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hafeez

Raising a Marine Biologist

Fall is here, and with it comes all the excitement of back to school! Not everyone is sliding in sneakers and throwing on backpacks, though. Lots of little tots will be staying home as they await being school-aged. Learning starts long before the classroom, and there are loads of things caretakers and parents can do to foster love and respect for the ocean early on.

Here are our top 5 tips for raising a marine biologist:

Promote curiosity

Teaching your little one to think like a scientist is a major part of empowering their learning. One of the best ways to do this is to encourage and nurture their curiosity. Luckily, children have an innate tendency to wonder- when you see it, don’t squash it! Let them try age-appropriate activities on their own first before intervening or correcting them. Encourage them to play with familiar things in unconventional ways- a great example of this is letting them raid the kitchen for some fun with strainers and spoons! Ask them questions when they encounter new things, try to get them thinking about how things work around them, and be sure to take note of their answers- there’s nothing quite as surprising (or as funny) a toddler’s perspective!

Explore nearby water bodies

Marine biology is so much more than what is under the water. Life can be found thriving on the beach, on rocky shores, and along creeks. Whatever water bodies you live near, take your child exploring. Learn with as many of the senses as you can- what can you see in these areas, what can you touch? What smells do you smell, what sounds do you hear? Be sure to bring plenty of supplies with you on your scientific excursions, like crayons and notebooks to draw what you see, or magnifying lenses to take a closer look. It might get messy, but that’s ok! White clothes should be all packed away now that labor day has passed, anyhow. Head out while the sun is still shining!

Go underwater

My earliest and fondest childhood memories are of swimming in local pools and lakes, playing with family and friends, and exploring underwater with goggles. What better way to entice your future marine biologist than to put them in the water themselves? Even as the weather becomes colder and we bundle up more, the GTA is filled with recreation centers that offer swimming classes and free swim to children of all ages and abilities. Find one near you, grab some goggles, slap on a swimsuit, wiggle into some water wings, and go for a dip! Can’t make it to a pool? Adventure needn’t be much further than your own bathtub. Find some fishy toys and create a fun underwater scene.

Think, talk, and act green!

We get it- reducing your waste and being green is easier said than done. Factor in raising toddlers, and it gets even trickier. Between the convenience of pre-packaged snacks and the ease of relying on single use plastics, the waste can add up. The solution? Remember who’s boss (your toddler, always). Talk to your children about how your actions affect the environment, and think up some ways to be more sustainable together. Chances are, once they understand, they’ll be the first to remind you when you’re slipping. If you hear them reminding you to opt for reusable bags, rejoice- you’ve got a pretty environmentally conscientious tot to keep you in check!

Meet some fish!

Here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we run a program called Sea Squirts. Sea Squirts is a 6-week long program for children aged 2-4 and their caregivers that runs from 9-10am on Thursday and Sunday mornings. Each week, a new topic of under-the-sea life is explored through songs, games, crafts, and stories. Sea Squirts brings you up close and personal with our animals with animal visits that take you behind the scenes. This program is the perfect way to connect with your child as you learn and play together, all the while enjoying the wonders of the sea.

For more information, visit our website, here.

There you have it! Our top 5 ways to encourage a love and respect for the ocean in your little ones from an early age. Keep them curious, get them down to the water, let them play under water, reinforce the importance of sustainability, and meet some fish! Chances are you’ll have so much fun together, you’ll develop some new healthy habits, too. Remember that a marine biologist works to learn about and protect the blue world that they love.

Do you have any other suggestions for raising a marine biologist? Comment below!

Fighting the Invasion: RAOC at the Lionfish Invitational

There’s no doubt of the lionfish’s beauty. It’s written in their stunning red and white striped colouration, and the fanciful sway of their fins.

But as with so many things in nature, that beauty is a warning. The lionfish has 18 long, needle-like spines that deliver a painful dose of venom if touched. It’s an excellent defense against predators, and a real headache for humans–while not fatal, lionfish venom has been known to cause extreme pain, as well as headaches, vomiting, and paralysis.

There’s something else deceptive in the beauty of the lionfish–in certain parts of the world, they are destroying the colourful diversity of coral reefs.

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, where they are kept in balance by predators such as large fish and sharks. However, due to its popularity in the aquarium industry, this fish was introduced off the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Caribbean, where it has become an invasive species.

How did this happen? The answer is threefold.

  • Lionfish are excellent hunters. They are lightning-fast and have been known to hunt cooperatively, using their fanned pectoral fins to steer prey until they are trapped. Add to this equation the fact that local prey species do not recognize lionfish as predators and the lionfish’s buffet-style approach to feeding–they feed easily and indiscriminately on a wide variety of fish and invertebrates.
  • A single female lionfish can lay approximately 2 million eggs a year, meaning that what started out as a few aquarium fish inadvertently introduced to a part of the world where they don’t belong, quickly became a full-scale invasion.
  • Finally, the lionfish has no natural predators in these parts of the world and is highly resistant to disease and infection. This means that they have rapidly overpopulated reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea–a population that is long-lived (lionfish have a lifespan of about 15 years) and that remains largely unchecked.

Why is that such a problem? A single lionfish can consume 80 to 90 percent of native life in small coral reef environments within just five weeks of establishing its territory there. This is wreaking havoc on these fragile underwater ecosystems.

It’s a grim picture, but luckily, scientists and conservationists–including members of the team here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada–are taking steps to help combat the so-called “lionfish problem.”

In August of 2019, Ripley’s joined trained volunteer divers and research partners from Canada, the United States and the Caribbean for the sixth annual Lionfish Invitational at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.

This event sends teams of divers into the sanctuary to remove as many lionfish as possible through spearfishing. This practice is typically illegal in the sanctuary, but special permits are issued to the team for the duration of the event.

Lionfish caught are counted, measured, bagged and tagged, before being sent to a lab for further analysis, including their age, growth patterns, genetics and stomach contents.

Not only does this annual event help to relieve the overpopulation of invasive lionfish in the Gulf, but it also serves to further scientific knowledge of the effects of lionfish populations on native species and their habitats.

This year, a 22-diver team removed 122 lionfish over the course of four days. Despite the skill of these divers, this represents the least amount of lionfish removed from any Invitational to date.

It is hypothesized that lionfish populations throughout the Gulf and Caribbean region have been reduced due to an ulcerative skin disease, present in lionfish removed from the marine park, and elsewhere. A decline in lionfish population has also been observed in Florida.

This could be good news in terms of restoring balance in Flower Garden Banks, but continued monitoring and removals of lionfish will be essential to assessing their population and the health of ecosystems in the region, and beyond.

*Lionfish Invitational photos courtesy of Louise Patricio, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Dive Operations Manager

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Creates One of a Kind Experience for 10 Millionth Guest

August 13th, 2019

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Creates One of a Kind Experience for 10 Millionth Guest

Guest returns to Aquarium for an elevated overnight experience

It’s been almost a year since Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada welcomed its 10 millionth visitor after less than five years of operations. However, Canada’s largest indoor aquarium celebrated in style this past week with a private all-night event in honour of one special guest and her family.

On August 11th, New Jersey resident Amanda Kwai Pun returned to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada after being named last year’s prize recipient and was greeted to an overnight experience she’ll not soon forget. With the popular attraction closed to the public, Kwai Pun and her family of 12 enjoyed a behind the scenes tour, crafts, delectable treats catered by Daniel et Daniel, and bedtime stories for the little ones. Then they donned shark themed matching pajamas and slippers and hunkered down in their aquatic-themed beds to sleep under the sharks in the Dangerous Lagoon tunnel.

The next morning, the family enjoyed breakfast among the colourful array of tropical animals at Rainbow Reef. They were also treated to a private dive show by Aquarium staff who educated them on some of the 20,000 animals housed at the facility.

“Our overnight VIP sleepover was truly a one of a kind experience,” said Kwai Pun. “The staff at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada went over and above to see that our family was cared for and entertained. Material items will come and go, but memories from this experience will last a lifetime,” she said.

For more information and photos, please contact Lauren Chan at lchan@ripleys.com

Media Contact:
Lauren Chan
Manager of Marketing & Communications
Office: 647-351-3474 x 2631 | Cell: 647-632-7453

Welcome Home, Mr. Sandbar!

On Wednesday, November 8, 2018, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada welcomed its newest resident: a 6-foot-long, adult male sandbar shark!

But how did we get a 2-metre-long shark into the building, you might ask?

The same way all of our large animals get here. The answer involves a truck (with its own life support system etc.), a crane and the coordination and hard work of our entire husbandry team, in charge of animal care.

Prior to his arrival our sandbar shark was living at the Ripley’s Aquarium holding facility in Buffalo, New York. This facility is a fully-operational aquarium staffed by full-time aquarists (aquarists are aquarium biologists, the team responsible for feeding and caring for our animals), where our animals are cared for while they grow or undergo a period of quarantine before being transported to their final destination at one of our three aquariums.

On that momentous Wednesday, our sandbar shark was loaded from his habitat at the holding facility into a tank on the back of a special Ripley’s moving truck. This mobile tank was not only large enough for him to swim around in during transportation, but was also fully equipped with a life-support system, including huge cylindrical oxygen tanks. Sandbar sharks are obligate ram ventilators, meaning that they push oxygenated water through their mouths and over their gills via the action of swimming in order to breathe. So making sure that our sandbar shark had room to swim in his mobile tank for the duration of the drive from Buffalo to Toronto was important!

After a brief holdup in traffic on Spadina Avenue (have you ever heard of a shark stuck in traffic on Spadina before?), the truck carrying our shark arrived in the early afternoon. Almost our entire husbandry team, including our veterinarian, was on-site and waiting eagerly for his arrival.

When the truck backed into the loading dock at the back of the building, they sprang into action removing the lid and layers covering the shark’s tank. If you have owned a fish before you probably know that once they arrive home, you need to slowly introduce them to their new habitat. The same was done for our new sandbar shark, whereby water from the transport tank was slowly exchanged with water from our Dangerous Lagoon exhibit.

This process took nearly two hours, but when the time came to move him from the truck into the aquarium, the husbandry team had to act quickly.

The shark was safely secured into a body-length net, which was then lifted out of the water by a crane system built into the ceiling of the loading dock and husbandry hallway behind-the-scenes here at the aquarium. From the moment our shark left the water, the aquarists set timers to ensure that he wasn’t out for more than 1 minute. The husbandry team slowly guided him off of the truck and into a waiting mobile tank, already filled with water from the Dangerous Lagoon. He was out of the water for just over 30 seconds.

 

The new tank, now containing our shark, still in the full-body sling net, was secured to the crane system, and then it was off, being slowly guided down the hallway to the acclimation pool, which feeds directly into the Lagoon.

The timers started again as he was lifted out of the mobile tank, and into the acclimation pool. Still in his net, the team set about measuring his length and width, and our veterinarian worked to collect a blood sample.

As the team approached the fifteen-minute mark from the time the shark left the truck – the maximum amount of time our shark could stay in his net – everyone backed away and set him loose in the acclimation pool.

He swam around and around, getting his bearings, and then, just an hour later, watched by our husbandry team and guests alike, he swam out into the Dangerous Lagoon for the first time.

His arrival was met with curiosity from his new neighbours – his every move followed by our school of yellow snappers – but he was soon accepted into the fold, and our smaller male sandbar shark began to swim with him.

The husbandry team congratulated one another on a job well done, and our team from Buffalo got back on the road.

Since his arrival, our newest shark has done just swimmingly (pardon the pun) in his new environment. His journey might have been a long and exciting one, but now he’s home, and we couldn’t be happier.

Octo-berfest Under the Sea

September 14, 2017

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada celebrates annual festival with 19+ event

Grab your lederhosen and make your way down to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada for the first annual Octo-berfest party! On Thursday, September 28th, Canada’s largest indoor aquarium will play host to one of the unique Oktoberfest celebrations in the city.

Learn how to drink beer upside down with Mr. Oktoberfest himself, George Kash, and his band, the Oktoberfest Express. Enjoy authentic Bavarian foods like sausages, schnitzel, pretzels and strudel. Raise your stein and enjoy a selection of some of Ontario’s finest craft breweries including: Beau’s, Collective Arts Brewing, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, Niagara Oast House Brewers, Railway City Brewing Co., Sawdust City Brewing Co., Side Launch Brewing Company Inc., and Steam Whistle Brewing.

Octo-berfest is part of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s 5-part event series, SPLASH! and is for guests 19 years of age and older. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $28+ HST. Annual pass holders will receive a 50% discount on ticket sales.

For more information, visit https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/groupsevents/splash or call 647-351-FISH (3474).

Media contact:
Lauren Chan
647-351-3474 x 2631
lchan@ripleys.com