Seattle Aquarium featured on “Marine Science Today” website

The Seattle Aquarium was recently featured on the “Marine Science Today” website for its efforts to find its “conservation voice.” The article is part of a series that examines various aquariums and marine life parks around the world to “find out what kinds of places are out there and if they strive to promote education and conservation of the marine world.”

The Seattle Aquarium was praised for its efforts to fulfill its mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment through a variety of programs—both inside the facility and within the community at large—as well as helping to create awareness of/provide education about ocean acidification and climate change. Our partnerships with organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) were also highlighted.

Caroline, Seattle Aquarium Volunteer - Shark Station

Several times, the article’s author commented on one of the distinguishing features of the Aquarium experience: the presence of staff members and trained volunteers at every exhibit, ready to answer visitor questions and further knowledge about marine animals, conservation and more. As Director of Conservation & Education Jim Wharton noted in the article, the approach of less signage and more people is intentional. “You can’t put passion in a sign,” he said. “We would rather connect people with people.”

We invite you to visit the Seattle Aquarium soon and discover something new with one of our “people in blue!”

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Seattle Aquarium research trip to Hawaii: conclusion

Seattle Aquarium Hawaii research

Seattle Aquarium staff members recently traveled to Hawaii to complete their sixth year of monitoring reef fish abundance at seven sites off the northwest coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The non-invasive monitoring is performed via video sampling done in cooperation with the Washington State University and the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources. “We’re searching for shifting baselines, an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities,” notes Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson. Data has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.

Why is the Seattle Aquarium doing research in Hawaii? “For 30 years, we’ve exhibited animals from Hawaii in our Pacific Coral Reef gallery to inspire and educate the public about that area’s coral reefs and the unique animals that live there,” says Shawn. “Through our work over the past nine years, conducting shifting baseline studies of Washington State bottom fish, we’ve developed a methodology for accurately counting reef fish that works well in Hawaii. We also conduct research in-house on coral growth and reproduction, and our studies of fish and coral cover in Hawaii complement that,” she concludes.

With this year’s research complete, we can now share a key result with you: we’ve documented an upward trend in fish abundance within all the surveyed sites from 2009 through 2013, and we also found a significantly higher percentage of increase in sites that are protected versus those that are open for fishing and collecting.

We look forward to continuing our active conservation role via this research and contributing to the body of knowledge about, and long-term conservation of, tropical reef systems.

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Seattle Aquarium offsets carbon footprint via tree planting

C3 program - tree planting

Through its membership with the innovative Carbon Capturing Companies (or C3) program, the Aquarium recently offset its 2013 carbon footprint via the planting of trees at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish.

The Seattle Aquarium is a founding member of the C3 program, which was launched in 2012 by Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy) and recruits businesses to commit to calculate, reduce and mitigate their carbon output. Additional founding members include Pearl Jam, Nordstrom, the Seattle Sounders FC, the Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle Mariners and Woodland Park Zoo.

Through the program, conifer trees native to the Pacific Northwest are planted and maintained in parks, rights of way, transportation corridors and other natural areas to offset the partners’ carbon output. This is the second year that trees have been planted on the Aquarium’s behalf—last year’s trees were planted along the West Duwamish Greenbelt. All trees planted via the program will sequester thousands of tons of CO2 over their lifetimes, and contribute to the health of our region’s waterways and marine environment overall.

The Aquarium’s membership with C3 helps sequester our annual carbon footprint of approximately 400 metric tons per year. Of the 500 trees planted at Soaring Eagle Park, over 80 were in mitigation of the Aquarium’s 2013 carbon output. We also contribute staff and/or volunteer to help plant the trees we purchase.

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Seattle Aquarium research trip to Hawaii, part 5

Seattle Aquarium staff members recently traveled to Hawaii to complete their sixth year of monitoring reef fish abundance off the northwest coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The non-invasive monitoring is performed via video sampling done in cooperation with the Washington State University and the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources. “We’re searching for shifting baselines, an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities,” notes Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson. Data has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.

Below are Shawn’s notes from the fifth day of the trip.

Research team Shawn, Joel, Alan and Tim at new site

Research team Shawn, Joel, Alan and Tim at new site.

Day 5: February 8, 2014

With our core research done and one more day to dive, we had time to explore a new site that our research partner Bill Walsh asked us to check out and survey. It was an area that had a newly discovered species of coral not usually found in the main Hawaiian islands, Acropora gemmifera.

This area is accessible only by boat and Captain Pete took us down there on the Hopena. We dove this beautiful site and found the corals in a small area surrounded by dense schools of fish. It was spectacular! We spent most of our dive trying to figure out the best transect area that would incorporate most of the corals. It was challenging because many were in shallow water, right up next to a wall were the surf pounded and would be too dangerous to dive. We finally found an acceptable 100-meter transect line that included at least eight of the Acropora colonies and lots of fish. We switched out our tanks and completed two more dives and four surveys on our new research site number 8.

We are the first group outside of the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources to survey this site. Along with fish transects we will be monitoring the growth and spread of these unique corals. What a fantastic day.

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Seattle Aquarium research trip to Hawaii, part 4

Seattle Aquarium staff members recently traveled to Hawaii to complete their sixth year of monitoring reef fish abundance off the northwest coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The non-invasive monitoring is performed via video sampling done in cooperation with the Washington State University and the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources. “We’re searching for shifting baselines, an ecological indicator of changes in fish abundance and diversity that may correlate with local environmental changes or other factors such as changes in human use activities,” notes Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson. Data has already been used for educational and management purposes in Hawaii.

Below are Shawn’s notes from the fourth day of the trip.

Puako

Puako.

Day 4: February 7, 2014

Today we had just one more site to survey, end of the road in Puako site 5. We arrived first thing in the morning ready to dive and were surprised to see about a dozen surfers out and fairly good sized swells. There were breaks between sets and we knew if we timed our entry in the lulls we could get out to our dive site. But it was early so we decided to wait an hour to see if the water calmed down.

When we came back later there were still some big waves and surfers out, but the lulls between the sets were longer so we decided to go for it. The entry and exit from this site, fighting to get out between wave sets, was indeed challenging but we did it and the site itself was beautiful with lots of fish.

By midday we were done surveying all our sites! It was now time for an exploratory dive off site 1. We dove deep to 120 feet looking for wire coral and anthias fish. We found a small coral cluster that had both. It was very beautiful and the whale songs were so loud that it felt like they were right next to us. It was an amazing experience.

That night we gave a talk about the Aquarium’s research to the Puako homeowners association in an old church built in 1860 on Puako Road. There were about 40 people there who were very interested in the work that we do with otters, sixgills, rockfish and Hawaii fish. They were particularly interested in our survey results in their area where we have seen an increase in most species of fish over the last five years. We were welcomed warmly and will talk again when we come next year.

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