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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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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:

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.

    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.

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

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    Georgia Aquarium Science Festival: Full STEAM Ahead 

    March 18, 2015

    Georgia Aquarium Science Festival: Full STEAM Ahead!

    This year, we’re proud to go “full STEAM ahead” at our Georgia Aquarium Science Festival on Sunday, March 22, as part of the week-long Atlanta Science Festival, March 21-28. Read below to learn how Scientific, Technological, Engineering, Arts and Mathematical concepts saturate everyday operations here at the Aquarium:


    Did you know that Georgia Aquarium has led and been part of vast amounts of research and conservation efforts? From whale sharks in Mexico to coral restoration in the Florida Keys, all projects require science. Learn more here.


    Our newest and most high-tech gallery, Aquanaut Adventure: A Discovery Zone, features interactive, entertaining and educational opportunities through STEM-related activities. This gallery also temporarily provides guests with tablets supporting advanced technological systems and augmented reality, bringing drawings of animals to life. Learn more here.


    Ever wonder how we filter more than 10 million gallons of water or who works in this important department? That would be our Life Support Systems (LSS)! When building our AT&T Dolphin Tales expansion in 2011, hear our very own Director of LSS, Eric Hall, talk about the amazing engineering and consideration that went on behind the scenes of the Aquarium’s filtration systems in this video.

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    An Exciting Update on Georgia Aquarium’s Beluga Pregnancy

    March 4, 2015

    An Exciting Update on Georgia Aquarium’s Beluga Pregnancy!

    The moment we’ve been waiting for is drawing near! Late last year, we announced that Maris, our 20-year-old beluga whale, is expecting a calf this spring. She is currently in her final trimester with her delivery expected very soon.

    Pregnancy and giving birth is a delicate process for all mammals, and the aquatic environment makes it even more so with marine mammals. Georgia Aquarium’s veterinary and animal care teams continue to closely monitor Maris’ health and the health of her calf through routine blood and hormone monitoring, as well as weekly ultrasounds that allow us to track the growth and development of the calf.

    We are happy to report that Maris is healthy and in good body condition and her calf appears to be progressing well. Staff has seen the calf moving while Maris swims or interacts with staff for quite some time, which is another positive sign.

    The team is hopeful for a successful outcome, but remains cautiously optimistic given that this is just Maris’ second pregnancy. First-time pregnancies in beluga whales and other cetaceans are often unsuccessful in both the wild as well as in zoological facilities. Chances for a successful birth increase with each beluga whale pregnancy.

    “Maris’ pregnancy has progressed normally and routine monitoring suggests that the calf’s development is on track,” says Dr. Tonya Clauss., Georgia Aquarium’s Director of Animal Health. “We are guardedly optimistic that the calf will be born healthy. If the birth is successful, there will be other early milestones to achieve, including bonding with Maris and successful nursing.”

    As the birth of Maris’ calf draws near, the animal care team closely watches for any changes in Maris’ behavior, swim patterns and food consumption. The team is measuring Maris’ body temperature daily. Decreases in body temperature along with other behavioral and physiological changes are key indicators of labor. She is on 24-hour observation to allow the team to detect labor as soon as it begins.

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