E-Newsletter Articles

February 2013

Aquarium aims to go carbon neutral

Seattle Aquarium solar panels

In mid-January, through the planting of 82 trees, the Seattle Aquarium offset its carbon output via an innovative program launched in 2012 called Carbon Capturing Companies (or C3).

Developed by Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy), the program recruits businesses large and small to commit to calculating, reducing and mitigating their carbon output. Founding partners in addition to the Aquarium include some of Seattle’s most well-known entities including Pearl Jam, Nordstrom, the Seattle Sounders FC, the Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle Mariners and Woodland Park Zoo.

To offset the partners’ carbon output, conifer trees native to the Pacific Northwest are planted in parks, right of ways, transportation corridors and other natural areas. The Aquarium’s trees were planted at the West Duwamish Greenbelt. These trees, along with the others planted via the C3 program, will sequester thousands of tons of C02 over their lifetimes, and contribute to the health of our region’s waterways and overall marine environment. The Aquarium is proud to add this program its green practices, a high-priority program within the organization.

Save the date for SeaChange

Sea Change logo

Mark your calendar! The Aquarium will hold its first annual fundraising breakfast, SeaChange, on Tuesday, April 23 at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. Proceeds from the event will support our Harbor Seal Capital Campaign.

Nationally syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey, author of the conservation-focused “Sherman’s Lagoon” strip, will speak at the event. Invitations are forthcoming. We hope you’ll join us for what is sure to be an entertaining and inspiring morning!

Dr. Richard Feely: 2013 Conservation Research Award winner

Dr. Richard Feely

Dr. Richard Feely, the recipient of the 2013 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award, will be honored at the Aquarium’s annual Chairman’s Dinner on February 7.

As a symbol of the Aquarium’s commitment to and participation in scientific research, each year the Seattle Aquarium Board of Directors makes a research grant to the Seattle Aquarium Research Center for Conservation and Husbandry (SEARCCH) in honor of an individual who demonstrates leadership in his or her field. This $10,000 award is given in the recipient’s name.

“Dr. Feely’s career-spanning dedication to our marine environment is an inspiration,” notes Aquarium CEO Bob Davidson. A senior scientist at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Feely also holds an affiliate full professor faculty position at the University of Washington School of Oceanography. His major research areas are carbon cycling in the oceans and ocean acidification processes.

Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Feely is the co-chair of the U.S. CLIVAR/CO2 Repeat Hydrography Program and a member of the United States Ocean Acidification Working Group. He has authored more than 230 refereed research publications. He was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Award in 2006 for ocean acidification research. In 2010 he was awarded the Heinz Environmental Award for his pioneering ocean acidification research.

In 2012 the Seattle Aquarium and NOAA started a partnership that allows Dr. Feely and his associates to test ocean acidification instrumentation on Pier 59 and work collaboratively on ocean acidification outreach. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship,” says Davidson.

Q&A with a Marine Mammal Monitoring volunteer

Volunteer Aubrie - Marine Mammal Monitoring

To protect local marine mammals during construction of our new harbor seal exhibit and contribute to an understanding of the marine mammals found in Elliott Bay, the Aquarium recently deployed volunteers to five sites around Elliott Bay and on Bainbridge Island. From October through December—the pile-driving phase of the project—volunteers scanned the Sound for the presence of marine mammals, recorded their findings, and immediately reported sightings of mammals protected by the Endangered Species Act to the Aquarium. Here, volunteer Aubrie Booth shares a few highlights.

Q: What was the volunteer experience like?
A: Each 4-hour shift was broken into 15-minute chunks and a scan of the survey area needed to be completed at least once within each chunk. We recorded the presence of any marine mammal in the observable area. And, if we saw one of the three Endangered Species Act listed species—Steller sea Lions, killer whales and humpback whales—we called the Aquarium to cease construction activity.

Q: Why was it important to you to be a part of this project?
A: What I’ve always loved about the Seattle Aquarium is that it’s not just a place to go look at animals—it’s a place to learn and be inspired. The Aquarium initiates and takes part in conservation efforts and research, using their findings to educate the public and scientific community. Apart from minimizing the impact of noise on marine mammals, the findings from this project will be compiled into a comprehensive description of the marine mammals in Elliot Bay during this time of year, a study that has never really been done before.

Click here to find out how you can become a volunteer.

Charming, changeable clownfish


Thanks to the popularity of a certain Disney movie, you may know that clownfish make their homes in sea anemones. Lesser known is that their correct name is anemonefish, and that they are sequential hermaphrodites—meaning they can change sexes as they mature, a phenomenon that’s fairly common in the world of fish.

Anemonefish begin their lives as males and can become female in the absence of a dominant female living nearby. In the wild, anemonefish are found in groups of 2–6, living together within a host anemone. The largest animal in the group is the dominant female; the rest of the fish are male. The female mates with just one of the males. When she dies, the largest male becomes female and begins mating with one of the smaller males.

The Aquarium currently exhibits two species of anemonefish: Amphiprion percula and Premnas biaculeatus in the Ocean Oddities exhibit. Be sure to look for them next time you visit!

A message from our President & CEO

Bob Davidson

We at the Aquarium rang in 2013 with some good news: as of 4:50pm on December 31, installation of the new, steel-wrapped cement pilings below Pier 60 was complete. Work on the upgraded exhibit is now in full swing. Construction crews are busy demolishing the old tank and creating the framework for the new walls of the enlarged exhibit. Preparations are also under way for installation of the beams that will connect the new pilings.

For the pile-driving phase of the project, we developed and implemented a new volunteer program called Marine Mammal Monitoring. Trained participants were deployed to several sites around Elliott Bay, where they scanned the water for the presence of marine mammals—and notified the Aquarium immediately if they sighted a species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The program served several valuable purposes: it allowed us to halt pile driving when endangered animals were nearby; contributed to a greater understanding of Elliott Bay’s marine mammal population; and allowed us to connect with the public in a new and vibrant way. See a firsthand account from one of our volunteers in this edition of our newsletter.

We’ll continue to update you as construction of the exhibit continues, and look forward to celebrating the grand opening with you in June!