Birch Aquarium at Scripps Names Interim Executive Director


Steven Schindler has been selected as interim executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He joined the aquarium on June 18, 2014.

Schindler served until recently as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the National Aquarium, where he combined a deep passion in conservation with his expertise in brand building and marketing. As a member of National Aquarium’s executive leadership team, Schindler helped strengthen the institution’s mission by transforming marketing’s role and by working cross-departmentally to raise National's reputation, improve programming and guest satisfaction, and increase revenues year-over-year. During his tenure, his team launched two major new exhibits, heightened the institution’s brand and revamped its communications programs. Schindler participates at the national level with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and brings extensive experience in organizational development, communications, membership, community relations, and fundraising to Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

His appointment was announced by Margaret Leinen, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor for marine sciences at UC San Diego.

“Birch Aquarium serves the vital role as the public outreach center for Scripps Oceanography with education, interpreting Scripps’ science, and conservation at the core of its mission,” said Leinen.  “I’m extremely pleased to have Steve, an outstanding aquarium professional, take the helm as we plan our next chapter of engaging visitors to use critical thinking and to make science relevant to their daily lives.”

“It is an honor to help broaden the reach of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s science and a privilege to lead Birch Aquarium in its mission of science education and ocean conservation,” said Schindler. He added, “As a native San Diegan, joining Birch Aquarium to help design plans and strategies to even more deeply engage with the public, on-site and virtually, is a dream come true.”

Schindler’s appointment is expected to last one year while the search for a permanent aquarium director is under way. He replaces Dr. Nigella Hillgarth, who served as Birch Aquarium at Scripps executive director for nearly 12 years and was recently named president and CEO of the New England Aquarium in Boston.



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