The aquarium, which closed March 12, and reopened briefly in July, will open with new pathways and new procedures to keep guests and staff safe and healthy. Guest capacity will be limited, so advanced reservations are required for all guests, including members.
"We are confident that we have created a safe and healthy environment for our guests as well as our staff and we look forward to reopening Birch Aquarium and welcoming back our members and guests," said Executive Director Harry Helling.
In addition to requiring face coverings for all staff and guests ages 2 and up, Birch Aquarium has implemented safety screenings for guests; created a one-way pathway to encourage social distancing; increased the number of hand washing and sanitizing stations; and upgraded its HVAC system. As an added safety measure, Birch Aquarium staff will also be completing daily symptom screenings, as well as frequent COVID-19 testing.
Birch Aquarium is home to more than 6,000 ocean animals. Guests are encouraged to greet some of their favorites like the Weedy Seadragons and rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle. They can also discover new species like the Ornate Boxfish, a unique fish that made a splash on social media during the temporary closure.
During this initial reopening phase, activities where large numbers of people typically gather, such as dive shows and feedings, have been cancelled. High-touch exhibit elements such as the water tables, playground and touch screens have also been removed, though many exhibits have newly-integrated QR codes to allow guests to engage in new ways from the safety of their cell phones.
In October, Birch Aquarium is planning to launch an outdoor Halloween-themed celebration that will continue even if the indoor areas of the aquarium have to close to meet state and local COVID-19 guidelines.
"With the Halloween celebration, we are working to create a fun and engaging seasonal 'outdoor aquarium' experience that will allow us to serve our community, even if our indoor spaces have to close," said Helling. "Continuing to offer the aquarium as a resource to the community is our goal." Details of the Halloween celebration will be announced soon.
During the temporary closure, the aquarium began offering a series of virtual programs including virtual summer camps, which were so successful that the aquarium is now launching a suite of new virtual education programs. Virtual Youth and School Group Programs will be available now to groups of students, including schools, homeschool groups, after school programs, and scout groups. A Virtual After School Series will be offered in the fall, winter, and spring to individuals in kindergarten through grade 8. Registration for the after school fall series begins September 14.
More details on Birch Aquarium's reopening, including important information for guests planning their next visit, can be found on the FAQ page. To help support the aquarium on its mission to connect understanding to protecting our ocean planet, visit the Giving page.
About Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features the groundbreaking work of Scripps Oceanography and UC San Diego scientists as well as conservation breeding programs, and interactive exhibits. Birch Aquarium's mission is to connect understanding to protecting our ocean planet, which the aquarium achieves by engaging, hands-on learning opportunities for nearly 500,000 guests as well as more than 50,000 pre-K-12 students each year.