by Tom Lang
Aletha and I traveled to the beautiful Emerald Isle of Ireland in September 2017 to meet with experienced professionals at three public Aquariums who took us behind-the-scenes and shared with us key aspects of their operations. There’s nothing like seeing the “nuts and bolts” first-hand and we were impressed with all the dedicated individuals who create and maintain impactful exhibits for the education and enjoyment of their visitors.
After driving to the west coast of Ireland, promoted as the Wild Atlantic Way, we arrived in Salthill, the seaside village just up the beach from Galway with its Galway Atlantaquaria. There, we met up with Marketing Manager Garry Kendellen, Technical Manager Matthew Hawkins and Education Director Noirin Burke.
At Galway, we learned that they were the very first Aquarium to sign onto the international #OurOcean initiative World Aquariums Against Marine Litter and that is why their logo is at the top of the list on the Our Ocean website’s list of Aquarium partners.
The Our Ocean initiative recognizes the power that public Aquariums have to inspire the public to support worldwide marine pollution control programs.
At SeaLife Bray, we first toured the Aquarium with the delightful guide Fiona McKenna and then met up with General Manager Pat Ó Súilleabháin, who took us behind-the-scenes and talked with us about the joys and challenges of managing an Aquarium for many years.
At Exploris Aquarium, we met with newly-hired Senior Aquarist Peter Williams and Assistant Senior Aquarist Amy Robinson. We also ran into artist Peter Sheridan of Nautilus Attraction Developments. Nautilus is the U.K. company that designed and installed the original theming at Exploris years ago, and Peter was painting a beautiful new background scene for an area that was being refurbished.
Exploris, the smallest public Aquarium on our journey, was most interesting to us because it was just celebrating its first year of operations under a new operator after having been closed for several years due to previous budget issues. Owned by the Portaferry town council, the new operator has implemented new marketing strategies and hired experienced Aquarium professionals such as Peter and Amy. We wish them continued success long into the future!
Our visits to three of Ireland’s public Aquariums has helped us refine some of our own ideas for exhibits and initiatives as the Fresno Aquarium project moves forward. We hope you will consider joining us on a future trip to visit other public Aquariums throughout the world as well as in the U.S.
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