Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jellyfish Mystery Solved

Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley is a saltwater Sherlock Holmes. If there's an unusual creature that needs to be identified, especially if it's a jellyfish, Sharyl can usually name the animal and provide some great insight into where the animal lives, what it eats and other fascinating facts. So when this e-mail came in about a mysterious jellyfish, Sharyl was the one with the answer. She says the jelly-like critter is really a nudibranch. Read on:

Hello Folks,

Here be a strange Jelly we stopped for a few minutes. Hoping for identification, or a lead to someone who might be able to, I am sending it to you.

This little guy is about 7" in length, tubular with flattened oar-like appendages. It stopped undulating after a few minutes in a green bucket of chuck, which caused great affection enough to let it loose, but resumed before I let it go. Which left me later wishing I'd penned it for a bit until able to arrange for better photos. Alas, it is off into The Wild and good luck.

Here are a few poorly focused photos:

Flash photo shows natural coloration

The following photos taken with natural late-day lighting are enhanced to reveal inner variegations

Your comment will be much appreciated.


Tom Clarke - Captain
50 36 N
125 37 W
Alder Island - The Broughton Archipelago Marine Preserve
Gateway to The Great Bear Rain Forest
British Columbia, Canada

Sharyl's answer:

It appears to be a hooded nudibranch, such as Melibe leonina, family Tethyidae.
They typically attach to kelp or eel grass and catch plankton with their disk shaped “mouth”. They can be found “free swimming” in surface waters after storms etc. They range from Alaska to Gulf of CA, and can grow to 10-15cm in length.

In these pics you can’t really make out the head/tentacles too well, but it’s probably tucked in due to stress. The paired leaf-like appendages and the venations throughout the body are what lead me to believe this is a Melibe.

See awesome studio glass art and mysterious-looking jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grizzlies and Wildcats at the Tennessee Aquarium

We had a lot of fun at the Tennessee Aquarium last night. The NCAA and the Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee hosted a reception to welcome the student-athletes and coaches to Chattanooga. The University of Montana and Villanova University are the two FCS teams in the Division I Football Championship game this Friday night. Joining the student-athletes for this reception were children from the Bethel Bible Village and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chattanooga. The children received footballs and pens to collect autographs. They also got an official game coin. All of the kids seemed to really enjoy interacting with the players. And it was fun to hear them acting as unofficial tour guides, sharing their knowledge of their favorite animals like huge catfish and toothy sharks.
Volunteer divers Bill Hall and Mary Clor entertained the guests by donning team jerseys, passing an underwater "football" and tackling each other.
Best of luck to both teams!
Fans can save money on Aquarium admission this weekend: www.tnaqua.org
Tickets are still available for the Championship Game: www.tickettracks.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Looking for a unique gift? Catch 'Orchid Fever' at the Tennessee Aquarium

Chilly days like today make me thankful for the opportunity to visit the Tennessee Aquarium's Tropical Cove and Butterfly Garden. It's nice to be surrounded by the warmth, hyacinth macaws, sharks, rays, butterflies, wood partridges and the new Palawan peacock-pheasant. This year visitors are in for a special treat, the Tropical Cove and Butterfly Garden are bursting with colorful and unusual orchids. It's amazing to see the dazzling hues and intricate shapes of the blooms. Guests will be surprised and delighted by this addition to the Aquarium's "Tropical Holiday Adventure." And if you know a plant lover, here's a chance to bring touch of the tropics into your home. The Aquarium has numerous varieties of orchids for sale right now.
Charlene Nash, Tennessee Aquarium horticulturist says orchids are great houseplants in spite of what you may have heard. Learn more by watching this video:

There are small plants in bloom starting at $8.99 and larger ones starting at 19.99 up to $40.00. There are also a few rare black orchids, in a very limited number, at $100.00. Remember, these are only available in the Ocean Journey Gift Shop!
Beth Cox and Geraldine Powell of The Orchid Gallery will be giving a free lecture and potting demonstration on December 19th and 20th. Their talk will be Orchids 101, providing some basic information on these spectacular plants. These talks are free with paid admission. The Tennessee Valley Orchid Society will have some of their members present to give talks in the Tropical Cove in Ocean Journey at various times during the next few weeks before Christmas.
Here's a video taste of what awaits you inside Ocean Journey:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Penguin Sleuth - DNA Answers Question

We have been waiting for the penguin physicals to get a blood sample from the macaroni chick to determine whether the Tennessee Aquarium's baby penguin is a boy or a girl. The DNA sample has been sent to a lab for analysis. Take a look:

Now that you've seen the video, we want to know what you think. Is it a boy or girl?
Let us know here: http://www.facebook.com/tennesseeaquarium

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Penguin Physicals

The penguins get physical exams two times a year and it's a very busy day for Aquarium staff and volunteers. The day begins bright and early with a gentoo and macaroni roundup. Most of the penguins tend to play follow the leader once the keeper door is opened into the penguin backup area. They simply follow their curiosity into the holding area, encouraged by some fishy treats. There are a couple of wise guys however. In the top picture you see "Blue", the lone gentoo who decided to hang out with his macaroni pal "Merlin" while the water was being drained from the exhibit.
Every roundup needs a sheriff, so Kevin Calhoon had to wade into the exhibit to nab the two holdouts.

As part of the examination, each bird is weighed and blood samples are taken. This is just like a human annual exam. In the picture above, Kevin Calhoon gently holds the baby macaroni penguin while Amy Graves steadies the chick's foot as Dr. Chris Keller obtains the blood sample.

Volunteer Fran Hiestand logs weight information and labels blood vials while assisting the team.

Meanwhile, another big job is underway. Here's Aquarium volunteer George McGinness displaying the tools of the trade - brushes of various sizes used to give the exhibit a deep cleaning while the penguins are off-exhibit.

Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich begins the deep cleaning process with a pressure washer. The exhibit gets brushed and disinfected on a daily basis, but more vigorous cleaning still needs to be done from time to time.

Algae builds up on the bottom of the pool, but is easily blasted away by the power washer. Loribeth points out the dramatic difference the scrubbing makes.

Aquarium volunteer Sheri Schannuth would be underwater on any other day. But while the pool is empty, she can work on making sure the acrylic windows are spotless. Visitors enjoy the crystal clear views of our playful penguins.

Biscuit wraps up her physical by looking back at Kevin. Like any good patient, it appears as if she's saying, "I was good. Where's my treat?"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Great holiday gift idea. Quite a bargain for your family.

There's a lot of magic at the Tennessee Aquarium. You see it on the faces of visitors every day. After simply watching the way a jellyfish pulses gracefully or observing penguins waddle across a rocky shoreline to grab a fish causes the eyes to widen. Suddenly, sharks aren't the only ones displaying big, toothy smiles.

Aquarium members get to enjoy these moments time and time again. Take the Anderson Family for example. That's Luke Anderson above enjoying an Ocean Journey outing. His family has received a Tennessee Aquarium gift membership for several years. Luke's mom Vicki explains: “My son loves going to places where there’s something to learn about. From the geometric designs on the turtle shells to the behavior of the otters, there’s always something new and fun to learn about at the Aquarium.”

Vicki cannot say enough about what the gift of a family membership, given by her own mom, means to her family. She describes their membership as “A thoughtful gift, a great deal and a memory-maker that lasts a long time.”

Mother as well as grandmother Mary Brown also takes pride in giving this unique gift each year. She explains, “You can’t go wrong. It’s a win-win.” She encourages everyone to consider an Aquarium membership as a gift for the upcoming holiday season, or any time of the year for that matter. “When you give a membership as a gift, not only are you giving a fun and unique gift, but you are also supporting the Aquarium’s many conservation efforts, like the reintroduction of lake sturgeon in the Tennessee River,” Mary said. “As someone who is giving a membership, you help the Aquarium with its mission of conservation while giving someone close to you a unique experience that lasts all year.”

You can purchase a gift membership by logging on to www.tnaqua.org/Membership.aspx or by calling the Membership office at 423-267-FISH (3474), Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Purchase a family gift membership now through December 20th and receive four IMAX tickets.

Purchase a individual plus gift membership now through December 20th and receive two IMAX tickets.

Sign someone up today… they’ll be glad you did!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preparing an Aquarium Feast - Happy Thanksgiving!

This scrumptious platter of seafood might not be what your guests would like to see served tomorrow, but it's an enjoyable feast for the animals at the Tennessee Aquarium. While you might have been making out a grocery list including a big turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries and pumpkin pie our chefs have a somewhat different list.

The Tennessee Aquarium's animals consume nearly 45,000 pounds of restaurant quality seafood each year. But our chefs don't just stop in the seafood isle. They have to cruise the produce section and spend some time in what might be termed, "the specialty food" isle.

Want to amaze your friends and family at the Thanksgiving table this year? Toss out a few of these tasty trivia facts while you're scooping out a second helping of green bean casserole.

Each year, the Tennessee Aquarium's:
Birds eat 832,000 meal worms
Turtles and fish eat 5,616 heads of romaine lettuce
Frogs, salamanders & newts eat 40,000 crickets
Macaws eat 681 pounds of grapes
Butterflies eat 1,056 oranges
Penguins eat 10,800 pounds of capelin

Aquarist Jake Steventon, (see above) hand feeds a beluga sturgeon. Just like the hard work that goes into your Thanksgiving feast, long hours are spent by the Aquarium's husbandry staff and volunteers preparing and delivering well-balanced diets to every animal in each exhibit. Except at the Aquarium the feast happens every day!

Cuttlefish have one of the more unusual feeding behaviors seen at the Aquarium. Catch a glimpse in this video.

Bring your family to enjoy a "Tropical Holiday Adventure" this weekend! Put on your chef's hat. Maybe you can serve up some shrimp to a stingray or shark. http://www.tnaqua.org/PlanYourVisit/TropicalHoliday.aspx

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bart Simpson Orchid?

DOH! It looks like Bart Simpson has found a way to sneak into the Tennessee Aquarium and make a special Tropical Holiday Adventure appearance. This particular orchid appears to feature the famous cartoon trouble-maker. Our horticulture staff has placed several magnifying glasses around inside the Tropical Cove for visitors to inspect some of the smaller blooms. Many appear to have tiny faces, although this is the only plant with a celebrity bloom.

This weekend is an excellent time to enjoy the Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Riverfront with family and friends. The Aquarium's Tropical Holiday Adventure offers plenty of relaxing and fun options: http://www.tnaqua.org/PlanYourVisit/TropicalHoliday.aspx

And get set for the Grand Illumination on the River, Friday, November 27th from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. This free event features a Holiday Market, Lighted Boat Parade, Singing Santa and a fireworks finale.

More details available here: http://www.downtownchattanooga.org/winter_days/grand_illumination/

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Youcan Save This Weekend

Everyone at the Tennessee Aquarium is getting ready for the kickoff weekend of our "Tropical Holiday Adventure" which runs November 20th through January 3rd. Every day we have special programs to help you relax and enjoy a break during a season that can be a bit hectic.

“Ho, Ho, H20” daily schedule - Nov. 20, 2009 - Jan. 3, 2010(The Aquarium is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. – Animal Encounters every hour in both Aquarium buildings. Locations and animals vary throughout the day.
10:15 a.m. – Help keepers surface feed stingrays & bamboo sharks – Ocean Journey – Tropical Cove, Shark Island, Level 4
10:30 a.m. – Delight in the first flight of butterflies when they are released into a lush tropical garden – Ocean Journey – Butterfly Garden, Level 4
11 a.m. – Talk to tropical “Santa” divers as they take you on a shark-filled journey through spectacular coral formations – Ocean Journey -- Secret Reef, Level 2
11:15a.m. - You otter chill out with the river otters during “enrichment” time. See what happens when treats, ice and toys mix with two playful otters – River Journey – Cove Forest, Level 4
11:30 a.m. - Talk to tropical “Santa” divers as they take you on a shark-filled journey through spectacular coral formations – Ocean Journey -- Secret Reef, Level 2
1 p.m. -- Get a gander at one of the real “Parrot Heads,” the highly social hyacinth macaw, during this program that explores the bold behaviors and adaptations of the largest member of the parrot family – Ocean Journey – Tropical Cove, Level 4
2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. -- Talk to tropical “Santa” divers as they take you on a shark-filled journey through spectacular coral formations – Ocean Journey -- Secret Reef, Level 2
3:30 p.m. -- Join the seahorses for their version of “Slurpin’ a Cheeseburger in Paradise” and discover what these steeds of the deep really eat – River Journey, Level A
4 p.m. – Surround yourself with butterflies and meet their perfect complement, crested wood partridges living under the trees - Ocean Journey – Butterfly Garden, Level 4

Recently the newest star of our animal encounter program, the green aracari, made his public debut. This tiny member of the toucan family has a big personality and was a big hit with the first group of visitors who met him. Take a look:

Because you read this blog, youcan save on a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium this weekend. Twocan visit for the price of one.

Just follow this link to a special coupon: http://www.tnaqua.org/Toucan_coupon.jpg

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just for fun.

Once in awhile something unexpected shows up in the mail that makes you smile. These two pictures were dropped off Sunday at guest services by some visitors. Apparently Alexis and Ashley had a lot of fun in the Ocean Journey building. I think they did a great job drawing the Tropical Cove area, including the Butterfly Garden. I'll have to walk over this afternoon to see if I can spot the stingray they decided to name "Goober."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gearing up for a Tropical Holiday Adventure

Thanks to Chattanooga photographer David Humber for this gorgeous image of "Amy," one of the Aquarium's hyacinth macaws. These birds really stand out from the lush green setting of the Tropical Cove and their playfulness attracts a ton of attention. Many visitors will also spend some extra time enjoying the beautiful blooms of the orchids inside the Ocean Journey building. Right now the Aquarium horticulture staff is on a mission to add to this colorful display by selecting more orchid species to showcase in the Tropical Cove. The new plants will bloom at various times throughout the year, some species several times each year, ensuring guests have more vivid hues to gaze upon. So get ready to relax and enjoy "Santa" divers, special animal encounters, a daily lineup of keeper talks and special programs during the Aquarium's Tropical Holiday Adventure November 20th through January 3rd. The new orchids will help add some color to this fun-filled event. Here's a sneak peak:

According to horticulturist Charlene Nash, these plants are not as difficult to care for as most people think. So if you'd like to liven up your home with a brightly colored orchid, or give an orchid as a gift, here's a great event for you.

Tropical Holiday Adventure Orchid Preview
Thursday, Nov. 19, 5:30-7:30 pm.
Fees: $5/Member; $15/Non-Member

This special evening includes admission to Ocean Journey with an opportunity to view our new display of exotic and rare orchids in the beautiful Tropical Cove as you enjoy complimentary light appetizers and a cash bar. Aquarium horticulturist Charlene Nash will be available to provide insight about these colorful new blooms and you will have an opportunity to purchase one for your own home or as a unique holiday gift before they are made available to the general public on November 20. Proceeds will benefit the horticulture department at the Tennessee Aquarium. Click Events at http://www.tnaqua.org/ to register. No refunds will be available.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Flash Food Warning Issued for Downtown Chattanooga

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) watch in amazement while it rains hamburgers in Sony Pictures Animation's CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS.
Photo By: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

This is going to be great. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is coming to the giant screen at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater beginning this Friday, November 6th.

Sony Pictures Animation’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs began life in 1978 as a children’s book written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, which now has over a million copies in print. With its charming, visually inventive style, absurdist sense of humor, and fantastic premise – a town where food falls from the sky! – it seemed a foregone conclusion that the book would be adapted into an animated movie. But no one was quite able to do it until writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller came along and found inspiration from a seemingly obvious source – the book itself.

“We thought, wow, that would be a great action movie,” says Lord. “All of the events in the film would be very, very silly, but the characters would take them all very, very seriously.” And you’d take it seriously, too, if a giant spaghetti tornado threatened your town, as it does to Swallow Falls. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs represents the ultimate in food fun and mayhem.

Another crowd favorite will be making a return to the IMAX 3D Theater for the holidays. Polar Express 3D pulls into downtown Chattanooga on November 20th and will run through January 7th. Many people have made seeing this film a family tradition. It is certainly a wonderful experience on the six-story IMAX screen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Something Spooky to Share with Friends

Check out this link for a fun e-mail that has a startling ending. http://www.tnaqua.org/clowningaroundgame.aspx
With Halloween right around the corner, this might be something fiendishly fun to e-mail to a friend.
Meanwhile, here at the Tennessee Aquarium lots of staffers are gearing up for tomorrow night's "Aqua-Scarium" Party. There are plenty of new items to make this year's event bigger and more fun than ever before. (Scroll down to previous post for the monstrous details.)
So bring your little ghouls and goblins in costume and celebrate with all of the Aquarium’s creatures tomorrow night from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Color Update: Peak Approaching

The weather in Chattanooga is finally beginning to settle into a more typical fall pattern after a very wet period from September into October. While we were thankful for the rain, it's nice to have the blue sky and cool temperatures that everyone enjoys and comes to expect at this time of year. Bands of color have begun to paint the surrounding mountains with shades of gold and orange most dominant right now. There are vibrant reds also appearing right now, although they seem to be less abundant than previous years. We're still a week or so from peak color, so we may still see more bright red. Even valley locations are quite showy right now and promise more color to come in the days ahead. Anytime between now and the second week of November would be an excellent time to view the showy display from aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

Here's a peek at last fall's peak color in the Tennessee River Gorge:

If you are looking for some great fall hikes, here are a couple of ideas within a few minutes of downtown Chattanooga:



Friday, October 23, 2009

One Week To Aqua-Scarium! Lot's of FUN ahead!!!

The Tennessee Aquarium's Aqua-Scarium Halloween Party may be one of the most fun-filled events you'll ever attend. As you can see from a few of last year's pictures, there are some really awesome costumes worn by kids of all ages. Here's an update on what's new for Aqua-Scarium '09:
Dancing ghosts, a spooktacular sound system, new animal encounters and oversized trick-or-critters are among the many new features at this year’s Aqua-Scarium Halloween Party at the Tennessee Aquarium. Little ghouls and goblins are invited to come in costume and celebrate with all of the Aquarium’s creatures from 6:30 to 9:30 pm on Friday, October 30th.

The River Journey Lobby will be transformed into a mad DJ’s rockin’ laboratory thanks to a monstrous music system provided by Sound Force. Kids of all ages will be invited to do the “Monster Mash” as colored dance lights and spider web lighting fill the makeshift dance hall.

Other new lighting effects will lead visitors on their chilling journey into the Cove Forest where a haunted hall of pumpkins awaits them. Special gobo lights will produce a dancing wall of ghosts within the central canyon of the River Journey building. As visitors walk past the Lake Nickajack and Gulf of Mexico exhibits, they will notice new shipwrecks and other underwater props as costumed divers play among the fish.

The fun continues next door in the Ocean Journey building where many of the Aquarium’s loveable mascots will be dressed in Halloween costumes. The festive outfits were designed and produced by Dan Backlund and other faculty members of the Theatre Arts Department at the University of the South.

New lighting and music will also add to the pirate theme within Ocean Journey. For anyone wishing to gaze into the future, Madame Luna will seek fortune-telling inspiration from floating jelly spirits within the Jellies: Living Art gallery.

Visitors will also find new animal encounters in both buildings along with more games and trick-or-treat stations.

Anyone wishing to dive into this evening of fun are encouraged to pre-register online by Tuesday, October 27th at http://www.tnaqua.org/Events/Events.aspx Tickets will be available for purchase at the door the night of the Aqua-Scarium Party on Friday, October 30th.

Tennessee Aquarium Aqua-Scarium Halloween Party
Friday, October 30, 2009 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.For families with young children (Children must be accompanied by an adult)Admission information:
Member: $4 per person, Adult or Child (3-12)Non-Member: $25/Adult; $19/Child (3-12)Non-member price includes Aquarium admission.
Presented by Wendy's and Girls Preparatory School

Thursday, October 22, 2009

VIPs Thrill Guests

Thanks to everyone from Disney On Ice for making a memorable day for Aquarium visitors yesterday. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were big hits with everyone. Finding Nemo coloring pages were available as well as the Finding Nemo at the Aquarium activity sheets. Kids really enjoyed the craft table. Be sure to check out the wonderful show, Disney On Ice presents Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo, at UTC's McKenzie Arena through Sunday.
Then visit the Tennessee Aquarium to meet some of the real animals featured in this classic film. http://www.tnaqua.org/VisitorInfo/nemo.asp

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meet Nemo at the Tennessee Aquarium Tomorrow

Disney On Ice presents Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Meet the Characters at the Tennessee Aquarium Wednesday, October 21 at 11:00 am until Noon.

Come along for an underwater adventure at the Tennessee Aquarium with Disney on Ice. Kids can enjoy an arts and crafts activity, a scavenger hunt to find the real-life animals featured in the movie and a meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie and Nemo. There will also be a chance to win tickets to the show and discount passes for everyone in attendance!
Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras for photos with the characters. (Only one photo per family, please.) This event is free with Aquarium admission and will be located in the River Journey Seahorse Gallery.

Anyone can download this activity sheet to see the real animals featured in Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo at the Tennessee Aquarium. Catch the creatures in action and learn more fun facts about these amazing animals. http://www.tnaqua.org/KidsTeachers/Images/FindNemo_card.pdf

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS to George Bartnik, TEEA’s 2009 Distinguished Service Award Recipient!

The 2009 Tennessee Environmental Education Association, (TEEA) Distinguished Service Award was presented to George Bartnik the Tennessee Aquarium’s education programs manager. For decades, and throughout many environmental education venues, Bartnik has creatively taught children and adults about the environment. As a teacher, Bartnik leads by example and encourages everyone to develop a deep appreciation for the natural world through the Aquarium’s environmental education programs. He always combines his knowledge of biology and science with a sense of humor. As a result, Bartnik is able to gently lead students through activities designed to raise their environmental awareness, increase their knowledge and inform their decision-making.

Besides his contributions at the Tennessee Aquarium, Bartnik has served TEEA in many leadership capacities over the years, including those of President, Treasurer and Newsletter Editor. “TEEA is indeed fortunate to have benefitted from George Bartnik’s dedication,” said Karen Hargrove, TEEA past president. “We are proud to publicly honor him for his distinguished service as an environmental educator.”

The Tennessee Environmental Education Association (TEEA) is a non-profit organization that, for over 30 years, works to increase public awareness of the environment and to prepare both current and future citizens to make knowledgeable decisions regarding environmental issues.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gloomy Weather Can Provide Great Views

October is normally one of Chattanooga's driest months. Not this year. The seemingly perpetual rains have made us appreciate the glimpses of blue sky we have been getting lately. Usually, the blue above us appears endless this time of year. But gloomy weather can often provide great opportunities for viewing wildlife. And that's certainly been the case aboard the River Gorge Explorer this week. Thanks to Captain Thomas Offutt who sent these pictures of deer and turkey near the edge of the Tennessee River on Monday's cruise. Captain Offutt had this to say about the recent sightings, "The weather was overcast and rainy and we still had a great day spotting wildlife. Also saw an immature eagle but the pics are not that good. Saw ANOTHER Bald Eagle on sunday but the photos are just average."
Scroll down to read about this past weekend's Hawk Watch cruise.

Hopefully the best is still ahead. Fall colors are beginning to show along the mountain tops near Chattanooga. Dogwoods and a few maples are quite showy right now, but the bright colors are rather sparse currently. Autumn chill will be felt as things dry out over the weekend perhaps offering an opportunity to view wildlife and blue sky at the same time within the Tennessee River Gorge.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thrills, Gills and Chills On The Road

Some cool critters ventured out of the Aquarium today to visit everyone at Birmingham's ABC 33/40 today. Animal Encounter Specialist Laura Lomenick introduced anchors Tracy Haynes and Linda Mays to a few of the critters you can meet at the Tennessee Aquarium. Take a look:

We want to thank everyone at ABC 33/40 for their hospitality!

Come visit Chatta-BOO-ga for some memorable fun in October.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Hawk Watch Cruise

Thanks to David Rose who sent this osprey image to share with everyone. Look closely and you'll see that his raptor was successful catching a rather large fish. It's a great image to go along with the reports from the River Gorge Explorer crew. A special Hawk Watch cruise took place on Saturday and evidently several birds made great appearances.

Here is one report from Aquarium naturalist John Dever: "Saturday's raptor cruise went very well highlighted by comfortable conditions and the appearance of two immature bald eagles,one chased by a cooper's hawk, several kingfishers, one osprey, several wild turkeys, crows, jays and two sandpipers. The onboared computer has a great new raptor slideshow that we made good use of with Aquarium bird expert Kevin Calhoon telling passengers about the specifics of each species. To top it all off , two mature bald eagles appeared on our return past Brown's Ferry."

October can be a great time to check out these awesome birds of prey and spectacular fall color. Here's a view of last year's scenery taken by Jerry Waddell of Video Ideas in Chattanooga:

Book your seats for fall color cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer here: http://www.tnaqua.org/RiverGorgeExplorer/RiverGorgeExplorer.aspx

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tennessee Aquarium Honored with IMLS National Medal

A group of first grade students from the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences were among the school groups visiting the Tennessee Aquarium today. It was very fun to watch these youngsters inside the Ocean Journey building having the time of their lives. Lively discussions and laughter could be heard among them as they were touching stingrays, exploring the Butterfly Garden, watching penguins and asking our divers questions. They're studying a unit on oceans right now and this timely visit made the classroom lessons something they could literally put their hands on. This one visit to the Aquarium will likely be an experience many of them will remember for a lifetime.

Partly as a result of its tremendous educational impact, The Tennessee Aquarium has been named a recipient of the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. The annual award, made by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) since 1994, recognizes institutions for outstanding social, educational, environmental, or economic contributions to their communities.

“Every day, the Tennessee Aquarium makes a real difference in their community,” said IMLS Director Anne-Imelda M. Radice. “Their exemplary programs respond to community challenges, positively impact people’s lives, and serve as model for the nation’s museums and libraries. I applaud their outstanding efforts and encourage others to follow their example.”

Most of us remember what the downtown Chattanooga area was like prior to the Aquarium. And it's nothing short of remarkable what has happened in the Scenic City since then. So while we are celebrating this top honor, we'd like to recognize everyone who played a role in the Aquarium's achievements.

"The Tennessee Aquarium is deeply honored to receive the National Medal and is proud of its long history of service to Chattanooga and the surrounding region," said Charlie Arant, the Aquarium’s president and CEO. "The Tennessee Aquarium has been leading the way in education, conservation, economic development and tourism since 1992. This award is a tribute to our staff, trustees, volunteers and community supporters who work tirelessly to help us connect people with nature in a meaningful way."

Only three other aquariums have been honored with the National Medal in the past. They are:
John G. Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, IL, Year: 2006
The New England Aquarium – Boston, MA, Year: 2001
National Aquarium in Baltimore – Baltimore, MD, Year: 1997

Other cities are also celebrating amazing success stories. In addition to the Tennessee Aquarium, other recipients of the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service are the:
· Braille Institute of America Library, Los Angeles, CA
· Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, PA
· Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Cincinnati, OH
· Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
· Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
· Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
· Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, FL
· Pritzker Military Library, Chicago, IL
· Stark County District Library, Canton, OH

Thanks everyone for supporting the Tennessee Aquarium!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Come On In, The Water's Fine

The baby macaroni penguin is now getting some daily pool time. Each day, Amy Graves or Loribeth Aldrich let the little bird out of his "playpen" for some supervised activity. The chick still has to learn how to interact with the other penguins, something all baby penguins must do in the wild or on exhibit. Check out the fun in this video and then come watch him playing at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Blizzard of Feathers Inside Penguins' Rock

The other day Amy Graves, Loribeth Aldrich and the penguin volunteers had their hands full. There are feathers all over the place inside Penguins' Rock. Welcome to molting season! The gentoo and macaronis are currently all stages of molting right now. One Gentoo, “Blue” is completely finished molting, and has jumped back in the water for swimming. The tail feathers are slower to grow in, so he doesn’t have much of a tail right now, but the other feathers are nice and sleek. There are eight Macaronis molting, and they are grumpy right now. It’s not uncommon to see more aggression between birds during this time. “Merlin” is the only Macaroni who hasn’t even fattened up to molt yet, though he should soon, and of course the new chick will not molt this season. Among the Gentoos, “Nipper” and “Bug” are fattening and just about ready to molt, and “Biscuit” is in the midst of it. The Macaroni chick is still gradually being introduced to the water and the colony, but still has not gone for his/her first swim yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learning and Fun Ahead! Home School Day 9/28

Our Home School Day this fall will be on Monday, September 28, 2009. Mark your calendars. We are offering great discounts for admission to the Tennessee Aquarium, the IMAX Theater, and the gift shops in each facility (See special rates below). Free animal programs will be offered in the auditorium from 11 am to 3 pm and special behind-the-scenes tours will be offered just for that day. So don’t miss this special day of fellowship with other home school students and their families.

Learn more here: http://www.tnaqua.org/KidsTeachers/Homeschool_Day.asp

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baby Mac Somewhat Reluctant to Swim

The baby macaroni penguin is almost ready to go swimming for the first time, but it seems a little reluctant to play in the water. “When we take the chick into the back-up areas with the shallow pools, it is distracted and doesn’t seem to be interested in the water,” says senior aviculturist Amy Graves. Graves and the other penguin keepers have been letting this little one mingle with the other birds for short periods off and on throughout the day recently. This gives the macaroni chick a chance to get used to interacting with the other penguins and allows the other birds time to safely satisfy their curiosity. “We still have to watch the chick because the other penguins could get a bit excited and peck and squabble a bit,” Graves said. “But that’s part of life in the colony for every new penguin. Even though there’s no hierarchy, there are still some social rules that each bird has to learn. So we’re giving the chick some opportunities to learn those rules a little bit at a time.”

Gentoos Zeus and Pebbles have led keepers on an agonizing route with their chick similar to gentoos Bug and Big T. At first it appeared as though Zeus and Pebbles might turn out to be exceptional parents like macaronis Paulie and Chaos. However, within a few days of hatching, the new gentoo chick was not being fed properly by the gentoo parents. Staff members carefully monitored the situation, stepping in to feed and hydrate the chick when it was necessary. The baby was always returned to the parents after being cared for and sometimes the parents would suddenly start doing everything properly again. “It’s important to give the parents every opportunity to raise their own chick in order to help them become better parents in the future,” explained Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of forests. “Sometimes they would return to feeding the chick normally, other times the feedings were lackluster.” As time went on, the feedings became more sporadic as Zeus and Pebbles seemed to lose some interest in the growing chick. “Once the chick cannot fit completely under the parents, the gentoos tend to not feed as much. This happened with Bug and Big T, and it happened with Zeus and Pebbles. Similar behavior has been reported to us by some of the other penguin experts we consulted with,” Calhoon said. This chick’s health was a roller-coaster. On some days Amy would report a nice weight gain, on other days, she would share her growing concern because of a setback. In spite of everyone’s best efforts, consulting with leading penguin experts and round the clock feedings, dramatic improvement was often followed by weight loss. Unfortunately we lost the battle and the chick died Friday afternoon. We don’t know at this time what ultimately led to this chick’s death, but observations from the preliminary examination will be combined with results of pending lab analysis to determine the cause of death.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meet Howard and Michelle Hall Sept. 17

Howard and Michelle Hall live and dive on the edge.

While making “Under the Sea 3D,” their team plunged down 155 feet underwater, a record depth for filming with the IMAX 3D camera, to film the 90-tentacled chambered nautilus. Howard Hall also broke the record for time logged underwater in a single dive. He and his team spent six hours trying to film the lethal, reef stonefish. Hall says this deadly member of the Scorpionfish family has, “the ugliest face you’ve ever seen.”

Meet world-renowned directors/producers Howard and Michelle Hall at the Tennessee Aquarium as they describe many other exciting face-to-face adventures
This Thursday, September 17, 2009 from 6:00 to 9:30 pm.

It’s dinner, drinks and a movie with an attitude.
One price includes: Tickets to “Under the Sea 3D” at IMAX, a special presentation by the Halls at the Aquarium and cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres. Proceeds support Tennessee Aquarium conservation programs.
All AgesLimited to 200Adult: $40/Member; $50/Non-MemberChild: $20/Member; $25/Non-Member (ages 3-12)
Dive in here to register: http://www.tnaqua.org/Events/Events.aspx

Check out webisode #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a98zMeJKxAk&feature=PlayList&p=659D45A80EDD71D2&index=0&playnext=1