Harbor Seal Habitat Renovation A Front-end Evaluation for the Seattle Aquarium

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Resource Type:
Front-End | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Survey | Observation Protocol | Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits
Families | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | Life science
University of Washington, Seattle Aquarium

This report presents the findings from a front-end evaluation prior to a renovation of the harbor seal habitat at the Seattle Aquarium. The study was undertaken to help Seattle Aquarium staff measure visitor knowledge of harbor seals, as well as illustrate visitor use of the current exhibit space. The intent was to inform the content of exhibit interpretive materials as well as provide a baseline for a summative study evaluating the success of changes made to the exhibit. Methodology Data was collected in February 2012 by a team of 10 first-year graduate student data collectors along with the two principle investigators. The evaluation was conducted using three instruments and resulted in the collection of 136 whiteboard knowledge activities, 104 reflective tracking interviews, and 128 timing and tracking instruments. Principle Findings Visitor Knowledge 62% of participants correctly identified a harbor seal. 22% chose the image of the fur seal, and 13% chose the sea lion. Visitors are more comfortable with facts that are observable in the local harbor seal population. These include: that harbor seals are common locally, that they haul out of the water, they have spots for camouflage, and that they are protected by law. Visitors are less familiar with information about harbor seal diet and eating habits. Visitors are most interested in knowing more about harbor seal behavior, the story of Barney and Q (the seals on display at the Aquarium), Seattle Aquarium animal training, and harbor seal habitats. The appendix of this report includes the survey and observation protocols used in the study.


Team Members

Katie PhelpsKatie PhelpsEvaluator
Chris CadenheadEvaluator

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