2022 Recap: National Aquarium News
This year, the Aquarium made major updates to Upland Tropical Rain Forest, debuted a brand-new event series, marked a milestone in our commitment to combatting climate change, and more.
As always, it was a busy year at the National Aquarium! As we set our sights on 2023, we're taking a moment to reflect on all of the accomplishments from this past year.
During a major project that kicked off in March and wrapped up in November, all 684 panes of glass in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest's iconic glass pyramid were replaced. The new energy efficient glass will better control temperatures inside the exhibit, allowing for a more comfortable experience for guests, animals and plants. The glass also features permanent etching to deter migratory bird strikes. The original glass will be upcycled, finding new life as materials for roadways and fiberglass insulation.
With a 40-ton crane gracing the exterior of our building for eight months, the glass pane replacement was the most visible update to the exhibit, but there were other upgrades made during this time when our team could take advantage of the exhibit being closed to guests and empty of animals. New wood decking and upgraded wire mesh for birds and sloths were installed, and aging ductwork, concrete and plumbing were updated as well.
Another exciting update we've made is the installation of LED lights on the rain forest pyramid's exterior, which will shine blue for the National Aquarium the majority of the time—but also demonstrate our home team pride, lighting up orange for the Orioles and purple for the Ravens for home games and major victories.
The exhibit's reopening was celebrated with an official ribbon-cutting event on November 15, featuring Senate President Ferguson, Assistant Commerce Secretary Heather Gramm and other members of the Maryland General Assembly. The exhibit reopened to the public on November 17.
Our many thanks to the State of Maryland, local governments, the corporate community and our philanthropic partners for their generous support of the glass replacement project.
2022 saw the debut of a brand-new, after-hours event series at the National Aquarium: Voyages. For each event—or "chapter"—in the Voyages series, a Baltimore-based artist researches a conservation topic, connecting with experts in the field and in the Aquarium before creating an original artistic work that guests experience during the event. Each chapter is complete with Baltimore food vendors and local talent headlining an after party, making each Voyages experience a celebration of all things Baltimore as well as an exploration of the connection we all share with nature.
The inaugural event—Voyages: Chapter 1—was held on July 21. Our featured artist was local beatboxer, vocal percussionist and breath artist Shodekeh, who explored the topic of biodiversity and animal communication with help from featured scientist Ashakur Rahaman of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics. The result was an original musical composition created by Shodekeh that guests experienced through individual headphones as they explored the Aquarium's exhibits.
On November 17, voyagers returned to the Aquarium for Voyages: Chapter 2, another exploration into the topic of biodiversity—this time focusing on the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore-based musicians and composers Jessica Keyes and Patrick McMinn created an original composition that was again experienced by guests on individual headphones as they explored exhibits. The immersive experience in Blue Wonders also featured live music in the form of musicians—dubbed the Schooling Fish Ensemble—traveling throughout the space. Our featured scientist for the event was Imani Black, shellfish aquaculture biologist and CEO and founder of Minorities in Aquaculture.
Stay tuned for more information about Chapter 3 next summer as we continue to explore the intersection of art and science!
On Earth Day in April, the Aquarium shared some exciting climate news: Our operations will achieve net-zero emissions by 2035, marking a major milestone in our commitment to combat climate change. In order to achieve net-zero—which refers to effectively eliminating an individual's or business's greenhouse gas emissions—we worked with our partner Verdis Group to calculate our carbon footprint and identify areas of our operations that will need to evolve over time so that we can reach our goal. As we take the necessary steps to become net-zero, we hope to serve as an example for other businesses and organizations to lower their emissions.
On June 28, senior leadership from the National Aquarium and Constellation united for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of a solar tree on our Pier 4 campus. This new solar tree is a large-scale structure that actively harvests solar power through several panels on its branches, which feeds electricity into the Aquarium. This project highlights and celebrates our shared commitment with Constellation to support clean energy development. In addition to being part of our net-zero commitment, the solar tree is also one of the next elements of the National Aquarium's waterfront campus.
On October 24, our Animal Care and Welfare team welcomed a new sea turtle resident: a 42-year-old, 62-pound male Kemp's ridley. The yet-to-be-named turtle has lived in a Kemp's ridley breeding program in the Cayman Islands since the 1980s. He arrived in Baltimore via the private jet of National Aquarium Board Member Jack Dwyer, accompanied by animal care staff to monitor the turtle's health and safety.
Before arriving in our care, the turtle spent 90 days in quarantine at Sea World Orlando; he is currently undergoing an additional, mandatory 90-day quarantine period at our Animal Care and Rescue Center. Because this turtle has been raised entirely in captivity, he has been deemed unreleasable and will eventually be a resident of our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit, serving as an ambassador animal for our sea turtle conservation efforts.
Speaking of turtles, those outside of the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor now have a floating island where they can bask in the warmer months, thanks to a collaboration led by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and supported by the National Aquarium, Clearwater Mills and Living Classrooms Foundation earlier this year.
The 100-square-foot floating turtle island—funded by Waterfront Partnership and constructed at our Animal Care and Rescue Center in early spring—was installed in the canal that runs between Living Classrooms' campus and Lancaster Street in April. The island serves as basking habitat for native turtles in the harbor, allowing them to rest and soak up some rays in the warmer months. Basking is critical for turtles so they can raise their body temperatures in the spring after hibernating in the chilly, muddy bottoms of their aquatic habitats over the winter.
Keep an eye out for turtles gracing the floating island when temperatures start to warm up in the spring!
In spring of this year, National Aquarium herpetologists oversaw a real Australian baby boom! We welcomed Mary River turtle and Northern red-faced turtle hatchlings, as well as a Hosmer's spiny-tailed skink nicknamed Marvin.
Also in July, we welcomed a baby puffling in Sea Cliffs. With siblings named Spaghetti, Penne, Ziti, Gnocchi, Ravioli and Macaroni, it's no surprise that this newest arrival was named Rigatoni!
In October, two wolf eels were added to Surviving Through Adaptation after quarantining in the Animal Care and Rescue Center. Despite their name and menacing appearance, these animals—members of the wolffish family—are known for their gentle nature.
The National Aquarium, in partnership with the Maryland Zoo, welcomed aquarium and zoo professionals from around the world at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) 2022 Annual Conference from August 27 through September 1. The weeklong conference, held at the Baltimore Convention Center, featured more than 2,000 industry thought leaders engaging in meetings, panel discussions and seminars covering a variety of disciplines.
In addition to the educational experiences taking place, there were also several local social events for conference attendees, including a zero-waste Icebreaker event hosted by the Aquarium and presented by SSA Group, which kicked off the week's activities. With so many exciting developments in 2022, we can't wait to see what 2023 has in store as we continue to work toward our goal of changing the way humanity cares for our ocean planet!