Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Earlier this summer the Aquarium added an awesome new feature to our largest display aquarium in the building. We added skylights to the Tropical Pacific Gallery!
Behind the scenes, the aquarists like to call this gallery “Trop Reef”. It is not, of course, a true reef, since there’s no live coral on exhibit. However, with the coral replicas and all the amazing creatures swimming around, it certainly looks like a true tropical reef!
Especially now that the skylights have been added. If you haven’t seen the exhibit after the renovation, you are in for a treat. The skylights add a gorgeous effect of “glitter lines”. Glitter lines are those squiggly lines of light that drift across sea floors and across all the rocks and coral in the ocean. You may have seen them in some private aquariums that your friends or family have.
These glitter lines require very strong lighting to create the effect. Fortunately, with the skylights, we have access to the brightest light around - the sun! I really enjoy taking a stroll through the Tropical Pacific Gallery in the morning when I arrive for my volunteering shift. I love watching the sharks and rays swim in and out of the shafts of morning sunlight. It’s like snorkeling without getting wet! :-)
There is some work associated with these skylights though. With all the energy that sunlight adds to our water, algae blooms very quickly. We have had to increase the number of cleaning shifts for the divers, in order to keep the algae growth under control.
We also have some fish friends to help maintain the algae growth. There are dozens of Blue Tangs (Paracanthurus hepatus) swimming around that absolutely love to eat algae. In fact, in their natural environment, they help keep the algae growth in reefs under control. That is a very important role for them in the ocean. If they weren’t there eating the algae, the algae could easily take over a coral reef and kill off all the coral and many of the related animals that live there. That’s something that’s always important to remember - every animal on this planet has a purpose. It’s up to us to discover what that purpose is, so that we can continue to enjoy them, and try not to hinder their purpose in the world.
I hope you get a chance to come by and see how the exhibit looks now. It looks great and I think you’ll really enjoy it. And the more we enjoy watching and learning about these animals, the better we can impact their environment. There’s just one Earth, and we’ve all got to enjoy it together! I’ll see you around Trop Reef on Saturday :-)
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