An Ocean on the Lake: Inside Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

ByZach Ben-Amots WLS logo
Friday, July 30, 2021
An Ocean on the Lake: Inside Chicago's Shedd Aquarium
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An Ocean on the Lake: Inside Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC 7 Chicago and Shedd Aquarium team up to present a fascinating, intimate look at the animals that make Shedd their home. This multi-part series, "An Ocean on the Lake: Inside Chicago's Shedd Aquarium" is streaming on ABC 7 Connected TV Apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, AppleTV, Roku and available on The series launched just in time for World Oceans Month.

Throughout this series, viewers will have a chance to observe first-hand the behind-the-scenes happenings at Shedd. An insider's look at the daily routines, dynamics and interactions between the animals and their care specialists gives a captivating view of what takes place when no visitors are present. Each episode features insights from experts across the aquarium, including aquarist and fish experts, field biologists, marine mammal rescue workers, animal care specialists and veterinarians, among others. A new episode will come out every week.

Episode One: Kiana the Sea Otter

Meet Kiana the 16-year-old northern sea otter. Kiana has spent her entire life at Shedd after being rescued as a pup off the coast of Alaska. Kiana has lymphoma and viewers will see the special attention she receives from her care specialists as they nurture her and work to keep her comfortable despite her diagnosis.

Episode Two: Meet the Penguins

Get to know Shedd's loveable penguins, with headliner and elder statesman, Wellington the rockhopper penguin. Shedd penguins skyrocketed to fame when a video of them touring the aquarium went viral while the aquarium was closed at the height of the pandemic. Viewers will see them again, meet the new chicks as they prepare to join the colony, check in on Wellington's geriatric care and notice that although confident, fame has not gone to their heads. Their care specialists will also share their special insight on what makes these penguins tick.

Episode Three: What's On The Menu?

It's an important consideration not only for humans but for all the animals at Shedd Aquarium. Viewers will learn their interesting dietary needs and eating habits. From Nickel the rescued green sea turtle to the beluga whales, stingrays and archer fish, viewers will get a taste of what makes them all healthy and thriving.

Episode Four: Shedd in the Wild

How does Shedd research help animals thrive in the wild? Viewers will see Shedd's work with reptiles and amphibians which are native to the Chicagoland region. The episode highlights Shedd's efforts to incubate and raise baby Blanding's turtles as part of a broader effort to rehabilitate a state endangered species, as well as ongoing conservation research on the recovery of local frogs and amphibians in our forest preserves.

Episode Five: Geriatric Animal Care

Animals at aquariums and zoos live much longer than they would in the wild, due largely to regular health care and the absence of predators; so Shedd Aquarium staff are providing a new level of geriatric animal care. In this episode, Shedd veterinarians demonstrate the level of individualized care that each animal and species receive at the aquarium, ranging from fish and sea lions with cataracts to penguins with arthritis and bullfrogs with heart issues.

Episode 6: The Microbiome Lab

In Shedd Aquarium's microbiome lab, researchers are studying the tiniest living things on the planet to answer the biggest questions about aquatic animal life. From the changing diets of Bahamian rock iguanas to the bleaching of coral reefs, many of the most pressing conservation topics can best be studied through microbial ecology and molecular biology. The microbiome lab at Shedd is likely the only one of its kind, due to its specific focus on human-built aquatic environments. That narrow focus has broad implications for scientists studying animals in the wild.

Episode 7: Preventative Care

A small team of veterinarians and medical staff work behind-the-scenes at Shedd Aquarium to ensure that all 32,000 animals in their care remain healthy, mostly through regular medical check-ups. Preventative care looks slightly different for each animal, but exists for the same reason that people see their doctors for a weekly physical. Those animals have a wide range of anatomies and span in size from a dart frog that weighs less than a gram to a 2,000-pound beluga.

Episode 8: Animal Babies

Breeding efforts at Shedd Aquarium are a big part of the conservation work that staff and researchers engage in, and that means baby animals are born at Shedd every day. From dolphins to cuttlefish, fish larvae to sea-monkeys, the new animals born and cultured daily at Shedd make for an ever-changing landscape at Chicago's world-famous aquarium.

Episode 9: Enrichment & Training

Training and enrichment are the tools that Shedd Aquarium staff use to build relationships with aquatic animals, while helping them maintain natural species behavior in order to improve their overall quality of life. In order to make enrichment activities effective, Shedd staff use positive reinforcement, which can be anything from a belly rub to a new toy to a favorite snack.

Episode 10: Animal Confiscations

Every animal living at Shedd Aquarium has a story, whether they were rehabilitated after a major injury or born as part of a conservation breeding program. Sprinkled throughout the exhibits at Shedd are aquatic animals who were confiscated and rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. In episode 10, we delve into the work Shedd does in collaboration with local, national, and foreign governments to rescue animals being sold on the black market.

Episode 11: Conservation in the Great Lakes

Rivers are the source of life for all things, and researchers from Shedd Aquarium are ensuring that rivers in the Chicagoland area are healthy enough to support the surrounding ecosystems. Each researcher at Shedd has a distinct area of study, helping to make up a mosaic of research topics in the Great Lakes region.

Episode 12: Rescued Animals

Every animal at Shedd Aquarium has a story, and rescued animals like Cruz the sea lion and Tahoma the red-tailed hawk have found a second chance at life. From Cruz and Laguna (sea lions) to Cooper and Watson (sea otters) to Nickel (sea turtle), Shedd has stepped up to give all animals a permanent home for years. Meet some of them in this final episode of the series.