As of this month, beloved Long Beach institution Aquarium of the Pacific is celebrating its 25th anniversary, having welcomed guests to its fantastic galleries and exhibits since 1998. To mark the occasion, new programming will run through 2023, including a second-floor ocean photography exhibit and events for all ages, plus the brand-new Southern California Gallery, which is set to debut on July 1.
A visit to the aquarium is an incredible way to engage young children in ocean education and conservation. Guests see sea creatures up close, and may even touch some fauna in designated touch tanks. The aquarium is a vital community resource in this way — as parents, we understand that personal encounters and engagement with the ocean and its inhabitants increases the likelihood that we raise young people who will later advocate for the health welfare of the world’s oceans.
To gather more details about the anniversary and the aquarium as a whole, L.A. Parent chatted with Jennie Dean, vice president of education and conservation with Aquarium of the Pacific.
LAP: Tell us a bit about the So Cal Gallery — what can families expect to see here?
Jennie Dean: The Southern California Gallery will feature over ten exhibits, and more than three dozen species. Highlighted animals will include the California two-spot octopus, leopard and horn sharks, California scorpionfish, a moray eel, California spiny lobsters, Catalina goby, and California’s state marine fish — the Garibaldi.
What does the 25th anniversary mean to Aquarium team? What goals are they looking to next?
JD: We are like a family — there are volunteers and employees who have been here all 25 years. And as a nonprofit, we could not do what we do without volunteers. We would also not be here without the support of Long Beach. We look forward to our ongoing collaborations with the city and surrounding communities, and we hope we can continue to grow our family in the next 25 years and connect people with nature.
What are the aquarium’s most popular offerings for families? Or, what programs might get overlooked that you’d like families to remember?
JD: Our touch labs are among the favorites of our visiting families. We have four locations where guests can gently touch live animals. At our Coastal Corner, guests can experience the different textures found in the rocky intertidal zone, including sea stars and sea urchins. At our moon jelly touch lab, guests can touch the bell (or large circular top) of this species. At Shark Lagoon, you can touch tropical sharks. Finally, at Ray Pool on the California Terrace, you can feel the silky skin of bat rays.
The COVID-19 pandemic put our weekend family educational programs on hold, but we are pleased to bring them back starting in June. With “Big Fish, Little Fish,” parents experience the Aquarium with their children under the age of six by looking at animals and their adaptations. And with “Ocean Investigators,” kids 7 to 12 years old get a first glimpse into what it is like to be a marine biologist.
The Aquarium actively works to improve and protect our oceans. Can families participate in these efforts?
JD: There are several ways for families to get involved with our work. One way is through our Los Cerritos Wetlands Habitat Restoration events, held on the first Saturday of the month; families can remove invasive plants and trash and plant native plants in their place. This provides habitat for animals to return to. Another way you can participate is through our education programs; families can volunteer as a unit and interact with our guests at our touch labs and other stations across the Aquarium. Participating children must be age nine or older.
What is the best way for young activists to help our oceans?
JD: The best way to help is to minimize your impact. This takes many forms: making sure your trash goes into the can, recycling, turning off the lights when a room is empty, and bringing your own refillable water bottle instead of buying a new, disposable one when you are out.
Tickets begin at $26.95 and children under age 3 are free.