Please join me in wishing special congratulations this week to Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Chief Financial Officer, Denise Armstrong. Denise celebrated her 10th anniversary at Mystic Aquarium. She has been an excellent leader and collaborator over the past decade and I am very appreciative of her many efforts to advance the organization.
On Monday, Mystic Aquarium participated in the annual Columbus Day parade in Westerly, RI. This is an event that I enjoy participating in every year. The camaraderie of our team, some with children and pets, makes this a special day! Our Penguin float, designed and made by some very dedicated Mystic Aquarium colleagues, won an award! Here is our mascot, Petey, with that award and the up-cycled Coke-can penguin.
Much of my week was devoted to working with a variety of groups on marketing Mystic Aquarium and growing tourism in the State of Connecticut. Tuesday the CT Tourism Advisory Council, on which I am proud to serve, met on Tuesday and reviewed the state’s marketing initiatives. Much like that of Mystic Aquarium, there has been progress made, and more to come. The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce is an essential organization for our region. I am very appreciative of the tremendous work that Director of Public Relations, Dale Wolbrink has done in helping to revitalize the local Chamber. I was pleased to meet with the Interim President of the Greater Mystic Chamber, Bill Smith and Dale to review their new strategic plan. We are proud to support the Chamber which is a key resource for tourism and economic development.
On Wednesday our Board Marketing Committee met. The Committee is chaired by Trustee Steve Perrelli. He and Trustee members Tina Allaire, Carleen Lyden-Klaus and Tom Mosey along with President’s Counselor Peggy Roberts, provide outstanding advice. Our marketing efforts are highly focused and include extensive focus on social media. This was followed up by a meeting with Social Media Manager Adam Cilley to examine strategies for advancing use of various social media tools. If you are not already following Mystic Aquarium, please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
While on the subject of media, Mystic Aquarium’s employees are making the news. They personify our mission and make us all very proud. Megan Priede from our Animal Husbandry team was interviewed by Connecticut television station WTNH this week. She did an excellent job discussing a possible shark sighting off the coast of Guilford, Connecticut. Mystic Aquarium is an important resource for helping the public better understand the significant changes in animal behavior that are occurring throughout the world as climate change impacts their traditional habitats. The shark story is one example; the manatee temporarily residing in our quarantined Animal Study Center is another.
Senior Scientist Dr. Peter Auster, and some of his fellow scientists, published some key findings on an important species – the Winter Flounder. Dr. Auster and his colleagues found that the Long Island Sound population this ecologically significant, and economically important, species has declined by 82% over the past 29 years. Similar trends have been seen in other mid-Atlantic Winter Flounder populations. Historic overfishing and the effects of pollution and development around spawning habitats in coastal estuaries contributed significantly to the decades long decline. Now, there are changes in the Long Island Sound (LIS) ecosystem that are impeding recovery. This has broad implications for conservation policies throughout the East Coast.
The study by Dr. Auster and his colleagues indicates that habitat quality in Long Island Sound has changed over time, with warming water temperatures having effected the interactions of species in the larger fish community. Analyses of this 29 year data set, which includes information on distribution, density, size and maturity of Winter Flounder, reveal that there is increasing competition for prey among mature fish and increased predation pressure on smaller immature fish. Some of these changes could be due to increases in warm-water species, whose populations are increasing in the Sound, a result from an earlier study. While humble in appearance, the Winter Flounder is quite an important part of our lives here on the Long Island Sound. Here are some images of our humble, yet key, species. The first is a more scientific view. The second, which features three flounder, shows how well they camouflage and blend in with their environment.
The full study can be found via the following citation: Penelope, T. Howell, Jose J. Pereira, Eric T. Schultz and Peter. J. Auster. 2016. Habitat Use in a Depleted Population of Winter Flounder: Insights into Impediments to Population Recovery. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 145:6, 1208-1222, DOI 10.1080/00028487.1218366.
Finally, as we all know, Hurricane Season is upon us and can wreak havoc with marine, land and man-made environments. I was very pleased to hear from our colleagues at the South Carolina Aquarium that they sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Matthew. Our heart goes out to all in the United States, Haiti and other places impacted by the storm.
See you very soon!
Stephen M. Coan, PhD
President and CEO