Deborah Zmarzly Named Interim Director at Birch Aquarium at Scripps


Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has named Scripps alumna Deborah Zmarzly, Ph.D., as interim director. Zmarzly has been with Birch Aquarium since 1993, devoting more than 20 years to making science accessible and interpreting Scripps research for the public.

Zmarzly will serve in this position while Scripps conducts a nationwide search for a permanent executive director to replace Nigella Hillgarth, who departed this past summer to lead the New England Aquarium in Boston.

"Scripps Institution of Oceanography is proud to have one of its alumna lead Birch Aquarium at Scripps as the institution’s key public exploration center,” said Margaret Leinen, director of Scripps and vice chancellor for marine sciences at UC San Diego. “Debbie's training at Scripps and her critical experience at the aquarium give us a uniquely qualified leader as we continue to search for a permanent executive director.”

As project scientist and exhibit curator, Zmarzly has developed content for a variety of projects, ranging from the biology of coral reefs, sharks, seahorses, and whales, to El Niño, Earth’s climate history, and earthquakes. She was most recently named the aquarium’s director of programming, tasked with setting and accomplishing strategic goals for the aquarium’s educational programming, including exhibits, school programs, volunteer services, and public programs.

Before joining Birch Aquarium, Zmarzly was a staff scientist in the City of San Diego’s Ocean Monitoring Program, where she was part of a team that studied the impact of wastewater discharge on nearshore marine habitats.

Born in Cleveland, OH, Zmarzly received a bachelor’s degree in environmental zoology in 1977 from Ohio University, Athens. In 1985, she received her Ph.D. in oceanography from Scripps Oceanography.

In addition to her work at Birch Aquarium, Zmarzly has served as a lecturer at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, San Diego State University, the University of San Diego, and Palomar College.

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