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Fly on the Wall 

June 5, 2008

Live rock installed in California Coast exhibit

It’s not easy to carry around a box of rocks – ever tried it? – but it’s all in a day’s work for Academy biologists. Having recently collected some live rock (below, left) to incorporate into the 100,000 gallon California Coast tank, the biologists began installing it this week. The “live” in “live rock” refers to the living bacteria, algae, snails, limpets, and other critters that make the rocks their home. By adding these to the tank now, they hope that in time, the living organisms will naturally spread and begin growing on other rocks, adding another dimension to the tank, which is modeled after the habitat of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

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To move the heavy blue box of rocks from the loading dock to the tank area, they used a pallet jack (like a mini-forklift). Then, a few at a time, they were slowly lowered down to the tank floor in the orange bucket seen above, where a diver was waiting to unload and place them throughout the exhibit.

Filed under: Aquarium — Helen @ 4:34 pm

May 15, 2008

Life in the Lagoon

Curious about how the Lagoon’s new inhabitants are faring? Diego, an 80-pound green sea turtle, joined the blacktip reef sharks and rays in the Lagoon about three weeks ago and it took a little while for the other animals to get to know the “new guy.”

Diego’s caretakers say he’s a bit like a big lumbering puppy – curious about everything. At first, when Diego would swim toward the rays, they tended to scatter out of the way (eighty pounds of innocent curiosity might startle you too!). But now that they’ve spent a few weeks together, the rays have grown used to having Diego around and are not so surprised by his neighborly visits.

For a closer look at how the Lagoon’s residents and research collections are making their way to Golden Gate Park, check out this recent QUEST radio story, accompanied by a great slideshow:

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 9:23 am

May 8, 2008

Penguins test their new tank

On Tuesday, penguins Dunker and Pete took a first look at their new digs in Golden Gate Park. Pam Schaller, one of our senior aquatic biologists, took the two young African penguins over to the new Academy to observe their reactions to the new space. She watched to see how they navigated the nooks and crannies in the rockwork, and how they entered and exited the 25,000-gallon tank.


Pam donned a wetsuit and stationed herself in the chilly 50-degree water, encouraging the birds to take a dip. After some brief hesitation, they jumped right in. The trial run was deemed a success and afterward, Dunker and Pete headed back to Howard Street, where they and the rest of the colony are still living. Once the new exhibit is completely ready in African Hall, the entire colony will move together. Be the first to know when new updates are posted by subscribing to our RSS feed.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 4:05 pm

April 24, 2008

New creatures in the Lagoon

The rays in the Lagoon were recently joined by three black tipped reef sharks and Diego, an 80-pound green sea turtle. The female sharks, each about 3 feet long, were quite cooperative through the 2+ hour transfer process. Upon arrival, one shark needed some extra time to adjust to the water in the new tank, but after some coaxing from aquarium curator Bart Shepherd, her energy picked right up. A few photos from the shark move:
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When Diego arrived at the Lagoon two days later (via a mini-forklift ride from the loading dock) the sharks zipped around the Lagoon for a few minutes, not knowing quite what to make of their new tank-mate. They soon settled down, and all are now “co-habitating” comfortably.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 2:48 pm

April 17, 2008

Coral eye candy

The diversity of life in coral reefs is stunning to say the least. This sampling of species from within the Academy’s coral rearing pods is a taste of what’s to come in the 212,000 gallon Philippine coral reef tank at the new Academy…


The Academy chose to feature a Philippine coral reef because the reef systems in the Philippines are among the most diverse in the world. Despite their global importance, most people on the planet have never seen a living reef. Here’s another creative project bringing coral reefs to people’s attention.

Filed under: Aquarium — Helen @ 11:11 am

April 11, 2008

Rays settle in

The shallow Lagoon which borders the coral reef tank received its first inhabitants this week – ten rays which are now happily cruising the sandy floor. Seven cownose rays traveled first, followed by two blue spot rays and a honeycomb ray in the second trip. The barbs at the end of their tails certainly kept the biologists on their toes!

A ray’s skin is very delicate, so to protect them and facilitate the transport, Academy biologists carefully coaxed each ray into a soft plastic bag. While en-route to Golden Gate Park in a 300-gallon truck-mounted tank, they were monitored by the Academy’s veterinarian and aquatic biologists. Upon arrival, wetsuit-clad biologists introduced them to the Lagoon, and now they’re swimming around like they own the place.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 5:06 pm

April 3, 2008

Moving coral by hand

Piece by piece, Steinhart Aquarium biologists are carefully transporting live coral colonies from “coral rearing pods” at Howard Street over to the 25-foot deep Philippine coral reef tank at the new California Academy of Sciences. Each of the rearing pods holds up to 16 square feet of live coral, which have been growing on-site for more than two years now.

They are kept comfortable during the journey in reusable coolers, and hustled over to the new tank as quickly as possible. Including the corals above which made the trip on Wednesday, just over 30 colonies have been moved so far. Watch the first coral get installed.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 2:07 pm
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