How many people, when we first learned about marine animals in grade school, said, "I want to do that when I grow up!" Aquarist, Alice Bereman, does exactly that with the Shedd Aquarium's new exhibit Stingray Touch. She describes her job as "being a specialist in many areas of animal care." Alice currently spends her time working with the stingrays in the Stingray touch exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium. The exhibit is hailed as one of the most interesting at the Shedd right now, and Alice is responsible for the care of these astounding creatures.
Describing the rays as "social, funny, [and] graceful," Alice took me into a day in the life of a Shedd Aquarium Stingray, and it's not hard to see why she has fallen in love with them.
Stingrays start their days a long like we do, resting. "They're still sleepy," says Alice. When she enters their tank, the rays start to wake up and swim around Alice, over her toes, and even nudging her hands to see if there are fish inside.
Now that every one is awake, it's time to get cleaned up. The rays move into the center of their tank in order to be cleaned by their friends the small blue cleaner wrasse fish. Then it's breakfast time for the rays, and as Alice says, "the water quickly looks like a spinning tornado of rays."
As they satiate, the rays calm down a little, exploring the sand, darting quickly back and forth and playfully splashing their observers. Stingrays are lightweight, which contributes to their speed and grace, with a skeleton that is half the weight of bone and the same material as our fingernails. They can also find prey buried deep in the sandy floors they call home, but sensing when potential food produces faint electrical pulses. Alice says, "It's like having built-in sonar."
Alice paints a picture of the stingray that is playful, fun, poetically graceful, and always interesting. To see, feel, and experience the beauty for yourself, go to the Stingray Touch exhibit at the Shedd, open Saturdays and Sundays through October. Says Alice, "You'll be surprised at how they feel, how they feed, and what you'll learn!" And be sure to thank Alice for the hard work she does for these and many other of our animal friends at the Shedd.