ALL ISSUES     |     SPRING 2019
Dr. Mike in the newly renovated Animal Care Center


A Tour of the New Juli Plant Grainger Animal Care Center

It's done! Our new Juli Plant Grainger Animal Care Center is now complete and in operation behind the scenes.

The center will allow us to better meet the growing needs of our own animals, and gives us the space, tools and technology to expand our work with ocean wildlife, particularly shorebirds, seabirds and sea turtles.

"The new facility and the resources dedicated to its development and construction affirm the Aquarium's commitment to animal health and welfare," says Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Mike Murray. "We now have an expanded facility that offers the opportunity to increase and continue to improve our animal health programs and our educational outreach for graduate and aspiring veterinarians interested in conservation medicine."

Join Dr. Mike and Rey the African Penguin on a Tour of the New Center

We recently toured the center with Dr. Mike, whose vision of and passion for such a facility helped turn his dream into a reality.

Just past the sign for the new center, shiny white walls extend down a long hallway and doors lead to the existing animal health lab and necropsy lab, as well as to new rooms—including a diagnostic lab and two animal hospital wards.

Dr. Mike says the animal health lab will remain a treatment room for minor surgery, admission exams, routine physicals and the like. We refreshed it with new walls, paint, flooring, cabinetry and a stainless steel sink. New equipment includes a fume hood where staff can work with chemicals, used to treat diseases, without inhaling their fumes.

The next area is the largest and consists of four rooms. Dr. Mike says the anteroom functions as a medical storage area, holding oxygen cylinders and radiology equipment.

Animal health center at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The existing animal health lab has new equipment, cabinetry and cosmetic upgrades.
New radiology equipment at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
A portable x-ray generator is an important diagnostic tool for our veterinary team.

"The x-ray generator is a portable machine, so we can take it elsewhere and do radiographs of animals like a sea turtle or very large fish in the Open Sea exhibit," Dr. Mike says. "We've taken it in the field and up to the veterinary lab in Santa Cruz, too. It gives us some really remarkable images."

Later this year, we'll debut a new behind-the-scenes tour of the Animal Care Center. As part of that tour, guests will visit this anteroom, which leads to two new animal hospital wards that are mirror images of each other.

"Their use is limited to small air-breathers, such as birds and reptiles; not for fish or sea otters," Dr. Mike says. "It was really important for us to have this space because there are a lot of nasty diseases starting to pop up in the bird world, and we need to protect our existing bird collection."

When we receive a new rescued bird, for example, Dr. Mike and team will house it in one of the four new incubators for about a week and test it for diseases. Once cleared, we move it to an enclosure on the roof above the Kelp Forest exhibit to finish its 30-day quarantine.

"But if we have a sick bird that needs care we can keep it down here close to the lab," he says. "The incubators let us control temperature, humidity and oxygen. Some of the diseases we see in our types of birds involve trying aerosol treatments, so we can nebulize antifungal agents or antimicrobials."

The new equipment complies with animal care expectations of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as the latest regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The team can now also set up a web cam to observe a bird in quarantine in a ward, whether from elsewhere in the center or remotely on a cell phone. This is helpful because sick birds (and other animals) often pretend to be well when they know they're being watched as part of their survival instincts.

New animal hospital wards at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Two new animal hospital wards are designed mostly for treatment of our birds and reptiles.
Incubators used by the Monterey Bay Aquarium veterinary team
Incubators with nebulizers allow our veterinary team to isolate and treat shorebirds and seabirds.

The center also includes new office space next door with a designated area for veterinary interns or graduate students here to learn about caring for aquatic animals.

Next to the office space is the new clinical pathology lab where the team will run diagnostic tests. Dr. Mike is excited about the new microscope in this lab, with has such features as two separate ergonomic eyepieces for shared viewing, built-in electric pointers and a camera. The microscope also connects to a large monitor for additional shared viewing.

"We also hope to utilize some of the technology for connecting remotely to try and expand our reach beyond our walls within my profession," Dr. Mike says, such as to discuss cases with other veterinarians and veterinary labs or colleges.

Opposite this area is the updated necropsy lab, improvements to which provide a better educational environment for staff and other colleagues and veterinary students. Necropsies provide information not only about why an animal died, but also other aspects like it's nutritional and reproductive status.

Our sincere thank you to the more than 2,000 donors who contributed $7.5 million to build the center, which took 16 months to complete, from June 2017 to October 2018.

We especially thank the family of Juli Plant Grainger and The Grainger Foundation for its lead gift of $4.6 million in Juli's memory. She was the wife of David W. Grainger, chairman of the industrial supply company W.W. Grainger, a Fortune 500 company founded in 1927 by Grainger's father, W.W. Grainger. Juli was a longtime supporter of the Aquarium, in particular our work on behalf of ocean wildlife.

The Animal Care Center will allow us to:

  • Better meet the growing and urgent veterinary needs of marine wildlife
  • Efficiently employ new, cutting-edge diagnostic equipment to examine and treat animals
  • Address the specific needs of rescued species like sea otters, sea turtles and other animals that are more likely to strand in our region as the ocean continues to warm
  • More effectively quarantine sick birds to prevent the spread of disease
  • Create a learning environment where our aquarists can expand their knowledge of health issues that could affect animals in their care
  • Provide formal training opportunities for veterinary students and graduates, especially those from communities underrepresented in the profession today

The Animal Care Center expands the footprint of the previous veterinary space to 1,500 square feet from 840 square feet. It also extends what was four small rooms and two offices to include:

  • A diagnostic laboratory
  • Two animal hospital wards
  • Office space for our veterinary staff, students and interns
  • Consolidated and improved medical storage and equipment sterilization capacities