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Florida Aquarium earns Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay for best environmental group

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County is home to some of the most avid environmental groups in the Tampa Bay area. The Sierra Club has its regional office in St. Pete. Tampa Bay Watch is posted just outside of Fort DeSoto and activists pushing for conservation-related causes are aplenty.

But it was a Tampa group that nabbed Creative Loafing’s nod for best environmental group in the 2015 Best of the Bay series. The Florida Aquarium, located in downtown Tampa’s Channelside district, earned that honor, beating out runners-up Tampa Bay Watch and Lowry Park Zoo.

While it may seem an attraction that may not be the best pick for environmental activism, the aquarium expands its work far beyond the reaches of glassed-in aquatic displays of brightly colored fish, sea turtles and sharks.

As part of its mission statement, the aquarium conducts scientific research, participates in animal rescue, rehabilitation and release and conservation of coral reefs.

The Florida Aquarium partners with the University of Florida’s Center for Conservation to preserve and restore coral reefs, sea turtle populations and other crucial marine ecosystems.

In early August, the Florida Aquarium partnered with the National Aquarium of Cuba  to continue coral reef conservation efforts. That served as the first agreement Cuba’s national aquarium entered into with any U.S. aquarium.

The Florida Aquarium has also been working with the Coral Restoration Foundation for 10 years to develop techniques that allow researchers to produce coral on shore that can later be used to reproduce and restore wild populations.

The award was earned through a pool of online voters and served as a reader’s choice in the 25th anniversary edition of Best of the Bay.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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