Let’s have some science-related fun while we’re social distancing!
Tune in every day to the Aquarium’s facebook page to step behind-the-scenes and see how we take care of the animals at the Aquarium!
Each day will be accompanied by an activity you can do from home.
Tuesday, March 17: Keeping Clean in the Commissary
When our zoological staff prepare the food for the animals living at the aquarium, they use a room like your kitchen, called a commissary. This room is set aside just for food preparation and our staff work hard to ensure the cleanliness of this space, cleaning it multiple times each day. Because harmful microbes can make animals sick, just like in humans, it is important that all surfaces be scrubbed and sanitized regularly.
Do your chores ever include cleaning your kitchen at home? It may not be fish scales that make a mess at your house, but plenty of food can carry or encourage the growth of bacteria or viruses. By not only wiping down surfaces, but also removing particles of food from your counters and sinks, you are cutting down on the chance for these microbes to grow.
You can make a homemade surface cleaner with this easy recipe that will help to clean and maintain a sanitary cooking space.
- Mix equal parts water, vinegar, and alcohol in a fine-mist spray bottle.
- Add 2 to 3 drops of dish soap. Shake, spray on surface, and wipe off.
- To increase disinfecting ability, spray surface heavily with the solution and allow to sit for at least 30 seconds.
- Optional: add 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oils to cover up the vinegar scent.
Wednesday, March 18: The World of Water Testing
As part of the standard care of our animals, Aquarium staff test the water our animals live in. These tests help us to ensure that the exhibit conditions are optimum for the animals to live and thrive.
Depending on the exhibit and animals present, we may test the water every few days, every day, or several times per day. Some of the most important tests we run are for temperature, salinity, and pH.
Because we are a science-focused facility, we use the metric scale for measuring water temperature, known as Celsius. In the conversion chart, you will see some of the notable points such as the melting and boiling points of water.
(Click on the table to enlarge it)
- Which Fahrenheit temperature is it equal to 10° Celsius?
- At what temperature are the measurements for Fahrenheit and Celsius the same number?
- What is the coldest temperature measured on Earth in Fahrenheit?
- What is the boiling point of water in Celsius?
Many of our marine animals rely on saltwater in their environment and exhibit. To ensure the concentration of salt in the water is just right for them, we measure the salinity of the water. Some animals need water as salty as the ocean, while others may not be able to tolerate as salty of an environment and live in brackish or freshwater. Brackish water is a mix of salt and fresh water.
The salinity of the water can affect animals by changing how they regulate water within their bodies. It can also change how they may be able to move in the water. To see this effect, try this at-home experiment using various concentrations of saltwater and an egg.
If you have ever heard of acids or bases, then you have some idea of what pH is. Technically, pH is a measure of the amount of hydrogen (H+) and hydroxyl (OH-) ions available in water. If a substance has more hydrogen ions than hydroxyl ions it is considered acidic, and if it has more hydroxyl ions than hydrogen ions it is considered basic. If there is an equal amount of each of these ions, the substance is considered neutral. Pure water is neutral, freshwater ranges from slightly acidic to slightly basic, and seawater is slightly basic.
Changes in pH can greatly impact aquatic animals, causing problems with their physical development and maintenance, regulating waste, and egg production. In recent decades, some freshwater ecosystems have been affected by acid rain changing the pH of the watersheds.
In ocean environments, scientists are tracking more acidic conditions caused by climate change.
To better understand what substances are acids and bases, follow the directions in this experiment to make your own testing solution at home and use it to test liquids you have around the house.
Thursday, March 19: Jellies, Jellies, and more Jellies
After seeing how we breed jellies, you may be a little confused about how the jelly life cycle works. It is more complex than most animals, which can be surprising considering jellies have rather simple bodies.
Jelly reproduction involves several different stages. In the medusa, or adult, stage, they can reproduce sexually by releasing sperm and eggs into the water, where the newly formed eggs will develop into a planula. The planula will settle and attach onto the bottom of a smooth rock or other structure and grow into another stage called the polyp, which resembles a miniature sea anemone. This stage can last for several months or even years, where the polyps eat, grow, and prepare for the next stage that involves asexual reproduction. The budding polyps clone themselves and strobilate, or separate, into another free-swimming stage called ephyra. This is the form that grows into the adult jelly. Medusa can survive between a few months up to a year.
Using this activity sheet, color the different stages of the jelly’s life cycle. You will then label each stage and add arrows in the direction that the life cycle moves. Can you think of any other animals that may have a similar life cycle?
Friday, March 20: Making Our Exhibits Sparkle
When creating an exhibit at the Aquarium of Niagara, there are many things to consider before the animals go on display. The first step is to come up with a theme, and think about what we want our guests to learn from seeing our exhibit. Do we want to connect them to places far away or show them the ecosystems in their own backyard? Do we want them to learn about endangered species? Or how we impact our aquatic ecosystems? Once we figure out what we want our exhibit to say, we can then plan on what it is going to look like and what animals will be included.
Find an empty box to use as your tank, then decide what you would like other people to learn from your aquarium.
Determine what kind of habitat you would like to replicate—a tidal pool, a pond, a mangrove, a coral reef, etc.- and figure out the following:
- will it need fresh water or salt water?
- what will the temperature of the water be?
- what kind of plants are found there?
- how many different animal species will live there?
Using items from around your home, create the plants and animals to add to your “aquarium.” Here are some ideas for materials to use:
- Modeling clay to make animal shapes
- Pipe cleaners to make corals or plants
- Gather natural materials from outside
Once you have created your exhibit, you can continue the fun by:
- making signs to place around it to explain the plants, animals, and what you want people to learn from the exhibit
- presenting in front of the exhibit like our aquarium educators
- figuring out how to clean the exhibit after the animals have lived there a while
- deciding what kind of food the animals would eat
- determining what you will do if the animals do not get along with each other?
- determining what you will do if an animal gets sick or injured?
Enjoy creating and caring for your “aquarium”!
Sunday, March 22: Enrichment — More Than Entertainment
Enrichment is an essential part of life for animals and people!
Our zoological staff work very hard to ensure all our animals at the aquarium are stimulated throughout the day. For this, our staff adds enrichment to their exhibit as part of their routine care. Depending on the animal, this can range from a couple times per week to multiple times each day. Enrichment helps to satisfy both the physical and psychological needs of an animal and allows them to make choices. It also brings out an animal’s natural behaviors and allows them to be more active and increase the animal’s control over their environment!
Do you think we use enrichment in our own daily lives? The answer is YES! You probably don’t play with car wash strips or fishy ice blocks, but there are many other things we considered as enrichment. Some of those include trips to the park, visiting your local library, playing in the pool, baking cookies, reading a story, playing basketball, or even watching a little TV!
You can make your own enrichment schedule just like our zoological staff at the aquarium! Use this schedule to plan out your own enrichment for the day. Try to come up with 6 different enrichment activities and write them in the spaces provided. Take some pictures of your favorite enrichment and tag us on Facebook at Aquarium of Niagara! Happy Enriching!!
Monday, March 23: Penguins Can Paint!
Painting is colorful and safe fun for our penguin colony!
Our penguin colony is filled with artists, as each of our birds has participated in the enriching activity of painting. This chance to dip their feet in paint and step out their own design across the canvases allows each of them the opportunity to make their mark and change up their daily routine. Not only do they experience something out of the norm, the paintings make unique artwork we can share with our guests.
Our staff has taken care to ensure the paint we use is water-based and easily removed from the penguins after the artwork is made. Some human artists prefer to use oil-based paints, but if we used those with our penguins, it could be problematic for the birds. While the birds produce their own natural oils to condition their feathers, the oils from paint could damage their feathers or irritate their skin, similar to how oil spills in their natural environment endanger penguin colonies around the world. Soaps and cleansers can be used to clean these oils, however they each have differing properties and do not work the same in all situations.
Oil spills can be devastating for marine animals. Penguins and other marine birds rely on clean feathers for waterproofing and insulation. When fouled with oil, the birds try to clean their feathers. Sadly, the birds often die of starvation, of hypothermia, or from ingesting the toxic oil. In June 2000 an iron ore carrier sank off the coast of South Africa, leaking tons of oil into the sea. The oil spill threatened the African penguins inhabiting Dassen and Robben Islands, which comprise about 40% of the total African penguin population. The Southern African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) relocated 19,000 un-oiled penguins and coordinated rehabilitation efforts for nearly 19,000 oiled penguins. SeaWorld penguin experts flew to Cape Town, South Africa to assist with the cleaning and care of the oiled penguins. They washed the penguins with a grease-cutting dishwashing detergent and rinsed them with fresh water, repeating the process until the penguins were oil-free. Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute scientists have studied ways to clean oil from marine animals. In this activity, your students perform a similar study.
· three large clean feathers (Examples: ducks, parrots, turkeys—from the beach, ponds, pet stores, local zoos, or craft stores)
· vegetable oil
· five large bowls
· 1 Tablespoon mild hand soap
· 1 Tablespoon powdered laundry detergent
· 1 Tablespoon dishwashing liquid
1. Fill all five bowls with water. Label three bowls: #1, #2, and #3.
2. Dissolve a tablespoon of mild hand soap in bowl #1, a tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent in bowl #2, and a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in bowl #3.
3. Pour a slick of vegetable oil on top of the water in bowl #4.
4. Take the three feathers and have participants examine each feather’s texture and weight. Have them dip feathers in the oil and then examine them. Discuss how oil changed the feathers and the effects that oil might have on a bird.
5. Ask participants to hypothesize about ways to remove the oil.
6. Have the participants try to wash off the feathers in plain water (bowl #5). Ask them to describe what happens to the feathers.
7. Next, participants try to wash the feathers in each of the detergent solutions. (Use one feather per bowl.) Ask the participants to write down which (solution #1, #2, or #3) worked the best. Let the participants compare their results and record them.
8. Reveal the names of the detergents and show the containers they were in. Which of the three worked best? Which was the worst at cleaning the feather?
9. Discuss what would happen to a bird in an oil spill. Why are feathers important to birds? How do birds clean their feathers? What might happen if a bird ingests the oil?
Test other hypotheses that students suggest to remove the oil. Try other types of oils and detergents. Investigate why and where oil spills occur. What kinds of animals are found in these places?
You can join the penguins in creating art with this fun craft. Plus, you may have some extra toilet paper rolls around the house right now!
Tuesday, March 24: Animals, Quarantine, and You
When a new animal comes to the Aquarium of Niagara or if an animal gets sick, they must go into quarantine. This is probably familiar as we are all experiencing quarantine in different ways right now.
At the aquarium our animals must be in quarantine for 30 days, unless we are otherwise directed by a veterinarian. Sometimes the new or sick animal is alone, sometimes they are with other animals they already live with.
When our animal care staff work with animals in quarantine, they often must use personal protective equipment (PPE.) Some examples of PPE are gloves, face masks, safety glasses and special clothing. All this equipment helps our animal care team protect themselves from getting sick, as well as protect our other animals. In most situations the chance of spreading illness is low, but these measures are taken just to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy.
Our staff must also follow specific cleaning protocols:
· food for quarantined animals is prepared separately from the food for the other animals
· a separate set of cleaning supplies is used for quarantined animals
· our staff change their clothing between working with quarantined animals and other animals
· staff must wash their hands between working with each animal or group of animals
Another part of having animals in quarantine, is keeping them entertained, and our quarantined animals are no exception. We find ways to change up their day through training, play, novel sounds, smells, sights or tastes depending on the animal.
All these procedures are normal for our staff and usually normal for our animals too.
Considering our animal quarantine procedures, think about similar steps you or your family may be taking right now to stay healthy:
· What’s changed since social distancing and quarantine have become important?
· Have you or your parent/guardian’s cleaning routine changed?
· Do you wear PPE at home or when you leave the house?
· How are you staying enriched, and adding change to your day?
· What activities are you doing now that you are home to help keep the days from all feeling the same?
We asked some of the aquarium staff what they would like to do if they had to fill their time during quarantine and came up with a bucket list for that time.
Aquarium Staff Quarantine Bucket List
· Themed Movie Marathon, i.e. favorite actor, animal, fantasy, 80’s etc
· Eat dessert for a main meal, i.e. breakfast
· Build a fort
· Turn the house into a safari/zoo
· Create your own menu using your favorite food
· Bake cookies
· Do a scavenger hunt in/outside or play I spy
· Learn a new skill – painting, knitting, gardening, birdwatching, etc.
What would you put on your bucket list to do while you are quarantined?
Wednesday, March 25: Sea Lions Show Off Their Skills
Sea lions have some brilliant behaviors!
Wow! Aren’t our sea lions amazing!? During that show they showed off their intelligence, athleticism and trust in their trainers.
It is easy to describe what our sea lions do as tricks, but that just isn’t the case. All the behaviors our sea lions perform during shows are completely natural and have been observed in sea lions out in their natural habitat in California and the Pacific Ocean.
For Example, balancing a ball on their nose is reflective of sea lions in their natural habitat balancing items on their noses as a part of play and investigative behavior. What we do at the Aquarium of Niagara is put our animal’s completely natural behavior on a cue, that way we can ask for those behaviors to showcase for guests. This keeps our sea lions physically and mentally fit and reinforces their strong relationship with our trainers. And, hopefully inspires you to do what you can to protect our oceans and all the animals that live there.
How do our sea lions balance a ball on their nose? Are they balancing it on their nose at all? Try this activity to learn the secret to the sea lion’s balancing ability.
1. Try balancing a ball on your nose at home. It’s difficult, right? Our sea lions actually balance the ball on their whiskers or vibrissae. These vibrissae have muscles that allow the sea lions to control the rigidity and direction of their whiskers and balance the ball. Since we do not have whiskers, what could we use to help keep the ball on our nose?
2. Try placing your hands next to your nose like whiskers. Now try balancing the ball like a sea lion. Is it easier? Those vibrissae are also very sensitive much like your fingertips.
3. Can you walk in a straight line balancing a ball on your fingers like our sea lions with their vibrissae?
4. What else can you balance on your nose besides the ball? Sea lions do not usually find a ball in the ocean, but have been observed in their natural environment balancing sea stars and shells on their noses.
5. Now challenge your family- can they balance the ball? What other items can your parent, guardian or older sibling balance as compared to yourself?
Feel free to share your results in the comments on Facebook under our video of the sea lion show.
Thursday, March 26: SCUBA, Swim Bladders & Buoyancy
Buoyancy is important for fish and scuba divers.
At the Aquarium of Niagara, our zoological staff are certified scuba divers and dive in several of our larger exhibits to clean them. Scuba diving allows a person to stay underwater for extended periods of time, because air is carried with them to keep them breathing. Divers carry a lot of gear with them to help in the process. You probably saw much of the gear listed in the diagram on our staff diving in Penguin Coast.
One of the most important pieces of equipment is the BCD, or buoyancy control device. This vest-like device has an air bladder in it and the diver controls whether it is inflated or deflated. By filling it or deflating it, the diver can change where they stay in the water, also known as their buoyancy.
Fish have an internal organ, called a swim bladder, that works in a similar way.
To better understand how a swim bladder or BCD works, try this experiment. (Note that if you do not have plastic tubing available, a flexible straw can be used instead.) Afterwards, think about how fish and divers would move through the water if they did not have a way to control their buoyancy. Would they sink to the bottom or float up to the surface?
Friday, March 27: Creating A Home For Sharks & Rays
When it’s finished, M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay will resemble a coastal mangrove. That’s a wetland found in tropical and subtropical regions like the Southern tip of Florida and the Gulf Coast of Texas. The habitat is named for mangrove trees like the one that will soon be at the center of our exhibit! Mangroves are flourishing ecosystems full of crustaceans and fish that provide a bountiful food source for sharks like the white spotted bamboo sharks that will be in M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay.
Designing an aquarium exhibit for a species is not as easy as picking what you like. Each and every animal has requirements for their habitat and space that must be met in order to create a healthy environment for them. In this activity, you will become the exhibit designer, picking a shark species and setting up the space to meet their needs.
Click here to read about five different species of sharks who all prefer different environments and try designing your own exhibit.
- Construction paper
- Transparent tape
- Crayons, markers, paint, etc. for decoration
1. Cut long strips of construction paper, making sure they are at least 1.5 inches wide. These will form the band around the head and the support for the fin.
2. Take 1-2 strips and wrap around child’s head to find the right fit. Staple the ends together, cutting off excess. You should have one band that fits like a crown.
3. Staple a third strip of paper at the front of the band, 90° to the rest of the band so it would stick straight up.
4. With the child wearing the band, wrap the third strip of paper down across the top of the head until it reaches the back of the band. Mark the spot and staple down to the back, cutting off excess.
5. On a larger sheet of construction paper, draw a fin shape. Make sure it is no wider than the length of the top band of the hat.
6. Cut out the fin.
7. Along the bottom of the fin, find the midpoint and make a ½ inch cut straight up into the fin.
8. Fold the flap on the left up toward the top of the fin, creating a small tab. Turn the fin over and fold that left flap up toward the top of the fin. Each folded tab should go in opposite directions.
9. Using the transparent tape, tape your fin to the top band of the hat, with one folded tab on each side.
10. Decorate the hat any way you want!
Saturday, March 28: Animals Need Vitamins Too!
Balanced diets and vitamin supplements ensure our animals are healthy.
Our animal care team oversees making sure all our animals at the Aquarium of Niagara stay healthy. Along with checking water quality and cleaning the spaces they live in, feeding them proper nutrition is one of the most important duties we have.
For our larger animals such as the seals, sea lions, and penguins, that means feeding them a variety of fish which comprise a balanced diet. Seals, sea lions, and penguins are all carnivores, and as such their diet is limited to meat or fish, but each fish provides something different to their diet. Herring provides healthy fats and protein, capelin provides plenty of vitamins, and smelt provides fresh water.
However, just like humans, sometimes the food in our diet doesn’t provide all the vitamins and minerals we need.
Through the process of thawing frozen fish, some vitamins and minerals can be lost, just like in frozen food at home. To counter this, our animals also receive vitamin supplements cleverly hidden in their fish. Just like you or someone you know may take a vitamin supplement to make sure we stay healthy, our animals get the same.
Since our animals have humans keeping track of their nutrition, they don’t have to worry about the amounts of nutrients they receive. However, as humans we often need to take a more active role in making sure we eat a balanced diet. A way we can do that is by “eating a rainbow.”
By varying the colors of the food we eat, we can ensure we are getting a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals in our diet.
See what foods make up every color of the rainbow with this fun art activity.
Another way we can take an active role in our nutrition is by reading food labels. They tell us the amounts of different vitamins and minerals we receive in that food. By following current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, we can all be sure we get all the nutrition we need from our food and from vitamin supplements, just like the animals at the Aquarium of Niagara.
Click here to learn how to read a nutrition label.
Click here for a nutrition label scavenger hunt you can do in your kitchen!
Sunday, March 29: So Think You’d Like To Be An Animal Trainer?
Working with animals sounds like a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of dedication and training!
Being an animal trainer requires quite a bit of experience working with animals and understanding animal behavior. Besides earning a college degree and working at internships, trainers can also increase their knowledge by working with other trainers to share techniques, skills, and ideas. Whether it is at their own facility or other facilities, collaborating with other trainers helps everyone improve their knowledge and care of the animals they work with.
Two professional organizations that encourage and facilitate collaboration among trainers are the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA).
Download this worksheet to learn about two organizations that set the standards for animal care both in the United States and beyond.
After your research it’s time to have a little fun!
See if you can find some common animal-training related words in this word search game.
Monday, March 30: Mia Walks About the Aquarium
California sea lions like Mia have special adaptations that allow them to move, or “walk” on land.
Seals and sea lions are often confused, but a key difference can be found in the way they move!
Use this exercise to see how seals and sea lions are different… and then compare a sea lion’s skeleton to yours!
Tuesday, March 31: Lake Sturgeon — Saving a Species
The Aquarium of Niagara teams up with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to rear fingerling lake sturgeon before releasing them, with thousands of others, into the Genesee River every year.
The fingerling lake sturgeon housed at the Aquarium of Niagara are part of a wildlife management program run by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, but why does this species need help? Despite being a native fish that has lived in the Great Lakes for millennia, their numbers dropped dramatically in the last 200 years. They are so low in population size that they are currently listed as threatened by 19 of the 20 states they are found in and being considered for the federal Endangered Species List.
Download this activity sheet to learn what it means for a species to be threatened and endangered, and see what caused the decline of lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes.
Wednesday, April 1: Meet Our Electric Eel & Other Species From The Amazon
The Amazon is home to some fascinating wildlife, including colorful fish, poison dart frogs, and the electric eel!
Electric eels are well-known by many, but do you really know the facts about them? Answer these questions to better understand this unusual fish.
- Do electric eels live in saltwater or freshwater?
- Where on Earth are electric eels found in their natural habitat?
- Do they only use electricity for stunning their prey?
- Is producing electricity their only adaptation?
Electric eels are found in the freshwater river systems of the Amazon. These waters can be very murky, thus eyesight is not the most useful sense to have. The eels have very poor eyesight, but their ability to create electricity gives them several advantages to counter this.
- Communication – Individual eels send out weak pulses to identify other eels and even determine whether they are male and female. This is helpful during the breeding season, as they can even find out if the other eel is ready to breed or not.
- Hunting – Producing electricity has the obvious benefit of shocking prey into easy submission so it can be swallowed safely, but it also helps the eel to identify the prey first. Weak pulses are sent out that cause muscle contractions in the prey, alerting the eel to its presence. Once identified, stronger pulses incapacitate the prey and the eel quickly swallows the animal whole.
- Defense – There are not many predators of electric eels, mostly large terrestrial mammals that may hunt eels during the dry season when there is less water for the eels to escape. To avoid these attacks, the electricity can be useful to shock the predator enough to change their mind.
- Navigation – By producing electricity, the eels create magnetic fields around themselves. These fields can act similarly to echolocation in bats and dolphins, where objects near them will distort the magnetic field and eels can sense this. They then use the information to identify the location, size, and shape of the objects and animals around them.
We cannot produce electricity ourselves, but we can sense it. The following activity can help us to understand how electric eels may use this ability to navigate their environment.
- Inflated balloon
- Bare arms of two or more people
- Have everyone pull up their sleeves to expose their forearms. Pick someone to hold the balloon and test everyone.
- The person holding the balloon rubs it on the carpet or some fabric to build up static electricity.
- Everyone else closes their eyes and holds out their bare arms.
- The person with the balloon hovers it over one person’s arm and has the them guess which arm it is. The balloon should not touch their arm, but the static electricity from the balloon should raise the hairs on their arms to help them determine where the balloon is.
Generating electricity may be the most notable adaptation electric eels have, but others include their coloration to help camouflage in muddy waters and their parental care of eggs with nests made by the males out of their own saliva.
Another important one is their one large anal fin that runs almost the entire length of the body. This fin undulates in a wave-like action to move the fish forward and backward without having to turn their body. Scientists and engineers have studied this swimming action and are even using it to assist robots with moving in water and on land!
Thursday, April 2: Sea Lions Can Paint, Too!
Our marine mammal trainers work with our sea lions to put natural behaviors to cues. Training is enriching for the animals and allows them to participate in their own care, show off their personalities, and stay mentally stimulated.
Mia paints by holding the brush in her mouth! Take a shot at painting this way. Are you able to create a design? What are some challenges you encountered while painting this way?
Paint with salt and glue: Salt can be a fun addition to painting. Try adding some texture to your designs with this technique:
Bubble Painting: Bubbles are fun to make and pop, but they can also make some fun designs. Click here for instructions on how to bubble paint at home.
Friday, April 3: Hungry Humboldt Penguins
Humboldt penguins typically eat 10-14% of their body weight in fish each day! At the Aquarium, penguins eat four different types of fish, and our keepers work hard to make sure every penguin gets the perfect combination based on their individual weights and needs.
Download Hungry Humboldt Penguins to learn how to create an ideal penguin diet, then create one of your own!
Saturday, April 4: Shark Feeding
At the Aquarium we feed our sharks three times a week, using a technique called “target feeding.” Our White Spotted Bamboo Sharks are trained to associate a target at the end of a long pole with food! When they respond to the target, our aquarist uses a whistle to reward the behavior. Our Black Tipped Reef Sharks are trained to take food directly from a pole.
In their natural environment, sharks depend on their teeth to capture and eat their prey. In fact, their teeth are one of the most defining features between different species of sharks.
Click here to learn about the characteristics of different types of sharks, and see if you can use the listed traits to identify the shark.
Sunday, April 5: Animal Husbandry Training
Do you remember the first time your teeth were brushed? The first time you visited the doctor or dentist? The first time your mouth, ears, and eyes were checked? The first time you had blood taken? You may or may not, but there is a good chance that first time was a little uncomfortable, strange, and maybe scary for you.
Just like how you go to the doctor or dentist regularly, the aquarium animals have frequent visits from our veterinarians and daily checks from our zoological care staff, but there was a first time for them, too. If you can remember how strange or scary the first time visiting the doctor may have been for you, imagine being an animal that does not understand our language and not knowing what is going on.
To help keep the animals calm during these check-ups, the animal care staff start working with the animals on husbandry behaviors well before they are medically needed. Husbandry behaviors are those that help our staff check the wellness of the animals – opening the mouth, holding still, and laying out flat are all examples of these. Once the animals are comfortable with these behaviors, the staff will introduce the tools or actions that maintain health – toothbrush, eye drops, or ultrasound device. After much practice, the animals will be able to stay calm during these check-ups and the staff better able to keep them healthy.
One of the most practiced behaviors for our seals and sea lions is opening the mouth to brush their teeth. Since the animals cannot do it themselves, our staff do the brushing for them.
You can probably brush your own teeth, but can you brush someone else’s? It’s not as easy as it sounds and requires practice. Try doing this with a sibling or parent. How did it go? Did you make a mess?
Now, attempt to brush the other person’s teeth, but the person should behave as if they have never brushed teeth before. How can you help them to understand what is happening? Did you practice each step before moving on to the next? Did you or them get frustrated? All of this is part of training an animal and even teaching children!
Monday, April 6: Meet Our Bonnetheads!
Bonnethead sharks are one species in a group of sharks easily identified by their unique head shapes – hammerhead sharks, also known as sphyrnid sharks. There are 8 species of sphyrnid sharks found around the world, each one with slight variations.
From a wider angle of viewing to more ventral surface area to detect prey, these unusual head shapes bring some interesting benefits that help the sharks survive.
Download this packet to learn how an oddly-shaped head strengthens the shark’s sense of sight and smell.
Tuesday, April 7: Sounding Off About Spotted Turtles
When the warmth of spring and summer arrive, reptiles become active and we start to see them moving around. This may be most evident to you when you see a turtle trying to cross the road.
But what should you do if you see a turtle in the street?
Download this activity to find out!
Spotted turtles are a species of special concern in New York and considered endangered internationally.
Their low numbers are due to habitat loss, pollution, collecting for the pet trade, and increased predator populations. With all the added stress on this species and other turtles, conservationists must understand their reproductive cycle and behaviors to help them survive.
Wednesday, April 8: Citizen Science With Our Sea Lions
This sea lion show was brought to you by science!
Science is an intrinsic part of our world. The movie that you watch, the paint on your walls, the food in your fridge, and even why you are staying home right now have all been brought to you by science. It is easy to overlook the work done to bring us all the parts of our life, but we would not be where we are without the scientific efforts made in the background.
Our sea lion shows are like this. They are examples of animal behavior, psychology, biology, and chemistry presented in a way that may seem like simple entertainment to the viewer. There is a lot of work done by our zoological staff, the teachers and mentors they learned from, and the scientists that have studied this species for decades
Be a citizen scientist!
Science topics may seem complicated or hard, but really anyone can be a scientist! Humans are natural scientists- babies and toddlers throwing balls, stacking items, and banging pots and pans are learning about gravity, forces, and sound. The only requirement needed to practice science is to be curious.
There are many research projects that rely on help from volunteers and average citizens to proceed. You can participate from the comfort of your couch by visiting the websites like zooniverse.org. There you have the option of counting animals, checking for bacterial growth, marking constellations, and more for a variety of projects.
Be a scientist and try identifying and counting seals and sea lions along the California coast!
Thursday, April 9: Working With Animals in the Water
For our rescued seals and sea lions, the water is their domain. That means our trainers must have a special and strong bond with our animals before getting into the water with them. Just like behaviors on land, water work takes step-by-step training, time, and lots of positive reinforcement.
The sea lion pool at the Aquarium of Niagara is only 67 degrees! Our trainers wear wetsuits to protect them from the cold water, but our seals and sea lions have natural insulation in the blubber layer.
Marine mammals have the challenge of living in some of the chilliest environments on Earth, even in the tropical region. Ocean water temperatures can range from 80°+ F (25°+ C) down to close to 40° F (4° C) in the tropics, and even colder in temperate and polar regions. How do they keep their heat? Blubber!
As humans, we tend to think of fat as a bad thing, but marine mammals would not be able to survive without it. Their blubber, or fat layer, is what keeps the warmth in and the cold out. In smaller marine mammals like our sea lions the blubber may be a few inches thick, but it can be measured in feet in whales!
With exhibit water temperatures that range between 60-65° F (15-18° C), our staff wear a wetsuit to insulate their body against the chill when they jump in the water with our sea lions or seals. This may not seem very cold, but keep in mind that most of us take showers and baths with temperatures close to 100° F (38° C).
The animals are comfortable in these water temperatures because of their blubber. Try this activity at home to get a better understanding of how fat can be such a great insulator. You can use a timer to see measure the difference in how long you can hold your hand in the water with and without the glove. When you are done, think about these questions:
· Move the fat around to change the thickness of it within the glove. Does it make a difference in how much of the cold you feel in your hand?
· Are marine mammals completely covered in a blubber layer (think about heads, flippers, and flukes)? If not, how do these areas stay warm?
· How do marine mammals build up such thick layers of blubber?
· What other materials could animals use to insulate their bodies in cold water?
Friday, April 10: Invertebrates Are All Around Us!
The animals in our touch tanks are all invertebrates, meaning they do not have backbones. They may seem strange, but invertebrates make up the majority of animals on Earth – at least 95%! Knowing this, you can not only find invertebrates in oceans, but on land and in the air.
We can find invertebrates all around us, in parks, our backyards, and even in our homes. Some of them have relatives that are found in the ocean, while others are limited to one type of environment. Looking at this chart, circle the groups you think you can find in your local environment.
If you have ever turned over a rock or log and seen little gray, hard-shelled ovals scattering for cover, you have already met a terrestrial crustacean.
Pill bugs, roly polies, potato bugs, wood lice, whatever you call them, these little isopods are not insects. This video provides a close look at their anatomy and relations.
After watching the video, download this worksheet. Look at the three anatomy diagrams of the insect, pill bug, and decapod crustacean. Compare and contrast the three types of animals and list the differences and the similarities you see.
Then take some time to go outside for a crustacean hunt!
April 11, 2020: Meet Della The Grey Seal!
All the seals at the Aquarium of Niagara are rescued animals. They started life in the ocean, but were found injured or unhealthy. They went through rehabilitation and regained their health, but something prevented them from returning to their natural environment.
There are various reasons that a seal would not be able to return to the ocean. Amputations, not eating live food, or loss of sight are all reasons that our seals needed a new home. Our trainers have worked hard to ensure the seals are healthy and comfortable, no matter what accommodations are needed. We are proud to be their forever home!
Three of our rescued seals are with us because they developed cataracts while out in the ocean. Cataracts are a fogging of the lens in the eye, leaving the animal blind. Many animals develop this condition with age, but it can develop early in life, as it did with Sandy, Medusa, and Della. Sandy and Medusa did have surgery to remove their cataracts, but that did not guarantee they would be able to see afterwards. Sandy was able to regain vision in one eye, but Medusa remains blind.
To better understand what it is like to have cataracts, try the following activity.
· Swimming, safety, or other type of goggles
· Non-transparent tape – it needs to be foggy looking
· Peel strips of the tape and cover the front lens of the goggles. If there are protective sides, cover those with tape as well. Do not allow any openings between the tape, as the entire lens should appear fogged over when worn.
· Try on the goggles. If you can still see the details of your environment through them, add another layer of tape to cloud the view even more.
· Without the goggles, create a maze in a room of your house or outside in your yard. Use items that will not hurt if you step on or bump into them.
· With adult supervision, put the goggles on and try navigating through your maze.
· Did you make it through your maze without bumping into anything?
· Did you use other senses or abilities to help find your way? What other senses or adaptations might blind seals use to navigate their environment?
· How would a blind seal find fish to eat?
· How would a blind seal avoid a predator like a shark?
· How would a blind seal avoid a boat, an abandoned fishing net, or plastic debris?
Sunday, April 12: SEAster Egg Hunt!
- Download this Official SEAster Egg Hunt form.
- Watch the Facebook Live video in this post.
- Watch as we take you on a virtual tour of our first floor exhibits, and look for the Easter eggs hidden inside!
- Count the Easter eggs in each exhibit while learning about the fascinating species that live there.
Monday, April 13, 2020: Training Our Penguins To Assist In Their Own Care
Caring for penguins requires a lot of work!
Besides feeding and cleaning, one of the additional duties our staff perform are regular weigh-ins for each of the birds in the colony.
There are several reasons this is important for maintaining their health- ensure proper diet consumption, understand changes in their life cycle, and detect any health issues that may arise.
Humboldt penguins have a few different phases within their year that will impact their weight during that time.
In their natural environment, their usual breeding period is March-April and again in August-September, and they will molt, or shed and replace all their feathers, late in the year.
When they live at aquariums, these seasons can shift somewhat due to the difference in hemispheres and conditions. Do you remember which hemisphere this species naturally occurs in?
Using information about our penguins and their annual phases, see if you can determine what is happening with each of the birds when their weights were measured.
The following descriptions will help determine which phase they may be in. Breeding season – penguins are mating, defending burrows, and caring for young, which means they are spending less time in the water foraging.
Females are also developing and laying up to two eggs. Weight is put on prior to this season to allow for loss during it. At the Aquarium of Niagara, this occurs March-April and sometimes again in November.
Molting season – all penguins will gain weight prior to molting. This will help them cope with being restricted to staying on land for 2-3 weeks, fasting, because they no longer have their insulating layer of feathers to protect them from the cold water. At the Aquarium of Niagara, molting occurs August-September.
Download this worksheet to see how some of our penguins’ weight has varied, and try. to determine the cause.
Tuesday, April 14: Jellyfish – Going With The Flow
Adult jellies are gentle and elegant swimmers, with fragile bodies that can be easily damaged. Caring for them requires a different kind of exhibit without any corners where they could become stuck or strong currents that may injure their tissues.
Jellies need a circular flow in their exhibit in order to stay afloat. The first tank designed to successfully hold jellies is called a kreisel tank. The German scientist, Wolf Greve, who invented this system chose the name “kreisel” because it refers to the whirlpool action of water currents in the tank system.
We have three different tank systems in our Aliens of the Sea gallery. Can you pick them out in the video?
· The Pacific Sea Nettles are in a kreisel tank that has been stretched into more of an oval shape. There are two currents in this exhibit, with water moving down the outer sides of the exhibit and meeting in the center bottom and pushing upwards to the top. When you look at it, the current on the left moves counter-clockwise and the current on the right moves clockwise.
· The Moon jellies and Australian Spotted jellies are in cylindar tanks, where water flows up the sides and down in the middle.
· Our Upside Down jellies are in a dome tank. This system still has a water flow, but because these jellies naturally rest on the ocean floor, they do not need the same kind of current as the other species. The water enters the tank from the center of the bottom and flows upward to disturb the surface, allowing more oxygen to enter the water for the fish that live with the jellies.
Now you can try to help a jelly stay afloat in a different way.
With this activity, you’ll have your own jelly exhibit to make and find the right balance of air and water. The air bubble is key to this activity, but for a real jelly it can be a serious problem. Bubbles always try to rise to the water’s surface, and small bubbles will push right through a jelly’s tissues, leaving an open wound!
· Does your jelly settle to the bottom or stay floating in the bottle?
· Does the jelly have lots of tentacles or just a few? Would a bigger bottle allow more movement?
· If you have glitter, add a few pinches to your bottle. As you turn the bottle up and down, what happens to the glitter? Does the glitter move differently when the jelly passes it, versus when it just moves through the empty water?
· Your jelly is made of plastic, but it should look close to the real thing. Unfortunately, there are many plastic bags floating in our oceans. Do you think any animals mistake those bags for real jellies? Sadly, yes.
· What can you do to keep more plastic bags from entering our oceans?
Wednesday, April 15: Measuring Our Animals
Measuring Animals One of the most common questions asked about animals is “how big do they get?” Answering this question is not as easy as you may think.
Understanding the full range of sizes a species can reach requires studying a lot of individuals. This type of study can be difficult for animals that live in the ocean, underground, and are generally hard to find.
This is one way that zoos and aquariums can be helpful for researchers. Because we can house and care for a variety of animals, especially over a period of time, they are much more accessible to study and learn more about their growth.
At the Aquarium, we are assisting researchers by taking morphometric measurements of some of our animals. Morphometric measurements look at the external size and shape of an animal, and can vary depending on which animal it is. Some common measurements are the weight, total length, and girth, but others can be specific, such as beak length in birds, fluke width in cetaceans, and fin base in fish.
Our sea lions, sturgeon, and turtles are regularly measured and recorded, and these measurements are added to databases to support an overall understanding of these species. From this data, researchers gain a better understanding of growth rates, ages based on size and conditions, and determine proper dosages for medication
You can practice being a researcher at home by studying your stuffed animals. Find your favorite teddy bear, take some measurements, then share them with us!
Download this worksheet for instructions and help.
Thursday, April 16: All About Our Octopus
Octopus and their cephalopod relatives are masters of disguise. They have some of the most complex forms of camouflage, or ability to blend in.
They owe much of their camouflage skill to an adaptation called chromatophores. These are colored cells found in their skin that are attached to muscles so they can be stretched like a balloon. When they are stretched, more of that color appears in the skin, contributing to the overall color or pattern of the animal. This video gives you a closer look at cephalopod chromatophores to understand how they move and blend together.
· Can you think of any other animals that are able to change the color of their skin?
· Chromatophores are mostly reds, yellows, browns, and blacks in color. Why do you think greens, blues, or purples are not used?
· What other forms of camouflage do some cephalopods use?
· How does camouflage help keep cephalopods alive?
While animals were the first to use colored dots to create patterns and adjust their appearance, humans can use the technique, too. This method of painting and drawing is called pointillism and is a way of creating pictures with just dots of color. This video will help you learn more about this method and lead you through an art project to create your own pointillism artwork. You might even spot a pointillism cephalopod in the video
Friday, April 17: Diving The Shark Tank – Why Sharks Are Misunderstood
Diving with sharks may cause some people to think twice about getting in the water. However, as you saw in the video, there is not much to be concerned about.
The general public fears sharks more than necessary because of exaggeration by movies, TV, and media. The statistics show that humans are far more likely to die from bee stings, dog attacks, even falling toilets and vending machines than from a shark attack.
Sharks are excellent predators that feed on fish, seals and sea lions, and many other types of marine life, but there is no shark species that hunts humans. Studies of shark attacks on people find there are two reasons they occur:
1. The shark is defending itself – humans are relatively large animals, and many same-sized or smaller sharks have bitten because they were in a situation where retreat was not possible. The shark bit as a protective behavior.
2. The shark has mistaken the human as a natural food source – this may be hard to believe, considering their excellent senses, but sharks that hunt large prey items like seals, sea lions, and turtles usually hunt from below. Look at the image below and you will see the similarities while swimming at the surface.
When it comes to diving with sharks, the riskier behavior is not being near the sharks, but the scuba diving itself. On average, about 150 people die each year from diving-related incidents, while only 5-10 people die from shark attacks per year. Education is the key to keeping divers safe, as well as the sharks they may share the water with! For more information about shark attacks, visit the International Shark Attack File.
· What movies or television shows have you seen that make sharks into mean and villainous characters?
· What other evidence do you think might indicate that sharks do not want to eat humans?
· What could you do to reduce your risk of a shark bite when in the ocean?
· Are sharks at more at risk from humans than we are from them?
When shark bites do occur, one of the questions often asked is “what kind of shark did the biting?” There are certainly situations where it is impossible to answer this, but in many cases, there is enough evidence to indicate a particular species. Aside from witness accounts, knowing the habitat and activities surrounding the location, experts use the bite pattern to narrow down the species.
All shark species have unique tooth shapes and patterns in their jaws. Knowing these, pictures of the bite can be analyzed to match the imprint and pattern left behind on the person to the most likely shark species. The following activity will use a similar technique to identify human bites.
· Your family
· Enough whole apples for everyone to have one
· Number labels for each apple
· Pens/pencils and paper
1. Gather your family together and explain that everyone will receive one whole apple. When instructed, each person will take one bite from the side of their apple and stop there.
2. Tell everyone to take their bite and hold the rest of the apple in their hand. You will then take one apple at a time to a surface that is out-of-sight from the rest of the family and label the apple with a number. You will need to remember which apple belongs to which family member, so make a note or find another way to identify them for yourself.
3. After you have collected and labeled the apples with a number, everyone will spend a few minutes examining each other’s teeth. Each person takes a turn holding their mouth open for the rest of the family to note size, pattern, and differences among the group.
4. Once everyone has examined each other’s teeth, take everyone to where the labeled apples are and give them each a piece of paper and pen or pencil. Each person will examine the apples and write down who they think made each bite.
5. When everyone has made their guesses, you can reveal who made each bite. Everyone can now finish eating their own apple!
· What characteristics made it easier to identify who made each bite compared to others?
· If someone could not participate because of braces, dentures, or other mouth issue, is this still evidence to determine who made which bite?
· If you try this activity with other fruits or foods, is it easier or harder to identify the bites?
· What is the benefit of knowing which shark bit a person?
Saturday, April 18: The Fascinating Adaptations and Communication Skills of the California Sea Lion
Sea Lions are very social animals! They communicate by both vocalizations and with body postures, and their adaptations, including their strong rotating hind flippers, play key roles in that physical communication.
California sea lions are some of the most vocal pinnipeds. This is due to their social nature, hanging out in large groups either on land or at sea. You may have heard some of the barks they use in today’s video, but they have a range of noises and calls they can use:
· The call a mother uses to locate her pup after feeding at sea can include more of a groan while her pup may chatter back.
· Sea lions can bark underwater! You may hear the common barking or more of a chipping noise while they swim.
· Sea lions will live up to their name and roar if they need to defend themselves or their territory.
Sea lions also communicate with each other through physical posturing. One example is when dominant males ward off competitors by raising up tall on their front flippers and staring the intruder down. If this is not intimidating enough, a fight may ensue.
Some postures can have other purposes. Sea lions will frequently rest by gathering into large groups to float offshore. This is known as rafting, and while they are doing this, many individuals will raise a flipper out of the water and into the air.
The flipper will help the sea lion thermoregulate, or balance their body temperature, while in the water because blood vessels are closer to the skin’s surface. If they need to warm up, sunlight can warm the blood flowing through the flipper before it moves to the rest of the body. If they are trying to cool down, the flipper will release heat from their blood to the environment.
The type of posture a person has can communicate how they are feeling and what they want to say. Other times, we may use postures to help us stretch and tone muscles, like in yoga. Here is a list of animal-themed poses you can try:
· Pufferfish – stand tall with your hands on your belly and take a deep breath, rounding your belly like a pufferfish. Exhale slowly and repeat.
· Jelly(fish) – standing with feet apart, bend over so your back is flat and let your arms hang down like tentacles.
· Octopus – sit down and cross your legs, then move your arms around at your side like an octopus.
· Turtle – while sitting, put the bottoms of your feet together in front of you then pull them in close so your knees open wide. Stick your hands through the opening just inside your knees and move them as far forward as you can, as if your hands were the turtle’s front legs sticking out of their shell.
· Seahorse – move to your knees and stand tall, raising your arms over your head. Wiggle your toes as like a seahorse moves their dorsal fin to move through the water.
· Dolphin – start on your hands and knees, then lower down to rest on your forearms. Straighten your legs to raise your knees off the ground to create the shape of jumping dolphin.
· Sea Lion – laying down on your belly with your legs straight behind you and your palms down by your shoulders, push your head and shoulders off the ground, like a sea lion raising their head up to defend their beach.
· Lobster – stand with your feet spread wide to the sides and bend your knees into a low squat. Remember to keep your rear end pushed out behind you like a lobster tail and stretch your arms out in front and move your fingers like pinchers.
· Crab – lay on your back with your legs bent so your feet are flat on the floor and knees up in the air. Bend your arms and place your palms on the floor as close to your shoulders as possible. Push up onto your hands and feet, keeping your body flat, like a crab standing on all 8 walking legs.
· When you were in each pose, did you feel any different?
· What other animals may change their posture or pose to communicate to others?
· If you have a pet at home, watch them to learn what postures they commonly use and what they might be communicating.
Sunday, April 19: Clownfish & Anemones — A Special Relationship
All animals are in a relationship of some sort, but we usually focus on the one-sided versions found in food chains or food webs: plants eaten by herbivores, herbivores eaten by carnivores, etc. However, these do not define all the relationships we see in the natural world.
The term symbiosis generally refers to any situation where two or more species live closely together. It can involve predation as referred to in the food chain example above, but there are several others that are included:
- Competition – when animals struggle amongst each other for the same limited resources, whether it is for food, water, or space. This can happen between individuals of the same species or completely different species.
- Commensalism – when one benefits but does not cause harm to the other animal.
- Mutualism – when each benefit from the relationship.
- Parasitism – when one benefits while the other animal is harmed by the relationship. This differs from predation in that the harmed animal does not die right away or at all.
After viewing the video on clownfish and anemones, which relationship best defines the one between these two animals? Can you think of examples for each of the relationships?
The animals in this worksheet are each in a relationship with another animal. Their relationship may be parasitic, commensal, or mutualistic. Match the pairs together, then label their relationship using the definitions from the section above.
Monday, April 20: We’re Crazy About Coral!
Coral are complex animals.
There are at least 800 different species of corals that we know of in the ocean, but there could easily be more. Each one has a unique growth structure to their calcium skeleton, but their basic body structure remains the same.
In the image below, you will see the individual coral polyps living on the surface of the skeleton structure. Each polyp is connected to their neighbor through thin tissues along the surface of the skeleton, but they are stuck in their own spot. Because one skeleton can have hundreds or thousands of polyps living on its surface, they are like apartment buildings.
Notice in the image, the circle that zooms in on the skin tissue of the polyp. You will see nematocysts, or the stinging cells, that line the outer surface. These are used to capture plankton as it floats through the water and will be transferred to the mouth for digestion. The other cells labelled zooxanthellae are coral cells that house algae. These algae are photosynthetic, like plants, and produce nutrients used by it and the polyp. This means that the coral has two sources of food – one harvested from the algae and the second captured with nematocysts.
In the close-up photograph of polyps below, you can see the zooxanthellae easily, since these have pigment used in photosynthesis. The rest of the polyp cells are clear. When viewed from a distance, most of the color seen in corals is there because of the algae.
· Are corals plants or animals? Why?
· Are corals herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
· What kind of relationship do corals and zooxanthellae have (see yesterday’s activity)? Can one survive without the other?
· Why are coral reefs found in shallow water?
· Are there any corals that live in the deep ocean? More info here. (https://ocean.si.edu/ecosystems/coral-reefs/deep-sea-corals)
One of the biggest threats to coral reefs are warming ocean temperatures. Their ideal range is 73°-84° Fahrenheit (23°-29°Celsius), but water temperatures can vary greatly with changing weather. Similar to the warmer temperatures we are seeing on land, the same is observed in the ocean, pushing water temperatures out of the ideal range for corals.
When the water temperature rises (or falls) out of the healthy range for tropical corals, they become stressed. Their bodies have a harder time running their natural processes and, to help them cope, they expel the zooxanthellae from their tissues. This process is called bleaching, since the corals lose most of their color when they release the zooxanthellae.
Unfortunately, scientists are seeing coral bleaching events more and more often in recent years. If the warm event is short-term, the corals will be able to survive and regrow. If they are long-term events, the corals eventually die and the reef ecosystem will break down.
The good news is that we still have time to help coral reefs. Studies have shown that protecting reef habitats helps to limit the stress on these animals and they have a better chance of surviving bleaching events.
You can help coral reefs in many ways, even though you may not live near the ocean. Print out this coloring sheet and write in what you plan to do to help corals. Color the reef to a healthy state and add in animals like fish, shrimp, and turtles to increase its strength.
You can help corals by:
· Saving energy at home – turn off electronics when not in use or choose activities that don’t require electricity.
· Using biodegradable soaps – natural soaps can be cycled through the environment, rather than causing chemical pollution in our aquatic ecosystems.
· Using reef safe sunscreen – look for products that list particle sizes of 150nm or higher or say “non-nanotized.”
· Limiting stormwater runoff – plant a rain garden or help install rain catching devices around your house.
· Educating other about corals – talk to your family and friends about what you learned so that everyone understands the threats they face and what they can do to help.
Can you help?
As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Aquarium of Niagara relies on ticket sales, programs, events and donations to operate. Even though we are closed, we are still committed to providing the exemplary standard of animal care that earned us accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. But as you can imagine, this closure will have a significant impact on our overall operating budget. Please consider a donation to assist us in the care of our animals and team members. Your support is more critical now than it has been in our nearly 55 years operating as an Aquarium.