Sunday, June 2, 2013

Albuquerque Aquarium

We arrived at the Albuquerque Aquarium after leisurely spending our morning in the botanic garden just across the bio park, and being freshly fed at the Shark Reef Café. After enjoying our lunch—observing sharks, tuna, stingrays, and the crowd favorite sea turtle in the tank adjoining to the café’s dining room—we were ready and eager to see everything the aquarium had to offer.
The initial room of the aquarium had a variety of exhibits relating to the Gulf of Mexico—from the harmful invasive species found there to the seafood industry that surrounds it.  The “collections” included both real and replica animals—and two live seagulls flying around! There were also both closed in glass tanks and tanks tat were open at the top for visitors to look both through and down on, as long as they don’t touch the water!
There was even a replica of a typical Gulf shrimping boat (I was hoping it would be named Jenny) located outside in the pseudo harbor. This relates to Albuquerque because the Rio Grande, which runs but feet from the bio park heads east and drains into the Gulf.
After the first room, visitors went through a darker tunnel lined with labeled replica fish so they could point them out in the upcoming exhibits—the Atlantic and Pacific Coral Reef tanks. The two biggest tanks in the building, located in these sections, included the usual universal aquarium experience that one would expect.
While the Atlantic section had a large tank viewable from one side, the Pacific section included a tunnel tank in addition to a regular one like in the Atlantic. In this last section of the aquarium there was also smaller tanks for individual species too small to be displayed in the larger tanks. These species included jellyfish, seahorses, and starfish.
Other, more unique exhibits, included information on the harmful effects of things like oil spills, pollution, and global warming on the world’s oceans and its wildlife. These educational bits were incorporated right in with the animal displays, so the idea was very effective. It was nice to see the aquarium take a proactive and educational stance on marine life, rather than just preserving and displaying them for the public.
A popular part of the aquarium was the interactive section in which visitors could pet stingrays under the supervision of a trained staff member. Speaking of aquarium-goers, there were guests of all ages and demographics in attendance during out visit. We observed young people like us, older couples, full families, etc. An aquarium is one type of museum that easily appeals to mostly everyone, so the range of people was expected. This appealed to aquarium-goers of all ages, and was a great addition to the standard you-can-only-get-so-close fish tanks. Another unique feature within the Pacific section was a magnified seating area within perfect view of the final large shark tank. This feature gave the visitors a chance to sit down and enjoy the exhibit without standing in someone's way or blocking a picture. It was very popular--within our group as well!
Besides the interactive portion, there were no tours available or needed. All the exhibits were fairly straightforward and didn't leave much up for interpretation unlike the other museums we had visited. . Though the aquarium was a little smaller than most of us were expecting, it was a nice break from our usual suspect museums on the trip and a great aspect of the Albuquerque Bio Park. As a stand-alone aquarium, it may not live up to expectations of most aquatic life lovers, but it definitely played its role well alongside the botanic garden, zoo, and Tingley Beach.

Some more photos...

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