Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tennessee American Water Day at the Tennessee Aquarium

 Students from Battle Academy had a great time learning about water quality at the Aquarium today. Tennessee American Water hosted 125 students to help celebrate 125 years of service in Chattanooga.
 Bill Haley, the Aquarium's education outreach coordinator, led the group on a fun-filled tour of a mountain stream. This "Build Your Own River" program gives kids a chance to learn how habitat changes as water flows downstream. The kids are transformed during this engaging lesson, becoming aquatic creatures and features. From the flowing water itself to boulders, mayflies, darters and trout, the kids gain a better understanding of stream structure, habitat and the lifestyles of various animals.
This presentation is amazingly fun for both the onstage participants and the student audience. How many times do you see a room full of arms go up when a question goes out? "What mixes in with the water when it tumbles over a series of big rocks?" asks Haley. Frantic arms wave as the majority of the students try to answer, "Oxygen."
After the auditorium program, the fifth graders toured both Aquarium buildings. George Bartnik, education programs manager urged them to slow down and look closely at each exhibit. After "being" aquatic creatures on stage, they might discover interesting behaviors and smaller creatures in every display.

Haley is the Aquarium's road warrior, delivering outreach programs to schools and public venues within 125 miles of downtown Chattanooga. He has reached more than 366,000 people since he first hit the road for the Aquarium's education department in 1994. Thanks to support from Tennessee American Water, the official sponsor of the Aquarium's education outreach program, he'll continue making a difference in our region.

Each day all of the educators make learning fun. Learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium's education programs.  If you know a teacher, let them know about the Aquarium's FREE education e-newsletter.

Photo Tour of a Local Trout Farm

A Day of Trout Fishing with Steve Pickett 
by  Ashford Rosenberg, Tennessee Aquarium Sustainability Coordinator


 U.S. farmed rainbow trout is one of the five sustainable seafood options Serve & Protect has featured this year.  Trout are in the same family as salmon, and are similar in taste and health benefits.  The farming techniques for trout are also less damaging to the environment than those of raising Atlantic salmon.  To highlight the sustainability and, let’s be honest, the downright deliciousness of rainbow trout,  the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute hosted a group of seafood lovers at Pickett’s Trout Ranch.
 
 Located in Whitwell, Tennessee, Mr. Steve Pickett is the source for rainbow trout for many restaurants here in Chattanooga.  Almost all of our Serve & Protect partner restaurants serve his trout.  It was a fun-filled day that included a tour of the farm, and best of all, a few hours of fishing for some delicious rainbow trout.
 The morning started with a brief introduction from Dr. Anna George, Director of TNACI, about the importance of sustainable, local aquaculture.
 Mr. Steve Pickett took over from there and talked about his operation.  He spoke about the challenges of raising a large number of fish and keeping them healthy.  He raises approximately 30,000-40,000 fish per year, selling them to restaurants and markets in the area.
 When his eggs come in from Washington, he places them in the hatchery located in his basement. The young fish stay there until they become fingerlings (about the size of your finger), and then he moves them into the larger runs.
The trout live in these runs until they reach market size.   The different pools are size-graded, meaning that fish of similar size are kept in each one.  The smallest fish are in the pool nearest Mr. Pickett’s house, and they get larger from there.  Once the fish reach a couple of pounds, they are ready to be sold.  Mr. Pickett sells the both whole trout and fillets.  Sometimes he fillets 500 fish in just one day!

 After seeing where the fish are raised, Steve took us to the cave that is the source for the water in his pens.
 
 Usually the water is crystal clear, but there was a storm the night before so it was a little more murky than usual.  Even so, it was a beautiful blue-green color.
 
 While some of the water is diverted for the fish, most of it runs into this pond.  The trout runs are a flow through system, so the water enters the pond once it has left the pens.  No antibiotics or chemicals are used at Pickett’s Trout Ranch, so there is no concern for water pollution from these substances.
 Some pretty large rainbow trout live in this pond, and this is where families were able to catch some dinner.

 This family came all the way from Birmingham to join us.  They were headed for a tour of the Aquarium after they finished fishing.
 

 This family caught some of the biggest fish of the day.  Apparently the trout in this pond really like nightcrawlers!

Even I got in on the action and took home four trout for dinner.  Look for more sustainable seafood, and other special events, activities and travel adventures on the Tennessee Aquarium's events page.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Animal Art From Some Happy Keeper Kids - Thanks!


 George Bartnik, the Aquarium's Education Programs Manager, had a fun experience recently. Two young ladies had so much fun during their Spring Break Keeper Kids activities that they were inspired to create these works of art. George said they simply walked up to him with big smiles and gave him these pictures to say, "Thank You."
 So we wanted to share these drawings with everyone and say a big,  "Thanks!" to Naomi and Melissa. We think they did a great job.
 Bartnik reports seeing lots of happy faces including, "One little boy who came by absolutely gleaming, saying 'That was great!'"
 There's still plenty of time to go behind the scenes to explore the Tennessee Aquarium as Keeper Kids. These activities are being offered through April 8th. 
We would also like to say thanks to WUTC-FM's Rabbit Zielke who recently interviewed David Mizejewski for "Around and About." David is a naturalist with National Wildlife Federation. He recently visited the Tennessee Aquarium to see Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari. Animal programs, like those offered at the Tennessee Aquarium, play an important role in sparking an interest in nature. Listen the interview here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bird watching with Aquarium Avian Expert Kevin Calhoon

While the Tennessee Aquarium is best known for giant catfish, colorful trout and steely-eyed sharks, there are a lot of birds to discover as well. Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium's assistant curator of forests, loves sharing his knowledge of his "feathered friends." In the image above, Kevin points out some of the unique adaptations of the gentoo and macaroni penguins to summer campers. People of all ages enjoy quizzing this expert about all kinds of birds. He's a world traveler, seeking out every opportunity to record sighting a new species. And his trip reports are wonderful. Here's a little bit about his recent journey to Jamaica.
I just returned from a very successful six day trip birding Jamaica.  Most people think of Jamaica as the land of  beautiful beaches, jerk chicken and reggae, but there is so much more to see there.  Large tracts of the interior mountain forests are pretty much intact which is habitat for a very rich, diverse bird population.  This island has 28 endemic bird species (species no found no where else on earth) which is a high number for such a small land mass.   With the help of local guides we saw all 28 endemics (34 lifebirds for trip) plus several more West Indies (Caribbean)endemics.   This trip was inexpensive and I would recommend it highly.
Here are a couple of shots of the Red-billed Streamertail. (Above)  This endemic hummingbird  is the Jamaican national bird and is certainly one of the more spectacular hummers in the world!
This is a photo I took of the Jamaican Tody ;  very high on warm, fuzzy, cuddly scale.   For rest of my Jamaica gallery try: http://1mergman.smugmug.com/Other/Jamaica-February-19-25-2012/21727109_H3gX94#!i=1737796100&k=6mwHVk8




Would you like to see great birds in a tropical setting? If so, Kevin is leading a Tennessee Aquarium members trip  along with Jennifer Latour, Tennessee Aquarium Education Coordinator, to the beautiful Apalachicola Bay and St George Bay region of Franklin County of the Gulf Coast of Florida April 12 – April 15.  (Register by March 29th.) The group will be taking a special trip to the secluded barrier island habitats of St Vincent island, walking through salt marshes, and eating a lot of the local sustainable seafood including a Low Country Boil on the  private beaches of Little St. George Island.  This trip may coincide with the peak of spring bird migration in this region. Many neotropical migrant songbirds will be finishing off their amazing sprint across the Gulf of Mexico.  Shorebirds and marsh birds should be everywhere. Kevin will make sure to point out any special birds that trip members would like to see. The endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker and secretive Bachman’s Sparrow are found in the pine woods nearby.  So come join us for great birding, beautiful scenery and great food!  Click here to learn more about this travel adventure.

To register, call Travel Coordinator Betty Miles at 423-785-3008 or 800-262-0695, ext. 3008.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Win a Trip to the Los Angeles Premiere of To The Arctic 3D

Ever dreamed of walking the red carpet at a Hollywood movie premiere?

Well, One World One Ocean, in collaboration with MacGillivray Freeman Films, is giving you that chance!

Starting today, you can enter for a chance to win an all-expenses-paid, two-night trip for two to sunny Los Angeles for the April premiere of the new IMAX® film To The Arctic 3D, a MacGillivray Freeman Film from Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX® Filmed Entertainment, and the first film presentation of One World One Ocean – a massive for-purpose media campaign to help restore the world’s ocean.




The stunning film tells the intimate story of a mother polar bear and her cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home – and marks the first time a polar bear has been tracked and filmed for five consecutive days!


We’re talking about the most up-close-and-personal experience you’ll have with polar bears aside from travelling up to the Arctic yourself! But here’s the good news… no parka necessary.

So enter the To The Arctic sweepstakes today (submissions close on March 25!) and join us in celebrating the Arctic’s cutest mascot – the polar bear!
Dive into more fun Arctic content from One World One Ocean, including photos and videos, by clicking here.

Photos: Scenes from the IMAX® film To The Arctic, opening exclusively in select IMAX® 3D and IMAX theatres starting April 20, 2012. Copyright 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved. IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation. www.imax.com/ToTheArctic

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Photographic Sketch of a Familiar Aquarium Sight

Aquarium visitors are very familiar with the River Journey escalator that takes guests up four stories from the lobby to the Cove Forest exhibit. It leaves quite an impression on many people and, perhaps for the very first time, it has inspired a work of art. This pencil drawing was sent to us by a young artist from Kendall, Kansas. Here's what she had to say:

"Hey Tennessee Aquarium people! My name is Rachel Horton and I am 16. I am an artist who looks everywhere I can for inspiration! Last Christmas I visited the aquarium and took a bunch of pictures. The one I decided to draw was a picture of the long escalator. I've spent the last two months trying to make the drawing look as realistic as possible. Attached is the finished drawing! I hope you like it!" - Rachel Horton


Great job Rachel and thanks for sharing your art with everyone.