Aquarium Breaks Ground on Caribbean Journey Expansion

Aquarium Breaks Ground on Caribbean Journey Expansion
Texas State Aquarium staff and Board were joined today by elected officials and area leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of its $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – the largest expansion in the Aquarium’s 24-year history.
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Texas State Aquarium staff and Board were joined today by elected officials and area leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of its $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – the largest expansion in the Aquarium’s 24-year history. Caribbean Journey Expansion groundbreaking

Bringing the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean to the shores of Corpus Christi, the  Caribbean Journey addition will complete the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan and will transform the Texas State Aquarium from a leading regional aquarium to one of the one of the top aquariums in the nation. At four stories and 65,000 square feet, the new Caribbean Journey expansion will be significantly larger than the original Gulf of Mexico exhibit building.   

“This is truly a historic milestone for the Aquarium,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid.  “Over 25 years ago, our founders had a vision to take our guests on a journey from the Gulf of Mexico into the Caribbean Sea.  Today, we begin construction on the final phase of the original master plan, and once open in 2017, this expansion will complete that vision.  We will have one of the nations’ great Aquariums right here in Corpus Christi.”

A public groundbreaking ceremony was held today on the Aquarium’s lawn, with speakers including State Representative Abel Herrero, Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez, Aquarium Board Chair Deneece Squires, and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Schmid. shovel & hard hat

In late 2012, the Texas State Aquarium launched the leadership phase of Campaign Caribbean, a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for construction of the Caribbean Journey building. Since then, over $27 million has been raised towards the expansion project.

shovels up close

Visit texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

Texas State Aquarium Announces December 7th Dollar Day Presented by H-E-B

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On Sunday, December 7, the Texas State Aquarium will host a Dollar Day, presented by H-E-B. The Aquarium’s extremely popular Dollar Days offer an admission price of one dollar for all visitors. Along with the special price, there will be an enhanced schedule of programs for the day, as well as a special gift from H-E-B for each family while supplies last.

“We’re thrilled to announce our December Dollar Day, which is possible thanks to the generosity of our longtime partner H-E-B,” said Tom Schmid, President and CEO of the Texas State Aquarium. “H-E-B has long been a generous partner of both the Aquarium and the Corpus Christi community. Supporting our Dollar Day program in order to help make the Aquarium accessible to all local families is just another way H-E-B gives back to the communities it serves.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for H-E-B and the Aquarium to join in a partnership that will offer families some unique experiences and new memories,” added H-E-B Gulf Coast Group Vice President, Rob Hall.  “We hope families will take some time to walk through the amazing and educational exhibits the Texas State Aquarium has to offer for everyone.”

The Aquarium will operate on regular hours for the day, opening at 9:00 a.m. and closing at 5:00 p.m. Children two and under will receive free admission, and parking will remain $5.

Jamming Along With Jellies

Upside down jellies
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What exactly makes jellies so interesting? Is it the mesmerizing, pulsing way they move? Maybe it’s the fact that they’re beautiful AND dangerous (we’re looking at you, box jelly), or maybe it’s simply that they look like transparent underwater aliens. Whatever the reason – we’re right there with you concerning the crazy cool factor of the wonderful world of jellies. 

Pacific sea nettle in Floating Phantoms.

Pacific sea nettle in Floating Phantoms.

Incredibly, jellies are as old as time. They’ve inhabited the earth’s oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and speaking of oceans, they can be found in every single one, from the surface to the deep sea. Some can even be found in fresh water environments, such as the craspedacusta sowerbii.

And since we’re discussing crazy names – why do you see jellies referred to as jellyfish AND jellies? Well, in more recent years, it’s been decided that the name “jellyfish” is a misnomer. With no bones, no blood, and no brains, jellies aren’t actually fish at all, so scientists, aquariums and zoos nationwide have begun referring to them simply as jellies.

As jellies drift thousands of miles with the ocean’s currents, they have to keep energized. Diet is species-specific, but most jellies dine on fish eggs, plankton, brine shrimp, and larger jellies will eat sea snails, and even small fish. 

Upside down jellies

Upside down jellies

Jellies can range in size from a few centimeters in width, like the Irukandji jelly of Australia, to the Lion’s Mane jelly, which can grow to be the size of a minivan. A jelly that size has got to pack a whopping stinging punch, right? Wrong. While Lion’s Mane jellies can sting and these injuries do irritate the skin, they are mostly minor. The venomous stings of the infamous Box Jelly, as well as the tiny Irukandji are infinitely more dangerous.  Among the most deadly in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells, the Box Jelly’s sting can easily be fatal. It is so overpoweringly painful, human victims have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore. Survivors can experience considerable pain for weeks and often have significant scarring where the tentacles made contact. 

Comb jelly

Comb jelly

If you ever find yourself the victim of a jelly sting, Texas State Aquarium Aquarist Victoria says the last thing you want to do is pour fresh water on it. “Fresh water will actually cause the nematocysts to keep firing, and it’ll cause even more pain. Definitely use salt water instead as it deactivates stinging cells,” she advises. Next, Victoria says you should rinse the affected area with vinegar, and then soak the area in the hottest water you can stand. A mild anti-itch or hydrocortisone crème can be used for less severe stings for the next several days, as well as an ice pack and antibiotic ointment as necessary. For severe stings or severe reactions to stings, call 911 and seek medical treatment immediately. 

 

131-3183_IMGHere at TSA, we house and exhibit lagoon jellies, upside downs, Pacific and Atlantic sea nettles, moon jellies, and comb jellies. Come check them out and learn more about them at our Floating Phantoms exhibit!

Creepy Critter #1: Red-tailed Boa Constrictor

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Creepy Critter #1: Red-tailed Boa Constrictor

 

And the winner of creepiest critter is……the most storied of them all: the snake! Feel squeamish? You’re so not alone. From their cold, scaly skin, to their forked tongues and tendency to eat rodents in one gulp, it’s no wonder these reptiles have secured legendary creep out status. IMG_8545

Boa Constrictors are scary in part due to their large size and the way in which they sometimes kill prey – by coiling around it and squeezing so tight as to suffocate it. However, more often, they will strike their prey first, and then coil around it, causing it to die by cardiac arrest. Their jaws are lined with small, hooked teeth perfect for grabbing and holding prey while they squeeze around it. Very large, strong boas can cause spinal fracture due to the huge of amounts of pressure they can apply to prey. Boas will eat almost anything they can catch, be it birds, rabbits, monkeys – even wild pigs, their jaws stretch extremely wide, enabling them to swallow large prey whole. boa teeth

Being native to the warm, tropical climes of North, Central, and South America, boas like to dwell in humid places and partially enclosed spaces like hollow logs; news stories depicting an elderly couple in Florida who discovered a slithery surprise in their garage one day are not at all uncommon.

Boas are known for their distinctive markings. Depending on what type of habitat they’re trying to blend in with, their bodies can be green, red, tan, or yellow, and display geometric-type patterns of ovals, diamonds, and circles. Unfortunately, this beauty costs them. Boas are often harvested for their unique skins and are most commonly killed for snake skin products such as shoes, bags, and other “fashionable” clothing items. Boa meat is also popular and is often seen for sale at markets near their geographic ranges. Black market exotic pet rings also sadly prize boas.

Julius SqueeIMG_6769zer, a 30-lb, 8.5 feet-long Red-tailed Boa Constrictor is the big resident boa at the Texas State Aquarium, come visit him in our Amazon exhibit!

Whataburger to Sponsor First 4D Theater in Texas’s Coastal Bend at the Texas State Aquarium

Whataburger 4D Theater check presentation
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Whataburger to Sponsor First 4D Theater in Texas’s Coastal Bend at the Texas State Aquarium

Campaign Caribbean - See a New Sea

October 27, 2014

Million dollar contribution from Whataburger aids fundraising effort for Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey expansion

Whataburger 4D Theater check presentationCORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Texas State Aquarium is excited to announce another significant gift for Campaign Caribbean, the Aquarium’s capital campaign which will fund the largest expansion in its 24-year history. Today, longtime partner Whataburger announced a generous $1 million gift to Campaign Caribbean. The gift is earmarked for the naming of a 4D theater in the Caribbean Journey experience – the first theater of its kind south of San Antonio.

“Whataburger and the Dobson Family are proud to support the construction of the 4D theater which will be named after our mother and the woman who grew Whataburger into the company it is today, Grace Dobson. She had a deep personal commitment to the Corpus Christi community and incredible passion for this place,” said Whataburger Chairman and TSA Board Member Tom Dobson.  “I know she would be very proud.”

Texas State Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid commented, “Whataburger and the Dobson family have been steadfast Aquarium supporters and partners for many years. Thanks to their generous continuing support, we are going to be able to bring the Coastal Bend area its first 4D theater.  4D will bring guests the richest theater experience possible – the action spills out of the screen over the audience with thrill-enhancing sensory special effects—from water mist and smoke clouds to tremors beneath the feet.”

The Texas State Aquarium’s Whataburger 4D Theater will be developed by SimEx-Iwerks, which specializes in designing, building and operating 4-D Experiences® that feature blockbuster content licensed from the world’s major studios. SimEx-Iwerks is an expert in integrating the highest quality 3-D high definition projection with in-seat and in-theater effects to create fully immersive experiences. Their 4-D theaters include a variety of special effects, including bubbles, snow, scent, FX lighting, water mist, seat vibrations, and wind. 

The $50 million Caribbean Journey addition will introduce Aquarium guests to the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean.  Its construction will complete the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan and will transform the Texas State Aquarium from a leading regional aquarium to one of the top aquariums in the nation.

In late 2012, the Texas State Aquarium launched the leadership phase of Campaign Caribbean, a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for construction of the Caribbean Journey wing. At 65,000 square feet, the new Caribbean Journey wing will be significantly larger than the original Gulf of Mexico exhibit building.  “The new wing will be 50 percent larger, however, in terms of indoor exhibit space. It will more than double what we currently have,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid.  “This is going to be a multi-level, highly immersive, state-of-the-art experience.”

Visit texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

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About Whataburger: 

Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson gave his restaurant a name he hoped to hear customers say every time they took a bite of his made-to-order burgers:  “What a burger!” Within the first week, people lined up around the block for his 25 cent, 100-percent beef burgers served on five-inch buns. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 760 locations in 10 states with sales of more than $1 billion annually. Visitwww.whataburger.com for more information on the company or become a fan on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/whataburger.

 

Texas State Aquarium: Connecting people with nature and inspiring conservation of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

www.texasstateaquarium.org

Creepy Critter #3: Sand Tiger Shark

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Creepy Critter #3: Sand Tiger Shark

Dun, dun. Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun. DUN, DUN, DUN, DUN, DUUUUN! Though no Great White, if seeing the protrusive teeth of a Sand Tiger Shark doesn’t start the JAWS theme song playing in your head, something is wrong. TSA Omni3

These decidedly ferocious-looking beasts boast a mouthful of terrifying teeth that are even visible when their mouths are shut. They can go through thousands of teeth in a lifetime, losing up to hundreds per year. And even with all those teeth, this predator still swallows its food whole!

Most Sand Tiger Sharks range in size from 6.5 up to 10.5 feet and they can weigh anywhere from 200 lbs to 350 lbs. And despite their intimidating size, they eat little, and can go for extensive periods without feeding.

The stealth hunter gets its name from its tendency to reside near shoreline habitats, and they are often seen trolling the ocean floor in the surf zone, very close to shore. They are found in warm or temperate waters throughout the world’s oceans, except the eastern Pacific. images

Something that sets the Sand Tiger Shark apart from other carnivorous fish is its ability to self adjust its buoyancy levels. The shark will break the surface of the ocean, gulp air, and then store the air in its stomach, allowing it to float motionless in the water. All the better to silently stalk prey… Hans

Though this species of shark has relatively plentiful numbers, they have a scarily low reproduction rate and are thus listen as threatened on the worldwide species list, meaning they are vulnerable to endangerment in the future.

Visit Hans, our very own Sand Tiger Shark, at the Islands of Steel exhibit this Saturday for Green Halloween and learn more spooky shark facts!

Creepy Critter #4: Green Moray Eel

Green Moray Eel
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Creepy Critter #4: Green Moray Eel

What’s green, slippery, slithery, looks slightly undead, and lurks under rocks in the ocean? Nope, not Frankenstein – we’re talking about the Green Moray Eel. Green Moray Eel

This creepy critter can be found anywhere from the western Atlantic Ocean, to Bermuda, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Brazil. Their sinuous, snake-like appearance ups their “ick” factor, but not as much as the fact that they’re actually covered in mucus does! It’s hard to believe, but these species – so known for their vibrant lime green color – is actually brown. The yellow tint of mucus that its body is coated in is yellow, thereby giving this spooky, serpentine creature its signature hue.

TSA Aquarist Rafael Calderon added another creepy fact to this animal’s repertoire of weirdness. “It’s kind of cool, even alien-like, but the Green Moray actually has two pairs of jaws, a primary and a pharyngeal, meaning it’s located deeper inside the eel’s throat,” he explains. “The first set of jaws grabs and holds the prey and the second sucks in the food and eats it whole.” That prey is normally fish, squid, shrimp, crab, and octopus. eel jaws

These incredibly successful predators can allegedly grow to be up to eight feet in length, and they come equipped with some seriously scary teeth. Curved and sharp, you can see them when the eels open and close their mouths every so often, something they do to breathe.  Although this behavior may appear threatening, the eel is actually taking in water to breathe. The water passes over its gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the creature’s head. 

“They don’t really play well with others, either,” says Calderon, “Green Morays are very territorial, and if they don’t like you in their space, or if you’re getting too close, they’ll let you know it.”

Another creepy fact via Calderon is that Green Morays love tight, enclosed spaces. No claustrophobia for these scale-less swimmers.

The Texas State Aquarium is home to three Green Moray eels, Russell, Scooter, and Houdini – come get a load of these alien-like fish this Saturday at Green Halloween!

Creepy Critter #5: Eurasian Eagle Owl

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Eurasian Owl graphic.fwEyes as big as half dollars and as yellow-orange as a harvest moon stare straight into yours, the intense gaze of the apex predator creeping into your soul…or at least that’s how some may feel. The long look a Eurasian Eagle Owl can give you is not one you’ll soon forget. 

These owls are native to Europe and Asia, and are among the biggest in the entire world – they can reportedly boast a six-and-a-half-foot wingspan! Within this impressive wingspan are serrated (like the teeth on a knife) wing feathers that enable the owl to glide almost silently through the night, stalking its prey – unbeknownst – from the sky. Jessica & Brutus

“It’s a really cool adaptation,” says Bird and Mammal Trainer Jessica Brown, “Also the soft, downy feathers underneath help absorb sound and any turbulence they encounter in the air, making them even quieter.”

 Eurasian Eagle Owls hunt using their silent flight, keen eyesight, and impeccable hearing. Brown says that like other species of owl, eagle owls have facial disks, or groups of feathers around their ears, that actually direct sounds toward their ears. Owls can raise these feathers slightly when on the hunt, enabling them to hear the rustle of a mouse in the grass, the flapping of feathers in the night, or the slithering of a snake in a tree branch. These sounds give away the location of prey animals, making it easy for these owls to swiftly swoop in to catch a meal – and their pointed, powerful talons can exert 500 pounds of PSI (pressure per inch)! Compared to the human hand’s 30 lbs of PSI, that’s scarily strong. “They normally hunt rodents like rabbits and rats, but they’ll also eat other raptors, and they can even take down small deer,” explains Brown.

The scariest thing about this creature, however, is its history. During the first half of the 20th century, Eurasian Eagle Owl numbers declined radically as humans over-hunted and nearly poisoned the whole population. Local European governments began increasing protective measures regarding the owls, and they are now back to a healthier number, though not as populous as they once were. Brutus

TSA’s resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Brutus, will be one featured creature you can meet at Green Halloween this Saturday! 

Texas State Aquarium and Valero Make Major Campaign Caribbean Announcement

Valero $500K Announcement 042
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Half-million dollar contribution from Valero aids fundraising effort for Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey expansionCarribbean Campaign Logo Color FINAL

 September 4, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Texas State Aquarium is excited to announce another significant gift for Campaign Caribbean, the Aquarium’s capital campaign which will fund the largest expansion in its 24-year history. Today, continued partner Valero announced a generous $500,000 gift to Campaign Caribbean, which surpassed the crucial midway point of achieving its $50 million goal earlier this year and has a groundbreaking scheduled for late this year.

The major gift will sponsor the new entryway into the Caribbean Journey experience, introducing guests to the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean. “For more than three decades, Valero has been committed to the Coastal Bend Region through the jobs we create and the contributions we invest in our community,” said Dennis Payne, Vice President and General Manager, Valero Corpus Christi Refineries. “Today’s gift for the Texas State Aquarium is another demonstration of our commitment to Corpus Christi, especially causes that focus on education and environmental sustainability. It’s Valero’s hope that this new entryway will usher in a wave of excitement for tourists, residents, and businesses across the state.”

Texas State Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid commented, “Since the opening of the Aquarium almost 25 years ago, Valero has been a great partner and great patron. Valero has been consistently generous and helped us advance our mission. This latest investment affirms their commitment to environmental education, wildlife conservation, and economic development in this community, and throughout Texas.”

The $50 million Caribbean Journey addition – which completes the final two phases of the Aquarium’s original master plan – will transform the Texas State Aquarium from a leading regional aquarium to one of the top aquariums in the nation.

In late 2012, the Texas State Aquarium launched the leadership phase of Campaign Caribbean, a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for construction of the Caribbean Journey wing. At 65,000 square feet, the new Caribbean Journey wing will be significantly larger than the original Gulf of Mexico exhibit building.  “The new wing will be 50 percent larger, however, in terms of indoor exhibit space. It will more than double what we currently have,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid.  “This is going to be a multi-level, highly immersive, state-of-the-art experience.”

Visit texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

 

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Texas State Aquarium: Connecting people with nature and inspiring conservation of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

 

Valero $500K Announcement 042