NASA Earth Observation Exhibit, Baby Pipefish Among New Sights at Virginia Aquarium

Monday, April 04, 2011

Viewing microscopic plant-like organisms from space may seem far out, but it’s an important clue in global climate change. A new NASA exhibit at Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center on the subject shows visitors how the nation’s space agency is studying climate change factors through cutting-edge research on phytoplankton. Marine phytoplankton plays a vital role in regulating carbon dioxide, one of the key factors in earth’s temperatures.


Designed by Brian A. Campbell, Senior Earth Science Education Specialist for SAIC at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Dr. Tiffany A. Moisan of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the new traveling exhibit consists of five large light boxes, two 6-foot banners, and NASA visualizations (all shown and demonstrated on a 55” flat screen HD television). A completely unique ‘Lite-Brite’ display (designed by Joey Syta) of the Mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region is based on a NASA Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) ocean color image and is as much a work of art as it is science. Olivia Massey, a student at Worcester Prep School, and Peter Talarico, a student of Rochester Institute of Technology, aided with creativity of interactive displays.


The exhibit was funded through the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Internal Research and Development Program educational component, and will be on display at the Aquarium’s Marsh Pavilion through the summer. It will then travel to the Visitor’s Centers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. After these venues, the exhibit will be reviewed, updated, and set up at other interested science centers for additional six-month schedules.


Also in the Marsh Pavilion, baby pipefish are now on exhibit. These members of the Syngnathidae family, with their long, snake-like bodies and seahorse-type snouts, were born to the Aquarium’s pipefish on February 10th. A jewel-like habitat near the Blue Crab exhibit allows visitors to view the fully formed juveniles from either side. Upon maturity, some will live at the Aquarium and some will travel to other AZA-accredited institutions.


A new coral nursery has been added in the Sharks & Sea Turtles area of the Bay & Ocean Pavilion to complement the recently added 8,000-gallon Coral aquarium in Restless Planet.


Visitors can see coral polyps and anemones growing behind glass and watch aquarists propagating and feeding the corals.


For the first time, the Aquarium will offer Seal Splash, an in-the-water premium experience, during spring break. The 90-minute sessions, which take visitors behind the scenes and into the harbor seal pool with a trainer, begin April 14th.


The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the Aquarium is located at 717 General Booth Boulevard in Virginia Beach. For more information, call (757) 385-FISH, or visit