Seattle Aquarium research trip to Hawaii, part 1

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 first day of the trip.

Seattle Aquarium biologists Joel, Alan, and Tim at Puako

Seattle Aquarium biologists Joel, Alan, and Tim at Puako.

Day 1: February 4, 2014

We arrived last night after a long and weary travel day but woke refreshed and ready to start work. We dove two sites in our central research area, Puako, which is a small community in south Kohala with arguably the best shore diving in the Big Island. We got in the water as soon as the sun was high enough to film, around 9am, and dove site 1. The visibility wasn’t as good as it could have been but it was good enough to film, about 20 feet. Around noon we dove our next research site in Puako, site 2. The swell had picked up and it was a bit challenging to get through the surf with all our gear on while avoiding big rocks, corals and long-spined urchins! The dive was awesome with lots of fish, including a nice-sized moray eel and an octopus! Getting out proved to be the most challenging for the first team and we got a bit beat up by the waves. That’s ok, it’s all in a day’s work and the diving was fantastic!

Check back to read Shawn’s reports from the other days of the trip. Click here for more information about the Seattle Aquarium’s research efforts.

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Seattle Aquarium featured on Scientific American blog

Octopus Blind Date at the Seattle Aquarium (February 14, 2014)

The Aquarium’s “Octopus Blind Date” event was featured on the “Octopus Chronicles” section of the Scientific American  blog—on Valentine’s Day, appropriately enough! The article described our ever-popular, annual attempt to help sparks fly between a male and female octopus, as well as our various Octopus Week activities. Staff biologist Kathryn Kegel was also quoted throughout the article.

Missed the blind date? That’s OK! Here is a short video of the event.

There are still plenty of Octopus Week activities for you and your family to enjoy. Click here for details, and we’ll look forward to seeing you at the Seattle Aquarium!

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Seattle Aquarium's Marshawn Pinch makes a major splash

Marshawn Pinch collage

With the Fish Bowl XLVIII victory behind him, Marshawn Pinch has happily scuttled into the post season, where’s he’s enjoying some much deserved relaxation and tank time. And, after all the excitement, we thought we’d give you a peek behind the bubble curtain and share the inside story of how Marshawn Pinch came to be:

Aquarium biologists came up with the original idea for Pinch, noting the similarity between the reticence of Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks running back, to talk with the press and a hermit crab’s propensity to withdraw into its shell. Biologist Kathryn Kegel provided a miniature Seahawks helmet from a vending machine, attached it to a hermit crab’s shell—and a media star was born.

Cartoonist Jim Toomey, creator of the marine-themed strip Sherman’s Lagoon and keynote speaker at our inaugural SeaChange fundraising event last year, provided an illustration of Pinch in “Beach Mode” and the Aquarium began actively promoting the campaign. In the week before the NFC playoff game, visitors eagerly sought out Pinch in his exhibit near Life on the Edge, Aquarium divers showed their Seahawks spirit by wearing jerseys and tossing footballs in Window on Washington Waters, and our sea otters happily devoured Seahawks-themed ice toys.

Marshawn Pinch and diver collage

Promotion intensified in the days prior to the Super Bowl, and the Aquarium’s efforts were rewarded with increasing amounts of media attention. To date, the campaign has been featured on national and local television, radio, print and online outlets. It has generated approximately 11,000 visits to our blog, 12,000 shares, 18,000 visits to our website, 2,000 Facebook followers and 1,000 Twitter followers. All told, the campaign has reached 5.2 million people—so far.

What’s next for Marshawn Pinch? Only time will tell. For now, you can still see him on exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium or visit him virtually via our Pinch cam. He’s also sure to be a major player for the Searocks next season…check our blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter for updates! Interested in learning more about hermit crabs? Check out the Seattle Aquarium’s hermit crab fact sheet!

*No hermit crabs were harmed in the creation of this promotion.

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Meet river otter Molalla at the Seattle Aquarium!

Molalla, river otter at the Seattle Aquarium

Molalla, our new, male North American river otter, is now on exhibit! Born at the Oregon Zoo on January 28, 2013 and named for a river in Oregon, he was transferred to the Seattle Aquarium last month. As noted in our earlier blog post, North American river otters are managed as part of an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) species survival plan, and it is through this plan that the recommendation was made for Molalla to reside at the Seattle Aquarium.

Molalla was in quarantine for observation for a short while then, once Aquarium biologists had a good understanding of his reactions to his new environment and responses to our other river otters through the protection of our holding area fences, an introduction plan was developed.

Molalla spent some time in the river otter exhibit by himself, while our other river otters (Waadah and Skagway) were placed in a holding area. He was also allowed to view Waadah and Skagway in the exhibit while in a holding area himself. After witnessing a sufficient number of vocalization exchanges and posturing between Molalla and the older river otters, Aquarium biologists made the decision to officially introduce them to one another. All three were given access to the entire river otter exhibit complex so they could choose to be in close proximity or separate themselves during their socialization process.

This lengthy socialization process is being carefully observed. All three males need to figure out who is the boss on any given day in an ever-changing social dynamic.  In the wild, males are often solitary but will form social groups if food resources are abundant, which is certainly the case at the Seattle Aquarium. We have seen lots of interesting behavior—including a unique one from Molalla: he’s been picking up rocks from the bottom of the pool and swimming around with them on his nose!

Come see Molalla in action for yourself at the Seattle Aquarium! And click here to learn more about North American river otters.

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Seattle Aquarium's Marshawn Pinch and the Searocks win Fish Bowl XLVIII!

Marshawn Pinch, the 12th crustacean at the Seattle Aquarium

“The world is my oyster, I’m going to Fishney’s Magic Sea Kingdom!” Those were the first words out of Marshawn Pinch’s mouth after he and the Searocks crushed the Denver Barnacles in Sunday’s highly anticipated Fish Bowl game. Waving his antennae excitedly, he said, “We couldn’t have done it without the sea fans and that’s no fish story! Their tidal wave of support helped us sail right through to victory!”

Pinch and the ‘Rocks trained hard in preparation for the game, and the current wasn’t always easy. “Sometimes we felt like we were in over our heads,” Pinch said in a reflective moment. “There were days I felt totally at sea, like a fish out of water, and I know some of the other ‘Rocks were in the same boat. But I didn’t bury my head in the sand and neither did they. We just kept swimming. And in the end, we clawed our way to the top. This is the crest of the wave—the Fish Bowl! And we won it.”

Before he clammed up, Pinch generously gave credit to several of his teammates. “I can’t be shellfish here—this win was about a lot more than my scuttling,” he said. “Mussel Wilson, Richard Sturgeon, Golden Skate, Stingray Hauschka…they’re the ones you want on your side when the tide turns against you. Angry Sea Slug Baldwin, Bruce Urchin, Chris Clamons and Perchy Harvin too. And so many others! Plus Pete Coral—the best coach in the undersea league.”

Asked how he was feeling at that exact moment, Pinch said, “How else? Like life’s a beach.” And with that, he retreated into his shell.

Follow Marshawn Pinch on Facebook and Twitter for updates and see what he’s up to on the Seattle Aquarium’s “Pinch cam!” Interested in learning more about hermit crabs? Check out the Seattle Aquarium’s hermit crab fact sheet!

*No hermit crabs were harmed in the creation of this promotion.

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