Monday, 30 March 2009

Island Bay Marine Education Centre

The Island Bay Marine Education Centre is a small education centre in Island Bay's historic bait house. Previously on the site that the new coastal ecology lab has been built on, and with much controversy over future sites, the bait house is a snug, temporary home for the lab. They have an open day each month, where entry is by donation and some staff are on hand to explain various things about the sea animals in each tank. We popped in yesterday.

Kids would probably enjoy visiting the centre in its current form, especially the touch tank (left), where you get to gently pick up starfish, anemones, and other crustaceons. Other tanks around the room hosted different guests; we thought these turtles (right) were cute as they occasionally popped up for air.

Some larger, tall tanks held a few crayfish (left), which makes me look forward to my Christmas holidays on the Chatham Islands this year. There were also a couple of octopuses (octopi?). This one was snuggled up against a wall and looked to us like he would reach around occasionally and poke a tentacle into his eye. Surely that's not comfortable?

Several years ago, I brought a class of 9-10 year old students to the old marine lab site for a visit. We spent a whole morning looking through all the tanks, containing sea creatures caught locally. They are studied for a while (up to a year) then released back into their natural environment. We got to feed their resident octopus at the time and learned about how clever these creatures are; given time, they would be able to work out how to unscrew a jar, or open their tank if it weren't for the external locks on the outside. When it came to catching a large crab from another tank to feed to the octopus, it all became a bit much for one boy in the class; before we knew it, one of my girls had climbed up the ladder, caught the crab, and was waving the net around asking where to put it ... I don't think the octopus had ever been fed so quickly!

Just by the door, there was this little fellow. He is an axolotl, otherwise known as a Mexican walking fish. I used to have these in my classroom and the kids were fascinated by them. I raised two baby black ones from when they were the size of my little finger, and also had a fully-grown white one (freaky looking!) for a while ... until she decided to go for a little walk across my classroom floor during the Easter break. My school caretaker almost had a heart attack when he went to pick up what he thought was a rubber toy only to find that it was alive (barely) and wriggling. He had no idea what to do with it; he looked around my classroom and saw an empty fish tank with a display above it including lots of facts about axolotls and wondered if maybe that's what he had in his hand. Upon plunging her back into the tank, she died shortly afterwards once I got back after the weekend; having external gills means that they can survive for a short time while breathing air, but effectively drown once they are returned to the water after a sustained period. Every time I jokingly tormented my poor caretaker by suggesting I get another axolotl for the classroom, he let me know in uncertain terms what he thought of my idea!


Sab said...

That is amazing! I would love to go to a place like that! We got to see the indoor one at the Mall of America, and pet the rays. It's awesome!

Thats cute about the kids...heehee.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Café Chick!

Thanks for the reminder about this. My family have never been to this new venue but we often dropped in on the old venue along the coast.

I have bookmarked the page for the Centre, thanks. We will drop along to the Bait House on 19 April.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Donna said...

LOL I love it! It looks like so much fun!