Ollie the Octopus Meets the Giant Pacific Octopus at Steinhart Aquarium

Hello, my name is Ollie the Octopus. Today I’m interviewing the “new” giant pacific octopus  (GPO) at Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California.

I say “new” because he’s new to the aquarium but already a few months old. Here’s my interview:

Ollie: Hello my octopus friend! How are you?

Giant Pacific Octopus: I’m doing fine. I’m enjoying my new digs.

Ollie: Where are you from?

GPO: I’m from the cold waters off the Pacific Northwest (of the U.S.)

Ollie: What was your journey like getting from your old home to your new home?

GPO: It was quite exciting. I meet human divers every now and then. But this time I got caught in a net by one of them. One second I’m playing with the diver’s hand, and the next I was feeling the sunlight at the surface. 

I was placed in a dark container. It felt like forever, but forever to an octopus is much different than to a human.  Most octopuses live only a year but GPO’s in captivity can live 3-5 years. So forever for me might only be a human day.

In my dark container, I was in a plastic bag. The water sloshed around a lot. I tried to sleep but couldn’t tell if it was night (when I’m usually awake) or day (when I’m asleep as I’m nocturnal). 

In any case, eventually I saw light again. I was placed in my new home, a tank full of cold water. I love and need the many rocks to hide in. Though I prefer my favorite corner near the window and water outlet.

Ollie: How is it getting used to your new home?

GPO: I hid at first. But once a day I would get to feel and taste a human hand and arm. It’s so much fun. My 2000 suckers not only feel but also taste! Each sucker has more taste receptors than a human tongue. And each human tastes different. Not enough mucus on them though in my opinion.

The kelp (a type of seaweed) in my tank tastes different than back home in the wild. Wonder why?

Ollie: Oh, I think it’s plastic and not real.

GPO: Makes sense.

Ollie: What do you get fed?

GPO: I get fish, squid and my favorite, blue crabs. I get food every other day. I don’t have to hunt, it’s quite the luxury. 

Ollie: Do you get bored?

GPO: No, I get toys.  My favorites are a plastic airplane and helicopter. I grab them and put them in front of the jets of water and watch them move around the tank. I also get closed containers with food inside. I rip off the lid in seconds and sometimes there’s a capelin (a small type of fish) inside.

Ollie: Do you miss the ocean?

GPO: It’s weird but I don’t have the whole ocean to explore anymore. I’ve explored every nook and cranny of my new tank. The only thing that changes is which human brings me food, plays with me and gives me toys.

I can see outside my tank—more humans, but I can’t touch them. 

Ollie: Do you think about escaping? Octopuses in aquariums are known to do that…

GPO: Around the edges of my tank there’s bumpy stuff my suckers can’t hold onto (astroturf). Although most animals live in the present moment, octopuses have a great memory. We can navigate to new areas of the ocean floor and still find our way back to our den. 

And we remember which humans bring us food!

Ollie: Thanks for meeting with me today!

GPO: My pleasure! Come back anytime to visit me.

Note from Ollie the Octopus on his second visit to Steinhart Aquarium: The giant pacific octopus is now almost a year old and has gone from 8 pounds to approximately 19 pounds! We octopuses grow really quickly, from plankton-sized to 20 pounds in the span of a year.

More from Ollie the Octopus:

My Octopus Teacher Review by Ollie the Octopus

Ollie the Octopus on International Cephalopod Awareness Days

Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA

Mother of Sharks: Book Review

Mother of Sharks by Melissa Cristina Márquez is a picture book (for ages 5-8, but appropriate for all ages!) that takes readers on a fantastical journey through the ocean. A little talking hermit crab named Jaiba is the main character’s (and our) tour guide. Major ocean conservation issues are briefly mentioned. This book also showcases the diversity of sharks.

The ocean conservation issues touched upon include coral bleaching, ghost nets and marine animals as bycatch in fishing nets. Sharks introduced include nurse sharks, sixgill sharks, and mako sharks.

The author Melissa is a shark scientist which is cool in itself. But she is also a science communicator who teaches that sharks are not scary, necessary and need to be conserved.

Where Mother of Sharks truly shines is that the author herself is a Latina scientist in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She advocates to the main character, a little girl, that she too can become a shark scientist (or any scientist for that matter). The sciences now have women in most/all fields, which historically hasn’t been true. But persons of color, and especially women persons of color, are growing in numbers in STEM.

I loved the illustrator’s, Devin Elle Kurtz, drawings. I especially liked the variety of cartoon-like sharks depicted on the front and end pages. The illustrations really add to the text. They also take you seamlessly to different parts of the ocean with realistic animal illustrations.

Melissa is from La Playita del Condado in Puerto Rico. There are Spanish phrases throughout the text. As a student of Spanish I knew some words and could figure out the rest in context. For those of you who don’t know Spanish, there are translations in the back matter.

A very encouraging letter to children is from the author at the end of Mother of Sharks. There are web resources, Spanish translations, and a brief list of sharks mentioned.

All in all, I highly recommend checking this book for a young girl in your life out either from the library (request it if you don’t see it on the shelf) or from your local bookstore through Bookshop.org I was excited to see Mother of Sharks available at my local Target!

Book Review: The Wind Riders #1-Rescue on Turtle Beach

Wind Riders #1 by Jen Marlin, illustrated by Izzy Burton

The Wind Riders #1: Rescue on Turtle Beach by Jen Marlin and illustrated by Izzy Burton

This is a chapter book for ages 6-10 years old. The series’ premise is that Max and Sofia come across a magical boat that takes them places where they can help animals.

In this book, Max and Sofia end up in Hawaii. They help newly hatched baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean. They do this during the day. After helping one hatchling make it to the ocean, Max, Sofia and their new friend Laila figure out the best way to help the babies is to turn on the lighthouse light. 

That’s because baby sea turtles usually hatch at night to avoid predators. They use the moonlight shining off the ocean to figure out which way to go. But the hotel on the beach is having a party that will confuse the baby turtles.  Will Max, Sophia and Laila make it on time to help the hatchlings? Read Wind Riders #1 to find out!

I really liked the premise of this chapter book series. I liked having a magical boat to take them on adventures around the world. No time passed back home, just like the Magic Treehouse series. But this book has an animal and ocean theme. The characters are likable and believable. The story is well-paced and includes accurate scientific facts in the text and backwater.

Fans of the Magic Treehouse, Magic Schoolbus, and Zoey & Sassafras books will like this science adventure series, currently at 4 books. They’ll be eager to read Wind Riders #2: Search for the Scarlet Macaws, Wind Riders #3: Shipwreck in Seal Bay and Wind Riders #4: Whale Song of Puffin Cliff. I encourage you to buy through your favorite independent bookstore at bookshop.org and here is a list of all the books I’ve reviewed: https://bookshop.org/lists/ocean-of-hope-blog-books-reviewed/            

Seaweed Farming-Environmental Impact

Seaweed farming, like this kelp, can have an environmental impact Photo by: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Benefits of Seaweed Farming

Seaweed can store carbon

Seaweed farming and upwelling

Renewable wave energy and seaweed farming

Upwelling can help reverse coral bleaching

Turtles of the Midnight Moon: Book Review

“Turtles of the Midnight Moon” by Maria José Fitzgerald is an enchanting middle grade eco-mystery about two 12-year-old girls who form a friendship despite being from different countries and cultures. Sea turtle lovers will rejoice to see their beloved animals take center stage. Those who know nothing about sea turtles will come away with a boatload of information about the largest of the 7 species of sea turtles, the leatherback sea turtle.

Abby, from the U.S., and her doctor father go visit his homeland in Honduras. Abby is still grieving after her best friend moved away, and she doesn’t fit in at school. But she loves taking pictures and that keeps her involved in school.

Her counterpart in Honduras, Barana, has a moon-shaped scar that perfectly matches the scar on the shell of Luna, a leatherback sea turtle. She shares a special bond with this turtle, and her scar hurts when Luna is nearby (i.e. laying eggs on the beach near where she lives).

Barana loves the sea turtles and helps an adult in charge of them, Maria, patrol the nesting beach and guard nests. Both girls are wary of each other at first-Barana just wants to protect the sea turtles and get out of her chores, and Abby want to explore on her own with her camera. But they bond over their shared creativity-Barana draws and writes poetry while Abby is a photographer.

Abby and Barana also bond over concern for the sea turtles. One of Luna’s nests survives a storm, but her other nests are no match for poachers. The girls need solve the mystery of who the poachers are and bring them to justice if they’re going to save any of Luna’s eggs.

“Turtles of the Midnight Moon” is written from a dual point-of-view. It is engaging and kept my interest. I’m a marine biologist and I found it to be scientifically accurate. I’m glad I’m studying Spanish but there were phrases here and there that weren’t translated fully in the context of the story. The gist of the Spanish is there, but footnotes or a glossary would be nice. But there’s always google translate (though that takes away from the flow of the story).

Otherwise, it’s well-paced with the right amount of mystery and magic to keep you reading. Besides being an eco-mystery, it’s also a book about friendship and family as well as the complications that those relationships bring.

Budding conservationists will love this book, and those who aren’t (yet!) will come away with an appreciation of our ancient sea turtles.

For more on sea turtles, see https://oceanofhope.net/10-fabulous-facts-about-sea-turtles/