ALL ISSUES     |     SPRING 2019
Southern sea otter at the Monterey Bay Aquarium


Explore Sea Otter History in Google Voyager

The recovery of the southern sea otter is an amazing and compelling story. Thanks to the incredible and interactive Google Voyager platform, this story now comes to life in multimedia detail—and includes the Aquarium's decades of devotion to understanding and helping this threatened species recover.

"The Return of the Sea Otter" begins in Moss Landing, the heart of the southern sea otters' current range. The story then travels to the lush kelp forests off Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the sea otter exhibit at the Aquarium and locations where our Sea Otter Program releases rescued otters back into the wild.

The story then goes back in time to the 1800s, when it was thought that fur traders had hunted southern sea otters to extinction. Remarkably, a raft of about 50 survivors was discovered in the early 1900s. The multimedia experience continues with conservation efforts to protect the species and rebuild its population, including the Aquarium's rescue and care of stranded sea otter pups and injured adults, and our ongoing scientific study of this iconic species.
"The Return of the Sea Otter" also shares how sea otters help restore ecosystems into which the animals are introduced, based on research documenting how otters we've released in Elkhorn Slough have helped transform that critical coastal habitat. It then maps the otters' historical range in waters we hope they'll again occupy in the future.
"Through videos, photos and text, this Google Voyager story is a great way to follow the sea otters' plight through time and space," says Michelle Staedler, our Sea Otter Program manager. "I found myself wondering, where will the next section take me as we whisked virtually over the Earth from point to point; what exciting new fact would be revealed? Google Voyager connects education, technology and conservation to tell this story in a unique way."
Each page links to more information on the Aquarium's website, in posts on our Future of the Ocean blog or to media articles about our sea otter conservation efforts. You can dive into the entire Google Voyager story from your computer or smartphone.
Google Voyager is an exploration tool on the Google Earth platform. It's part of the tech giant's effort to enhance that vivid platform with rich storytelling about the natural world.

More What's New

African penguin Bixby at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Penguin Playground

Have you see Bixby yet? The newest addition to our African penguin colony rejoined the rest of her feathered friends on exhibit in Splash Zone in the fall.

You can identify Bixby by her sleek, silver-gray juvenile plumage. In about six months, she'll molt into the black-and-white plumage of an adult penguin. According to Aviculturist Kim Fukuda, Bixby loves swimming in her new home, especially with fellow penguin chicks Monty and Poppy.

Bixby hatched at the Aquarium in July. Visitors could see her on exhibit for about a month, under the attentive care of foster parents Walvis and Boulders, before we moved her behind the scenes to gain weight, molt into her juvenile plumage and learn swimming skills.

Bixby is one of three penguin chicks to hatch at the Aquarium in 2018, and the 12th chick to hatch here overall. Besides Bixby, five of the hatchlings remain as part of our penguin colony: Rey, who hatched in June 2014; Amigo, who hatched in August 2016; and Monty and Poppy, who both hatched in January 2018.
Two other birds, Pebble and Tola (both males) joined the colony at Dallas World Aquarium, and a female, Maq, is now at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
We might eventually transfer Bixby to another accredited zoo or aquarium as part the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this endangered species. All of our birds are part of the SSP for threatened African penguins. The program, managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), maintains the genetic health of more than 800 African penguins throughout the 50 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.
The African penguin is also part of the AZA SAFE program: Saving Animals from Extinction. AZA SAFE is a collaborative campaign among the accredited members of AZA to combine resources and expertise to save animals from extinction.

Virtual reality goggles

Education Initiatives

We're excited to open our new Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership in a few months. We'll welcome teachers and teens this summer, followed by students of all ages in the fall.

The Bechtel Center is our most ambitious undertaking since opening the Aquarium. Thanks to your generous donations to build the Bechtel Center and, recently, fund new and expanded education programs, we're poised to deliver the most robust suite of youth and teacher development programs of any aquarium in the nation.

With the opening of the Bechtel Center, technology will play an increasingly important role in complementing the inspirational power of the Aquarium's live-animal experiences. A major part of our digital learning program involves putting technology in the hands of students from underserved communities.
"We can't solve ocean conservation problems through individual action alone. We need to be able to scale," says Katy Scott, digital learning manager. "One way we do that is through engineering and technology. It enables us to broaden our impact."
For example, Katy plans to incorporate virtual reality goggles into some lessons to offer experiences that complement, but don't replace, opportunities to connect with living ocean animals.
Technology can advance ocean education and conservation in other ways. Katy envisions using apps to turn beach cleanups into actionable research projects, and using computer programming so students can create virtual, interactive habitats.
Our staff looks forward to incorporating more technology in new ocean science curriculum—and we were thrilled recently to receive a grant from the Quest Foundation to help us do that. Like us, the Quest Foundation has a mission to support youth education, and we're thankful for their generosity.