11 Sep 2009

Fishy Fridays ep.1


To the inaugural episode of Fishy Fridays!

Typically for me, once I plan something I get caught up in so many other things I have trouble finding the time to put it together properly! It might take me some time to come up with an original logo... :p

What to do? What to say? What to show?

Well I figured I'd start out by introducing you to the place that helped develop even further my interest in aquatic critters: the Liège Aquarium! Not only did volunteering here for 8 years (doing well over 200 guided tours) teach me a lot more about fish than I had known before, it also increased my awareness and interest in them (before I was more of a strictly marine mammal and reptile girl). It also helped me a lot in the teaching / speaking in public / improvisation department. When you're speaking to a bunch of noisy kids on a weekly basis you need to learn how to manage your voice, project it, keep the kids under control without stifling them (give them the chance for Q&A but not babbling away) and adapt your story material to your audience's educational level and interests (you don't tell kids the same things as a group of teenagers or adults).

So I'm going to do what I do best... and take you all on a guided tour over the next several weeks! Now a guided tour can be as short or as long as one likes... or so I'm told! I have real trouble keeping mine under the 2h mark, and it's almost impossible for me to do one under 90'! I just can't bear to cut certain fish out of the show! There's nothing worse when starting a tour to have the teacher come up and say "We need to leave in 1h15', is that ok?" aaaaarrrrrgh!!! Then I'm stuck with just the highlights and gut-wrenching feelings when kids keep asking me about aquaria we're not stopping at... So sorry, since I'm running this show you guys ain't gettin' the abridged version! No sirree, you're getting the real McCoy, including a "behind-the-scenes" photo tour if I can get the authorisation! ;o)

Don't worry, I might give you a break one week or another and talk about something else...

Now since I haven't had time to go downtown and start photographing the inmates, I'm going to have to work with stock footage today. I'll be including (whenever possible) short video sequences a friend took a couple of years ago while she followed me around during a guided tour. Fortunately for you it was an English-language group!

Ok, so as I said: Welcome to the Liège Aquarium!

(oops! can't believe the only "complete" photos I have of the building -from my old appartment- are snow-covered ones! It happens so rarely...)

Isn't that a beautiful 19th century building? Well it would be if someone would bother to give it a face-lift!

Let's go in for a closer look...

Unfortunately the Aquarium doesn't own the place, we're just a small A.S.B.L. lodged down in the basement. This is actually the Zoology Institute of the University of Liège, where once upon a time almost all the biology-related classes were taught (except for those related to humans in the Med School and Botany which had their own Institutes). Since the main body of the campus got shifted out of town starting in the '60s this building has seen less and less use. Indeed the only people left are the behavioural scientists. And the Science Museum. And the Zoology Museum. And the Aquarium!

The Institute has hosted scientists interested in the marine environment since its inauguration in the second half of the 19th century. But it wasn't until the late 1950s that talk about creating an aquarium actually started producing results. Results which included the grand opening and inauguration of the Aquarium in 1962 with only 27 tanks. This number has grown to 47 exhibition tanks, with the most recent expansion in 2002. Unfortunately since we're housed in the basement of the building, any true expansion (like that of 2002) requires a massive amount of construction work down and around the exterior of the building, and with the financial crisis further plans have been paralysed... Anyhow, even though it's a very small Aquarium (particularly compared to the behemoths being built across Europe these days... all very flashy and purty, but rarely very educational), it's amazingly complete! There's an incredible diversity of species with freshwater and marine fish from the four corners of the globe. Individuals housed together in a tank will be found together in their natural habitat (no mixing of species from the North Pacific and North Atlantic for example). And it's the perfect size for a guided tour, just right to incite people's curiosity about fish and the aquatic environment, just enough to whet their appetite and make them hungry to learn more.

So how does one start a Guided Tour? After welcoming everyone in and giving them the basic ground rules (no flash photos -fish don't have eyelids-, no monkeying around -only the guides get to be monkeys and climb on the barriers-, no talking all at once, raise your hands etc.), I'll usually start at one of the "bigger" tanks (where everyone can see well) and just ask them what they see. This is where I like to get a feel for the group. See how perceptive they, evaluate their previous knowledge in the field, identify the shy kids, the loudmouths, the perceptive ones etc. That and let them all just go "woah! BIG fish!" like they almost always do!

Want to hear what they have to say?

After that I'll probably talk about what fish eat, basically trying to emphasize the point that if there's something living in water, you can be sure there's something else there that's going to eat it! Everyone's got prey and predator.

And then I start on individual fish... but that will be for next week because I have to go and mix up a batch of brownies for a friend's birthday party! I'll have to bake them at his place 'cause the kitchens in this blasted dorm don't have ovens! (but that's a rant for another day...).

Remember: any who are interested are more than welcome to join in on Fishy Fridays! I was going to try and set up a Mister Linky thingy, but turns in I have to pay and upgrade from the free status so that will also wait until I figure it out better. In the meantime if you feel like posting something aquatic related just leave me the link in the comments and I'll add it in and link away! :o)


  1. I'm very excited you started Fishy Fridays!

    I had planned on participating when you first wrote about it, but realized a few days ago that today would be the anniversary of September 11, 2001 and chose to write about my thoughts.

    BUT, I will definitely be participating next week about one of my favorite little fish.

    I am also looking forward to the grand tour of your aquarium. I know if will be most interesting and a lot of fun to boot!

  2. I love this idea of the tour guide to the Liege Aquarium. I am so interested and feel priviledged to have a guide like you. I enjoyed the video. So count on me to follow you around and to ask questions when the time comes.

  3. Oh, I came back today, so that I could watch the videos and I have to say I love all the "stuff" also.

  4. I'm excited! I love aquarium tours!

    BTW, I noticed that the tour was in english, and the children spoke english. I would have thought it would be in Spanish. Just curious.

    Cool old building.

  5. Oh goody, an interested public! Those are the best kind when you're doing a Tour! :o)

    Nancy, if anything the visit would have been in French, not Spanish! ;o)

    This is "my" Aquarium in Liège, Belgium... where French is the language of choice! Over the 8 years I volunteered as a guide I did 1-2 visits in English per year (there are a couple of British or American schools in the country), but no one ever asked for one in Spanish! It's just luck that I had a friend visiting (who could record these little videos) on a day when I did one in English! ;o)


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)