Compelling new special exhibition tells the climate change story through the eyes of remarkable wildlife
Amazing animals will capture visitors’ hearts and minds when the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s newest special exhibition, “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea, ” takes wing on March 29, 2010.
They’ll also gain a new perspective on global climate change by viewing its potential impacts on tropical wading birds, green sea turtles, the colorful creatures that inhabit coral reefs, hypnotic jellies, playful Magellanic penguins and other ocean animals.
Visitors will journey through seven galleries that weave together stories about the many ways that climate change is affecting ocean animals – and tales of hope involving people and communities that are fighting climate change and making a difference.
Everywhere, visitors are invited to explore how they can join with the aquarium and people around the world in taking small but significant steps to slow the climate crisis and protect ocean wildlife.
"At a time when there’s no shortage of bad news about the state of the oceans, it’s heartening to have things to celebrate, ” said aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “This exhibit highlights those stories of hope and success.”
“It’s important to remember that the oceans are incredibly resilient, ” she added. “Given a chance to recover, they can produce a remarkable abundance of life – much more than we see today.”
Visitors are welcomed to “Hot Pink Flamingos” through a motif of iconic posters like those used to promote national solidarity during wartime or to mobilize the public for social change. In this case, they highlight challenges of a changing ocean, provoking questions and empowering visitors to make a difference.
Galleries in the 7, 000-square-foot exhibition introduce visitors to living animals from around the world, and incorporate video and hands-on activities to address how our energy use creates carbon pollution. They also spotlight the many impacts carbon pollution has on the oceans: from rising sea levels and melting Arctic ice, to ocean acidification, warming waters and disappearing food. Still, the overall message of “Hot Pink Flamingos” is one of hope.
In the “Under Water” gallery, visitors come face-to-face with five-foot-tall gangly Chilean flamingos, scarlet and white ibises, striking roseate spoonbills, cattle egrets and other wading birds, and discover how rising sea levels affect coastal wetland habitats. An interactive map illustrates what the impacts would be on cities around the world.
The living exhibit is paired with “Hope Electrified” – a gallery showing how a switch to clean energy can reduce carbon pollution and combat future flooding. It offers tales about fossil fuel-free technology that exists today, and the people who produce alternative energy, making a living for themselves while greening the Earth.
In the evocative “Acid Ocean” gallery, visitors encounter a healthy coral reef community bustling with exotic fishes, ornate sea anemones and other animals. The 10-foot-long reef showcases the textures, colors and motion of living corals, as bright yellow butterfly fish, tangerine-hued anemone fish and other species dash about the reef.
Nearby, embedded in a realistic coral “graveyard, ” an animated video illustrates the grave threat the oceans face from climate change: acidification that is changing ocean chemistry, putting corals and other marine life at risk. Here, visitors get a glimpse into cutting-edge technology that scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are using to monitor these changes.
In the “Iceless Arctic” gallery, visitors witness the dramatic impacts that melting polar ice is having on villagers in Shishmaref, Alaska and how they are adapting to these changes. Dramatic visual effects offer a sense of what life is like in the town, as it begins to melt beneath their feet.
Nearby, in “Faith and Action, ” visitors meet people from faith communities – Buddhist, Christian and Muslim – who are acting to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change because they believe they have an ethical responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth.
While some jelly species may thrive in warmer waters, “Simmering Seas” introduces tropical spotted jellies that could disappear in a warmer ocean. In a nearby exhibit, young green sea turtles help illustrate how a warmer ocean could affect the gender of baby turtles in the nest or threaten sea turtles’ nesting beaches altogether.
“World of Change” highlights countries and cities that have set goals for reducing carbon pollution and that are cutting their carbon footprint in creative ways.
Interactive panels take visitors to Costa Rica, where taxes pay for forest conservation; to New Zealand, where an airline is using fuel made from plants; to Iceland, where 80 percent of their energy comes from hydropower and geothermal power; and to San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Bihar, India and other model cities that are leaders in the climate change fight.
Similarly, “Hope Taking Root” shares stories of local actions that are making a difference – and provokes visitors to think about what they can do at home to slow the climate crisis.
Playful Magellanic penguins – including climate “refugees” from Brazil – have a new home in the “Vanishing Feast” gallery. The colony includes survivors from a mass stranding on Brazilian beaches, along with captive-bred Magellanic penguins from the San Francisco Zoo, who serve as emissaries for all seabirds affected by a changing sea. In 2008, several hundred starving penguins washed ashore in Brazil when rising water temperatures forced them to swim hundreds of miles offshore to find food that was once plentiful in cold, plankton-rich waters close to the Argentine coast.
Brazil’s Niteroi Zoo, which nursed hundreds of birds back to health including Magallenic penguins, has collaborated with the aquarium to provide a home to a few stranded penguins that cannot be returned to the wild.
A final gallery, “Make Change, Not Carbon, ” focuses on steps visitors can take in their homes, their communities and as citizens. An innovative, interactive kitchen invites visitors to explore easy ways to reduce energy use and save money at home.
Five interactive multimedia stations invite each visitor to commit to making one change in their daily lives to help slow the climate crisis. They then add their photo to the sea of portraits of those who have taken a pledge to action. Nearby, two electronic postcard stations encourage visitors to let elected officials know that they’re concerned about climate impacts on ocean wildlife.
Scattered throughout “Hot Pink Flamingos” are talkback stations where visitors are encouraged to share their concerns, opinions, thoughts and feelings about the climate crisis and can pledge to do their part. Spanish-speaking visitors will find bilingual signage and video captions throughout the exhibition.
“Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea” offers many reminders that we all belong to this Earth, are responsible for taking care of our home – and that we can solve the climate crisis by making little changes on our own and big changes together.
“Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea” is included with regular aquarium admission of $29.95 adult; $27.95 senior (65+) and student (full-time college, with I.D.); and $17.95 children 3-12 and the disabled (2010 prices). Children under 3 are admitted free of charge. Discounted tickets for members of the military and their families can be purchased in advance at many California and Nevada installations.
The aquarium is located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey. The aquarium is open daily except Christmas Day. Hours of operation vary by season. Visit www.montereybayaquarium.org or call (831) 648-4888 for daily schedules.
More information about “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea” and the aquarium in general is available online at www.montereybayaquarium.org or by calling (831) 648-4888. Advance tickets can be purchased online or toll-free by phone from the aquarium at (866) 963-9645. Seasonal specials, details about special events and programs, family activities and live web cams can all be found online at www.montereybayaquarium.org.
The mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans.
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