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Birch Aquarium

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 fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and the Caribbean. An oceanographic museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps scientists on climate, earth and ocean science and includes five dozen interactive elements.

Birch Aquarium is always a good place to visit for sea life lovers and enthusiasts, both young and old. As the home habitat for many different sea animal and plant dwellers, the aquarium offers a glimpse into life under the sea that many people have no idea exists.

The aquarium was established in 1903 after the Marine Biological Association of San Diego was created to conduct marine research in the local waters of the Pacific Ocean. (Its name was later changed to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to honor supporters Ellen Browning Scripps and E.W. Scripps, part of the Scripps family of newspaper pioneers.) The founders built and maintained a small public aquarium and museum to communicate their discoveries to the world.

The researchers outgrew their modest laboratory in the boathouse of the Hotel del Coronado and moved to a small laboratory at La Jolla Cove in 1905. Several years later, the association purchased 174 acres (0.70 km2) at La Jolla Shores for $1,000 at a public auction from the city of San Diego. The first permanent building at the new site was constructed in 1910. Today, this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1915, the first building devoted solely to an aquarium was built on the Scripps campus. The small, wooden structure contained 19 tanks ranging in size from 96 to 228 gallons. The oceanographic museum was located in a nearby building. The institution's name changed to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1925 to recognize the growing faculty's widened range of studies.

The Scripps Aquarium-Museum opened in 1951 and named to honor former institution director T. Wayland Vaughan. The three-story facility served the institution for more than 40 years. A ring of 18 tanks, the largest at 2,000 gallons, surrounded a central museum of glass exhibit cases displaying Scripps research projects. Within a month of its opening, visitors from all 48 states had signed the guest book.

In 1985, Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation kicked off a fund-raising effort for a new aquarium by donating $6 million. JCJ Architecture of San Diego was selected as the design architect and in 1992, the current $14 million Birch Aquarium at Scripps opened its doors. UC San Diego donated the land.

Hall of Fishes, featuring more than 60 tanks of Pacific fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and the Caribbean. The largest habitat is a 70,000-gallon kelp forest tank. The tank can be viewed live online through the Kelp Cam.

The shark exhibit at the aquarium is always one that draws fascination and awe from its visitors, as it is a 13,000-gallon tank, a home for more than 10 different species of sharks, including the leopard shark, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, and the angel shark. Interpretive panels on shark biology and conservation accompany the reef.

Tide Pool Plaza, featuring three living tide pools where visitors can touch and learn about tide-pool animals with docents. Windows in the habitats provide up-close views of starfish, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, lobsters, and other animals local to San Diego's tide pools. The tide pool overlooks La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean.

Coral Reef, featuring live coral and reef inhabitants such as lionfish, chambered nautilus, and giant clams. The gallery has interactive displays on the latest Scripps research on coral reefs around the world. The staff creates live corals for aquarium displays without harming natural coral reefs.

There's Something About Seahorses, featuring more than a dozen seahorse species and their relatives, a special seahorse nursery, and hands-on activities for all ages about seahorse biology. Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a world leader in seahorse propagation, reducing the need for other zoos and aquariums to collect from the wild.

Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge presents the science of global warming and highlights Scripps Institution of Oceanography's half-century of research on climate change. Through interactive activities, the exhibit shows visitors current environmental changes and those projected for the future. It also presents the latest ideas for reducing carbon emissions. In Fall 2007, the exhibit was named the Silver winner in museum design for the 2007 Event Design Awards. Sponsored by Connecticut-based Event Design Magazine, the annual awards recognize the best designs worldwide across events, exhibits and environments.

Boundless Energy is an outdoor playground that celebrates the innovative ways we can use natural forces to power our lives. Interactive stations explore ways to harness renewable energy from the sun, the wind, and ocean motion. Visitors can expend their own "boundless energy" at a play area for kids in which stationary bikes, hand cranks, and a seesaw powers a whimsical water sculpture.

In addition to the many animal habitat exhibits at Birch's , the aquarium also hosts special programs throughout the year that include family days and public programs, such as whale watching and kayaking, as well as a 3 minute simulator adventure ride.

Fun is sure to be had by all at the aquarium because there is so much to do and see, and whether you spend the whole day touring the aquarium's different attractions or admiring the multitude of coral that the aquarium grows, Birch's Aquarium is a full of adventures and good times. The aquarium is open year round, with the exception of major holidays, from 9am to 5pm daily.