Thursday, December 10, 2009
We have a crew of 5 working over the winter thanks to a Job Creation Program grant from the Ministry of Housing and Social Services.
Kane, Kat, Dave, Danielle & Jack (Missing from photo is Ashlie) [UAS]
Let's hear about some of our exciting projects!
Refurbishing tanks: Through volunteer efforts by UAS and generous donations from Living Elements Ltd., we have saved over 25 used aquarium tanks from the dump. They were obtained from aquariums and research facilities from as far south as Oregon and as far north as Resolute Bay in the Arctic. Their condition ranged from almost new and slightly scratched to VERY scratched with deep gouges. With the help of Mark Schnurr, an expert in plastic fabrication from Archer Plastics in Vancouver, we've been learning the correct way to remove dings and scratches from acrylic tanks to make them look like new.
Sand them down first [UAS]
Buff them back to life [UAS]
The work is quite satisfying and takes very, VERY close attention to detail.
BUILDING BACKDROPS: We've been creating backdrops for the tanks in the aquarium that will spend months underwater in hopes that many wonderful clingy creatures will use them as a home. The backdrops are a lot easier to use than rocks from the ocean with existing life because the backdrops can be customarily shaped to fit in the tanks. They are also a lot lighter so will be safer when placing them into the restored tanks.
Using bricks & plastic mesh as a base, forms are covered in concrete & left to cure [UAS]
BUILDING INTERTIDAL GARDENS: We've been scouring the intertidal zone on the foreshore in front the the new aquarium site (to be built in 2011) and mapping out where to build our intertidal gardens! Using the natural bedrock as a frame, these new pools will be full of life and easily accessible to the public in a safe environment. We're excavating rocks by hand & shoveling the silt. There will also be a bed for surf grasses and plants against the existing concrete wall. True to our nature, all species of plants and animals will be native to the area. If you see us down on the shore in front of the Ucluelet Aquarium, be sure to say hi and see what we're building!
FIELD TRIP: . We’ve taken a field trip to visit local riversides and stream beds to learn about and identify native plants in our area. Similar species will be planted in our seagrass bed on the foreshore to offer a different type of habitat than the tidepools.
Investigating local grasses [A.Z.]
Taking field notes [A.Z.]
It's still a flurry of activity down at our workshop at 1980 Harbour Crescent. It’s almost time to start collecting specimens for opening day of March 6th 2010. You’ll see us out collecting substrate for the tanks soon! Tank sponsorships are still available for the 2010 season. Contact our curator, Dave Hurwitz at 250-522-2782 for more information.
Monday, October 26, 2009
From collection to display-
Intertidal collecting was always great and sharing our discoveries with our guests was a big part of the fun. Caylan shows off a geoduck and Mary introduces the new urchin collection with brave visitors. [Caylan Piper]
Our special VICs-
Puget Sound King Crabs- large, medium, and small! [Caylan Piper]
Sena II brings in the deepwater Grooved Tanner Crab [Caylan Piper]
Our appreciation for bryozoans sky-rocket when using the microscope!! [Mary Vasey]
Water jellies scope the aquarium [Mary Vasey]
That's all for now- have a great winter and we will see you in the spring!
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Friday, October 2, 2009
Here is your chance to participate in this FREE one-of-a-kind experience unique to the Ucluelet Aquarium. Bring the whole family and remember to dress for the weather!
Don't forget to bring your own reusable mug for some yummy hot chocolate and your spare change to donate!
See you there!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Nate is startled by the hefty size of the Horse Clam (above) and is pleased with jello-like consistency of the California Sea Cucumber. [Mary Vasey]
Laura gives the thumbs-up after checking the DFO website for geoduck and shellfish closures. [Caylan Piper]
The lethal nature of this toxin comes from its ability to block sodium-channels with extreme selectivity and potency while leaving potassium and calcium channels unharmed. These channels are all part of our intricate nervous systems and medical research using saxitoxin has lead to a better understanding of how nerves and their channels work. (Edwards, Neil. 1998. http://chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/stx/saxi.htm)
Dave-the-master-clam-digger holds up a frightened geoduck releasing water. [Laura Griffith-Cochrane]
Rocky intertidal collections were also possible during these times of low tides and were executed by Spencer, Dave, Mary, and our volunteer Jordan from Parks Canada. Scoping out our secret spots during these few morning opportunities proved fruitful. Sea urchins were particularly abundant during our recent adventures as evident in our newest tank design. When found in tide pools, purple sea urchins are found hiding in perfectly-fitting dug outs. The reason these holes are so snug is because the urchins are actually creating them as they grow larger. They use their calcite teeth to dig into rock (often limestone) even though the rocks can be of equal or greater hardness. This is possible because the urchin's five teeth also contain crystallized magnesium calcite which is a little bit harder. There is more magnesium calcite in the tip of the tooth and it is aligned in such a way that as the teeth get ground down the interwoven crystals break in a manner that continues to create a sharp point. (Live Science. 2009. http://www.livescience.com/animals/090514-sea-urchin-teeth.html)
One last photo shoot for these collected shore crab before they are put in the octopus tanks for breakfast. [Caylan Piper]
The boys are stoked on their beach-combing prizes. [Mary Vasey]
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Friday, August 14, 2009
In leiu of Kristin's return to school two more part-time team members are joining us for the remainder of the summer. Nathaniel Glickman and Laura Griffith-Cochrane are both ready to share their expertise and enthusiasm as they throw on their blue shirts and get to work. Laura, a former employee of the aquarium, has just returned froma trip to New Zealand and Fiji and will begin interpreting in a couple of weeks. Nathaniel is brand new to our team and will be with us until he leaves for his studies at UVIC in early September.
So come visit the team: Dave, Spencer, Caylan, Nathaniel, Laura, and Mary down on Main Street in Ucluelet.
Dave, Caylan, Mary, and Spencer put on a brave face saying farewell to Kristin and await the new team members [Mary Vasey]
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Red Rock Crab action. [Mary Vasey]
Strangely, nudibranchs are simultaneous hermaphrodites meaning they are capable of holding both egg and sperm at the same time. The advantage to this is that when two nudibranchs of the same species cross paths they are definitely able to mate unlike if they were both males or both females. Both nudibranchs will fertilize their partners eggs and also receive sperm. The egg spirals are then laid in lacey-looking coils. These coils differ depending on the species and will be eaten readily by other species. Because nudibranchs live only a year so copulation is constant throughout the year.
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Monday, July 13, 2009
The Giant Pacific Octopus is growing rapidly and is now settling in the larger rockfish tank. In this tank the numerous rocks allow for natural den building activities and the abundance of various animals allow our octopus to display more extreme hunting behaviours. Even though the rockfish and greenlings in this tank are palatable for an octopus the presence of the tastier red rock crab ensure their survival.
Our much smaller, but equally exciting, Red Octopus is warming up to her new home as well and is now often seen exploring and hunting. She has also begun investigating the field of interior decorating and can be seen shifting rocks and seaweed to make the perfect den.
The newest tank is specimen-free with the objective being of environmental significance. Our garbage tank features mostly plastic but also glass, shoes, metal, string, and other rubbish found on our beaches. All displayed trash is from the beaches either in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve or right outside the aquarium. While broadening the understanding of the permanency of plastic waste we also acknowledge its value in maintaining our current lifestyles. Messages such as “Since 1976 plastic has been the most used material in the world” and “Plastic ropes, nets, and packaging can entangle and harm marine life” line the tank to reinforce the significance of this always growing problem.
The aquarium is open daily from 10 am until 6 pm and is located at the bottom of Main Street beside the Whiskey Docks- see you there!
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Today we enjoyed the Canada Day celebrations hosted by the District of Ucluelet. Activities for the kids included arts & crafts and games. Free hot dogs, live music and stands from Parks Canada and local businesses were also there. Aquarium staff hosted a squid dissection and face-painting table- both were a fun success with both kids and adults from Canada and around the world.
We have a new exhibit under construction that emphasizes the impact that plastic waste has on our ocean and our environment. It is important to realize the aquarium (and our whole way of life!) would be impossible without plastic, but that it does not decompose and can have detrimental effects when not discarded with care.
With the warm water being maintained by the excellent weather we have seen many animals responding differently. The California sea cucumbers, for instance, celebrated the heat by broadcast spawning in the tanks. When examined under the microscope the collected samples suggested most were males, releasing their sperm into the water. They do this in the same manner as sea stars and some snails, hoping that with luck the broadcasted egg and sperm will connect to allow eventual larvae development.
Monday, June 15, 2009
The squid eggs have been with us now for almost three weeks and have recently gone through some major growth spurts. Individual squid are surrounded by an egg membrane and then further enclosed in long pods by the hundreds . The little squidlets are now a whopping millimeter long and have defined eyes, arms, mantles, pigment spots, and a shrinking yolk sac as somewhat visible in the following photos/videos taken using the aquarium microscope. These opalescent squid generally grow to no larger than 20 centimeters during their short 4-9 month lifespan. We can expect that they will be approximately half a foot long by the end of summer.
On a larger note, the seven grooved tanner crabs that are now residing with us live quite differently. They are a deep-dwelling crab brought to us by the always-awesome Sena II crew. Hauled up from 300 fathoms, or 1800 feet deep, their bulging broad abdomens indicate that all of these bright orange beauties are pregnant females. In The Deadliest Catch television show the crabbers are catching a very similar looking but much larger crab, the Alaskan king crab.
Founder of the Ucluelet Aquarium Society and very experienced commercial diver Phillip Bruecker is in town so the aquarium has been getting lots of new critters, including a stubby rose anemone. This anemone closely resembles the red fish-eating anemone, but has much shorter tentacles and settles by burrowing into fine substrate and expanding its base to anchor itself. A bright-striped painted greenling has also found its way to our waters along with a couple of yellowtail rockfish, lingcod, and a temporary visit from a ratfish. The female ratfish has a completely cartilaginous skeleton and is related to skates and shark as seen in their similarly boneless bodies.
Video off developing squid surrounded by egg membrane. Taken by aquarium staff several days ago using microscope and camcorder.
See you soon- we’ll get you hooked!
-Mary Vasey, Interpreter
Friday, June 5, 2009
The giant pacific octopus squints at observers while enjoying the tasty red rock crab [Mary]
As usual the aquarium had their awesome volunteers from the community come by after school. Today's activities included specimen collecting from the shore and off the docks, feeding, and simply adding to the exciting atmosphere of the aquarium.
Two great volunteers, Kai and Mickayla, drop by to check on the specimens they collected [Mary]
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Those visiting in the past few days would have seen the decorator crab in action as they begin dressing up disco-syle in their new tank:
Off the dock a lion's mane jelly was collected, spanning approximately 25 cm. This exciting scoop is the newest addition to the beautiful jellyfish tank already containing ctenophores, water jellies, and fried-egg jellies.
Recent collection outings were possible due to very low tides in the morning. The new specimens are settling well into their vacation-home and include urchins, sea stars, sanddabs, sculpins, snails, and more from our local area. As always community members have also been very helpful with their constant contribution of exciting finds.
Touch tank studies concerning the possible effects of handling are nearly underway and will be continued for the duration of the summer. The intertidal touch tank will be the first to begin observations. As a result of tank-shifting, many of the Dungeness crabs were released and the moonsnails now reside in their own tank. This tank includes the sand collars left behind in the sand that contain moonsnail eggs. The clam shells with the characteristic hole left at the base near the hinge are also being created as hungry moonsnails eat up.
A clam shell left empty after being breached by the moon snail's radula, the tongue like tool used to breach the hard shell.[http://www.beachwatchers.wsu.edu/ezidweb/animals/Euspira4.htm]
Make your way to the aquarium to check out all the critters and watch demonstrations from the staff! In the past week visitors from all over the world including England, Germany, Australia, and South Africa have dropped in to learn about our amazing ocean life. See you soon!
-Mary Vasey, Aquarium Interpreter