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Rain Forest

The Cabrillo High School Aquarium, which won a prestigious national award last year and recently received over $100,000 in grant money for expansion, has broadened its investigations into and representations of the earth's habitats by establishing a rain forest ecosystem.

The community is invited to the official opening of the habitat Tuesday A free narrated tour of the aquarium, including the rain forest ecosystem, will begin at 7 p.m. Open viewing will be from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m.

The rain forest habitat is the brainchild of Dave Long, CHS teacher and aquarium founder and coordinator, and Richard Taniguchi, CHS guidance counselor and former biology and horticulture teacher.

"Dave knew I loved plants and had a background working with them," Taniguchi said. "The original idea was a terrarium. But, we knew the rain forests were being destroyed and we wanted to do something to focus on them.

The rain forest ecosystem includes tree frogs, anoles, newts and a mud skipper, which may climb or wander through the plants, ferns and rocks on th land area. In the fresh water lake portion, gold fish and guppies abound. Th chirruping of two love birds in an adjoining acrylic habitat adds background sound to the display.

"Most of the animals are simulations: they're not exotic," said Long. "We are trying to simulate, not duplicate; to show how delicate the rain forest is."

"It gives the students the opportunity to manage something that represents what they have learned from a textbook," he added. "If you don't apply knowledge to something, you forget it."

As part of teacher Greg Eisen's marine science class, students are required to put in 20 hours at the aquarium working on a project. When some of the students heard about the rain forest project, they knew they wanted t be involved.

"I wanted to do something constructive," Sean Geiser, 16, the son of Roger and Connie Doran of Lompoc, said. "I feel good about being involved. I've learned the responsibility of taking care of the animals, keeping them alive. I hope to be a marine biologist."

Moksha Badarayan, 16, the daughter of Shrinivas and Leela Badarayan of Lompoc, said, "I'm into ecology. I'm also involved in other parts of the aquarium. I want to be a marine biologist."

"I've learned how to work with land animals (in the rain forest)," she added. "It's a different ecosystem."

Other students involved in creating and maintaining the rain forest ecosystem are Heather Blue, Arlene Perkins, Robert Peterson, Sharon Sellers and Thomas Satterwhite.

"It's been a joy to work with this group of kids," Taniguchi said. "They're so hard-working, so knowledgeable and so hands-on. Eventually, they want to enter the rainforest ecosystem into a science fair.

Guided tours of the aquarium can be arranged by calling Elaine Long at CHS at (805)733-4538.