Support Us - Research & Conservation

Ocean Research & Animal Conservation

One of the Georgia Aquarium’s goals is to be a leading facility for aquatic animal conservation and research. The Georgia Aquarium conducts research to improve husbandry methods, develop innovative and exciting new exhibits, contribute to the understanding of the underwater world and apply new discoveries to the conservation of aquatic life. Every day, researchers in the Aquarium’s exhibits and labs are learning more about marine life in order to develop new methods of animal care and veterinary medicine. By combining field research with the study of on-site animals in a controlled environment, the Aquarium is contributing to the advancement of human knowledge in the area of animal science.

Click here to learn how you can join us on a research trip to Mexico through our very own Eco-Tour. (*July 2014 is sold out)

Georgia Aquarium Projects

Whale Sharks in Mexico

Whale Sharks in Mexico

Georgia Aquarium has been involved in field research on whale sharks since 2005. The current focus is in Mexico, where whale sharks gather annually in the shallow coastal waters of the Yucatan Peninsula, not too far from Cancun. So far we have asked: How many whale sharks are there? Why do they come? Where do they go? This year, research focuses on trying to understand an unprecedented gathering that occurred last year, in which hundreds of whale sharks gathered in a tiny patch of water further offshore, to feed on fish eggs. We’ll also look at how whale sharks sniff out food like that, in the vast expanses of the ocean.
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Belugas in Alaska

Belugas in Alaska

With partners in the National Marine Fisheries Service, Georgia Aquarium helped pioneer health assessments for beluga whales in Alaska in 2008, using methods developed in the aquarium setting. This year, work will focus on understanding nutrition and research on whales in Bristol Bay relative to the population in Cook Inlet, which was recently listed as endangered. In particular, we will work out what belugas eat based on stable isotopes in their blood and biopsies, as well as test for any exposure to pollution.

Dolphins in Florida

Dolphins in Florida

Bottle-nosed dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon are excellent sentinels of environmental health because they are permanent residents of the lagoon and are at the top of the food chain, so they can indicate problems below them in the ecosystem. Senior Vice President Dr. Greg Bossart has been heavily involved in understanding the health of these animals for many years. They face a number of threats from pollution and emerging infectious diseases, so work will continue in 2010 in partnership with Florida Atlantic University and the federal Government. This research will take full advantage of the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station in St. Augustine.
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Coral Restoration in the Florida Keys

Since inception, Georgia Aquarium has been committed to the conservation of coral species and coral reefs. Through participating in SECORE (a non-profit initiative of public aquariums and coral scientists establishing an international network of expertise in coral reef conservation), managing a collaborative coral species library, and supporting the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), Georgia Aquarium is actively contributing to protecting the ocean’s biodiversity. In our newest project, Georgia Aquarium is supporting both coral transplantation research and ecological economics approaches to restore critical corals in the Florida Keys, some of which have experienced 90+% mortality rates since the 1980s. Through both staff and grant support, Georgia Aquarium is partnering with CRF to restore Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn (Acropora palmate) coral populations throughout the Florida Keys using coral nursery and coral transplantation techniques. A recent gift from the Alex C. Walker Foundation has allowed Georgia Aquarium’s team to add an additional component to this initiative by evaluating the feasibility of creating a Marine Payment for Ecosystem Services (MPES) scheme in the Upper Florida Keys, allowing reef restoration activities to become financially self-sustaining.
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Penguins in South Africa

Penguins in South Africa

Georgia Aquarium has partnered with non-profit wildlife rehabilitation group SANCCOB to study, for the first time anywhere, the health of free-ranging African penguins, like those in our Cold Water Quest gallery. Sampling will take place off the coast of Namibia, on the western side of South Africa.

Heavy metal manatees, Mexico

Heavy metal manatees, Mexico

Among other tropical places, manatees occur in the shallow coastal waters of Quintana Roo, Mexico, but little is known about their health, so this project seeks to understand whether manatees in this area show any signs of heavy metal contamination.

Mega-reef exhibits

Mega-reef exhibits

Georgia Aquarium and the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences have something in common: operating two of the largest living reef aquariums in the world. This is a tremendous technical challenge, so staff from the two aquariums are collaborating to better understand how to build and maintain thriving live reef exhibits on such a large scale.

Turtle nesting in Georgia

Turtle nesting in Georgia

Many people are unaware that the endangered loggerhead turtle nests in several wildlife refuges right here on the Georgia Coast. Georgia Aquarium is partnering with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Caretta Research Project to survey these turtle nesting areas in Georgia so we can better understand the needs of both adults and offspring, and how to protect them. Learn more about the Aquarium’s efforts to rehabilitate, release and track loggerhead sea turtles.
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Spotted Eagle Rays in Florida

Spotted Eagle Rays in Florida

With their graceful polka-dotted wings, eagle rays are found in all the tropical oceans of the world, but only recently has it been realized that they reproduce in the coastal waters of Florida. In partnership with the Shark Research group at Mote Marine Laboratory, Georgia Aquarium staff will study the population size, make-up and movements near Sarasota, to build vital knowledge about these poorly understood but beautiful creatures.

Right whales in Georgia

Right whales in Georgia

Did you know that the right whale is Georgia’s state mammal? These large baleen whales breed every year in the warm waters of the South Atlantic Bight, which includes the Georgia coast. This year the aquarium is partnering with scientists from Woods Hole to monitor right whale populations in our state.

Beluga Conservation Project

Right whales in Georgia

On behalf of animals everywhere, Georgia Aquarium has taken a leadership role in the zoological community. Together with other members of this community, our team works hands-on to research beluga whales both in our care and in their natural environment. With your support, in order to understand beluga whales, numerous research initiatives have been supported or undertaken by Georgia Aquarium. Learn more about how Georgia Aquarium is making a difference around the world. More info.

Veterinary Research

Veterinary Research

A lot of research activities happen at the Aquarium in the course of regular veterinary medicine. Some of the work we’ll do this year includes measuring the effectiveness and dynamics of new drugs in shark patients, understanding what “normal” blood values are for some other fish, and how sharks react to stress.
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Publications

Click Here to view a list of publications from Georgia Aquarium Staff.

Research Newsletters

View the Georgia Aquarium Research Center newsletters:
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Winter 2013
Winter 2012/Spring 2013
Summer 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Summer 2010
Spring 2010

Partners

The Georgia Aquarium is currently working in collaboration with the following organizations, allowing a better understanding and protection of many of the species located at the Georgia Aquarium.

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