It’s just after 8 a.m., two hours before The Maritime Aquarium will open its doors to visitors and several school groups on field trips. But much is happening.
Members of the animal-husbandry department already have been in for an hour (or more) to get the Aquarium ready for the day. Here’s a sampling of the activity:
8:15 a.m. – Up in the third-floor “fish kitchen,” interns Daniel Delgado and Karen Echeverria are preparing food for the Aquarium’s fish, seals, otters and other marine animals. They have pulled a large container of capelin – a small fish that the Aquarium purchases by the ton – out of the walk-in freezer. They discard any fish that looks bruised or damaged; weigh out good ones for the seals; and filet and chop up others to be fed to many of the Aquarium's displayed fish.
8:37 a.m. – Down the hall, aquarist Mark Wagner is going to feed the sand tiger sharks from the room above the Aquarium’s 110,000-gallon “Ocean Beyond the Sound” exhibit. He needs to make sure that each shark gets a meal. One at a time, he attaches a fish to the end of a long pole and offers it to each shark. Some snatch the fish with barely a tug; others snap it off in a violent thrashing.
8:58 a.m. – Aquarist Rachel Stein is in the jellyfish nursery, where the Aquarium’s year-round supply of jellies are cultured. She preps a bucket that looks to be full of a reddish-brown tea. But it’s not tea, it’s a rich concentration of brine shrimp, which the aquarists hatch each day to feed to the smaller, filter-feeding creatures on exhibit. She uses a turkey baster to squirt a sampling of shrimp into all the jelly containers.
9:02 a.m. – Wagner has moved downstairs to the Shark & Ray Touch Pool, where he and staff veterinarian Dr. Barbara Mangold are planning a ray health screening. Wagner is setting up a small isolation tank and puts a “relaxation” agent into the water, which will quiet the rays and make examination easier.
9:17 a.m. – The first ray has been netted and is relaxed. Wagner holds its fins while Mangold collects small samples of skin and gill, which she will examine under a microscope up in the animal-husbandry lab. Several more will be swabbed over the next 20 minutes.
9:28 a.m. – Delgado, the intern, and Aquarist Vicki Sawyer are working with the harbor seals. The seals get a breakfast feeding and also practice a new skill: trying to differentiate between square and round shapes.
9:34 a.m. – Aquarist Sandi Schaefer is in a support room behind the “Watershed” gallery, checking in on some new arrivals: red-eyed tree frogs for the “Frogs!” exhibit. They get a breakfast of crickets.
9:47 a.m. – Sawyer heads up to the awaken the river otters (who spend the night backstage) and move them into their exhibit. Lou is ready to go. Bell needs a nudge.
9:50 a.m.– Aquarist Evelia Rivera calls the meerkats into a backstage support room. She now can go into the “Meerkats” exhibit to tidy and restage their environment. (Each day, the aquarists change and move items in the exhibit, to keep the meerkats engaged.)
10 a.m. – The Maritime Aquarium is ready for visitors. But the animal-husbandry department’s work is not done. Water quality will be monitored, more food will be prepped in the “fish kitchen,” and more animals will be fed throughout the day.
(Learn more about the Aquarium's operations in a "Behind-the-Scenes Tour" on Sat., April 20 beginning at 8:15 a.m. Tickets are $25 or $22.50 for Aquarium members. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Go to www.maritimeaquarium.org and click on "Buy Tickets" at the top of the page, or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.)