Rainforests of the Sea: Why Coral Reefs Are So Important



Coral reefs have always fascinated us. From their depiction on popular films like “Finding Nemo” to their appearance in documentaries and ads for tropical vacations, it’s clear that we love to marvel at the vibrant colors of coral reefs and the exotic species which call them home.

Coral reefs are undoubtedly beautiful, but they also have an importance that goes far beyond their looks. And when you look beneath the surface and begin to understand how coral reefs impact the environment and our own lives, you begin to appreciate them so much more.

So what is a coral reef exactly? To put it simply, they are complex, fragile ecosystems composed largely of tiny creatures called polyps, a relative of sea anemones and jellyfish. These polyps extract calcium from seawater and form hard external limestone shelters or soft internal skeletons, creating what we know as coral. These coral can be formed in large groups, which tropical fish and other species seek out as shelter. In turn, other species which depend on those fish are attracted to the reef. This diverse collection of coral and the species that live there form a coral reef, which can stretch for thousands of miles and sustain life for millennia. Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1% of the ocean’s surface, but they provide a home for more than 25% of marine species.

These coral reefs not only support countless animals and provide a spectacular underwater landscape for filmmakers, scuba divers, and other ocean explorers, they give immeasurable value to people around the world.  They protect shorelines around the world from coastal storms and erosion, often sparing people’s homes from the worst natural disasters. Fisheries depend on coral reefs to provide seafood, an important source of protein and nutrition for most of the world’s population. Tourism of coral reefs is also a major economic contributor to several developing countries. Because of their biodiversity, coral reefs can even provide research to help scientists develop life-saving medicine and treatments. The annual global economic value of coral reefs is estimated at over $29 billion, but we can’t put a price on essential they are to the environment.

Considering how important they are, it’s all the more alarming that coral reefs around the world are rapidly dying off. Reefs are very sensitive to the rising ocean temperature caused by climate change, and as the ocean heats up, the algae which coral depend on for food are killed off. This can leave coral vulnerable to other threats or even cause them to die of starvation in a tragic phenomenon known a coral bleaching. Increased carbon dioxide levels have also caused ocean acidification, which can significantly weaken coral. Reefs are also continually threatened by pollution, overfishing, boat anchors, and even damage from scuba divers and fishermen. If things continue as they are, 90% of the world’s coral will be threatened by 2030. By 2050, almost all the coral will be in danger. We could one day live in a world where coral are almost extinct, and the consequences could be disastrous.

To turn the tide, people need to be aware of how vital coral reefs are and how to help prevent their loss.

Caribbean Journey’s Coral Reef exhibit, recently filled with seawater.

We’re doing our part. In pursuit of its mission to inspire appreciation for our seas, the Aquarium has educated on the importance of coral reefs since we first opened our doors. Our Flower Gardens exhibit shows off some of the gorgeous coral and marine life that make up the Flower Gardens Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Located about 225 miles east of the Aquarium, Flower Gardens is a value shelter for marine creatures ranging from tiny fish to the enormous whale sharks. Our exhibits educate people on the threats the reef face such as the invasive lionfish and anchor damage. We also encourage divers who visit the Sanctuary to “leave only bubbles and take only memories.”

Several of our conservation and education programs are also dedicated to protecting coral reefs. We reach over 75,000 children each year to teach about coral reef life cycles and how people can impact their fragile existence. Schoolchildren who visit the Aquarium are taught about these colorful homes for fish and through our Aquavision Distance Learning program, students the world over are able to look into our Flower Gardens exhibit over a webcam and learn more about reefs from Aquarium instructors -without even leaving the classroom. 

On the conservation front, our Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund supports several research projects that explore the health of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. I recent years, we’ve even partnered with coral experts to help grow coral. Our work with Sexual Coral Reproduction (SECORE) focused on helping coral to reproduce while protecting endangered coral from human activities. Aquarists and scientists from SECORE and the Aquarium would collect polyp eggs, fertilize them in a lab, and then return them to the ocean. 

Rendering of Caribbean Journey’s Coral Reef and Blue Hole exhibits.

Caribbean Journey will provide another window into coral reefs, showing you reefs and their native species from multiple perspectives and letting you know their importance. Venture through Caribbean Journey’s jungle and peer down into several exhibits to spot vibrant coral and tropical fish. Travel downstairs to dive below the sea and get an up-close look at coral reefs from below the ocean’s surface. Here are coral of every shape imaginable and in every color of the rainbow, from bright yellow staghorn and elkhorn coral to blue fan coral. And darting among the coral are coral reef species. There’s parrotfish, butterflyfish, snappers, lobsters, angelfish, barracudas, and so much more. At the H-E-B Caribbean Shark Exhibit, notice even the ocean’s most infamous predators make their home among the reef. Discover that each species depends on the reef for their survival and each contributes to the reef’s overall beauty and purpose.

Caribbean Journey will give you a rare look into the coral reefs of the Caribbean which few of us would see otherwise, while reminding you that they need to be protected. By encountering the exotic beauty of Caribbean coral reefs and reef species in-person, we hope you’re inspired more than ever to help us keep reefs alive for future generations.  



Caribbean Journey Means Big Things for Corpus Christi



The view of Harbor Bridge from Caribbean Journey’s event space balcony

The Texas State Aquarium’s Caribbean Journey, set to open in May 2017, will bring a tremendous boost to Corpus Christi’s economy and culture.

A scarlet ibis, a species which will reside in Caribbean Journey.

Caribbean Journey has been the Aquarium’s vision for over a quarter-century, and was being planned by the founders even before the Aquarium first opened in 1990. In 2012, the Aquarium’s Board of Trustees launched a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to finally make Caribbean Journey a reality.  Now, construction on the 71,000-square foot building is in its final phases, and the long-anticipated opening is just around the corner.

When completed, Caribbean Journey will guide Aquarium guests on an epic adventure throughout the East Yucatan region of Mexico, and on into the Caribbean Sea. Guests will trek through exhibits depicting a coastal forest and Mayan Ruins to encounter flamingos, crocodiles, bats, birds, and more. They’ll then dive deep into the Caribbean Sea to find themselves among coral reef fish, stingrays, and sharks. A highlight attraction will be the H-E-B Caribbean Shark exhibit, which will lead guests past an ancient shipwreck and through a clear acrylic tunnel, where they’ll be surrounded by sandbar and nurse sharks. A 4D Theater with unique special effects will add another layer of fun.

If that all sounds exciting, then you’re not alone. The Caribbean Journey is expected to be immensely popular when it opens, attracting guests from far and wide. The Aquarium has historically been a huge draw for Texans, pulling in more than 50% percent of its guests from the San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston metro areas, but only about 15 percent of guests are from outside the Lone Star State. Caribbean Journey will more than double the indoor exhibit space of the Aquarium, vaulting it from a leading regional aquarium into one of the largest in the nation and a must-see attraction for both locals and tourists from around the nation.  

An outside rendering of the Aquarium including Caribbean Journey.

The most obvious benefit of the influx of guests will be economic. As millions of visitors flock to Corpus Christi from across the nation, businesses are expected to follow in order to attract these potential customers.  That’s sure to provide an additional boost to the Corpus Christi area, bringing in jobs, tax revenue, and other financial benefits. The Aquarium itself will also be a huge economic contributor. It currently has an annual impact of about $55 million on the Corpus Christi area, and with Caribbean Journey, that is expected to increase to more than $68 million. The Aquarium has supported 725 area jobs, comprising almost $20 million in salaries, and 50 additional full-time employees will be hired for Caribbean Journey. Local taxing districts are also estimated to collect $5 million due to the Aquarium’s presence.

This new flood of arriving visitors will also be contributing to conservation efforts in and around Corpus Christi, whether they realize it or not. A part of every dollar the aquarium receives goes towards funding a variety of conservation programs. When visitors pay their admission, they’re helping to support the Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, which rehabilitates and releases injures birds and marine mammals, and the Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund, which funds vital research projects in the Gulf of Mexico. With Caribbean Journey, the Texas State Aquarium can boost its contributions to these conservation programs and advance its vision of being a global leader in fostering conservation in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Barracudas, which will be among the tropical fish species in Caribbean Journey.

Caribbean Journey will also bring a value to Corpus Christi that goes beyond finances, strengthening the city’s reputation as a cultural and entertainment hub. The top floor of the Aquarium will be some of the most sought-after event space in town, ideal for weddings, corporate gatherings, and anyone else who wants to impress their guests. After all, this won’t be your typical venue. A top floor dining space that can seat 250 – 300 guests has a spectacular view of the Caribbean jungle on one side and the Corpus Christi Bayfront on the other.

But most importantly, Caribbean Journey will feature more exhibits and presentations for guests to take in and learn about ocean conservation. The average guest will take about half a day to explore Caribbean Journey and the rest of the Aquarium, including the Gulf of Mexico and Dolphin Bay exhibits. “Visitors will be able to explore centoes and waterfalls and get up close with a lot of different animals that are seen in the Yucatan area of Mexico,” said Tom Schmid, CEO.

Guests will not only be awed and entertained at their experiences in the Caribbean Journey and Gulf of Mexico exhibits but ultimately walk away with a greater appreciation of the environment and the need to conserve it. That lasting effect on its guests is ultimately the most meaningful way that the Aquarium will continue to give back and provide immense value to the community for years to come.





Take a Walk Through Caribbean Journey, Opening May 2017



The jungle space of Caribbean Journey, featuring the Mayan Ruins. Guests will walk through to see animals on either side of the pathway.

When the Caribbean Journey expansion opens in May 2017, it will take guests on an unforgettable adventure above and below the waters of the Yucatan Peninsula. The expansion will add 71,000 square feet of exhibit space to the Aquarium, more than doubling its size. Guests will begin their expedition through the Caribbean in the jungle, gradually venturing through wetlands, Mayan Ruins, coastal lagoons, coral reefs, and the open sea.
Upon entering the Caribbean Journey, guests will climb up to find a cenote, emulating the Yucatan’s captivating waterfalls and limestone sinkholes. They’ll pass through to emerge into a giant naturally-lit jungle, with nothing but a towering glass atrium between them and the sky. Attentive guests will spot birds flying between trees, iguanas crawling along branches, and quail scurrying about. Like intrepid explorers, guests will navigate this pathway, encountering wildlife at every turn.

The entrance of the Mayan Ruins, where guests will be able to see bats. In the foreground is a touch pool, where guests can get hands-on interactions with sharks and stingrays.

Among the first animals guests will find will be vibrant flamingos, posing in a swamp. Discovering the ruins of a Mayan temple, they’ll peek in to see reptiles waiting in the dark. Continuing on, guests will spot crocodiles lurking in the Karst Pool, and a mangrove forest housing fish and wading birds. From there, guests will begin to be transported from the jungle to the ocean. At the surface of the H-E-B Caribbean Shark Overlook, all seems calm. But looking down, guests will see the ocean’s most infamous predators on the hunt.

Construction on the H-E-B Caribbean Shark Exhibit, where guests can walk past a shipwreck and find themselves surrounded by sharks!

Guests will also be able to peer into colorful habitats at the Coral Reef and Blue Hole Overlooks. Along their way, guests will pass touch pools filled with sharks and stingrays, and will soon arrive at the ominous entrance of the Mayan Ruins, and can venture inside to see vampire bats and Jamaican fruit bats.
Now it’s time to dive below the waves. Guests will descend into the depths and come face-to-face with countless unique creatures, including lobsters, eels, and tropical fish. Guests will get the experience of being underwater in the open ocean–all without having to get wet!

An 118-foot tunnel, the longest in North America, will guide guests underwater and through the H-E-B Caribbean Shark exhibit.

Walking through the clear blue waters, guests will be in awe at the sudden sight of an ancient shipwreck. An 118-foot tunnel will guide guests past the remnants of this ship, where prowling among the wreckage, they’ll see the sharks they previously spied from above. But now, they’ll find they are surrounded!
Nothing to worry about, though; guests will safely exit the tunnel and be able to enter a 4-D theater. This state-of-the-art auditorium will feature films that give viewers a multi-sensory experience. During shows, audien

The patio and event space on the top floor of Caribbean Journey, which will overlook the Corpus Christi Bayfront.

ces will not only see and hear the ocean, but also feel, touch, and even smell it.
Finally, guests can ascend to the top floor, where they’ll be treated to a memorable view of the Caribbean Jungle and the spectacular Corpus Christi Bayfront. Inside, sharks and tropical fish from the lower floor exhibits can be seen swimming right below their feet.
Guests have now traveled through the entire Caribbean Journey expansion, but that doesn’t mean their adventure is over. After passing through the Gift Shop, they can then explore the Gulf of Mexico exhibits and the Dolphin Bay facilities. At day’s end, guests of the Aquarium will leave not only entertained, but with a greater appreciation of ocean life and the need to preserve it.
Learn more about the Caribbean Journey expansion by visiting: texasstateaquarium.org/Caribbean.

Making a Difference: Meet ‘Diver Dennis’

teeth small

Burk shows off his “teeth,” those gathered from our Islands of Steel exhibit residents Hunter & Orion.

In any other instance, a man that carries a bag of teeth around in his pocket might be considered a little bit strange, but in the case of veteran volunteer Dennis Burk; it’s just another day at the Aquarium. hermit crab small

Burk, a 22-year volunteer, loves showing curious kids and even adults what a pearly, pointy sand tiger shark tooth looks like up close. “It’s neat for them to make the connection that these right here [pointing to the teeth in his palm] are actually the chompers that come out of Orion and Hunter,” Burk says, referring to the Aquarium’s two resident sand tiger sharks, “And most times, I let them take one home as a souvenir.”

In his professional career, Burk worked as a RN at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi- South and also at the health center’s Beeville location. Other job duties included teaching hospital education courses in crisis intervention, CPR training, and also coaching staff how to use new medical instruments. After moving to Colorado for work, Burk decided in the early nineties that it was time to come back to the Coastal Bend.

“I missed my ocean,” he says. “I was a 35-year Divemaster and when I moved back and saw the Aquarium opening. I jumped at the opportunity to become a volunteer.”

flower gardens small

Burk gestures to the size of the corals in our Flower Gardens exhibit and how they correlate to those he’s seen out in the ocean.

Burk is passionate about diving, a hobby he took up while in Guam serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

“The water was crystal clear and there were these huge blue starfish that were just so cool,” Burk remembers.

Since, Burk has dived all over the Gulf, as well as the Caribbean. The unique sponges found diving the waters of the Cayman Islands are one of his favorite sights, and now so are many of the fish in exhibits at the Aquarium. Burk dives in the Aquarium’s Flower Gardens and Islands of Steel habitats, befriending many a finned inhabitant. While he loves diving, Burk says it’s interacting with Aquarium visitors that “pays all the bills.”

“I’m a certain personality, you know? And teaching is a large part of my background. So not only do I enjoy talking to people, I also love to inform them, and to teach them about this amazing world, these animals around them.”

Burk started out as  what’s referred to as a “brown apron,” then took the proper volunteer training courses to become a top-tier “blue vest” volunteer, a place of honor that requires the wearer to be able to speak at length about all areas of the Aquarium.

Burk says his passion for animals, diving, and teaching are all fulfilled in his position as a volunteer at the Aquarium, a fact he’s truly thankful for. 


One of Burk’s many hobbies includes kayak surfing.

“This place is not only great for the community and all the economic benefits it provides locally, but the people here are great. I’ve met a lot of staff and had a lot of fun here and I just love that I’m a piece of all that, I’m a part of this place,” he states.

Burk has enough anecdotes and stories concerning late night banquets, visitor questions, and diving adventures to fill the Islands of Steel exhibit he loves so much, but there’s one that stands out in his memory.

“There was a mother and her three little daughters visiting one day, years ago, and I was getting ready to dive in Islands,” he recalls. “So I went out and introduced myself to them and told them that soon I’d be diving in there. And they were hysterical! They said, ‘In THERE?! With the shark?!’ And I told them to stay and watch!”

Burk proceeded to strap on all his dive gear and enter the water, when he saw all three girls with their six hands on the acrylic, waving like mad and in awe that he was swimming with a shark. He began cleaning and also picking up ejected shark teeth he found on the bottom of the exhibit, when he noticed the oldest child trying to get his attention. He realized she was pointing to a large tooth he had missed, so he swam over, picked it up and held his palm against the acrylic so they could all get a good look.

“Their eyes were so wide, it was so cute,” says Burk.

turtle release

Burk also volunteers at the Padre Island National Seashore, where he has helped satellite tag sea turtles and assist in releasing rehabilitated turtles back into the wild.

Burk finished his dive and then went back out to the Islands of Steel viewing area, where his rapt audience met him with squeals of awe and delight. 

“They were hugging my legs and told me they were glad I was okay,” Burk says with a laugh, “So then, I pulled that tooth, the one the little girl had spotted, and showed it to them. They inspected it and touched it, and then I asked her if she wanted to take it home with her – she was beyond excited!”

Burk said they all hugged him, and the mother thanked him for such a great visit.


Being a “seahog” is a sentiment Burk takes to heart.

“They walked away with a great visit, and me, I still think about them to this day. That’s the reason why I’ve been doing this for so long. It truly never gets old.”


Meet ‘Diver Dennis’ every Thursday when he dives in our Islands of Steel and Flower Gardens exhibits!


Totally Touchable: 16 Animals You Can See and Feel at the Aquarium


Kid with urchinAt the Texas State Aquarium, we’re all about providing extrasensory experiences to excite and engage visitors with animals and nature. It’s been scientifically proven that people, especially children, tend to feel more passionately for and care about things they can see and interact with up close and personal – that’s why we foster compassion, education, and conservation via the ability to touch and feel certain animals.

We hope the thrill of petting a shark’s tough skin, feeling the tingling tube feet of a sea star, and holding a live conch will create lasting memories in your child’s mind for years to come, and also inspire them to care about our world’s oceans and the inhabitants that swim, splash, and scuttle beneath their waves.

Below is a list of the many totally touchable animals you can encounter at the Texas State Aquarium:


  1. Hermit crabhermit crab small

Found in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, the striped hermit crabs in our Living Shores touch pool area are only hermit-like as a defense mechanism, and because as they grow, they have to change shells, temporarily exposing their soft, vulnerable bodies to the world. The striped hermit’s body and legs are dark green or brown, streaked with white. Adult crabs often occupy shells of over 10 cm. (4 in.) in length.


  1. Horseshoe crab

Did you know we have an animal older than the dinosaurs that you can actually touch?! That’s right; the hard-shelled, blue-blooded horseshoe crab has been scuttling around the earth for over 300 million years! Though with their hard exoskeletons, ten legs, nine eyes, and long tails called telsons, they seem to look more like they come from outer space than earth. These can be found in our Living Shores touch pool area.slipper lobster sm


  1. Slipper lobster

You might notice that the slipper lobster seems to be lacking a very crucial part of lobster anatomy – where are its pinchers? Don’t worry; this crafty crustacean, found in our Living Shores touch pool area, comes equipped with multiple ways to fend off predators. This lobster has one of the toughest carapaces under the sea, and it also has amazing camouflage capabilities, as well as the ability to climb and cling to surrounding landscape to escape!


  1. Sea urchin

Also found in our Living Shores touch pool area, the spindly spindles of the pencil and short spined urchins in our touch pool area only look menacing – there’s nothing to fear! Urchins can be covered with hundreds of these spines and can range in color from white to purple to blue and even red. pin cushion urchin small


  1. Sea star

The Bahama, or red cushion, sea star found in our Living Shores touch pool area is the largest sea star found in its range, which stretches from the Caribbean Sea to the western Atlantic Ocean. The upper surface of this oceanic omnivore is hard and covered with blunt spines, but pick one up, and you’ll feel its tube feet moving against your hand.


  1. Southern Ray smallSouthern stingray

These flat, diamond-shaped rays are usually a stone gray or muddle olive color and the large adults are famously seen in the waters off the Cayman Islands swimming with visitors. Not only can you touch them in Stingray Lagoon, you can also see larger southern stingrays in our Islands of Steel and Flower Gardens exhibits.


  1. Cownose stingray

The distinctive w-shaped nose of the cownose ray looks just like that of its bovine namesake. These rays swim in multiple exhibits at the Aquarium and are among those that can be touched at Stingray Lagoon. Like most rays, cownoses have crushing plates they use to eat clams and oysters. And though they can use their barbs for defense in the wild, we trim the barbs of all the stingrays at the Texas State Aquarium. They’re made of keratin, just like our hair and fingernails, so the procedure is totally painless.


  1. Whitespotted bamboo shark

Just one of the three types of carpet sharks we have at the Aquarium, these benthic and banded sharks are easily identifiable by their medium and dark brown-striped bodies spotted with white dots. Visitors can get up close with them in our Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Brown banded bamboo sharkbrownbanded bamboo shark small

This small shark likes to search the sediment on the ocean bottom for prey and can also amazingly survive outside the water for extended periods of time! It can be found in the Aquarium at our Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Epaulette shark

These tan and black-spotted sharks use their fins for more than swimming – they actually walk with them! By wriggling their bodies from side to side and pushing with their paired fins, they can effectively walk across the bottom of the ocean and their Saving Sharks exhibit.


  1. Horn shark

Recognizable by its short, blunt head, ridges over its eyes, two high dorsal fins, and brown coloration with a plethora of small, dark spots, the horn shark can be found slowly swimming inside the touch pool area inside Saving Sharks.


  1. Sea cucumbersea cucumber sm

Named after its resemblance to the common green vegetable, sea cucumbers are important parts of marine ecosystems as they help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter after which bacteria can continue the degradation process. They can be found in our Living Shores touch pool area.


  1. Horse conch

The largest gastropod in American waters, the horse conch is also one of the largest sea snails in the world. The animal can retract its bright orange soft parts into its shell and seal itself off from predators. Touch one in our touch area in our Living Shores exhibit!


  1. Common spider crab

Also known as a decorator crab due to its tendency to camouflage itself with algae and debris, the spider crab is a long-legged and slow-moving creature that can be found from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico in brackish, salty waters. At the Aquarium, you can catch this crustacean in our Living Shores touch pool.Spider crab sm


  1. Milk conch

This iconic conical conch can be found burrowing into sandy ocean floors all throughout the gulf and the Caribbean. The inside of the shell is creamy in color, and the animal itself is a greenish color with large eyestalks. When disturbed, it will retreat into its shell and close it using the operculum. Get up close in our Living Shores touch pool!


  1. Chiton smChitons

Chitons are marine mollusks that look more like fossils than living animals. They dwell on hard surfaces such as on or under rocks or in crevices and can be found all across the world’s oceans, as well as in our Living Shores touch pool area. They have plates that overlap and give them that tough, tank-like appearance similar to the body of a cockroach. Chitons creep slowly along surfaces thanks to a muscular foot – they’ve been doing so for close to 400 million years.


Don’t fear the fin: Saving Sharks exhibit shows misunderstood fish need our help, not our fear


Justifying not only the existence, but the conservation of Jaws is a hard license plate to swallow for many ocean-loving humans. Not everyone feels pity for the ocean’s apex predators, but the fact is that sharks are crucial to the health of our world’s oceans and their declining populations need our help now more than ever. Helping to illustrate the various ways in which we can and are conserving shark species is Saving Sharks, the newest exhibit brought to you by thUntitled-1-01e Texas State Aquarium, OCEARCH, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Due to unsustainable fishing practices, habitat alteration, climate change, and finning, shark populations have declined between 70 and 90 percent in recent years, leaving many of them swimming toward the endangered species list. Humans, unfortunately, have had a heavy hand in getting them there. The good news is, we can help turn their grim fate around. Passing on all shark products, consuming only sustainable fish, fishing responsibly, and learning more about your local shark populations are all things you can do to make the oceans safer for sharks – which makes it safer for us all.

Saving Sharks aims to support these conservation practices by furthering learning about these often misunderstood predators using facts and educational efforts to combat such ideologies. A section on shark biology helps accomplish this by exhibiting a shark’s cartilaginous skeleton, as well as skin, scales, and teeth samples from a number of different species.

ToothlessDesigned to capture the hearts and minds of would-be conservationists and lifelong shark fans, alike, Saving Sharks is a fun, interactive, and informative exhibit. Featuring a live touch tank area where visitors can see and feel whitespotted bamboo, horn, and epaulette sharks, track great whites in real time, and even stand inside a life-sized underwater diving cage, it’s a shark showcase that’s sure to excite and engage every member of the family!

The king of the shark world, the great white, is well represented throughout the exhibit, especially where OCEARCH is concerned. OCEARCH is a non-profit organization and leader in open source data collection and research concerning great whites and other apex predators.

Aboard the OCEARCH research vessel, the team travels the world and collects data including reproductive conditions of females, body measurements for comparative studies around the world, muscle biopsies to identify key life stages, and more. Led by founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer, OCEARCH is able to bring live shark tracking straight to your fingertips via the Internet and their Global Shark Tracker. Follow majestic creatures such as Katherine, the 14-foot great white who has swum over 15,000 miles in the two years since she was tagged, or cruise alongside Sam Houston, the 10-foot long tiger shark tagged off the coast of Port Aransas last summer. OCEARCH plays a critical role in providing scientific information necessary in tracking and measuring shark species across the globe, helping to lead and better steer conservation efforts. SandTigerSharks062515a

Some of the first identified sharks that OCEARCH ever tracked were tagged by Corpus Christi’s own Dr. Greg Stunz of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Stunz was one of the first grantees to benefit from the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund. Stunz’s main project focus was to gain a better understanding of shark migration patterns in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re excited that our funding could positively affect members of the local Corpus Christi community, both human and otherwise.

Take a dive into the underwater world of Saving Sharks this October and together, we can join fins and work to conserve these beautiful and fascinating fish!

Texas State Aquarium and Valero Make Major Campaign Caribbean Announcement


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.




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

Texas State Aquarium Announces Monumental Expansion


Campaign Caribbean - See a New Sea

H-E-B contribution of $3 million leads way in effort for

Caribbean Journey to More Than Double Size of Aquarium


CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Texas State Aquarium is excited to announce today the largest expansion in its 24 year history. Bringing the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of the Western Caribbean to the shores of Corpus Christi, this $50,000,000 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 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. Today, continued partner H-E-B announced a lead gift of $3 million to Campaign Caribbean, which has now reached the crucial midway point of the $50 million goal, enabling the Aquarium to commission final construction documents and move forward with groundbreaking scheduled for late this year.  Rob Hall, Group Vice President of H-E-B Gulf Coast Region stated, “The Texas State Aquarium is one of the most significant educational resources in our state.  H-E-B is pleased to continue our partnership with the aquarium because we believe this investment represents our passion for education and our commitment to the communities we serve.”


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% 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 www.texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean to take the Caribbean Journey.

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.


Nearshore Gallery



Construction on our remodeled Nearshore exhibit is coming along! This is a large piece of the fallen “driftwood” tree that will stretch across most of the new exhibit, allowing the birds to roam a larger space and perch right over your head! The newly renovated space will be open Spring 2014.