E-Newsletter Articles

April 2015

Meet fur seals Flaherty and Leu

Flaherty, male northern fur seal

“The boys” are here! As we shared with you in our February issue, we were delighted to learn that two young male northern fur seals from the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) would soon be relocating to the Seattle Aquarium. Flaherty and Leu arrived on March 10 and quickly settled into their new surroundings.

Three-year-old Leu was rescued as a pup and is blind in his right eye. He was deemed non-releasable by the National Marine Fisheries Service and has been living at the NEAQ ever since. Two-year-old Flaherty was born at the NEAQ and is the son of Isaac, who was born at the Seattle Aquarium in 2000 and transferred to the NEAQ as part of a collaborative breeding loan in 2009.

Flaherty and Leu are two of just nine fur seals in zoos and aquariums across the United States. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan manages northern fur seals, with the goal of ensuring the sustainability of a healthy and genetically diverse population. An accredited member of the AZA, the Seattle Aquarium has housed northern fur seals since opening in 1977—and has the distinction of being the first facility to have a northern fur seal conceived in captivity, born in a zoo or aquarium, and survive into adulthood.

In 2009, under the direction of the AZA and with the hope of increasing the captive population of northern fur seals, the Seattle Aquarium collaborated with the New York Aquarium and the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut to move the animals with the highest breeding potential to the NEAQ. To date, that collaboration has resulted in the birth of two pups: our new male, Flaherty; and a female, Kit, who was born in 2013 and remains at the NEAQ.

We invite you to come meet Flaherty and Leu on your next visit to the Seattle Aquarium! In the meantime, read our fur seal fact sheet for more information these beautiful animals.

Local Brownie troop supports the Seattle Aquarium with cookie sales

Here’s to the next generation of stewards for our marine environment! We were recently delighted to learn that a troop of second- and third-grade Brownies from Redmond had decided to support the Seattle Aquarium with a portion of their Girl Scout cookie sales this year. The troop voted in January and chose ocean conservation as a cause they wanted to serve—and the Aquarium as the recipient of their donations. They even made a video about why it’s important to care for our marine environment.

Troop leader Barbara Feldon told us that the endeavor’s overall goals were to help the girls establish a connection to the organization receiving their donations; increase their understanding of the meaning of giving back to their community; and illustrate how they can make a difference—not only by running their own cookie-selling business, but by being responsible citizens/community members and donating a portion of their proceeds.

The girls used the video to promote their cookie sales—and by all accounts, it was a successful marketing tool! Barbara Feldon shared that much of the inspiration for the video came from the “10 ways to save Puget Sound” pdf on our website.

On March 14, the troop paid a visit to the Aquarium, where they explored our exhibits, took part in an ocean conservation activity in one of our classrooms, and an enjoyed a special tour of our facility—highlighted by one-on-one time with one of our divers. The girls were hosted by Interpretation Coordinator Nicole Killebrew, who commented, “These young ladies were ecstatic to explore behind the scenes, chat with diver Kim and meet two of our newest Aquarium animals, Leu and Flaherty. Their involvement with the community is exemplified by their desire to support the Seattle Aquarium and our commitment to marine conservation.”

We thank the troop for their support of the Aquarium and our mission!

XPRIZE winning entries tested below the Aquarium’s pier

XPRIZE winning entries tested below the Aquarium’s pier

The Aquarium is working with scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (NOAA PMEL) to measure ocean acidification in the waters of Puget Sound. But measuring ocean acidification (or pH) accurately is difficult—so the Aquarium and NOAA scientists also partnered with the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE: a $2 million global competition to develop the world’s most accurate and affordable pH sensors.

The contest began last fall, when teams put their sensors through a rigorous three-month test in controlled laboratory conditions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In February, the top submissions from the first round advanced to a month-long performance test, focused on precision and stability, in the waters below Pier 59—right underneath the Seattle Aquarium. Each device was required to produce multiple measurements over the course of a 30-day period to assess known pH readings. Finalists from the February round will progress to deep-sea trials in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii in May—where devices will be put through real-world depth and pressure scenarios. Winners will be announced in July.

The challenge has attracted a diversity of teams from seven different countries; team members ranging from surfboard engineers to high school students, food industry professionals to oceanographic researchers. Teams are competing for two available prizes: a $1 million accuracy purse based on performance; and a $1 million affordability purse based on cost and usability.

This is a competition that hits close to home: Many marine species that live in the Pacific Northwest are already being impacted by ocean acidification. We at the Aquarium are working to increase public awareness of ocean acidification, and continuing to develop partnerships to increase understanding this critical issue.

Double DreamNights attract 821 attendees

DreamNight 2015

In 2014, the Aquarium held its first-ever DreamNight, a free evening event for children and adults with a chronic illness or disability. Working through nine partner organizations, we welcomed 474 guests—and feedback gathered through a survey afterward was extremely positive.

Based on the success of that first event, the Aquarium opted to hold two DreamNights in 2015. On March 20 and 21, we joined over 170 zoos and aquariums worldwide to welcome a total of 821 guests over two very special evenings. These free, fun-filled events offered children and adults with disabilities or special health care needs a chance to relax while exploring our exhibits and enjoying an assortment of talks, activities and demonstrations around the Aquarium.

“After the 2014 event, many guests commented about how welcomed and comfortable they felt,” notes Community Outreach Coordinator Janice Mathisen. “They also told us that this isn’t always the case for families who have a child or adult with a disability or serious medical condition. So we wanted to offer more families the opportunity to participate in 2015 by hosting two DreamNight events.”

Guests at this year’s double DreamNights enjoyed activities such as fish printing, a diver show (and pictures with the diver), scavenger hunts, a story corner, parachute games and talks about giant Pacific octopuses and harbor seals. The positive feedback from 2014 continued, with guests sharing how much fun they had and how grateful they were to have a chance to explore the Aquarium after hours.

DreamNights are just one of the ways that we’re working to engage families who might not otherwise visit our facility. The Aquarium’s Community Engagement team was formed in 2012 to address the community goals described in our strategic plan: to ensure that we’re inclusive and welcoming to all segments of the community; to strive to have our audience reflect the diversity of our region, including underserved populations and all age groups; and to make programs and services relevant, accessible and affordable to all community groups. Your generous donations to the Seattle Aquarium provide vital funding for programs like this, helping expand our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment within the community—thank you!

A message from our President & CEO

Bob Davidson

The Seattle Aquarium is deeply committed to its role as a marine conservation leader. As described in our strategic plan’s vision statement, the institution “aspires, through its example, to help define the role of a great aquarium in the 21st century as a catalyst for public engagement in the wonder, science and future vitality of the oceans and Puget Sound.”

That commitment to marine conservation leadership, and the Aquarium’s position as a catalyst for engagement, are being exemplified this very evening—when we’ll be bringing the ocean acidification community together to network and learn about innovative approaches to addressing ocean acidification from leaders in the fields of research, policy and public engagement. “Sound Conversations 2015: Addressing Ocean Acidification” will feature a panel discussion focused on Washington State’s leadership in ocean acidification and the Aquarium’s involvement in the XPRIZE Ocean Health competition (see the related article in this newsletter for details).

If you’re joining us this evening, I look forward to welcoming you. And if not, I’ll continue to update you on our efforts to create awareness of and spur action around the critical issue of ocean acidification—as well as the many pressing matters confronting Puget Sound and our one world ocean.