Latest News from Fort Fisher

Volunteers Honored at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Time, dedication and willingness are hallmarks of a committed volunteer. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher recently hosted the annual Volunteer Appreciation and Awards Dinner to celebrate the hundreds of individuals who selflessly assist with Aquarium operations on a daily basis. More than 490 volunteers donated 29,888 hours to the Aquarium in 2014.

Dan Bennett (l) wins 2014 Volunteer of the Year honors at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner hosted by (r) Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley.

Dan Bennett (l) wins 2014 Volunteer of the Year honors at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner hosted by (r) Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley.

Dan Bennett won the top honor of 2014 Volunteer of the Year. Bennett, an Ogden resident, divides his time between Education, Outreach and Special Events. Bennett began volunteering at the Aquarium seven years ago. He’s taught guests about the mysteries of horseshoe crabs, dressed as a sea turtle to thrill crowds and assisted with events large and small including Trick or Treat Under the Sea.

“Dan is selfless, passionate about the Aquarium and deserving,” said Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley. “He has even recruited family members to join the Aquarium team.”


Volunteer Coordinator Dan Radley recognizes Aquarium Volunteer Tim Wright for his more than 555 hours of service in 2014.

Tim Wright of Wilmington was also recognized at the dinner for contributing the most individual volunteer hours in 2014, with 555 hours. Wright won Volunteer of the Year in 2013. He can often be seen talking with guests from inside the Cape Fear Shoals habitat while swimming with sharks during daily dive shows.

“We aren’t the Aquarium without our volunteers,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Each year we acknowledge these individuals who exemplify commitment, teamwork, creativity, enthusiasm and love for the Aquarium.”


Lorikeet Landing Opens This Spring

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

lorikeet canvas-small

Alligator Egg Hunt

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

FF-Alligator-EggHuntBunnies may be hopping down the trail soon, but alligators are on a roll at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The annual Alligator Egg Hunt offers children a chance to learn, create and play this spring.

Aquarium educators introduce children to a live baby alligator and share fun facts about these amazing reptiles found in North Carolina. Kids will also create their own special alligator egg basket. Next the hunt is on for candy-filled eggs in the Aquarium’s garden.

The Alligator Egg Hunt is recommended for children ages 3-10 and limited space is available. Children ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Dates and times are as follows:

Saturday, March 28 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Friday, April 3 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Saturday, April 4 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The program fee is $20 per child; $11 for N.C. Aquarium members. Regular Aquarium admission applies to adults accompanying program participants. Preregistration is required by March 25 for March 28 programs and April 1 for April 3-4 programs. Register for the Alligator Egg Hunt online here or by calling (910) 458-8257.


Charity Navigator Awards NC Aquarium Society Third Consecutive 4-Star Rating

News Article From: Fort Fisher,Pine Knoll Shores on Friday, February 13th, 2015

Outreach SeahorseCharity Navigator, America’s largest and most popular independent evaluator of charities, has awarded the NC Aquarium Society the prestigious 4-star rating for good governance, sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. The Aquarium Society, which supports the three NC Aquariums, is one of only nine aquarium organizations in the country to receive four stars. According to Charity Navigator President Ken Berger, only 12% of the charities measured have achieved this rating for three consecutive years, which “differentiates the NC Aquarium Society from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their support.”

“We are honored to receive Charity Navigator’s highest rating for each of the last three years,” said Bill Taft, Chairman of the Society’s Board of Directors. “This distinction reflects our accountability to all our constituencies and our commitment to support the Aquariums’ future.”

Charity Navigator works to help charitable donors make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on more than five thousand charities nationwide and by evaluating their financial health. It calculates each charity’s score based upon several broad criteria, including how much is spent per dollar raised, what percentage of funds goes to programs vs. administrative and fund-raising expenses, and the organization’s long-term financial health. It then assigns a rating from one to four, with four being the best rating. These are available at

Dr. Neal Conoley, President of the Aquarium Society remarked, “This high rating coupled with the Aquariums’ growing reputation highlights our focus on good stewardship of charitable contributions and maintaining the public trust.”

The nonprofit Aquarium Society, founded in 1986 as a support organization for the state’s three public aquariums, has been instrumental in helping each facility expand its educational exhibits and programs to better serve visitors. Following a loss of appropriated construction funding due to Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the Society stepped in to borrow the $26 million needed to rebuild and expand the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Today, all three Aquariums and Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head partner with the Society to help meet the needs for new exhibits, programs, and operational support.

The Aquariums are located at Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, at Pine Knoll Shores, near Atlantic Beach, and on Roanoke Island, near the Outer Banks. Jennette’s Pier was rebuilt and reopened in Nags Head in 2011. The four sites hosted more than 1.4 million visitors last year. The Aquariums are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and were created to inspire the appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic life.

Aquarium Leads FrogWatch USA Volunteer Trainings

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, February 2nd, 2015

tree frogsStaff at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher hope to enlist the help of volunteers to gather information about local frog and toad populations as part of FrogWatch USA. The citizen science program provides individuals, groups and families with an opportunity to learn about wetlands in their communities, recognize the unique calls of different species and report data on the calls of local frogs and toads.

“We are excited about getting FrogWatch Volunteers out into the community, helping us to collect information about the types and amounts of frogs we have around Southeastern North Carolina,” said Aquarium Outreach Coordinator Andy Gould. “Amphibians are important species to keep an eye on, because they are very sensitive to changes in their environment. If we see them in our area, it means that our habitats are healthy and thriving. If we notice their absence, we may want to look further into potential causes.”

Trained volunteers collect data at a local wetland site from February through August and submit the data online. No previous knowledge of amphibians or scientific background is required and free training is provided.

“Being a FrogWatch Volunteer is an excellent way to explore the great outdoors and gain a closer connection with nature, even if you have a demanding schedule or are low on time,” said Gould. “You will also be contributing to our statewide and national understanding of amphibian health and conservation concerns. “

Those interested in becoming FrogWatch USA volunteers can register for a single training workshop that includes fun activities and hands-on demonstrations. Workshops will be held 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Jan. 31, Feb. 21, March 21, April 18 and May 2. Space is limited to first 30 registered participants. For additional information and to register click here or call (910) 458-8257 x. 236.

Hugs and Fishes Sleepover

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, January 15th, 2015

FF-Hugs and FishesWhat’s not to love about a night with sharks and hearts? The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher transforms into a kids-only zone Valentine’s Weekend. The Aquarium hosts “Hugs and Fishes Valentine’s Lock-In,” for children ages 5 to 12, with two evenings to choose from Friday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 14.

Guests arrive at 6 p.m. to play games, make crafts and enjoy animal programs. When it’s time to settle down for the evening, the little ones will drift off in front of the Cape Fear Shoals with sharks, rays, schooling fish and a sea turtle lulling them to sleep. Trained Aquarium staff will supervise all activities.

Dinner, snacks and breakfast will be provided. Children must be comfortable being away from parents all night. Preregistration for sleepover is required. The cost is $55 per child. For more information or to register for this program, please call (910) 458.7468 or click here.


Autism Friendly Day

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

SeaStar_Urchin_anenomeThe North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will offer programs tailored especially for individuals who live with autism spectrum disorder on Sunday, February 8, 2015.

Autism Friendly Day programs and activities are free with Aquarium admission. The dive program, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., will include an educator assisting guests in finding animals in the Cape Fear Shoals, the 235,000 gallon exhibit featuring sharks, rays and a green sea turtle. A diver will briefly describe the found animals. Visitors also can collect seven Aquarium passport stamps to guide them through the Aquarium and help identify animal-touching opportunities. A calm-space to help provide comfort, relaxation or a break will be available to families and their children.

The Aquarium hosts Autism Friendly Day with the assistance of the University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program to better serve the needs and interests of children and adults living with autism.

Scheduled Aquarium programs and activities on Feb. 16 include:

10:00 Film – “Reef Magic,” featuring the Cat and the Hat
10:30 Dive Show at Cape Fear Shoals exhibit
11:00 Feeding at the Buzzard’s Bay exhibit
11:30 What We Love Most About the Coast
1:30 Ocean Odyssey-Reptiles
2:30 Dive Show at Cape Fear Shoals exhibit
3:00 Feeding at the Shadows on the Sand exhibit
3:30 Jellyfish Animal Encounters
4:00 Film – “Eyewitness Sharks”

Additional activities include:
• A coastal waters touch tank
• A bamboo shark touch tank
• Adventure Reef outside playground
• Ry-Con Service Dogs

Staff Making a Difference

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher honored two employees, Casey Radley and Ryan Tomb,  recently for making the Aquarium a better place to work and visit.

FF_CaseyRadleyRadley, the Aquarium registrar, won the 2014 Sea Star Award for outstanding job performance.

“Casey’s positive attitude and energy is evident to our customers and staff,” wrote one co-worker.”Aside from being a positive voice of the Education Department, Casey promotes our mission even outside of work.”

Radley started working at the Aquarium as an outreach instructor in the Education Department in 2010. She also served as a special activities instructor, working with campers and giving behind-the-scenes tours, before becoming the registrar  in August 2012. As registrar, Radley, coordinates field trips, group visits and special event registration.

Tomb won the 2014 Customer Service Award for his positive attitude and impact on co-workers and visitors. He joined the Aquarium team in 2013 as a security officer.FF_RyanTomb

“Ryan is an essential part of the customer service team,” says Joanna Zazzali, Visitor Services Coordinator. “He has a unique way of making our visitors feel so special and important. He takes initiative and helps out each department wherever and whenever he can.”

Permanent, temporary and seasonal state employees or N.C. Aquarium Society employees are eligible for the annual Sea Star and Customer Service awards. Employees are nominated by their peers, with winners recognized at an all staff meeting held each December. Award winners receive a plaque and $250 from the NC Aquarium Society.

Aquarium Continues Turtle Care

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, December 22nd, 2014

IMG_5199The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher continues to care for more than 20 endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles injured in a mass cold-stunning event along the New England coast in November.  The majority of turtles arrived at the Aquarium  just before Thanksgiving, with a second group transported from the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores in mid December.

Aquarium staff provides the turtles with daily care, special diets and close monitoring.  Short recuperation times were initially expected for the majority of the turtles. Health concerns, however, were more involved for a number of the animals and required  in-depth medical care. As the animals recover they will be released into the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream.

In the late fall, more than 1,000 sea turtles were rescued after becoming ill from prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures in the near-shore waters of the northern Atlantic. The extraordinary number of rescued turtles required extensive collaboration with wildlife organizations and aquariums around the country offering space and resources to care for the sick animals.

Sea turtles are reptiles and cannot control their own body temperatures. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore. Eye injuries and weight loss are also common.

Cold-stunned sea turtles occur in the coastal waters of North Carolina, as well. The public may encounter turtles floating in the waterway and around marinas, they may find them lying motionless along the beaches or salt marsh shorelines. Even though a sea turtle may appear to have no signs of life, it may not be dead. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.

The Aquarium receives no additional funding or staff to assist in the turtle care. Anyone interested in making a donation to assist in the care and rehabilitation of the sea turtles may contact (910) 458-8257 or


Teens, Turtles and Costa Rica

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Student observes a leatherback sea turtle during the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Ecology Program

Student observes a leatherback sea turtle during the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Ecology Program

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher hosts a teen trip this summer for the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Ecology Program. Sea turtle patrols, rafting in the rain forest and habitat preservation are just a few of the things high school students will participate in while being actively involved in sea turtle research.

During the 9-day trip, June 22-30, 2015, participants assist with a leatherback sea turtle monitoring project, collect data on nesting turtles, meet local students and more. The program also includes 30 hours of instruction in sea turtle biology, rain forest ecology and research methodology. Students experience international travel and culture, Spanish language skills, research and academic field work.

The trip is open to all high school students ages 14 to 18. Space is limited and the registration deadline is January 23. For more information call (910) 458-8257, ext. 201.