Birch Aquarium at Scripps Earns Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums


Scripps Institution of Oceanography/University of California, San Diego

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has earned accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for a third consecutive five-year cycle. The accreditation process includes a detailed application and meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. Since 1998, Birch Aquarium at Scripps has been accredited by AZA, which requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to remain members of the association. 

“Only zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “The community should take great pride in knowing that Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a proven leader in the care and conservation of wildlife, and in inspiring people to take action to protect the natural world.”

In addition to the application and inspection, the accreditation process included interviews of top aquarium officials at a formal commission hearing. In a report presented to Birch Aquarium leadership in February summarizing its findings, the committee noted areas of particular achievement, such as the aquarium’s “exceptionally diverse” animal collection, which they noted is “in excellent condition” and well matched to the aquarium’s mission and purpose. The committee was also impressed by the aquarium’s continued ability to interpret complex Scripps Oceanography science into understandable and relatable content for the general public.

“I was particularly pleased to learn the accreditation committee felt our outstanding exhibit, Feeling The Heat: The Climate Challenge, (as well as the many other exhibits at Birch Aquarium about Scripps Oceanography research) interprets scientific information in a way that is clear and informative to the public,” said Birch Aquarium’s Executive Director Nigella Hillgarth. “Presenting Scripps research to the public is a key component of our mission and an area in which we take great pride.”

Hillgarth, who will be leaving UC San Diego in late May to be the president and chief executive officer of the New England Aquarium in Boston, said she congratulates Birch Aquarium’s “dedicated staff for continuing to meet and exceed AZA’s rigorous standards of excellence.”

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.  The mission of the AZA Accreditation Commission is to establish, uphold, and raise the highest zoological and aquarium industry standards through self-evaluation, on-site inspection, and peer review.

About Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fish and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and the western Pacific. An interactive museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps scientists on climate, earth, and ocean science and features five-dozen interactive elements. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Birch Aquarium has an annual attendance of more than 430,000, including 40,000 school children.

Location: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, Calif.
Phone: 858-534-3474

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