by | Dec 22, 2021 | 0 comments

Public Aquariums: More than just a fun day out?

Everyone knows that public aquariums are fun, but did you know that many of them also play important roles in conservation and research? OGL partners with public aquariums around the country to help discover and preserve the genomic diversity of the ocean.

Since August 2019, OGL has been working with Jessica Newell and the Downtown Aquarium located in Denver, Colorado. With Newell’s help, OGL has added many new and fascinating species to its collection, including the Potbelly seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis), Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus), and Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus). We recently had the opportunity to interview Newell and learn more about the Downtown Aquarium, and her role as the Assistant Curator of Fishes, Inverts, and Herps.

Left: Potbelly seahorses (Hippocampus abdominalis), photo credit Elizabeth Haslam; right: Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus), photo credit Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble.

As Assistant Curator, Newell supervises the Aquarium’s team of ten biologists and manages the daily check-ins and care of the animals. The Aquarium provides a home for animals that are endangered or critically endangered, including green sawfish—one of Newell’s personal favorite species—painted terrapin turtles, and zebra sharks. Aquariums play a role in these species’ survival. According to Newell, “Many animals near the brink of extinction have had population numbers come back as direct results of conservation programs and commitments from the animal care field.”

In addition to creating a safe habitat for animals, Newell explains how aquariums play a key role in conservation education and environmental outreach. “Aquariums provide safe places for people to learn about and gain appreciation for animals they’d never have the chance to encounter,” she says. “Additionally, zoos and aquariums collectively donated millions [of dollars] and time for research and conservation efforts globally…many aquariums provide education on a local and individual scale for people to take away as a message.” These efforts focus on plastic pollution, recycling practices, sunscreen damage to coral reefs, and bioaccumulation within human food.

Left: Green sawfish (Pristis zijsron), photo credit Flavia Brandi; right: Zebra shark (Stegostoma tigrinum), photo credit Ross D. Robertson.

Newell adds, “Collaborating with OGL allows us to be a part of the bigger picture of animal research and conservation efforts. Many animals would not continue to exist in the ‘wild’ without the conservation efforts and educational opportunities zoos and aquariums offer.” The Downtown Aquarium, Denver and OGL are united by the common objective of contributing to environmental preservation and research. By working together, these organizations will not only expand their impact, but also further achieve this goal.

Thank you to Jessica Newell and the Downtown Aquarium, Denver for all of your work with OGL! The next time you are in Denver, Colorado, be sure to stop by the Downtown Aquarium.

Click here to learn more about the Downtown Aquarium, Denver!

Click here to learn more about the Association of Zoos and Aquariums!

Interested in contributing to the preservation of biological material? Support OGL here.


The Wacky Underwater World 

What animal lives more than 250 years but never eats a thing? If you guessed the deep-sea tubeworm Escarpia laminata, you would be correct—and also probably a deep-sea biologist!   Escarpia laminata lives near deep-sea cold seeps, places where methane...

OGL publishes a new paper—about itself!

Have you ever wondered what goes on at the Ocean Genome Legacy Center? If so, you are not alone.   We frequently receive questions such as: Who can use OGL’s collections? What is in them? Where do the samples come from? How do I contact and work with OGL? To answer...

Nightmare fuel from the sea

It is Halloween again, and time for us to dress up and terrify our neighbors! Let’s look at the winners of this year’s spookiest creatures of the deep blue sea! Second place—Chondrocladia verticillata What if SpongeBob developed a taste for fresh meat? The answer is...

Meet OGL’s new faces—and their new projects!

This month, OGL is welcoming a new postdoctoral fellow and two new co-op students! Did you know that some bacteria stab their competitors with poison darts? In her PhD research at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Lauren Speare showed how glowing symbionts use this strategy to...