RALIEGH, N.C. – Four months ago, the North Carolina Aquariums closed their doors to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the aquariums remain closed, they are offering virtual opportunities for the public to connect with nature and learning, while staying engaged with animals and staff. Additionally, the Aquariums on Roanoke Island and at Pine Knoll Shores are offering outdoor programs for online registered guests.
“In these times where everyone’s lives have shifted and the aquarium has remained closed for public health, virtual engagement has offered us an opportunity to stay connected,” said Windy Arey-kent, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores education curator. “We’ve been able to shift our focus from in-person to online and this has allowed us to connect with an entirely new audience that we would never see in person.”
Although the aquarium is closed to the public, the aquarium team has continued to provide excellent care for thousands of animals daily. Expert staff have ensured the animals receive all they need for their health and well-being. Animal caretakers feed, clean habitats, conduct health checks, monitor water quality, and offer enrichment with no interruption for holidays, weekends or closures.
“While we are closed, not only is a virtual program a fun and exciting way for you to stay connected to the aquarium and our animals, but it’s a great way to continue to support the aquarium and our conservation mission,” said Arey-kent. “We need you now, more than ever, and these opportunities are enriching experiences for participants, our staff and even our animals.”
Guests now have the opportunity to take virtual behind-the-scene tours at each aquarium to see the incredible continued work, as well as virtual animal encounters and cameos. While each aquarium is offering many different online programs, a unique experience at the Aquarium on Roanoke Island allows virtual visitors an exclusive opportunity to view the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center, while engaging with animal caretakers.
“These new virtual programs allow us to continue sharing the fascinating world of the aquarium even when we don’t have guests in the building,” said Dia Hitt, education curator at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. “We are excited to have the ability to connect with families that we might not normally see here. It’s really about adapting and making use of the best opportunities at hand.”
One of the virtual opportunities hosted by the Aquarium at Fort Fisher focuses on the extensive conservation work of the aquariums. “Virtual Behind the Scenes: Saving Species,” shares how the aquarium helps save animals locally and globally, including sand tiger shark research, raising and releasing endangered Carolina gopher frogs, growing corals, and more.
“All of these virtual programs demonstrate the aquariums’ continued commitment to education, but also focus on the ongoing care and dedication of staff to our animal residents and species in the wild, even amidst our public closure,” said Andy Gould, education curator at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “Our teams have been hard at work moving our mission forward even while our doors have been closed to guests.”
Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores staff have also created a unique opportunity that allows participants to burn off energy and use their body to move like an animal in a Whale of a Workout. During this 30-minute exercise class learn about how animals use their body to move, capture prey, avoid a predator, or defend themselves. Break a sweat by mimicking their actions and discover what it takes to move like an ocean dweller, land-lover, or feathered friend.
Jennette’s Pier, which is currently open to the public for fishing, is also offering virtual opportunities. Regardless of where an individual lives, they can receive an activity kit used for exploring wind power and renewable energy, plankton investigations and much more.
“The activity kit gives a hands-on experience while engaging with our staff,” said Christin Brown, education curator for Jennette’s Pier. “Even though we are far apart we are connected through this immersive virtual field trip.”
In addition to online programs, the Aquariums on Roanoke Island and at Pine Knoll Shores are offering outdoor programs for online registered guests. The outdoor tours allow individuals the opportunity to get outside and explore nature on guided kayak and paddleboard trips while practicing safe distancing.
“Whether it is kayaking, fishing or stand-up paddle boarding, these are fun outings for visitors and residents who want to enjoy some adventure on the water in a safe, socially distanced environment,” Hitt said.
For more information about virtual opportunities at Fort Fisher, please visit http://www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher-tours-and-adventures.
For more information about both online and outdoor opportunities at Pine Knoll Shores, please visit http://www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores-special-events.
For more information about both online and outdoor opportunities on Roanoke Island, please visit https://reservations.ncaquariums.com/roanokeisland/Info.aspx?EventID=33.
For more information about online opportunities at Jennette’s Pier, please visit http://www.ncaquariums.com/jennettes-pier-virtual-learning.