From its infancy more than 100 years ago, world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has dedicated itself to maintaining a public aquarium-museum that brings people and the ocean together. This September, Birch Aquarium at Scripps celebrates its first 15 years at its current location along Expedition Way in La Jolla.
Atop a picturesque bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and world-renowned Scripps Oceanography campus, Birch Aquarium at Scripps has hosted nearly 5 million visitors from across the United States and around the world since opening on Sept. 16, 1992. Visitors have included U.S. presidents and other high-ranking government officials, royalty and Hollywood superstars. The aquarium remains one of San Diego's top cultural destinations, attracting more than 400,000 visitors in fiscal year 2007.
The $14 million facility was named in honor of the Delaware-based Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that granted $6 million for the aquarium's redesign. The new facility is three times larger than its predecessor and became a testament to the breadth of Scripps research explorations and the institution's commitment to sharing ocean and earth science discoveries with the public.
Today, visitors can explore more than 60 marine tanks-up from 36 on opening day-teeming with fishes, corals and invertebrates from the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest to the warm currents of the tropical seas. A showcase 70,000-gallon tank houses a forest of gently swaying kelp, treating visitors to a startling view of a complex marine community that flourishes off the San Diego coast.
Outdoor tide pools with postcard views of the Pacific Ocean introduce visitors to diverse marine life that call the rocky shores home. The aquarium's 13,000-gallon shark reef exhibit brings guests up close with shark species that inhabit tropical reef habitats. In total, the aquarium cares for more than 5,000 animals representing 380 species.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps has committed to regularly opening new, timely and interactive exhibits in its oceanographic museum. Exhibits have explored exotic seahorses, sounds of the sea, earthquakes, marine genomes, water currents and sea creature survival techniques. This May, the aquarium unveiled "Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge," an exhibit that delves into the science of global warming and Scripps' half-century of groundbreaking climate research.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which ensures that rigorous standards are upheld onsite for animal care, education, wildlife and conservation in exhibits and programs. AZA has twice awarded Birch Aquarium at Scripps for excellence in conservation: in 1999 for breeding the Pacific seahorse, and in 2004 to recognize excellence in aquatic conservation exhibitry for "Secrets of the Seahorse."
Outreach continues to be a critical part of the aquarium's mission. Education programs have expanded to reach more than 70,000 local students each year, many in schools and after-school programs that cannot afford field trips. Birch Aquarium comes to them in its Planet Earth Express van, delivering tide-pool animals and marine science education. This fall, a new outreach van will add to Birch Aquarium's program, enhancing the potential to reach more students.
In addition, the aquarium's monthly Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series offers a glimpse into the cutting edge research of Scripps scientists around the world. Birch Aquarium's exciting field programs also take visitors on dozens of adventures. Participants have snorkeled with sharks and kayaked in La Jolla Shores, explored the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier by moonlight and watched the mysterious silvery grunion spawn along San Diego beaches.
As Birch Aquarium at Scripps moves into the next 15 years, it will continue to help further visitors' understanding and appreciation of the oceans while communicating the critical research of Scripps Oceanography scientists. Plans are in the works for new interactive exhibits that delve into the ocean's treasures as well as onsite and field activities for the public that combine education and entertainment.
Since opening day, Birch Aquarium at Scripps has expertly balanced its dual roles as the public exploration center for Scripps Oceanography and a San Diego attraction. The aquarium's dedicated staff and volunteers take both of these tasks to heart, working hard to ensure the facility maintains the personal touch that keeps its visitors returning again and again, year after year.
Tide Pool Plaza
Visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps:
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, Calif.
9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
$11 Adult, 18+
$9 Senior, 60+
$7.50 Youth, 3-17
Free Children, 2 and under
Free Scripps Oceanographic Society Members
From Interstate 5, exit at La Jolla Village Drive. West one mile. Left on Expedition Way.
Birch Aquarium's parking lot offers three-hour courtesy parking.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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