Blog - Water Stories


Category: Water Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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

Manatees, the 'sea cows' of Tampa Bay

The best place in Tampa Bay to see manatees is not some remote wilderness waterway. It is a power plant. For 31 years, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center at its Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach has attracted hundreds of manatees and thousands of spectators. Indeed, it averages close to 300,000 visitors a year. The reason the manatees show up is simple. When the water temperature drops to 68 degrees, or below, the manatees seek warmer waters – in springs, rivers... Read More
at Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cockroach Bay Remains a Tampa Bay Gem

Saddled with a repugnant name, Cockroach Bay is one of the most beautiful — and ecologically fertile — stretches of Tampa Bay. It is hard to believe this expanse of mangrove islands and sea grass beds in South Hillsborough County endures within sight of the bustling downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg, and a few minutes’ drive from the explosive growth nearby. It was a fishing trip to Cockroach Bay decades ago that inspired my love for Tampa Bay. The series of... Read More
at Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New CEO Brings Exciting and Impactful Vision of Aquarium’s Future

Scarcely on the job for five months, Roger Germann, The Florida Aquarium’s new President and CEO, is still getting to know the operation, the staff and the community. But he is certain about one thing: “We’re not making little plans here,” Germann said of The Florida Aquarium in a recent interview. “We want to be a big player, not just on the local and state level, but on the national and international stage.” The “little plans” is a reference... Read More
at Monday, October 30, 2017

Aquarium Working to Reduce Plastics Use

You won’t find a plastic straw in your drink at The Florida Aquarium’s Café Ray or be handed a plastic bag when you check out of its gift shop. This isn’t feel-good environmentalism. The measures are part of a comprehensive Aquarium plan to combat a staggeringly pervasive pollutant – plastics – which poses a particular threat to the ocean.   “Plastics never truly go away,” says Debbi Stone, the Aquarium’s vice president of... Read More
at Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Preparation Key to The Florida Aquarium’s Response to Hurricanes

Scarcely a day after monstrous Hurricane Irma terrified Florida, demolishing sections of the state and leaving most residents without power, The Florida Aquarium opened its doors to the public. Guests line up to enter The Florida Aquarium on Tuesday, Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma. Revenue concerns did not motivate the drive to get back to business. Prices were dropped to $10 for adults and $5 for children, and parking was free for Tampa Strong Days following the storm. Once Irma... Read More
at Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Florida Birding and Nature Festival to Celebrate Conservation Triumphs

Given the doom and gloom of so much recent environmental news, it may seem strange the upcoming Florida Birding and Nature Festival will be a celebration. Festival organizer Ann Paul, regional coordinator for Audubon Florida, understands better than most the challenges to be faced. However, she also appreciates how much progress, often overlooked, has been made. So, the October 13-15 festival will remind people that the results of conservation triumphs surround us. Photo: Ann Paul... Read More
at Thursday, August 31, 2017


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