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A Joyful Way to Interact with the Environment at the South Carolina Aquarium



By: Claudie Benjamin, Guest Writer

These days when almost everyone has reduced access to what were their usual recreational and cultural activities, it’s a good time to think about the environment. Learning the steps we can all take to improve not only the quality of life for humans, but for the creatures who inhabit our globe, merits a place on New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

Combining entertainment with education, the South Carolina Aquarium, located in downtown Charleston, offers something for everyone – from three-year-old toddlers to high school and college students and professional biologists.

The South Carolina Aquarium’s scope and mission represent the fish, sea turtles, and other creatures who live in South Carolina’s mountain areas and waters off its shores. Josh Zalabak worked as a biologist for eight years at the Aquarium before becoming Coordinator of Community Engagement a few months ago.

His enthusiasm about the Aquarium draws you in. A key feature at the Aquarium, he says, is the availability of educators who engage with visitors about the exhibits. So, you’re not just there having to figure things out for yourself.

“It’s important to understand as much as you can about what you see,” says Josh.

As a herpetologist, he is a specialist in reptiles. Among many other interesting highlights of the Aquarium, are pop-up opportunities that are rarely available elsewhere for the general public. The Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center serves as a state-wide treatment center for South Carolina’s injured or sick sea turtles. If you’re lucky enough, you may have the chance to view use of the CT scanner and surgery performed on injured sea turtles.  A staff Veterinarian is always on call.

The Aquarium’s largest tank, the Great Ocean tank, spans both floors and at 42’ deep, it is the deepest tank in North America.  Josh says there are around 40 different species in this tank totaling over 500 individual creatures including many types of fish, a very large sea turtle and sharks!

Virtual programming features multiple programs on the animals and habitats found at the Aquarium, including the Care Center and sea turtles. Whether visiting onsite or watching the virtual programs an important message Josh says is appreciating the importance of reducing the harm people unknowingly inflict on sea creatures.  For example, discarding one-use plastics that are then ingested by sea turtles may prove fatal for these turtles.  This is among other lessons in doable practices that can be learned by everyone as they enjoy the vast and various living exhibits at the Aquarium.

Pre-purchased tickets ensuring COVID-related distancing, are available for on-site visits and robust virtual programming is available online.


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