Riley, an African gray parrot, and technical supervisor Marge Malinowski form the welcoming committee for the more than 5,000 students who tour the Life Lab at Lourdes College each year.
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When Chuck Beavers started looking for a new home for his prized saltwater aquarium, he didn't stop with the first or highest bidder.
He decided instead to give away his unusual 225-gallon treasure - one that's filled with exotic fish, live coral, and other animals - to the Life Lab at Lourdes College, a place he decided was fit after he visited and quizzed its operators.
"We wanted to find someone responsible enough to take care of it," Mr. Beavers said, noting it's also the reason he decided against selling the aquarium and its contents.
Mr. Beavers and his wife, Diane, are credited with making what's become the largest individual donation in history to the private, Catholic college's lab, which was established in 1988 to expand research and outreach capabilities for children and their teachers. About 5,000 students from across northwest Ohio, many of whom are from low-income families, come to the center annually.
The aquarium, which Mr. Beavers created himself and formerly ran on pumps inside his living room, recently was dismantled and moved - fish by fish and coral by coral - to its new home at the Sylvania college campus.
The move required six vehicles, some careful maneuvering, and many helping hands to unload and carry about 247 pounds of coral. At the forefront of the work was Lourdes student Connie Setzler, 26, who's accepted the lead role in its future care.
Biology major Cori Brennan, 19, takes care of feeding the fish at the Lourdes College lab, with a little help from Willey, a starling.
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The new aquarium, which is the lab's first exhibit that displays symbiotic fish and coral, is now positioned as the centerpiece in a room where vertical blinds are drawn to keep unwanted light from reaching the aquarium's glass sides.
Colorful fish, mostly in bright shades of purple and yellow, already were moving about quickly in the tank, with snails helping to keep the fish clean.
The coral, though, will take time - possibly up to six months - to return to once-vibrant shades of pinks, purples, oranges, and greens after suffering the shock and stress of the move, Mr. Beavers said.
The Lambertville man, who's an avid scuba diver, said he decided to buy the aquarium and preserve all its wonders after seeing first-hand the destruction of coral and other habitats in the ocean.
He hopes the display will give youths and adults a better appreciation of all creatures. The Life Lab is home to 500 living things, including an African gray parrot named Riley that meets and greets visitors.
Marge Malinowski, the lab's technical supervisor, said the new exhibit may prove to be the first chance many students get to glimpse an ocean setting.
"It's just possibly everything a person could want in one package as an educator," Ms. Malinowski said of the aquarium. "It's just going to be an incredible experience for all of us."
Contact Kim Bates at: email@example.com or 419-724-6074.
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