Virginia Aquarium Main Entrance
|Location||Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA|
|No. of animals||12,000|
|No. of species||700|
|Total volume of tanks||800,000 US gallons (3,028,000 l)|
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, formerly known as the Virginia Marine Science Museum, is an aquarium and marine science museum located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just south of Rudee Inlet. The exhibits at the museum are contained in over 800,000 US gallons (3,028,000 l) of fresh and saltwater displays.
On November 21, 2009, the Virginia Aquarium opened a 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) series of exhibits called "Restless Planet". The $25 million renovation designed by Chermayeff & Poole of Boston includes for habitats: Malaysian Peat Swamp, Coastal Sahara Desert, Red Sea, and Indonesia's Flores Island and doubled the number of species displayed by the aquarium. Some of the new animals include Komodo dragons, tomistomas, spotted eagle rays, and cuttlefish.
The two main exhibit buildings of the aquarium are the Bay and Ocean Pavilion and the Marsh Pavilion. The two are connected by a one-third mile outdoor nature trail running alongside Owls Creek Salt Marsh. Together the two buildings are home to more than 12,000 animals representing over 700 species.
The Bay and Ocean Pavilion houses displays intended to show the journey of water from the rivers of Virginia, through the Chesapeake Bay, and out into the ocean. The Restless Planet part of the displays are intended to show the forces that shaped Virginia.
The Chesapeake Bay Aquarium starts with a touch pool where visitors can touch horseshoe crabs, Forbes' sea stars, and whelk. The rest of the exhibit showcases species that live in the shallow waters around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel including hermit crabs, spider crabs, and feather blennies.
The 70,000-US-gallon (265,000 l) Chesapeake Light Tower Aquarium replicates the underwater environment of up to about 15 miles (24 km) off the coast of Virginia, and is home to loggerhead, green, and Kemp's ridley sea turtles along with many fish including Atlantic spadefish, a large Goliath grouper, triple tail, cobia, lookdown fish, and permits.
Restless planet includes four immersive displays (Malaysian Peat Swamp, Red Sea, Coastal Desert and Mediterranean Sea, and Indonesian Volcanic Island), and new hands-on exhibits intended to show the forces that shaped the Virginia landscape into what it is today. Some of the animals in these exhibits include Komodo dragons, tomistomas, spotted eagle rays, and cuttlefish.
The Marsh Pavilion features North American river otters, seahorses and snakes and other marsh creatures. The Research and Conservation branch of the Aquarium is responsible for the Stranding Response Program, which responds to sick or injured seals, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles from local shores.
The Virginia Aquarium Aviary was a half-acre habitat located behind the March Pavilion, and was home to 70 birds of about 30 species including a great horned owl, turkey vultures, great blue herons, brown pelicans, fulvous whistling ducks, great egrets, and ruddy ducks. Many of the birds had been injured and rehabilitated, and could not be released back into the wild. The aviary was badly damaged by a storm in the winter of 2015: though no birds were killed, most had to be dispersed to other wildlife centers. At the moment there are no birds or aviary at the Virginia Aquarium.