ATLANTA (JUNE 29, 2016) – When Georgia Aquarium opened its doors in 2005, it embarked on its mission of being an educational, entertaining, and scientific institution. Today, that mission still continues as Georgia Aquarium researchers collaborate with scientists around the world to understand our aquatic world so that we may conserve it for generations to come.

The Aquarium’s leadership in marine research contributes to the advancement of knowledge of our blue planet by studying animals here at Georgia Aquarium and in their natural environments. In its 10 years, Georgia Aquarium has participated in more than 100 research projects and authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications - and counting. Georgia Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which necessitates all members designate three percent of overall operating expenses to research and conservation of our natural world. Georgia Aquarium exceeds that requirement committed to research and conservation.

As we close World Oceans Month, Georgia Aquarium is looking back, and forward, on a few research projects and conservation efforts that have taken place inside and outside its walls. And some things you would never have guessed have happened here:

  • Georgia Aquarium researchers and its partners discovered a link between extremely high mercury levels in dolphins residing in the Indian River Lagoon, Fla., and the human inhabitants of that region. This was discovered during Georgia Aquarium’s long-standing Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) project. Dolphins have long been thought as a sentinel species; giving us warning indicators about our ocean and this confirms that.
  • Georgia Aquarium researchers were the first ever to draw blood from a whale shark. Using this technique, Aquarium researchers and Emory University scientists have successfully mapped the first full shark DNA genome.
  • Since 2010, Georgia Aquarium has been in partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation to provide staffing and support to help restore critically endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals in the Florida Keys. Just this month, a team from Georgia Aquarium was in the Keys assisting with coral work.
  • Georgia Aquarium has been an active participant and funder of beluga whale health assessments in Bristol Bay, Alaska, to better understand their nutrition, hearing, and population.
  • The Aquarium has also conducted field research on giant manta rays and the Caribbean manta ray in Florida. Through this, we have developed successful strategies for locating the animals, attaching satellite tags and tracking their migratory routes. This helps researchers better understand the two manta species which are listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  
  • In 2015, Georgia Aquarium provided a home for two rescued California sea lion pups. Aquarium staff have assisted stranding centers across California with the Unusual Mortality Event affecting sea lion pups. Most recently, a team assisted the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach with record strandings.
  • Georgia Aquarium is part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African Penguins. This program focuses on the sustainability of endangered species and providing optimal breeding pairs at accredited facilities. Since 2012, Georgia Aquarium has hatched 26 African penguins!
  • Georgia Aquarium, in conjunction with Event Networks, raised approximately $40,000 donations in 2015 for the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to aid in their conservation efforts.
  • Since opening in 2005, more than 23 million guests have experienced the wonders of the aquatic world.
  • More than one million students have been educated about our ocean since 2005, many whom may never witnessed the ocean in their lifetime. Of that one million, 250,000 of those students were part of Georgia Aquarium’s Sponsored Education Admissions (SEA) Program. This program offers reduced or free admission to Title I schools.  

The discoveries made through field and in-house research help the scientific community better understand our one world ocean and all its inhabitants. As a non-profit organization, Georgia Aquarium receives its funding for research and conservation from grants, donations, and proceeds from ticket sales. Georgia Aquarium continues to inspire others each and every day about the importance of protecting the waters of our world for future generations.

For more information on Georgia Aquarium’s discoveries and ongoing research, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/conserve. To support current and future projects, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/support.

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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. Georgia Aquarium’s mission is to be a scientific institution that entertains and educates, features exhibits and programs of the highest standards, and offers engaging and exciting guest experiences that promote the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org