The Alaska SeaLife Center announces the Summer of Sharks!
March 17, 2015

Seward, Alaska (January 15, 2015) - Science meets art as the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) brings the Buzz Saw Sharks of Long Ago exhibit to Seward, Alaska. The exhibit is on loan from the Idaho Museum of Natural History (IMNH) and is done in collaboration with Ray Troll. Areas around the aquarium will be transformed into the Paleozoic marine world of the humongous, whorl-toothed shark.

 

“Summer of Sharks” at the Alaska SeaLife Center opens April 17 with fossils, sculptures, and artwork featuring the majestic Helicoprion. This prehistoric giant is the world’s only animal – past or present – with a complete 360-degree spiral of teeth. Imagine a fearsome behemoth equipped with a circular blade of teeth and strong jaws that researchers believe crimped and cut its prey.  

The Buzzsaw Shark roamed the Permian Seas more than 270 million years ago. Now, it has come back to life thanks to the informed imagination of Alaskan artist Ray Troll and Idaho State University researchers. 

Obsessing over this prehistoric marine species for more than 20 years, Troll is now the go-to guy for all things Helicoprion. Detailed artwork from Troll include a 17.5-foot-long by 8-foot-high mural of sharks, as well as 21 individual pieces. His colorful artwork combined with informational graphics explore a side of scientific history you have never seen before.  

Sculptures by artist Gary Staab welcome visitors as they travel back in time. A hanging 15-foot shark sculpture and a giant shark head bursting through the wall watch over visitors as they are immersed in Troll’s ode to this extinct creature.

The exhibit, which was previously at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, also includes four fossils of the shark’s unusual and complex whorl dentition dug from Idaho phosphate mines. Three casts of rare fossils and an interactive shark jaw showcase the power of the animal kingdom’s most unusual set of teeth.

 “I’m really excited to have the ‘Buzz Saw Sharks of Long Ago’ be a big part of the Alaska SeaLife Center's ‘Summer of Sharks.’ I think visitors to this special exhibit will find the fossils, life-sized models and colorful artwork to be pretty amazing. I can guarantee that folks have never seen sharks like these ancient wonders before. It's going to be wonderful to get to share them with my fellow Alaskans,” Ray Troll said recently when asked about the exhibit.

Children and adults alike will enjoy a humorous documentary film about the artist as they sit on a whorl-patterned “art couch,” activate the whorl tooth mechanism, “walk the whorl,” and ponder the incredible bite of a “large-as-life” Helicoprion head. 

“This is the Alaska SeaLife Center’s first traveling exhibit, and we are thrilled to have such scientifically significant artifacts and the fantastic artwork of Ray Troll here at the Center. This is a milestone for ASLC and a major event for Alaska,” President and CEO Dr. Tara Riemer said.

Buzzsaw Sharks of Long Ago explores the many ways that people have come to better understand the natural world through mysterious fossils and the quest for creatures of the deep. Troll hopes Buzzsaw Sharks will not only intrigue visitors, but also inspire them to take action and help protect all species of shark and marine life.

Summer of Sharks is open April 17 through Labor Day and made possible by our presenting sponsor BP.

About the ASLC

Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education programs. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. To learn more, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

About the IMNH

The Idaho Museum of Natural History is home to permanent and special collections in Anthropology, Earth Sciences, and Life Sciences, a place where researchers pursue scholarly study of the collections and publish their findings in peer-reviewed and museum-sponsored publications.

 

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Rare Opportunity to View Bearded Seal at the Alaska SeaLife Center
March 17, 2015

Seward, Alaska (December 11, 2014) - The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is excited to announce it is currently home to a male bearded seal. 

Siku, named after the Inuit word for “sea ice,” is the first of his kind to reside at the Alaska SeaLife Center – in fact the first bearded seal to reside in a North American facility.

Visitors to the Center can observe Siku during daylight hours from the viewing windows next to the Discovery Touch Pool now until the end of January 2015. Siku will then be transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz, Long Marine Laboratory to participate in a long-term study on the hearing sensitivity of arctic seals.                                    

Researchers at Long Marine Lab are examining the cognitive and sensory systems of marine mammals above and below the water’s surface. Siku will join a project studying the hearing perception of three arctic seal species: spotted, ringed, and bearded seals. 


Photo courtesy of Taylor Paul

Little data exists about the auditory systems of these three species. In particular, there is currently no information on the hearing capabilities of bearded seals. The psychoacoustic study of these species will provide researchers basic information about their auditory system and how common industry noise from oil and gas exploration may affect their hearing. 

“We are working cooperatively with spotted, ringed, and bearded seals to learn more about how these unique animals perceive the world around them,” UC Santa Cruz Associate Research Scientist Dr. Colleen Reichmuth said. “This project will teach us about the sensory biology of ice-living seals, and will inform best management practices for these species in areas increasingly influenced by human activity.”Approval for the project was granted by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Ice Seal Commission, which work together to co-manage Alaskan ice seal populations.

Photo courtesy of Taylor Paul

“We are honored to partner with UC Santa Cruz in this important research project, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this particular species,” Alaska SeaLife Center President and CEO Dr. Tara Riemer said. “No facility in North America has ever been home to a bearded seal, and we are excited that Alaskans have this opportunity to see such a special animal.”

About the ASLC

Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education programs. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. To learn more, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

About the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab

Long Marine Laboratory is world renowned for innovative research in marine mammal physiology and ecology, marine invertebrate ecology, and marine toxicology. Researchers and staff at the lab have developed specially designed tanks and equipment that are used for studying marine mammal diving physiology, bioacoustics, and cognition. Long Marine Lab and other facilities are located at the UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus on a seaside bluff a short distance from the main campus. For more information about UC Santa Cruz, visit www.ucsc.edu.

 

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Give Thanks for Species Rescued From the Brink of Extinction
March 17, 2015

Accredited zoos and aquariums are saving more than 30 endangered species and the Alaska SeaLife Center Plays a Leading Role.

Seward, Alaska (November 17, 2014) – As American families prepare for the annual ritual of giving thanks, they can add to their list of things to be thankful for a rare victory in the battle against global climate change – more than 30 endangered species brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to America’s accredited zoos and aquariums. 

With climate change, population growth and deforestation, and poaching threatening species around the world, we are facing what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction.” 

But the 229 accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have built a unique infrastructure to save endangered species – breeding programs that coordinate across many institutions to ensure genetic diversity, systems so that animals can be safely moved between institutions, and partnerships with local, national, and international conservation organizations working on re-introducing these animals to their native ranges. 

Because of that infrastructure, there is good news in the face of the extinction crisis:  from the Florida manatee to the California condor, the Hawaiian crow to the Puerto Rican crested toad, the Chinese alligator to the American bison, zoos and aquariums have saved more than 30 species, and are working today on dozens more.

Over the next several months, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will be celebrating these successes, and inviting the public to support efforts to save even more species.  In November, in honor of Thanksgiving, AZA is spotlighting endangered birds, including:

·         All four species of eider sea ducks saw a decline in population from the 1970s to the 1990s, and two of the species are currently listed as threatened in the U.S.: thespectacled eider and the Alaska-breeding population of Steller’s eider.  For over thirteen years, the Eider Research Program at the Alaska SeaLife Center has conducted field, laboratory, and captive studies on Steller’s and spectacled eiders in Alaska.  Currently, the Alaska SeaLife Center houses captive breeding flocks of both spectacled and Steller’s eiders, making the organization the only facility in the world to house these species for research and conservation purposes.  The Steller’s eiders at the Alaska SeaLife Center serve as a unique reservoir flock of the threatened Steller’s eiders in Alaska, and the Center works in close partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop methods to recover the threatened eiders in Alaska.

·         Bali mynah have striking white plumage with black wing tips and bright blue coloration around the eyes. The species can approach 10 inches in height.  Bali mynahs are nearly extinct in the wild because poachers collect them for the illegal pet trade, where they are valued for their striking plumage and beautiful songs. Because of this poaching, Bali mynahs are found almost exclusively in zoos.   But much has been done to help the Bali mynah's wild population recover, including protection of their native breeding grounds.  In 1987, 40 Bali mynahs from US zoos were sent to the Surbaja Zoo in Indonesia to form a breeding group, with resulting offspring released into the wild. In 2009, Bali mynahs raised in managed care were introduced to a neighboring island, Nusa Penida, and seem to be doing well so far.

·         The largest bird in North America, the California condor once dominated the western skies, able to soar to 15,000 feet and travel up to 150 miles a day in pursuit of food.  With its keen vision, the condor hunts for carcasses of dead animals, and then swoops in to feast, serving as nature’s clean-up crew.  But destruction of habitat and poaching decimated the species, and by 1982, only 22 birds remained in the wild.  The San Diego Zoo Global, the Los Angeles Zoo and 16 other AZA institutions took the lead at captive propagation, working with a network of government and non-profit partners.  Beginning in the early 1990s, zoo-bred condors began being reintroduced into the wild.  From a low of 22, there are now more than 435 condors in the world, with almost 250 free-flying in the West.

·         Prior to the 1960s, there were probably around 10,000 Guam rails living on Guam, a South Pacific island. Sometime between 1944 and 1952, brown tree snakes arrived on Guam, most likely on cargo ships. The snakes’ population rapidly increased, because there was plentiful prey (such as the Guam rails) and no natural predators. The tree snakes wiped out the native animal populations, and by the 1970s, 9 of the 11 native bird species, including the Guam rail, had disappeared.  Trying to save the species, the last few birds were removed from the island in the 1980s. In 1989, reintroduction of these birds began on the island of Rota, near Guam, as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for the species.

·         The palila Hawaiian songbird is one of the endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper species and efforts to expand the palila population back to its historic range at Pu`u Mali have included experimental releases of captive-bred birds, as well as relocation of wild birds to protected areas. The palila was the first animal to have a federal circuit court case named after it, in a precedent setting case that increased protection for endangered species.  While several zoos are working to preserve the palila, they are not currently on exhibit to the public.

·         Known in Hawaii as Alala, the Hawaiian crow is the most endangered corvid in the world and is the only crow species found in Hawaii. The birds are extinct in the wild, and the remaining population is managed at zoos, where the chicks are fed and cared for by animal care staff they never see to ensure they do not imprint on humans.  The last `alalā were recorded in their natural habitat in 2002. Planning is underway to restore the `alalā to the Big Island of Hawaii beginning this year. 

·         The Waldrapp ibis, also known as the hermit ibis or the northern bald ibis, may not be viewed by some as the most attractive bird, but their strong character and bizarre appearance give them unique appeal. They look almost comical with their bald heads, long red beaks and crazy crest feathers going every which way. Their black feathers take on brilliant sheens of purple, green and orange when viewed in bright sunlight. With only about 420 wild Waldrapp ibis remaining, this is one of the world's most critically endangered avian species.  But thanks to a very successful breeding and release program, there are over 1,100 Waldrapp ibis in captivity, and offspring from zoos are being released back to the wild. 

For a list of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums where you can see some of these incredible birds in person, please visit the AZA website: http://www.aza.org/SpeciesBeingSaved.

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and six other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.

About the ASLC

Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education departments. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. To learn more, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

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Alaska SeaLife Center to Release Harbor Seal Pup in Seward: A Public Event
March 17, 2015

Seward, AK – September 16, 2014– The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is proud to announce the release of a female Pacific harbor seal pup on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.  We cordially invite the public and media to observe this exciting and memorable event.

What: Harbor Seal Release

When: Friday, September 19, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Public Access Boat Launch at Lowell Point Beach in Seward, AK 

If Lowell Point road is not accessible, please monitor our Facebook page for alternate location.

ASLC’s Wildlife Response Team rescued the pup, named “Gobi,” on July 3 after it was observed on the beach in front of Resurrection Bay Seafoods on Lowell Point Road in Seward.  Staff observed the area for 24 hours to determine if the mother would return.  At the time, the seal pup was a newborn and would not have survived on its own without Response Team aid.  After authorization for the rescue from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Gobi was brought into the Center where she received immediate veterinary care and treatment for wounds on her head and chin. 

Throughout the summer, Gobi learned to swim, hunt for fish, and socialize with other seals. After a final veterinary exam, the female pup met weight criteria and staff determined she was ready for release.

As President & CEO, Dr. Tara Riemer explains, “Our staff are feeling exceptionally rewarded to have rescued and rehabilitated a marine mammal found down the road from our facility, and to have our community be able to witness the release is very special.”

The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska, responding to wildlife such as seals, walrus, and sea otters. The Center’s Wildlife Response Program responds to harbor seals with the authorization of NOAA. Once a seal is admitted to the Center, it is closely monitored by the veterinary and animal care staff at ASLC.

Dr. Riemer describes the program funding, “We have no federal or state funding to care for marine mammals, and we rely on donations to keep this program going. We especially thank Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and BP Alaska for their generous contributions to the Center in support of wildlife rescue and oil spill response readiness.”

The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction, which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds,and encourages people whohave found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal.  Call first!  1-888-774-SEAL

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Alaska SeaLife Center Welcomes Sea Otter to I.Sea.U
March 17, 2015

Seward, AK – September 11, 2014– The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) transferred a female sea otter pup to its I.Sea.U this week.  Visitors to the Center can watch the activities of the otter and its care-givers through viewing windows near the Discovery Touch Pool.

The pup, now a healthy 10-pound, 2-month old female, was found stranded as a newborn in Port Moller, Alaska after being entangled in a fishing net.  The otter was brought to the Alaska SeaLife Center on July 12 where she immediately began receiving intensive, hands-on care. Sea otter pups must be fed every two hours and constantly groomed to keep their fur clean.  Due to the maternal care required by young otters, pups this age are deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 

Sea otters eat approximately 25-30% of their weight in food daily. The pup’s current diet consists mainly of sea otter formula and a small amount of solid food, such as clams, squid, and capelin.  As she grows older, solids are being slowly increased to incorporate a larger variety including shrimp and crab.

Halley Werner, Stranding Supervisor at the Center states, “The transition into I.Sea.U is the next step for this young otter to become more independent. This will allow her to care for herself, with continued around-the-clock support from our animal care team.” 

The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska, responding to wildlife such as sea otters and harbor seals. The Center’s Wildlife Response Program responds to sea otters with the authorization of USFWS. Once a sea otter is admitted to the Center, it is closely monitored by the veterinary and animal care staff at ASLC.

Alaska SeaLife Center President and CEO Tara Riemer explained, “We have no federal or state funding to care for sea otters, and we rely on donations to keep this program going. We especially thank Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and BP Alaska for their generous contributions to the Center in support of wildlife rescue and oil spill response readiness.”

The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction, which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds,and encourages people whohave found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal.  Call first!  1-888-774-SEAL

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There's a Pup on the Way!
March 16, 2015

We have a special announcement: Atty's pregnant!
The Alaska SeaLife Center's 10-year-old harbor seal Atuun, "Atty," is expecting her third pup! In this ultrasound video, you can see the fetus moving around, with the spine and heart coming in and out of view. The sex of the pup remains undetermined. Veterinary staff expect the new harbor seal to arrive in June of this year. Click here for a link to the ultrasound video.

Atty is the mother of Kordelia (born June 8, 2011) and Kobuk (born June 27, 2012). 

 

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The Alaska SeaLife Center is currently caring for a blind harbor seal
March 13, 2015

The Alaska SeaLife Center is currently caring for a blind harbor seal. Bryce was the last harbor seal pup rescue of 2014 after being found at Land's End in Homer, AK. Because of his blindness, Bryce has been deemed non-releasable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service. Veterinary staff believe he suffered head trauma that was the likely cause of his vision loss. While harbor seals are normally quite shy and skittish, staff have been pleasantly surprised by Bryce's spirit of adventure as he quickly explores pools, enrichment items, and other changes to his environment. Staff utilize Bryce's inquisitive nature and heightened reliance on sound when teaching him husbandry behaviors, such as hand-feeding and targeting. Since he cannot see, staff rattle a "shaker" in place of a target buoy. This allows Bryce to use audio cues rather than the customary visual cue. These behaviors help Bryce in adjusting to environmental changes and make veterinary exams easier.

Veterinary staff have noticed a slight improvement in his sight, however, only in one eye. His progress under human care is very encouraging, but we think Bryce's biggest accomplishment is the impressive ability to use his other senses and thrive in his environment. Bryce will stay at the Alaska SeaLife Center until a permanent home is determined.

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Alaska SeaLife Center Announces Birth of Male Steller Sea Lion Pup
March 6, 2015

Seward, AK – July 28, 2014– The Alaska SeaLife Center is pleased to announce the birth of a male Steller sea lion pup at 12:14 pm on July 20, 2014. Fourteen-year-old mother, Eden, and the pup are healthy and doing well. The pup’s father is 21-year-old Woody, the Center’s iconic male Steller sea lion.

Eden is a very attentive mother and the pup has been successfully nursing. The pup’s first weight came in at 37.7 pounds (17.1 kg). The pup is not expected to be available for public viewing for a few months. 

Eden and Woody are no strangers to the pup-parent spotlight.  They became parents last summer when Eden gave birth to a female pup on June 20, 2013. Eleanor (“Ellie”) marked the first Steller sea lion pup born in North American collections since the mid 1980s. At thirteen months old, Ellie now weighs 166 pounds (75.5 kg) and has learned to eat fish and follow basic commands from her trainers. 

Eden and her two pups are part of a study focused on maternal care by female Steller sea lions, as part of the Center’s research to better understand this endangered population. “The Steller sea lions at the Center play an important role in our understanding of wild sea lions. We are learning about hormone cycles, pregnancy detection, and pup care,” said Dr. Lori Polasek, ASLC Marine Mammal Scientist and University of Alaska Fairbanks Research Assistant Professor.  “This study has application for population recovery by determining pregnancy rates and pupping success in wild animals.”

The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction, which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

Research described is conducted under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit No. 18534.  Permit language may not be cropped from photos. 

 

 

 

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