Seattle’s AALSO Symposium Recap

I am sitting on the plane heading back to Tampa via Houston airport and I am hoping for clear weather in Houston. If you attended this year’s Symposium in Seattle you will know why I am concerned about the weather in Houston. If you did not attend, then you missed a really great Symposium. The exhibit hall was packed full of old friends and new faces, all of whom I was happy to see. The Operator members attending, while not as large as we have become accustomed to, were attentive and eager to learn and experience an AALSO Symposium. I know I left Seattle with my mind swimming in new facts and faces and sadness in my heart that it had to end.

I would like to offer a very large Thank You to Mr. Robert Anderson, Mr. Bob Kiel, Ms. Love Ruddell and the rest of the Seattle Aquarium staff for hosting our event at the Seattle Aquarium. Their world class facility was in great shape and the entire staff was friendly, well informed and eager to help with questions about their facility. It just goes to show you what a great team can do. Thank you for allowing us to invade your facility and city for four fantastic days. We all appreciated the wonderful weather you ordered for the Symposium. I do not know why you always say it is rainy and cold, I saw the sun everyday and I imagine anything above 45 degrees can be considered warm to someone.

We experienced a great agenda put together by Mr. Roger Phillips from Monterey Bay Aquarium. He did an excellent job arranging a well respected line-up of entertaining and educational speakers. I for one felt challenged by their presentations on a daily if not hourly basis. The open panel discussions proved to be informative and pertinent to facility issues we experience at home. It was great to see so many attentive faces even into the late afternoon sessions. The solvent welding breakout proved to be popular and we will expand this type of breakouts at our future Symposiums. It was interesting to hear how our next host facility, Moody Gardens in Galveston Texas, fared during last summer’s hurricane season. Hurricane Ike had them on the ropes with 14 feet of storm surge, but they fought back and are eager to see us there in 2010.

Rick Davis, Kent Semmen and Brooke Taylor put together a challenging set of questions for all three certification level tests this year. The reworked tests proved to be the talk of the day thru Wednesday and continued well into the night. The in-depth exams required each operator to search their memory banks of knowledge and experience to come up with the best solution for problems that affect the animals in our care. This is what Aquatic Animal Life Support Operators must do everyday. We need to constantly analyze and objectively look at the issues and problems that arise in our facility to make sure we do the right thing for the protection and benefit of the animals in our care. I know everyone who is going to sit for Level 2 and Level 3 in Moody Gardens will do some homework prior to their arrival in Texas. As the President of this wonderful organization, I am proud of their efforts and I thank them for their hard work.

Our Wednesday night Certification Banquet, sponsored by Fybroc/Dean Pump/Sethco – Met-Pro Corporation and the AALSO Board, was a big hit with everyone. The skyline view of Seattle from the top floor really made the night special. After congratulating the successful Certification examinees we spent some time saying farewell to our past president, Henry Johnson. Henry recently retired from SeaWorld Adventure Park of Florida after more years of service than we could even think of. This retirement also included stepping back from the AALSO Board. I feel privileged an honored to be able to call Henry a valuable asset to AALSO, a Co-Worker, and a Friend. We hope he continues to attend our Symposiums because they would just not be the same without him.

Our Business meeting was set around a review of the By-Law changes proposed by the Board and the annual election. I am happy to report that the Ripley’s organization is once again part of the AAALSO Board. Mr. John Barnhill from Ripley’s of Myrtle Beach was elected to fill the position of Treasurer vacated by Henry’s retirement. Welcome aboard John and I hope you are here to stay for some time. Your other Board members are: Gregg Case from SeaWorld Adventure Park of Florida, Kent Semmen from Walt Disney World and Roger Phillips from Monterey Bay Aquarium. Your officers for another year are: President-George Tenhagen, Vice President-Rick Davis, Secretary-Robert Anderson and Treasurer-John Barnhill. This is a great group of people who I know will continue to improve and grow this wonderful organization.

The Vendor Board saw a few minor changes this year. A President’s Advisory Council was created and Mr. Jack Felts from Harrington Industrial Plastics, Mr. Leo Lester from Asahi America and Mr. Genarro “Jerry” D’Alterio from Fybroc/Dean Pump/Sethco – Met-Pro Corporation have also graciously accepted to be part of this Council. They will be actively involved in helping this President and future AALSO Presidents shape and grow this wonderful organization we call AALSO. Stewart McDaniel and Jonathon Pierce will remain as the two current AALSO Vendor Board members for another year. We will be reviewing the Vendor Board to determine if additional members and positions will be required to assist in the coordination of vendor activities. Look for more news in the area shortly.

So that about wraps up the news from the Seattle Symposium. Look for the presentations and/or abstracts to be on the web site soon. We are now planning for our next Symposium to be held at Moody Gardens in Galveston Texas. Our theme for this Symposium will be “Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery.” This will be a timely discussion topic considering the recent events from Hurricane Ike. Your Board will be working on an Agenda and plan on posting something in the near future. If you are interested in presenting at next years event, please send us an email to and we will put you in contact with our Agenda committee.

Thank you for your support of AALSO and I hope to see all of you in Moody Gardens.

Your AALSO President

George Tenhagen