Posted April 26, 2017 by Cooper Point Journal in Community

Hidden Marine Treasures

Evergreen Debuts New State of the Art Aquarium Facility

By Val Arias

If you dare enter the labyrinth that is the connected basement of LAB I, II and the Arts Annex, you may happen upon a remodeled wing of this eerie space. Located directly one floor below the biology and chemistry lab spaces on the first floor of LAB I, Evergreen has installed a 13,000 liter recirculating seawater aquarium system, made up of five main “systems,” each containing tanks filled with marine life both from the Puget Sound and the tropics.

Though the aquarium facility is often bustling with students in marine science programs, when it is empty and the lights are off, the tropical tanks come alive with beautiful purple tetras and clownfish hiding in anemones. Your eye is then immediately taken to the even more mesmerizing glowing bodies of the native moon jellyfish in the circular planktonkreisel tank, which are nearly transparent in fluorescent light.

The facility was first put to use by the winter quarter program Aquaria: Science and Society, taught by marine science faculty Erik Thuesen and Amy Cook, the first time this program was offered at Evergreen. It was designed largely in part to help establish this new aquarium space, and take advantage of the resources available to teach students about aquarium husbandry, aquarium chemistry, and the ethics of keeping animals captive. Each student was assigned a system, in which some had their very own tank to establish, take care of, and test every week. The larger tanks– one 1,100 liter tank, one plankton kreisel, and one lone freshwater tank– were taken care of by teams of three or four students and were filled with live rock, Aurelia species of moon jellyfish, and local marine organisms such as plumose anemones, acorn barnacles, ochre sea stars, and various types of crabs. The freshwater tank was filled with different types of aquatic grass and freshwater fishes.

The tropical system, comprised of three medium-sized tanks, were filled with sand and live rock, and were filled with organisms that inhabit the warmer waters—damselfish, and various types of tropical arthropods such as shrimp and crabs.

Throughout the quarter, the students in Aquaria tested the different components of aquarium chemistry– alkalinity, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, phosphate, salinity, temperature– to create a standard for each tank and a foundation for future programs that make use of the facility. At the end of the quarter the students turned in final aquarium technical reports, which will serve as handbooks for husbandry throughout the years to come.

This spring the facility is being put to good use by the program Marine Biodiversity, which will benefit greatly from having large tanks of marine organisms, as a major component of the program is filling a sketchbook with over one hundred drawings of different phylums of marine life. Throughout the summer, Gerardo Chin-Leo’s Marine Biology program will be handed the reigns to the aquarium, and when the new school year starts up again, the two-quarter program Marine Life will take over.

If you find yourself wandering around campus and would like to find this hidden gem, head down to the basement of Lab I and you will see room 043 on your left, more often than not filled with students sketching the wonders that lie hidden under Evergreen.