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Kelp and Coastal Ecosystems

A white wave shape.

It all starts with kelp.

Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) is a foundational species, a primary producer that changes the environment in ways that create suitable habitats for a great diversity of species. That makes kelp forests some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Sea otters and fish feed on animals that live in kelp forests.

Bull kelp lives for just one year, but this alga keeps on giving. Some release their holdfast and fall to the sea floor to seed the next generation of kelp forest. Others float to the surface forming kelp paddies that offer open-water shade and shelter for young fish, sea urchins, crabs and snails.

Kelp forests are a focus of Seattle Aquarium research projects, right here in our own backyard—and beyond.

Partnering and sharing data

It takes a village to do this work. Our researchers work side-by-side with local tribes, government and nonprofit partners, and neighboring communities. We share our data online to encourage further collaboration.

In fact, everyone can see what our researchers see on our GitHub page: ROV video surveys, our proposals and reports, and more.

Visit the ROV GitHub page

Website maintenance

Please note: Our ticketing and membership systems will be offline for approximately two hours starting at 9pm Pacific on Tuesday, February 20. During the maintenance window, online ticketing and membership will not be available.

Thank you for understanding.

Support the Seattle Aquarium

Two sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium floating on the water in their habitat, holding onto each other demonstrating a rafting behavior.

With your help, the Seattle Aquarium builds connections with our community to inspire conservation and curiosity for marine life. When you make an end-of-year gift by December 31, you'll be joining us in protecting our shared marine environment—now and for generations to come. Thank you!

An adult sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium looking upwards with its front paws resting on its front.

Giving Tuesday

Make a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Seattle Aquarium

Your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 thanks to a very generous anonymous donor!

Sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium laying on its back, raising its head and front paws.

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