Newsletter - November 2014

What’s New: It’s Renovation Time!

With the conclusion of a busy summer season came an even busier fall for both the trainers and animals of Ocean Connections. Our Milwaukee location closed its doors and began renovations in late September to repair and improve our facility.  Over the past few years, we have experienced very harsh winters that have taken a huge toll on our facility, just like they do on your local roadways.  It was time for a makeover!  The renovations needed; however, required our animals to be off the premises.  Some of our Milwaukee animals traveled across the zoo and others across state lines to the Chicago Zoological Society’s Seven Seas facility while our Hersheypark team was thrilled to extend their season. Ocean Connections staff spent the season rotating between facilities to ensure animals received the best possible care during this exciting time.

Once animals were safely moved to their temporary fall homes, renovations at our Milwaukee location began.  The biggest undertaking was resurfacing our 250,000 gallon main pool and two holding pools.  The old paint was removed, concrete work was preformed, the pool was tented and resurfacing/ painting was completed.  Fortunately we experienced beautiful fall weather, which allowed us the opportunity to also complete numerous repairs around the facility including filtration maintenance, landscaping improvements and equipment upgrades.  Once the facility was readied, it was time to turn the pool back into a salt-water environment.  This process took another week as salt was added, the water heated and water quality parameters balanced out. When all was said and done; however, we stood back and smiled. It is amazing how much can be accomplished in 7 weeks!

All of this would not have been possible without the time and dedication of our colleagues and friends at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Hersheypark and the Chicago Zoological Society. It is always a privilege to collaborate with colleagues that share our mission of providing exceptional marine mammal care and outstanding conservation education.

After 7 weeks of renovations, we were able to reunite all of our animals into their beautifully updated environment!  First home were the Hershey kids, Geneva and Diego, two of our California sea lions and Bumper, our male Atlantic harbor seal.  Soon to follow were Slick, Makaia and Sonoma, three of our adult California sea lions returning from the Chicago Zoological Society.  And finally our energetic sea lion pups Colby, Talise and Nalu returned with Scooter and Satara, two harbor seals to complete our colony.  

The greetings between old friends was a pleasure to watch with lots of "Zerberts" from the ladies in greeting and vocalizations from Slick as he re-established his territory!  There was no short supply of splashing water as the animals chased, wrestled and enjoyed swimming together.

Excited to have the entire Oceans family back home again, our team is eagerly awaiting a winter full of animal training advancement and staff development opportunities. 

Pups, Pups, Pups

Our three California sea lion pups are doing phenomenal.  The summer season was an exciting time for all three of them, as it was Colby’s first season performing in shows while Talise and Nalu were learning all about the sights and sounds that accompany the summer season.  

Currently, the pups are re-acclimating to the cold weather, by eating lots of yummy fish to build up a nice thick blubber layer for the winter months.  When temperatures are not too cold, the pups love romping through the pool, especially with their big buddy Diego.  These flippered friends have a ball chasing each other and engaging in games of tag at all hours of the day!

This winter will be a training extravaganza for our three pups!  They are in a stage of their development where their brains are like sponges, ready and eager to learn, learn, learn!  For youngsters like Colby, Talise and Nalu, training foundations are established as they begin to understand how to learn. We expect each pup will learn at least 25 new behaviors this winter! Be sure to follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates on our quickly growing pups!

Holiday Specials

It’s that time of the year! Be sure to take advantage of our best prices of the year!  Black Friday, November 27th-28th, offers 25% off all interactive programs (excluding Observer Program) and interactive program gift certificates!

From our Aquatic Adventure program that lets you enter the water to touch, feed and interact with our flippered friends, to our week long summer camps where kids get to explore the world of marine mammals, there is sure to be a program for every animal lover! Click here to learn more about our programs and secure your reservation!

Giving Back

The Holiday Season is a time for giving!  Are you looking for a way to give back?  

Since 1991, Ocean Connections has been striving to excel in the field of marine mammal science and education.  It is with the support of our gracious donors that we are able to provide exceptional animal welfare for the marine mammals within our care while creating a place where our guests can meet these extraordinary animals and learn about marine life, conservation and today’s environmental demands.

All donations made to Ocean Connections are used in providing exceptional animal care, constantly improving upon husbandry and veterinary needs, and supporting our conservation and research efforts directed towards the future of marine life in the wild.

We hope that you will consider Giving Back this holiday season with a gift to support marine mammal care and conservation.  Our animals thank you!

Trainer Spotlight

There is no better way to learn what it’s like to be a marine mammal trainer than to talk to one! Emme has been working as a trainer at Ocean Connections for the past 2 years.  Working with animals has provided Emme with a plethora of exciting learning opportunities. It is her drive and passion for the animals that make her a wonderful person to talk to about what it is like to be a marine mammal trainer!

When did you begin at Ocean Connections?

My first experience with Ocean Connections was as an intern in the summer of 2009.  I knew immediately I had been a part of something special. I was able to return the following two summers as a trainee and educator, and then finally had the honor of becoming a trainer in 2012.

What is your favorite part of your day at Ocean Connections?

Every animal at Ocean Connections has his or her own unique personality. I love getting to know each of our animals and experiencing first-hand the trusting relationship that is built between an animal and a trainer. Any moment in my day where I am working with one of our animals is definitely a favorite one. I do; however, have to say that one of my favorite parts of my day is when that one person, whether it be after a show or in a program, approaches me and asks a phenomenal question or tells me how inspired he or she was by the animals and the work that we do as trainers. It’s extremely rewarding to see the difference that I am able to help make.

What inspired you to work with marine mammals?

I saw a dolphin show when I was four years old and I came home from the aquarium that day with a dolphin stuffed animal convinced that I would one day train marine mammals. It was a dream that stuck, but I couldn’t fully explain why until I was in college. I have always loved animals but realized later in life that my other great passion is teaching. I love to see that light bulb go off, whether it is in the eyes of an animal I’m training or in the eyes of someone who has just discovered something new. My passions inspired me to get here, and it’s amazing to realize that every day I get to live out my dreams.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned at Ocean Connections about working with animals?

There is so much knowledge that I have absorbed during my time with Oceans that makes this question a bit challenging to answer. However, I think that actually is the answer – one of the most important lessons I have learned is that there is always more to learn. While we are training the animals under our care, we are learning just as much as they are. It is so important to keep your mind open and never be afraid to admit you are still learning.