Billy Frank, Jr., 2011 winner of Seattle Aquarium Medal, passes away

A message from Seattle Aquarium President & CEO Bob Davidson

We at the Seattle Aquarium were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Nisqually Tribal member and internationally recognized Native American civil rights leader Billy Frank, Jr.

Billy spent much of his life advocating for human rights for all, particularly the Indian people of Western Washington. He was on the front line in the controversy protecting treaty-guaranteed Indian fishing rights in the 1960s and ‘70s. His perseverance landed him in jail more than 40 times, but he also helped guarantee Indian fishing rights when the Boldt Decision was handed down in the late 1970s.

Billy applied his reputation, his talents and his energy to reach across many divides to preserve the Pacific salmon and its habitat. He was a true statesman, a wise elder nudging contentious factions to resolve their differences and protect the salmon and the habitats it requires. His hope for the future of Puget Sound and the survival of the salmon, orcas and his ancient heritage were inspiring to us all.

In a biographical book called Messages from Frank’s Landing, Charles Wilkinson quotes Billy as follows: “I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same. That’s what I believe in.”

Billy didn’t need mountains of research studies to tell him that we have much work ahead of us, and our renewed commitment will be his legacy. Our condolences to Billy’s family and loved ones.


Bob Davidson, President & CEO
Seattle Aquarium

About Billy Frank, Jr.:Billy Frank Jr.
In 1981, Billy Frank began serving as Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, where he “spoke for the salmon” on behalf of 20 Treaty Indian Tribes in Western Washington. Among many affiliations, Frank was a member of the Leadership Council, the governing body of the Puget Sound Partnership; the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition; Native American Fish and Wildlife Society; National Congress of American Indians; and the Timber-Fish-Wildlife Process Policy Committee.

Billy Frank was celebrated regionally, nationally and internationally as an outstanding Native American human rights leader and was been the recipient of numerous recognition awards including The Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism; The Indian Country Today American Visionary Award; The Nature Conservancy Conservation Hero Award; and the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation Leadership & Personal Stewardship award. He was honored in 2011 with the Seattle Aquarium’s highest award, the Seattle Aquarium Medal, which is presented annually to an individual whose leadership and lifetime accomplishments reflect the mission of the Seattle Aquarium: Inspiring Conservation of our Marine Environment. In Billy Frank, Jr., we found a leader who was committed to the survival of the salmon species and to preserving and protecting Puget Sound.

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Seattle Aquarium hosts second biennial giant Pacific octopus workshop

Seattle Aquarium Octopus Workshop

Over 70 octopus experts and enthusiasts gathered at the Seattle Aquarium on Saturday, March 29 for our second biennial giant Pacific octopus (GPO) workshop. The day-long event highlighted current research on Enteroctopus dofleini, the world’s largest species of octopus. Included in the day’s agenda were several papers and roundtable discussions about octopus husbandry, biology, physiology, ecology and behavior.

The Seattle Aquarium has a long history of exhibiting octopuses—and GPOs are even found directly in the waters below our pier. We’re currently researching GPOs, using  genetic markers for population analysis to determine if unique and separate populations of this species exist between Puget Sound, the outer Washington coast, and Oregon. Dr. Shawn Larson, the Aquarium’s curator of conservation research, presented the latest findings from this research at event. What Dr. L arson has found out thus far is that there is genetic structuring between octopuses in Puget Sound, the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and Vancouver Island. This shouldn’t be surprising because, as adults, octopuses don’t travel very far—so their greatest migrations occur during the first four months of their lives, when they are planktonic larvae. Analysis of several females and their egg strings pointed to octopuses employing multiple paternity (or mating with several males) when reproducing to ensure genetic diversity in the female’s one and only clutch of 20,000–100,000 eggs before she dies.

The event concluded with a remembrance of Dr. Roland C. Anderson, longtime Aquarium biologist and world-renowned GPO expert.

The next GPO workshop is scheduled for March of 2016. To learn more about GPOs, click here—and come see them in person at the Seattle Aquarium!

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Shark specialists gather at the Seattle Aquarium

NE Pacific Shark Symposium 2014 at the Seattle Aquarium

On March 22, the Seattle Aquarium hosted the first Northeast Pacific Shark Symposium. The event, featuring a series of 35 talks on current Northeast Pacific Shark research, was attended by over 80 shark biologists and enthusiasts from the United States and Canada.

How did this event come to be? Since 2004, the Seattle Aquarium has hosted biennial cowshark conservation workshops that gather shark biologists to share knowledge about these little-known species. Over the years, the event has increased in size and scope. In December 2011, the first Pacific Shark Workshop was held in Vancouver, B.C. Because of the success of that event and the growth of the cowshark event, the Aquarium, in collaboration with the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Labs, California, the California State University Long Beach Sharklab, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group Northeast Regional working group, partnered to launch the Northeast Pacific Shark Symposium this year.

The IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG) is a group of 128 experts from 35 countries distributed among 12 regional groups in the fields of shark biology, conservation, management, fisheries and taxonomy. The groups are connected by their joint goal to promote the sustainable use, wise management, and conservation of all sharks, rays and chimaeras.

Seattle Aquarium Curator of Conservation Research Dr. Shawn Larson was asked to be one of 11 members of the Northeast Pacific Shark Specialist Group (NEP SSG). The mission of the group is to reassess the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species assessments for shark species that are or will be 10 years or more out of date during 2013-2016. The plan is to review the list of species occurring between the Eastern Bering Sea and the border between California and Mexico, including the Hawaiian Islands. The first meeting of the new NEP SSG was held at the aquarium on March 21st.

The mission of these assignments? To secure the conservation, management and—where necessary—the recovery of the world’s sharks, rays and chimaeras by mobilizing global technical and scientific expertise to provide the knowledge that enables action. The Seattle Aquarium is proud to be involved with this effort, and to have hosted the first gathering of the new working group.

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What are the impacts of volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium?

Volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium

As part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 6–12, we’re sharing thoughts from some of the volunteers who participated in a recent internal survey about their volunteer experience. Below, find some of our favorite responses to the question, “What impact has volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium had on your life?”

“Learning at the Aquarium has opened my eyes to many other avenues of information about the ocean and sea animals. And I have lots of information to discuss with family and friends. My interest in the ocean and sea life is much deeper and more rewarding to me than it was before.”

“I have become much more aware of the challenges facing our oceans and what I can do to help. Volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium has also connected me with opportunities in other organizations.”

“It brings a lot of joy and meaning to my life. I feel my volunteer time has had a positive impact on many lives and every one of those means another person that is more educated and able to better understand and protect this amazing place in which we live.”

“It has given me self-worth and confirmed that I have something to offer. I have made new friends and proved to myself that I could still learn new information. People at the Aquarium genuinely like me and it helps me to be okay with who I am.”

“It has made life a little more interesting. Because I am in a very niche career, volunteering at the Aquarium has introduced new knowledge and experiences which I would have not had without volunteering.”

“As a retired person it gives us a feeling of being needed and relevant. It gives you feeling that your life experiences are valuable to younger people.”

“I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable approaching and talking with people I don’t know. It’s fulfilling to participate with other people in a cause that’s larger than yourself, and I’ve met some great people through the Aquarium.”

“I feel engaged in important work, and it satisfies and delights me. I am part of a community who cares. I connect with people, learn from them and contribute to their understanding. In the process I have developed my social and communication skills with people from a broad section of the public. I have become inspired and have given presentation to large groups of people about environmental issues over time. I have learned so much about marine life, the environment and how all is connected.”

“It helped me realize my career goals. When I started I was interested in general wildlife biology, but I recently got into grad school for marine biology, and the Aquarium really helped to remind me how much I love the ocean.”

“It has helped me expand my capabilities; I am an introvert, and interacting with strangers is sometimes a challenge, but volunteering provides a safe environment where I can practice and expand my interaction skills without feeling pressure to perform or meet expectations. I love the ocean, and it is helpful, and easier, to practice these skills in a context that is important to me.”

“Volunteering at the aquarium has turned on my brain! After just parenting for seven years, it is exciting and feels good to be learning something new. It has given me something to look forward to. I like knowing that I am helping to educate our visitors in a way that will impact them and hopefully help our environment as well.”

“The Seattle Aquarium has had a wonderful impact on me by way of me feeling like a stronger version of who I might see myself to be. The Aquarium gives me the courage to conquer my goals and dreams. I feel that the Aquarium has helped me find myself and re-find my passion.”

“It’s definitely expanded my knowledge and taught me to be an environmentally responsible consumer. I know much more than I did before I started at the Seattle Aquarium.”

“I talk about what I do at the Aquarium ALL THE TIME. I have a full-time job but I spend much more of my time talking about what I am learning, experiences I’ve had with the public, and what the animals are up to at the Aquarium. It’s been great to feel like I’m doing something with my education, while still learning more and keeping up-to-date with marine issues, especially in the local area.”

“Volunteering has given me such a fabulous opportunity to learn about the marine world and meet wonderful people. I have even been inspired to study marine biology at the university I am attending.”

“I tell people that the two best decisions of my life were marrying my husband and volunteering at the Aquarium. It’s shaped my life in ways too numerous to count. It led to my graduate degree, my career, and my day to day passions. It’s been invaluable.”

“It has expanded my mind and allowed me to expand the mind of others. It truly has changed my life and I’m going to continue to volunteer and possibly work here for a long time.”

Thank you again to our wonderful team of volunteers! Interested in becoming a Seattle Aquarium volunteer yourself? Visit our website for details.

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What's the best thing about volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium?

Volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium

As part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 6–12, we’re sharing thoughts from some of the volunteers who participated in a recent internal survey about their volunteer experience. Below, find some of our favorite responses to the question, “What’s your favorite thing about volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium?”

“When I can turn someone’s fear of the unknown marine environment into a fun learning experience. And they leave with a more positive outlook towards marine ecosystems which may increase their interest in conserving them.”

“Everything! My volunteer day is my favorite day of the week. The people are friendly and knowledgeable. I get to help put smiles on people’s faces when I tell them a neat fact. Most importantly: it’s just fun.”

“At the Aquarium every shift gives me a chance to teach a bit. It’s wonderful to see children come alive, become excited, and ask better and better questions…until they stump me and I have to find a supervisor or a biologist. Of course feeding the octopus is one of the high points of my month. How many people get to feed an octopus?”

“Seeing the smile of a small child who has just high-fived me through a foot of Plexiglas in the Window on Washington Waters exhibit. My second favorite thing is interacting with the exceptional dive staff, biologists and interpreters. They rock.”

“I really love to see how our guests make personal connections between what they see and learn at the Aquarium and their own experiences—I’ve had great conversations that have started with a guest asking a question related to something they had seen on a beach walk, or while snorkeling in Hawaii, or from a TV show or movie. When one of our exhibits jogs that memory, it’s a great opportunity to talk about conservation, or water quality, or animal protection in a way that’s really personal to them. And it can be really enjoyable to talk with interesting people from all over the place.”

“Assignments are meaningful and relevant. There are many types of assignments available to choose from. We are given wide latitude in using our own style and creativity in interacting and interpreting to our visitors. There is ongoing education and training to keep us engaged, challenged, always learning and to keep focused on our mission and consistent with good Aquarium practices. It is exciting to be part of a community of many knowledgeable, interested and enthusiastic volunteers and staff. There is energy there for participating in and promoting the conservation to protect and renew our incredibly beautiful and diverse environment in the Pacific Northwest, and I am proud to be part of it.”

“My favorite thing about volunteering is getting to share information about the wealth of truly amazing animals we have here in the Puget Sound. There is nothing better than turning someone on—child or adult—to the beautiful world under the water right beneath our feet!”

“I love the animals, but I also like sharing what I know with visitors when they have questions. What I hadn’t counted on was how much I like being outdoors. This has become so important to me. I work in an office the rest of the week so being outside with the otters and the seals, even if it is just cleaning the windows, is a great benefit. Being able to stop what I’m doing for a moment and look out at the Sound on a sunny day is priceless.”

“When a guest goes, ‘Wait, you mean *it’s alive!* that’s not a plant?!’ and I can say, ‘Plants are also alive. But yes, the anemone is an animal,” and then I get to demonstrate how they move through some interpretive dance. I love that moment where you watch their mind get blown. I love it.”

“My favorite thing about volunteering is helping cultivate an appreciation for the amazing life in our oceans.  Seeing a child discover the animals in the touch tanks for the first time hasn’t gotten old after five years, and I don’t think it ever will!  Having the kind of impactful conversations with visitors that follow those exchanges makes me feel like I’m working toward a future where the world’s oceans are more valued, and where their health is taken into account. That means a lot to me.”

“I love to learn something new, and every day I go to the Aquarium, whether I am volunteering or just visiting, I learn something I’ve never learned before.”

Thank you again to our wonderful team of volunteers. Check back tomorrow to read about the impacts of volunteering at the Aquarium. Interested in becoming a Seattle Aquarium volunteer yourself? Visit our website for details.

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