Exclusive Interview: By Iride Aparicio

Photos/Links Courtesy: Monterey Bay Aquarium

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SILICON VALLEY-- Because of the stay-home restrictions, our technology is now being used  to allow the readers of CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL to 'visit' the Monterey Bay Aquarium, from the privacy of  their  own homes, watch some of their exhibits, and even attend their classes ONLINE. In an exclusive interview, Senior Communications Strategist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, KEN PETERSON tell us how.

When asked to describe his duties, PETERSON describes them as follows: "To tell stories about the aquarium. To Make sure that everyone who works at the Aquarium is communicating in the same way and communicating with people, outside of the Aquarium, to discuss our work.

C.W.B. So, let us discuss it.  Since most children are now at home and parents are trying to keep them busy, could you to tell us about the ONLINE classes the Monterey Aquarium is offering for children?

K.P.: "As you know, the Aquarium has a commitment to free education even since we opened it back in l984. Since then, we have welcome more than two point six million school children on free field trips and learning programs at the aquarium over the past thirty five years. We have also developed materials that teachers can use in their classrooms, and those materials have also been shared in our website:

"So, if anybody goes to the Aquarium website and clicks on the Link that says FOR EDUCATORS, will find a lot of material: activities that they can do at home or in their yard with their kids.  Anything from handmade puppets, a lunch paper bag that looks like a sea otter, and others.   That is something that can be extremely useful right now because some of the parents are trying to find out how can they continue their children's education when the kids are not able to go to school and the parents are not trained to be professional educators. Some of those materials are available in both Spanish and in English."

" For the near future, we are also planning to develop some very specific "Distance Learning classes" that our staff will present. They will be distributed through our website and the social media channels and archives there.  So, for example, you may be able to go to You-Tube or to FACE BOOK or to our website and follow along an instruction class that our educators are presenting, possibly working with other marine scientists. These classes will be added to the ONLINE RESOURCES that people can use to continue their children's education at home."

 C.W.B. How are the conditions of the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the moment?

K.P.: "At the Monterey Bay Aquarium we are closely following the public health announcements on the spread of the coronavirus, and we made the decision on March 12, that we would close our doors at the end of the day, and remain closed until we receive notification from Public Health Authorities that we could safely welcome guests back. This is the first time, this ever happened in our history. We had never shut down the aquarium for an extended period like this."

C.W.B. Who is taking care of the creatures in the exhibits?

"To make sure that all the creatures in our exhibits are well taken care of  while we are closed, we are allowing into the building , on a daily basis, a small number of essential staff, who are taking care of all the animals and all the creatures of the exhibits. They are also taking care or our rescued sea otters and running the life-support system. The sea water and everything that the animals' care staff need to be sure the living exhibits stay healthy. 

C.W.B.  Is there a particular exhibition that needs more attention than the others, and if there is, why?

K.P.: "Some of the exhibits have more active animals so they need to be set more regularly. Our "Open Sea" exhibit requires attention because of the Tuna and the Mahi Mahi fish (tropical fish) but the exhibit requiring the most attention is the otters exhibit because the otters eat a quarter of their body weight each day. They don't have blubber like dolphins, they have fur, but they also have a rapid metabolism to keep their body heat up. So that requires extra attention. Also to feed the fish we need to get the Scuba Divers in there. To feed the sharks in our modern exhibit takes extra attention.

C.W.B: " How about the building? Who takes care of it?

The maintenance takes care of the building bringing the water from the Monterey Bay, because we don't want the windows on the exhibit to become encrusted with algae, so we need to have divers cleaning the windows in those exhibits a few times a week to be sure they stay clear. So all the things that happen, behind the scenes, to maintain the Aquarium, are still going on and we are doing that with social distancing and protective gear for the staff. We also have security staff, to be sure the building is safe, and our custodial teams, come in on a daily basis to make sure that all the work areas that are used in common, the staff lounges, the rest rooms, are sanitized to prevent contamination.  That is how we are going to continue operating inside the building."

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Kelp Forrest Exhibit           Photo Courtesy: Monterey Bay Aquarium

C.W.B.  As a spokesman from the MONTERY BAY AQUARIUM, Ken, is there a message you would like to convey to our community?

K.P.: "Right now people are feeling stressed out because we have never been through a situation like this in our country in more than a century, with a pandemic like this.  It is imperative that we spend time isolated from one another to prevent the spread of the virus and so finding ways to stay connected with the outside world is important, right now. When going out for a walk, or riding a bike is no longer possible, the MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM will continue providing ways where people can still get connected with the outside world. One of them, webcams streaming from 7A.M, to 7 P.M. Pacific time on the aquarium's website:"

"The webcams will feature the sea otters, the kelp forest tank, the bird aviary, the penguins; the open sea tanks the jellyfish tanks and live views of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you want learn where the animals live on shore and it the depths of the Ocean, you can find the habitats here:"

The Monterey Bay Aquarium YouTube Channel (Shown in the grey blocks bellow) offers many videos of the Ocean and even a "Morning MeditOcean" to get you through the day"