Aquariums not only offer unique glimpses into the aquatic world but are also the perfect platform to engage directly with a general public, some of whom have lost much of their natural relationship with the sea.
Communication channels set up via aquarium organisations are important conduits for processing and interpreting ‘impenetrable’ data and making this available to a general public which can have great impact and positive consequences.
The aquarium also allows people who would not normally have the opportunity to interact and enjoy the aquatic world and, we hope, to instil a greater understanding and interest in both the marine and the freshwater environment.
Focussing education efforts
Alongside contributions towards relevant research and conservation, EVERY animal attraction in the UK has a responsibility towards furthering education. These efforts should be focussed on two channels:
1 – The importance of utilising the means at hand to bolster traditional learning methods from basic concept KS1 up to Degree Level regarding biology and biodiversity, not just aquatic systems but the methods by which aquatic systems interact – with and are co-dependent – on terrestrial systems. For example, the impact of excess fertiliser run-off from farmland and its detrimental effects on aquatic systems due to deforestation – take Chesapeake Bay as a key case study.
2 – Education targeted on raising awareness of some of the serious issues facing marine life, chiefly the issues of ‘Plastic Oceans‘, ocean acidification and threats to worldwide Shark populations / other key species.
Hawaiian monk seal caught in fishing tackle off Kure Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Photo Plastic Oceans.
The key to effective learning is to interpret information and concepts and make that interpretation relevant to the audience. Much of our audience is young and receptive to learning but the real challenge is to channel messages to those who are not so receptive and make them understand how they are connected to aquatic systems and the wider marine world.
We aim to do this by interacting with visitors in various ways including on-site interpretation and offering hands-on opportunities, utilising digital media to engage and interact such as video content, our website and social media.
However, we are mostly passionate about using our greatest asset – our people – to bring the marine world to life. Every day visitors have the opportunity to listen to talks and watch animal feeds and ask our staff any questions.