New art exhibit opens at the Seattle Aquarium

Raven Skyriver, whale

Now on exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium: blown glass sculpture by Tlingit artist Raven Skyriver and limited-edition prints by Aleut artist Thomas Stream. The works from both artists feature beautiful renditions of animals native to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Raven Skyriver, who grew up on Lopez Island, is passionate about the wildlife of the Puget Sound area. He’s known for creating works that are unusually large for blown glass. Using paddles, pads, shears and other hand tools, he and his small team form the bodies of the sculptures while the glass is hot. The pieces are cooled over a few days, and can be sandblasted, etched, acid-bathed or ground when fully cold.

Thomas Stream was born on the island of Kodiak in Alaska; his family moved to Seattle when he was a young boy. The animals featured in his prints are adorned with traditional Aleut headgear.

Click here for more details about the exhibit. Be sure to visit our Life on the Edge exhibit to see these beautiful, inspiring works of art! The exhibit will be up through the end of the summer, and all works on display are for sale. Raven Skyriver also has a solo exhibit, Descent, at Seattle’s Stonington Gallery now through July 31.

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Letter to the Seattle Aquarium from a young marine advocate

Sarah, who lives near Puget Sound and will enter third grade in September, was inspired to write us the following letter after reading a recent newspaper article about the mysterious wasting disease affecting sea stars along the West Coast:

Dear Seattle Aquarium,

My name is Sarah. My mom and I read the article about how the starfish disease is affecting the ocean in the Seattle Times.  It is very upsetting that starfish are dying. So, I thought of an idea to help figure out what is wrong with the starfish. 

My idea is that you could find some healthy starfish in the ocean, and then send the healthy starfish to different countries where there are many good marine biologists. Those biologists in other countries can get together to find the best medicine for the starfish. 

By reaching out to other countries, maybe we’ll find other ideas that we didn’t think about yet. And the rest of the world should know that this is a problem.

Please let me know if there is anything I can help with to solve this problem. If I should send this to a different scientist’s organization, can you let me know? Or can you forward this for us?

Thank you,


The Seattle Aquarium’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, wrote back to Sarah with the following response:

Thank you, Sarah, for caring so much about our oceans and the sick sea stars. Your ideas are really, really great! Someday you’ll make an amazing scientist if you choose to.

I am particularly impressed with your idea of an international collaboration—in fact, I like it so much that I will get in touch with some sea star biologists in Australia and parts of Asia to see if they can help out with this problem. Some scientists have contacted me from other countries and told me that in years past they have had sick sea stars, but never as many as we have now.

Thank you again, Sarah, for caring! I’m deeply impressed.

Lesanna Lahner DVM
Staff Veterinarian
Seattle Aquarium

We’ll continue to provide updates on the sea star wasting disease—please read our recent blog post for details. And thank you to Sarah for taking action to help our local sea stars!

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Seattle Aquarium sea star wasting disease update

Since the end of October 2013, the Seattle Aquarium has been actively collaborating with a variety of institutions—including the Vancouver Aquarium, SeaDoc Society, Cornell University, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center—to respond to the ongoing unusual mortality event occurring in sea stars along the West Coast. Below, Seattle Aquarium staff veterinarian Lesanna Lahner shares an update on developments since our December 2013 blog post:

At this time, the condition has been labeled Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) and the cause has yet to be determined. Reports of SSWD along the West Coast, particularly along the Oregon coast, have increased recently. Twenty sea star species have now been documented as affected by SSWD. Reports from the coast of California note that sea urchins may be dying in large numbers in or near areas that are affected by SSWD as well.

The search for a cause continues. A potential pathogen that is associated with SSWD has been isolated by microbiologists at Cornell and more information will be released soon by that laboratory at their discretion. There have been reports that SSWD is related to warming waters, El Niño, Fukushima, or the consumption or shellfish by sea stars—however, there is currently no evidence to substantiate those claims.

SSWD has not only impacted sea star populations in the wild; it has also impacted sea stars in the Seattle Aquarium’s exhibits, which are filled with filtered water pulled from Puget Sound. SSWD has caused mortalities of Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea stars), Pisaster ochraceus (purple sea stars) and an increasing number of other species including mottled, rainbow, vermillion and leather sea stars. All sea stars have received veterinary medical care and close monitoring throughout this unusual mortality event.

The Seattle Aquarium continues to work diligently with a variety of professionals to determine the cause of SSWD while providing support to ongoing research and updates, as they become available, to the Aquarium community. Check back for more information as it becomes available!

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Learn about plastics in Puget Sound during World Ocean Weekend

World Ocean Weekend 2014

Learn to be an ocean hero at the Seattle Aquarium during World Ocean Weekend on June 7 and 8. We’ll feature a variety of activities and talks for the entire family—several of them dedicated to the problem of plastics in the ocean, and actions each of us can take to help.

Did you know that plastic in the ocean never truly disappears? It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. And no matter what size the plastic is, it can do tremendous harm to the animals and life forms in the ocean. You can help by disposing of litter properly, reducing your use of single-use plastics, and recycling waste whenever possible.

While you’re at the Aquarium for World Ocean Weekend, you can also learn about the efforts of our neighbors to the south, Argosy Cruises, to clean up waste along Seattle’s waterfront.

For more than 20 years, each May through October, Argosy Cruises has run a waterfront cleanup program to rid the waterfront of “unnatural” debris from the waters of Elliott Bay between Piers 71 and 48.  The program is run in conjunction with the Downtown Seattle Association’s Metropolitan Improvement District.

Using their launch the M/V Beaver, a crew of two Argosy employees armed with long-poled nets scoop up debris not produced by nature. Most items that are picked up are made of plastic, in an almost endless variety: Styrofoam, toys, toothbrushes, bags, bottles, nets, lines, shoes, balloons, hoses, hats, tires and more. In past years, 30-gallon plastic drums were also retrieved. On average, nearly 3,500 pounds of “junk” is removed from Elliott Bay through the program each year.

We thank Argosy Cruises for their hard work on behalf of our marine environment—they’re true ocean heroes. See you at the Aquarium for World Ocean Weekend! Click here for a schedule of activities.

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Support the Seattle Aquarium during the Seattle Parks for All campaign

Did you know that the Seattle Aquarium is 501(c) nonprofit owned by the City of Seattle, which means that the City owns our facility—Piers 59 and 60, and the buildings in which our exhibits are housed?

That’s why we endorse the “Seattle Parks for All” measure, which would create a new Seattle Parks District, continue major maintenance support for the Aquarium, and create sustainable funding for and equitable access to Seattle’s parks overall. The Seattle City Council recently voted unanimously to place this measure on the August 5 ballot and we hope Aquarium supporters who are registered voters in the City of Seattle will support it when the time comes.

Thanks in advance for supporting the Seattle Aquarium with your vote on August 5!

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