SciGirls with Gulf World Education Coordinator Emily Pasch!
Today was an amazing day at Gulf World in Panama City!
We started our day bright and early, and arrived at Gulf World excited for what the day had to hold! When we first arrived, we got to see the African black-footed penguin exhibit that had just opened today! There were three penguins getting acquainted with their new habitat. These penguins don't need arctic temperatures, and our girls were interested in seeing the interaction between the penguins and the Gulf World staff. The staff was nice enough to answer any questions we had, including sharing some interesting facts. For example, the life expectancy of this species is 15 years in the wild; however they have one penguin that is 33 and another that is 31.
Afterwards, we went to the sea lion and rough-toothed dolphin show! Salsa and Wendy, the sea lions, showed off while the trainers showed us how sea lions are trained using targets and positive reinforcement. We also met two rough-toothed dolphins, Ivan and Largo, both rescue dolphins, trained using the same techniques. Our girls were astounded by their abilities. These dolphins are different from the more popular bottlenose dolphins, as they are about 1/3 the size with 120 very sharp teeth.
From there, we walked the scenic route through the outdoor garden, seeing several of the 17 species of macaws and other birds, including the oldest member of the Gulf World family, a 35-year-old flamingo. Through the garden, we also saw American alligators and a huge albino python. Our girls got a hands-on experience touching sting rays, and it was very hard to pull the girls away from Sting Ray Bay.
Next up was the bottlenose dolphin show, where the staff discussed the five oceans of the world, and characteristics about each one, including marine life found throughout. Our tour guides through the oceans were bottlenose dolphins, Comet and Cajun. Comet and Cajun showed off their behaviors, as they splashed the audience and threw the staff in the air.
To write about our whole day today would be a book; we'll let the girls tell you the rest, including experiences with sharks, turtles, and coral reef animals.
Lastly, we were treated to a presentation and Q&A with Lauren Albrittain, Gulf World Marine Institute Stranding Coordinator, and Emily Pasch, Education Coordinator at Gulf World. Lauren talked to us about the seven different species of sea turtles, including why they get stranded, their rehabilitation and release. She passed around a green sea turtle shell, a loggerhead skull, and discussed many facts, including how the leatherback shell is able to compress to allow the turtle to dive deep. Emily held up jaw bones of the rough-toothed dolphin, and explained how they use echolocation to see. She demonstrated this with each camper. Emily also passed around walrus tusks, and explained that sea lions, walruses, and seals are in the same pinniped group. Our girls had many inquisitive questions, and both Emily and Lauren commented on what a great group of campers we have! Big thanks to both Lauren and Emily!
All in all, today was a splashtacular day! Tomorrow, we focus on domesticated animals, as we visit Novey Animal Hospital in the morning, then switch gears in the afternoon to tackle technology with the Florida Center for Interactive Media!