Friday, July 15, 2011

25 Things Members can do at the Flint RiverQuarium

  1. Watch divers feed 60 pound bass, catfish, bowfin and grass carp
  2. Trick or Treat through the RiverQuarium down to Thronateeska and back again
  3. Get a discount on a children’s birthday party and invite all your friends to tour the RiverQuarium with you
  4. Pet a white spotted bamboo shark
  5. Watch a tadpole become a frog
  6. Watch the alligator feeding 52 times
  7. Attend a members-only Christmas party complete with Santa diving in the Blue Hole
  8. Bring a toddler to Tadpole Time for a story, snack and craft
  9. Rent the RiverQuarium for a private celebration at a 10% discount 
  10. Watch Dillinger and Eastwood – double crested cormorants – bicker over their fish
  11. Touch a real live alligator, or an eastern king snake, a rat snake or a corn snake
  12. Find out why gopher tortoises are a keystone species – and what a keystone species is
  13. Take your picture with Flint, a man-sized turtle
  14. Travel back to the Late Cretaceous, when the sea was dominated by giant marine reptiles, some as large as present-day whales by watching Sea Monsters in the Imagination Theater
  15. Every Sunday, buy one popcorn, get a second popcorn free
  16. Receive a 10% discount on any purchase in the Gift Shop
  17. Enjoy special crafts, games and experiments at Discovery Days every other Sunday AND become a Flint Ultimate Naturalist
  18. Wait for Archae, our resident Bluejay, to land on your shoulder and beg for peanuts
  19. Attend Fin-tas-Tic Holiday Day camps
  20. Check out Big Bertha – a 10 foot Burmese python
  21. Find all the fish from Finding Nemo in the Gift Shop
  22. Go on a ‘Critter Hunt’ after  downloading pictures here:
  23. Bring your friends and Sleep With the Fishes
  24. Find out how much Big Al, our alligator snapping turtle, weighs
  25. Enjoy free admission to the Flint RiverQuarium for a full year!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dinner for 1,200

From the desk of Richard Brown, General Curator

When you think of feeding an aquarium, most people think of feeding their fishes at home flake food. But at a public aquarium, like the Flint RiverQuarium, the food requirements of the various species on display are extremely diverse. Though the nutritional requirements of many species are similar, there is also quite a bit that needs to be taken into account.

Larger Fish
Larger fish need a variety of cut food. This is kept in the “walk-in” freezer in the food prep area. Salmon and mackerel can be filleted and chopped. Smelt, silversides, capelin, and squid can be fed whole. The Blue Hole typically gets a bucket full of fish or squid with chopped fish at the bottom for the smaller species like bream. Also, we add a couple of medium cups of pellet food that is especially purchased for the sturgeon.

Smaller Fish
Smaller fish get chopped food like smelt, silversides, superba krill, and Pacifica krill. The smallest fish, like the cave tetras, get flake food and pellet food. Seahorses get mysids and live Paleamonetes shrimp. It has been found that the seahorses need the calcium and vitamins in these types of food to thrive.

Octopus and cuttlefish sometimes take frozen food, but often have to be trained to take it as they are used to live food in the wild. When raising them from babies, they have to be feed live mysids and then slowly weaned away from them. This is an expensive food and has to be flown in from facilities in Florida and Louisiana who produce or collect them.

Many snails, including murex, oyster drills and moon snails  are carnivorous. These will eat thawed fish chunks.

Our amphibians, both frogs and salamanders, eat live crickets and worms.

Our turtles eat turtle pellets and cut food, but the gopher tortoises receive specially made house salads.

Lizards get live crickets with calcium dust and pinhead crickets for smaller animals.

Larger alligators usually dine on thawed mackerel and chicken hindquarters. The smaller gators prefer thawed fish.

Snakes eat their food whole and enjoy frozen rats and mice thawed in warm water.

Perching birds eat a variety of seeds, salads, live mealworms and crickets.

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary found that there has to be Thread herring in the diets of shore birds for them to survive long-term in captivity. This entails feeding some out whole for the large shorebirds, like the Great Blue Heron, and filleting some for the smaller shorebirds, like the Ibis and the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Also, we provide beef, which comes in sausage chubs, for the herons and egrets. This replaces small rodents, amphibians and reptiles that they would eat in the wild.

Food Enrichment
Calcium is dusted onto crickets to prevent calcium deficiency in reptiles and amphibians.
Vitamins are added to the fish once a week for the Blue Hole to help prevent goiter and other vitamin deficiency diseases. We also use Nekton, S vitamin powder put in gel capsules. We do this ourselves, putting about 30 vitamins into the thread herring once or twice a week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Blue Heron Close Call Rescue

From the desk of Melissa Martin, Education Manager

Recently on a cool morning, I was doing some bird watching at Lake Loretta with my Birding Partner, Roy Brown, when I noticed something unusual about a Great Blue Heron that I spotted nearby. It appeared to be unable to move from its location. Upon closer inspection using our binoculars, we observed that this bird was indeed stuck, unable to fly and more specifically caught on fishing line.

I contacted Amanda, our aviculturist, while Roy dashed to his truck to grab some equipment that might be useful for a bird rescue. Amanda and Kelly, our senior aquarist, both came to the location of the trapped bird. Kelly caught and held the bird while Roy cut and untangled the fishing line.  This bird lived to see another day and surprisingly with no serious injuries, only a bruise to its right leg. There was another bird Roy and I spotted near that same location on another day that wasn’t so lucky.

Unfortunately, left-behind fishing lines and nets are culprits of many unnecessary bird deaths. If you fish, please remember to take your fishing line with you after you catch “the big one.” I am partial to the “Leave No Trace” philosophy when it comes to litter. “Leave no trace. Leave only footprints and take only photographs.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Love Our Volunteers!

From the desk of Vicki Churchman, Member and Volunteer Services Manager

It is Saturday at the Flint RiverQuarium, one of our busiest days. Wonder what the volunteers are up to?

Let’s check in with animal husbandry first. Cara is cutting up silversides and thawing out krill for the animals in food prep. There are also veggies to prep for the reptiles and crickets for the salamanders. Once Cara has thawed and cut the food she will begin working her way through the aquarium feeding each of the tanks their specialized diet.

Christina is helping with aviary husbandry prepping berries and fish for the birds. The birds get picky and sometimes don’t like the fish that are served to them. Some of the birds will actually toss the disliked fish to the side! But they all LOVE the meal worms!

Austin is probably just arriving in the aviary to help with the doors and visit with the guests about the birds. Austin has recently started in the Aviary, but he is interested in animal husbandry as well and will eventually be trained in caring for the birds.

Since it is Saturday morning, we are fortunate to have two exhibit explainers here. Matthew and Morgan have been learning about the exhibits and animals so that they can interpret the exhibits for guests and answer questions. Personally, I think this is one of the most enjoyable volunteer assignments. You get to meet lots of different people and learn fun facts about the animals. Today Morgan and Matthew might meet a young family visiting from Tifton, Columbus, or even another country.  

Courtney should be in the gift shop for the morning helping our guests purchase items and restocking. There is a birthday party this morning and everyone attending the party will get a coupon for a special discount in the gift shop. There are plush albino alligators, aquatic themed toys and wonderful children’s animal books to choose from. She will also go over to the theater frequently to help with concession purchases while the Theater staff is starting the movie.

Around Ian and Patrick should be heading in. They’ll find our turtle costume and spend a few hours entertaining our youngest visitors. Most children love to see Flint come for a visit, but occasionally some of the smallest children are a little frightened.

At two of our volunteer divers will come in and dive into the Blue Hole! At 175,000 gallons, the Blue Hole tank is our largest tank and is filled with 30 to 40 pound fish: bass, catfish and sturgeon. This fish know the divers are there to feed them and have even been known to snatch a bag of food from the divers! Our guests really enjoy seeing the divers interact with the fish, each other and even the guests.