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Fish-Eating Anemone
Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fish-eating anemones are among the largest Northern Pacific anemones: they can grow to 8 inches tall and 10 inches across. These unusual creatures use their large, strong tentacles to capture shrimp and small fish.

To stun and attack their prey, anemones use the venomous cells found in their tentacles. They may also use their tentacles to defend themselves against predators that include certain nudibranchs, sea stars and snails.

The fish-eating anemone may also play host to small fish. Painted greenlings will lie in fish-eating anemones for protection without being harmed – much like clownfish do with anemones in tropical waters.

While the population of fish-eating anemones in our local waters is currently stable, they do require clean water and a healthy environment to thrive.

China Rockfish
Thursday, July 14, 2011

The China rockfish is mostly black with mottled yellow spots over the body and a broad yellow stripe that runs along the dorsal fin to the tail.

Rockfish in general are slow growing. They average in size from eight inches to three feet and can live for more than 120 years. Their scientific name, Sebastes, means magnificent. Rockfish are exhibited throughout the Seattle Aquarium and are a prominent part of the Window on Washington Waters exhibit.

The vibrant rockfish family is composed of 72 species found in Pacific waters from California to Alaska. There are 32 different species of rockfish in Puget Sound. Many of our local rockfish species are experiencing a dramatic decline due to overfishing and pollution.

Black Oyster Catcher
Thursday, July 14, 2011

The black oyster catcher is an all-black shorebird with a long, bright-red beak, pink legs and a red eye-ring. These monogamous birds breed with the same partner for life. After a loud, showy courtship, they select a territory to which they return for breeding over many years. Black oyster catchers sit on their eggs more than 90% of the time, uncovering them only during the change from one parent to the other.

The black oyster catcher’s diet is composed of shellfish, including mussels, clams, limpets, chitons and various snails.

Because of their shoreline habitat, black oyster catchers are highly threatened by oil spills.

Moving into the future
Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seattle Aquarium Society assumes management and
operation of the Seattle Aquarium

Ever since its opening in 1977, funded with $5.7 million from the King County Forward Thrust Bond Issue, the Seattle Aquarium had been owned, operated and managed by the City of Seattle. A momentous shift took place on July 1, 2010, when the Seattle Aquarium Society took over its management and operation. It was a change that was a long time in coming – and required thousands of hours of effort, many of them provided on a volunteer basis, by a number of dedicated people.

New Currents – the spark that led to a new era
for the Seattle Aquarium

In 2005, the Seattle Aquarium Society launched New Currents, a capital campaign to fund an18,000 square foot expansion of the Seattle Aquarium – in partnership with the City of Seattle, which had agreed to fund the replacement of 760 rotting pilings below Pier 59, upon which the Aquarium is built. “It was the first time the Society had gone to the community,” comments Aquarium CEO Robert W. Davidson. “It gave the Society a full challenge and opportunity to prove itself.”

At the outset of the campaign, two leaders stepped forward. Ted Ackerley and Stuart Rolfe, both of whom had joined the Seattle Aquarium Society’s Board of Directors about five years earlier, volunteered to serve as the campaign’s co-chairs. They realized that the Board of Directors were strongly committed to the Aquarium’s mission of inspiring conservation of our marine environment, and were ready to work hard on a capital campaign. Thanks to their efforts – and those of many staff, board members and volunteers – it was a success. The Seattle Aquarium’s expansion was completed on time and under budget, and the revitalized facility was opened to the public on June 22, 2007.

The successful partnership of both the Seattle Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium Society resulted in the following: attendance rose by 24%; earned revenue rose by 47%; and operation of the new gift store and evening events/café resulted in $1 million per year in net new revenue. 

The working partnership between the City and the Society and the tangible successes manifested by the New Currents project also opened the door for the Society to begin negotiations with the City of Seattle to assume management and operation of the Seattle Aquarium. It was a process that would take approximately 18 months.

Leading the way toward the transition
As the negotiation process began, Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher took the lead for the City team, aided by Jan Oscherwitz from the City Finance Department and Helaine Honig from the City Law Department. Kieu-Anh King provided support from the City Council staff. Ackerley and Rolfe again volunteered their time and expertise to play large roles. Both men accepted leadership Board positions: Ackerley as President and Rolfe as Chairman. Their involvement didn’t stop there – they contributed at every step of the negotiation process. As the reality of the transition approached, Rolfe also served as Co-Chair of the Transition Working Group and Transition Implementation Group.

Two other individuals also came forward to help ensure the success of the negotiations related to the transition: Paul Kundtz and Terry McLaughlin. Kundtz, an attorney who had been a member of the Seattle Aquarium Society Board of Directors since 1996, and Board President in 2002, became deeply involved in the Society’s contract negotiations with the City of Seattle. He was integral in laying out the conditions and details of the transfer, and served on a pro-bono basis as the Society’s general counsel throughout the entire transition process.

McLaughlin, who had been a Society Board member for 10 years, volunteered his rich experience in managing the complex relationships of public/private partnerships. He agreed to serve as Co-Chair of the Transition Working Group and the Transition Implementation Group.

Assisted by many committed individuals, these four men helped forge the path toward the transition agreement that went into effect on July 1, 2010. “It’s a remarkable story of sustained civic commitment over a long period of time,” says Davidson, “from idea to planning to execution to now, when the Aquarium’s future is unlimited.”

Making the transition – and fulfilling our vision for the future
On July 1, 2010, a ceremony was held to make official the Seattle Aquarium’s transition to private nonprofit operation and management. Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation presented Robert W. Davidson, new CEO of the Seattle Aquarium, with a key symbolizing the promise of the organization’s future.

As Davidson remarked at the time, “The Seattle Aquarium 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. We intend to be a leader in each component: life sciences, interpretive exhibits, educational outreach, research, public policy and economic impact. My pledge to you is that you and I – and all those we can recruit to join us – will work over this next decade to realize this vision. This key is not a magic wand. It is a key. And together we will use it to build the future Aquarium.”

"I Hope We All Can Learn From This Tragedy, And Do Our Best To Make Our Planet A Better Place"
Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aquarium volunteer Rick Gillatt shares his experiences caring for birds after the Gulf oil spill

“I worked in the Gulf of Mexico from July 10, 2010 to August 10, 2010. My inspiration to go came from being a marine biologist, as well as a lover of birds. I’ve helped care for the birds at The Seattle Aquarium as a volunteer for 12 years, and worked as an animal health and laboratory staff member there for a year. I knew I had the experience, and I wanted to make a difference.

I intended to go as a volunteer, but after submitting my résumé to a wide range of response organizations, I was hired with pay by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), a world-renowned center involved in oil spill rescue and rehabilitation for birds.

I rarely worked with oiled, or “hot,” birds during my tenure. I worked as a rehabilitator: handling, water-proofing, thermo regulating, feeding, and performing medicinal care of the birds after they had been “cleaned.” I worked with brown pelicans, a variety of terns, gulls and shorebirds, and my favorites: northern gannets. These are dangerous diving seabirds about the size of a large mallard duck. I became an expert at handling these wonderful birds. I even worked on training them to eat fish in a natural diving fashion, so they could eventually survive in the wild someday…I hoped.

Many of the birds we received were in some form of shock. Either from toxin ingestion, starvation, injury or, most commonly, hypothermia. We were experiencing record temperatures with heat indexes of 105º-120º F. The birds’ average body temperature is 103º-105º F, and an oiled or cleaned bird has problems with thermoregulation. When we received birds from the collection teams in the field, our first priority was to stabilize body temperature and energy intake such as feeding and fluids.

After a bird was cleaned, the process of rehabilitation was often arduous. Food intake, waterproofing and creating somewhat normal behavior – including flying – were tasks that required patience. We worked hard on enrichment and enhancing their enclosures when we had the time. At one point, I actually netted freshwater shrimp in the Mississippi River in order to entice the gulls and terns to eat.

Explaining how I was impacted by my experience is difficult. I felt profound sadness to the point where I sometimes had to remove myself from the area; that was normal for most of us. I felt exhaustion as a result of heat and overwork. I felt wet most of the time, from sweat, rain, or both. I felt joy from seeing some birds go free. I felt frustration from losing one of my birds, or holding a bird while it was put to sleep (the first time is the worst). However, I absolutely and unequivocally loved my job! The wonderful birds and experiences, the friendships I made, and people that I had the fortune to work with, and the undeniable beauty of the rich and wonderful land of the South, was an absolute joy that I will remember always. The experience made me a better man, and gave me a different way of looking at our world.”

Thanks For Sharing: Coral At The Seattle Aquarium
Saturday, June 18, 2011

By Biologist Andrew Sim

The Aquarium is fortunate to have a very diverse coral population. With our exhibits healthy and growing, our focus is on growing out the species currently in our collection. We are even able to share corals with other facilities that are trying to build their own collections. Thanks to our in-house coral farm, we can grow fragments collected from our exhibits. Previously, these fragments were returned to the exhibits once they’d reached a large enough size – but now, the majority can be donated to another public aquarium. In 2010, for instance, we shared corals grown in our coral farm with five different public aquariums in 2010.

Why do we share our corals? There are two primary benefits. First, obtaining captive raised corals from a good source eliminates the need to remove corals from the wild. Coral populations worldwide are threatened by climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and more. Any reduction of wild coral harvest is beneficial to the fragile ecosystems where they’re found. Second, trading captive corals gives us access to a much larger variety of species of coral then we could collect or purchase.

While our coral collection is large enough to share specimens with other facilities, we still bring in corals from time to time, either as donations from other aquariums – or confiscated animals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In 2010, for example, we received several shipments of coral as well as some giant clams from USFWS; they had been illegally imported into our country. Live fish and coral from the tropical Pacific are imported into the United States daily, primarily into Los Angeles. When a shipment is seized, the animals can’t be returned to their place of origin so agents begin making phone calls to public aquariums to look for homes for the animals. Almost all of our tanks that house coral have at least some that came to us from USFWS.

The Seattle Aquarium Goes To Hawaii
Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aquarium biologists participate in annual reef survey

In January of 2011, four fortunate Aquarium biologists traveled to Hawaii to conduct an annual reef survey at seven sites along the coast of the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island). The sites are located in both marine protected and non-protected areas.

For many years, the Aquarium has exhibited animals from Hawaii in our Pacific Coral Reef area – and biologists from the Aquarium have traveled to Hawaii to collect them. Why? Because using our own staff helps prevent animal injury, and ensures that the collection is conducted in an environmentally friendly manner. In 2009, the Aquarium took its Hawaiian travels a step further by initiating the annual reef surveys. This active conservation role contributes to the body of knowledge about, and long-term conservation of, tropical reef systems.

During the surveys, Aquarium divers take underwater video to get data about the number of fish and invertebrates at each site. The data is used to determine significant changes in species diversity or abundance – and correlate it with local environmental changes or other potential factors such as changes in human activities. Data from protected and non-protected areas is compared to see what, if any, the differences are.

It is anticipated that results from the surveys could help state fisheries managers make environmental policy decisions – which could have powerful implications for the health of reef ecosystems and the long-term conservation of coral reef fishes.