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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 and share best practices in the field. The workshop drew nearly 500 people including guests, vendors and staff. 

 


“The Aquarium was so excited to see the workshop come to fruition. Two years of hard work, teamwork and fundraising culminated into a jam packed week of fun, networking and shared knowledge,” stated Libby Joyce, director of development. 


The keynote speaker was Martin Moe, the forefather of marine aquaculture, who has been writing scientific books and articles dating back to 1962. Moe kicked off RAW with a livening tale of the span of his career, highlighting how he brought clownfish culture to the masses. The Florida Aquarium speakers included Keri O’Neil, coral nursery manager, who spoke about the successful coral spawn and reproduction work done at the Aquarium. Aquarium biologist, Laura Wandel, gave us a look into the world of Cleatus, one of our oldest goliath grouper residents. Other speakers from The Florida Aquarium included Rachel Serafin, Jenny McAndrews, Maegan Gentry, Laura Wandel, Tori Davis, Alyssa Fessett and Jessica Sandelli. 


While workshop days were dedicated to learning sessions, nights were spent connecting with old and new friends at some of Tampa's hotspots. Wednesday night was spent at 81Bay Brewery, where food trucks fed and delicious pints were shared. Thursday night’s gathering was held at Coppertail Brewery, where the Aquarium’s collaboration brew with Coppertail (Coral Haze) was on tap. $1 from every Coral Haze pint sold goes toward the Aquarium’s conservation efforts. The thirsty aquarists were happy to toast to an accomplished days’ work and to coral conservation! 


The annual RAW Olympics was held the last day of the conference at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation. The activities transformed the daily tasks of an aquarist into fun games. Games included bobbing for bio-balls, a salinity taste test, and finished with a relay race, running through a tangle of extension cords, and a flipper run to the finish line. 


 “We are proud to have hosted this prestigious conference at the Aquarium. What started as a handful of aquarists getting together to share ideas over a beer, has expanded to an annual conference with participants all over the world. The sentiment stays the same though, people getting together to affect change for our blue planet,” said Eric Hovland associate curator.