Christmas at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

By Jim Covel, Senior Manager of Guest Experience Training and Interpretation
The Aquarium is closed only one day of the year—Christmas.  Yet while the front doors may be closed to the public, there’s still a lot of activity inside.  There are no holidays if you’re a fish, or an otter, or an albatross.  We still have to feed and care for the animals, keep the life support systems running, and maintain the safety and security of all our facilities.  So what really goes on at the Aquarium on Christmas?
Holiday Meals for the Animals
A few of our husbandry staff members have to come in to check up on the animals in our various exhibits and feed all the animals that eat on a daily basis.  (Some of our fishes only eat every few days, so skipping a meal at Christmas is not big deal.  Come to think of it, I’d be better off skipping a holiday meal or two myself!)  Sea otters are definitely one of those animals that have to eat every day—in fact they eat four times a day at the Aquarium.  The team that takes care of our sea otters may prepare special Christmas treats for their charges, like red and green blocks of ice with prawns frozen inside.  The otters love to investigate and manipulate objects like tubing or Frisbees.  Santa may bring them some new objects to exercise their curiosity and dexterity.
Under Control
The men and women in our Control Room are responsible for maintaining life support systems 24/7, including Christmas.  While they may not have to turn on the escalator and monitor air temperatures in the auditorium when we’re closed, they still have to check seawater circulation in all our exhibits and make the rounds to visually check on each exhibit and its inhabitants during the day and night.  In fact, Christmas may even be more complicated than other days.  In an effort to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint, the system operators will endeavor to shut down lights, air handlers and other devices that aren’t essential when the public isn’t present in the building.  This involves changing a number of timers and automated functions for this one day.  They also run our raw seawater system all day on Christmas.  Normally we filter our seawater during the day to remove plankton that would obscure the view in our larger exhibits, and run unfiltered (raw) seawater only at night.  But with no guests here to look at fish during the day, we’ll keep plankton circulating through the exhibit all day as well as all night.  This provides added feeding opportunities for the thousands of small invertebrates in our exhibits that filter plankton out of the water.  You might say it’s a microscopic Christmas feast for our smallest exhibit animals!
Keeping Things Secure
When we are closed, it’s the role of our Security staff to make sure all of our buildings are truly closed down and properly secured.  That responsibility applies not only at the main Aquarium building, but also extends to nine other buildings in the area that house various Aquarium staff and functions.  They put in several miles per shift walking around the Aquarium and the various outbuildings, checking doors and gates, making sure critical power (i.e. computer, alarm and phone networks) is on, lights are off and there are no obvious hazards or suspicious activities related to any Aquarium property. 
So while you may be a home opening presents and enjoying special time with your loved ones, a number of Aquarium staff members are at work, performing essential functions throughout the day and night.  How do the staff members reconcile the need to be at work along with the desire to spend time with family on Christmas?  Most Christmas duty is on a voluntary basis.  Security officers that don’t have family in the area or managers will volunteer to cover shifts so fellow officers with family can spend time with their loved ones.  Likewise, in other departments the management staff will help cover the bases so others can spend the holiday with family.  And then there’s the “let’s make lemonade out of lemons” approach:  Some of our husbandry staff members will bring their family to the Aquarium with them on Christmas.  While mom or dad is feeding the animals, the family gets a private exhibit feeding show in front of the scenes!
So while the Aquarium may appear closed from the outside, there’s still lots of activity on the inside. 
Now the only question is, which of our three smokestacks does Santa use to get into the Aquarium on Christmas Eve?

Christmas at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

By Jim Covel, Senior Manager of Guest Experience Training and Interpretation

The Aquarium is closed only one day of the year—Christmas.  Yet while the front doors may be closed to the public, there’s still a lot of activity inside.  There are no holidays if you’re a fish, or an otter, or an albatross.  We still have to feed and care for the animals, keep the life support systems running, and maintain the safety and security of all our facilities.  So what really goes on at the Aquarium on Christmas?

Holiday Meals for the Animals

A few of our husbandry staff members have to come in to check up on the animals in our various exhibits and feed all the animals that eat on a daily basis.  (Some of our fishes only eat every few days, so skipping a meal at Christmas is not big deal.  Come to think of it, I’d be better off skipping a holiday meal or two myself!)  Sea otters are definitely one of those animals that have to eat every day—in fact they eat four times a day at the Aquarium.  The team that takes care of our sea otters may prepare special Christmas treats for their charges, like red and green blocks of ice with prawns frozen inside.  The otters love to investigate and manipulate objects like tubing or Frisbees.  Santa may bring them some new objects to exercise their curiosity and dexterity.

Under Control

The men and women in our Control Room are responsible for maintaining life support systems 24/7, including Christmas.  While they may not have to turn on the escalator and monitor air temperatures in the auditorium when we’re closed, they still have to check seawater circulation in all our exhibits and make the rounds to visually check on each exhibit and its inhabitants during the day and night.  In fact, Christmas may even be more complicated than other days.  In an effort to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint, the system operators will endeavor to shut down lights, air handlers and other devices that aren’t essential when the public isn’t present in the building.  This involves changing a number of timers and automated functions for this one day.  They also run our raw seawater system all day on Christmas.  Normally we filter our seawater during the day to remove plankton that would obscure the view in our larger exhibits, and run unfiltered (raw) seawater only at night.  But with no guests here to look at fish during the day, we’ll keep plankton circulating through the exhibit all day as well as all night.  This provides added feeding opportunities for the thousands of small invertebrates in our exhibits that filter plankton out of the water.  You might say it’s a microscopic Christmas feast for our smallest exhibit animals!

Keeping Things Secure

When we are closed, it’s the role of our Security staff to make sure all of our buildings are truly closed down and properly secured.  That responsibility applies not only at the main Aquarium building, but also extends to nine other buildings in the area that house various Aquarium staff and functions.  They put in several miles per shift walking around the Aquarium and the various outbuildings, checking doors and gates, making sure critical power (i.e. computer, alarm and phone networks) is on, lights are off and there are no obvious hazards or suspicious activities related to any Aquarium property. 

So while you may be a home opening presents and enjoying special time with your loved ones, a number of Aquarium staff members are at work, performing essential functions throughout the day and night.  How do the staff members reconcile the need to be at work along with the desire to spend time with family on Christmas?  Most Christmas duty is on a voluntary basis.  Security officers that don’t have family in the area or managers will volunteer to cover shifts so fellow officers with family can spend time with their loved ones.  Likewise, in other departments the management staff will help cover the bases so others can spend the holiday with family.  And then there’s the “let’s make lemonade out of lemons” approach:  Some of our husbandry staff members will bring their family to the Aquarium with them on Christmas.  While mom or dad is feeding the animals, the family gets a private exhibit feeding show in front of the scenes!

So while the Aquarium may appear closed from the outside, there’s still lots of activity on the inside. 

Now the only question is, which of our three smokestacks does Santa use to get into the Aquarium on Christmas Eve?

Notes

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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.