Here at the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre we are committed to managing the health of our animals in residency with the highest standard of care. It’s a costly undertaking but with monthly giving from generous donors like you, we’re proudly living up to our ideals.
Ready for some science? Here’s a glimpse into what it takes to keep our animals happy and healthy:
Water collections are conducted when the water quality parameters of the nitrogen cycle need to be refreshed. We test the water in our 30,000-litre recirculating salt water system on a weekly basis using scientific laboratory equipment for nitrogen compounds (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate). We grow a naturally occurring bacteria to consume both excess ammonia and nitrite, but we currently do not have the capacity to grow the species of bacteria that consumes nitrate from our system. To replenish these organisms we perform a water exchange and collection, contracting a vessel to tow a water holding tank out to where the water salinity is sufficient (that’s right, our water in the inner harbour is too fresh!). We then use submersible pumps to fill the holding tank with water from 40ft below the surface, tow the tank back into the dock and use flat hoses to reach up to the Centre in order to exchange the seawater.
Natural food collections are conducted to supplement the nutrition of our animals in residency. These animals are all local to our coastal waters and feed on a variety of items. When in residency, we feed the animals a diet of frozen krill, a zooplankton species called Calanus, and phytoplankton concentrate. Although these are all nutritious sources of food, they do not fully supplement the diet of all animals within the Centre. As a result, we perform natural food collections, contracting a vessel and a WCB approved three-person dive team to collect natural food sources including various bivalves, sponges and crustaceans. We also use a prawn trap to collect prawn and shrimp species as natural food options for our animals.
Collecting habitat is conducted to replenish the displays in the Centre with substrate, rocks, and seaweed that the animals need to eat and hide in. We display natural seaweed and live rock (rocks with living animals and algae on them) in our habitats, and as a result of the lack of natural lighting in aquaria, the seaweeds eventually start to decay. As a result, we perform habitat collections in which we contract a vessel and a WCB approved three-man dive team to collect seaweed, rocks, substrate, or any other natural habitat forming items we need to provide our animals with the proper environment they need while in residency.
For as little as $25 each month, you can ensure that the animals in our centre receive the highest standard of care and be proud of your role in supporting our mission to foster a community that actively cares for the health of our ocean.