The Alaska SeaLife Center might look like your average waterfront aquarium, but it’s so much more. The Seward-based facility executes ground-breaking research, provides public education, and serves as a wildlife response center saving animals in crisis. Visitors to the ASLC can see local Alaskan species up close including puffins, Steller sea lions, and giant Pacific octopus, while observing marine researchers and wildlife rehabilitation in action. Open year-round, the center welcomes visitors from across the globe, in addition to local school groups and families.
In the summer months, the center’s Wildlife Response Program peaks with activity, with staff hard at work responding to marine mammals in need all along Alaskan shores. The ASLC exists as the only certified stranded marine mammal response facility in the state of Alaska, rehabilitating animals including seals, sea otters, walrus, and beluga. The goal of the Wildlife Response Program is to release healthy animals back to the wild whenever possible, and the team is proud to be given that opportunity each year.
This sea otter pup was admitted into ASLC Wildlife Response Program from Kenai in summer of 2020. He is now eight months old and weighs about 22 pounds. He was rehabilitated and has been introduced to another sea otter patient, Juniper. Sea otter pups are one of the more common species that the team at ASLC responds to all along the coast of Alaska. Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center.
Research is a constant endeavor at the center with the intention to better understand Alaska’s diverse marine ecosystems. Researchers undertake unique projects, which include monitoring mussels in order to identify the effects of crude oil on the environment and studying ice seals to better interpret the consequences of warming climates in the Arctic. The center’s longest standing research project has been established for well over 20 years and monitors the population dynamics of the largest sea lion species in the world, the Steller sea lion.
Overall, the center offers visitors a personal look into the marine life of Alaska, while promoting the importance of research, education, and wildlife rehabilitation.
Dutch: Named after the harbor where she was found, this ringed seal was admitted into the Wildlife Response Program in 2017 from Dutch Harbor. Dutch was deemed non-releasable by government agencies, so she remained a permanent resident at the Center. She has been a valuable asset to a research project known as PHOCAS (Physiology and Health of Cooperating Arctic Seals). This is a joint study between the Alaska SeaLife Center and the Long Marine Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz to understand the impacts of warming climates on arctic species like ringed seals. Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center Giant Pacific octopus are the largest species of octopus in Alaskan waters. These animals will not live their entire life at the center. Once they are sexually mature, they are released back to the ocean, so they have a chance to mate and explore the bay. Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center