How I See San Francisco: The Bay Ecotarium's George Jacob
George Jacob was appointed President & CEO of the non-profit Bay Ecotarium (formerly known as Bay.org) in early 2017. With a mission to protect, restore and inspire conservation of the San Francisco Bay, the Ecotarium manages the Aquarium of the Bay and the Sea Lion Center at PIER 39, the Bay Institute, and other centers for conservation. With Earth Day approaching on April 22, George shares some thoughts about beautiful San Francisco with us.
You're a rather recent transplant to the city, aside from the job, what attracted you to San Francisco?
Not quite a recent transplant; I used to live here 12 years ago and it is good to be back. The city has much to offer in terms of pristine nature, tech innovation, and cultural attractions, with world-class institutions, diversity, and talent from every corner of the world.
How do you stay in touch with what's happening in the city?
I make liberal use of local news channels and the internet to keep abreast, in addition to being part of various subscribed list-serves. The city also advertises on public transport, radio and billboards.
Have you found a favorite neighborhood of the city yet?
What should visitors expect at the Aquarium? Do you have a favorite exhibit at the Aquarium?
The Aquarium of the Bay is the only Smithsonian Affiliate aquarium in the state. We change exhibits frequently. Last year, we were the first to introduce Augmented Reality. We added multi-lingual audio content and brought 14 Ocean Pioneers to our galleries. After the otters and Giant Pacific octopus, we now have Pacific Spiny lumpsuckers that have added to the visitor experience. We also run the adjacent Sea Lion Center, where our naturalists enhance the visitor experience on K-Dock at PIER 39.
Where and what would you choose for your last meal in San Francisco?
We hear you're a bit of a blues fan. Any favorite places to catch some live music around town?
I wonder how that got out! Yes, I do like the blues, having spent some time in Louisiana. I do frequent Biscuits & Blues, and have heard some incredible bands and soloists perform to a packed house.
You have a background in museums. Any thoughts on the arts & culture scene here in the city?
I have been planning and designing museums for over three decades. It is a realm that offers endless learning opportunities and there is much to imbibe from the wonderful work being done at various museums across town.
Where do you like to go outside of the city for a break?
Where can visitors best see the Bay Ecotarium's conservation efforts in the city?
The Bay Area watershed includes hundreds of thousands of acres and marshlands that act as natural filters and havens to preserve freshwater flora and fauna. The San Joaquin River Delta and estuaries protect many endangered species, ensure salmon runs, and maintain ecological balance. It is also worthwhile to visit the Eco Center at Heron's Head Park that we operate because it is San Francisco's first off-the-Grid LEED Platinum building. The Bay Model, built in 1957 by the Army Corps of Engineers, is also an extension of our organization in Sausalito. It's amazing to see a scale model of the entire Bay area because it gives an overview that inspires awe for the wealth of our natural resources, and instills a sense of responsibility to be good stewards.
With Earth Day approaching, where do you see San Francisco in the conservation around sustainability?
Each year, the city plans numerous programs focused on environmental sustainability for Earth Day. I will be a speaker, among many others, on cultural and eco-tourism at Temple Emanu-El, one of the oldest Jewish congregations in California. They will be showing An Inconvenient Truth on the eve of Earth Day (April 21), and following the screening, Rabbi Sidney Mintz will lead a ceremony in which she envisions eulogizing lost species or threats to the environment. Filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk are headliners. We expect about 1,600 people to attend.
Anything else coming up in the city that you'e excited about?
We are excited about the upcoming Climate Summit in September, spearheaded by Governor Brown, with 3,000 environmental leaders from around the world converging in San Francisco.
What's one to-do item on your San Francisco bucket list?
There is incredible unexplored potential for tech-tourism in the city. I would like to curate this much-needed phenomenon, replete with evening conversations with the giant tech gurus of our times! Drawing them from Silicon Valley to the City to interact with cultural and science-based learning institutions could be insightful and fun.
Any last advice for visitors to the city?
This is your city; that is what makes it great. Own it! Live it! Dream it!