The Brevard Zoo Aquarium Project

The Brevard Zoo Aquarium Project: a unique, immersive experience showcasing and educating the public on our local animals and ecosystems. Located on 14 acres in Port Canaveral, the currently unnamed aquarium will be the first of its kind on the Space Coast. Renderings online show a wide variety of habitats, laboratories, and rehabilitation facilities. We were lucky enough to chat with Brevard Zoo’s Zach Marchetti, Community Engagement and Outreach Officer, and Emma Reynolds, Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, about the mission for this aquarium and what visitors can expect.

 

A Brevard Zoo Style Aquarium

Now this isn’t your normal aquarium, it’s a Brevard Zoo Aquarium! While most aquariums sit indoors with multiple habitats of a variety of fish species, the new aquarium will be a walkthrough experience with a lot of immersive exhibits. Exhibits will accurately reflect how ecosystems should look like in the wild. The hope for these environmentally accurate enclosures is to demonstrate what we have, what we have to gain, and what we have to lose.

More than a decade ago, community members and leaders alike began discussing the possibility of an aquarium addition with the Brevard Zoo. After community campaigns and further discussion, The East Coast Zoological Society put the plan into action. The East Coast Zoological Society currently serves as the owner and operator of the Brevard Zoo and will have the same role for the new aquarium. The official campaign was announced in December of 2021 and has quickly garnered public support. The campaign is currently at $67,000,000 of their $100,000,000 goal. They are expecting to officially break ground and begin construction late next year with the goal to open to the public in 2027.

 

Immersive Features

The aquarium will focus on highlighting and educating visitors on Brevard’s native wildlife and ecosystems. All exhibits will focus on the unique environments found here on the Space Coast. Much of what you will see will be centered on the Indian River Lagoon, nearshore Atlantic waters, and the St. Johns River to name a few. The aquarium will host a variety of animals from alligators to otters to bull sharks!

All habitats hope to mimic what it would be like to interact with these animals in their habitat. For example, in the shark flats exhibit, guests will be able to walk along a path with sharks surrounding you on both sides. A portion of this habitat will be shallow flats at a depth of 4 feet which represents the average depth of the Indian River Lagoon. Another portion of their habitat will be deeper for the adult bull sharks that frequent deeper waters. This offers guests a safe and authentic way to look at these predators up-close, while educating the public on common misconceptions of sharks.

The planned stingray encounter offers another immersive opportunity letting guests walk within the stingray enclosure! Similar to the kangaroo habitat at Brevard Zoo, the stingray experience will allow guests to share the same space as the residents while controlling the humans rather than the animals! A shallow path, flanked with guard rails and monitored by staff and volunteers will cut between two deep pools allowing rays to swim across the guest path when they choose. Rest assured, for those who don’t want to get their feet wet, there will be plenty of space to view these magnificent creatures without entering the water as well.

On top of immersive exhibits, the aquarium will be home to two new rehabilitation centers for sea turtles and manatees that guests will be able to see up close. The rehabilitation centers will serve turtles and manatees in critical care. These rehabilitation centers at the aquarium will be in addition to, not replacing, the current Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center at Brevard Zoo since 2014 and Brevard Zoo’s first Manatee Rehabilitation Center beginning construction this year. These Brevard Zoo rehabilitation centers will help with supportive care for sea turtles and manatees that aren’t necessarily critical, however are not ready to be released into the wild.

 

Expanding the Scope

The Brevard Zoo Aquarium Project is looking to expand the mission of Brevard Zoo and the East Coast Zoological Society by celebrating the biodiversity we have right here at home while focusing on animal well-being, conservation, and education. They will be able to expand the scope of waterway focused education programs currently based out of Brevard Zoo, making way for new programs and more students.

Brevard Zoo is always looking for opportunities to get out in the public to talk about the new aquarium and all the wonderful work they do right here in our backyard (just ask for Zach or Emma)!

For more information on the Brevard Zoo Aquarium Project, check out ourlegacycampaign.org or brevardzoo.org. Be sure to follow them on social media and sign up for their newsletter for future updates!

 

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