Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography is located on the University of California campus in San Diego. The facility is a public exploration center and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. First located at the Hotel del Coronado, the aquarium was founded in 1903, and named for Ellen Browning Scripps and E.W. Scripps of the pioneering newspaper family.

In 1905, the facility was moved to a small laboratory located at the La Jolla Cove. Years later, the association purchased an additional 174 acres at La Jolla Shores and the first permanent structure was built in 1910. The first building devoted solely to an aquarium was built on the Scripps Campus in 1915. An oceanography museum was located inside a nearby structure and the facility contained 19 aquariums, ranging in size from 96 to 228 gallons.

The Scripps Aquarium and Museum first opened its doors to the public in 1951, and within a month of opening, boasted a guest book signed by visitors from 48 states. For more than 40 years, the 3-story structure served as headquarters for the institution; however, in 1985 the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation held a fund-raising event and raised $6 million for the construction of a new aquarium. Designed by the firm of JCJ Architecture on land donated by UC San Diego, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps opened its doors in 1992.

With annual visits totaling around 400,000, and some 77,000 school children, the aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in California. Sitting on a hilltop with spectacular views of San Diego, the Birch Aquarium features some 5,000 animals representing approximately 380 species. With 64,157 square feet designed around a central lobby, the aquarium features individual entrances to exhibit areas. Display tanks contain 175,000 gallons of seawater displays, with some of the most diverse aquatic wildlife found anywhere.

Some of the more popular exhibits include the Hall of Fishes, which has more than 60 tanks featuring of Pacific fishes and invertebrates from the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest, and the warm waters of Mexico and the Caribbean. The Shark Reef is a 13,000-gallon tank which is home to sharks that inhabit coral reefs, such species found are blacktip reef sharks, brownbanded bamboo sharks and wobbegongs. The Tide Pool Plaza is a touch-tank that showcases three living tide pools. The Tide Pool features windows which provide close-up views of star fish, hermit crabs, lobsters and other animals native to San Diego tide pools.

The Birch Aquarium brings the ocean indoors and welcomes guests to experience life under the sea. Devoted to providing ocean science education, the Scripps Aquarium inspires visitors' curiosity and imagination through intricate exhibits and informative displays. Situated on a scenic bluff overlooking the Pacific, the Aquarium is the perfect place to get lost and spend the day discovering the beauty of the ocean and all it holds.

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