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Aquarium of the Pacific Offers Virtual Tours and Activities

BY LAURIE HANSON • November 7, 2020

Whether for remote learning or to simply brighten pandemic days, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach offers live on-demand content and more to a world-wide audience.   

“We wanted to continue to serve our community, and that community has grown as we have people tuning in from all over the world,” said Education Supervisor James Stewart.

Dedicated to ocean conservation education since opening their doors 22 years ago, the Aquarium wanted to make sure their mission did not change even with being closed due to safer at home orders. They quickly came up with the Online Academy.

 

EDUCATION SUPERVISOR James Stewart talks about sharks at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. The public can now view many exhibits online 24 hours, 7 days a week through their webcams as well as take part in active learning with their Online Academy.

 

 

“All you need is a computer or mobile device that can access our website and you can hang out with our animals wherever you may be,” said Stewart. “Many of our programs involve showing off our live exhibit webcams across some of our largest or most popular spaces.  Audiences are able to tune in any time they would like to watch select exhibits.”

Many exhibits including their more popular ones are now viewable 24 hours a day.

“When the Aquarium first closed due to the pandemic we didn’t want to stop connecting with people,” he added. “Many of our virtual programs were already in place at the time of our closure, and our staff were able to shift into a full spectrum of virtual and online programming.”

Their live Online Academy classes air Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Each is developed to provide at-home learners engaging and fun scientific content. Students can send questions to the educator for live on air answers or to another in studio educator to address. The Aquarium even has a news program through their Pacific Pals Show called The Daily Bubble, which updates viewers with current Aquarium events while teaching about interesting animals along the way.

“We will continue to offer our Online Academy with new and different programming as our online community grows and we discover more of what content they would like to see,” Stewart said.

Through the Online Academy calendar, viewers can check our different events. It is accessible through the Aquarium’s website with links to upcoming events and their YouTube channel where all previously aired content is archived. Recorded classes that have already aired live along with a video series on STEM careers for 6th to 12th grade students called Career Connections are also available.

“Our guest speaker series contains archived videos of lectures from scientists, researchers, writers, reporters, artists, and other experts,” explained Stewart. “We also host ongoing lectures, and if you cannot watch them live, they will still be available in our guest speaker series archives.”

 

FLOYD THE PENGUIN swimming and viewable online from the Aquarium of the Pacific by the outside world online via an underwater webcam.

 

 

An adult learner-based series called the Aquatic Academy also offers leading expert discussions on topics ranging from climate change to rising sea levels, extreme weather, and California water resources. New this year are Virtual Festivals, where virtual formats are featured about Southern California’s diverse communities and their connections with the ocean and environment. There is even an environmental food sustainability web series called “Ocean to Table: Stories of Food, Farming, and Conservation” offered in the Aquarium’s Seafood for the Future program.

Besides their online programming, the Aquarium has several ongoing joint conservancy programs with other agencies and universities to improve the viability of ocean ecosystems locally and globally. The White Abalone Recovery Program is one such project that where they have been working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For the last 11 years, they have sought to increase the white abalone’s numbers. The abalone are initially raised at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, then are populated along the Southern California coast.

Another successful joint effort with Cal State Northridge involves raising and releasing juvenile giant sea bass back into the ocean. To help monitor giant sea bass in the

ocean, the Aquarium is also working with the Benioff Ocean Initiative and researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara to gather valuable data on the species. Spotting Giant Sea Bass has a web application where the public can submit photos of their encounters in the wild with giant sea bass.

“The website uses pattern recognition software to identify and track individual fish based off of their unique spot patterns,” explained Stewart.

The Aquarium’s veterinarian team is also hard at work rehabilitating and releasing injured sea turtles and monitoring green sea turtles in the San Gabriel River.  A community of volunteer

scientists collect data which is used by the Aquarium, NOAA, and the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority to study turtle river and wetlands populations.

Another study involves one of the largest species on the planet, the blue whale. In cooperation with Cascadia Research Collective and Harbor Breeze Cruises, data is collected about the whales and dolphins through photo identification as they are sighted on public whale watches. This study has been ongoing for the last 10 years.

“It provides researchers with information crucial in learning more about whale migrations and population sizes along the California Bight,” Steward explained. “By collecting data on them, researchers may learn how their recovery from whaling is going, and where we can continue to improve conservation efforts.”

The Aquarium of the Pacific is currently open for admissions only. Animal encounters where guests meet experts to learn about exhibit care is also open. A timed ticket or online reservation made before arrival is required of all guests. Other safety measures include temperature checks and face coverings required for all visitors ages 2 and older. Hand sanitizing stations are provided throughout and near animal touch labs. For further information about safety measures, admission costs, the Online Academy and ongoing conservancy projects, please visit online at www.aquariumofpacific.org.

 

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