Just as steelhead trout migrate from saltwater to freshwater and back, Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs)—first developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) for studies in the ocean—have been getting a lot of use in freshwater over the last five years.
This spring, MBARI’s ESP team installed an instrument to collect samples of “environmental DNA” from a coastal creek just north of Monterey Bay. Researchers will use these samples to track populations of threatened steelhead trout, endangered coho salmon, and invasive species in the creek.
In the process, they could help revolutionize environmental monitoring and fisheries management nationwide.
May 15 marks the 10th anniversary of Endangered Species Day. At the aquarium, we’ve worked every day for the past 30 years to save wildlife from extinction.
It’s the focus of many of our efforts – from our living exhibits, to the research we conduct here and in the wild, to our work to shape public policy in ways that protect ocean habitats and wildlife.
Seafood Watch, too, contributes to wildlife protection by giving individuals and businesses tools so they can choose seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that protect ocean ecosystems.
We’re not alone in our efforts. We’re part of a 229-member conservation organization – the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – whose members are making a difference for wildlife around the world.
Collective action for conservation
Today, we’re stepping up in an even bigger way through a new initiative called AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. We’re combining the collective power of our 180 million annual visitors with our resources and expertise to save animals from extinction.
For decades, we and our AZA colleagues have been conservation leaders so the world will preserve its incredible wildlife. At the aquarium, we’re actively working to understand and protect sea otters, sharks and bluefin tuna. We rescue and release wildlife including Western snowy plovers and stranded sea turtles. We’re working for the recovery of steelhead trout in California. And we raise corals that we share with other aquariums, to reduce the need to collect from the wild.
We’re the wildlife experts
Among conservation organizations, no one has more animals, scientists or access to the public than AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos. In addition to the visitors we reach, we have the largest group of life scientists working for species preservation. And we have the largest living wildlife collection – more than 75,000 animals representing over 6,000 species, including 1,000 endangered species.
Collectively, we spend $160 million each year on conservation projects and programs.
Through AZA SAFE, accredited aquariums and zoos will build on a legacy that began more than a century ago, when zoos brought the American bison back from the brink. In the future, we’ll do more. We’ll convene scientists and stakeholders globally to identify key factors threatening species, develop Conservation Action Plans and engage the public to help us make a difference. You can follow the latest developments via social media by using the hashtag #savingspecies.
A 10-year plan for saving species
In 2015, SAFE will focus on 10 endangered species, adding an additional 10 species each year for the next decade. The inaugural 10 species include several you can see in Monterey: African blackfooted penguins, sharks, Western pond turtles and sea turtles. Our next special exhibition, featuring marine life of Baja and the Gulf of California, is home to the critically endangered vaquita porpoise – another species that SAFE will work to recover.
How can you help? Every time you visit, you support our work to save animals from extinction. Our members are our partners in everything we do to assure a future with healthy oceans and abundant ocean wildlife.
When you stay in touch, as a member and through our social media accounts, we’ll let you know when you can take action to make a difference. And we’ll celebrate our progress – because, with your help, we are making progress!