The Seattle Aquarium conducts research under an informal program structure called The Seattle Aquarium Research Center for Conservation and Husbandry (SEARCCH).


Listed here are some of the Aquarium’s research projects. For details on these and others, download 2016-2017 Seattle Aquarium Research Report.

  • Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) population genetics, conservation endocrinology, Northern sea otter (E.l. kenyoni) pup rehabilitation, and Washington sea otter annual census;
  • The Seattle Aquarium began conducting research on sixgill sharkHexanchus griseus, in Puget Sound in 2002. Active research was suspended in 2016.
  • Giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus doeflini) endocrinology and toxicology;
  • Leafy sea dragon (Phycodorus eques) population genetics and endocrinology;
  • Puget Sound rockfish surveys and population genetics
  • Larval rearing of Puget Sound Teleosts;
  • Neah Bay and Hawaii reef surveys.
Sea star wasting disease

Partnering in the effort to understand “melting” sea stars

In late 2013, some sunflower sea stars in British Columbia, Washington and California—and even along the Seattle waterfront—began dying from a condition that gives the impression of “melting.” The Seattle Aquarium joined the effort to understand the condition, which has been named Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) and its cause. LEARN MORE>

fur seals in rookery

Fur seal research

Seattle Aquarium staff members are often asked by government agencies such as NOAA to participate on research efforts in the wild. This allows them to collaborate with other scientists, share their expertise, deepen their knowledge about marine animals and research methods, and gain greater understanding of the marine animals on exhibit at the Aquarium.

Shawn Larson with sea otter pup

Sea otter research

Throughout our history, we have focused on sea otter research, husbandry and education. Among our achievements are to be the first aquarium in the world to have a sea otter conceived and born in captivity—and subsequently live to adulthood. In 2011, those efforts were consolidated to form an official Sea Otter Conservation program. LEARN MORE>


Diver with octopus

Octopus census

We are also actively involved in conservation of and research related to giant Pacific octopuses, including an annual octopus census in Puget Sound. LEARN MORE>