Celebrating Seattle Aquarium volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week

Seattle Aquarium volunteers

Every year, literally hundreds of dedicated, passionate people give their time to the Seattle Aquarium—prepping food for our animals, answering questions from our many visitors, and furthering our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. In 2013 alone, 1,380 volunteers donated 96,800 hours to our institution!

We couldn’t appreciate our volunteers more, and now is the perfect time to show it. April 6–12 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we want to take this opportunity to say a huge and heartfelt thanks to the many people who share their time and energy with the Seattle Aquarium.

This week, we’ll be sharing thoughts from a few of our volunteers about why they choose to volunteer with us, what they love about volunteering at the Aquarium, and what impacts their volunteer experiences have had on their lives. Check back soon to see what our amazing volunteers have to say!

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When Chewy met Commander at the Seattle Aquarium

Commander and Chewbacca, northern fur seals at the Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium’s new northern fur seal, Chewbacca has officially met his tank-mate Commander! Chewbacca, or Chewy for short, arrived at the Aquarium in February. He spent his first weeks in quarantine and becoming acclimated to his new home in our Northern Fur Seal exhibit while Commander was relocated to another exhibit in our marine mammal complex.

Early this week, Aquarium staff determined that Chewy was ready to meet Commander. Says Curator of Mammals and Birds Traci Belting, “After all the bustling crowds were gone and everything was calm and quiet, we voluntarily shifted Commander to the Northern Fur Seal exhibit, where he and Chewy immediately began to investigate each other.” She continues, “The introduction went as predicted, with a range of behaviors from loud vocals and aggressive postures to total calm grooming and nuzzling together in the water.”

Aquarium staff members will continue to monitor Chewy and Commander’s behavior during the lengthy socialization process as both males try to establish their dominance. Says Traci, “We expect that we’ll continue to observe some very impressive interactions between the two males, which could include growls, wickers*, superficial bites, head bows and routine sparring while they get to know each other.”

*Hoping to hear a wicker for yourself, or just want to know what it is? Come to the Seattle Aquarium to see Chewy and Commander! In the meantime, click here to learn more about northern fur seals.

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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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