60 Years of Solutions Through Science

Marine research inspired by SeaWorld
1963

Marine research inspired by SeaWorld

Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) was founded as the Mission Bay Research Foundation by the four creators of SeaWorld before the first park opened in San Diego, California. Our non-profit research institute was formed to conduct research on SeaWorld’s zoological collection for the benefit and conservation of free-ranging animals. Over the years, HSWRI’s research has improved the understanding and conservation of millions of marine mammals, turtles, fish, and birds. Read more
First tagging of albacore and blue fin tuna
1964

First tagging of albacore and blue fin tuna

Working with the California Department of Fish & Game, HSWRI’s first research project was tagging albacore and bluefin tuna along the California coast. This 10-year research was the first time in the world these fish had been tagged for tracking. The information gained from this research informed subsequent discussions on dolphin entanglement in tuna fishing nets.

Preventing dolphin entanglements in tuna nets
1969

Preventing dolphin entanglements in tuna nets

Tagged and tracked dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to discover any migration patterns to prevent inadvertent dolphin entanglements. This key research informed the dolphin-free tuna standards created in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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DDT’s effect on birds
1975

DDT’s effect on birds

Documented the near extinction of the California brown pelican, tying egg damage to DDT during the  1960s and 1970s.
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First recording of bowhead whale songs
1977

First recording of bowhead whale songs

First recording of bowhead whales’ vocalizations during whale survey in Alaska.
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Surveys of Florida manatees and dolphins
1977

Surveys of Florida manatees and dolphins

Counted via aerial surveys then current populations of bottle-nose dolphins and manatees in eastern Florida’s Indian and Banana Rivers, part of the Indian River Lagoon system. The surveys found about 150 manatees and 500 dolphins, not 5,000 dolphins as some researchers claimed. These counts provide a baseline for subsequent population surveys as we track the impact of the environmental degradation of the Indian River Lagoon over the decades on marine life.
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Elephant seal recovery
1979

Elephant seal recovery

Tracked the population growth of elephant seals in the California Channel Islands based on population surveys from 1958 to 1978, establishing a baseline to measure climate impacts on this sentinel species.
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First recording of killer whale calls in Antarctica
1980

First recording of killer whale calls in Antarctica

Recorded for the first time killer whale calls in the Antarctic at McMurdo Station.
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California’s Mono Lake
1981

California’s Mono Lake

Analyzed bird populations on Mono Lake, California from 1981 to 2003 to study the impact of the Owens River water diversion and restoration on this key migration rest stop.
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Effects of El Niño on California sea lions
1983

Effects of El Niño on California sea lions

Tracked the severe decline and slow recovery of California sea lions after the strongest El Niño event of the century, perhaps the worst in recorded history, drenched the California coast.
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First analysis of killer whale calls in Iceland and Norway
1984

First analysis of killer whale calls in Iceland and Norway

Analyzed killer whale calls from Iceland and Norway, determining for the first time there are distinctive dialects for different pods.
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Beluga whale response to oil drilling
1985

Beluga whale response to oil drilling

Measured the negative impact of oil drilling noise on beluga whales at SeaWorld and then in the wild.
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Saved sea otters after Exxon Valdez oil spill
1989

Saved sea otters after Exxon Valdez oil spill

Joined group of responders to save sea otters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
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Discovery of the double migration of elephant seals
1991

Discovery of the double migration of elephant seals

Discovered that adult northern elephant seals on California’s Channel Islands go to sea twice and travel up to 21,000 km per year, at that time the longest migration ever recorded for a mammal.
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First satellite tag on a whale shark
1994

First satellite tag on a whale shark

First use of satellite-linked radio telemetry to document the geographic and vertical movements of whale sharks as they migrated from Gulf of California to the north Pacific Ocean.
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Expanded white seabass replenishment
1995

Expanded white seabass replenishment

Opened white seabass hatchery in Carlsbad, CA to expand our replenishment program. HSWRI released the first tagged white seabass into San Diego Bay in 1986. We have tagged and released over 2,500,000 juvenile white seabass to date.
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Rescue and release of gray whale calf
1997

Rescue and release of gray whale calf

Assisted SeaWorld San Diego in the study and successful release of a California gray whale calf named “JJ” who captivated the public.
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Pacific sea turtle recovery plans
1998

Pacific sea turtle recovery plans

Team Leader of the Pacific Sea Turtle Recovery Team. Professional biologists drafted recovery plans for all six species of endangered Pacific sea turtles to address the decline of these ancient species.
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Health assessment of Antarctic seals
2000

Health assessment of Antarctic seals

Participated in an Antarctic Pack Ice Seal research cruise with 29 other scientists to study how changes in the environment cause fluctuations in the abundance, growth patterns, life histories, and behavior of Antarctic animals. HSWRI staff focused on the four species of Antarctic pack ice seals (crabeater, leopard, Weddell, and Ross seals), which are at least half of world’s seals, making the first health assessments of all four species at the same time in the same location.
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Marine mammal stranding response
2002

Marine mammal stranding response

Member of the NOAA-sponsored US stranding response team since its formation in 2002, providing emergency stranding response for 40% of Florida’s east coast. This portion of Florida includes Brevard County, a stranding “hot-spot” with more than twice the number of strandings than any other Florida county.
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