Pittsburgh is known as a city that cares about its three rivers, but there are things residents can do to embrace larger bodies of water.
“Oceans may feel far away, but we can collectively have a positive impact on oceans and marine life from right here in Pittsburgh,” said Cathy Schlott, the National Aviary’s director of animal programs and experiences.
Examples include choosing sustainably sourced seafood, which reduces overfishing and ensures animals like penguins — a Pittsburgh favorite sports team and animal — have a reliable food source. A way to learn which seafood are good choices can be searched via Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The website allows people to learn about where seafood comes from.
Something as basic as using canvas bags instead of plastic bags or metal straws rather than plastic ones can help reduce the use of plastics, which can, in turn, keeps those items out of the waterways, Schlott said Schlott said, adding that participating in local river cleanups is an important way of keeping waterways clean, and that can keep the oceans fed from our rivers cleaner.
Teaching those everyday things is part of the mission of the National Aviary – which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The Aviary is constantly working towards doing things to conserve oceans and marine species and to share information about that work.
The Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side introduced World of Oceans, a season of activities and interactive play spaces that encourage creativity and movement, ocean-themed décor and music. There are photo opportunities and up-close experiences with birds.
“During World of Oceans at the National Aviary, you can have unforgettable, up-close experiences with birds like American flamingos and African penguins and engage in interactive play that lets you explore the world’s oceans creatively,” Schlott said. “Oceans make up more than 70 percent of the world’s surface, and we all have a role to play in caring for them. National Aviary visitors will learn how they can help keep oceans healthy for animals and people like.”
World of Oceans was inspired by World Ocean Day which is Wednesday. It’s an international effort to unite people to celebrate oceans and take action to conserve them. Events will be held in more than 140 countries to get the word out about what can be done to help save the oceans.
At the Aviary on World Ocean Day, visitors can get close to the American flamingos in the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater. The Tropical Rainforest will feature feeding ducks.
There will be an activity to learn ways seabirds find and catch food, and guests can make a paper plate pelican or read ocean-themed stories. At 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., sessions will be held on how oil spills and other pollution affect wildlife and people. Daily activities include an African Penguin feeding. World of Oceans runs through Labor Day weekend.
The Aviary is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction program that researches immediate and long-term conservation challenges facing African Penguins.
Saving Animals From Extinction is also working to address overfishing so that penguins and other marine life have reliable food sources, and respond to disasters like oil spills to mitigate the effects on animals and the environment, Schlott said.
African Penguins are some of the most recognizable ocean birds, but many species rely on them as an important food source and habitat, including pelicans, flamingos, bald eagles, steller’s sea-eagles and some waterfowl species, according to Schlott.
“We all have a vital role to play in caring for our oceans, and the opportunity to make a positive impact is much greater if the next generation of conservationists is empowered early on,” she said.
The Aviary recently introduced interactive play spaces such as a floor activity that responds when people walk across it. Guests can design underwater creatures, have their drawings scanned and see their creations on the video screen. There is a water play table outside.
Hours of operation are 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. daily except for Tuesdays.