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Taiwan’s ‘Coral Reef Ambassadors’ Visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew Salvador is a High Tech High Media Arts student currently participating in a month-long internship at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.  In addition to assisting with education programs, Andrew is blogging about the many classes, exhibits, and other daily happenings around the aquarium.

By Andrew Salvador, High Tech High student intern

Birch Kelp Tank

Junior high school students from Taiwan peer into Birch Aquarium’s two-story kelp forest from above and speak with co-curator Fernando Nosratpour (center). They visited the aquarium as part of the international Coral Reef Ambassadors program.

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at Birch Aquarium at Scripps? Last week, some special visitors got to see firsthand what our aquarists do every day.

We had the privilege of welcoming students and educators from Heng-chun and Che-cheng junior high schools in southern Taiwan. They toured parts of our aquarium not visible to the general public as part of an international effort to engage local and Taiwanese students in the conservation of coral reefs (learn more about the program below).

A highlight of their behind-the-scenes tour was a peek into our kelp forest tank. At first sight, this may seem like just a big bucket of water with seaweed, but upon a closer look visitors are surprised to see many fish among the kelp. Several questions came to mind as the students looked into the vast tank, and Birch Aquarium co-curator Fernando Nosratpour was happy to answer them.

“Wow, look at that fish,” exclaimed a student named Marian, as our black sea bass swam by.
“That fish weighs about 250 pounds, and it’s still a baby,” Fernando responded. Her face froze with shock.

Fernando also showed the students Birch Aquarium’s seahorse breeding facility. They learned about some of the aquarists’ daily routines and were very intrigued by the tiny seahorses. “Wows” were heard from every corner of the room as Fernando explained that the male seahorse gives birth.

After their behind-the-scenes tour, the visitors from Taiwan studied our coral reef exhibit. Fernando gave them information on what it takes to keep a healthy coral reef tank. They couldn’t hold back the urge to take a picture as many colorful corals shined and reflected off a luminous glimmer.

Our visitors enjoyed all of the tour, but their favorite seemed to be the coral reef exhibit. That’s because they’ve been studying coral-reef ecosystems for the last several months. Birch Aquarium at Scripps and its sister aquarium, the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium in Taiwan, are partnering on a Museums Connect grant called Coral Reef Ambassadors. Students in the collaboration have set up a mini coral reef in their respective classrooms and are working with professional aquarists to learn more about these crucial ecosystems.

The Taiwanese students will visit Birch Aquarium through early February.

Seahorse Breeding Lab

Junior high school students from Taiwan explore the Seahorse Breeding Lab at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. The students visited as part of the international Coral Reef Ambassadors program.

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