By Leslee Matsushige, aquarium co-curator
Each day I’m in Australia, I realize just how important this trip is for Birch Aquarium at Scripps and for me, personally.
Our aquarists have learned a great deal about caring for seadragons over the past several years, but nothing can compare to the experience of seeing the animals in their natural habitat.
Observing seadragons in the wild will help our staff determine how to best showcase these animals at Birch Aquarium and how to design our seadragon propagation facility. If we can make these fish feel comfortable, they will be healthy and thrive.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor Greg Rouse and research associate Nerida Wilson have been a great resource. They have experience diving with seadragons throughout Southern Australia and have provided vital information to help us better understand seadragon natural history, behavior, and habitats.
In Australia, our team is also meeting with colleagues who are successfully working with seadragons. We’ve met with our friends at Sydney Aquarium and will be soon visiting Melbourne Aquarium, whose aquarists are already working on seadragon breeding.
A highlight of this trip was meeting Pang Quong, a collector who supplies seadragons to most U.S. aquariums, including Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Pang is an avid diver and has spent 40 years diving with seadragons in the wild on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne. He took our team to the best weedy seadragon dive spots and showed us his home aquarium where he raises baby seadragons.
Pang is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to seadragons and had so much to share about them. His husbandry techniques will help us improve the health and well being of our seadragons at the aquarium.
Update: December 2012
Part 8: Google+ Hangout
Part 7: The Great Barrier Reef
Part 6: Leafy seadragons
Part 4: The Importance of this Trip
Part 2: Diving in Sydney