National Aquarium celebrates 30 years

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Last September, the National Aquarium officially unveiled the National Aquarium Conservation Center and kicked off its celebration of the Baltimore venue’s 30th anniversary year.

The Conservation Center is the next stage in the National Aquarium’s growth from a successful attraction with conservation as its primary message, to a nationally-recognized and respected conservation institute that measures success in how it impacts people and the environment.

“Since opening in 1981, the National Aquarium has evolved from being one iconic building in Baltimore to an institute, with conservation at its core, that operates two exciting attractions and serves as a dynamic education resource,” said Dave Pittenger, the aquarium’s executive director.

“We have a rich history of conservation initiatives on the Chesapeake Bay, around the world in places like Bahamas and Costa Rica, and through our Marine Animal Rescue Program. And now this Conservation Center will build upon our strong legacy of service to the environment.”

Global effort

Through pioneering science and partnerships with like-minded organizations, the National Aquarium Conservation Center will focus its efforts on the protection of aquatic ecosystems worldwide through scientific research, education and advocacy.

The National Aquarium Conservation Center will also be a voice and advocate for work the aquarium already has underway, including long-term initiatives to protect coral reefs, to control lion fish proliferation, and to restore Chesapeake Bay wetlands and shoreline.

“This research and advocacy entity gives the National Aquarium another means to tackle pressing issues that impact the aquatic environment, and to advance as a global conservation center of excellence for marine conservation,” explained Dr. Erik Rifkin, the center’s interim director.

“In just one year we have established solid partnerships with like-minded organizations and already have several exciting research studies underway.”

The initial emphasis of the National Aquarium Conservation Center includes coastal ecosystems and watershed health, ocean health, environmental advocacy and ecological aquaculture. Some of this work is already underway. 

For example, the Conservation Center is leading several research initiatives that will increase understanding of mercury levels in wild and captive dolphins, quantify sediment contaminant in the Baltimore Harbor, protect spotted eagle rays, and promote the future of aquaculture.

 “Human impact on the world’s ecosystems is profound.  As habitats are destroyed or degraded, the diversity of species and the complex relationships among them are threatened, with consequences for all living things — including humans,” said Bill Roberts, chair of the National Aquarium Institute board.

“Zoos and aquariums have both the capacity and the responsibility not to simply increase public awareness of conservation issues but to take action. The National Aquarium is ready to do more.”

Celebrate with the aquarium

In celebration of the National Aquarium’s first 30 years, a four-day festival is planned from August 5 to 8. This family-friendly celebration will feature entertainment for everyone, including music, character appearances, zumba dance instruction and more.

Hours for the celebration are from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday, August 5 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, Sunday, August 7 and Monday, August 8. For more details, visit www.aqua.org.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to be an oceanographer or a fish expert to volunteer with the National Aquarium. Volunteers are an integral part of the aquarium’s day-to-day operations.

Onsite volunteer opportunities include information specialists, exhibit guides, certified divers and even office assistants. For more information, visit http://www.aqua.org/volunteer.html.