Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Groundhog Day at the Tennessee Aquarium

The following post was contributed by Chattanooga Chuck, the Tennessee Aquarium's lead long-range forecaster. Chuck lives in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari and enjoys spending time greeting Aquarium guests and mingling with the other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebratesbutterflies and fish that live in River Journey and Ocean Journey.
I'm just coming out of hibernation right now, so imagine my surprise when Susie Grant, a senior educator at the Aquarium, said we were going to take a trip to Atlanta, GA. "Have yams will travel," I thought. I never imagined I would be visiting the CNN studios. The ride didn't seem very long. I had a chance to doze a little on the way. A couple of my pals joined me. Blinky, the screech owl and Harry the tarantula. Many folks don't know it, but groundhogs like me aren't the only animals that have weather predicting prowess. That is, if you believe the folklore.

We got to meet CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras and CNN national correspondent / anchor Gary Tuchman. They're probably two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. It was pretty cool hanging out with them. We even had tour groups stopping by to peek in through the windows to wave and say hello.

You can watch the interview here. Fun animal facts and weather history. I might have paid attention while I was on the set, but Susie kept handing me kale, yams and bananas. So, after sleeping most of the day before, I was ready for chow.

Good thing I have a laptop. (Don't tell anyone....but sometimes when the weather is nice I spend time watching the Aquarium's YouTube channel.)

Since Jacqui interviewed me, I asked if I could interview her. She graciously agreed. I'll admit, I'm no Mike Wallace. But I think you'll see that I'm one marmot who's not afraid to ask the tough questions.

Chuck: What’s the best thing about being a meteorologist for CNN?

Jeras: The best thing about being a meteorologist at CNN is that I get to talk about weather all over the country and the world, not just in one city or state. There is always extreme weather happening somewhere and it makes my job fun, exciting, and challenging every day.

Chuck: I always have trouble deciding my favorite season. Sometimes I'd like to have a little more winter, other times I think it would be nice to have an early spring. What’s your favorite season?

Jeras: My favorite season is fall. I love the outdoors and there is nothing better than a good bike ride, hike or run in the crisp fall air, looking at the changing leaf colors.

Chuck: Any memorable weather events you’ve covered?

Jeras: I’ve covered many memorable weather events in the 12 years I have worked at CNN. Some most notably, The EF5 tornado in Joplin, MO, Hurricane Katrina, and of course, the Groundhog Day Blizzard last year.

Chuck: I like yams. What’s your favorite vegetable?

Jeras: My favorite vegetable is asparagus. I also LOVE sweet corn in the summer, but I think that is technically a grain.

Chuck: Final question. Who’s a better meteorologist – You or Reynolds Wolf?

Jeras: Me or Reynolds?! Unfair question. Everyone I work with at CNN in the weather department is awesome. We all have our own strengths. We’re like a family. Reynolds always makes me laugh. He’s great! Plus, I’m darn sure we’re all better meteorologists than any rodent I might know… sorry Chuck

Oh well. You can learn about the Tennessee Aquarium's Storm Team of Animal Forecasters here and see which creatures actually do respond to weather changes to give us clues about what may be ahead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New birds: An Elegant Egret & A Dashing Duck

Two new birds are waiting to greet Tennessee Aquarium guests. A beautiful snowy egret can be seen in the Delta Swamp exhibit. According to Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium's assistant curator of forests, this bird species tends to be very calm, cool and collected. "We are excited to have this bird which is probably the most laid back, elegant and graceful of the North American herons and egrets," said Calhoon. This particular snowy egret might be glad to be alive. It was donated to the Aquarium by Sea World of Orlando. It had a severe right wing injury when it was first discovered. Veterinarians had to amputate that wing due to the severity of the injuries. Today this bird is doing great, but could not be reintroduced to the wild without the ability to fly. In the wild, snowy egrets stand out from the crowd with their black legs and bright yellow feet. They can also be quite vocal when defending their territory. You can hear this vocalization on the Cornell Lab or Ornithology web site.
After visiting the snowy egret in the Delta Swamp, look for another marvelous bird in the Rivers of the World Gallery. A new male Mandarin duck can be viewed in the Nishikigoi exhibit. He's a striking bird with stunning plumage. Calhoon says this duck came from a waterfowl breeder and was hatched last spring. Which means he's young and full of energy. 
He can be seen with a female Mandarin duck who has been at the Tennessee Aquarium since 2004. "She is around eight years old," said Calhoon. "But she seems to be holding her own with the sudden appearance of this dashing young male."

If you'd like to hear a Mandarin duck vocalizing, check out this audio clip on the BBC Nature website.

We invite you to slow down on your next visit to do a little bird watching at the Tennessee Aquarium. Bring your binoculars to view 50 native songbirds in the Cove Forest exhibit - like scarlet tanagers.

Then get up close to additional birds throughout both River Journey and Ocean Journey. We also offer some entertaining and educational bird shows throughout the day in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari.

And of course, you want to spend plenty of time with our penguins!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tennessee Aquarium Octopus to be Featured on Nat Geo Wild

 It was, "Lights, camera and action!" at the Tennessee Aquarium this morning. Medusa, a giant Pacific octopus, was being moved from the quarantine room in the River Journey building to her new home in the Boneless Beauties gallery in Ocean Journey.
Medusa will soon star in an episode of a new series that is scheduled to run on National Geographic Wild. A production team from Sharp Entertainment was in Chattanooga for two days working on this program.
 Giant Pacific octopus are really amazing animals that Aquarium guests truly enjoy. Although some visitors might initially think these creatures are kind of creepy, their impressions quickly change after talking to our animal experts or docents. Once guests discover that cephalopods are very intelligent, and begin to understand their unique adaptations, they usually walk away big octopus fans. Now, they'll have a "TV Star" to get excited about.
 While we don't yet know when Medusa will be seen on Nat Geo Wild, you can keep an eye on their program schedule this spring - the earliest time this episode might air. But we'll also try to keep you updated through our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and of course here in our blog.
While Medusa, and the Aquarium's other giant Pacific octopus Minerva, won't be signing any autographs, you may see them manipulating jars filled with crab or fish. You might also see them playing with a Mr. Potatohead or other enrichment item.
Until Medusa's world premiere, enjoy this short video clip of a truly wonderful animal - the giant Pacific octopus.