E-Newsletter Articles

March 2012

Aquarium welcomes Jim Wharton

The Seattle Aquarium is honored to welcome Jim Wharton as our new Director of Conservation and Education. Jim brings a strong education and marine biology background to the organization and is looking forward to enhancing our existing education programs.

“The ocean, marine science, and the people who are passionate about them are a bottomless well of information and inspiration,” Jim believes. “It’s our challenge to engender in our audiences a unique and potent combination of wonder and responsibility that will inspire them to make the ocean part of their everyday lives. Education and stewardship then become second nature. In short, we want people to know, think, wonder and care about the Aquarium and the ocean. I hope that can be our legacy.”

Jim came to the Aquarium from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, where he served as the vice president of the Education Division. He has over fifteen years of experience in informal marine science education program development, implementation, and management. His iPad is a frequent companion, and he is looking forward to incorporating technology into the educational experience.

“The next generation is integrally involved with technology,” he says. “It is the way they learn and where they go for information. By incorporating technology in a smart way into our educational offerings, we will enhance each person’s experience at the Seattle Aquarium.”

Jim is a past-president and life member of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) and recipient of the FMSEA Service Award. He is an elected member of the Board of Directors for the National Marine Educators Association and serves on the Association’s Ocean Literacy, Educational Research, Scholarship, and Executive Committees.

Jim was the online shark expert for Classroom Connect’s GalapagosQuest simulcast expedition, and served as Study Leader for Smithsonian Journey’s educational travel excursion: Okeechobee and Southern Waterways. Please join us in welcoming Jim to the Seattle Aquarium.

Sea Otter Pup, Sekiu, Keeps Growing

It was a perfect coincidence that Valentine’s Day marked the one-month birthday of Seattle Aquarium’s new otter pup, Sekiu. It has certainly been a full month of love here at the Aquarium! Since her birth on January 14th, Aquarium visitors, volunteers, and staff members have gathered round the sea otter exhibit to adoringly watch this newborn find her sea legs.

The biologists and volunteers who care for Sekiu each day marvel at her quick growth and intelligence. Initially, visitors “ooo-ed” and “ahhh-ed” at the little three-pound “fluff ball” lying on her mother, Aniak’s, chest. She presently weighs more than 12 pounds and is losing her fluffy pup fur. By the time Sekiu is 10 weeks old her coat will look like that of an adult, and she will be diving and swimming alongside her mother and grandmother.

In 1979, the Seattle Aquarium was home to the very first Northern sea otter born in human care. Since its early days, the Seattle Aquarium has been committed to researching and protecting these charismatic marine mammals. Why? Because in the wild Pacific sea otters are failing to thrive as documented in the February 27th New York Times article featuring the work of James L. Bodkin who just received the Seattle Aquarium Research Award on February 9th. Last week Mr. Bodkin and other national leading sea otter scientists met at the Seattle Aquarium regarding the recent population trends. And Aniak and her pup Sekiu help us further this important conservation work.

For the first month of Sekiu’s life, Aquarium volunteer “otter watchers” monitored and charted behaviors of mom and pup 24 hours a day-seven days a week for six weeks. Aquarium biologists use this data to gain insight into her developmental milestones. The data gathered has shown that Sekiu is right on target and we look forward to having her as part of our permanent sea otter family.

Within the coming weeks, those in the Seattle community who love this pup, and have followed her development closely can look forward to seeing her swim, dive, pound objects on her chest, bite open shell food, and roll over sideways. To see her swim, check out the video on our Facebook page.

Metropolitan Market partners with Aquarium

Shoppers at the Metropolitan Market in West Seattle now have a new way to support the Seattle Aquarium. When customers bring their reusable bags to cart home groceries, they are offered the chance to donate a nickel to the store’s nonprofit of choice – the Seattle Aquarium.

“We are honored to partner with the Metropolitan Market as the recipient of their nickel donation program,” says Lori Montoya, Director of Development at the Seattle Aquarium. “Several of the beaches we monitor and clean-up are located in West Seattle so this is a perfect fit!”

All donations received from the Metropolitan Market’s nickel donation drive will go toward the Aquarium’s Beach Naturalist program. This program trains volunteers and assigns them to local beaches during low tide. Volunteers interact with beach guests to educate visitors about the ways they can best interact with animals and plants at the beach.

“In our experience, beach visitors appreciate the chance to talk with experts about what they see and how they can make sure the beach stays healthy and safe for their next visit,” says Montoya. “This partnership with Metropolitan Market will help ensure that volunteers will be available on West Seattle beaches. Metropolitan Market customers will see their nickels at work!”

Splash2012! is June 1st – Save the Date

Join us for the 21st annual Splash! fundraising gala benefiting the Seattle Aquarium’s mission, Inspiring Conservation of our Marine Environment! The honorary chairs for Splash2012! are Chad & Jennifer Mackay of El Gaucho and the featured animal is the Northern sea otter– in honor of our new baby sea otter, Sekiu.

The event starts with one of Seattle’s best silent auctions and a lively cocktail hour set among the spectacular exhibits of the Aquarium. Guests will be able to visit our sea otters on Pier 60 to truly appreciate this year’s featured animal. The group then departs for a delectable dinner and live auction at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront.

Splash! attracts over 600 of Puget Sound’s key civic and philanthropic leaders, with a goal to educate and encourage the mission of the Aquarium. Tickets range from $150 (reception only) to $500 (patron level) per person and information about purchasing tickets can be found online. We hope to see you at Splash2012!

Why I: Am an Otter Watcher

This month Kim Sanders, an Otter Watch volunteer, shares why volunteering to watch the new sea otter pup is important to her.

“For the past month I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be an “Otter Watch” volunteer with the Seattle Aquarium. For a month after the pup was born, the aquarium had volunteers scheduled 24 hours a day, seven days a week (even at three o’clock in the morning!) to observe the pup’s behaviors. I knew it was going to take a lot of people to make this work. I couldn’t wait to join the team and do my part during this wonderfully wild and busy time!

The chance to be involved with a newborn sea otter pup is a rare and special opportunity! Each week, I was so excited to come in for my shift and see how much the pup had grown and what she had learned that week. I felt like I was a proud aunt, “ooh”-ing and “ahh”-ing with all our visitors as she began to eat real food, learned to swim, and more than doubled in weight!

As an otter watcher, I learned all about sea otter development and milestones. I loved sharing everything that I was learning with the aquarium’s guests. To me the most amazing thing about sea otter pups is that they are born with a special natal coat that keeps them buoyant while they learn to swim. It’s like built-in water wings—an amazing natural adaptation!

This was an absolutely amazing experience, and I would do it all over again. The “Otter Watch” month is over, but I’m sure I’ll still be spending a lot of time at the sea otters’ window, watching our pup grow.”

For more information about becoming a Seattle Aquarium volunteer, click here.

A Message from our President/CEO

In January and February, the Marine Conservation Network brought the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, to the Aquarium to discuss their approaches to continuing the effort to preserve and protect the health of Puget Sound. We were all encouraged to learn the importance each of the candidates is giving to the health of Puget Sound, and appreciate their invitation to share ideas and information over the next months. I encourage you to support the candidates in making Puget Sound a top priority. Their campaign websites are:


www.jayinslee.com   www.robmckenna.org


The restoration of the Sound is dependent upon collaboration among a complex group of stakeholders, including every resident of the State of Washington. We are pleased with the early impact of our Marine Conservation Network in bringing the health of the Sound directly to discussion with our future governor.

I look forward to sharing with you the future ideas that result from our collaborative discussions. Together, we can Inspire Conservation of our Marine Environment. Knowledge plus action!