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Aquarium Conservation and Research

The Aquarium of the Pacific actively participates in a wide variety of conservation and research projects aimed at enhancing the understanding of animals in zoos and aquariums and the conservation of species in the wild.

Some of these efforts take the form of field work, such as our whale identification and sea turtle tracking programs and projects undertaken by our scientific divers; others involve studying the animals in the Aquarium’s collection. The Aquarium actively seeks partnerships with universities, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other individuals or organizations with a shared interest.

The Aquarium has a policy in place to manage collaborative research projects with scientists and researchers from other institutions. By offering its resources, including animals and exhibits, for use in scientific research, the Aquarium helps contribute to our collective knowledge about marine life and improve conservation efforts.

Scientists and researchers can submit a request to conduct research at the Aquarium, and proposals are reviewed by the Aquarium’s Scientific Advisory Committee. This committee ensures that projects do not threaten the health and welfare of the Aquarium’s animals or staff, do not have a negligible effect on the visitor experience at the Aquarium, and support the Aquarium’s mission. Research activities must conform to research policy and guidelines set out by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Since our founding in 1998, the Aquarium has participated in a diverse array of over 50 conservation and research projects, from assisting a researcher studying the role of smell in the lives of Crested Auklet birds to helping graduate students study the abundance of round stingrays in local waters.

Man with green bird on his finger

Marianas Avifauna Conservation

The Marianas Avifauna Conservation (MAC) program started in 2004. This project is intended to provide the birds of the Mariana archipelago with the best possible chances for long-term survival. Its objectives are preserving, maintaining, and establishing self-sustaining populations of native birds secure from the threat of the brown tree snake.

Piping plover chick

The Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort

The Great Lakes Piping Plover (GLPIPL) population was listed as federally endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1986. Historically, Piping Plovers nested throughout the Great Lakes (estimated population 500 to 800 pairs) but declined to about a dozen pairs, all within the state of Michigan, by the mid-1980s.

Woman measuring a tree

Urban Forest Program

The Urban Forest Program is special initiative of the Earthwatch Institute in partnership with local non-profits and managers to connect people with nature in urban communities through community science.

Baby penguin chick

Magellanic Penguins

The Aquarium of the Pacific actively participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Magellanic Penguin Species Survival Plan.

Jelly floating in water

Breeding Projects and Program

In addition to participating in the AZA’s Species Survival Programs (SSP), the Aquarium of the Pacific has an extensive breeding program.

Sea otter looking at the camera with head tilted

Southern Sea Otters

The Aquarium of the Pacific partners with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sea Otter Research and Conservation program (SORAC) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help conserve and protect threatened southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis).

White abalone on kelp

Abalone Breeding

The Aquarium is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to increase abalone populations in Southern California as deemed necessary under the NMFS Final White Abalone Recovery Plan (2008).

Shark swimming

Artificial Insemination in Sharks

Since 2009 the Aquarium’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Lance Adams, has been studying the feasibility of artificial insemination to help with the management of captive shark populations.

Coral and Sponge exhibit next to a sign

Corals and Sponges: Potential Medicines from the Sea

Many sponges, corals, and other marine organisms produce chemical compounds or harbor colonies of microorganisms that contain biologically active compounds.

Scuba diver photographing coral

Coral Reef Reproduction and Restoration: The SECORE Project

The Aquarium is a participant in the SECORE (SExual COral REproduction) Coral Reef Reproduction and Restoration Project that is taking place in Guam.

Divers looking at coral

Scientific Divers

The Aquarium is an institutional member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, and its divers participate in local data and specimen collection projects.

Helping Endangered Zebra Sharks
Zebra shark

Aquarium Publishes New Research on Shark Artificial Insemination

The Aquarium was the first to reproduce endangered zebra sharks via artificial insemination, and its findings are now published and available in the open access journal Frontiers in Marine Science.