It’s Shark Week at Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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<p>Birch Aquarium</p>
<p>2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla</p>
<p>Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily</p>
<p>Admission: $11 adults, $9</p>
<p>seniors, $7.50 children (3-17), free kids 2 and under</p>
<p>Information: (858) 534-FISH or the Web site at aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu </p>
<p>kicker: Tanks for the Memories</p>
<p>hed: Encounters with ‘misunderstood’ predators</p>

<p>By Richard Irwin Travel Editor</p>
<p>Hooray! Shark Week begins this Saturday, July 18, at the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.</p>
<p>We know you all love to watch Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Now’s your chance to get close to these marine predators. It makes it so much more personal.</p>
<p>Kids and families can learn all about these amazing creatures from July 18 to 24. The aquarium has planned many hands-on activities.</p>
<p>If you’ve never been to the famous ocean institute in San Diego, this is a great chance to throw the family in the van and drive down for a visit.</p>

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<p>The Birch Aquarium is a great place for kids to learn about the seas surrounding Southern California. There are many fascinating exhibits, but be careful or you’ll end up learning more than you wanted.</p>
<p>Scripps scientists say sharks are misunderstood. They’ll discuss recent discoveries, as well as new conservation efforts aimed at reversing the declining shark population.</p>
<p>There will even be hourly presentations featuring live shark encounters. Heed this warning, though: Please do not pet the fish!</p>
<p>And be sure to check out the dive shows that will focus on sharks in the two-story kelp forest tank. Get there early for the shows at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 18; 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 19; and 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, and Thursday, July 23. </p>
<p>Personally, we’re rooting for the divers, but you decide.</p>
<p>On Wednesday, July 22, there will be a special screening of the award-winning documentary “Requiem” at 6:30 p.m. This film explores the true nature of these “misunderstood” predators of the deep.</p>
<p>Cameras take viewers deep underwater to uncover the stunning beauty, power and skills of sharks. The documentary visits the creatures at home in the Bahamas, Hawaii, Tahiti and Mexico.</p>
<p>Afterward, Scripps scientists who study sharks will answer any questions. </p>
<p>Tickets are only $5. For reservations, call (858) 534-4109.</p>
<p>Throughout Scripps’ Shark Week, the aquarium will have more than 10 species of sharks on display. How many can you name? hammerhead, mako, sand, leopard, Great White &mdash;</p>
<p>Speaking of the Great White Shark, families can have their photos taken in the Great White photo booth. There’s plenty of room in this monster’s mouth if you’re brave enough to crawl in. My two brothers and I fit in easily.</p>
<p>Don’t miss the Shark Reef exhibit in the courtyard. The 13,000-gallon tank features species that live in tropical reefs. There’s whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, brown-banded bamboo sharks, Port Jackson sharks.</p>
<p>Nearby panels explain shark biology and conservation.</p>

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<p>Birch Aquarium is family friendly. Families flooded the complex perched on a buff overlooking the Pacific. Everyone seemed to be having a great time learning about the watery world just down the hill.</p>
<p>The Hall of Fishes takes visitors on a trip from the Pacific Northwest along the California coast to the warm waters of Mexico.</p>
<p>Halfway through the exhibit, a 70,000-gallon tank contains a kelp forest two stories high. A towering glass wall makes visitors feel like they’re walking across the bottom of the ocean.</p>
<p>Some of the fish will freak you out. The Moray eels look especially evil.</p>
<p>We loved the “Art of Deception” exhibit. At first, they look like empty tanks, but if they look really close, visitors will discover perfectly camouflaged fish.</p>
<p>The rock fish is especially hard to see, blending into the coral formations with nary an outline. The leafy sea dragons looked like kelp floating around the tank.</p>
<p>Outside, the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza overlooks La Jolla. Guests will be stunned by the panoramic view of the Pacific. </p>
<p>Kids will love exploring the tide pools. Windows permit tykes to see brilliant seastars, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers and lobsters up close.</p>
<p>But please remember tide pool etiquette: Watch where you step; if you pick up a rock, put it back as you found it; and try not to touch &mdash; animals with protective mucus layers and delicate tissues are easily damaged by touching.</p>
<p>”Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge” explores global warming. This award-winning exhibit presents the science of global climate change, supported by 50 years of ground-breaking research by the institute.</p>
<p>The coral displays were beautiful. Scientists note that 16 percent of the planet’s reefs have been destroyed in the past five years, while 25 percent have been severely degraded. </p>
<p>So go for the sharks, but stay for all the other exhibits this fascinating aquarium has to share with families.</p>
<p>richard.irwin@sgvn.com </p>
<p>(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801</p>

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