Celebrate 20 years with Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

20 Years of Success

Look back at the highlights


Delaware-based Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation donates $6 million to a major fund-raising effort for a new aquarium The facility will replace the Scripps Aquarium Museum, which opened in 1951.


Birch Aquarium at Scripps opens its doors atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. More than 500,000 guests visit the first year.


Aquarium-Museum Director Don Wilkie retires after 29 years of service.


The aquarium unveils the outdoor life-size bronze sculptures of a gray whale mother and her calf, created by artist Randy Puckett. The mother is a full 40 feet tall, as high as the aquarium building itself.


President Bill Clinton visits the aquarium for a luncheon held in his honor Clinton was the Commencement speaker for UCSD Class of 1997. • Aquarium celebrates 5th anniversary.


Aquarium receives prestigious accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which ensures that rigorous standards are upheld on site for animal care, education, wildlife and conservation in exhibits and programs.


AZA recognizes Birch Aquarium at Scripps for excellence in conservation for breeding the Pacific seahorse.


The 13,000-gallon Lynne and Howard Robbins Shark Reef opens.


Nigella Hillgarth, Ph.D., becomes the new executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Renowned Journalist Walter Cronkite is honored at the aquarium with the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest Secrets of the Seahorse exhibit opens • Aquarium celebrates 10th anniversary.


Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrates its Centennial. "Sounds of the Sea" exhibit opens.


Celebrated primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall is honored at the aquarium with the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. •  The interactive Alex Szekely Tide Pools are constructed "Earthquake! Life on a Restless Planet" exhibit opens in the renovated Scripps Explorers Gallery. • AZA recognizes Birch Aquarium at Scripps for excellence in aquatic conservation exhibitry for Secrets of the Seahorse.


Two exhibits open: Art of Deception, about survival skills under the sea, and Sea of Genes, about the science of genomics.


"Wonders of Water" exhibit opens, exploring currents, water flow and erosion.



Former Vice President Al Gore officially dedicates the new Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge exhibit during a reception held to mark his visit to UC San Diego. Gore delivers his now-famous "Inconvenient Truth" lecture about global warming at UC  San Diego. • Aquarium celebrates 15th anniversary.


Birch Aquarium at Scripps is named San Diego's Best Children's Activity Center or Museum in Ranch & Coast magazine's third-annual "Readers' Choice: Best of 2008" survey.


There's Something About Seahorses exhibit opens, featuring more than a dozen seahorse species and their relatives.  • San Diego City Beat recognizes Birch Aquarium at Scripps as San Diego's "Best Place to Admire Sea Life Without Getting Wet."


Sempra Energy Foundation announces $600,000 gift to help fund the Boundless Energy exhibit, an outdoor playground exploring renewable energy solutions. The gift is the largest ever made by the Foundation to a non-profit institution.


Boundless Energy opens. • San Diegans vote Birch Aquarium at Scripps as "Best Museum" in the annual 10news.com A-List Poll.


Birch Aquarium at Scripps celebrates its 20th anniversary along Expedition Way. • Dr. Nigella Hillgarth celebrates her first decade as executive director.