The leaves are changing colors, the wind is getting bitterly cold, and we are heading north. Our time in Louisiana has ended and we are going home. Today we stopped at the Tennessee Aquarium for a break from the long drive. There were two buildings: one dedicated to fresh water and the other to the ocean. As we explored exhibition after exhibition, we were making our way from the upper Mississippi to the bayous, just as we had done during our trip! We saw sturgeon like those we saw when we went to the Horn Point Laboratories during the Chesapeake Bay trip, but this time we got to touch them! We also got to touch stingrays, which I may add, are slimy. The stingray got agitated and started to flap its body trying to get out of the tank. It was hilarious; we thought it would attack us, since stingrays have become infamous in the news for attacks to humans such as the incident with Steve “the crocodile hunter” Irwin.

We also got to see amazing creatures like seahorses, giant spider crabs (which can get to be as big as 15 feet from toe to toe), and the long-awaited alligator. The group had been dying to spot an alligator the entire time we were in Louisiana, but they were in hibernation. It is no wonder they have survived since the age of dinosaurs, since female alligators can control the temperature of the eggs they lay to determine their sex. There were two ancient looking turtles mating in a tank as well. A turtle nursery followed where the aquarium successfully breeds turtles to protect them from extinction.

In another section of the aquarium there were two scuba divers (complete with Santa hats) talking from inside the tank to a group of elementary school children. They were teaching them about the different species of animals found in the ocean and about the disappearing coral reefs. A butterfly garden was in the mists of the aquarium, covered in hundreds of beautiful and colorful butterflies. A macaw greeted us with “hellos” and laughter, otters danced for us as they noticed they had a large audience to perform for, and jellyfish pulsed in their tanks. It was a beautiful place and I felt peaceful as I gazed at tanks of swimming creatures.

Cristina Cardona

TN Aquarium (fresh water exhibits in the left building, oceans in the right building)

Teacher in a tank

Touching stingrays

Giant spider crab