E-Newsletter Articles

August 2014

Sea star wasting disease mystery inspires a donation to the Aquarium

sea star wasting

Last fall, sea stars in Puget Sound and along the West Coast began dying from a strange wasting disease that makes them appear to “melt.” Soon after, the Seattle Aquarium began collaborating with a number of institutions to respond to what has become an ongoing, unusual mortality event. Seattle Aquarium staff veterinarian Lesanna Lahner recently shared an update on our efforts related to this issue and inspired a thoughtful donor to make a significant gift toward the next stage of research on the disease.

The search for the cause of the condition, labeled Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD), continues. “This very generous donation came to us at a key time to continue the research toward finding the answer to the important question of what is devastating sea star populations along the entire West Coast,” comments Dr. Lahner. Reports of SSWD along the West Coast, particularly along the Oregon coast, have recently increased. Twenty sea star species have now been documented as affected—and SSWD has not only impacted sea star populations in the wild; it has also impacted sea stars in our exhibits, which are filled with filtered water pulled from Puget Sound.

Thanks in part to the generosity of this supporter and many others who contribute in order to help the Aquarium’s work, Dr. Lahner and the Aquarium will be able to continue working with a variety of professionals to determine the cause of SSWD. For more information about the disease, read our recent blog post. We’ll also provide updates in future editions of this e-newsletter.

Fun, food and more at the 2014 Otter Open Golf Classic!

Otter Open 2014

Callisons, Inc. will once again serve as the Title Sponsor for our 14th annual Otter Open Golf Classic, scheduled for Monday, September 22 at Broadmoor Golf Club. This popular event will feature fun hole experiences, delicious food and drinks, prizes, a silent and mini live auction, and much more. Funds raised during the event, co-chaired by Brian Hill, Steve Moore and Scott Trethewey, will benefit the Aquarium’s many programs and its mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.

There are many opportunities to get involved with our annual golf tournament and fundraising event. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, reserve a foursome, or for more details about the event, please contact Amanda Simantov at a.simantov@seattleaquarium.org or (206) 838-3924. You can also visit our Otter Open page for more information.

Splash! speaker inspires landmark donation and receives T. Rowe Price college savings grant

Tony Lopez

“The Seattle Aquarium has inspired me to think big and make big change a goal. I have a dream to make a difference in the world, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting the programs that got me to where I am tonight!"

Those words, spoken by 18-year-old Seattle Aquarium volunteer Tony Lopez, brought the house down—and inspired a landmark $100,000 donation—on the evening of June 6, when nearly 600 guests joined us for Splash!, our annual fundraising gala.

A dedicated volunteer, Tony has already given over 500 hours of service to the Seattle Aquarium as a youth interpreter, sharing his passion for our marine environment with countless visitors during his regular 9:30am–5pm weekend shifts. In his moving speech, he shared what he termed “just a few” of the many things he’s learned through his experience: “I’m confident speaking to people of all ages; I’ve become responsible to a team that’s counting on me; I’m dedicated to live up to my commitments; I’m disciplined to ‘show up’ in every way; I’m motivated to help make the world a better place…” he said, “And, lastly, I’ve found a passion for a lifetime: to protect our ocean environment.”

It’s young people like Tony, who is heading to UC Irvine next year to study ecology and evolutionary biology, who best exemplify our mission, and inspire all of us—donors, volunteers and staff—to continue with our efforts in support of it. Tony was rewarded for his hard work and dedication with a $5,000 college savings grant from longtime Aquarium supporter and Splash! sponsor T. Rowe Price.

Marine-themed glass sculpture and prints now on exhibit at the Aquarium

Raven Skyriver, harbor seal

On your next visit to the Aquarium, be sure to stop at Life on the Edge to see a new exhibit of inspiring works of art: 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.

The exhibit will be up through the end of the summer and all works on display are for sale. Click here for more details and videos of Raven Skyriver at work!

A message from our President & CEO

Bob Davidson

We recently welcomed the board of directors of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for a visit to the Seattle Aquarium. The AZA, which is the accrediting agency for 224 zoos and aquariums in seven countries, 213 of them in the U.S., welcomes more than 175 million visitors each year to its member institutions.

We are proud of the active involvement of Seattle Aquarium staff members in AZA, including many in leadership. Director of Life Sciences C.J. Casson is a member of the Accreditation Commission and participates in a variety of on-site reviews of zoos and aquariums each year. Curator of Birds and Mammals Traci Belting is a steering committee member of the Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group; Curator of Fish and Invertebrates Tim Carpenter is a steering committee member of the Marine Fish Taxon Advisory Group; and Conservation Curator Mark Plunkett is a member of the Green Scientific Advisory Group. Many staff members participate in educational panels at annual conferences, assist with species management groups or serve on AZA committees. I serve on the Aquarium Affairs Committee, where I learn about cutting-edge practices in the field and discuss global and local issues affecting the oceans and marine wildlife.

A recent AZA initiative involves improving the management of Species Survival Plans (SSP). The mission of these plans is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species populations within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. There are currently more than 500 SSP programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA. Each is responsible for developing a comprehensive population studbook (the Seattle Aquarium currently manages four of these) and a breeding and transfer plan that identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population.

In 2018 we will join Woodland Park Zoo in co-hosting the AZA annual conference in Seattle, and look forward to sharing our city and institution with the rest of the aquarium and zoo world!