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Chambered nautilus hatchling at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

What's New

Exploring a Chamber of Secrets

As a child growing up in the Bay Area and visiting Monterey, Aquarist Ellen Umeda charted her hopes and dreams in a journal, including this entry: "When I grow up, I want to work at an aquarium."

Today, Ellen is doing just that, and breaking new ground raising one of the most challenging species housed at any aquarium: the chambered nautilus.

The Sunnyvale native and UC San Diego graduate is taking the lead in caring for our first-ever chambered nautilus hatchlings, and trying new approaches that could someday lead to a breakthrough in raising and breeding these beautiful, shelled cephalopods.

"I'm lucky to be working with an animal that's still quite a mystery," Ellen says. "There are so many unknowns."

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More What's New

Aquarium volunteer engaging with guests

Thanks a Million (4 Million, Actually)!

Our Volunteer Engagement program recently celebrated a major milestone. Collectively, more than 9,200 people have contributed more than 4 million hours as Aquarium volunteers since we opened our doors in 1984. That's the equivalent of more than 450 years!

Our wonderful volunteers can boast some other impressive statistics. In 2017, over 1,300 volunteers who ranged in age from 14 to 94 contributed over 160,000 hours of service—that's equal to the work by at least 80 full-time employees.

Volunteers served throughout the institution, in over 80 different activities. By far the largest group includes our volunteer guides—those helpful, smiling folks who engage with visitors of all ages from around the world.

Our volunteer divers comprise the next largest group. Last year they completed around 2,500 dives—mostly to clean exhibit windows from the inside! Rounding out the top three groups are the over 200 volunteers who work with our exhibit animals and help us care for injured wild sea otter adults and stranded pups.
Of course, the invaluable contributions from our amazing volunteers are so much more than numbers. Volunteers are part of the Aquarium's lifeblood, and we couldn't function without them. They bring so much each and every day to thousands of visitors—over 65 million total since opening day—and inspire our staff as much as they do our guests.
And each has at least one heartwarming story to share about a memorable moment with a visitor. For volunteer diver Andy Holiday, it was with a 9-year-old boy with autism whose simple request to meet a diver turned into a personal encounter that touched Andy's heart deeply.
"Volunteering here at the Aquarium has always been a pleasure and a joy," Andy says. "Then there are those days that the pleasure and joy go over the top."

Are you curious about what’s involved in volunteering at the Aquarium?

We invite you to attend information and interview sessions on February 3, 8 or 24 in our Auditorium.

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Whale shark

Mapping Whale Shark Highways

Marine biologists at the Aquarium and elsewhere have learned a lot about animal migrations by attaching tracking tags to sharks, sea turtles, tunas and even seabirds. But these tracking devices don't tell you why the animals go where they do.

In a recent study, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) Biological Oceanographer John Ryan helped marine biologists and conservationists figure out why whale sharks follow certain routes across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Whale sharks are the largest fish on Earth, growing up to 60 feet (18 meters) long. Despite their enormous size, they feed mostly on tiny drifting animals like copepods and, occasionally, small fishes like anchovies. To satisfy their immense appetites, whale sharks travel long distances to find dense swarms of prey.

A few years ago, scientists with the Galapagos Whale Shark Project attached satellite tracking tags to 27 whale sharks just north of the Galapagos Islands. The tagged sharks spent the next few months traveling east and west across a 2,500 mile (4,000-kilometers) expanse of ocean.
After comparing the whale shark tracks with satellite data showing sea surface temperatures, John was amazed. "The whale sharks could have ranged anywhere in the eastern tropical Pacific," he says, "but they were primarily following frontal boundaries between warm and cold water."
The whale sharks spent most of their time swimming along the northern Pacific equatorial upwelling front, a transition zone between warm water north of the equator and colder water to the south. When the front moved north and south in huge sinuous meanders, the whale sharks followed them like semi-trucks negotiating a winding mountain road.
In 2016, whale sharks were declared an endangered species, threatened by shark finning, entanglement in fishing gear and boat collisions. Scientists still don't know how many whale sharks live in different parts of the ocean. By showing that they follow ocean fronts, John's research will help marine biologists estimate how many of these gentle giants are cruising along the ocean's whale shark highways.