Diane Bauhof, CFRE
Executive Director, St. Louis Aquarium Foundation
Message from the Director:

2020 Still Something to Celebrate

While we are all so happy to see 2020 be in the rearview mirror, I invite you to join me in celebrating last year. Yes, I said “celebrating.” That’s because, for all of 2020’s challenges, it was the St. Louis Aquarium’s first year of operation and that’s something to celebrate! Even if it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. 

Thank you and thank you again to everyone who welcomed us so warmly for our grand opening in December 2019. It was a time we will never forget.

As the nonprofit partner to the Aquarium, the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation team was just getting started welcoming schools for field trips and education programs when the stay-at-home quarantine started and we ended up closing for 12 weeks. Obviously we never got back to hosting school groups in 2020 (we are still holding out hope for 2021!) but our creativity and resiliency took over as we “pivoted” our program plans for summer and fall 2020. 

Because of you and your support of the Aquarium Foundation, we were able to make an impact in the community by providing free Aquarium admission to individuals in under-resourced communities, virtual education classes to K-12 schools, conservation programs in the Conservation & Education Center, some lighthearted entertainment and education with our Facebook Live at-home activities and quizzes, and so much more!

Following is a glimpse of what you helped us achieve in 2020. Thank you!

With Thanks,
Diane Bauhof, CFRE
Executive Director
The Foundation's free-admission Conservation & Education Center (CEC) welcomed 135,168 people in 2020, including 270 kids and their families for Drop-in Storytime last summer.
Partnering with KidSmart, we distributed 18,000 Aquarium-themed activity booklets to K-2 students at under-resourced schools in our region. Other partners included Region’s Bank, St. Louis Blues for Kids, and The Magic House.
The St. Louis Aquarium created 18 Facebook Live videos during the at-home quarantine last spring, and we created corresponding at-home activities and quizzes for kids to do at home. Through this 12-week period of the Aquarium and CEC being closed, we experienced a 170% growth in Foundation Facebook followers, ending the year with 11,500 followers! Click here to follow us!
Our inaugural Aquarium Summer Camp went virtual to a sold-out group of kids ages 7-12 from 14 states. We also provided free camp sessions to three families through Parents as Teachers. Parents rated camp with a 95% very good/excellent rating!  
We provided virtual education classes to 435 students. Of those, 180 were free
through our H20 Friends (Help to Our Friends) program.
These learn-at-home Junior Biologist Learning Kits are so cute and fun! Our first 90 kits sold out quickly at the end of the year, and we've just released three new themes!
We provided free Aquarium admission for 850 kids and adults through partnerships with Parents as Teachers, Variety the Children's Charity of St. Louis, and Better Family Life.
Because of your donations, we provided 1,053 students from 13 schools with a free field trip to the Aquarium in early 2020. We can’t wait to be able to host field trips again!
Part of our mission is to be the region’s recognized voice for water stewardship. We strive to do that every day through the interactive exhibits in the Conservation & Education Center, but we also want to be a part of supporting the health of our waterways and the ocean. The Aquarium Foundation was a presenter at the virtual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in December, the Butterfly House’s Books and Butterflies program in November, and St. Louis University Water Institute’s virtual Homecoming in September. We also created a unique program for World Oceans Day in June and the virtual earthday360 “festival” in April.
We hosted a 24-hour Virtual Auction to extend the Foundation’s reach in the community. Thank you to our Development Committee, auction donors, and auction bidders for helping us raise $39,765. 
“Tanks” to the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station for donating a portion of their admissions and gift shop sales to the Foundation, totaling $146,484! 
The Foundation is grateful for the annual commitment of our 79 Global Waters Circle and Aquarium Friends Circle members. We enjoyed meeting many of you at the Members Event in October.
We had 209 volunteers who logged 3,603 hours for the Aquarium Foundation in 2020! Impressively, 800 of those hours (22%) were from one very dedicated volunteer: Nancy Suelflow. Thank you to Nancy and to all of our dedicated volunteers!
With parents schooling at home with their kids last spring, we hosted an Essay Contest for grades K-12 and received over 500 entries! Look for it again in 2021!
While many of the community’s river clean-up events were cancelled or reformatted due to Covid, our volunteers and staff were able to participate in three stream clean-ups along the Missouri, Meramec, and Des Peres rivers with Missouri River Relief, Open Space Council, and Great Rivers Greenway.
Donor Spotlight:
PGAV/Michael & Anne Konzen
Michael Konzen at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station in January 2021
Empathy is at the Heart of PGAV’s Design and Giving

When the PGAV Destinations team is designing a new attraction, Chairman and CEO Mike Konzen asks them to focus on empathy – to think about how a guest will be impacted by the experience they create. He considers a project to be successful when the team designs transformational experiences for people. And that’s just what they did when designing the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station.

PGAV is an award-winning architectural firm located in downtown St. Louis. The company designs destination experiences around the country and the world with clients including National Geographic, The Georgia Aquarium, SeaWorld, Bass Pro Shops, Kennedy Space Center, Niagara Falls, and the Pyramids of Giza to name a few. They have also made quite an impact locally by designing amazing exhibits at the Saint Louis Zoo and of course most recently the Aquarium and the Aquarium Foundation’s free-admission Conservation & Education Center.

Mike explains, “PGAV is proud of the St. Louis Aquarium project for a variety of reasons. There were certainly challenges building a state-of-the-art aquarium inside a century-old building, but we are pleased with the story we were able to tell by connecting the unique history of the train station to the story of water that connects us all. It’s also fun to know we can visit our project whenever we want as it’s right here where we work!” 

Bob O’Loughlin, Chairman and CEO of LHM and Founding Member of the Aquarium Foundation, said, “When looking for a firm to design an aquarium at Union Station, PGAV was at the top of the list because it’s one of the best in the industry. We are grateful for their partnership, the results of their work, and for Mike’s support of the Aquarium Foundation.”

Mike and his wife Ann made a generous donation of $100,000 to support the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation, the nonprofit partner to the Aquarium. Just as PGAV is inspired by empathy when designing a project, the Aquarium Foundation’s mission is based on building empathy in kids and adults after a visit to the Aquarium or attending an education program. We strive to inspire them to make an impact in their community and their local waterways, and to have a deeper understanding of their impact on the environment.

Mike summed it up nicely in a 2015 TedX presentation, “Deep empathy only comes when you truly understand yourself. Our work can fundamentally transform the visitor; change the way they see themselves, their friends, or their place in the world.”
Volunteer Spotlight:
Rob Skaer
Rob Skaer has been volunteering for the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation since its inception and he’s already logged 132 volunteer hours! Rob is a great asset supporting our education programs and volunteering in both the Conservation & Education Center and in the Aquarium itself, as well as helping with some administrative projects. Additionally, Rob took on a special project while we were closed last spring by helping to create an Aquarium guide to use for training other volunteers providing Aquarium tours for Foundation member.

As he grew up, Rob's family always had freshwater aquariums in their home and he had wanted to be a marine biologist ever since his fourth grade teacher showed his class films taken from snorkeling in the Caribbean. While he did not become a marine biologist and chose to go into radio instead, he was still overjoyed when he heard St. Louis was finally getting its own Aquarium and knew he wanted to be involved however he could.

Rob says his favorite part of volunteering at the Aquarium has been the entire atmosphere here. He says the employees are a joy to work with and "sharing the wonders of the Aquarium with guests is very rewarding." Of course, watching kids light up as their fish drawing enters the digital river in the Conservation & Education Center as been a perk as well.

When asked what his favorite animal at the Aquarium was, he said there were too many great species to choose from! In the Confluence and Global Rivers Galleries, he enjoys the Doctor Fish (Red Garra) and the Spoonbill Paddlefish, especially the baby spoonbills you can see swimming above. He is also fascinated by the Garden Eels seen before entering Shark Canyon and his friend Houdini, the white-spotted Bamboo Shark in the touch pool.

According to Rob, volunteering with the Foundation is "an experience I always look forward to", which is good because we look forward to seeing him too! Thank you Rob; we appreciate your support and enthusiasm for the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation!


Interested in volunteering?
Learn more or complete an application here!
Events and How to Get Involved:
Give STL Day
May 6, 2021
Mark your calendars for May 6th to show your support to the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation and all your other favorite St. Louis area organizations! You can be a part of helping to provide free Aquarium field trips, education classes, and transportation to underserved students.
Adopt-An-Animal
You can symbolically adopt an Aquarium animal to support water conservation efforts to protect the adopted species in its native habitat and provide STEM education and conservation programs through the Aquarium Foundation. It’s also a great gift for a loved one for Valentine's Day, birthdays, anniversaries… or just to show your love for aquatic animals! Order yours here!
NEW! Junior Biologist
Learning Kits
Looking for some hands-on, STEM-based learning for your kiddos? Our Junior Biologist Learning Kits are designed for kids ages 7-13 to explore marine biology and spark their interest in science! We have 3 different Junior Biologist Learning Kit themes: Mississippi River Ecosystems, Coral Reefs, and JAW-some Sharks. Order yours here!
Animal Spotlight:
Blacktip Reef Sharks
Carcharhinus melanopterus
Blacktip reef sharks are some of the newest inhabitants of the Shark Canyon habitat at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. They were added to their new home just before Thanksgiving and have been adjusting swimmingly! The blacktip reef sharks are some of the smaller sharks in Shark Canyon, however they are easily recognizable thanks to the black tips on their fins.

Blacktip reef sharks typically grow to be 3 to 5 feet long and weigh between 20 to 30 pounds. Because they are fairly small, they tend to prefer shallow waters near tropical coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. In the shallow areas, they tend to be one of the biggest animals and have less worries of being attacked by bigger shark species that typically stay in the deeper waters.

They love to eat small fish like mullets, as well as crustaceans, cephalopods, and mollusks. While they typically prefer to be alone or in small groups, blacktip reef sharks have occasionally been observed working together in large groups to herd fish into shallower waters for easier feeding.

Unlike other sharks, blacktip reef sharks don’t have any cone cells in their retinas (eyes), which means they can’t discriminate colors or fine lines. However, they can detect objects by sensing electrical currents caused by movements in the water.

Blacktip reef sharks have unusually small home ranges, spending about 70% of their time within the same quarter mile area. They are also pretty timid and therefore do not pose a significant risk to humans. However, the species is considered near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to overfishing of their prey, getting caught in fishing nets as by-catch, and being used by humans for its meat, fins, and liver oil. You can help preserve blacktip reef sharks by only eating/purchasing sustainable seafood.

Be sure to say shell-o to the Aquarium's blacktip reef sharks the next time you visit! You can also symbolically adopt a blacktip reef shark from the Foundation here.
St. Louis Aquarium Foundation | 314.923.3926 | info@stlaquariumfoundation.org