UT Marine Science Institute Teams with SeaWorld San Antonio

May 19, 2019 • by Staff Writer

When SeaWorld San Antonio unveiled and opened Turtle Reef™, featuring non-releasable sea turtles in a first-of-its-kind habitat, part of the focus was on its partnership with The University of Texas at Austin, Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.

A sea turtle floats in an aquarium with tropical fish in the background

This month, when SeaWorld San Antonio unveiled and opened Turtle Reef™, featuring non-releasable sea turtles in a first-of-its-kind biofiltration habitat, part of the focus was on its partnership with The University of Texas at Austin, Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.

The two organizations have been working together for several years, with SeaWorld supporting sea turtle rescue efforts at the Marine Science Institute and its Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)  and contributing to facilities after damages inflicted by Hurricane Harvey. Now, in conjunction with the new exhibit, 5 percent of the proceeds from the purchase of select turtle merchandise sold at SeaWorld San Antonio will go toward the ARK to support rehabilitation efforts. Education signage about the ARK also is used at the exhibit to promote awareness of rehabilitation efforts at the ARK.

"We are honored to join SeaWorld San Antonio in our shared commitment to highlight the plight of endangered sea turtles in the wild," said Dr. Robert Dickey, Director of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in a statement. "This exhibit will help support the wildlife rescue and educational mission of the institute's Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas, and greatly enhance public understanding of the incredible diversity of marine life that we must help preserve for generations to come."

A number of media outlets covered the new exhibit, and some noted that, with SeaWorld San Antonio hosting close to 2 million visitors a year, the new Turtle Reef™ exhibit provides a mechanism for both organizations to teach visitors about sea turtles, their habitat and biofiltration capabilities of Texas marshes. 

Conservation is a top priority in the exhibit. Its 126,000-gallon coral reef-themed environment was designed as a natural biofiltration system to build a near natural, environmentally based recirculating filtration system that attracts wildlife and reduces water and energy consumption in the park. Rescued and non-releasable sea turtles in the exhibit include endangered green sea turtles, and Big Mama, a 250-pound loggerhead sea turtle rescued offshore in the Gulf of Mexico after sustaining significant injuries to her front and back flippers. 

"Ocean pollution, oil spills and habitat degradation are some of the biggest challenges facing sea turtles, and Turtle Reef provides an immersive opportunity for guests to learn how they can help the species," SeaWorld and Aquatica San Antonio park president Carl Lum said.