Western Washington University (WWU) acquired the Sea Discovery Center (SEA) from the City of Poulsbo in 2016. Despite deferred maintenance and cosmetic needs, the university recognized the importance of community connection framed within marine conservation. Although Covid-related financial impacts forced us to temporarily close the facility, we also see this as an opportunity to focus on infrastructure and cosmetic needs in the absence of animal-related or visitor presence.
During the closure period, SEA has three main goals, and need your support to help make them a reality:
1. Enhance exhibit educational quality to connect more visitors to the importance of marine life and their habitats;
2. Improve water quality and animal care; and
3. Showcase climate change mitigation strategies by upgrading to an energy efficient operation system.
These changes will be communicated to all visitors – students and the general public, through informal education from our volunteer interpreters to share our commitment to marine conservation and sustainable energy practices. We believe that education changes everything, and we aim to use funds raised to provide more effective hands-on STEM education to our 30K+ annual visitors by aiding in much needed facility upgrades. In addition, upgrades will help better support broader collaborations with our WWU academic programming that will provide internships, educational displays, and opportunities for citizen science within our community.
In order to meet our goals, we require several critical upgrades to our failing aquarium systems that support exhibits which model priority habitats such as riparian, wetlands and Puget Sound Nearshore environments. In addition to paint and flooring updates in the aquarium, we need to replace worn out pumps, which regularly fail every 6 months or so and threaten animal life. These failures happen unexpectedly and often after hours or on weekends. We also need to improve water quality with the use of sterilization and protein skimmers. We currently draw in raw, unfiltered sea water from Liberty Bay every week for a water change. This complex process helps with water quality, but does take ~8 hours of people time and does not solve all of our issues. Equipment failures have led to less than optimal outcomes for some animals; we need better equipment to prevent this loss of life. Improved digital signage will help educate visitors about PNW marine life and create an interactive and engaging visitor experience for the public who visit our aquarium. We are seeking support for pumps, UV sanitizers, protein skimmers and associated items for installation, and small tablets for digital signage.
Your donation will have broad educational impact on the Poulsbo and Kitsap communities and beyond. SEA's 30K+ annual visitors will leave with more knowledge on how human activities can both positively and negatively impact climate change, local marine animals and their habitats. Connecting our actions to outcomes through a hands-on immersive experience at the aquarium will translate to greater public awareness about, and action to mitigate climate change, as well as provide both youth and adult visitors the knowledge, tips and tools they need to help support conservation efforts in their local communities.