Conservation at Shedd Press Kit
Animal Health and Welfare
Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 species of aquatic animals. Even closely related species can have significantly different physiological profiles—and therefore different responses to medications—so imagine the expertise required to maintain the health of a collection that runs the gamut from seahorse to sea turtle, rockhopper penguin to beluga whale. Shedd's veterinary team fills the equivalent role of 1,500 specialists.
Conservation and Research
At Shedd Aquarium, the learning never stops. When you care for more than 32,500 animals, there’s always something new to discover. Shedd’s experts study a vast range of subjects, including animal health and behavior, animal training, genetics, nutrition, pharmacology and reproduction. The aquarium’s husbandry, veterinary and conservation programs are grounded in research that supports a healthy collection at Shedd and vibrant wild populations around the world.
Great Lakes Program
Shedd is committed to protecting the Great Lakes by conducting science and research through collaborative efforts with other Great Lakes organizations, facilitating work between Great Lakes leaders that will develop solutions for tomorrow’s conservation challenges, and offering immersive learning programs and outreach for all ages.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
As a nationally recognized leader in rescue and rehabilitation work, Shedd Aquarium has responded to animals in need for over two decades. Whether it’s providing around-the-clock care for a stranded sea otter pup or serving as an active responder in times of environmental disaster, Shedd’s animal care and veterinarian teams are respected for their trusted counsel and expertise in times of crisis.
Our seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of waters worldwide. Over the last century the growing demand for seafood, coupled with advances in commercial fishing technology, has depleted aquatic ecosystems. Overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and other fishing-related concerns threaten the beauty and bounty of our oceans and
If the oceans had an iconic animal, the seahorse would be a strong candidate. From their equine heads to their prehensile tails, the extraordinary looks and lives of seahorses have earned them a place in centuries-old myths and legends. That same popularity endangers them: Seahorses are snared for medicinal uses, collected for home aquariums, scooped up by fishing nets and displaced by habitat damage. Until recently, we didn't know much about seahorses—except that they were in trouble. What harms seahorses also hurts the oceans. By saving seahorses, we can save the seas.
Whether it's a mound of zebra mussels or a mat of water milfoil, invasive species are big problems for the Great Lakes. Without natural predators, these non-native invertebrates, plants, fishes and other organisms can eat and reroduce uncheked—altering aquatic habitats and outcompeting local wildlife for food and shelter.
Animal Diets at Shedd
These days, what we eat is a hot topic. Where does our food come from? How is it grown? We ask the same questions at Shedd Aquarium; the only difference is, we are asking on behalf of our animals. Food service for Shedd's more than 32,000 animals boils down to 1,500 specific diets—for 1,500 species. It's challenging to feed nutritious, safe meals that are also sustainable, but we're committed to the task.
More than 32,000 animals call Shedd Aquarium home, but how do we provide the best "house" for creatures as different beluga whales and butterly fish? Habitat design is an often-overlooked component of animal care, but it takes creativity, attention to detail and a lot of flexibility to create safe, comfortable spaces for our animals.
The waters of our blue planet face many challenges, from plastic to pollution to warmer temperatures that change the oceans' chemical balance. At Shedd, animals inspire guests to support aquatic conservation: We represent the waters of the world, and it is our responsibility to use ethical, responsible practices to maintain our global collection of animal ambassadors.
How does an aquarium begin to tackle water use? Think beyond the animals' habitats to the restaurants and amenities that serve approximately 2 million guests each year. Then think even further: to the Great Lakes outside Shedd's Abbott Oceanarium windows, and past our water-rich region to the people and animals affected by water scarcity every day. Water efficiency isn't a choice: it's imperative.
The North Rupununi region of southwestern Guyana, in South America, is an isolated oasis of wetlands and river channels that create an unparalleled biodiversity hotspot. An estimated 600 or more species of fishes swim in its waters, a number higher than anywhere else on Earth. Animals from more than 200 species of mammals and 600 species of birds roam the landscape. This remote area provices critical habitat for endangered animals incuding giant otters, black caimans, jaguars, giant anteaters and arapaimas.
For thousands of years, staghorn and elkhorn corals have been two of the dominant reef-building coral species in the Caribbean. Their clustered colonies provide food and shelter for thousands of fish and invertebrate species. While these corals evolved to thrive in high-energy reef zones with powerful surfs, this resilience does not protect them from a range of newer environmental stressors.
Belugas' expressive faces and variety of vocalizations place these whales at the top of Shedd Aquarium’s list of popular animals. The squeals, chirps and trills of the “canaries of the sea” draw aquarium guests to the Abbott Oceanarium for an up-close encounter with the white whales.
Green at Shedd
At Shedd, being “green” isn’t optional: It defines who we are. While sustainability has become part of the business world’s status quo, we’re taking it further with a Sustainable Practices department that exists to keep green operations humming. Together with all employees, we keep Shedd on sustainability’s cutting edge.
At first glance, Nassau groupers are all stout body and wide mouths. But take a closer look. These remarkable, long-lived predators change color patterns to communicate and visit Caribbean reef “cleaning stations” to have their parasites removed by smaller fishes. Each winter, they congregate by the hundreds or thousands to spawn beneath the full moon. For centuries, Nassau groupers traveled miles and miles to the same spawning sites, a predictable pattern that became their undoing.
Research at Shedd
At Shedd, we never stop learning. When you care for more than 32,000 animals, there’s always something new to discover. We study a vast range of subjects, including animal health and behavior, animal training, genetics, nutrition, pharmacology and reproduction. Our husbandry, veterinary and conservation programs are grounded in research that supports a healthy collection at Shedd and vibrant wild populations around the world.
West Indian rock iguanas
West Indian rock iguanas are visually striking and critically endangered. West Indian rock iguanas evolved to thrive in their native habitats, often only a handful of tiny, remote islands. The colorful reptiles were a routine part of the Caribbean landscape — until settlers arrived and brought domesticated animals with them. Now, dogs and cats hunt the iguanas. Pigs uproot nests and eat the eggs. Goats strip the landscape bare, leaving nothing for the iguanas to eat. Some iguana species have dwindled to a few dozen individuals.
Animal training is one of the cornerstones of Shedd’s professional animal care programs. Look in any part of the aquarium and you’re likely to see animals that participate in our training programs, from our alligator snapping turtle to our sharks, sea otters, beluga whales and giant Pacific octopus. The science of training is a key tool that we use to maximize our animals’ quality of life.