The 70,000-gallon kelp tank at the Birch Aquarium. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A UC San Diego alumnus was Wednesday named executive director of the Birch Aquarium.

Harry Helling, president and CEO of the Crystal Cove Alliance at Crystal Cove State Park in Orange County, will replace Nigella Hillgarth, who moved on to lead the New England Aquarium.

Helling is set to begin his new job next week.

“Harry Helling stands out as someone with the vision and innovative thinking to take Birch Aquarium at Scripps to the next level of excellence in science education and outreach,” said Margaret Leinen, UCSD’s vice chancellor for marine science and director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“It is exciting to look forward to working with Harry on inventive new approaches to educating the public about how Scripps and UC San Diego science advances our understanding and protection of the planet,” she said.

Helling was a founding board chairman of The Ecology Center, a nonprofit devoted to Orange County’s only organic farm, promoting sustainable solutions for water, energy, food and shelter. Before that, he worked in several leadership positions at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from UCSD and a master’s degree in science and environmental education from Humboldt State University.

—City News Service

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