of marine life - plants and animals).  A lot of people say that you can't beat a first-hand experience like a contact session with animals.  Many aquariums give you the opportunity to touch penguins, dolphins, beluga whales, walruses and seals, but these usually cost a little extra.  Touch tanks are there for everyone who enters the aquarium to touch things like sea stars, anemones, sea weed, algae, horse shoe crabs, and hermit crabs.

Similar tanks are often put into mobile aquariums which are taken around to the local neighbourhood and surrounding areas to teach the public more about these animals.  I know that the two biggest aquariums back home, in South Africa, send a mobile aquarium out into the disadvantaged areas so that the kids there can also get the opportunity to see what lives underneath the waves.  You should see there faces light up with interest when they learn that the spiky round thing, called an urchin, is in fact an animal!

Another reason why I love working at an aquarium.
Helping feed the seahorse nursery.
 Okay, back to my adventures at Pier Aquarium.  Seahorses!  I love these guys.  I mean who doesn't, right?!!  And what's even better is BABY seahorses!  I've been lucky enough to (by accident), see a male seahorse giving birth to it's babies.  It's almost like he spits them out of his tummy!  Amazing little guys!!
Helping with a school group tour.
 In this photo above, I was showing the kids where we were in relation to the rest of the world.  School group tours start like this so that they can discuss what types of waters are here and what lives in the different water systems.
It's always a nice feeling seeing your country on a map.  I got to show the kids where I come from.  The first reaction was "Wow!" and "Gee, you're far from home!".  Yes, I am, but all of our countries are connected by the sea and so we all can make a difference to each others' lives.  (Even if you just do one thing like not throwing your trash/litter/rubbish on the floor).
Helping feed the Coral Catsharks.
 I ended my visit with a quick hello and a few pieces of food for the catsharks.  Cute lttle guys!

If you're in the Florida area, why not pop in and see the aquarium for yourself.  (Plan your visit by checking out

Thanks to all the Pier Aquarium staff, especially Chrissy and Brooke for hosting me and organising my stay.

Have a great end of the week Sea Fans!
Chat soon.

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