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Tampa Public Aqurium

Ok, I'm jumping in:  George talked about Colorado's aquarium, 
and Steve jumped in with the Vancouver aquarium.  I just wanted
to mention the Tampa public aquarium I saw a few weeks ago
and make an observation.

Tampa's aquarium was pretty good.  Mostly marine fish and
fake corals, but 500K gallons of fish, sharks, rays, and divers
is still impressive.  Some nice freshwater species and alligators,
turtles, birds, and otters.  Nice walkways taking you under tanks,
tidal pools, hands-on exhibits, and nice public-access programs.

Now my observation:  Since George and I live in the same
area, I'll bring up an ancillary topic to our "new" public
aquarium an hour south of here.  A bunch of people get
together, decide they want an aquarium attraction in the
300 mile strip of the Colorado Front Range, raise money,
and build something cute.  That's what we got.  It's not
particularly interesting for a research or systems level
standpoint, although they will (of course, as all aquariums
do), state that research is a main component.

We didn't mention the large number of failed attempts
at selecting a site, changing the foundation's board, and
getting more money.  The process lasted many years.

I'd expect the next step to be that the unrealistic founders 
and initial supporters become disillusioned by the fact that 
they don't know how much work it is to run an aquarium, 
and what are the real operating costs.  The jobs go to their 
friends.  Worse yet,  what was a fun project because 
it, "would be neat" becomes a mess because little 
understanding of the science may actually exist and the 
infrastructure and processes must  be modified to respond 
to massive die-off and impossibly expensive systems.

Allow me to parallel:  I rather liked the Tampa aquarium.
However, I didn't mention that it was a foundation effort
that spent all their money and had a short-term amusement.
After everybody went through the obligatory "opening day
curiosity" (which could last in any city for a year or two) 
the place became an expensive (and empty) mess.  The 
City of Tampa (after much begging by the foundation) took
the thing over, fired over a hundred people, pumped in
massive amounts of cash, and it's now a pretty nice 

If that cycle took place here in Colorado, I wouldn't be
surprised.  How many other public aquariums turned out
like this?

I'm continually amazed that there isn't more of a 
systems-level approach to managing a public aquarium.
I understand that it's harder for a line of people to see
each of 100 species in a 100K gallon tank as opposed
to walking past 100 tanks that were 100 gallons each.
However, the big tank that replicates the upper Amazon
or some other area would be enormously cheaper to
maintain (I'd suggest putting tables and chairs in different
areas so you can look at it while you have your lunch
and let the species come to you.)  Further, there are
realistic arguments that species health would be far
higher and visitors can see more "natural" behavior
(a truly impressive school only happens when a predator
is in the area.)

I took the "behind the scenes tour" at the Tampa aquarium,
and I seem to recall they spend $150K/week to feed their
individuals (yes, hand feeding).  That takes a lot of 
volunteers.  With perhaps few exceptions, I would feed 
the system, and not the individuals, as we do with most 
of our tanks (unless you bought that $150 anemone that 
you want to hand-feed each day to be sure it's alright.)

I also agree with Steve in that plants are relatively
cheap to maintain, and provide high aesthetic value
to the guest.  I'd love the opportunity to see another
few dozen plant species I've never seen (but then,
I already know I'm weird.)  

I love to go to public aquariums when I travel (a lot
lately), and I'm usually impressed with something-or-
other, but I'm rarely in agreement with the management
of the aqurium.  The problem is that you walk into a room,
see a big fish, say "wow", and then walk to the next
room.  To enjoy plants and a school of 2,000 rasboras it 
seems better if you sit and eat your lunch in front of the tank.

Maybe I should open a restraunt instead of an aquarium?

	charleyb at cytomation_com