E-Newsletter Articles

April 2012

Meet our new veterinarian

Lesanna - Seattle Aquarium veterinarian

Up until this year, veterinary care for our mammals and birds depended on a contract with veterinarians from the Woodland Park Zoo who visited for one hour, twice a month. Though our “visiting vets” provided excellent care during their periodic calls, they weren’t able to observe their patients on a daily basis and instead had to rely on the interpretations of the animal care staff to know what was “normal” for each animal. The brief visits did not allow for the kind of trusting, doctor-patient relationship that only grows over time and through frequent contact.

At the end of 2011, we finally got a vet of our own—meet Dr. Lesanna Lahner.

Dr. Lahner’s interest in animals goes back a long way. She grew up on a farm in Minnesota surrounded by horses, and started working with a local veterinarian and volunteering on wildlife rehabilitation projects before she could even drive. She has two dogs and a horse of her own, but from an early age her professional interests always tended towards more exotic patients—everything from coral to marine birds!

Veterinary school training offers broad focus on both small and large animals, but students (like Lesanna Lahner) interested in wildlife must pursue specialized training through clinical “externships.” Lesanna did a variety of these, including time at the Honolulu wildlife health center and the Tufts wildlife center where she had the opportunity to participate in clinical research as well as conservation medicine with a focus on stress and pain reduction in exotic species including birds, reptiles, and fish. She is also certified in veterinary acupuncture and is a firm believer in combining eastern with western medicine to provide the best patient care possible.

For Lesanna, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is participating in the animals’ training, particularly positively reinforced behavior associated with medical exams, so that animals don't just associate her presence with unpleasant experiences. Getting to know the animals—and letting them get to know her, allows Lesanna to perform better, more thorough exams, and get higher quality diagnostics for whatever preventive medicine or disease issue she is working with.

This job also gives her the opportunity to “pay it forward” and enhance the educational opportunities of a new generation of veterinary students who regularly shadow her here at the Aquarium to learn more about marine mammal, fish, and bird care.

Finally, in addition to her medical duties, Lesanna is also continuing her own research into epidemiology and conservation medicine. In this way she helps contribute to the Aquarium’s ongoing research projects to promote conservation of the marine environment.

We think Dr. Lahner offers an excellent return on our donors’ investment. We are grateful to have her here and grateful to everyone whose financial support makes it possible.

You can GiveBIG to the Aquarium on May 2


The Aquarium is excited to join The Seattle Foundation for GiveBIG 2012. Mark your calendars for May 2 and prepare to GiveBIG!

GiveBIG is a community-wide day of giving presented by The Seattle Foundation. During this second annual event, nonprofit organizations representing a full spectrum of services provided in King County will encourage their supporters to take part in this collective giving opportunity. Last year over $4 million was raised in support of nonprofits in our community in just one day.

You too can be part of GiveBIG. On May 2, you will get an email from us. All donations made directly through the Aquarium’s page on The Seattle Foundation website will count toward the goal and be eligible for a partial match. Please consider giving big! You can find out more about GiveBIG by following our Facebook page.

Why I: Jim Gurke

Jim Gurke

This month, we would like to introduce you to Jim Gurke, the new Vice Chair of the Seattle Aquarium Board of Directors. Jim shared with us why he initially became involved with the Aquarium and the reason he stays.

“Wow, it has been nearly seven years already! Since the fall of 2005, I have had the privilege of serving on the board of directors of one of the finest institutions in the region – the Seattle Aquarium. I attended my first Splash! annual gala at the Aquarium in summer, 2005, and I was hooked.

“Inspiring Conservation of our Marine Environment,” the mission of the Seattle Aquarium, resonates with me and my family, and after seeing all that was happening here, well, I just wanted to be a part of it. My wife Chris, son Joey and I moved to the Seattle area from Chicago at the end of 2000, and it wasn’t very long before we fell in love with the incredible environment and recreational opportunities abundant in the Pacific Northwest, starting with the beautiful waters of Puget Sound. So, naturally, we had to buy a boat! And then later, a bigger boat – one that our family enjoyed for years, discovering the waters of Puget Sound from Olympia to the San Juans to the Gulf Islands and Victoria in British Columbia and beyond.

The access to our region’s beauty, and its variety of wildlife and aquatic life of all shapes and sizes in this extraordinary part of the world deserves our respect and care, in order to keep it and improve it for generations to come. The Seattle Aquarium is at the heart of this endeavor.

My professional life keeps me very busy. I have been with Getty Images, a leading global digital media company for thirteen years. I currently serve as the company’s senior vice president of marketing, where my team and I have the opportunity to bring the power and depth of Getty Images to the world. It’s very exciting, but giving something back to the community in the form of my board service is really special to me, and I’m pleased the Aquarium finds my service helpful to its mission! As vice chair this year, I am looking forward to my upcoming term as board chair next year, during such an exciting time for the Seattle Aquarium and its prominent place at the center of our waterfront community.”

Know your otters

River Otters

Have you ever noticed mischievous otters frolicking out on the water and beaches of Puget Sound? These otters, North American river otters, are known for their playful demeanor- they flop on their bellies, slide down muddy hills, and wrestle with each other on both land and in water. Many onlookers identify river otters by their long bodies, webbed feet, and slick fur. As their name suggests, many river otters live alongside fresh water rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. However, they are opportunistic and have figured out there is a seafood buffet in Puget Sound so around here you can also see them in saltwater.

River otters are known as aquatic mammals, but if you visit the Seattle Aquarium during April’s Marine Mammal Mania, you may be surprised to learn that river otters are not marine mammals. While these members of the weasel family can be found swimming and foraging for food in the water (and can even hold their breath under water for up to four minutes) they are considered terrestrial. They make onshore dens out of logs and driftwood for nighttime shelter, rest, and birth. If you can’t spot these frisky mammals in the wild, you can visit the Seattle Aquarium’s river otter residents Skagway and Wadaah in their home near the waterfall on Pier 60.

Like its cousin, the river otter, the Northern sea otter is also a member of the weasel family; unlike its land-lubber relative, however, the sea otter is a proper ocean-dwelling marine mammal. You will not find these otters playing under your dock or splashing belly first into the water—sea otters are found along the rugged outer coast and are often seen floating on their backs; using their tummies as a dinner table as they eat their large daily diet of crabs, clams, shrimp, fish, and urchins. When they aren’t eating, the can be found actively rolling and splashing in the water, and spend up to 15% of their day grooming their fur.

In fact, sea otters spend their entire lives in salt water and rarely come ashore. Although sea otters can be nearly three times as big as river otters, they are still considered the smallest marine mammal—and the only marine mammal that lacks an insulating layer of blubber. Sea otters rely on their high metabolic rate and thick fur to maintain their body heat.

There are many subtle differences between these two weasel family relatives, but they also share many characteristics that make both species beloved favorites. Both are playful, curious, have long whiskers, and beautiful fur; both sea otters and river otters depend on our marine environment for food and habitat; and both species have also been threatened by over-hunting, over fishing, and marine habitat destruction.

Visit our blog to learn more about our otter conservation efforts, and how your support contributes to creating a safe marine environment for these adored mammals.

"Your Ocean—Our Home" Art Contest

Splash!2011 Art Contest Winner

1st - 5th grade students are invited to enter the Seattle Aquarium's annual "Your Ocean - Our Home" art contest. Deadline for submissions is May 11. This year the contest features the Northern sea otter. Winners of the art contest are awarded an account from the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan offered by the Education Trust of Alaska and a Seattle Aquarium Family Membership. Click here for contest rules and information.

A Message from our President/CEO

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the new Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of our Board of Directors, James Gurke. Jim has been an integral part of the board for over seven years and played a key role in the due diligence, planning and execution of the transition to nonprofit management of the Aquarium.

Jim Gurke serves as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Getty Images where he is responsible for leading key marketing functions including strategy, regional and segment marketing, web marketing and marketing communications. In his role, he has the pleasure of traveling around the world, which gives him the opportunity to see Aquariums in many communities.

Jim lives in Sammamish with his wife, Christina, and their son, Joey. He moved to Seattle in 2000 from Chicago, where he grew up visiting the Shedd Aquarium. Jim recently volunteered to fill an important role at the Aquarium as part of the Harbor Seal Capital Project committee. He chairs the Compensation Committee and sits on the Executive Committee of the Seattle Aquarium.

I am grateful to Jim for his dedication and leadership to the Aquarium. I look forward to working with him in 2012 as we strive to implement our new Strategic Plan. Together, we can Inspire Conservation of our Marine Environment. Knowledge plus action!