25th Anniversary: Sandy Freedman

Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman said some daring was required to find a home for The Florida Aquarium.    She recalled: “It had originally been planned for Clearwater and then it proposed all over the place over here. It looked like it was going to go on Harbour Island. But finally [the late Harbour Island developer] Finn Caspersen called me and said it was not what they envisioned. It was dragging on and on.   “I remember I called [Tampa Port Authority... Read More
at Monday, January 11, 2021

25th Anniversary: Eric Hovland's Journey

As a young biologist with a lifelong passion for wildlife, Eric Hovland was thrilled to be hired in November 1994 at The Florida Aquarium, which was still under construction.  “I had heard about this innovative new aquarium being built in Tampa and wanted to be part of it,” Associate Curator Hovland recently told me. Those initial months turned out to be a virtual zoological boot camp. “We wanted to open in March and I don’t think any of us took a day off.... Read More
at Thursday, November 19, 2020

Mangroves | 25 Years in the Making

Walking through the Mangrove Tunnel at The Florida Aquarium’s Wetlands Trail exhibit, visitors couldn’t be blamed for believing the bizarre surroundings were sculpted for dramatic effect.   Nicknamed the “walking tree,” the red mangrove’s tangled roots do indeed look as if they could prowl about the hall. The dense canopy adds to the weird effect.   But there is nothing fake about these mangroves, which have been at The Florida Aquarium since... Read More
at Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Road to Reopening

In May, The Florida Aquarium became the first major attraction in the state, the first aquarium in the nation and the first cultural center in the Tampa Bay region to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic forced the closings of public facilities.   The reopening has been remarkably successful, with customer surveys showing approval ratings at more than 90 percent.   Aquarium President and CEO Roger Germann said attractions throughout the country are calling to learn how... Read More
at Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Washed Ashore - Now Extended Through October!

In blunt terms, the exhibit The Florida Aquarium chose to commemorate its 25 th anniversary could be called a bunch of junk. But Aquarium President and CEO Roger Germann doesn’t see it that way and neither will those who visit “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.”. Because of the Coronavirus, The Florida Aquarium temporarily closed shortly after the exhibit opened. But now The Aquarium is reopened - with strict safety protocols - and the public again  can view... Read More
at Thursday, May 28, 2020

Animal Migration - A Miraculous Journey

In Kenn Kaufman’s superb new book, “A Season On The Wind: Inside The World of Spring Migration,” the famed bird expert vividly describes the perilous journeys birds undertake. Consider the half-ounce blackpoll warbler. Kauffman writes, “In the space of a few weeks it trades rainforest giants along the Amazon for spindly spruces at the edge of the Arctic. On the way it flies six thousand miles navigating through heat and wind and storm, stopping over a dozen alien lands,... Read More
at Monday, March 2, 2020

25th Anniversary Blog: Staff Since the Beginning

As one of The Florida Aquarium’s original employees, Rita Coley had a “front row seat” for its opening. As The Aquarium evolved, so did her career. Now, 25 years later, she remains passionate about her work and surroundings. The housekeeping manager exemplifies Aquarium President-CEO Roger Germann’s goal that every employee, regardless of task, be committed to the aquarium’s mission to “protect and restore the blue planet.” “I think it is... Read More
at Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Hold Onto Your Booty!

Few beads were thrown during the Gasparilla Parades of my youth. What was prized in the 1950s-60s, were the fake doubloons and used cartridges from the blank guns the pirates would fire into the air. To the amusement of our parents, we kids would scramble after this treasure thrown by the fearsome-looking Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla swashbucklers. Boy, have things changed. Then the parade was a modest affair, attended mostly by locals and with about as many high school marching bands... Read More
at Friday, January 24, 2020

25th Anniversary Blog - Proud of our Past, Looking to the Future

During this 25th anniversary year of The Florida Aquarium, we will explore its history, exhibits, and the diverse individuals who helped it evolve into a major tourist attraction, a pioneering research facility, and a forceful voice on behalf of the Blue Planet. – Editors. The Florida Aquarium is now recognized as a resounding success. Ranked as one of the best aquariums in the nation, it attracts record crowds while also conducting ground-breaking marine research. It also ignited a... Read More

A Plan to Restore Tampa Bay's Scallops

Every summer, Tampa Bay Watch sponsors “The Great Scallop Search,” where almost 200 volunteers’ snorkel for hours in Tampa Bay, looking for bay scallops and hoping to find evidence the delicious bivalve is making a comeback. (Scallops have long been protected in Tampa Bay and divers only count them.) The grand total found this year in selected search sites in Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay? Fifty-one.   In the waters off counties north of Pinellas that have... Read More

Educating the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

Fun and entertainment, as visitors quickly learn, are The Florida Aquarium’s priorities. However, underlying the colorful exhibits and exhilarating activities is conservation education. As Debbi Stone, The Aquarium’s Vice President of Learning, recently put it: “We want everyone who leaves here to know how to better respect and restore our Blue Planet.” The commitment to education goes far beyond informing visitors about the ocean’s wonders. Stone pointed... Read More

Dive into Oceans of Images

Listening to Laura Howard talk about her and husband’s adventures will leave you breathless: diving with great white sharks; photographing killer whales; night diving with hundreds of sharks off a remote Pacific island; not to mention raising a family and working pharmaceutical jobs. “We like to say we sell drugs to support our diving habit,” Laura Howard told me recently. Don’t get the wrong idea. Laura and Rich Howard are devoted to their son and daughter and... Read More

CuraƧao: A Collaboration to Save Coral in the Caribbean

For Senior Biologist Shawn Garner, an invitation to help oversee coral spawning conservation efforts in the Caribbean nation of Curaçao highlighted The Florida Aquarium’s growing reputation as a leader in the campaign to rescue the world’s coral reefs.   Before coming to the Aquarium nearly five years ago, Garner had worked with spawning corals at Waikiki Aquarium in Hawaii and other institutions. So, he was familiar with the efforts to enhance the... Read More
at Thursday, September 12, 2019

Project Coral: A New Hope to Save an Endangered Species

The coming months are going to be anxious ones for Florida Aquarium Senior Coral Scientist Keri O’Neil and her team as they labor to achieve a rarity: an in-lab coral spawn.   The effort is part of the Aquarium’s “Project Coral” partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens . The collaborative effort’s purpose is, as O’Neil puts it, “to develop technology to induce corals to spawn in the laboratory.” That sounds simple... Read More
at Sunday, August 18, 2019

Egmont Key: A Boater's Paradise

With sandy beaches, translucent waters, and historical structures, Egmont Key, the slender island at the mouth of Tampa Bay, attracts boaters throughout the region. Visitors on a sunny weekend may not find much island solitud e, but they will find a beautiful natural refuge that possesses a remarkable past.   From prehistoric times, this spit of land has been a focal point in the region.   Aboriginal Floridians and Spanish conquistadors tromped across its wind-swept... Read More
at Friday, August 2, 2019

It Seems Nature is Trying to Tell us Something Again, but are we Listening?

During last year’s “summer of slime,” toxic blue-green algae bloomed across South Florida. Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) are microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems. They can produce toxins (such as microcystins and anatoxins) which affect people, aquatic life, livestock, and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water. Blue-green algae grow and colonize to form “blooms” that... Read More
at Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Florida Aquarium's Leader in Animal Care and Health

Tim Binder has been an executive at two of the world’s largest aquariums, contributed to the science of understanding aquatic life and has consulted around the globe. But The Florida Aquarium’s vice president of animal care and health is quick to acknowledge his career’s humble origins. In a recent interview, the Rapid City, South Dakota native put it bluntly, “I got my start in a roadside attraction on the road to Mount Rushmore.” The road he described... Read More
at Friday, June 28, 2019

Moon Bay: A New Florida Aquarium Touch Experience

Ocean jellies (more commonly known as jellyfish) are one of the last creatures you might think of touching, but The Florida Aquarium is about to introduce a new exhibit that gives guests an up-close and interactive experience with the opening of  Moon Bay this World Oceans Day (June 8th).    To most, the Aquarium’s new moon jelly touch experience may sound scary, but rest assured the soon-to-open exhibit won’t pose a risk to visitors or,... Read More
at Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Critical Mission to Restore Florida's Imperiled Reef Tract

The Florida Aquarium’s efforts to save the imperiled Florida Reef Tract involves customized laboratories, innovative research and meticulous attention to detail. It also requires backbreaking work, as divers on a recent mission to The Florida Keys can testify.   The Aquarium led a multi-agency conservation mission to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to “release” and distribute to underwater nurseries more than 3,000 healthy staghorn corals to aid the Reef... Read More
at Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Seahorse: A Fish that Fascinates

They lack the fierce visage of a shark, the shimmering beauty of an angelfish and the playful personality of a river otter, yet seahorses inevitably fascinate The Florida Aquarium’s visitors, who linger among the exhibits where the animals live. Shawn Garner, Aquarium senior biologist, has a favorite explanation for the seahorse’s appeal: “It’s unique. It’s got a head like a horse, a tail like a monkey, and a pouch like a kangaroo.” Despite its... Read More
at Thursday, April 11, 2019

Florida's Water Story Begins Underground

Visitors to The Florida Aquarium quickly learn the state’s water story “begins underground.” As the Wetlands Trail’s entrance explains, “Water gushes to the surface through fissures in the rock, creating crystal clear pools of fresh spring waters... Florida’s limestone rock base is like a sponge, riddled with holes large and small. These porous, water-filled rocks are called aquifers.” Florida’s underground aquifer system is... Read More
at Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Aquarium President and CEO Joins Governor DeSantis' Transition Advisory Committee

Ron DeSantis’ team surprised Roger Germann with a call shortly after the gubernatorial election. Though The Florida Aquarium president and the chief executive officer had stayed clear of the race, the governor-elect wanted Germann to serve on his 40-member Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. “It was humbling to get that call,” Germann recalled recently. “But I think it reflected strongly on the work the entire... Read More
at Friday, March 1, 2019

A New Hope: Saving the Florida Reef Tract

Keri O’ Neil devotes her life to saving coral reefs, but she doesn’t sugarcoat the outlook. When asked about reports that climate change will wipe out the world’s coral reefs without a major reduction in carbon emissions, she responded: “Florida’s reefs are already severely depleted, and they could be wiped out before we even have the chance to reduce carbon emissions.” Climate change is certainly bad for coral, she explained but the more... Read More
at Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Threat of Climate Change

Recent international reports on climate change depict a bleak future. Among the findings: Even if nations succeed in meeting the frequently cited goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius in the coming century, the world’s coral reefs would virtually disappear; as many as 80 million people would be exposed to flooding; more than 400 million people would be exposed to drought; and about 37 percent of the world’s population could suffer extreme heat. Higher than... Read More
at Friday, January 4, 2019

Behind the Scenes at the Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium has over 200 employees with jobs as diverse as the animals that call the facility home. We have educators that teach school programs, sales staff that sell Aquarium-themed weddings and events, and we have a wide variety of animal care staff. And, that’s just dipping below the surface! We have biologists that care for animals that you might see on a visit to the Aquarium, but did you know there are biologists that work solely with animals behind-the-scenes? They are... Read More

Waves of Wonder, a Reimagined Experience

The Florida Aquarium’s newly opened Waves of Wonder gallery offers such an involving experience that it is easy to overlook the complexity of making the project a reality. The logistics were daunting as the Aquarium transformed the kids-oriented Ocean Commotion gallery into the conservation-focused Waves of Wonder gallery with its centerpiece, Heart of the Sea habitat.     Since May, “we’ve had people changing carpet and painting, electricians changing... Read More

The Florida Aquarium's Bright Future

It didn’t take The Florida Aquarium’s president and CEO Roger Germann long to find his favorite hideaways in the facility. When he wants to “zen out” during a hectic day, he goes to the Coral Reef habitat, where the graceful creatures of the deep calm his mind and renew his spirit. When he wants to reflect on the Aquarium’s future, he goes to the roof, where he can see the nearby Water Street Tampa construction, including the new University of South Florida... Read More
at Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Florida Fish Story

The snook is a muscular torpedo of a fish given to reel-screeching runs and hook-throwing acrobatics.  Probably only tarpon and bonefish rival it in the esteem of Florida’s coastal anglers. Yet it is revealing that you will find The Florida Aquarium’s snook in two exhibits: The Wetlands Trail and Bays and Beaches. The locations convey its ability to survive in both fresh and salt water.  Eric Hovland, Aquarium associate curator, said snook are unlike some species that... Read More

Pin Tail Duck Regains Sight

The Florida Aquarium will go to great lengths to ensure our animals have a great quality of life. Recently, one of our geriatric male northern pin tail ducks underwent cataract surgery to restore sight in his left eye. This duck has lived at the Aquarium for many years. He had an injury in his left eye, which made him non-releasable. His home is in our Wetlands Gallery, where he lives with his girlfriend – a female pin tail duck. Unfortunately, this duck developed a cataract in... Read More

Fifth Third Bank Matches $20,000 in Donations to The Florida Aquarium

  At a meeting of The Florida Aquarium Board of Directors today, Fifth Third Bank Tampa Bay City President Jim Weiss presented the Aquarium with a $20,000 check. The generosity of individual donors and companies such as Fifth Third Bank are crucial to The Florida Aquarium’s efforts to protect and restore our blue planet.  We are so grateful to have a wonderful partner in Fifth Third Bank that believes in the importance of the health of our local environment and... Read More

Aquarium Prepared to Assist Animals as Red Tide Moves North

                                                                Florida Gulf Coast’s sugar-sand beaches attract visitors from around the globe, but this year they are drawing international attention because they have become a veritable horror movie. Those fabled shores are smothered with dead fish and an overwhelming stench... Read More

A Rosy Outlook for the Roseate Spoonbill

Nine of The Florida Aquarium’s 10 roseate spoonbills recently were selected to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ AZA Species Survival Plan. The significant development highlights a unique bird that was hunted within a few-dozen birds of extinction. It also underscores the value of the often overlooked but critically important AZA SSP, of which The Florida Aquarium is an enthusiastic participant. The program maintains healthy genetic populations of hundreds of... Read More
at Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Mission to Save Florida's Coral Reefs

An annual mid-summer tradition early in our marriage was for my wife and I to drive to the Florida Keys for the recreational lobster season. We would hunt the delicious “bugs,” explore the awe-inspiring coral reefs, and later enjoy the evening breeze and perhaps an adult beverage. I thought of those wonderful days when I learned a contingent of marine scientists from The Florida Aquarium and other research institutions were heading to the Keys in late July, near the... Read More
at Friday, July 27, 2018

A Celebration of Sharks: An Interview With The Shark Guy

Name and Title: Eric Hovland, Associate Curator at The Florida Aquarium and all around Shark Guy! Did you always want to be a shark expert? As a kid growing up in the Midwest, my only exposure to sharks was watching Jacques Cousteau on TV. When I got to see sharks at an aquarium for the first time was when I really fell for them. Then when I grew up and started working with sharks hands on, I knew it was the only path for me.     How long have you been... Read More
at Friday, July 27, 2018

Animal Enrichment: An Otterly Adorable Sight

Some visitors are so charmed by The Florida Aquarium’s playful river otters they inquire how they can obtain one for a pet. Marissa Hartley, Aquarium biologist and the otters’ chief caretaker, can understand the sentiment. The aquatic mammal frolics with infectious joy.  But in a recent discussion, Hartley warned that despite its cuddly visage, an otter “has 36 very sharp teeth and has a bite ten times stronger than a dog.” For safety reasons, the Aquarium... Read More
at Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Alafia Bank: A Roosting Refuge

If you have had the pleasure of cruising off the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary in Hillsborough Bay near dusk, you know something remarkable occurs. In the mellowing light, thousands of birds from all directions can be seen flying to the Audubon sanctuary, two small mangrove-lined islands near the mouth of the Alafia River, not far from the Mosaic Fertilizer plant.  Among the many species that inhabit the largest wading bird colony on Florida’s west coast are... Read More
at Tuesday, June 26, 2018

An Unexpected Catch

Summertime in Florida means fishing season! While you’re on the water this summer getting a fresh catch for dinner, it’s important to know what to do if you end up with a sea turtle on your line. The Florida Aquarium is currently rehabbing two juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles at our facility after they were accidentially hooked by fishermen. Rescued by Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Hernando County on May 20, the first turtle came to our facility to have the fishing hook... Read More
at Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Celebration of our Oceans

For World Oceans Day on June 8, The Florida Aquarium will offer special activities and programs throughout the day and this weekend to highlight the wonders of our oceans and the need to protect them. Of course, this is nothing new for the institution. As Aquarium President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Germann recently put it, “From The Florida Aquarium’s perspective, every day is World Oceans Day, World Rivers Day, World Stream Day, World Estuary Day. Environmental... Read More
at Thursday, June 7, 2018

Striving to Save a Spiny Species

The disappearance of the long-spined sea urchin in the Florida Keys is akin to an ecological murder mystery, and The Florida Aquarium is tackling the case. The urchin began dying in the early 1980s, and now some estimates put the mortality rate at 97 percent. The Aquarium team’s primary goal is to undo the damage that has been done, even if they can’t pinpoint the culprit.  A 27-year-old University of Florida graduate student and former scuba diving instructor has been... Read More
at Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Florida Aquarium Hosts 29th Annual Regional Aquatics Workshop (RAW)

What happens when you have hundreds of aquarium biologists and enthusiasts gather together? Totally RAWsome collaborative sessions about animal wellness and aquarium best practices. The Florida Aquarium hosted the 29th annual Regional Aquatics Workshop (RAW) from May 14-18. Aquarists from China, Australia, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Brazil and from all over the U.S. traveled to The Florida Aquarium for this workshop intended to bring Aquarium experts or enthusiasts together to learn... Read More
at Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Art and Science of Animal Care

When The Florida Aquarium Associate Veterinarian Dr. Ari Fustukjian returned my call the other day, he was pleased he had just been bitten by a Madagascar Gecko.  “He hadn’t been eating well lately, so it was it was a sign he was feeling better,” explained Dr. Fustukjian, who uses a guitar pick to open the reptile’s small but strong jaws during examinations. They don’t make medical supplies for a lot of Fustukjian’s patients, which can range... Read More
at Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Aquarium Volunteers: A Driving Force to Protect and Restore Our Blue Planet

This is National Volunteer Appreciation Week and The Florida Aquarium is honoring its more than 300 volunteers with a series of activities, including a sunset cruise on the Aquarium Bay Spirit II, a 72-foot catamaran. The Aquarium has good cause for the annual celebration.   Aquarium Volunteer Services Manager Chelsea Gomez called the volunteers “an amazing group of people with a wide variety of life experiences and skills who are generous enough to share them with us.”... Read More
at Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Part 2: A Paddle Along the Hillsborough River

In a region where bulldozers change the landscape daily, the preservation of the northern Hillsborough River wilderness is something of marvel. The Florida Aquarium’s Associate Animal Curator Eric Hovland puts it well when he says, “We are doing a lot of things right” in protecting the river. But luck also has played a role. The Southwest Florida Water Management District bought and preserved much of the upper reaches of the Hillsborough, but saving wilderness was... Read More
at Thursday, April 12, 2018

Part 1: A Paddle Along the Hillsborough River

Back in my newspaper days, when someone from out of town joined The Tampa Tribune management team, a common practice during introductory meetings was for the veterans to recommend what the newcomer should be sure to do in the region. My suggestion was always the same: canoe the northern Hillsborough River. The experience is a revelation.  Most residents probably know the Hillsborough River provides much of Tampa’s drinking water and are familiar with the river that snakes... Read More
at Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Culture of Coral Conservation

Researchers at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation are clearly jazzed about their work, and it is easy to understand why. “We are focusing our research efforts to be tip-of-the-spear type work; we want to be able to apply our findings in real time to save coral reefs,” said Scott Graves, director of the Center, during a recent tour of the complex being developed on 20 acres of Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) land in Apollo Beach. Graves joked the... Read More
at Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Champion for The Florida Aquarium

Tom Hall became an early champion of The Florida Aquarium because it appealed to two of his passions: economic development and environmental conservation. And, the public relations executive is pleased that the Aquarium has done precisely what he hoped it would do: revitalize downtown Tampa while becoming a leader in marine conservation. Economic development was Hall’s primary concern in the 1980s when he first heard about the Aquarium, proposed for Clearwater, where it met a chilly... Read More
at Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Weedon Island Preserve: A Wild Wetland Paradise

Until I recently was sidelined by a knee injury, running the trails and boardwalks of Weedon Island Preserve with legendary running guru Joe Burgasser and members of his Forerunners Club was a frequent and favorite Friday morning outing. The runners, of diverse backgrounds, careers and interests, are always interesting. But with or without company, a morning at Weedon always is exhilarating. This natural oasis between Tampa and St. Petersburg offers abundant wildlife, stunning vistas and a... Read More
at Friday, February 2, 2018

A Goliath Comeback

Massive and impassive, the goliath grouper may seem the stereotypical image of a stolid, uncomprehending fish. But appearances are deceiving. “They’re almost as smart as a dog,” says Dr. Ari Fustukjian, The Florida Aquarium associate veterinarian who cares for the facility’s two goliath groupers, Cleatus and Gill. “Long-lived apex predators can be quite intelligent.” The goliaths, the Atlantic’s largest grouper, are astute in responding to... Read More
at Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gifts To Our Blue Planet

For many of us, holiday shopping is a confusing chore that often results in a gift that soon becomes clutter or trash. But, The Florida Aquarium offers ways to give memorable presents in line with its vision to protect and restore the Blue Planet. The Florida Aquarium’s 2018 Calendar , for instance, contains stunning images of marine creatures for a minimum donation of $20, though higher contributions are obviously welcomed – and needed. All the money raised from the... Read More
at Friday, December 15, 2017

Turning an Environmental Menace into Meaningful Art

You won’t offend Sara Norine if you say her stunning new ocean jelly (more commonly known as jellyfish) artwork above The Florida Aquarium gift shop is trash. Indeed, that is the point of her vivid creation. The fiber artist transformed thousands of feet of “dirty, stinky” monofilament line, collected along local waterways, into the luminous ocean jelly, which is 18 inches in diameter and six feet long. The rendering not only captures the creature’s delicate beauty,... Read More
at Tuesday, December 5, 2017


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