Great Lakes Aquarium’s Top 5 of 2013

December 31, 2013 Leave your thoughts

‘Tis the season for leftover cookies, days spent with family and making plans for the future.  It’s also a traditional time to reflect on the year that was.

At Great Lakes Aquarium, 2013 was quite a year.  Between planning, designing, researching, educating and caring for animals we’re stepping back to look at what we’ve done and what we’re just getting started.

5.  The Gitchi Gummi Connection

In 2013, Great Lakes Aquarium launched its first-ever interactive videoconferencing program, bringing Lake Superior and freshwater education to students across the country and, potentially, the world. 

Our pilot program classes, Urgin’ for Sturgeon and Aquatic Invaders, went live in early 2013, in K through 5 classrooms as far away as California.  

New classes such as Food Web In-Motion and Culvert Design & Engineering, with curriculum for middle and high school students helped us reach more than 700 students this year.

Stay tuned for new, fun classes for kids called Water is Weird and Totally Turtles.  Who doesn’t love a good turtle story?


4.  Energy Efficiency Partnership

The water wall at Great Lakes Aquarium has been, from the beginning, the grand centerpiece of our facility’s entrance. The massive display in the Aquarium’s lobby has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors with its symbolic homage to the waters of the world.  

Yet this year, something is different.  

New, dramatic, lighting which washes the wall in a cascade of colors provides not only a visual change, but a new direction in energy efficiency at Great Lakes Aquarium.

The ceiling-mounted LED system was recently installed with funding and design support from Minnesota Power’s Power of One Business energy conservation program.   
It is one of several energy efficiency initiatives being undertaken through a unique partnership between Minnesota Power, the city of Duluth and the Aquarium.  The Aquarium has also installed variable speed drives on pumps that move water through its tanks and filtration systems.  Plans to upgrade lighting to LED throughout the building are underway with a long-term goal of reducing the building’s electrical energy consumption by 30%. 

And, as projects are completed, Power of One rebates from Minnesota Power will be deposited into an energy-efficiency fund to help pay for future energy-saving upgrades.


3.  The Discovery Center

Education is at the heart of everything we do at Great Lakes Aquarium.  

Plans for a bright, spacious education center called the Discovery Center with three new classrooms, a teacher resource center and a distance-learning studio will help us enhance our ability to fulfill our mission in the years to come. 

The Discovery Center will double our available classroom space, allowing Great Lakes Aquarium to grow our increasingly popular educational programming.

While this is a 2014 project, much of the groundwork for the Discovery Center had to happen this year.  Great Lakes Aquarium received $125,000 in gifts and challenge grants from the Minnesota Power Foundation to make this vision a reality.  In the past month, the Aquarium met its $50,000 challenge for 2013 and is well on its way to meeting the 2014 challenge. 


Construction will begin in the coming months. 

2.  The Story of Shipwrecks Alive! 
Anticipation is building for the opening of our most ambitious, most extensive exhibit design since Great Lakes Aquarium opened its doors more than 13 years ago. 

The story of Shipwrecks Alive! started early in 2013 at the Capitol in St. Paul where, after months of planning, lobbying and presentations to legislative committees, Great Lakes Aquarium secured a $200,000 Legacy Funding Grant to bring home to the city of Duluth.  That grant, along with $50,000 in matching funds from the city’s tourism tax surplus gave us the foundation to move forward on this huge project.

The $423,000 Shipwrecks Alive! project is being constructed in the Sandra and Roger Karon Exhibit Hall replacing Masters of Disguise, which closed November 7 after a more than three year run.  

Work began immediately.  Within 24 hours, Masters of Disguise was completely dismantled.  And construction of a wildly redesigned space continues.

Shipwrecks create hauntingly beautiful habitat for aquatic plants and animals.  Shipwrecks Alive!will explore these underwater ecosystems by focusing on three different wrecks, one in Lake Superior, one in the Mediterranean and one in the South Pacific.  

And the animals are already arriving.  The Aquarium has received dusky smooth-hound sharks, cownose stingrays and many tropical fish that will populate our Shipwrecks Alive! tanks.

The animals are currently housed in our holding room in the lower level of our facility.  Shipwrecks Alive! Sneak Peek tours are offered daily (free with admission) for visitors to get a look at our beautiful new residents before they go on exhibit.

1. Fire, Ice and the Rise of Life
Our crowning achievement of 2013 was a true labor of love for Great Lakes Aquarium.
The new exhibit, Fire, Ice and the Rise of Life opened to much fanfare in June of 2013, after months of intense work completed mostly by in-house staff.


Fire, Ice and the Rise of Life is an adventure through time, from lava flows to vast oceans to grinding glaciers, the exhibit explores the explosion of life in the region that became the Great Lakes. 

The spectacular centerpiece is a fossil cast of a Dunkleosteus skull, a ferocious-looking, ancient armored fish that grew to the size of a school bus. 

A grand opening celebration started with an unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony with Duluth Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors. 

An open house reception followed with members, special guests and dignitaries including Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon and Betty Ramsland, both Great Lakes Aquarium board members,  

Representative Mary Murphy and Minnesota Public Radio’s Patty Mester, also a GLA board member,

and Duluth Mayor Don Ness with his son, Owen, who delighted in our new animals and dinosaur shadow puppets.  

As we look back we know none of our accomplishments and milestones would have been possible without the incredible support from our members, our city and our larger “community” across the country.  
 From all of us at Great Lakes Aquarium, thank you. 
2014 is going to be big.  
We’re very excited to get to it.










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