APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — They are raising babies at the Florida Aquarium's Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach.
"We really are a nursery for coral," says Keri O'Neil, senior scientist of the coral conservation program at the facility. "We're simply raising them up and giving them a headstart before releasing them into the ocean."
Keri is one of the shining scientific stars at the Florida Aquarium's other home, a sprawling 20-acre campus that raises and rehabs both coral and sea turtles for a someday life in the wild.
These animals won't be entertaining crowds at the aquarium's big show in Tampa. They're meant for even bigger healthier ecological purposes.
But that doesn't mean you won't be able to see them before they go.
Later this year, maybe as early as the fall, the Florida Aquarium's Center for Conservation will open a free visitors center, which will be part of the Florida Conservation and Technology Center, which includes TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center, Clean Energy and Technology Center, plus boat launches, kayak and hiking trails, and solar arrays.
The main attraction at the aquarium will be an epic boardwalk around the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, including large windows that look into turtle rehab pools and the veterinary hospital.
There will also be interactive speakers allowing scientists to speak with visitors about their important work.
"You'll be outside the windows looking in as we work on the turtles, and we can be talking back and forth," says Dr. Debborah Luke, the aquarium's senior vice president for conservation.
For more on the Florida Aquarium's Center for Conservation, click here.