STEAM Forward Ep. 5: Life Support Systems (Activity Breaks)


Hi! I’m Dr. Mike Heithaus. Welcome to Georgia Aquarium. Behind me is Ocean Voyager, one of the world’s largest indoor aquatic habitats. We’re here to investigate how
oceans stay in balance and how you can create, build
and maintain such an enormous exhibit. and make sure that all the animals that call it home are healthy and thriving. This is gonna be awesome. First up, we’re going to explore how natural
systems filter water to keep it clean. Ocean Voyager is as close to an
open-ocean habitat as you can create. It holds some of the planet’s most amazing animals like these whale sharks,
which are the world’s largest fish but they feed on some of the smallest sea life including fish eggs and tiny shrimp. These groupers use reefs as their homes they like to live in caves
so they can hide and wait for prey. Check out these manta rays. This is the only place in the U.S.
where you can see them in an aquarium. All of the habitats at Georgia Aquarium provide an incredible opportunity for both
visitors and scientists to see animals up close. But the Aquarium’s not just about entertainment It’s also about research, conservation and learning. In the Aquarium’s habitats
there are tens of thousands of fish and just like in the open ocean the animals all depend on their
environment, and on each other. It’s a really delicate balance and it all hinges on one key thing: clean water. Think about this: fish don’t have bathrooms and don’t use toilets so right now, I’m swimming through fish waste water. In the open ocean, this isn’t a big deal because nature keeps the water clean by processing
just about anything…even waste. Filter feeders may consume it or decomposers like bacteria may break it down or it may wash into coastal wetlands
where it feeds the plants. Those are just some of the ways
that nature removes waste from waters. Now it’s your turn to investigate some others. In nature, many organisms help clean the water but sometimes, even they can get overwhelmed. Nitrogen and phosphorus from farming, ranching
and fertilizing our lawns can run off and build up in water
faster than systems can absorb them. The result: dead zones that can
wipe out entire ecosystems. At Georgia Aquarium, there are tens
of thousands of fish and marine mammals living, eating and, well, excreting,
which could quickly turn the water foul. So we’re going to investigate the
massive life support system it takes to keep all these animals healthy and thriving. The aquarium has a dedicated team of engineers and biologists keeping the water clean. You might see some of them
scrubbing the galleries’ walls but most of the time,
they’re working hard behind the scenes monitoring, maintaining and cleaning equipment. To get a feel for this work, it’s time for me to get my hands dirty. – Hey, John. How’s it goin? – Hey, Mike. How are you?
– Good to see you – Now is there anything I can do to help? – Definitely. We have this filtered
down for preventative maintenance so if you wanna start jetting in here we’ll start getting this ready. This filter can process
900 gallons of water every minute with the sand and gravel trapping
sediment and other larger impurities. Since grit, dirt and animal waste can clog the filter,
we have to clean it out. – Now what you’re doing is you’re trying to
free up some of the phosphate that we’ve bound up with the chemical and this filter pair needs to be jetted about once a month, so it’s a good thing you dropped by today. – Handy, isn’t it?
– It is, yeah! Cleaning out a sand filter is just one of
hundreds of different tasks carried out by a staff that always has someone onsite 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their main job is to keep a
wide array of filtration systems and devices known as life support systems
in top condition. There are 400 pumps. They move all the water from the
exhibits to the filters. The untreated water is forced through
at least one of 160 sand filters. They’re mechanical filters that remove the
large particles and sediment. The water can also pass through
one of the 75 protein skimmers. They chemically remove dissolved solids. There are also 30 ozone contact towers. That’s another type of chemical filter
that removes small particles and then all the water passes through
one of 40 Dearation towers. They’re biological filters that remove
carbon dioxide and ammonia. Combined, they process the water over and over again filtering 90 billion – that’s with a “b” – gallons each year. They’re so efficient, it takes just one hour
to filter the entire aquarium. The end result: clean water and a healthy ecosystem for the animals. Now that you’ve seen what a filtration system is
and what it does it’s time for you to explore on your own. You’ve learned how oceans stay clean and in balance and how filtration works at Georgia Aquarium. Now let’s go explore how you take a concept for an exhibit and turn it into a reality. It all starts with people in STEAM-based careers. Architects and designers lay out each exhibit drawing on math and science to create
a functional work of art. Engineers, technicians and construction workers then take those plans and use them to build the exhibits and all the support systems. When they exhibits are up and running computer programmers, engineers and technicians oversee an incredibly complex web of systems. The life support system is highly automated It’s controlled by a network of twenty-four computers that make up to 150 million decisions a second. There are 4,500 alarm points in this system that alert technicians to any malfunction. Then, there are the biologists and veterinarians who study the animals and help keep them healthy. Chemists make sure the water is
ideal for each different habitat. Getting the water just right in an aquarium
is about more than removing waste. You have to get the water chemistry perfect. That can mean having enough oxygen in the water or that you have the right salinity,
or amount of salt in the water. Here at Georgia Aquarium
when they opened Ocean Voyager they had to 1.7 million pounds of salt
to freshwater to get it just right and this is what they used.
It’s called Instant Ocean They have to keep adding it to keep the water balanced. It’s been amazing exploring Georgia Aquarium. We’ve learned about how the oceans work and we’ve learned how much planning it takes and attention to detail,
as well as creativity, to design, build and maintain amazing indoor ecosystems like the one behind me. You’re going to need to use all of those skills
as you design your own system.

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