There's plenty to explore at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, which opened last month in downtown Miami. But the centerpiece of the museum is undeniably its aquarium. Small tanks show neon-lit jellyfish and stingrays available for petting. Flowing through three stories of the Frost's inner building, a massive watery habitat contains sharks, tuna, and other sea life. It's also among the cultural center's most photogenic sights, with a 31-foot oculus lens opening above visitors' heads like a portal into the deep.
And that's just what your average visitor gets to see. Behind the scenes, there's even more to learn.
New Times cameras followed the Frost's aquarium experts — VP of animal husbandry Andy DeHart and animal husbandry staffer Aaron Brett — throughout the facility to discover the ins and outs of keeping such a massive and diverse animal habitat thriving. From advanced safety measures designed to maintain the tanks at the correct temperature in the event of a power outage, to the Biscayne Bay salt water the museum has on tap, this is a facility built with Miami in mind.
The aquarium residents are pampered in more ways than one. DeHart describes their diets as "restaurant quality," with dishes like blue runner and squid. "The animals eat better than every staff member here, including myself," he jokes.
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Ultimately, one of the most daunting jobs is a simple task: constantly scrubbing visitors' fingerprints and nose smudges from the glass encasements of the tanks. But even that is a labor of love, DeHart says.
"The more nose prints and fingerprints, it means people are liking what they see... In my opinion, bring on the fingerprints and nose prints."
New Times' Best of Miami party will take place at the new Frost Science Museum Thursday, June 22, from 8 to 11 p.m. Visit newtimesbestofmiami.com.