Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two young Pacific Halibut join the Ucluelet Aquarium's 2013 collection!

The 2013 season started off with a bang!  Hundreds of visitors passed through the coast for the annual Pacific Rim Whale Fest.  The Ucluelet Aquarium hosted a number of talks during the festival with great turnouts to each one.  
Whale fest talk by VIU researcher Dr.  Jane Watson on Sea Otters in the Ucluelet Aquarium

We have new species this year which are 1st time collections for the Ucluelet Aquarium.  Two young Pacific Halibut are roving the Ucluelet Aquarium's Great Tide Pool.  The 18" and 20" specimens were donated two weeks ago by Rodney Hsu and Big Bear Salmon Charters who caught the species near Long beach.
  Like all flatfishes, halibut species are laterally compressed.  This means their body is flattened from the side (imagine lying on your side and having a steam roller turn you into a pancake).  There are two main classifications of flatfishes, the Pacific halibut falls into the Pleuronectidae family, which typically has right-eyed flatfishes.
  When a Pacific halibut hatches from its egg, it has a similar body structure to many other fishes.  As it develops, the bones in its face develop at different rates, causing the eye on the left side to become pushed out and migrate across the head to the right side.  This allows the halibut to lie on its side, blending perfectly with the substrate, while still watching with both eyes for predators and prey.

Also new to the Ucluelet Aquarium are our summer staff!!  We have Marlie, returning for another season; Jessica, who volunteered with us last year; and Andrew and Carly, who're joining us from Bamfield.  

Marlie and Carly... cleaning and helping in the ukee aqua.

These 4 new and returning faces have been helping us care for our new species, which were collected during the beginning weeks of March, and will stay with us till next fall.  Check back around September to find out when our Release Days will be!

Felix - our little "pentapus" out of his cave and looking relaxed

  We of course have a large Giant Pacific octopus, but we're lucky to have a second GPO which was caught accidentally in a lingcod trap.  When he originally arrived here he had lost three of his arms.  Over the last month he's been healing up well, eating regularly and has lately begun coming out during the day and showing off to visitors.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Everything's growing!

             We've been happily busy since our grand opening and our animals (not to mention our workers) are comfortably settling into their temporary homes. Our juvenile Wolf eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) curiously ventures out of her barnacle den during the late afternoon in search of food, the Decorator crabs (Naxia tumida) happily place sea lettuce and fucus onto their backs in attempts to camouflage themselves against possible predators and our lovely giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Barbara puts on quite a show chasing red rock crabs around the tank in preparation for a delicious meal. 

Juvenile wolf eel explores her barnacle surroundings
Barbara, the giant Pacific octopus


A few of our crazy workers in their temporary home
(sometimes we think they never leave the aquarium). We're happy to have our high school students, Flynn and Aquila on board with us. From l-r: Dave, Marlie, Laura, Flynn, Acquila

            Things are becoming so comfortable, in fact, that we are already noticing several new non-human additions to our aquarium; not only can you often find crabs clutching onto one another in a pre-mating holdfast (leading several visitors to ask the question, ‘what exactly are they doing?!), but looking through the glass in our tidepool tank reveals several Perch (kelp, shiner, and striped) that are looking a little larger in the middle than normal. Are these gals pigging out on krill? Doubtful. They're pregnant!
A school of shiner perch swimming by
             Perch have a complex mating ritual where the males perform a courtship dance for attractive females. If their moves are seductive enough the female will let the males mate with them. Sound familiar? Five to six months later anywhere from 3 to 40 babies are born.
Within a few weeks the expecting females will look about ready to explode with their little babies. In preparation for the mass birthing, we're planning to relocate our mothers from any potential baby eaters, such as black rockfish, predators capable of turning the miracle of life into a smorgasbord!  Of course, such is the way of life in the ocean and we can't protect all our newborns from the wonders of natural selection. The babies, 1 ¼” miniature version of their parents, are born so well developed that they practically swim out of their mothers. The males are also born reproductively mature with females maturing only a few weeks later. Cool, hey!  

         Just recently we’ve also found some Opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens) eggs which look about ready to hatch. The mating ritual of these fast swimming cephalods is not quite as romantic as that of the perch; instead, the male will aggressively grab the female and deposit his sperm packet (using his hectocotylized third right arm) inside the mantle of the female. The female then lays dozens of large egg capsules shaped like gelatinous cigars, each containing 180-300 eggs! The eggs develop directly and, after about three to five weeks, hatch, but the adults die shortly after spawning. These little squidlets aren’t left entirely unprotected though; the egg capsules have no taste or odor, so they are not perceived by food as predators! We’re looking forward to having a tank full of swimming squids soon.

A cluster of squid eggs
Squid embryo
  Spawning is almost a weekly event in the aquarium with various species releasing mass amounts of sperm and eggs into the surrounding water. Come visit the aquarium for answers about where babies come from and to check out the progress on our animals!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ucluelet Aquarium Grand Opening: June 1st, 2:00 pm.

The Ucluelet Aquarium Society is proud to announce the grand opening of the new Ucluelet Aquarium.

Please join us for this special celebration to thank the community, volunteers and donors. 

Doors open after speeches and 'kelp' cutting. 

Explore the new Giant Tide Pool, interactive children's play area, touch tanks and video microscope stations.

Staff led tours, live demonstrations and dissections are all part of the fun!

Enjoy refreshments, music and crafts for kids. 

Please help us spread the word.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Photo Update from the JCP Crew

There have been many exciting developments with the JCP crew, as the aquarium fir tank stands come together in all their glory with assembly and finishing. As we have been documenting this progress carefully, we thought a photo collection of the details (along with some colour commentary) would be appropriate.

As previously mentioned, we decided to incorporate lap joints and 12" lag bolts into the design for some of the tank stands. These "skookum" stands will be supporting some of the largest aquarium tanks in the finished facility.

Seamus and Jeff carefully router out lap joints for the 6x6 stands. These heavy-duty stands will be supporting the larger acrylic tanks.

A close-up shot of the high-speed router in action!

Once the lap joints were completed, the 6x6 tank stands were ready for assembling and finishing. We used several coats of a thin penetrating epoxy, to ensure that these stands remain strong and beautiful in the damp aquarium environment for many years to come!

An array of beautiful assembled, epoxied, and completed stands built with 6x6 fir

Diana's favourite stand! A prime example of some of the beautiful wood we had the opportunity to work with
(thanks, Maggie Brown!)

With the 6x6 stands completed, our crew was free to tackle the smaller touch tank stands. A different, more kid-friendly
design was crafted for these interactive tanks.

Two lovely flowers arise in the bright dawn, from tall stacks of beautifully crafted touch tank skirts

Getting a close-up look at the critters in the touch tank, as well as our first completed touch tank stand!

Diana & Mia demonstrating the excitement of visiting a touch tank at the new Ucluelet Aquarium

And finally, after all the hard work, a much-needed rest...

The aquarium's founder Phillip does not approve of Seamus taking a time-out on one of the larger 6-legged stands. He does, however, believe that safety comes first!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What you can't see from the outside...

The Great Tidepool, Casey at work,
and the glowing windows out to the harbour

To the right, allow the imagination to fill the broad space by the front windows with rows of touch tanks. With any luck, future visitors may glance up from these tanks to view the rare sight some of the crew were privy to last week. A pod of killer whales swimming through the bay. No photographic proof is available for this claim, but trust us, it happened. (really). The aquarium currently feels as if we were building a whale from the inside out. Beams and rafters enclose the space like a giant ribcage. Electricians lace the neurons of electrical wire through and around the framework; the plumbing spreads into the future sites of displays, and into the belly of the building, where rows of filters and pumps will pulse cold life into glass cases.

The basement: a lone chair and two rows of sand-filters

From the back of the building, the Great Tide Pool to the left, the view will one day be an art piece displaying the names of our sponsors. The upstairs will be the aquarium's very first on-site office. Ask staff members what this means to them. Be prepared for wide grins and unlimited excitement.

The view towards the upstairs mezzanine (future office) and front desk.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aquarium Construction Update (January 5th)

The roof is on, sides are almost complete, and the structure is beginning to take shape

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Precision, Salvation, and Mucking Around

The JCP crew has been hard at work lately, continuing construction on the wood
en tank stands for the new aquarium. This has required a great deal of precision, with sub-millimeter measurements and careful clamping being the name of the game. We had the opportunity to rent a 16-inch beam saw for some of the most recent cuts, which made for pretty fun work! The finished product will be tank stands with lap-joints, a very strong and stable structural choice.

An action shot of Seamus with the 16-inch beam saw

The elaborate clamping setup

Another objective for
the crew has been to collect substrate for use in the new aquarium, such as sand, rocks, and shells. This involved trips down to Big Beach, where there is an abundance of ideal substrate. We even lucked out with some gorgeous sunny days, which made hauling around heavy bins infinitely more pleasant!

Jeff, Seamus, and Diana collecting substrate on Big Beach

The mini-aquarium has entered into hibernation mode, now that the big release day has come and gone. We have been hard at work emptying and scrubbing the old tanks. When siphoning out the used water, it is always a fun challenge trying to avoid a mouthful of murky waste water – a distasteful experience as I’m sure you can imagine! Probably the most joy came from discovering little crabs, clams, fishes, and other creatures that were still hiding at the bottoms of the tanks (all of whom were released, of course). The old aquarium materials and merchandise are being packed up, ready for re-use at their deluxe accommodations in the new aquarium building!

However, a few tenants still remain in the mini-aquarium. Our little red octopus female continues to care for her many eggs, which are scheduled to hatch any day now. Also, three fascinating and unidentified fishing anemones are being kept in their tanks in the hopes that with expert consultation, we may be able to identify these mystery specimens. We will keep you updated as much as possible on the births and potential discoveries of these remaining animals!

Diana is the newest member on the JCP team. She has been living in the area for 3 years, working as a naturalist on whale watching boats. Diana is excited to help contribute to the creation of what is sure to be a world-class aquarium facility.