E-Newsletter Articles

December 2014

Boeing supports sea star wasting disease research initiative through $75,000 grant!

Sea Star Wasting

The Seattle Aquarium is excited to share that we have been awarded a $75,000 grant from The Boeing Company to support our sea star wasting disease initiative.

In fall of 2013, sea stars in Puget Sound and along the West Coast began dying from a strange disease that makes them appear to “melt.” Since the outbreak, millions of sea stars have been affected by the disease, now known as sea star wasting disease (SSWD). This massive wildlife disease outbreak, one of the largest ever recorded in history, was first detected in Washington waters.

Since the outbreak began, over 20 different sea star species have been affected, including the primary species in Puget Sound—the sunflower sea star, ochre star, and sun star. The Seattle Aquarium is actively collaborating with over 80 organizations across North America, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, SeaDoc Society, Cornell University, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and has contributed significantly toward a better understanding of the disease and its impact.

For example, Seattle Aquarium staff veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner is a co-author of a recent paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and featured in the Seattle Times last month, which discusses the association of a virus with sea star wasting disease. This is an important first step, but much work remains to be done.

Grant funds will be used to continue investigating the sea star deaths and disseminate findings to the scientific community, policymakers, government agencies, the media and the general public; the initiative’s long-term goal is to inform conservation management decisions in Puget Sound.

Dr. Lahner shared that “The Seattle Aquarium is very fortunate to have such involved and generous supporters, including The Boeing Company and several others, who have invested in this critical research. We appreciate this support and the significant impact this will have on our ability to continue to investigate this very serious issue.”

In addition to supporting the educational programs and interactive exhibits that inspire Aquarium visitors, generous support from donors like you provides vital funding for a variety of conservation and research initiatives, ranging from sea star wasting disease to sea otter conservation through an annual census and research trip. Thank you for all that you make possible through your support!

Aquarium holiday events—plus Bob Davidson’s TEDxRainier talk now online

Diving Santa 2014

Make Diving Santa part of your family’s holiday tradition! He’ll be at the Aquarium on Saturdays and Sundays through December 21. Meet him and get your photo taken when he makes his appearance in our Window on Washington Waters exhibit at noon and 3pm. Plus, treat yourself to a festive, seasonal beverage at our cafe's espresso bar, and enjoy live musical performances from groups like the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, Northwest Girlchoir, The Not-Its, Caspar Babypants and more. Click here for all the details.

Winter Fishtival is the perfect way to enjoy the holiday break from school with your kids. Featuring 10 full days of fun, the event includes hands-on activities, special talks and opportunities to learn more about the care and feeding of the Aquarium’s fish, birds, tide pool animals and marine mammals. Come for one day or join us for all 10—each is dedicated to different animals and activities. Click here for the schedule.

Seattle Aquarium President & CEO Bob Davidson was a featured speaker at the TEDxRainier event on November 22, giving an inspiring talk entitled “Why Aquariums Matter.” If you were unable to attend, you can still view the talk—it’s available online at the TEDxRainier website. Bob’s talk begins at the 1:27 mark.

Seattle Aquarium receives visionary and community impact awards

Seattle Aquarium Solar Array

The Seattle Aquarium recently received two awards for excellence in sustainable operations. On October 9, the Seattle 2030 District acknowledged the Aquarium’s ongoing commitment to sustainable operations with the 2014 “Visionary Leadership Award.” The Seattle 2030 District is a high-performance building district in downtown Seattle that aims to dramatically reduce environmental impacts of building construction and operations. The Aquarium was honored for energy-efficient retrofits, carbon capture through tree planting and an array of solar panels constructed on our Pier 59 facility. In giving the award, the 2030 District cited the Aquarium for embodying “the visionary leadership across disciplines necessary to meet our most challenging environmental goals…and being a champion for water quality and restoration of Puget Sound."

“The Aquarium’s mission is Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment,” said President & CEO Bob Davidson. “And that’s not limited to our waterways. Every step we take toward sustainability—from energy sources we rely on, to reducing our carbon footprint—benefits the incredible marine and terrestrial world around us.”

On October 23, the Aquarium was honored to receive a Community Impact Award from Seattle Business magazine. The awards, inaugurated this year, honored “the region’s most influential community leaders” and celebrated 24 honorees in categories ranging from sustainability to youth development. The Aquarium received an award in the “Sustainability in Business Operations” category, tying for silver with Harley Marine Services.

Sustainable business practices are an important part of delivering on our institution’s mission. Noted Davidson, “With our mission statement, we’ve got to walk the talk—and that includes what we do in our facility.” The Aquarium’s current green practices include composting and recycling, using solar hot water, installing energy-efficient upgrades and more—including a 247-panel photovoltaic array, one of the largest in the country for an aquarium, on our roof. Aquarium Conservation Manager Mark Plunkett states, “We are a deeper shade of green now, but we’re not done yet!” For details on our sustainability efforts, click here.

Youth volunteer: “I’m an entirely changed person”

Molly Kamicar

So far this year, 217 youth volunteers have donated nearly 30,000 hours of service to the Aquarium’s mission via the Youth Ocean Advocates program. These dedicated teens educate visitors about sea stars and sixgill sharks, participate in field conservation events at local rivers and beaches, share what they’ve learned via the Puget Sound: We Love You social media campaign, and much more.

One of our recently graduated youth volunteers, Molly Kamicar, wrote an essay about her experience as a Seattle Aquarium youth volunteer, which is excerpted below. In just over a year, Molly gave over 500 hours of outstanding service to our mission. To read the full text of her essay, visit our blog.

I never joined the Youth Interpreter program with any interest in marine biology. I was actually more interested in education, in the opportunity to work with kids…I'd always been vaguely interested in science, but had come to believe that I could never excel, never be passionate enough, about anything outside the realm of the humanities.

I can safely say now, however, that I am an entirely changed person, somehow both strikingly similar and unimaginably different from that girl who stood in the very same spot and asked the questions I now know the answers to by heart.

The basis of factual knowledge I've gained here is a major benefit, but working with the fantastic group of people in the youth programs and in the Aquarium as a whole has taught me more than simply all that science I've come to love. I've learned how to approach people, how to hold a more engaging conversation, how to place real value into the things that I say. I've gained confidence, passion, and the initiative to improve myself further in every way I'm able, not only for myself and for others but also as a means to make even the slightest difference in the world.

Few things are as gratifying as when a visitor's face, young or old, lights up with that unrestrained curiosity and hunger to learn more, to explore, to extract the inspiration that any animal or any exhibit truly has to offer. I can't offer anything but my gratitude to the unparalleled mentors, biologists, administration, and volunteers I've had the privilege to work with. I'd like to give the Seattle Aquarium and everyone in it the most sincere, empathetic, and vaguely saltwater-scented thank you: for teaching me, for inspiring me, and for providing me with the tools to do the same for others. I have never had an experience so rewarding as all the time I have spent here.

A message from our President & CEO

Bob Davidson

The giving time of year is here! Not only holiday gifts, but also year-end gifts to the Aquarium. Our annual fund campaign launched in November and I’m happy to report that the results have been very positive so far. If you’ve already given, I and everyone here at the Aquarium thank you. If you haven’t given yet, I encourage you to consider the Aquarium as you plan your end-of-year giving.

Your support helps us continue to provide the most comprehensive care for each of the 10,000-plus animals that make their homes at the Aquarium. It also directly funds essential research projects, such as the work of our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, to contribute to understanding the mysterious wasting disease that’s decimated sea star populations in Puget Sound and along the West Coast. And these are just two examples of how your donations make an impact at the Seattle Aquarium.

I hope you’ll consider renewing or even increasing your support of the Aquarium this December to help us fulfill our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. For information and to make a donation, click here. Happy holidays from all of us at the Seattle Aquarium!