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A Conversation with a Community Partner

It’s hard not to think about water here in Cleveland. To us Lake Erie is our backyard and we see it every day, but the Great Lakes contain about 90% of the United States’ freshwater supply. That’s why in advance of World Water Day (March 22nd) Greater Cleveland Aquarium General Manager Stephanie White decided to check in with our community partner, Drink Local. Drink Tap.

SW: I am here with DLDT’s Wavemaker Program Manager Kristine and with Matt, Education Coordinator at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Kristine, tell us a little bit about the mission and activities of Drink Local. Drink Tap.

KN: Sure! The mission at Drink Local. Drink Tap. is three-fold. We help to educate about the global water crisis, improve water equity for those in need, and get people engaged in helping to protect our water.

SW: What type of local and international activities do you have with your programs?

KN: Locally we have our Wavemaker Education Program where we go into schools and speak with students about the global water crisis and how they can get involved here in Northeast Ohio. On a global level, we work in Uganda bringing water and sanitation to rural, needy areas.

SW: What sparked your interest in water access?

KN: I was living and traveling throughout Asia and I saw how differently people experienced water depending on where they lived and their socioeconomic status. When I moved back to Cleveland I met Drink Local. Drink Tap. Founder & Executive Director Erin Huber Rosen in 2011 as the nonprofit was really getting off the ground and I decided to get involved and volunteer. Over the years I participated in beach cleanups and various events. Eventually I started working with the Wavemaker program and in 2019 I officially became a staff member.

SW: Over the years we’ve partnered with you for the United Nations’ World Water Day, which is part of your Wavemaker program. Tell us a little more about how you engage with students?

KN: Our program goes into schools and we speak with students directly in classrooms or during assemblies. Obviously doing everything virtually right now. We try to educate children on the global water crisis and share how people experience water so differently. You know, we’re really blessed in Northeast Ohio to have so much water here. We have our Lake Erie, we have rivers and we have plenty of rain and snowfall. That’s not how people experience water all over the world. We’re trying to raise awareness and hopefully bring some of that to their thought process on a daily basis and encourage them to get involved—to come to beach cleanups, to change their daily and to consider water as a basic necessity of life and not something we just turn on a tap and use without thinking about it at all.

SW: As you said, this time we’re all virtual, but in the past, Matt, what did World Water Day look like here at the Aquarium?

MD: World Water Day has always been one of my favorite days here on-site. In past years, hundreds of local schoolkids came to celebrate water. They did water-related activities before experiencing the exhibits and animals. I think my favorite part of the day has been the palpable energy and excitement that the students feel about water. As an educator, it was inspiring to see children getting excited about an important topic.

SW: Hopefully this year we can have that same excitement but on a virtual platform. Kristine, can you talk us through how you’re going to celebrate in 2021?

KN: We are holding a virtual event, which allows anyone to join from anywhere and we’re not limited to who can physically get to us. We’ll be offering a virtual fieldtrip for the students where we have exhibitors who are holding a booth. Students can migrate in and out of the booths and find out about the various organizations and how they pertain to water. We’ll also have a portion where Erin Huber Rosen, the Executive Director of Drink Local.Drink Tap., and I will be hold a live piece. We’ll talk about various topics and engage with participants. Then we also have a student youth activist from Uganda that we’re going to connect with and hear from, so we’re super excited about that.

SW: I know the Aquarium is part of that too. Kristine was just saying clean water is critical for all life and important for us. Matt, what’s one message that you share with your students while your educating, whether it’s on this one particular day or 365 days of the year?

MD: I like to stress that it can feel like we have unlimited water, right? Day in and day out, for most of us here in this area we can turn on the faucet and water comes out to use and drink. But less than 1% of all water on Earth is available for us to use. In terms of a global scale, there’s really not that much water left for all human beings on Earth to use and our population is still growing. It’s really important that students coming through this building start to get a sense that it is a limited resource. It is finite. You should do everything you can to make small changes in your daily life as you think about water as a resource and how you can conserve it.

SW: So then what is your favorite tip to share with your students as to how they can participate in water conservation at home?

MD: Since most of our students are younger, I try to keep it simple for them, something easy to remember. I really stress trying to drink more tap water if you can does multiple good things for our Earth. For one, it takes more water to create a plastic bottle than actual amount of water inside that bottle, which is really crazy to think about. It also takes oil to produce plastic which is giving out CO2 into the environment. And then many of these water bottles that people are buying from the store, these single-use bottles, do end up as litter, unfortunately, which can then end up in our waterways. Just trying to drink a little more tap water than you have in the past and reducing the number of single-use bottles you are buying can make a huge difference overall.

KN:  I fully agree with everything Matt said. Reducing our single-use plastics is one of the biggest and most important steps in the right direction. And I would also suggest just a change in your thought process—thinking differently about water, about how you use water and about how the things we do use water. Not only brushing our teeth or taking a shower, but the things we buy and use require water. Just thinking differently and sharing what you’ve learned with others is important. If people don’t know there’s a problem they can’t do anything to help, so spread the word.

SW: Kristine, I saw on your website that just $30 can bring safe drinking water to one person for life. If anyone wants to donate to Drink Local. Drink Tap., what would their donation do?

KN: Right now our Wavemaker program is working to fund a project for Mbaale Primary School. They are in desperate need of clean water and sanitation. There are hundreds of students, teachers and local villagers who are using a latrine that was constructed by the school head teacher and some parent volunteers and unfortunately it’s not safe. It’s falling apart. These students end up going in the bush which is highly problematic, especially for young girls. Our focus right now is funding a latrine project for that school. If we aren’t able to come up with a solution for them quite quickly the school will have to close down. That’s how severe the problem is right now. Once we can raise for that, we’re going to then switch for that same school to a borehole to bring them clean water. W

SW: Wow! So a donation really could make a difference.

KN: Oh, it makes a huge difference. Like you said, $30 can bring one Ugandan water for life. That really is completely life-changing. It allows children to go to school instead of fetching water. It keeps them safe because they’re not traveling long distances by themselves to get that water. It allows for basic dignity. Even a small donation makes a really huge difference.

SW: Thank you for joining us today, Kristine, and for the conversation. Thank you Matt for taking time out of virtual tours. I look forward to March 22nd. Happy World Water Day!

To learn more about the water equity issues and supporting the nonprofit’s projects and programming, visit drinklocaldrinktap.org.

A Conversation with a Community Partner: United Black Fund

We partner annually with the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland. Greater Cleveland Aquarium GM had a virtual conversation with UBF’s Cecil Lipscomb and Lizzie Thompson to talk about how their organization and the agencies it empowers are making a positive difference for children and families in Northeast Ohio.

I am Stephanie White, General Manager of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, and I am joined virtually by Cecil and Lizzie from the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland. Please tell us all a little bit about the work your organization does here in Northeast Ohio.

CECIL LIPSCOMB, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Sure, I’ll be happy to. I’ll start with our mission, which is basically to acquire, accumulate and allocate funds to non-profits to alleviate suffering in poverty and illiteracy. We also want to strengthen the tradition and ethic of giving in the African-American community and empower the African-American community through education.

We’re really proud of our agencies and the work that they have been engaged in over the years. I’ll call out a few. Curtis Freed is the Executive Director of Strong Hands United. He actually engages and reconnects families from formerly incarcerated parents. We want to make certain that the family structure is able to maintain a whole position in the city. We work with another program called Beat the Streets, which is led by Demetrius Williams. He started a youth wrestling program out of the back of his house in the garage and now he has wrestlers that go all around the country and have won national titles. Leading Ladies is an afterschool program that teaches civic responsibility and engagement through giving back in terms of philanthropic endeavors. Then there’s Duffy Liturgical Dance with Miss Edna Duffy. She has a summer camp for young ladies. It’s almost like a finishing school that teaches them etiquette and performance in the arts and poetry and so forth. One more I’m excited about is Gem-N-Me. It’s a literary club over in Garden Valley and introduce the concept of words and books and storytelling to children in that community. Education, as you can see, is a theme that runs throughout.

STEPHANIE: How can someone help to support your mission and the work of those agencies?

CECIL: Well, there are several ways. Our website is unitedblackfund.org. We are basically a fund that acquires funds that we then redistribute to agencies like these on an annual basis. So you can give, but we also welcome volunteerism. In 2020 and 2019 we had probably over 200 volunteers throughout the year to help with various programs and we just welcome people to come out and support. We need help and expertise. Some of the agencies that we support are smaller. If you, for example, are a web designer, we need technical support for agencies who want to communicate now in this virtual environment. Those are just a few examples on how people can support and give back.

STEPHANIE: Typically we connect with you every year for a celebration on MLK Day. Lizzie, typically you are on-site here and some of our guests may recognize you. What has your experience been and what does the broad sense of the community support mean?

LIZZIE THOMPSON, DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR: I really enjoy participating in MLK Day every year. It’s very rewarding to me to connect with the guests. They have a sense of what philanthropy is about.  It’s always wonderful to see the parents allowing the kids to give their money and find out more about what the United Black Fund is doing. We are able to reach more communities, so I really enjoy being there. The staff is always wonderful and the guests really want to find out more about what we’re doing and how they can impact the community. They understand that we are not just funding programs, but we are also providing training that will help the programs that are assisting the community,

STEPHANIE: Thank you. We missed you this year.

CECIL: We missed you all.

STEPHANIE: This year has been interesting and I understand that the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland’s reach has broadened and you’re sharing your model with other communities. Can you give us some details?

CECIL: I’ll be happy to. We have done virtual training for as far away as Puerto Rico. There were people who were reeling still from Hurricane Maria from a couple years ago and then COVID hit when there was no infrastructure, so they reached out to Leadership Cleveland. Leadership Cleveland partnered with us. We converted training materials into Spanish we worked with FEMA and other agencies and, from a virtual setting, trained non-profit leaders on how to engage the government and other facilities to receive resources during this time. We’re really proud of that work. Additionally we’re working with a group out of Akron that just saw so many needs. It was just a band of community people that felt like they needed to do something more and there was no organization, so they took what they call “community circles” and they’re engaging people throughout the community to come up with the response to problems. We’re training them on how to identify best practices from those strategies and distribute funds equitably throughout the community in response to those needs. We’re really excited. We could have never done that before, which is a beautiful thing. Consistently now I meet with them for I think two to three hours every week in two different online sessions. We’re just trying to make lemonade out of lemons in this virtual environment and it is working.

STEPHANIE: We’ve all had to adapt this year. I know this partnership really has allowed us to then spotlight you as an important organization in the community. We look forward to more opportunities with helping you with education for youth and families in our community. We hope our guests will engage with the work that you’re doing and our friends will consider giving to or volunteering for your organization.

CECIL: I just want to reiterate what Lizzie shared. We’re so grateful to the Aquarium and to your leadership. Your staff is amazing…the Captain, well, we love the Captain, but like she said, the actual audience is what makes it special for us and then passing along the notion of philanthropy to the next generation. We’re really proud of our work and partnership and we hope that it can continue well into the future.

STEPHANIE: Thank you Cecil and Lizzie. We look forward to future collaborations!

If you’re interested in donating to the United Black Fund, click here or text UBF to 50155.

The Secret Lives of Sea Stars

Where is their mouth? How do they move? Why does the animal care team call them sea stars and not starfish? Learn a few basics and discover how different sea stars can be with aquarist Bethany H. #cleaquarium #natureiscurious

Today we’re going to talk about sea stars. The reason we call them sea stars and not starfish most of the time is because they’re not actually fish. They’re in a group called echinoderms, which means spiny skin. Other echinoderms include sea urchins and sea cucumbers, so it’s a big group of invertebrate animals.

We have several different species here at the Aquarium. We will start by looking at the Bahama sea stars that live in the Aquarium’s Invertebrate Pool.  They have a bottom surface where you can see their mouths are right there in the middle. They also have rows of tube feet coming out in every direction. Those tube feet end in little suction cups, so that’s how this particular sea star is sticking to the acrylic.  Sea stars also have a back surface with little spikes all over it.

The way sea stars move and breathe are really pretty interesting. Both of those work a lot on what is called a water vascular system. You might think of vascular blood vessels. While these guys do have a couple of blood vessels, most of their circulatory system is done with just sea water. That sea water can move their tube feet in and out.

Because we disturbed him, this sea star might decide that this is no longer where he wants to be and start moving very slowly across the acrylic. He’s going to do that by sticking out each tube foot and pulling himself along. Sea stars tend to look like they’re just gliding because their arms aren’t actually moving, just their tube feet. They’re really slow. Their average speed is about six inches a minute. The fastest sea star there is can move about nine feet a minute, which is still quite a bit slower than your walking speed.

Sea stars also use that water vascular system to breathe by sticking little papulae or little hair-like projections out of their backs. All those little white specks in between the big bumps are papulae that are all pulled in right now. Again, sea stars can use hydrostatic pressure inside to move those in and out. When those papulae are sticking out they create a lot of surface area for gas exchange with the water. Then that will circulate through the sea water inside their body to move it all throughout all of their tissues.

This central little dot or light area you can see here is called the madreporite. That’s a big word for something sea stars can open or close to determine how much water is inside of them.

The leather and the pink star in our Coastal Arch exhibit look a lot furrier with all of the papulae out. These are some cold water species. Sea stars do live in different climates all over the world. There are many different species. Most of them have five arms, although there are a few exceptions. 

All sea stars can move their arms independently a little bit, but how much they do so is very much dependent on the species. These are all mottled sea stars and as sea stars go, they are probably some of the most flexible.

Author: Bethany H.

It’s #GivingTuesday

Founded in 2006 by Denise and Dr. Gary Riggs, Ohio-based Wild4Ever is an entirely volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the protection of animals in need and to the preservation of wild animals and habitats. While the wildlife conservation foundation has supported efforts with South American and Cambodian waterfowls, the Bornean Sun Bear and jaguars in Costa Rica and the Southwestern United States, Wild4Ever remains firmly committed to the protection and care of animals here in the Buckeye State. “You don’t have to go around the world to find charismatic endangered animals to help and you don’t have to sit back and wait for them to disappear,” says Dr. Riggs.

“You don’t have to go around the world to find charismatic endangered animals to help and you don’t have to sit back and wait for them to disappear,” says Dr. Riggs.

Dr. Riggs and the foundation have been known to donate more than $100,000 in in-kind services to the diagnosis and treatment of injured birds and other local wildlife. Wild4Ever is also a critical partner in SPOTD, a multi-organization project to study and grow spotted turtle populations here. Native to Northeast Ohio, the distinctive little turtle’s numbers are diminishing due to habitat loss, predation, declining water quality, poaching and other factors. “Our group has been able to increase the threatened population in our study area and we finished a multi-year genetic study that will aid in future planning,” says Riggs.

The Splash Fund of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium also has played a significant role in the SPOTD headstarting and habitat project. Not only has that involvement allowed for a number of spotted turtle hatchlings to be reared under the watchful eyes of a trained animal care team to a size more advantageous for their survival, but it has enabled interns to microchip and monitor spotted turtles in the wild post-release. “Underscoring the importance of the natural world and providing ways our community can make a positive impact on it is at the heart of the Splash Fund,” says Stephanie White.

The small nonprofit is dedicated to promoting and encouraging passion about aquatic life and participation in the conservation of fresh and saltwater habitats through sustainable human practices. Every summer the Splash Fund—in partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Cleveland Metroparks and Drink Local. Drink Tap.—invites the community to participate in a series of Adopt-A-Beach Cleanups. Over the years, its more than 40 events have attracted 1,491 volunteers who collected nearly 3,532 pounds of trash and recyclables. The Splash Fund also provides schools with demonstrated need access to life science-based education programs.

This has been a difficult year, and we fully realize that not everyone is in a position to give. But if you are and you’re passionate about wildlife education and conservation, we hope you’ll consider a #GivingTuesday donation to the Wild4Ever Foundation or the Splash Fund.

If you donate $10 or more to Wild4Ever Foundation or the Splash Fund between now and December 6, we’ll give you access to a virtual Zoom turtle program hosted by Greater Cleveland Aquarium on Tuesday December 22 at 6pm.**A Zoom link will be emailed to you closer to the program.

Author: Samantha F.

How & Why Do the Stingrays Paint?

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium has some unusual artists-in-residence . . . stingrays! Aquarist Laura B. shows you how the cownose #stingrays can create one-of-a-kind artwork and explains how activities like this allow the animals to exercise control over their environment and keep things interesting. #cleaquarium #natureiscurious

Hi! I’m Laura, an aquarist here at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. I’m here at our Stingray Touchpool to talk about stingray enrichment.  Enrichment is something we do to encourage natural behaviors. This enrichment can be simple like a touch stimulus in the touch tank, offering a new food item or allowing the animals to swim through hula hoops or air bubbles. Enrichment can also be something more complex, like a stingray art program or giving them an opportunity to work harder to obtain a reward.

Stingray art is something we do fairly often. It encourages the stingrays to work differently for their food and to use their natural foraging instincts. Enrichment allows the animals to exercise control and choice in their environment, which enhances their overall well-being. Animals with good mental health are more engaged with their surroundings and more at ease.

You can see that in this exhibit there are three types of stingrays. The most recognizable of those is the cownose stingray with its indented rostrum that kind of resembles a cow. The cownose rays stay higher in the water column and engage actively with the art program.  There are also Southern stingrays, which are the larger ones, as well as a little, spade-shaped Atlantic ray who stays mainly on the bottom, buried in the sand. 

You can see black shells in the exhibit. These are whole mussels. Stingrays can use their row of teeth to crush shells with their strong jaws. The cownose rays use the mandibles above their mouths to sift through the sand bed to find shells and food items. They’ll eventually get to those mussels, but they prefer the easier, handfed food options because it’s less work. That’s what makes mussels a good enrichment item.

Personally I really enjoy giving the stingrays enrichment because they interact with it readily and they always seem ready to participate. Before this stingray art session even began, the stingrays were gathering around, ready to paint their masterpiece.

Author: Laura B.

The Truth about the Red-Bellied Piranha

Are piranhas as fierce as they’re often made out to be in pop culture? Maggie H. dispels some of the myths and tells you how a President was responsible for their frightening reputation while feeding the red-bellied piranhas at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

Some people think is the red-bellied piranha is the scariest fish here at the Aquarium. Piranhas have gained a bad reputation for viciously devouring anything in their path within mere seconds, but are they actually as scary as everyone thinks they are? The short answer is no. These fish get a bad reputation in part because of some exaggerated claims made about them following one of Teddy Roosevelt’s expeditions to the Amazon. His guides showed him starving piranhas taking down a large animal in a short period of time. The widely circulated story from the President’s trip inspired a 1970s’ horror movie that only confirmed people’s suspicions that the piranha was a man-eating terror.

This is a gross misrepresentation of a beautiful and usually quite docile fish.

Piranhas are native to the Amazon River Basin where they struggle to survive changes to their habitat during the dry season. This land can go for months without rain at certain times of the year, reducing the piranhas’ normally large swimming areas to small, stagnant pools that are little bigger than puddles. These conditions make competition for food and resources fierce as the fish can go for a long time without a meal. So, if something falls in the water, the hungry fish will use their strong jaws and razor-sharp interlocking teeth to rip it apart as quickly as possible to get their fill.

They tend to travel in groups more for protection than to take down larger prey, but then end up stuck in these ever-shrinking pools together trying to fend off starvation.

So, while people tend to think of these fish as fearsome predators, they are actually very valuable to their ecosystem as scavengers. They are opportunistic feeders with a very varied diet. Although they might hunt for small fish insects and invertebrates, they also consume carrion and even plant matter. Piranhas have also been known to nip at the fins of some larger fish for sustenance. The red-bellied piranha at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, eat a mix of fish shellfish and a special very nutritious gel diet.

While stories in the media have portrayed these fish as ferocious killers that should be feared, they are actually quite docile when well fed and will avoid conflict if possible. I hope I’ve debunked some of the myths surrounding these widely misunderstood creatures.

Make sure to check them out on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. We look forward to seeing you soon!  

Where to find @CLEaquarium: Tropical Forest Gallery

Author: Maggie H. 

An Underwater Twist On Pumpkin Carving with @CLEAquarium

If you think carving a prize-winning pumpkin is difficult, try doing it underwater. Greater Cleveland Aquarium Dive Safety Coordinator Halle M. explains what makes carving underwater such a challenge and why it’s still so much fun. (Special thanks to Professional Diving Resources, who hosted the competition!)

The underwater pumpkin carving event you see here was held in Ohio at a local quarry called White Star Quarry. It’s a place where local divers often go for training and to freshen up their recreational SCUBA skills. It has a platform, which makes it really convenient for doing pumpkin carving underwater.

So, how does underwater carving work? Our divers are allowed to scoop out their pumpkins and open their tops before they enter the water. Once they’ve entered the water though, if they or their pumpkins surface they have to get out. Divers have a maximum of 2 hours to complete their carving. When everyone is finished, the jack-o-lanterns are displayed, judged and winners are selected.  

In this video, we’re on an underwater platform at a depth of 15 feet. We’re sitting/kneeling/lying on that platform to carve. We don’t want to sit or kneel on the bottom of the quarry because it would stir up the silt and make it difficult to see anything.  

Carving underwater is a challenge. Just imagine you’re one of us. You’re diving. You have your wetsuit, your mask, all of your equipment, weights and a SCUBA cylinder. You also have a pumpkin that’s constantly trying to float away from you and you’re using a big dive knife to try to to cut small details into a gourd. It definitely takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to do a good job.

I’ve been doing this for the last 5 or 6 years and I’ve learned a few things. My first tip is to bring a lot of extra weights and lot of warm wetsuit layers because it gets quite cold when you’re sitting still underwater. (This year was particularly cold. The air was 35 degrees when we arrived, but luckily the water was much warmer . . . 65 degrees.) It’s also really important to go in with a plan, to not stay to long and to pay close attention to what you’re doing. That all makes underwater carving with all its challenges a bit easier.

There were around 30 pumpkin carvers at the Quarry and 15 of those were associated with the Greater Cleveland Aquarium in some way. We brought along a few new participants to competing this year. Jamil and Damon had never done anything like this before but I think they enjoyed the challenge. Some of the pumpkins that our team created included traditional jack-o-lanterns, a walrus, a battery charge sign, a turtle, a ship and some goofy faces. The winner of the entire event had carved a SCUBA diver carved into their pumpkin, which clearly is an audience pleaser with this group. Two people who came from the Aquarium group placed 2nd and 3rd with their pumpkins. Crystal carved a ship being attacked by a squid and Taylor carved tortoise or a turtle. They were really awesome pumpkin designs and they worked very hard to bring them designs to life.

Events like this really do help to create camaraderie and to bring new divers into the fold. It’s a lot of good, old-fashioned fun and way to engage with diving and your friends that’s a little atypical. Here at the Aquarium we have divers in the water every day. A number of them got their start at White Star Quarry. If you’re interested learning to dive, check out Professional Diving Resources. Maybe next year you can carve pumpkins with us!

Author: Halle M.

5 Things I Learned about the Sea Lamprey

It’s October and we thought we’d learn a little about a blood-sucking invasive species you can find in the Great Lakes . . . sea lampreys! Here are 5 facts about this distinctive-looking animal. #cleaquarium #natureiscurious

Some people say it looks like an eel, others think it looks like the stuff of nightmares. In truth, this cartilaginous, jawless fish with smooth, scaleless skin is a parasite, meaning that it gets its nourishment from another host organism.

As you can clearly see, a sea lamprey has a suction cup mouth ringed with sharp teeth. It will latch on to a fish and use its rough, file-like tongue to rasp away at scales and skin in order to feed on the host’s blood and bodily fluids.  Not many—maybe 1 in 7—of the fish that a sea lamprey attaches to and feeds on will survive the ordeal, and it’s estimated that a single lamprey will kill more than 40 or more pounds of fish in its lifetime.

Sea lampreys are native to the northern and western Atlantic Ocean, but thanks to manmade locks and shipping canals, they found their way into the Great Lakes in the 1800s where, because they prey on whitefish, lake trout and salmon, they’ve disrupted the freshwater ecosystem.

Not all lampreys are invasive to the Great Lakes. There are actually a number of native lampreys including the silver, the American brook and the Northern brook, but the sea lamprey is a significantly bigger predator.  

A sea lamprey has a very well-developed sense of smell and uses odors to navigate and communicate. That’s why researchers have tried using both pheromones and the scent of decaying sea lampreys to help with trapping efforts.

So, while you (understandably) might have no desire to see a sea lamprey up-close, you can learn about Ohio’s native and invasive species on your next visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

Where to Find @CLEAquarium: Ohio Lakes & Rivers Gallery

Author: Samantha F.

Meet Your New Favorite Animals, the Surinam Toads @CLEAquarium

Aquarist Maggie H. feeds the Surinam toads (who shovel the meals in their mouths most adorably) and explains why she’s such a big fan of these unusual animals.

Hey guys! My name is Maggie and I’m an aquarist here at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Today I’m going to tell you a little bit about Surinam toads . Surinam toads are native to northern South America where they spend most of their time lying in wait in the bottoms of rivers, streams and ponds disguised as leaves. They are very still most of the day, blending in exceptionally well with their surroundings.

Even though their name implies they are toads, they’re actually frogs. They get that name due to their exceptionally bumpy and textured skin.

In the wild, these animals would eat a varied diet of small fish, crustaceans and worms. Here at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium they get a similar diet of earthworms, squid tentacles and fillets of freshwater fish. Their eyes are quite small, so to help them find food they have small, star-shaped sensory organs on each digit of their forelegs. Their strong, muscular back legs are used for swimming.

In addition to their odd appearance, reproduction for this species is also very unique. The toads locate each other using a loud, metallic-sounding clicking noise. Once a male and female find each other,  amplexus, or a spawning ritual, will begin. The toads will do a series of movements in the water column that culminates with the female laying anywhere from 60 to 100 eggs which the male then fertilizes and presses into a thick pad of skin on her back. There they will develop for several months before her babies swim out fully formed and able to provide for themselves.

The toads and I are looking forward to seeing you at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium soon.

Where to Find @CLEAquarium: Tropical Forest Gallery

Author: Maggie H.