The Man Behind the Mulch: Meet Landscape Specialist Keith Bethel


From the backwash basins in the very bottom of the building, to the tippity-top of the tall steeple on top of the observation deck, Keith Bethel knows the Aquarium from side to side, top to bottom. The twenty-five year staff member is technically titled Landscape Specialist, but he’s more like the Aquarium’s own Renaissance man. From parking issues, to sanitation stations, electricity and wiring, exhibit building – you name it and he’s had a hand in it.


Bethel pulling errant weeds out of his pristine landscaping.

Though a native Corpus Christian, Bethel lived in Hawaii as a young adult and worked in the landscaping industry, thus giving him the edge he needed 25 years ago to land his current position.

“I was somewhat knowledgeable about tropical plants and our climate here and what works here,” says Bethel.

Bethel says he was largely tasked with making choices regarding planting, soil, landscaping the front, back, and individual exhibit areas all around the aquarium – a somewhat daunting task for a young man. But Bethel knew exactly where to find answers and inspiration; they were right across the bridge.

“I would go and cruise down Ocean Drive and check out what was thriving and doing well in their yards, then take that knowledge back to the Aquarium. We have the same kind of exposure they do and it translates well,” Bethel explained.

But Bethel’s knowledge and ingenuity doesn’t just stop at plants and landscaping. As a master falconer, he is extremely well-versed on bird care, specifically raptors.

From a very young age, Bethel said he developed a fascination with birds. 


Bethel poses with a hawk behind the Aquarium. 

“From hummingbirds to condors, you name it; I think they’re all amazing creatures,” says Bethel, who used to spend hours of his childhood researching different bird species in the Corpus Christi Library’s encyclopedia collection. After wearing out the more general books, Bethel looked for other options and discovered one single volume concerning falconry, and that was it – the sport flew away with him.

“It is defined as ‘the art of using trained raptors to hunt,’ and is a sport that’s been around for thousands of years,” Bethel says. “There’s such a rich history behind it. Back even before the Medieval period.”

Bethel is very fond of his two peregrine falcons, Mamba, a female, and Colt, a male or tiercel. He says that working at the Aquarium over the years has afforded him great opportunities to learn more about birds of prey.


A master falconer, Bethel is pictured here hunting with one of his two falcons.

“I’m grateful for a lot of opportunities I’ve gotten working here. I’m thankful also for the stability the Aquarium has provided me and my family – my kids grew up in the halls here and now so will my grandkids,” Bethel says with a smile. His daughter Sarah is part of the Aquarium’s Guest Services staff and recently had a baby boy.

Pride indeed runs deep at the Aquarium for Keith Bethel. From creating and maintaining our award-winning grounds, to helping with various tasks in every department, and even helping to transport animals, there truly is so much to learn about the man behind the mulch.

Texas State Aquarium Released Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Second ChancesThe Aquarium is happy to announce that we released a Red-Tailed Hawk back into its natural habitat at Hazel Bazemore Park earlier this morning!

The Aquarium’s Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital took in the juvenile raptor February 11, when a local woman discovered the injured hawk near Allison Point Road and brought it to the facility.

Upon inspection, Second Chances staff discovered the young hawk was dehydrated and had a broken clavicle and coracoid, two vital shoulder bones that inhibit flying if fractured. Surgery was performed by Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. David Stelling to pin the bones back together. The major surgery required slow conditioning and physical therapy by staff. The young hawk steadily progressed in its rehabilitation, moving from low perches to higher ones, eventually regaining its ability to fly.

Throughout its recovery, staff carefully monitored the mending of hawk’s injuries and encouraged appropriate eating habits. All were excited to see the healed hawk return to its natural habitat.

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk released

Texas State Aquarium Saddened Loss of Fish Species


The Texas State Aquarium is saddened to report the loss of approximately 400 marine fish.  These fish inhabited several large habitats, including the Islands of Steel exhibit and the Flower Gardens exhibit. In an attempt to control a particularly difficult parasite that had proven resistant to other treatments, staff administered a different, commonly used drug. The fish in the affected exhibits had an adverse reaction to the medication. Staff members worked diligently throughout the night to save as much of the collection as possible, but considerable losses were sustained.

The majority of the Aquarium’s animal collection was not impacted. The Living Shores gallery, Nearshore gallery, Amazon, and Floating Phantoms, as well as a number of smaller exhibits, were not affected. None of the freshwater aquariums, and none of the touch tanks were impacted. In addition, none of the outdoor exhibits such as Tortuga Cay and Texas Trails were affected.  The loss represents about 13 percent of the Aquarium’s overall collection.

As a standard precaution, staff had tested the treatment on an individual smaller exhibit with no adverse reaction prior to administering it into the larger exhibit.

The Aquarium’s first priority is to focus on stabilizing the water in the affected exhibits. The Aquarium has sent water samples from affected exhibits to testing laboratories in hopes of a clear explanation for what caused the adverse reaction.

“This is a very sad day at the Texas State Aquarium,” remarked Aquarium Chief Marketing Officer Richard E. Glover, Jr. “We are working diligently to find out what caused the adverse reaction, and we will keep the public informed with any updates.”