Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy 92nd Birthday Everett Kerr!

 The Tennessee Aquarium is thankful to have so many wonderful volunteers and supporters.

Today we give a special tip of the hat to Everett Kerr on his 92nd birthday. Everett is truly an inspiration. He stays active by serving the community he loves in so many ways in addition to volunteering at the Aquarium.
Being around Everett simply makes you smile because he is always so cheerful. He may not realize it, but he's a role model to several people here at the Aquarium who are half his age and hope to be as active and involved as he is - if we're fortunate enough to reach 92 years of age.

So, thanks Everett! May you have many more truly happy birthdays.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Weekend to Visit Chattanooga

There's plenty of seasonal fun in Chattanooga this weekend. The Tennessee Aquarium's "Holidays Under the Peaks" features special animal programs delving into family units in the wild. You can meet toucans in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari and discover how these colorful birds care for their offspring. Or, see baby seahorses up close while learning why seahorse dads are among the most amazing creatures of the deep. These are just two of the many daily programs offered through January 6th.
SCUBA Claus will be making weekend appearances underwater for the next three weekends. See him with giant paddlefish, diving ducks and turtles in the Lake Nickajack, or "St. Nick-ajack" exhibit at 11 am on Saturdays. Look for him in the new River Giants exhibit at 2pm on Sundays. He will drift among giant freshwater stingrays, an arapaima large enough to pull his sleigh and "Rudolph the redtailed catfish."

Seeing the Polar Express 3D on the giant, six-story screen at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater has become a holiday tradition for many families. This timeless story is even more memorable when it's a shared experience with loved ones.

Plan a holi-DAY in downtown Chattanooga tomorrow, Saturday December 8th.Start at the Aquarium, take in Polar Express 3D at IMAX then get ready for the Holiday Starlight Parade at 6PM. Lighted boats will ply the waters behind the Aquarium at 7PM. Some of Santa's elves will be handing out candy before the fireworks begins at 8PM.
(Lighted boat parade photo courtesy Chattanooga Area CVB)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marine Mystery - Solved!

There are so many fascinating sea creatures that fuel our imagination every time we're enjoying the interface between land, sea and air. Perhaps that's what makes beach combing so much fun. Alanna Lashlee recently sent this picture to the Aquarium wondering, "What is this?" A friend of hers discovered this tooth-like object last week while on the beach near Panama City, FL. "She is thinking it's a shark tooth, but I think not," wrote Lashlee. "I have collected shark teeth in the past and have never seen one like this!"

Thom Demas examined the photo and helped unravel this marine mystery. "Based on the anchor point and the obvious curvature, it's my opinion that this is the spine of a catfish," said Demas. "After reading the note (written by Alanna) I know it was found in a marine location.  That means it is the spine of a gaftopsail catfish or a hardhead catfish. Both are in the same family. The gaftopsail is sometimes called the "crucifix fish" because it has a skull that looks like a crucifix."

Thanks Alanna for sharing your picture - and thanks Thom for your expertise.

This video shows a whoppper of a gaftopsail catfish. You can clearly see the prominent dorsal spine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Naturalist reports nice birding in the Gorge

Captain Pete Hosemann shared this image taken aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer on a recent cruise. While fall color is fading, the autumn tones are still beautiful within the Gorge.

John Dever, one of the Aquarium's naturalists, reports seeing quite a few raptors on each cruise. "Yesterday was an outstanding day for continuing fall colors and the viewing of hawks and other migrants. A pair of Great Egrets wading the shoreline near Williams Island with a Bald Eagle in the trees above. Down in the Gorge we saw a couple of acrobatic Cooper's Hawks, as well as the more frequently viewed Red Tailed Hawk. On the way back we spotted a late season Osprey to round out a nice raptor list." 

The weather looks pretty nice for the upcoming Veteran's Day weekend. Maybe a relaxing day on the river is just what the doctor ordered before the holiday season begins. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

YOGA Underwater

Shot of this morning's YOGA under water at the Tennessee Aquarium. In this case, one of our SCUBA divers dropped in. Looks like the diver is the instructor. One more shot to try this for yourself next Thursday, October 25th:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Keeled box turtle hatches at the Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium has one of the largest turtle collections on display with more than 500 individuals representing 75 species. 

Aquarium herpetologists are proud to announce the arrival of a tiny, new face with the Aquarium’s first successful hatching of a keeled box turtle, Cuora mouhotii—a species classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Natureand Natural Resources (IUCN). 

 The keeled box turtle is found in mountainous terrain and evergreen forests of India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and China. Armed with a golden shell with a ridge down the center for protection, these turtles feed on fallen fruit and vegetation.
Their population is low and declining due to the major threat of poaching for Chinese traditional medicine, food, and international pet trade. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Things That Go Bump in the Night

October means it’s time for the Tennessee Aquarium’s annual Thrills, Gills, & Chills extravaganza. All throughout this spooktacular month, visitors will have a chance to meet those creatures that only come out at night in Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari.

 Spike, an African Pygmy Hedgehog, and Stan, an EurasianEagle Owl, are just two of many nocturnal animals that have an interesting predator-prey relationship. Both have an assortment of heightened senses and shortcomings to overcome, but how do they manage to stay alive in the dead of night? Aquarium experts divulge the secrets of animals such as these during daily Keeper Talks. Join them - if you’re brave enough to face your fear of the things that go bump in the night.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monarchs on the Move

Have you seen any monarch butterflies recently? 
These brightly-colored insects are winging their way south through the Chattanooga area right now.
 These images were taken in the Butterfly Garden that's located between the Tennessee Aquarium's two buildings and in the IMAX Theater garden.
Butterflies are rather fragile creatures that weigh less than a penny, yet are rugged enough to fly some 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico. This incredible journey is part of the story in the new film Flight of the Butterflies in 3D now showing at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater.
This spectacular film is wowing audiences with the use of 3D photography used to draw viewers into the miraculous transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Dr. Fred Urquhart's story of scientific discovery is compelling - the 40-year quest to locate the final destination of millions of migrating monarchs.
While driving along Highway 72 to Huntsville, AL recently I counted more than two dozen southbound monarchs on this mainly east-west road. But you might encounter more on your travels this time of year.
NewsChannel 9's Marcia Kling shared a story with us about how she was once surprised by these beautiful travelers. "Years ago, as I was driving home on Hwy.27 from our old location on 6th St., a huge swarm of Monarchs, one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen, came toward my car," wrote Kling.  "I couldn't stop, but I slowed down because I didn't want to kill one of those beautiful creatures. It was about this time of year, and the butterflies were obviously in migration, literally headed from north to south.  It was an amazing experience, and I was so pleased to witness it. I've never had another experience like it, but maybe I can again at the IMAX!"

We hope everyone makes time to see this wonderful film to experience one of nature's wonders - The Flight of the Butterflies.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Aquarium Volunteer Shares a Gift

The rainy weather in Chattanooga has many people toting umbrellas or wishing they had one. Tennessee Aquarium volunteer Louis Spencer used his umbrella for shade on a recent trip overseas. You might enjoy seeing his pictures and reading about the gift he left for others. 

 "Volunteers really appreciate the gifts that we get (from the Aquarium) every year," wrote Louis Spencer. "I took your umbrella to Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan."
 "I usually carry an umbrella when I trek in the mountains due to the intense sun. These pictures are on a trek to the Tiger's Nest, which is at 11,000 ft in central Bhutan."
"The Tiger's nest is a temple that was built on this cliff (above) where a monk meditated in a cave and became enlightened. I left the Aquarium umbrella on the alter as an offering."

Thanks Louis for sharing your story and images. It looks like a fantastic trip.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer flounder - Bottom-Dwelling Houdinis

 Above: "Now you see them...." Five summer flounder rest in a transport container before being introduced into the Tennessee Aquarium's Stingray Bay touch tank.
Below: "Now you don't!" Summer flounder have the ability to change skin tones to match their surroundings. As a result, they seem to disappear in their new home. Photos by: Carol Haley / Tennessee Aquarium

Summer flounder now on display at the Tennessee Aquarium by guest blogger Carol Haley, assistant curator of fishes.

Five Summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus were added to Stingray Bay.  These were donated to us by the Maritime Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut.

This is one of the highlighted species in the Aquarium's Serve & Protect sustainable seafood program.

Summer flounder are left-eye flounder, which means as larval fish, their right eye migrates up next to their left eye and they spend all their time lying the right side of their body.  They are found along the east coast of the United States and in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and can grow to nearly 3 feet in length.

Summer flounder are closely related to Southern flounder, but have 5 distinctive eye-spots that help them camouflage on the muddy and sandy bottoms where they live.

Summer flounder are apparently very tasty and can be steamed, fried, boiled, micro-waved, smoked, baked, barbequed, broiled and even prepared as sashimi.  Although you can taste them at the Alton Brown event on September 13th  , Aquarium visitors may only touch the ones on display. Check out a savory summer flounder recipe, along with other recipes by the Aquarium's Serve & Protect partner restaurants in the August issue of CHATTER Magazine. Or, try one of these sustainable seafood recipes developed by Alton Brown.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Salute to the Tennessee Aquarium's 20-Year Volunteers

The Tennessee Aquarium has been privileged to have so many people give their time and share their talents since opening to the public on May 1st, 1992. We'd like to thank all of our volunteers who work tirelessly assisting staff behind-the-scenes as well as interacting with our visitors. Their effort to go the extra mile is one of the many reasons the Tennessee Aquarium is rated the highest Aquarium in the nation for overall visitor satisfaction.

A special thanks goes out to those who have been part of the volunteer corps since the beginning. These individuals are active throughout the community in many ways. Non-profit institutions like the Aquarium simply couldn't function without dedicated volunteers who choose to contribute both service and financial gifts. 

(In no particular order.)
 Beverly Kriewald - Horticulture
 Wanda Wilmoth - Docent
 Shelby Kaplan - Horticulture
 Kathy Whiddon - Docent
 Bill Godsey - SCUBA Diver
 Sandra Standefer - Horticulture
 Gwen Harris - Husbandry Special & Docent
 Dennis Harris - Husbandry Special
 Mary Holland - Horticulture & Membership
 Sylvia Saloshin - Docent
 Clara Shepherd - Docent
 Mary Lillian Smith - SCUBA Diver
 Everett Kerr - Horticulture
Susan Carson - Horticulture

Not Pictured: Pat Carson, Betsi Pryor and Peggy Moore.

 If you'd like to join our enthusiastic team of volunteer docents - now is the time. Apply to become an adult  volunteer docent by Friday, September 14th.

We'll begin training the fall docent class on Tuesday, September 25th. You'll learn all the insider information to answer visitor questions about playful penguins, feisty otters, giant freshwater fish and toothy sharks. You'll enjoy interacting with people from around the world and benefits such as a FREE Aquarium Family Membership.

Macaroni Penguin Chick #2 Starts Swimming

Above: Guest blogger Tennessee Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich with macaroni chick #2.
The second macaroni chick of the year had his/her first swim this week! This chick, the offspring of Paulie (dad) and Chaos (mom), was raised in the backup penguin area away from the rest of the colony. Paulie sustained an injury to his beak near the beginning of breeding season. So the pair was pulled off exhibit to allow for some recovery time. While in backup, Chaos laid her egg in the backup! We decided to allowed them to remain off-exhibit to raise their chick since they were already comfortably nesting there. 
The chick now has his adult feathers, although a few stubborn downy ones remain on his head and back. Recently it was decided that he was ready to meet the colony. This is easier said than done. While he literally tries to beat down the door in backup, he is meeting a brand new group of penguins and new "world" for the first time.
While he never had to worry with aggression when he was small, he did not have the advantage the other chick did of seeing the other birds each day. 

This makes him stand out. Although most birds have only been curious, he is very alert and sometimes a little afraid of them. When he goes out to swim, it takes a while for him to gain confidence, but eventually he jumps in and has no fear. He quickly found three of the four exits from the pool, and he appears much more graceful underwater than the other macaroni chick. 

However, unlike the first macaroni chick, this one prefers the land to the water. A quick swim is enough for him! If he continues to acclimate well, he will be left unsupervised next week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gorgeous Sunset in Chattanooga

WOW! The old adage holds true for this image, "A picture is worth a thousand words." 

Last night's sunset in Chattanooga was simply amazing. Passengers aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer got to experience the view from the river. “We were treated to a fiery sunset last night,” said Captain Pete Hosemann. “The sky was ablaze with color. This image doesn’t do the scene justice. It was simply spectacular.” 

Sunsets aren't always this colorful, but we are fortunate to have a lot of beautiful twilight views on the Seven Bridges Cruises. Check out the schedule online and book your seats today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tracking a Travelling Octopus

The Tennessee Aquarium has a new giant Pacific octopus living in the quarantine room. This young lady has had quite an adventure getting to Chattanooga. She was supposed to be shipped from the Pacific Northwest to our keepers, but a clerical error along the way caused her to be re-routed to the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Fortunately their keepers had an octopus-proof exhibit available and they were willing to provide temporary housing for this wayward cephalopod. The shot above shows her on exhibit at Riverbanks. According to Jennifer Rawlings, aquarium manager at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, this little octo was quite a handful. "She's feisty and incredibly strong," said Rawlings. "She's much stronger than many of the larger octopuses we've had here in the past!"
She spent nearly a week in Columbia before coming to Chattanooga. According to Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley, the delay didn't cause her to lose her appetite. This six pound octopus stays healthy as a horse by eating a lot. "In the wild, giant Pacific octopus will feed mostly on crabs and shrimp," said Crossley. "Here we feed our octopus shrimp, crabs, squid, clams and fish. We try to offer them as much variety as we can, but they usually aren't picky eaters."
They are highly intelligent animals and Aquarium guests will learn more about this particular octopus if they choose to take the River Journey Backstage Pass tour offered daily at 11 am. In fact, she'll likely be watching the guests carefully. "She seems to be very curious," said Crossley. "Every morning she is active and watches me walk around when I'm working. I'd say she is both really strong and very inquisitive."
In the wild, these creatures use their intelligence, strength and ability to squeeze into tiny spaces to capture prey. Keepers provide creative puzzles to test the wits of the octos on exhibit. "We usually put their food in toys so they have to work to figure out how to get their food," said Crossley. "In the wild they would have to work to get a crab out of a crack in the rocks. They are really good problem solvers, so we try to keep their minds stimulated through enrichment items."  
 The giant Pacific octopus is native to the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Alaska and down to California. Some of these creatures have an enormous reach, measuring nearly 30 feet when their arms are fully outstretched.

We hope you have a chance to meet the Aquarium's travelling octopus soon.