I remember when Kristin Aquilino first got me to care about endangered white abalone.

She and UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory Director Gary Cherr called me up in 2013, excited to share the news – and wanting to spread it wider – that they’d successfully spawned captive white abalone for the first time in nearly a decade. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

They told me a story of a lonely species, overfished and unable to find each other in the ocean. They spoke of a rescue effort involving matchmaking, mood lighting, and wax-based “spa treatments.” Aquilino and her lab mates even played a little Barry White for the shellfish under those mood lights – whatever it took to get them to meet, mate and create new white abalone in the hopes of saving the species.

Since then, we’ve seen white abalone births, their successes and failures, watched them graduate and seen their cheering section grow along with them.

Today—many years, thousands of white abalone, and even a @whiteabalone Twitter account later—captive-bred white abalone were released to the big wild ocean for the first time.

It took a village to raise them – one composed of about a dozen agencies including NOAA, California SeaGrant, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others. The scientists prepared and, yes, loved them as best they could. Now, it’s up to the abalone to leave their pampered life behind, make good choices, find each other, and create many new babies. Their species is counting on them.

Welcome home, white abalone!


Kat Kerlin is an environmental science writer and media relations specialist at UC Davis. She’s the editor of the Science & Climate website and its “What Can I Do About Climate Change?” blog. @UCDavis_Kerlin

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