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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 calendar goes to supporting the nonprofit Aquarium’s care of its more than 7,000 animals and also its conservation and education programs.

The Aquarium also has adopt-an-animal packages that can be purchased for as little as $25 or as much as $150. On the adoption lists are river otters, stingrays, sea turtles, ring-tailed lemurs and South African penguins. All packages include an adoption certificate, a plush of the adopted animal, recognition on The Florida Aquarium Adoption Wall, a fact sheet about the animal and various other goodies.

The more expensive packages include offerings such as behind-the-scene tours and an exclusive encounter with your adoption animal and the biologist who cares for it. The money, of course, goes to the animals’ care.  

A Florida Aquarium membership can make an ideal gift for a family that wants their children to learn about nature and science. Membership allows unlimited visits and includes free parking and discounts at the gift store, restaurant, education programs and other activities. Membership fees range from $70 for an individual to $225 for eight people.

Want to provide someone an unforgettable experience? Consider giving someone a chance to Dive with the Sharks or participate in a Shark Swim in the coral reef habitat. The dive costs $160; the snorkel $110. Divers must be certified and at least 15 years old. Snorkelers must be at least nine.

For those who would rather be surrounded by fish known for their colors, and not their teeth, the Aquarium offers Swim with the Fishes in the coral reef habitat for $85. It’s a good choice for young families, allowing children as young as six to participate.

The Aquarium also leads guided Gulf of Mexico dives on shipwrecks near Fort DeSoto Park, cruises of Tampa Bay, and other adventures likely to create enduring memories.

A direct way of aiding the Blue Planet is to make a contribution in someone’s name to The Florida’s Aquarium’s conservation work.

For instance, the Aquarium is in the forefront of the desperate effort to save coral reefs which—because of climate change, pollution and other threats—are dying in much of the world. The Florida Aquarium is building greenhouse “arks” for protecting genotypes and reproducing corals at its Center for Conservation at Apollo Beach. The research is funded by the Aquarium, so all Aquarium members are already contributing to the studies; but specific contributions are needed and appreciated.

Indeed, a donation to The Aquarium’s Conservation Research Fund will help advance all the institution’s research specialties, including corals, sand tiger sharks and sea turtles. This fund also supports The Aquarium’s medical rehabilitation treatment of sea turtles and other creatures that have been injured in the wild.

Similarly, a donation in someone’s name to the Education and Community Outreach Fund enables the Aquarium to educate more children about the ocean’s wonders. A particular effort is made to reach underserved children.

You can honor someone by having his or her name inscribed on a bird or fish plaque in the Ripples of Life art structure in the Aquarium’s main entrance. Prices start at $250, and the inscription is limited to 36 characters.

Further details and other opportunities for gifts can be found here. But know that whatever Florida Aquarium expenditure you may make will end up in some way benefitting marine life.

Or as Libby Joyce, the Aquarium’s Director of Advancement, sums it up: “Our mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship of the natural environment.” So, every purchase “provides critical funds to support our mission and protect our shared Blue Planet.”

Story by Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, The Tampa Tribune.