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Birch Aquarium Still Caring For 6,000 Animals, After Coronavirus Forces It To Close Its Doors

An aquarist who has dived into an underwater kelp forest at The Birch Aquarium is pictured in this undated photo.
Birch Aquarium
An aquarist who has dived into an underwater kelp forest at The Birch Aquarium is pictured in this undated photo.

The Facebook page for Birch Aquarium is packed with fresh content. The news may come as a surprise, given that the San Diego institution had to shut its doors at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, like other businesses, Birch has adapted. One way is through Facebook live chats.

A recent one from May 5 opens up with Birch communications specialist Caitlin Scully cheerfully introducing an aquirist:

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“What we’re doing today is a chat with Amy and we’re going to be talking about some of the amazing work she does, ” Scully said.

Aquarists at Birch, like Amy, will talk about their work with animals as live videos of marne life flash across the screen.

Scully said the guest experience is a significant part of the job at the aquarium. With empty hallways at the facility, Scully said these live chats are a way to keep public participation alive.

VIDEO: Birch Aquarium Staff Make Adjustments to Keep Animals Safe During Pandemic Restrictions

“It is a huge change as a place that welcomes guests. We now only have essential staff in the building and our essential staff are the people who are taking care of our creatures,” Scully said.

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“I think there's a lot of thinking on their toes and coming up with creative solutions, especially when you're working as only half a team at a time,” said Scully, who says the team has been split apart into longer shifts so they can avoid contact.

Jennifer Moffatt, senior director at the aquarium, said the team has definitely felt the loss of interaction.

“There’s a lot of stress for everybody… the virus, and then you change schedules. They are used to working with other teams..an education, exhibits and visitor services none of those folks are present,” Moffatt said.

But, she said, it’s also a shining moment for the team.

“They're able to continue with their job and they're able to continue to tell stories about successful breeding of animals and say, you know, oh, look at all the seahorse babies that we just had. Those animals are still going strong.”

The aquarium has more than 6,000 animals, including fish, reptiles and invertebrates that need to be cared for every single day, as well as some ongoing research projects and conservation programs.

“So it's really amazing to me that the team, despite all of the extra stress of what's going on, despite having longer hours that they need to do, the animal care is the biggest priority,” Moffatt said.

“And it's not just because it's their job, it's because they genuinely, really care about these creatures.”

Birch Aquarium Still Caring For 6,000 Animals, After Coronavirus Forces It To Close Its Doors
Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.