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Larson S.,Seattle Aquarium | Daly-Engel T.S.,Florida Institute of Technology | Phillips N.M.,University of Southern Mississippi
Advances in Marine Biology | Year: 2017

Conservation genetics is an applied science that utilizes molecular tools to help solve problems in species conservation and management. It is an interdisciplinary specialty in which scientists apply the study of genetics in conjunction with traditional ecological fieldwork and other techniques to explore molecular variation, population boundaries, and evolutionary relationships with the goal of enabling resource managers to better protect biodiversity and identify unique populations. Several shark species in the northeast Pacific (NEP) have been studied using conservation genetics techniques, which are discussed here. The primary methods employed to study population genetics of sharks have historically been nuclear microsatellites and mitochondrial (mt) DNA. These markers have been used to assess genetic diversity, mating systems, parentage, relatedness, and genetically distinct populations to inform management decisions. Novel approaches in conservation genetics, including next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing, environmental DNA (eDNA), and epigenetics are just beginning to be applied to elasmobranch evolution, physiology, and ecology. Here, we review the methods and results of past studies, explore future directions for shark conservation genetics, and discuss the implications of molecular research and techniques for the long-term management of shark populations in the NEP. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

Lowry D.,Marine Fish Science Unit | Larson S.,Seattle Aquarium
Advances in Marine Biology | Year: 2017

Sharks are iconic, sometimes apex, predators found in every ocean and, as a result, they have featured prominently in the mythology, history, and fisheries of diverse human cultures around the world. Because of their regional significance to fisheries and ecological role as predators, and as a result of concern over long-term stability of their populations, there has been an increasing amount of work focused on shark conservation in recent decades. This volume highlights the biodiversity and biological attributes of, and conservation efforts targeted at, populations of sharks that reside in the Northeast Pacific Ocean bordering the west coast of the United States and Canada, one of the most economically and ecologically important oceanic regions in the world. A companion volume addresses details of fisheries and ecotourism in the same region, as well as delving into the relationship between captive husbandry of sharks and education/outreach efforts aimed at fostering a conservation mindset in the public at large. Together, these volumes provide readers a detailed backdrop against which to consider their own actions, and those of resource managers, academics, and educators, as they relate to the long-term conservation of sharks and their relatives. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | March 31, 2016

One of two rescued endangered olive ridley turtles swims in its new pool as it arrives at Sea World's animal rescue center after being flown from the Oregon coast by the U.S. Coast Guard to San Diego, California March 30, 2016. One of two rescued endangered olive ridley turtles swims in its new pool as it arrives at Sea World's animal rescue center after being flown from the Oregon coast by the U.S. Coast Guard to San Diego, California March 30, 2016. Tucker, a 70-pound (32-kg), 20-year-old endangered olive ridley sea turtle, was found in December clinging to life along the Oregon Coast, far from his species' usual warm-water habitat off Southern California and Mexico, Seattle Aquarium officials said. Tucker has recovered from pneumonia and other complications from hypothermia but still has a buoyancy issue caused by internal gas bubbles in his body that prevent the reptile from diving or remaining underwater. "It's almost like the turtle is wearing a life preserver," Seattle Aquarium spokesman Tim Kuniholm said on Thursday. Aquarium vets brought Tucker to Virginia Mason Hospital on Monday for a session in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber there, making him the first non-human patient to visit the pressurized facility and the first sea turtle in the United States to undergo such a treatment for buoyancy problems. Tucker will undergo testing on Friday to determine if the treatment is working and whether further sessions in the chamber are needed, Kuniholm said. Kuniholm said Tucker must be able to regulate his buoyancy in order to survive in the wild, where he needs to dive beneath the surface for food and avoid predators as well as hazards such as boats. "He could remain in human care, but that's not our goal," he added. The hyperbaric treatment involves the turtle breathing 100 percent oxygen for more than two hours, hospital officials said. Tucker was sedated and observed closely while hooked up to a heart monitor and breathing tube. "We have treated many scuba divers over the years for a gas bubble disease known as decompression sickness, which is also called 'the bends.' This is the first time we have been asked to assist in the care of a sea turtle, which are excellent divers themselves," James Holm, medical director at the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine, said in a written statement.

Sea star wasting disease, the cause of which remains uncertain, has baffled scientists since it first appeared in the summer of 2013. Some species of the affected sea stars act lethargic or have arms that are abnormally curled upward; others abruptly change color. In either case, they soon develop skin lesions through which their internal organs may eventually fall out. In the end, their limbs detach, and they die. What makes this outbreak so alarming is that it is occurring from Mexico to Alaska and involves more than 20 species, says Littman. Millions have died. Previous incidents of wasting disease were restricted to a very small geographic range and affected only a few species. A significant loss of stars could have a dangerous domino effect. "You don't think of them as being particularly fast," says Littman, "but sea stars are important keystone predators in the tide pools." His summer studies investigated whether sea stars with the wasting disease could be identified before they showed outward signs of it. While early detection won't benefit sea stars in the wild, it would help aquatic veterinarians care for captive ones, which are getting sick just as much as their wild counterparts. Early indicators of the disease, Littman theorized, could be found in density scans of the sea creatures. His research followed up on the findings of a Monterey Bay Aquarium veterinarian who had seen some decreased density in the bodies of sea stars with the wasting syndrome. Littman's work was supported by the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and the national AQUAVET program based at Cornell University. Felicia Nutter, V93, a research assistant professor of infectious disease and global health at Cummings School, hooked the third-year veterinary student up with veterinarians Lesanna Lahner of the Seattle Aquarium and Marty Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium. Under their mentorship, Littman compared images of ailing and healthy sea stars in hopes of finding telltale density variations. He was interested in the tiny bones, called ossicles, that run throughout the bodies of sea stars. These vary in shape and size and form the skeletal network that supports a star's body. One of the biggest challenges Littman faced was how to use technology to get images of the ossicles. In human medicine, doctors use dual X-ray absorptiometry to measure bones' mineral density and diagnose conditions like osteoporosis. But the machines that do these scans are very expensive. Besides, he says, "I would have also needed to be able to compare the results to a range of 'normals,' which didn't exist" for sea stars. Maurice Solano, an assistant professor of diagnostic imaging at Cummings School, gave him tips on how to use software to come up with a range of normal densities for healthy sea stars, Those densities could then be compared with the densities of sea stars with wasting disease. Littman had hoped that X-ray, which is inexpensive and widely available, would help him detect the disease, but the invertebrates' unusual anatomy foiled that plan. "You put a star on a table and shoot a beam down to get one flat picture, but because [all the ossicles] overlap, and not all stars are of uniform thickness, X-ray turned out to be impractical for determining their densities," he says. CT scans did the job. Because a CT scanner takes hundreds of cross-sectional pictures, Littman was able to assess sea star ossicles in several different planes and even in 3-D. "We weren't able to determine where a lesion was going to appear on the skin of a sick sea star," he says, "but we were able to get the overall density of a sea star and determine whether it was above or below the 'normal' determined from CT scans of healthy stars. Our preliminary data showed that the ossicles of healthy stars have much higher density." Now back on campus, Littman expects to be first author, with Lahner and Haulena, on a forthcoming paper about how to perform an X-ray on a sea star to help diagnose other conditions. He says he hopes to continue working with sea stars and other marine animals. "The ocean covers 70 percent of the earth, and we know less about it than we do about space," says Littman. "Invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, sea turtles—that's where my passion lives."

News Article | October 26, 2016

Sea star wasting disease caused a severe decline in sunflower sea star populations in the Salish Sea off the coast of British Columbia and northern Washington state, according to a study published October 26, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Diego Montecino-Latorre from the University of California Davis, USA and colleagues. Sea star wasting disease broke out in 2013, causing large scale population decline in several species of sea stars along the west coast of North America, from Mexico to Alaska. Infected animals develop lesions leading to tissue decay, with limbs dropping off as the animals die. Previous research on the disease has mainly focused on intertidal populations, and little is known about how the disease impacts sea stars living below the low tide water line. Montecino-Latorre and colleagues investigated the impact of sea star wasting disease on species in the Salish Sea, which straddles the U.S./Canadian border and is home to a diverse number of sea star species. The researchers used a combination of data collected by scientific divers during 2014 - 2015 and longer term data collected by trained recreational scuba divers to assess the effects of the 2013 outbreak on species. The authors found dramatic declines in populations of sunflower sea stars, Pycnopodia helianthoides, along with several other sea star species. Sunflower sea stars are a key predator in the Salish Sea ecosystem and the researchers found that some sea urchin prey species, which feed on habitat-forming kelp beds, showed a corresponding increase after 2013. The authors warn that these sea star wasting disease effects could have long term effects on the Salish Sea ecosystem. Sunflower sea stars have effectively disappeared from the Salish Sea, the study concludes, and the researchers are in discussions with the National Marine Fisheries Service to have the sunflower sea star listed as a "species of concern". "Sunflower stars are major predators," says Joe Gaydos, wildlife veterinarian and chief scientist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's SeaDoc Society. "This [decline] is probably going to change the shape of the ecosystem." Adapted from a press release provided by the authors. In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://dx. Citation: Montecino-Latorre D, Eisenlord ME, Turner M, Yoshioka R, Harvell CD, Pattengill-Semmens CV, et al. (2016) Devastating Transboundary Impacts of Sea Star Wasting Disease on Subtidal Asteroids. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0163190. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0163190 Funding: Funding for 100 focused Advanced Assessment Team REEF surveys in the San Juan Islands in 2013, 2014 and 2015 was provided by the SeaDoc Society and numerous private donors (including S. and N. Albouq, L. Ceder, C. Curry, J. Luce, A. Phelps Ford, the Seattle Aquarium and M. Wyckoff). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

News Article | December 21, 2016

At its core, cloud computing is a shift in where computing work gets done, whether that's running email, watching videos or analyzing business data. The center of that universe used to be the PC in front of you or the company server in the backroom. Now, much of that is probably taking place at a football-field sized data center somewhere. In technology, "you don't want to build it yourself; you want to be able to leverage what someone else has built for you," said Don Boulia, a vice president of cloud strategy at IBM. "People are looking for flexibility." One of those people is Tom Nguyen, one-half of the two-person information-technology department at the Seattle Aquarium. Most of the computer programs that keep the nonprofit running are powered by a set of servers in the aquarium building on Seattle's waterfront. Others sit at a nearby office annex. Keeping that technology up to date consumes much of Nguyen's time, leaving little to pursue things that might help the aquarium's business. Nguyen is hoping to change that by using web-based alternatives. The goal, he said, is a transformation so that "it's less about maintaining servers, and more about concentrating on what makes the aquarium unique." The aquarium has ditched its on-premises email server, moving to Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365. Nguyen is also shifting the aquarium to web-accessed ticket sales and customer-membership tracking. He hopes the changes free him up to work on tools more useful to aquarium employees, like applications the nonprofit's educators can tap in to on the road when visiting schools, for instance. BECU, an area credit union, is making similar changes. Julie Wesche helps oversee the credit union's 600 software applications, including human resources and payroll trackers, BECU's website and transaction-data processing tools. Most of those live in data centers owned and operated by the company. BECU is looking to get out of that business. "We're a financial organization," she said. "If someone else has already built it, why would we?" Wesche is guiding a transition to cloud-based alternatives over the next several years. That, she hopes, will mean money in the budget for improving software for BECU's loan officers or the customer smartphone app and website. Not everything is bound for the cloud, though. Even data centers managed by giants can have outages and lose data. BECU, as with many heavily regulated financial institutions, plans to keep customer data and its own personnel files within its control and out of the cloud. So does Nguyen and the aquarium. Tools that control and monitor the sea-life environments will remain in Nguyen's servers. "Clouds will go down at some point," he said. "We can't have our animals' lives take that risk." Explore further: IBM to invest $1b in Linux, open-source

Scheel D.,Alaska Pacific University | Anderson R.,Seattle Aquarium
American Malacological Bulletin | Year: 2012

We examined variation in dietary specialization of Enteroctopus dofleini (Wülker, 1910), the giant Pacific octopus, from Puget Sound to the Aleutian Islands, as represented in midden remains. Dietary specialization was measured from midden contents as: species richness (R) and Cardona's niche breadth (regional indices), and proportional similarity of a midden to the regional sample (an individual index). We found an influence of items per midden and prey species maximum size on these indices. In Puget Sound, middens and common prey species were large, richness, R = 21 species, and individuals specialized more often than in other areas, typically on large prey species. In Saanich Inlet, British Columbia, middens were smaller, R = 9 species, and the large crab Cancer productus was common in nearly all middens, such that the population specialized rather than the individual. In Prince William Sound, Alaska, middens contained fewer individuals of smaller prey species, R = 52 species, and diet was generalized at both the population and the individual levels. Cardona's niche breadth ranged from . 11 to . 14 except in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska where it was higher (.30). Most individual E. dofleini were generalists, and dietary species richness was very high (R = 69 species overall). Specialists within a generalist population were common only where middens and dominant prey were both large.

Larson S.,Seattle Aquarium | Christiansen J.,Seattle Aquarium | Griffing D.,Seattle Aquarium | Ashe J.,Seattle Aquarium | And 2 more authors.
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2011

The bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus) is a widely distributed species found in tropical and temperate waters of every ocean, yet we know relatively little about their basic biology including their life history and population structure. From 2003-2007, we collected over 300 biopsy samples from sixgills during research operations in Puget Sound, WA, USA. Genotypic data using ten polymorphic microsatellites were used to describe sixgill genetic diversity, relatedness and mating pattern. Diversity within sixgills was found to be moderate with an average observed heterozygosity of 0.45, an average expected heterozygosity of 0.61, an average of 12 alleles per locus, and an average allelic richness of eight within microsatellite loci. Our data suggests all of the sampled individuals come from one intermixing population, and we found no historical evidence of significant population bottlenecks. Many of the sharks were sampled using longline techniques with several sharks captured at the same time and place. Similarly, multiple sharks were sampled on several occasions during research events at the Seattle Aquarium. The proportion of individuals that were full- or half-siblings was high among sharks sampled at the same time and place (range 0.65-0.87). Analysis of the genetic relationship between one large female washed ashore and 71 of her near-term pups suggested a polyandrous mating system with as many as nine males contributing to her offspring. This study is the first to investigate genetic diversity, relatedness and paternity within sixgill sharks and sheds light on important conservation implications for this little known shark population. © 2010 The Author(s).

Wiener C.S.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | Matsumoto K.,Seattle Aquarium
Journal of Geoscience Education | Year: 2014

The marine environment provides a unique context for students to explore both natural and cultural connections. This paper reports preliminary findings on Ecosystem Pen Pals, an ocean literacy program for 4th and 5th graders focused on using a pen pal model for integrating traditional ecological knowledge into marine science. Surveys with open-ended response and differential rating scales on student and teacher perceptions are used to share findings from the preliminary pen pal program. Results demonstrate increased respect and appreciation amongst students for their local environment and culture, as well as new interest in the marine environment. Changes in student perceptions are shown as a result of the new connections made amongst Pacific Rim students from different ecosystems and cultural communities, including Hawaii and the Washington coast. This project was developed as a pilot program to support expository writing skills, understanding of traditional learning systems, and ecosystem science. Discussion focuses on presenting a framework that could be a model for dissemination to other sites in the Pacific Rim. © 2014 National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

Anderson R.C.,Seattle Aquarium | Shimek R.L.,P.O. Box 4
American Malacological Bulletin | Year: 2014

There are several references to octopuses eating birds but few give details of the encounters. Here we document the details of seven instances (six Enteroctopus dofleini (Wülker, 1910) and one Octopus cf. insularis Leite and Haimovici, 2008) of octopuses attacking, capturing or eating birds, including glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens), a pigeon guillemot (Cepphus columba), a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), a western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) a brown noddy (Anous stolidus) and a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). © 2014, BioOne. All rights reserved.

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