Georgia Aquarium

We take a trip beyond the sea…in downtown Atlanta, with a visit to the Georgia Aquarium. We meet everyone from scuba divers to media specialists and a few of the people who maintain this incredible environment—it takes 600 employees and 2,000 volunteers! And the good news is that you don’t have to work at the Georgia Aquarium to swim here. Anybody can dive in, as you’ll learn in this episode.

Maintaining a Natural Sea Environment

Maintaining a Natural Sea Environment

Maintaining a Natural Sea Environment: We learn how the nitrogen cycle works under water to help employees maintain a natural sea environment, including the impact of temperature, pH and the salinity of the water.

Osmoregulation

Osmoregulation

Our expert explains why fish thrive in salt water, including an explanation of osmoregulation, as well as the roles of osmosis and active transport.

Atlanta Metro

Special Thanks To

Stephanie Johnson, Mayela Alsina, Paul Eleazer, Sophie Gaze, Maureen Flaherty, Cynthia Marrero, Barrett Rhoades, Amy Rollinson

GA AQUARIUM

SLOW PAN/PUSH TO REVEAL PENGUIN

VO

Fast Forward has become so popular, our guests are starting to dress up for our visits.

PENGUIN REVEAL

I rest my case. (WHISPERED) Nice tie!

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VO

Today Fast Forward is visiting the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. And in case this place is new to you, this is what they do here.

(SUPER-FAST READ) First they make 10 million gallons of ocean or river water they test the water take care of the animals in the water which includes growing food for those animals they videotape the animals maybe even take a swim with them and finally they tell people all about it.

And who does all of that? These folks!

BARRETT

I'm a life support operator here at the Georgia Aquarium. We maintain all of the equipment, filtration, sand filters, pumps...all those equipment allow us to maintain a natural sea environment that is safe for the animals to live in.

CYNTHIA

I work in the water quality lab. We analyze all the water, the chemistry...

MAYELLA

I am a veterinary technician. I get to work alongside the veterinary doctors and conduct physical exams, and do health checks on all of our animals.

AMY

I am a senior aquarist. I am responsible for overseeing the aquarium's aquaculture room.

PAUL

I work here at the Georgia Aquarium in the audio visual department, as a audio visual multimedia specialist.

SOPHIE

I'm a senior dive master in the dive immersion department.

MAUREEN

I am the digital media specialist. If you see it on the web site, that's something that my department works on.

VO

Whoa! That's way more kinds of jobs than I thought they'd have here, but it makes sense. The Georgia Aquarium has about 600 staff members, and roughly 2000 volunteers making it work. And it also raises the question-do you have to know how to swim to work here?

MAUREEN

You do not need to know how to swim at the Georgia Aquarium to be a digital media specialist, although it does come in handy.

BARRETT

It's not necessary, but it's a definite benefit.

SOPHIE

Everybody has a common passion for the aquarium itself, but not necessarily wants to jump right in the water.

VO

Okay. More importantly, can I go for a swim here?

SOPHIE

Anybody who has a certification card can come and dive with us, but we also offer a swim program, which you don't need a certification for. You don't even need to be able to swim to do it.

SOPHIE

They just stay on the surface, but the cool part about that is, that's the closest spot to the whale sharks. So they can really be belly button to dorsal fin with a whale shark, and it's a pretty eye opening experience.

VO

Good to know. But let's get back to that natural sea environment you mentioned. How does that happen in the middle of Atlanta?

MAYELLA

We do create our own water. That might surprise a lot of people. We don't have access to the ocean, so we have to accommodate for the saltwater species.

VO

Just saltwater?

BARRETT

We have five different types of water available here for use in different exhibits.

VO

And which one is the wettest?

BARRETT

They're all wet.

VO

There's no tricking these guys.

So how do you go about making the water?

BARRETT

There's natural biological processes that occur in our aquariums that we help encourage through monitoring of temperature and salinity and pH. And with that, those natural processes will take fish waste, which is highly toxic ammonia, and transfer it all the way into its end product of nitrate, which we will then manage through other filtration.

VO

By the way, salinity is just a 4-dollar word for the amount of salt in the water. And pH describes how acidic the water is.

And Barrett is talking about the Nitrogen Cycle. You can learn more about that in our episode on the Georgia Mountain Research Center. The important thing is that the Nitrogen Cycle happens in water just as it does on land.

And while we're learning stuff, I was wondering...why can fish handle saltwater so well, but humans can't?

BARRETT

They're designed for um the type of osmoregulation that they have, with specific systems, specific organs that will help allow them to maintain that gradient between the fresh water in their bodies and the salt water that they live in.

VO

I'll stick with getting my salt on my pretzels.

SFX: BITING SOUND

VO

So with all these different kinds of jobs, I'll bet teamwork is pretty important here.

MAUREEN

One of the best things about working at the aquarium is how collaborative all the different departments are, especially all to promote such a wonderful facility too, that is meant to do research and conservation on such amazing animals.

AMY

There are times where other departments need my help, and I am lucky enough to go and dive in ocean voyager.

SOPHIE

And we try to collaborate with all of these departments so that we kind of create a synergy that this whole aquarium is just kind of one living, breathing system.

VO

But all of these different departments do have one thing in common!

PAUL

In our facility, no two days are alike, ever.

MAYELLA

I can't say that I come in to a job that it's very predictable. Every day has something new.

MAUREEN

Every day for me is different.

VO

Yeah, with all these animals, it would have to be. And it sounds like you guys are doing what you love.

BARRETT

Yes, that's correct. I've turned what I enjoy doing at home into something I get paid to do on a daily basis.

VO

So how do I go about getting paid to do stuff like this?

SOPHIE

A lot of begging.

VO

I am not above that.

SFX: DOLPHIN SQUEEL

VO

Anyone else?

CYNTHIA

Volunteer work or internships...

MAYELLA

I started volunteering when I was in high school, and I got exposed to what it was working with wild life. And worked my way around it, and here I am today...

AMY

I love my job. I am actually very fortunate to have what I consider one of the coolest jobs that there is to have.

VO

I believe you. But exactly what is it that makes your job so cool?

MAYELLA

Oh for me it's just getting to work with all the animals. There's no other place where I can get so close to some of the animals that we have here. I'm really happy with what I do.

CYNTHIA

I also don't just get to sit in the lab, I get to go and play with the animals sometimes if I need to help the vets do a procedure or something. That's pretty cool.

PAUL

This facility is, it's an amazing place, and I have the honor and the privilege to actually be employed here. So I get to come to work and have a ball every day.

SOPHIE

Some days I get done with my job and I, you know, I got bumped in the leg by a whale shark and got to show these people this awesome environment. Then I come home and I get a paycheck for it. It's...it's incredible.

VO

Good stuff, Sophie. Thanks for coming up for air long enough to tell us about it. We'll let you get back to work, and see everyone else on the next episode of Fast Forward!

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