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Riding the Storm Out


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Hey folks,

It's been a mighty long time since I posted in this forum but given that my traditional June meeting hosting is off, I thought I'd pass along some thoughts and stir this sucker from dormancy. As we all know, the business of taking care of our critters doesn't stop despite what might be happening in the world outside. Despite how quickly we become inured to The New Normal, wandering the corridors of Hatfield Marine Science Center is still a bit surreal. The only people onsite are the husbandry team and the facilities guys. All the students and academic types are long gone and have been effectively banished from the premises.

When the scope of the pandemic became clearer, each HMSC department head was asked which of their staff was essential and the electronic locks were calibrated to only allow the 12 or so essential people access to the buildings. So, the four of us on the husbandry team are mostly working adjusted schedules, taking care of our systems and animals and trying to avoid each other's areas of the facility. Having the Visitor's Center closed indefinitely is disastrous for the revenue stream that funds most of the VC personnel and nuts-and-bolts upkeep of the place. As most of you know, the place runs mostly on donations and the guests that would normally be swarming the joint in the spring and summer months just aren't around. How this will affect this part of the facility for the foreseeable future isn't clear yet but one thing's for sure: it's a staggering blow and a sobering reminder of how this is affecting many other facilities, businesses, and especially, families.

Right now is also prime time for the Education Department, with marauding hordes of schoolkids from around the PNW descending on the Ed Wing for wet labs, estuary hikes and other innovative programming that draws K-12 kids from as far away as Montana. In any other May, the educators would be booked with classes in both labs and outdoors all day long. That, and all the revenue that these classes bring to the Ed Dept., is also at a complete standstill.

For us fishheads, we're taking on lots of projects that would otherwise be impractical or impossible. Exhibits being taken down for deep cleaning, new aquascaping, repurposing, etc. Lots of critters being moved back to systems in my lab in back for holding and medical treatments. I've been able to take on projects that I've wanted to do for a long time, i.e., a complete teardown and remodel on my Hospital/Quarantine. Next week, the floor will get a much-needed paint job and the lower half of the walls will also get a fresh skin of paint. When that's complete, I can start moving new H/Q holding systems in place and begin building new systems that exemplify the best practices that we teach to the Aquarium Science and veterinary students that come to work with us. This will also open up room in my Teaching Lab for new systems and probably new animals that are not in the collections at the Teaching Aquarium up at the community college or at Oregon Coast Aquarium.

In the coming months and years, we will also be able to implement some changes in the Teaching Lab that we've wanted to do for quite a while. We've always provided back-of-the-house tours of my lab for different groups for a modest fee. To that end, we're going to be adding signage for each of the systems, explaining the purpose of each system, what the different types of filtration are and why they were chosen for this system, information about the animals, etc. This will allows us to provide more tours, drive more revenue for the Aquatic Animal Health Program and give the folks on these tours a more complete picture of the teaching that goes on back there. We expect that it will also give our colleagues in Oregon Sea Grant a better understanding of the work that we do and provide better outreach opportunities for both programs. Most of the funding for the AAHP is provided by OSG but few of those people really understand what we do.

This post may be a poor substitute for seeing you folks next month, which is something I look very much forward to each year. However, I thought that an update was in order and this allows me to make a small contribution to this amazing group of people. Stay safe, be well and continue to look out for yourselves and each other as best you can. I'll surely miss hosting next month's meeting but the good news is there'll be plenty of new things to see and talk about when I host again next year.

Cheers, guys. 🐙

 

 

 

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Hey Sid - good to hear from you and that you are still able to do the necessary work to keep all the creatures well while you are shut down to the public.  Will definitely miss the opportunity to see you this year... at least for our usual summer club meeting.  Looking forward to a time you and the Hatfield crew can restart all your educational activities - whenever that may be.

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The insight into your personal experience, as well as the projects you're working on, is valuable.

 

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Minecraft education is beneficial because it fosters creativity, problem solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills.

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Hey folks,

Been a long time since I posted again. First off, I'd like to apologize to @SantaMonica for completely overlooking their post on this thread back in November. Not intentional, merely oblivious.

There have been a few notable changes in the Visitor's Center since we reopened last August 1. We went to a reservation system to control the number of people in the VC at any one time and began charging a modest $3 fee for admittance for the first time since the facility opened in '65. The company that ran the gift shop (sort of) since the VC was extensively remodeled in '18 bailed before we reopened and that space is now a gallery for a local photographer for a while longer. And quite recently, we swapped out a slightly undersized chiller on the Octopus exhibit for a very sexy water-cooled chiller that looks like it might chill that system down near absolute zero if we want it to. Such is the stuff from which fishhead dreams are woven....

In the Teaching Lab in the back, I completed the H/Q remodel about a year ago and it's a lot more biosecure, with more tanks and volume on the Quarantine Side and the Hospital side. The Aquaponics system is producing a steady supply of fresh basil, cilantro, gai lan (Chinese broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables,) small red peppers and pretty soon, there should be a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes. It took a while to ramp up production but it's become exactly what I wanted it to be: a model for NO3 export with very few water changes since last summer and none since October. AS of last Friday, nitrate was somewhere below 5ppm. 🌱

I acclimated a NW Pond Turtle to this system three weeks ago tomorrow and dude has settled in very nicely. He might be the Grand Champion Baskmaster of all time. Once he's parked under the UVA/UVB lamp on the haul-out, he won't move for food, fear or flatulence, a commodity often in ample supply.

In some ways, we're still suffering from a bit of a pandemic hangover with short staffing during much of the last two years and a bit of a scramble to repopulate the exhibits out front last summer. However, we're emerging from the funk and will be collecting new specimens in the coming days, weeks and months.

I'm going to endeavor to post more and lurk less going forward and will be much better at checking the HMSC forum. Feel free to ask any questions about HMSC, the Aquarium Science Program or anything else. Perhaps one day we'll have coral exhibits again. I sure do miss my tropical marine tanks.....

 

 

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Really, it accomplishes both. The Visitor's Center has been subsidized for years. The By Donation Only model has been just about the best deal in town for a long time but has restricted our ability to staff properly and develop the exhibits anywhere near where the staff wanted them. When we opened last August, the reservation system and modest $3 per person charge were implemented primarily to control how many people were in the VC at any one time and to help defray the considerable overhead.

 

 

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And just for anyone following along on this thread, don't forget we'll be holding our June PNWMAS meeting at the Hatfield Marine Science Center on June 4th!

Sid, will the $3 entry fee apply to this meeting?  If so, I'll update the meeting announcement post so everyone will be aware.

 

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Well done, @SuncrestReef. Sadly, this will have to apply to my PNWMAS guests, as well. VC management has had to be arbitrary about this whether we're hosting a meeting or hosting 37 3rd graders from Roseburg. It occurs to me that this is likely an OSU policy that has been handed down rather than a HMSC policy. Thankfully, I'm not required to be at those meetings.

Suncrest's following up on the fee to update the meeting post is commendable but should not have been necessary. I've been meaning to post a follow up to that thread and make you folks aware of it but have not made that happen yet. Sorry about that, y'all. I really am looking forward to hosting you folks again.

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38 minutes ago, IntoTheMystic said:

Well done, @SuncrestReef. Sadly, this will have to apply to my PNWMAS guests, as well. VC management has had to be arbitrary about this whether we're hosting a meeting or hosting 37 3rd graders from Roseburg. It occurs to me that this is likely an OSU policy that has been handed down rather than a HMSC policy. Thankfully, I'm not required to be at those meetings.

Suncrest's following up on the fee to update the meeting post is commendable but should not have been necessary. I've been meaning to post a follow up to that thread and make you folks aware of it but have not made that happen yet. Sorry about that, y'all. I really am looking forward to hosting you folks again.

This is not a problem at all, and no need to apologize.  I just wasn't aware of the entry fee until I saw this thread, so I thought I should ask.

I'll update the meeting announcement so there is no confusion for attendees in June.  I personally am really looking forward to this event !!!

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