Clearwater Marine Aquarium has been opened since 1972 and has been a non-profit organization geared towards rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured marine animals. On Nov. 5, Saint Leo University students got the opportunity to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and learn about a variety of marine life organisms.
The bus departed campus safety at approximately 11:30 am, and students arrived at the facility approximately 12:40 pm. They were given until 4:00 pm to explore both aquariums, as well as the neighboring areas.
According to their website, “ The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is fundamentally a hospital for sick and injured marine life. However, what we do is so much more. We inspire the human spirit, through the animals and their stories of survival, which touch all of us. We educate young people on the preservation and conservation of our animals and environment. We collaborate on scientific research to better understand animal behavior, illness, treatment and the prevention of animal decline. We protect the growth of the endangered sea turtle population by guarding a 26-mile stretch of beach within Pinellas County. We rescue and rehabilitate injured and ill animals with the aim of releasing them back into their natural habitat. When this isn’t possible, we provide long-term residential care.”
Through this, the staff at the aquarium can inspire and educate while also providing hope for marine life and aquatic animals.
The most prominent animal within the aquarium was Winter the dolphin, who was the main attraction and inspiration for the hit movie “Dolphin Tale” and its sequel. Many students were very surprised to learn that both of these movies were actually filmed at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
“I watched Dolphin Tale on Netflix, and it was a really amazing movie, but I had no clue it was filmed here until today. It is nice to know that the workers here are so passionate about rehabilitating and rescuing animals, and releasing them back if possible. I have not seen Dolphin Tale 2 as yet, but I think that when I go home, I will try to find it and watch it. I can imagine that it will be a wonderful sequel to the first movie” said Martina McKoy, a sophomore majoring in psychology.
Similarly, many students were excited to meet Winter after hearing that the dolphin was actually the same one from the movie. Maeisha McDermott, a sophomore majoring in biomedical and health sciences said
“I learned so much about Winter today at the aquarium. It was so touching to hear about her story of survival and rehabilitation. It was also sad to learn about all the dangers sea animals such as Winter face because of all the fishing practices of human beings. Stories such as Winter’s and the work of Clearwater Marine Aquarium however give me hope that things will get better for aquatic life.”
Hope was another popular dolphin at the aquarium, and was very similar to Winter. She, like Winter, was found at the Indian River Lagoon five years and one day later. Unfortunately, she was extremely dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition as a result of lack of milk form her mother. Thankfully, the staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium were able to nurse her back to health, and she has been doing well and recovering nicely since she was found.
Saint Leo students were also given the opportunity to learn about other marine life, such as sea otters, sting rays, pelicans, and sharks. They could also get up close and personal with some of the animals, and some students even touched and fed the sting rays as they swam around in their spacious pools.
Many students took advantage of the complimentary bus shuttle to the Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure which featured a museum of reconstructed movie sets and props, Hurricane Experience exhibit, touch tanks, Winter’s Gallery of Hope, and an assortment of other interesting exhibits. The trolley ride lasted for around ten minutes and gave students an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the area. After most of the exhibits, some students sought to have lunch in popular restaurants within the area, such as Tony’s Pizzeria, which offered delectable Italian food.
Saint Leo undergraduate students are encouraged to visit saintleotickets.universitytickets.com to seize tickets which may be on sale for lovely outings such as this. Prices are significantly discounted, and these events give everyone an opportunity to meet new people, socialize, learn, and actively engage in being a part of the Saint Leo community.