Rhapsody on the Reef

A VERY SPECIAL EVENING FOR A VERY SPECIAL CAUSE: MOODY GARDENS HOSTS RHAPSODY ON THE REEF

Experience one of nature’s most spectacular and rare ocean phenomena as Moody Gardens introduces the “Rhapsody on the Reef” coral spawning event on Aug. 23 at the Aquarium Pyramid. Guests will enjoy this amazing spectacle with light hors d’oeuvres, live music, cocktails, a variety of speakers and a silent auction as money is raised to help with ocean conservation.

 

While it occurs 150 miles off the coast of Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico, most people are unaware of this coral spawning. It takes place within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, one of 14 federally designated underwater areas protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. It is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico. The total area of the sanctuary is about 56 square miles (about 36,000 acres), divided between three distinct areas: East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank.

 

Discovered at the turn of the 20th century by fishermen in search of snapper and grouper, the banks’ colorful reefs are the northernmost in the continental United States. Fishermen nicknamed this area the “Texas Flower Gardens” because of the colorful marine life they saw on the reefs below them. By the time the sanctuary was designated, the term ‘banks’ had been added to the name as a reference to the salt dome formations upon which the reefs are perched.

 

The coral spawning event allows corals at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to reproduce and disperse their genetic material over large distances. It also allows for genetic mixing between species of coral for greater diversification. In ways that defy scientific understanding, each coral species times its spawning for maximum benefit to the ecosystem in general.

 

At the Flower Garden Banks, this event typically occurs 7-10 days after the full moon in August. The timing for these mass spawning events varies from reef to reef around the world. The stunning phenomenon brings to mind an underwater blizzard with billions of colorful flakes cascading in white, yellow, red, and orange. These flakes, known as planula will eventually settle in a particular area and begin to bud in the ocean developing a coral colony.

 

At “Rhapsody on the Reef,” Moody Gardens will livestream the coral spawning live from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary into the Aquarium Pyramid. The event will also feature presentations from NOAA, Galveston Bay Foundation and others as well as live music featuring a fun selection of contemporary music by the River Oaks String Quartet, a delightful menu of light hors d’oeuvres and desserts, a cash bar and a silent auction.

 

NOAA representatives will present on the coral spawning event and how sanctuary researchers have been documenting the mass coral spawning to accumulate more precise data on timing and species participation. The Galveston Bay Foundation will also present details on their annual report card for Galveston Bay providing scientific analysis of the health of the bay thereby inspiring others to take action to protect and preserve our waters.

 

“We are excited to be able to provide our guests with the chance to experience this beautiful phenomenon in a unique setting,” said Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, adding that this experience ideally fits with Moody Gardens’ mission to educate the public as the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a hidden gem sitting just 150 miles off the coast of Galveston Island.

 

Early bird tickets are $85 per person until Aug. 16. The regular price is $100 per person starting Aug. 17 with proceeds going to the Moody Gardens’ Conservation Fund. The funds raised from this event will go specifically to coral conservation efforts around the world.

 

Click here for more information about Rhapsody on the Reef, or to purchase tickets.

Shark U Week Returns to Moody Gardens

It’s that time of the year when Sharks take center stage and get the chance to let their fins shine. Shark U Week makes a splash at Moody Gardens starting Sunday July 28 through Saturday August 3, giving guests a chance to learn more about some of the most fascinating creatures of the ocean.

Guests can enjoy free shark-themed arts and crafts inside the Visitor Center Garden Lobby 1-3 p.m. daily, in addition to the interactive Shark Carts that will be stationed throughout the Aquarium Pyramid 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily with unique artifacts.

Learn more about sharks and marine life with daily dive presentations at 10:30 a.m. in the Gulf Rig Exhibit, 1:30 p.m. in the Caribbean Exhibit and 2:30 p.m. in the South Pacific Exhibit, all inside the Aquarium Pyramid. A communication system will allow divers, while underwater, to talk to guests in real time and answer any questions they may have about sharks in the exhibit as well as in their natural habitat.

Interactive learning continues with See-Food Activities, located inside the Aquarium Pyramid Caribbean Tunnel. Guests will have a shark’s eye-view from this tunnel, from beneath the water, to see how easy it is for a shark to mistake a human for its prey. Can they tell the difference between a surfer and a seal? What about a turtle and a flotation device? It may be a case of mistaken identity.

On Thursday August 1 only, guests can sink their teeth into a special screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, JAWS along with a Q&A session with shark experts to dispel some myths about sharks. Catch it at the MG 3D Theater at 7 p.m. To register for free guests can visit: www.moodygardens.org/sharkuweek.

Discover the Great White’s place in imaginations, in fears and in the reality of their role at the top of the oceanic food chain with Great White Shark 3D, coming to guests on the largest movie screen in Texas inside the MG 3D Theater. The film will play daily at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.  Please note times are subject to change.

The public is encouraged to follow Moody Gardens on Facebook for live videos throughout the week for all things shark. Guests can send in questions using the hashtag #SharkUWeek and Moody Gardens shark experts will answer them LIVE from the Aquarium Pyramid. Shark trivia and fun facts will also be featured throughout the week on Moody Gardens social media outlets.

Guests planning to enjoy Shark U Week can save $5 per person on admission to the Aquarium Pyramid when purchasing tickets online at moodygardens.org by using code MGSHARK at checkout, valid July 28-August 3.

Don’t forget, shark week can be any week at Moody Gardens! With our recently renovated Aquarium Pyramid there’s plenty of sharks and marine life you can explore and get acquainted with.  At Moody Gardens we use our own innate knowledge of different shark species to debunk myths and educate the public. Shark U Week gives us the opportunity to explore sharks through interactive learning and unique presentations.

For a complete schedule of activities, please visit www.moodygardens.org/sharkuweek or call 409-744-4673.

MOODY GARDENS OPENS REEFER LAB ON 4/20

Aquarium Pyramid’s New Coral Reef Lab Addresses Critical Environmental Crisis On Florida Reef Tract

DONATE NOW: CLICK HERE TO HELP SAVE CORAL REEFS

Moody Gardens wants you to be a reefer starting 4/20. Now that we have your attention, an international effort is underway to increase awareness and combat a disease that is rapidly killing the Florida Reef Tract, the third largest coral reef system in the world. Moody Gardens’ new Coral Rescue Lab will be used to propagate coral as it focuses on species being impacted by this disease.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), selected Moody Gardens to participate in this vital project to help save corals native to the Florida Reef Tract as one of 60 institutions from 21 states and Canada.

“We are excited and honored to be selected as one of the institutions that are being entrusted with the care of these corals,” said Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager.

In 2014, an unidentified coral tissue loss disease was first observed in Miami-Dad County and quickly spread throughout the north areas of the Florida Reef Tract. The disease outbreak continued to persistently spread south of Miami through the Upper and Middle Keys, reaching the Lower Keys by April 2018.

In response to the disease the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) have formed the Florida Coral Rescue Team to execute the Florida Coral Rescue Plan to save what is left of Florida’s healthy coral stocks. Part of that plan includes the Rescue Team reaching out to institutions to house and maintain corals for gene banking and propagation for potential future restoration activities.

The Rescue Plans has two primary goals: prevent ecological extinction of the most susceptible species along the Florida Reef Tract, and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible among approximately 25 species of coral.

“Corals are animals and are highly impacted by their environment. Through this effort we are helping nature respond to a crisis and recover to once again become a healthy ecosystem,” Whittaker said.

In March the Aquarium Pyramid received 250 pieces of live aquacultured rock in preparation for the live corals for the exhibit. Aquacultured rock is rock used to season coral aquariums and prepare them for holding local corals. On April 17, Moody Gardens received the coral entrusted to us and acclimated it to its temporary home inside an exhibit inside the Aquarium Pyramid.

“We are looking forward to being able to educate our guests about the diversity of Florida’s coral reefs and the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem for them to thrive,” Whittaker said, adding that this project fits in perfectly with the cornerstones of Moody Gardens’ mission of conservation, education, rehabilitation and research.
The arrival of the live coral into the Aquarium Pyramid appropriately coincides with Earth Day, being celebrated property-wide at Moody Gardens with presentations and crafts on April 20. As part of the Earth Day festivities, the first 100 people starting at 10 a.m. to visit a new Reef Rescue VR Experience will receive two-for-one admission to the attraction. Reef Rescue VR is an interactive high-capacity virtual reality experience where up to 16 people can pilot their own R.O.V.E.R. to help clean up waters, plant new coral branches and feed the fish, returning the reef to complete health in the process.

Moody Gardens is a public, non-profit, educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research.

1/1/2019 – The Birds of Moody Gardens – Reflections

New Year’s Day always seems to have an air of renewal even though it’s an artifact of our own making. This year was particularly poignant with a bright sunny morning, calm winds and a comfortable temperature in the high 50s as I did my perimeter birding survey on the familiar route. Something was strikingly different however, as my “410-acre year” had officially ended the day before and I no longer was looking for that last elusive species to boost the property total. I found myself spending more time looking at what the birds were doing, not minding that I didn’t see a Spotted Sandpiper along Offatt’s Bayou, or the Belted Kingfisher on the tower in the marsh. I will be continuing the daily surveys at least through January to create some overlap in the seasonal diversity and provide the abundance data for the eBird listings, since I only included presence/absence with my January 2018 numbers.
I found myself being more contemplative on this first unofficial survey. Stopping to notice a secretive Pied-billed Grebe lurking in the shadows under the Hope Blvd culvert connecting Schlitterbahn with the Lake Madeline Channel. Watching the mixed species group of wading birds pictured above as they collaboratively fed in the slough near the mulch pile area. The Snowy Egret shuffling its yellow feet in the muddy water to spook prey items off the bottom, while the Tricolored Heron did a chaotic dance to chase down its breakfast. All the while, the quartet of White Ibis probed their foot-long curved bills into the marsh mud looking for tasty invertebrates. We should all take note how these different species can all peacefully co-exist in the same place at the same time, each deriving sustenance without adversely affecting those around them.
It struck me that 2018 was a year of awakening for me with regards to birding, with a tremendous amount of observational learning both in the field, through books and helpful colleagues. 2019 seems to be starting off with a more mindful awareness. Removing the competition aspect of attaining a year-long species total has given me more personal freedom to enjoy the birds I’m watching. 2019 should be less birdy for me: a promise I made my family as we moved out of the “Year of the Bird”. I’ll continue to do weekly property surveys and will work on building a cache of photos to document the diversity that the Moody Gardens property supports.
2018 ended with a total of 210 species seen here on Moody Gardens 240-acre property. We also tallied 138 species at the 170 acre Golf Course property with 14 being novel to the main Moody Gardens surveys, yielding a grand total of 224 species for the 410-acre year. There were a total of 290 daily surveys of Moody Gardens and 26 episodes of “chasing birdies” at the Golf Course. According to the eBird data for the Moody Gardens hotspot, we boosted the site total from 190 up to 249 over the course of 2018. Clayton Leopold, a fellow Moody Gardens biologist, was responsible for adding 10 of those new species. As an excellent birder, he texted me with updates and hints throughout the year when new migratory species showed up, or oddities were present. Fellow Island birders Mort Voller, Alice Anne O’Donnell and Jim Stevenson provided valuable guidance in species identification. Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council’s Executive Director, Julie Ann Brown, helped spread the word about this project to the broader nature tourism community. Clayton, Mort, Alice Anne, Jim and Julie Ann were on my group emails when I nailed some exciting new species or had a particularly cool day birding. David Sarkozi and Mike Austin provided guidance on species identification as eBird reviewers. They caught several mistakes in photographs I’d submitted and requested additional information for species IDs that were rare or needed better descriptions. Greg Miller (of “The Big Year” fame) provided motivation to finally pursue this project after many years of toying around with the idea.
Ultimately this project will yield a book to showcase the avian diversity that the Moody Gardens property supports, including those more exotic species that are in our care in the Rainforest, Aquarium and Conservation Education programs. A property map showing the various hotspots where migratory and resident birds tend to be seen, accompanied by a species ID reference will also evolve from this 410-acre year. We also intend to look at the species’ use patterns and provide habitat improvement features to benefit the birds, and viewing improvements to benefit the birders.
It was fitting to add #209 with Alice Anne O’Donnell’s Christmas Bird Count group and then finish out the year birding with Jim Stevenson and check off #210. Thank you both for your mentoring through this process.
Here’s to a birdy 2019!

The Birds of Moody Gardens – Merry Christmas!

As 2018 “Year of the Bird” winds down I am formulating a plan to deal with all the data I’ve generated through the year with the Moody Gardens property surveys. Several things happened in the past week that remind me of the value of citizen science in understanding how and where birds live their lives.

First and foremost was participating in the 41st annual Galveston Christmas Bird Count.  CBCs as we birdnerds call them have been performed across the United States for 119 years.  The Audubon Society oversees the CBC efforts and compiles the data from thousands of 15-mile diameter circles across the United States.  Each circle has a CBC manager that organizes a team to conduct a one-day survey between 14 December and 5 January that creates a snapshot of bird abundance and diversity.  Galveston Bay has 5 different CBC circles around it’s perimeter with 11 throughout the Greater Houston area.   

Galveston’s CBC was conducted on Tuesday, 18 December with more than 50 volunteers participating in teams counting 8 different areas within our circle. The Galveston circle is centered just west of Pelican Island encompassing areas on the mainland including much of Texas City, Virginia Point, Bayou Vista, Tiki Island, West Galveston Bay, North and South Deer Islands.  Here on Galveston Island, the perimeter of our circle encloses all of Sportsman’s Road and Ostermeyer Road, transecting the beach at 8 Mile Road.  Surveyors scan the Gulf waters all the way east on Galveston and across the Bolivar channel to Rettilon Road.  The West End of the Bolivar Peninsula includes the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, Horseshoe Marsh and town of Port Bolivar.  The remaining arc encloses a large expanse of Lower Galveston Bay including the Texas City Dike and Skyline Road with a large area of the Lower Bay’s Western Shoreline.

According to Richard Mayfield, our Galveston CBC compiler, we typically see about 160 different species of birds, with a high of 175 in 2011 and a low of 144 in 2009. At the end of the CBC we assemble at a restaurant to recover from a day of slogging through marsh mud and prairie thickets for a fun and well deserved refueling and data download.  This year’s count was particularly enjoyable as we were treated to a great meal in a nice location at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Galveston Parks Board and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau have taken the initiative to elevate Galveston’s birding activities to higher prominence in the City’s nature tourism story.  They graciously hosted this year’s meal and those of us that made it back from the field in time to take in the sunset and the great food they provided thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of ticking off species as we read through the list.  Data is still being compiled with a few write-in species making their way through the approval process.  Preliminary numbers suggest an average year with somewhere between 150-155 species for 2018.  If you are interested in joining us in 2019, the count will be on Tuesday, 17 December from dawn till dusk.  We gladly take volunteers from novice birders to experts to help us see, identify, count and record all the birds we see across this 177 square mile area.  We would be particularly interested in folks with boats that are large enough to comfortably host perhaps 6 people while being shallow draft enough to navigate the Bay shoreline.

The second example of citizen science data sharing came in the form of a picture taken by one of our Moody Gardens employees enjoying his newly acquired camera lens. Dusty Durbin took the photo of the Osprey above at 8-mile Road and Stewart Road.  A relatively common bird here on the Island through the winter, he noted that this one had bands on its legs.  Using the network of colleagues that readily provide advice, we were able to get this photo into the hands of a wildlife biologist at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota that recognized the colored and numbered bands as those he’d applied to a nestling in July 2015 on the bank of the Yellowstone River in Montana.  This bird, 41/C, was photographed and identified here in Galveston in January 2016, strengthening the researcher’s observations that these birds are surprisingly site faithful in their winter habitat.  Citing another local winter bird, 10/B that spent 4 winters on the same tree in Seabrook, the researcher has since been able to identify its nest site in Montana.  The observations of people in unrelated pursuits in distant areas over several years successfully connected the natal nest site, winter site and adult nest site for this bird.

Using birdwatching as an excuse to spend time outdoors is a complete reward on its own. Taking the extra step to record your observations from simple lists, through photos, videos and recorded calls adds value.  Providing that data to untold numbers of researchers compiling census trends, identifying shifting ranges and altered phenologies or localized extirpation events is critical to understanding how the natural world works and is changing around us.  I would encourage anyone that spends time outdoors looking at birds to consider putting those observations on eBird for others to see.

I also hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season in whatever tradition you hold dear. Peace.

 

12 Days, 12 Ways to Make a Difference this Holiday Season

We are in the final countdown to Christmas, 12 days away to be exact. In the spirit of the season and the Moody Gardens mission of conservation and education, we would like to take this opportunity to shine a very important light on 12 of the animals that call Moody Gardens home. These animals represent various threatened or endangered species in the wild.  We encourage you to give the gift of action this holiday season and help these populations continue to grow and thrive in their native habitats.

  • Lake Victoria Cichlids
  • Antarctic Penguins
  • Macaw
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sharks/Rays
  • Corals
  • Humboldt Penguins
  • Radiata Tortoise
  • Panamanian Golden Frog
  • Madagascar Ibis
  • Rodrigues Fruit Bats
  • Butterflies

Keep an eye on our social media channels as we highlight a different animal each day leading up to Christmas. We encouraged you to come and visit our attractions to see these animals and learn more about them! You can also make your donation to the Moody Gardens conservation fund to help save these and other species in the wild.

Click Here and Donate!

Facebook: @MoodyGardens

Twitter: @MoodyGardens

Instagram: @MoodyGardens

In the Moody for Delicious Food!

It’s time for the most wonderful season of all. The season of food! Get ready because Moody Gardens has you covered this holiday season with an assortment of scrumptious offerings you and your family can enjoy.

Enjoy holiday attractions like the Festival of Lights and grab a turkey leg or even some kettle corn. There are plenty of snack stands and kiosks on property to get your sweet and savory food fix. Here’s a snapshot of what food offerings you will see on property this holiday season: Hot Chocolate, Funnel Cakes, Jumbo Pretzels, Turkey Legs, Sweet Crepes, Jumbo Hot Dogs, Cinnamon & Sugar Mini Donuts, Dippin’ Dots, Buttered Popcorn, Cheetos Popcorn, Kettle Korn, Pork Skins, Corn in a Cup, Potato on a Stick, Chicken Bites, Tamales, Holiday Cookies, Nachos, Texas Size Sausage on a Stick and Foot Long Corn Dogs.

Roasted s’mores are also a nice fireside snack. Visit one of our open firepits and make a smore that will go towards conservation efforts. The money that is raised goes to the Galveston Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers – Last year over $7000 was donated to them!

Proceeds will benefit the Galveston Chapter of the American Association of Zookeeper’s conservation projects to help the Saola Working Group and Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Take in a buffet while you are here. Enjoy the Garden Restaurant’s Festival of Lights buffet from now until January 6. Click here for the menu. The Garden Restaurant will also be open for Christmas Day. Click here for menu

The Moody Gardens Hotel also has some delectable buffet offerings this holiday season. At Café in the Park enjoy a special holiday dinner buffet from December 22-January 6. Buffet menu is available here. A Christmas Day Brunch will also we be available from 11:30am-2:00pm on December 25. Click here for Christmas Day Brunch menu. Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks located on the ninth floor of the hotel is pleased to offer holiday features in addition to its award winning dinner menu. Dressy casual attire required.  For more information on Shearn’s please click here.

Don’t miss Cirque Joyeux Dinner and Show! From December 21-January 4 enjoy a spectacular, exhilarating and joyous celebration of the Christmas season live on stage featuring acrobats, aerialists, clowns and more all paired with a dinner buffet prepared by the Moody Gardens Hotel Executive Chef. It’s all happening at the Moody Gardens Convention Center. For more information please click here.

You and your family can have breakfast with Santa while you are here! Open to Moody Gardens’ members and non-members on a first-come, first-served basis. Enjoy a Meet and Greet with Santa and Friends along with a delightful breakfast! A souvenir photo is also included. Cost is $30 for adults and $18 per child. Moody Gardens’ Member cost is $25 for adults and $15 per child. Breakfast with Santa will be available December 1, 8 and 15 at 9:00am or 10:30am in the Garden Restaurant. To see what will be on the menu please click here.

The holiday season is here at last which means delightful and bountiful eats are not too far. Enjoy all that Moody Gardens has to offer this holiday season and enjoy some great food as well. For more information on this season’s eatings please click here.

The Birds of Moody Gardens – A lot to be Thankful for!

2018 has been a year of surprises as I’ve been much more aware of the bird activity that surrounds me.  For me and this 410-acre year project, it truly has been the “Year of the Bird”.  I’ve had several chance encounters with unique bird species that were likely there in years past, but I simply wasn’t looking at what was around me.

In early November there was a weather pattern that essentially created a fallout of southerly migrating species here on the coast.  The Arctic blast that pushed south across the area on 9 November brought with it a number of bird species that had not been seen very readily through the fall.  The warbler diversity seen on the Island between 10-14 November was impressive with 10 species seen here on property over that long weekend.  Species included; Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler.  I also encountered Summer Tanager and Scarlet Tanager as well as several Golden-crowned Kinglets alongside the expected Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Perhaps the most unique sighting was the Brown Creeper pictured above, which was officially my #200 property species on 10 November.  Since then I’ve added Hermit Thrush, Western Meadowlark, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Goldfinch, White-crowned Sparrow and American Robin for 206.  I did 2 surveys at the Golf Course during this same 4 day period and increased that property total to 134 for the year with Ross’s Goose and Redhead bringing the combined 410-acre year total to 221 species!

The Brown Creeper pictured above is a rare Island visitor that was blown south with the strong frontal winds leading into that weekend.  These cryptic insectivorous birds use their long toenails to grip and their stiff tail to prop themselves up on tree trunks as they probe the crevices in the bark with their long curved bill searching for arthropods.  My encounter with this species could not have been more random and lucky as I was returning to work to search for Golden-crowned Kinglets and happened to see this little guy zip across the road in front of my car and land on the palm trunk immediately to my left.  It was accommodating as I tried to be as calm as possible while I stopped the car, turned down the radio, rolled down the window, grabbed my camera and snapped off several pictures of this gem.  It worked up the trunk in a characteristic spiral movement allowing me to get several great images.  Having a species that only shows up on the Island every 5 years offer me this great opportunity to see, identify, photograph and observe behavior was truly amazing.

My daily survey species counts are starting to dwindle with some of the birds I’ve been accustomed to throughout the past several months disappearing for a day, then 3, then a week.  The daily totals are dipping into the low 30s with a few in the mid-20s when the weather is poor.  I suspect the next 6 weeks will continue to offer the usual 2-3 dozen species with some individual birds that will become our winter residents and the occasional passer-by moving south adding a bird or two to the total list.  I’ll be looking to the sky for Greater White-fronted Goose or off in the distance on Offatts Bayou for the bay ducks that have eluded me through this year.  I am thankful that these birds are giving me the excuse to take the long way in to work and spend a few extra minutes outside as I deliver paperwork and tackle other administrative tasks around property.  As Henry David Thoreau wisely proclaimed “Consider it a day wasted that one does not take a walk in nature”

2018 is the Year of the Bird – get out and enjoy it!

Written by Greg Whittaker

Moody Gardens Welcomes Ice Carvers to Create Pole-to-Pole Journey!

After traveling halfway around the world, a team of internationally-acclaimed Chinese ice carvers made their way to Galveston’s Moody Gardens to create holiday and animal themed sculptures from two million pounds of ice.

The team of 25 master carvers will spend the next few weeks sculpting ordinary 300-pound blocks of colored and clear ice into works of art and more as they create ICE LAND: Pole-to-Pole, opening November 17.

This year’s ICE LAND theme takes guests on a journey from the North to South poles. The CAA Ruijing Ice Carving Team will even create a giant ice slide that will take guests on a glacial journey. Guests will encounter polar bears, penguins, humpback whales, snowy owls, walruses and of course, reindeer – all hand-carved out of two million pounds of ice inside a 28,000 square foot insulated tent structure chilled and maintained at nine degrees. Shiver’s Ice Bar also returns to ICE LAND this year for guests to enjoy ultra-cool holiday spirits.

ICE LAND: Pole-to-Pole will be open from November 17 through January 6.

Guests who want an ultra-chill behind-the-scenes look at how ice carvers transform two million pounds of ice into the towering, colorful sculptures seen in the finished ICE LAND can sign up for the exclusive Ice Carver VIP Experience offered daily through November 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The $199 package allows guests access to see the ice carvers in action. Guests will also go behind-the-scenes at the Aquarium Pyramid to meet a real penguin and enjoy lunch with the Ice Carving Team. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 409-683-4375.For more information on ICE LAND, or any other Moody Gardens’ holiday attractions, call 409-744-4673 or click here.

 

 

Moody Gardens Responds to False Claims of Negligent Fish Collection in Florida

Click here to watch Moody Garden’s official statement video.
An expedition to Florida to support an ongoing research project has resulted in an organized campaign against Moody Gardens and Texas A&M University Galveston with allegations of improper conduct by our professional staff. We take these allegations very seriously and wish to address these public comments and correct misinformation that has been presented as fact.
 
“Claims that Moody Gardens has collected thousands of fish from the Blue Heron Bridge dive site in Florida are misinformed and untrue,” said Moody Gardens CEO John Zendt, who added Moody Gardens worked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to acquire the necessary permits for this limited list of species and specimens and abide by all department regulations to protect Florida’s natural resources. “We collected a total of 50 fish and 12 invertebrates over a seven-day period and were nothing if not respectful of the environment we were allowed to visit. I am very excited to have the privilege to share these wonderful species with our visitors.”
We have been working with several public aquariums and university research programs including Texas A&M University Galveston to improve sustainability within our living collections for the past three years. Captive breeding in marine fish is an important initiative within the Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) community and we have been focused on several species of Blennies in its work. The biologists were in Florida to collect broodstock for these breeding efforts for those species with which there has been success and a few others that show promise. Moody Gardens limited its collecting efforts to species that do well in human care and can help us tell the story to our visitors of zoos and aquariums helping to save species.
 
“There has been a call for Moody Gardens to release the fish obtained at Blue Heron Bridge,” said Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker. “Given the specimens were housed in common water systems with other animals that could pose risks for introducing novel pathogens, reintroduction would be irresponsible. It would also be impossible to determine exact fish and invertebrates were sourced at Blue Heron Bridge versus the other collection sites. Whittaker added “We applaud the environmental protectionism that these local advocates are showing as it aligns squarely with our mission. I also want to assure all of those who have contacted us that we have not removed all of any species from any one location.”
 
Their experienced collection team did so at three collecting sites with two-thirds of the fish coming from the Blue Heron Bridge and the Blue Heron Bridge Snorkel Trail and the other third collected from the Fort Pierce Marina Dock. All collections averaged one hour and were targeted and deliberate using gear to match the needs and avoid by catch or environmental disruption. On two separate occasions FWC agents were called to inspect the operations and deemed the Moody Gardens team was in full compliance. One specimen died in transport to Galveston, Texas, but all others are doing well in quarantine systems since arrival Sunday evening.
Click here to watch Moody Garden’s official statement video.
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