Aquarium’s 30th Year ‘On The Hill’ Celebrates Record Attendance, Scholarships & AZA Award

As Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego’s 30th year “on the hill” comes to a close, the aquarium has much to celebrate, including its all-time attendance record as well as a historic number of scholarships!

Birch Aquarium on a hill

Major Milestones

The aquarium also just received the Quarter Century Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), marking 25 years of continuous accreditation.

Birch Aquarium closed out its fiscal year on June 30, 2023 with 523,703 guests, surpassing the previous record of 496,651 from 2019.

“This is such an exciting time in the history of Birch Aquarium,” said Executive Director Harry Helling. “To have come back from the pandemic stronger than ever before is a testament not only to the hard work and dedication of our staff and volunteers, but also to the strong support from our community.”

Birch Aquarium 30th anniversary

The fiscal year started in July with the opening of Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins — the biggest aquarium addition to the aquarium in 30 years — enticing audiences from all over the country to see the world’s smallest penguins in person.

In January, Oceans at Night — a monthly event that has been wowing a 21+ audience with ocean phenomenon that take place after dark — was launched followed by the birth of more than 70 Weedy Seadragons in March, and the return to near pre-pandemic numbers for school groups and venue rentals.

Birch Aquarium 30th anniversary

The aquarium also offered two additional months of seasonal summer hours, staying open late from Memorial Day through Labor Day for the first time ever, and added new behind-the-scenes tours and feedings to its daily schedule of offerings.

Recognition of Excellence

Just in time for their September 16 anniversary, Birch Aquarium received the AZA Quarter Century Award, recognizing the aquarium’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards in animal care, welfare, management, veterinary care, conservation, education, staffing, facilities, safety, guest services, and more.

The award acknowledges the aquarium’s continuous dedication to the best modern zoological practices and philosophies — the hallmarks of AZA accreditation, which Birch Aquarium  has held since 1998.

Birch Aquarium welcomed  41,000 Pre-K-12 students and distributed more than $375,000 in scholarships during the 22/23 school year, an all-time record!

History on the Hill

A public aquarium has been part of Scripps Institution of Oceanography since the very beginning, starting in 1905 with the Little Green Laboratory at La Jolla Cove.

Birch Aquarium 30th year

Though there were several iterations of aquariums at Scripps, the opening of Birch Aquarium on September 16, 1992 in its current location “on the hill”  took the aquarium to the next level, expanding the institution’s public outreach arm.

Congratulations, Birch Aquarium!

Reflecting on Birch Aquarium’s monumental 30th year “on the hill,” the myriad achievements and the prestigious AZA Quarter Century Award highlight its unwavering dedication to marine education and conservation.

Congratulations to the entire team for such an exemplary year and for continuing a legacy that spans over a century.

To learn more about Birch Aquarium, visit here.

See you there, San Diego!

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