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Sister Aquarium Partnership
The Oklahoma Aquarium announced its Sister Aquarium partnership with the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium on March 25, 2019. Kenny Alexopoulos, Chief Operating Officer of the Oklahoma Aquarium, made the announcement and highlighted how the two facilities share similarities in size, design, opportunities, and inland location.
“We’re looking forward to cross-training our staffs together,” Alexopoulos said. “This partnership will allow us to work with new and different species of animals and technologies and to experience cultural enrichment with new ideas and techniques.”
Many of the life support features in the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium were designed by the Oklahoma Aquarium’s Chief Operating Officer Kenny Alexopoulos and Deputy Director John Money. Alexopoulos and Money were contracted as Head Design Consultants to advise on the exhibits, animal collection, visitor experience, staffing, and the aquarium’s filtration and other equipment necessary to care for the animals.
The Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks and the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem are landlocked facilities. Both aquariums address their environmental impact on the region and important large bodies of water. The Oklahoma Aquarium is located on the Arkansas River and educates on the impact of people on local waterways, which eventually lead to the ocean; the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium highlights the local impact on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, Lake Tiberias, the Dead Sea, and the Suez Canal. The Oklahoma Aquarium illustrates the impact of invasive species such as zebra mussels on area lakes, lionfish in the Atlantic and Caribbean, ocean pollution, and damage to aquatic ecosystems; the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium educates on the impact of commercial fishing, invasive species, plastic and other trash in the environment.
January 9, 2020
Oklahoma Aquarium Strengthens International Partnership With Aquarium in the Middle East
Local biologists also conducted educational and coral research in Israel
Oklahoma Aquarium biologists recently visited their Sister Aquarium, the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem, to cross-train with staff in the areas of animal health, husbandry, education, and research. This is the first time staff from the Oklahoma Aquarium conducted training in these areas in Israel.
In December 2019, Amy Alexopoulos, Lead Aquarist of Marine Fishes, and Ann Money, Director of Education and Research, shared their expertise and collaborated with Israel Aquarium staff. Alexopoulos worked alongside the aquarium’s husbandry staff and shared her knowledge and experiences in aquarium animal care, specifically with marine fish and invertebrates. In addition, she consulted on animal health, exhibit design, and water filtration systems.
Money presented educational opportunities for the aquarium’s tours and classroom programs, including ways to incorporate more conservation messaging into their offerings. Shai Ben Ami, Education Director at the Israel Aquarium, and Money also discussed ways to partner on education research that Money is conducting in Oklahoma. Both facilities will quantify the benefit of a field trip to an aquarium based on a student’s interest in STEM.
“The involvement of the Israel Aquarium will lend international support for informal science education and institutions,” Money says.
Dr. Elizabeth Kaufman, Chief Veterinarian at the Israel Aquarium, says Alexopoulos and Money’s passion for what they do sparked staff excitement to new levels. “I can not stress the importance of the impact that Ann and Amy’s visit had on our staff,” says Dr. Kaufman. “Their knowledge and experience gave the staff more tools to accomplish more creative ways of looking at things.”
Staff also discussed possibilities for future collaborative coral research between the two aquariums. The Israel Aquarium has geographic access to the hardiest coral in the world, which allows for an expansion of the research already conducted at the Oklahoma Aquarium to determine what makes the coral so resilient.
While in Israel, Money and Alexopoulos traveled to Eilat, Israel, to conduct day and night dives in the Red Sea, gathering images for support of Money’s doctoral research on coral fluorescence emission as an indicator of coral health.
“The coral of the northern Red Sea, the Sea of Aqaba, are more resilient and hardier than coral in the rest of the world,” Money says. “They are surviving despite the increase in sea surface temperatures that are affecting coral reefs globally.”
Money met with researchers from the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences and Director Aviv Levi of the Underwater Observatory Marine Park to exchange research observations on coral fluorescence. Levi explained how the observatory conducts cutting-edge coral research, specifically with its student programs growing coral at the observatory and replanting them on wild reef systems. The students also grow large corals within the observatory, which are regularly culled and planted on the reef.
“My hope is to work collaboratively, utilizing the coral research we’re doing in Jenks, Oklahoma, with the accessibility and already established coral grow program at the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat, Israel,” Money says.
Staff from the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium will visit the Oklahoma Aquarium in spring 2020.
View more photos of our trip to Israel.
For more information about the trip and the Sister Aquarium partnership, please reach out to Dr. Ann Money at firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-528-1531. Photography and video assets are available for media use upon request.
The Oklahoma Aquarium is a 501(c)(3); all money collected through admission, memberships, and events go directly to our exhibits and education programs.