Happy National Zookeeper Appreciation Week! Even though we’re not a zoo here at The Maritime Aquarium, we have a phenomenal group of aquarists and animal trainers who have dedicated themselves to caring for all the residents of the Aquarium. We think they deserve some appreciation, too!

Throughout this week, meet many of the members of our team who work mostly behind the scenes. They prep the exhibits before our guests arrive, keep the animals fed and provide their care, keep them engaged with enrichments and so much more!

Learn more about how they got their start working with animals, their favorite animals from the Aquarium and lots more throughout the week! Check back every day this week for a new aquarist or trainer spotlight.

Vicki Sawyer practices targeting with one of our harbor seals.

Today, meet animal trainer Vicki Sawyer! 

What lead you to choose a career working with animals?

It was always my dream to work with marine animals ever since I can remember.  As soon as I met Susie and Tillie over twenty-five years ago, I knew that if I worked hard enough, that one day I could be their trainer.  It is an earned privilege for us to work with these beautiful animals very day – something that I cherish each and every time I go out to do a seal show. 

What is your typical day at the Aquarium like?

We have our chores that have to get done every day such as cleaning and scrubbing their exhibits, testing their water, preparing their food and keeping accurate records on their food intake, behavior and medical needs.  It’s a very busy day and we are always on the go. The fun part is spending quality time with them during feeding and training sessions. All the aquarists have a very close relationship with their animals and put the care and welfare of the animals first and foremost.  It means a lot to us when we are able to create a strong bond between our animals and our guests.

What is our favorite exhibit or animal?

It’s hard to chose – we have had so many exhibits over the years.  Working with the African penguins was amazing and taking care of Egyptian fruit bats was a blast!  Every time we get a new exhibit we need to research that animal and network with other keepers from other institutions to provide excellent care.  Definitely my favorite time here has been working with the seals and otters.  They bring joy to so many people and are full of so much fun and energy.

Do you have a favorite memory working with an animal or exhibit?

I have so many special memories of all the animals I have worked with over the years, but my favorite memory is of an unexpected event that happened during a seal feeding on a hot day in August.  A young female deer jumped into the seal tank during the 1:45 feeding!  (Watch the video here!) She was very calm as she swam in the outside area of the seal pool (our seals were hiding in the inside part of the tank watching her).  Staff members from every department came down to help with the rescue.  Our animal care staff kept her calm as they raised the water level of the tank and our education staff kept our visitors informed of our efforts. As the deer came over to an open gate, an aquarist reached in and helped her out with swoop of his arm. The deer climbed out the tank, shook herself off and swam quickly back across the river again. The crowd cheered!  A great team effort by all!  The video of the event went viral and even made it on national TV. Who knew deer could swim so well!

If you could work with one animal what would it be?

I would love have an opportunity to work with elephants.  They are magnificent animals which I admire greatly.  I would love to work in an elephant sanctuary or orphanage – that is Number One on my Bucket List!

Tune in tomorrow for our next keeper spotlight!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lew Crew!

Blue or orange, Lew?

Our Jr. Marine Biologist 2 camp is all about experimental design and research projects.

A group of campers were curious to know if Lew, our river otter, has a color preference when it comes to his enrichment toys. 

They  decided to give him two identical football toys to test out and supplemented them with grape tomatoes, which are one  of his favorite snack foods.

Our otter trainer, Vicki, put them in his exhibit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the experimental trials while the campers noted the results.

So which color does Lew prefer? Blue!

 

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our sea ravens have laid eggs, and they’re starting to hatch!

 

 

If you look closely, you can see some of the fish still inside the eggs. Those little black spots? Those are their eyes!

 

 

Once they hatch, an aquarist will transfer them into the second holding tank. We're holding the eggs behind schooling tank behind the scenes.

 

 

It’s normal for them to lie on their side on the floor of the tank. Swimming expends a lot of energy for the baby fish, and if they move too much, they won’t survive. Here they are all grown up!

We’ll keeping them behind the scenes until they’re big enough and strong enough to go on exhibit.

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for more looks behind the scenes! In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Take a look inside our most popular camp program: Junior Marine Biologist!

JMB, as we call it around here, runs for five sessions over the summer at the Aquarium.

During JMB 1 and 2, campers enter the inner workings of the Aquarium. Over the course of the week, they maintain a group aquarium with live animals. They monitor the water quality, grow brine shrimp to feed their animals, do dissections and use microscopes to explore the hidden world of Long Island Sound.

Interested in our camp programs? Learn all about them on our website! Continue reading

Posted in animals, Conservation, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maritime Aquarium President and CEO Jennifer Herring with her husband Fernand Brunschwig.

In December, Jennifer Herring, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium, announced she will retire in 2014. She has served in that position for 10 of the Aquarium’s 25-year history and, in that time, has come a wealth of unique experiences and memories.

As a reflection on her many years with the institution, Jennifer has compiled her favorite memories of the Aquarium – 10 memories for 10 years – to share with our visitors and fans. Over the next few months, we’ll share her thoughts on how the Aquarium has changed and grown under her care.

Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here.

President and CEO Jennifer Herring:

With only one more year to go before I retire, I am moved to reflect on my best experiences with the organization.  Interestingly, I began learning about the institution with “best experience” stories from staff, volunteers, Trustees and the community in a wonderful strategic-planning process based on the Appreciative Inquiry organizational change theories.  Here are the first two of my 10 “best experience” stories – 10 stories for 10 years on the job.

#7 Thinc-ing Outside the Box

Open Ocean shark tank exhibit.

After the strategic plan was completed, we embarked on a master plan for the exhibits and the facility. We wanted to have the best exhibit design firm help us develop our master plan, and we interviewed many.  Before deciding, a team of senior staff and Trustees went on the road to see their work “in person” and meet with colleagues who had worked with them.  Not surprisingly, this quest led to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium, but it also took us to places like the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.  We visited eight institutions and were most impressed by the innovative temporary exhibits in a warehouse that Thinc Design had created for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.   So we hired them!

#8 Connecting Over the Sea

Long Island Sound.

Meanwhile, I was really enjoying getting to know the people who had founded the Aquarium and who were in a position to help us realize our vision for its future.  One of the most interesting was William Ziegler.  By the time I met him, Bill was in declining health, but his passion for the Sound and his quiet, dry humor were still in evidence.  One of my most moving experiences with him was a visit to his home, shortly before he died.  He was sitting in his bedroom, which had a balcony with a spectacular view of Long Island Sound.  I asked him if I could sing him a song my father had composed – a setting of the John Masefield poem Sea Fever.  He nodded, and then listened deeply as the words of longing for the sea filled the room. When I was finished, he told me this was one of his favorite poems.  He was a passionate sailor and loved the sea.

What is your “best experience” story about the Aquarium?  Share it on our Facebook page!

Check back with our blog or sign up for updates for the next installment of this series. In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr.

Posted in Conservation, education, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
It was an exciting weekend for our meerkats! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since the six siblings were born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah before making their way to The Maritime Aquarium.

 What kind of birthday would it be without some cake? Our Aquarium staff created a special cricket cake for the fiesty little meerkats to enjoy.

Watch them with their birthday-themed enrichment here:

Miss their birthday celebration? You can see what they’re up to right now on our live meerkat webcam.

Posted in animals | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

So The Maritime Aquarium is coming up on an anniversary. Two, actually.

We turn 26 next month. (On July 16. Yay!) And next week, on Tuesday, we’ll mark the 18th anniversary of being The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

Wait. What? We’re turning 26 but the Aquarium is only 18?

To explain: we opened in 1988 with the name The Maritime Center at Norwalk. But, in 1996, a decision was made to change our name to The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

Changing one’s name is a big thing for any business; not to be done lightly. We did it for several reasons. First, we primarily are an aquarium and not so much a maritime-history museum, so our name should reflect that. (Plus, more people visit aquariums than they do maritime-history museums, so we definitely wanted to distinguish ourselves as the former.)

Also, at the time, our original name created confusion between us and other regional businesses: a marina in Greenwich and an office building in New Haven, both also named “Maritime Center.”

We tested and polled and surveyed to see what people thought, before deciding to change just one word and to call ourselves The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. (We adopted our seal logo at the same time as the name change.)

What do you call us? We find that what you call us can indicate how long you’ve lived in the area. It’s not uncommon for folks who have lived in the Norwalk area for 20+ years to still refer to us as The Maritime Center. (We’ve been The Maritime Aquarium more than twice as long as we were The Maritime Center. But change is obviously harder for some than others.) If you’re newer to the area, you probably properly call us The Maritime Aquarium. Then again, recently we found a reference to us in a local newspaper that called us The Maritime Museum. We were never that!

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” Romeo and Juliet believed that true love was far more important than the lovers’ last names and family histories. But for businesses, the right name is critical – even more so today in the digital age when “keywords” and “search engine optimizations” can drive success far beyond what a bold-faced listing in the Yellow Pages ever could.

So says The Maritime Aquarium. Maritime Aquarium.

 

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Share your lorikeet photos and win one of eight packs of eight tickets to the Aquarium!

Do you love our colorful lorikeets? Help us capture our last summer with our feathered friends! Post your favorite photos with the lorikeets to Instagram with #TweetKeet for a chance to win an eight-pack of tickets to the Aquarium. The birds, and this contest, take flight on Labor Day weekend, so submit your pictures before Sept., 1. [Official Rules]

How to enter:

1. Set your Instagram profile to public and follow The Maritime Aquarium.
2. Take a photo inspired by our lorikeets and tag with with #TweetKeet.

Posted in animals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning up the seal habitat after Susie left behind a LOT of fur!

Think your dog sheds a lot? Just take a look how much fur Susie left behind after a morning hauled out on the rocks in her exhibit!

If you see our seals look a bit patchy lately, don’t be alarmed; they’re just molting!

Molting is a process that is import for seals’ thermoregulation — meaning how they maintain a core body temperature during warm and cold weather — once the hot summer months come around.

It isn’t their fur that keeps seals warm, it’s that their bodies secrete oils that protect and insulate their coats. Since they live in a region where they don’t need to keep warm in the winter, they molt to shed their coat in patches.

The harbor seals at The Maritime Aquarium go through the molting process once a year, and it usually occurs after breeding season.  Since our guests can see the physical signs of molting, our animal trainers explain the details and importance of their molt during our daily seal shows.

Molting puts a drain on their energy, so expect the seals to spend a bit more time resting the rocks during while they’re molting. The sun also warms their skins, which aids in the fur falling out. In the wild, seals typically molt  for 1-2 months. At the Aquarium, our seven seals molt from June – September, and it usually only takes a week or two.

Susie hauled out on the rocks showing off some of her bare spots during her molt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want more from behind the scenes of the Aquarium? Check back with our blog or sign up for updates straight to your inbox. In the meantime, you can stay up to date with us from every corner of the web. You’ll find us happily posting, pinning and tweeting away on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

Posted in animals, Long Island Sound, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

"Is this what I really look like?"

It’s official: Summer is here! And how do we welcome the season here at The Maritime Aquarium? Watermelons, of course.

Our interns were hard at work last week carving summertime and animal-themed watermelons to place into exhibits around the aquarium. Changing up the animals’ habits (like the time we put pumpkins in the meerkat exhibit) by giving them something new to interact with is a fun way to keep them engaged and active.

Not only are enrichments good for the physical health of the animals, they are critical for their mental well-being, too.

If you missed seeing the watermelons in the exhibits last weekend, check out the gallery of photos from the interns and staff below! Continue reading

Posted in animals, Marine Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment