The Aquarium Project: World Octopus Day

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With eight arms, three hearts and a knack for learning, octopuses are quite the creatures!

When they think of octopuses, many people automatically call to mind animals with eight legs and suction cups, but there’s a lot more to these invertebrates. Today is World Octopus Day, and we’re celebrating by shedding some light on these marine mollusks.

Octopuses are members of the class Cephalopoda, which means “head foot” in Greek. They have eight equally long arms that surround their head, which they use to “walk” on the seafloor!

Octopuses also have hard beaks employed to pierce the shells of their prey with hard outer shells, like crustaceans. These solitary creatures don’t lack a heart—they have three! Two hearts work exclusively to move blood to the gills and the other pumps blood through the rest of the body.

In addition to having eight arms and three hearts, the octopus is also highly intelligent—they can figure out how to open clams, mussels and even jars! They are also incredibly flexible, great at hiding and very crafty hunters.

Octopuses reside in every ocean in the world, and the common octopus is one of the most abundant species off our coast. The common octopus can grow up to three feet and weigh between six and 22 pounds.

Due to their solitary nature and incredible ability to camouflage, it is difficult to determine the status of their population. Although not considered endangered, the common octopus is sensitive to pollutants, so make sure to adhere to the fertilizer ban during the rainy season, pick up after your pets and minimize pesticide use.

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The Aquarium Project: Measuring Economic Impact

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According to an independent 2017 report, the aquarium and conservation center would have an annual economic impact of $85.5 million in area sales.

The Zoo has a substantial impact on the economy—approximately $59.5 million each year as of 2017—and generates labor income and consumer spending that benefit our local, regional and state economies. The proposed aquarium and conservation center at Port Canaveral would make that impact even larger.

In 2017, the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast completed a report pro bono with estimates of this project’s potential economic effects in Brevard County. Based on the data available at that time, the report states the following:

  • The aquarium and conservation center would have an estimated total economic impact of $85.5 million in area sales
  • It would generate a local income of $26 million and support 937 jobs
  • $66.1 million of the total annual estimated impact would be attributable to spending by out-of-area visitors on lodging, dining, souvenirs and other purchases in connection to their visit
  • Of the annual operations impact:
  • Direct output, or sales, will average $11,851,568
  • Indirect output, or sales, will average $4,984,760
  • Induced output, or sales, will average $2,585,095
  • Direct jobs supported will average 57
  • Indirect jobs supported will average 44
  • Induced jobs supported will average 22

The EDC also estimated the aquarium and conservation center’s average annual direct expenditures to total $6,367,478; these expenditures would support a variety of businesses locally as the money is re-spent on consumer goods and supplies, as well as supporting additional jobs and generating spending across the economy.

In assessing the impact of the Zoo and future aquarium and conservation center, researchers only considered economic activities that would not have occurred in the region had it not been for the existence of these entities. The resulting numbers were calculated using the Brevard County model of the IMPLAN system, which uses historical data to replicate trade flows within the local economy. Held in high regard by academic and professional economists, the EDC feels that the IMPLAN model yields conservative, reasonable estimates of direct, indirect and induced impacts.

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The Aquarium Project: Strategic Doing

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The ideas were flowing—and so was the coffee!

The Aquarium Project is off to a running (or shall we say swimming?) start! On Thursday morning, we invited a group of community representatives from all walks of life to join us at the Viera Holiday Inn for our first Strategic Doing session.

Executive director Keith Winsten kicked things off by communicating the ecological, economic and social successes of the Zoo over the past quarter-century. He emphasized that the Zoo is one of just a handful of not-for-profit, AZA-accredited facilities that does not receive any recurring government operating funds; instead, we rely heavily on earned income from admissions, animal feedings, kayak tours and other mission-based experiences to support our animal wellness, conservation and education initiatives. This entrepreneurial approach has proven successful and sustainable, and it would carry over to the proposed aquarium and conservation center in Port Canaveral.

Winsten handed the microphone over to consultant Lisa Rice, who introduced the concept of Strategic Doing. This process involves leveraging the skills, networks and contacts of a large group of people to achieve a common goal. Rice considers herself a Strategic Doing “cheerleader,” having utilized it to great success for many other organizations.

Each table drilled down into one of five themes—communications, community engagement, organization, fundraising and political influence—and attendees chose to sit at the table that best aligned with their expertise and interest. They then brainstormed strategies that could benefit the Aquarium Project, determined which strategies would be most feasible and effective, and assigned responsibilities to each attendee.

We walked away with hundreds of actions that could help bring the aquarium and conservation center to life. These actions are being compiled into a master document to be made public in the coming weeks. The next Strategic Doing session is scheduled for November.

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The Aquarium Project: Designing a Space for All

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The Aquarium Project is charging full speed ahead! The Zoo’s board of directors recently laid eyes on the initial plan for the aquarium and conservation center for the first time, giving us clearance to move forward with that concept.

Last week, we held our first two community input sessions, where we invited specialists representing a variety of audiences and industries to the Nyami Nyami River Lodge at the Zoo.

On Tuesday afternoon, local educational and hospitality professionals gathered together to give their input, and on Wednesday afternoon, experts from the space, technology and conservation sectors did the same.

The Zoo’s executive director, Keith Winsten, began both meetings by revealing the aquarium and conservation center’s general layout and signature experiences. Winsten then prompted the groups with a challenge: help us ensure that this facility serves diverse segments of the community effectively and that we are telling the right stories.

The audience was broken into groups and asked to figure out what that the plan was missing as well as identify proposed concepts that may not work effectively. Ideas included an environmental DNA lab, sensory areas, open seawater systems for researchers, rooftop gardens and fish hatcheries among many, many others.

After the breakout sessions, the groups reconvened to share their thoughts, which allowed for open and exciting discussions. We walked away from the meeting with dozens of ideas that will improve the design, utility, accessibility and inclusivity of the aquarium and conservation center.

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