The Texas State Aquarium is a public aquarium that operates on a non-profit basis and can be found in Corpus Christi, Texas, United States. Its purpose is to encourage the preservation of the environment and the rehabilitation of the Gulf of Mexico’s native flora and fauna. Since 1995, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has recognized it as meeting its standards for accreditation. It is not only the largest aquarium in the state of Texas but also one of the largest aquariums in the entire country.
A Brief History
After being named the Gulf Coast Zoological and Botanical Society when it was first conceived by a coalition led by the Junior League of Corpus Christi, the organization later changed its name to the Corpus Christi Aquarium Association in 1978, and then to the Texas State Aquarium Association in 1986 after the Texas State Legislature designated it the “Official Aquarium of Texas.” Despite its name, it does not receive any funding from the state.
On July 6, 1990, the Texas State Aquarium finally opened its doors to the public after more than twenty years of hard work raising money, planning, and building the facility. It was granted permission to operate as an animal rehabilitation facility by the federal government in 1993, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums granted it accreditation in 1995.
Caribbean Journey, an expansion that doubled the size of the Texas State Aquarium and added new exhibits, including a 400,000-gallon shark exhibit, a jungle aviary, and a 4D theater, opened on May 13, 2017, after being under construction for three years. Jesse Gilbert is currently serving as the president and chief executive officer of the aquarium.
Texas State Aquarium offers Educational Programs.
Schools can bring their students to learn about the Gulf of Mexico environment through aquarium discovery programs. Aquavision distance learning allows schools that are unable to visit the aquarium to interact with the animals and staff via web-based and video-conferencing technology. The learning objectives correspond to the Texas Education Knowledge and Skills.
Overnight programs allow children to spend the night at the aquarium and participate in behind-the-scenes tours. Staff members can visit schools and give presentations in the classroom as part of outreach programs. STEM exploration and discovery are encouraged through spring break mini-camps. At the SeaLab facility, activities include paddle boating and canoeing which is a bit of a controlled environment compared to the fresh and wild open experience of similar activities at Padre Island National Sea Shore which is more appropriate for adult explorers.
Summer SeaCamp is a one-week camp that encourages STEM exploration and discovery. Fishing, aquarium visits, field activities, chatting with an ocean scientist, tracking a shark, and an overnight stay at the aquarium are among the activities.
Top Five Aquariums in North America
The Texas State Aquarium, the largest in Texas, was nominated for the 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Aquarium in North America in March, along with 20 other leading aquariums that represent the best in North America for their high-quality exhibits and visitor interactions. Only the Texas State Aquarium was nominated.
The Aquarium has been nominated for USA TODAY’s top aquariums several times and won #7 in 2017 but it won as top-five after opening its Caribbean Journey experience in 2017. The Aquarium has become more involved in conservation efforts in Texas and beyond, including funding research in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and treating sick and injured sea turtles at its Wildlife Rescue Center. In the next few years, the Aquarium plans to build a Wildlife Rescue Center on its campus.
President & CEO Tom Schmid said, “We’re honored and humbled to be one of the top aquariums in North America and the top aquarium in Texas.” When guests visit the Texas State Aquarium, they support STEM education, conservation research, and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. “We’re more than an aquarium,” Schmid added.
Some of the Interesting Exhibits
1. Caribbean Jungle
Guests walk along a simulated jungle pathway and can investigate the aquatic exhibits below while viewing flamingos, free-flying birds, a two-toed sloth, and other species that live in a naturally lit jungle habitat. Guatemala is the starting point for the Maya rainforest, which also extends into Mexico and Belize. The Maya Forest Biosphere Reserve was established by UNESCO in 1990 and covers an area that is more than 35 million acres in size. The Maya Forest is the second-largest tropical forest that still exists in the Americas, after the Amazon Rainforest.
2. H-E-B Caribbean Sea
H-E-B is a 400,000 gal (1,500,000 l) exhibit that features sandbar sharks, stingrays, and more. Guests can view the exhibit through North America’s longest acrylic window or a tunnel. Dive below the waves for a closer look, but keep your eyes open and your wits about you; you’re in reef shark territory. A 68-foot-long acrylic window provides a clear view of a massive Spanish galleon shipwreck, a remnant of the Caribbean’s trade route history. Reef sharks and other aquatic species live in the shipwreck. The ship’s broken stern frames the tunnel’s entrance. If you dare, enter to see reef sharks up close. Barracudas, crevalle jacks, and other creatures hide among the sunken remains.
3. Dolphin Bay
In this 400,000-gallon, 12-foot-deep saltwater pool, see Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from two different angles. Shadow, Liko, Merlin, and Schooner perform airborne acrobatics in DOLPHINS! Underwater Observation Area has a 70-foot acrylic window for viewing marine mammals.
Their dolphins were born in a protected environment and cannot be released. Learn how we give these dolphins extra care every day. Explore the enrichment program, which uses the environment and Environmental Enrichment Devices (EEDs), many designed by Dolphin Bay trainers, to encourage dolphins’ natural behaviors and improve their social, cognitive, and psychological well-being.
Dolphin watching is just one of the many fun things to do just like when you visit Port Aransas for the first time, you must include this in your bucket list. Here at Dolphin Bay, their dolphins are amazing ambassadors for their wild cousins, helping us raise awareness of marine mammal threats in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Dolphin Bay teaches how fishing line entanglements, pollution, disease, and other human activities endanger dolphins and what we can do to help them.
4. Hawn Wild Flight Theater
The Hawn Wild Flight Theater is home to a variety of trained birds and small mammals, as well as other animals, such as parrots, hawks, owls, prehensile-tailed porcupines, African servals, and falcons. These presentations can be seen at various times throughout the day. In recognition of the Hawn family’s unwavering dedication to the mission of the aquarium, which is to promote wildlife awareness and conservation in South Texas, the Hawn Wild Flight Theater has been named in their honor. On April 24, 2007, the theater first welcomed guests.
5. Swamp Tales
In the exhibit known as “Swamp Tales,” there are several turtles as well as two juvenile American alligators. Bo, an American alligator with a length of 11 feet (3.4 meters), used to call this display home. Unfortunately, on September 25, 2020, he passed away due to an infection in the back of his left foot. It was speculated that he was anywhere between 25 and 50 years old when he arrived at the aquarium in 1999.