ATLANTA — The world’s largest aquarium wants to bring the ocean to your living room.
The Georgia Aquarium has joined forces with Emmy Award-winning host and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin to launch a new half-hour television show that will premiere Saturday on more than 200 ABC affiliates. “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin” features the Animal Planet star and a team of biologists, veterinarians and experts from the Atlanta-based aquarium traveling to Thailand, Mexico and elsewhere to swim with whale sharks and study dying coral reefs.
It will be one of the first television series dedicated solely to marine exploration since “The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey” in the 1970s, Corwin said.
“What we want this series to be is a roller coaster ride through this water world,” Corwin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We want to enlighten, we want to engage, we want to build awareness, we want to entertain, but ultimately we want to help invest in the next generation of environmental stewards.”
The show will be part of the weekend morning lineup for the majority of ABC affiliates — a three-hour block of educational programming being produced by Litton Entertainment. The shows’ topics range from wildlife to health to pop culture.
One show will feature Jack Hanna, a wildlife expert and former director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Another show on health will feature Laila Ali, a retired professional boxer and daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
For “Ocean Mysteries,” Corwin and aquarium experts will travel to study lionfish, a creature with venomous quills that has invaded the east coast of the U.S. after being brought here from its native Indo-Pacific waters to stock personal fish tanks. The show will look at efforts by the Georgia Aquarium to extract DNA from whale sharks — the world’s largest fish — and catalog the giant creature’s genetic makeup.
The Georgia Aquarium is the only one outside of Asia to house whale sharks and the first to extract blood from the giant fish. Whale sharks live in tropical waters in about 20 known locations across the globe, including Mexico and parts of Asia.
The first episode features Corwin and a team from the Georgia Aquarium trying to tag manta rays — also known as devil rays — off the coast of Florida in hopes of finding out more about the mysterious creatures. Researchers know little about manta rays, including their migratory patterns and where they give birth.
The show plays into the aquarium’s mission of conservation and education about marine life and the issues that face animals living in the world’s oceans, said aquarium spokesman Carey Rountree. It also will help make the aquarium — which gets 2 million visitors each year — even more of a national name, he said.
“From the research perspective, we’ve been out there doing quite a bit for an institution as young as we are,” Rountree said. “This expands our footprint from perspective of people knowing about the Georgia Aquarium, but also knowing about what we’re doing.”
The aquarium opened in 2005 along Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, an area that had lost its luster after the 1996 Summer Olympics left town. The aquarium’s success helped attract the new World of Coca-Cola, along with multiple restaurants and hotels to the westside of downtown Atlanta.
The aquarium opened its first major expansion this year with a dolphin show and an 84,000-square-foot exhibit. The aquarium now has more than 10 million gallons of water in six galleries.