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A tortoise being examined by a pair of gloved hands.

A. Watson Armour III Center for Aquatic Animal Health and Welfare

Only a few aquariums have full-scale animal hospitals, and Shedd’s animal healthcare center is one of the largest in the country. It also serves as a teaching hospital that provides critical training for veterinarians and veterinary technicians focusing in zoological medicine.

Two veterinary technicians conducting an exam on a tortoise.

Animal Hospital

Whether it’s surgery for a turtle, an eye exam for a sea lion, or a routine blood draw for a shark, the veterinary staff are pioneers in aquatic animal medicine. Shedd’s skilled veterinarians and veterinary technicians are equipped to provide comprehensive preventative care that includes physical exams, imaging and bloodwork, as well as urgent or emergent care needs.

Pathology Lab

An on-site clinical pathology lab allows animal health staff to quickly and efficiently run tests that provide information to make well-informed clinical choices. Staff in the clinical pathology lab analyze routine blood panels, examine tissue through a microscope and more to assess health in both individuals and populations at the aquarium. In the lab, consulting board-certified pathologists work with Shedd Animal Health staff to perform detailed necropsies when an animal passes away – a critical part of understanding animal health and wellbeing.

An animal hospital space with counter space and cabinets full of supplies.
Lab manager Frank Olario, wearing safety googles, rubber gloves and a lab coat, lifts a petri dish out of a large centrifuge in Shedd's microbiome lab.

Microbiology Lab

Invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi live alongside the animals at the aquarium and beyond. In the microbiology laboratory, we can culture samples from animal patients to prescribe appropriate treatments.

Water Chemistry Lab

The good health of the biggest beluga whale and the smallest shrimp depends on the good health of their environment. Seven days a week, skilled volunteers and technicians test water samples from every habitat to ensure the 5 million gallons of salt and fresh water at the aquarium help each animal thrive. The team checks temperature, pH, salinity, conductivity, bacteria counts, ammonia, calcium and other parameters and records that data. They can perform up to 300 water-quality tests a day — that’s more than 100,000 a year.   

A lab space full of counter spaces and equipment.

Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research

Shedd’s Conservation Research team, made up of research biologists and conservation scientists, study a broad range of both freshwater and marine topics from sucker fish in the Great Lakes to coral in the Caribbean. Scientists use the labs to analyze selected samples while also leveraging the combined workspaces to collaborate, ultimately helping to inform conservation management strategies for wild species and spaces.

Support for the Aquatic Science Labs and Animal Hospital has been provided, in part, by The Grainger Foundation.