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Georgia Aquarium Blog

Georgia Aquarium provides an entertaining, engaging and educational experience inspiring stewardship in conservation, research and the appreciation for the animal world. Visit us at

Georgia Aquarium
Atlanta, GA

Marineland Dolphin Adventure
St. Augustine, FL

Conservation Field Station
St. Augustine, FL

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Volunteer Appreciation Week at Georgia Aquarium

April 13, 2015

Volunteer Appreciation Week at Georgia Aquarium

Written by: Jahmar Hannans, Director of Interpretive Programs

Superhero: an individual possessing extraordinary talents, selfless determination, and dedication for helping others; by this definition Georgia Aquarium has many superheroes, we call them Volunteers! Our Volunteer Team fills a myriad of roles at Georgia Aquarium – from greeter, hospitality host and tour guide to diver, commissary specialist, or lab technician, our Volunteers do it all. They choose to share their time, passion and talents with us, and without them, our organization would not be able to offer a world class experience. 

This coming week signifies National Volunteer Appreciation week and is Georgia Aquarium’s 9th opportunity to recognize our superheroes and show how much we really appreciate them. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Our Volunteers give their own free will seeking no reward or compensation; the kind of deed we all admire! By sharing their talents at the Aquarium they make a difference every day in the lives of our animals and the experiences of our guests. If you have ever visited Georgia Aquarium, you saw the work of this dedicated force of Superheroes! 


If you are interested in joining our team of superheroes, please find information about our Volunteer Program here!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with hashtag #NVW15 to see all the amazing works of our volunteers and interns!


Georgia Aquarium and Emory University Team Up on Landmark Genome Project!

April 7, 2015

Georgia Aquarium and Emory University Team Up on Landmark Genome Project!

Written by: Kerry Gladish, Research Administration Assistant and Alistair Dove, Director of Research and Conservation

Researchers from Georgia Aquarium and Emory University recently released the first fully-sequenced shark genome, which was based entirely on material from whale sharks in the collection at Georgia Aquarium. This landmark study will provide an amazing reference library for studies as broad as conservation, biochemistry and even human immunology, and we’re fairly sure it’s the first time an aquarium has been part of a whole genome project. Now THAT is pretty cool!

What is genome sequencing anyway? Let’s start with a little genetics refresher, shall we? Every cell inside an organism’s body contains all the information needed to build another of the same organism. The information is encoded in DNA, the famous helical ladder-shaped molecule, where each of the rungs is one of only four types: A, C, T or G. These letter sequences make up genes (the recipes for proteins) and these are further organized into chromosomes. All the chromosomes together make up the genome. To sequence a genome, then, you cut up the DNA into manageable bits and feed the bits into a sequencing machine, and then you ask a supercomputer to put all the bits back together for you. There’s a bit of Hogwarts-style wizardy in there that we are glossing over, but that’s the gist of it.

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Caring Together for Sea Lions in California

March 27, 2015

Caring Together for Sea Lions in California:

Since January of this year, the West Coast of the United States has been experiencing an unprecedented amount of California sea lion strandings. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a record-setting number of sea lion strandings has occurred each month in 2015.

The world’s largest marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility, The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals, and has played a vital role in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of a large majority of these malnourished, dehydrated, and ill pups. As a leading zoological facility focused on research and conservation, Georgia Aquarium was honored to recently have sent several animal care staff members to California to assist The Marine Mammal Center with caring for these little animals. Watch the video below to hear more about the amazing and collaborative efforts being done for these stranded pups:

We also had the chance to sit down for a Q&A session with just a few of the dedicated Georgia Aquarium team members who helped with the sea lion crisis at The Marine Mammal Center. Let us introduce you to Senior Trainers Bryan Martin, Erin Morlang and Kristi Thompson, and Life Support Systems Technician, Christopher Rogers:

Q1: What was the most memorable moment for you when assisting The Marine Mammal Center with the sea lion pup strandings?

  • Bryan: There are a lot of moments that stand out, from the vast amount of animals at the Center to the people and volunteers working hard to assist the animals. However, the moment that really made everything stop and made me look around was seeing how much stronger and healthier the animals were when we were doing the physicals on them for release. Just looking around and seeing the Center volunteers, visiting groups and different represented facilities working together really showed how this community came together to help the stranded pups.
  • Erin: Overall, just the experience of successful rehab was most memorable along with being immersed in a totally different environment. Here, our animals’ needs are met every day and are given the best care possible. However there, you had suffering animals that would come in and we’d have to intervene and help, completely opposite situations than what we are used to. After being at The Marine Mammal Center a couple days, it was also wonderful to observe the level of progress the pups made from the state they were in one day compared to where they were the next. In rescue situations like that, you don’t always see progress and you can unfortunately lose a lot, so it was great to be able to see the hard work of us, the volunteers and other facilities pay off.
  • Kristi: The most memorable moment for me was to see a sea lion pup improve from such an emaciated state. Signs of improvement that we saw were an increase in energy to showing interest in fish and eating. Even though the pup may have been overly energetic at times, it was a positive indicator that they were getting stronger with the more nutrition and care they received.
  • Chris: My most memorable moment was when I arrived at The Marine Mammal Center and saw the large number of stranded animals being cared for by staff, volunteers and other organizations. I had previously visited the Center during the same time of the year, and seeing the drastic increase of stranded and ill animals in comparison to my prior visit emphasized the severity of the current sea lion stranding crisis.

    Q2: What was it like seeing the animals you helped rescue and rehabilitate be released back into the ocean? Can you briefly describe that moment?

  • Bryan:We were fortunate to go on a rescue and experience the entire process - we received a stranding call, rescued a sea lion, worked with the pups through rehabilitation and attended a release. To me, it gave perspective on just how much effort goes into each individual animal to get them back in the ocean successfully. I had such a great amount of respect for everything before we arrived, but even now so, seeing the amazing work The Marine Mammal Center does and to be part of it was gratifying and a huge success. There were definitely some misty eyes at the release.
  • Erin: It felt really amazing! It made me feel that my career had gone full circle, solidifying what we do here at the Aquarium even more because what we’re learning from caring for animals here in Atlanta, we’re able to then apply that experience in a different way and help the sick animals that were arriving at The Marine Mammal Center. After having seen the rehabilitated animals released, you just wanted to shout and cheer! To watch the pups go hesitantly into the water at first and then begin exploring was really cool.
  • Kristi: Seeing the animals released back in the ocean was an amazing site. I have assisted with the rehabilitation of sea turtles before, but had never participated in any release of marine mammals back to the ocean. To see the sea lion pups run toward the ocean together and take off swimming was a moment I will never forget. It made all of the hard work done by the incredible staff and volunteers worth it.
  • Chris: Releasing the animals we had rescued and rehabilitated was nothing short of success. Watching the process as 10-15 stranded and weakened animals arrived daily, to their gradual improvement over a few weeks’ time to the eventual release, gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

    Q3: What did it personally mean to you to be able to participate in this collaborative and large rescue?

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