Special Feature – Aquariums of North America
Join Lawrence Gunther, President of Blue Fish Canada and Host of the Blue Fish Radio show, as he visits aquariums throughout North America. This unique initiative goes behind the super-think glass and the thousands of gallons of water playing host to all manner of aquatic species. A behind-the-scene exploration of spaces and people doing amazing things to empower the future stewards of the world.
The Aquariums of North America feature showcases the mega-sized public displays that cost millions to build and require maintenance crews using SCUBA to clean. Aquariums that do more than entertain guests, in that they strive to recreate aquatic ecosystems in their full glory.
North America’s aquariums are making significant investments so people can both witness and experience the mysterious underwater world that we can only imagine when looking down from the decks of ships or bridges. A world that is surprisingly more diverse than that which we live in above water, and far, far larger in size. And a world that is in need of and deserving of protection.
Many of the more famous public aquariums in North America have been around for decades and yet don’t seem to be losing their public appeal. In fact, new aquariums are springing up everywhere as for-profit businesses. We at Blue Fish Canada wanted to find out what keeps these aquariums relevant and why interest in such exhibits is growing.
Surely, the variety of underwater documentaries and TV specials that Jacques Cousteau first made popular offer more than ample film footage to satisfy most people’s curiosity. So what is it that has people turning off their TV’s and tablets and visiting aquariums in ever-increasing numbers?
In researching and planning the Aquariums of North America special, we were acutely aware of the debate surrounding the welfare of some animals, particularly cetaceans, in captivity. With so many opinions already floating around on this topic, we wanted to take a different approach.
The aquariums Lawrence is visiting focus first-and-foremost on educating the public. Their methodologies include simple displays with information plaques, live presentations and video, and hands-on interactive displays intended to go beyond observation by providing a more multi-sensory experience. Other secondary program offerings often include behind-the-scenes tours, overnight experiences, meet-and-greets with leading scientists, participation in feeding sessions, excursions on boats, and the opportunity to volunteer or apprentice. The internet as a means of following up with support for past visitors interested in learning and doing more is also becoming a key component of most aquarium visits.
Some might argue that the very popular interactive exhibits exploit animals and other life forms, and these exhibits, along with the other secondary programs, are solely intended to give a bump to the numbers of people passing through their turnstiles. But if this is the case, then one also need ask, why? For the most part, these aquariums are not-for-profit organizations.
As a person without sight, Lawrence is one of the first to attest to the value of interactive exhibits. Simply pressing your nose up against the think glass of an aquarium leaves everyone feeling somewhat unfulfilled. The need to maintain our connection with nature can only be established and maintained when all the human senses are engaged–not just the sense of sight. Like babies, everyone has a deep-seeded need to explore the world with ones hands, mouths, ears, noses, and eyes. It’s how one establishes a real connection with the object being investigated. The aquariums Lawrence visits get this, and are leaders in the world in offering the public multi-sensory, four-dimension, full immersion (both figuratively and literally), emotionally engaging experiences.
Lawrence has already visited close to a dozen aquariums throughout Canada and the United States, and the number continues to grow. While there is some overlap in the sorts of educational displays offered by different aquariums, their ample differences made it easy to focus his attention on unique subjects relevant to each aquarium’s geographic location. What he learned may both surprise and impress you.
Links to live Blue Fish Radio recordings of Lawrence’s visits and interviews with aquarium staff can be found on www.bluefishradio.com and iTunes.
There’s no shortage of interesting topics covered: habitat protection and conservation, volunteer programs, environmental sustainability, field research and observation, rescue and rehabilitation, education and awareness, stakeholder engagement, heartbreak and success, and so much more. Each Blue Fish Radio Aquariums of North America episode is engaging, different, informative, loaded with surprises, and fun. Included is an interview with an expert from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) during which Lawrence and his guest discuss the evolution of aquariums, the Association’s accreditation role, and what the future holds in store.
Please join Lawrence on this journey of discovery and illumination. You won’t be disappointed. As someone who sees the world through his ears, Lawrence has a pretty good idea of what makes for good radio.