President’s Blog: December 30, 2016
President's Blog

President’s Blog: December 30, 2016

Dear Friend: Cheryl Miller Photos Recognized by Association of Zoos…

Dear Friend:

Cheryl Miller Photos Recognized by Association of Zoos and Aquariums

A few years ago I asked long time member of our team, Cheryl Miller, to assist me temporarily as manager of the President’s Office. Cheryl’s passions are, respectively, animals, photography and working in marketing.

It was a hard sell, but I asked her to take on the role of Director of Operations for the President’s Office permanently and she agreed but only after asking if she could continue to serve as our Chief Photographer. In fact, she serves both functions and the net benefit is that those of us who work away from the animals enjoy a steady supply of some of the most stunning images of frogs, belugas, fish and other animals, as well as a few people, shared by Cheryl.

It is really an honor to announce that her photography is featured regularly in this BLOG. No, seriously, two of Cheryl’s photos have been recognized for excellence by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Among thousands of entries, Cheryl’s stunning image of a Vietnamese Mossy Frog and of a Leptopelis frog are featured in the December 2016 edition of the Association’s magazine, Connect.

The images are proudly shared by this blogger:

Vietnamese Mossy Frog       Leptopolis frog

State Senator Heather Sommers Visits Mystic Aquarium

On Wednesday I had the privilege of spending a few hours with incoming Connecticut State Senator Heather Sommers. We discussed economic development issues for the region and the state, challenges and opportunities related to marketing Connecticut as a travel destination and a place for doing business, as well as a myriad of environmental issues and particular matters related to Mystic Aquarium.

Sen Heather Somers

Senator Sommers has been a long-time supporter and donor to Mystic Aquarium. She served for many years as Mayor of Groton and was the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor two years ago. As she enters the Senate, she will find a unique situation as that Chamber has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the upcoming session. All of us at Mystic Aquarium wish her the best of luck and appreciate her interest in our mission.

Rhode Island College and Mystic Aquarium

On Thursday I was delighted to meet with the new President of Rhode Island College, Dr. Frank Sanchez and some of his staff, along with our long time donor, Alan Shawn Feinstein.

RI College logo

Dr Frank Sanchez
Dr Frank Sanchez

Rhode Island College is an important partner with Mystic Aquarium. Each year we provide internship opportunities to Rhode Island College students including programs in education and conservation, safety and security, guest services, research, finance and human resources.

We work closely with the Feinstein School of Education at Rhode Island College in many educational programs in Rhode Island, including professional development for teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. Dr. Sanchez brings a deep commitment to fostering better opportunities for at-risk and low-income youth, consistent with Mystic Aquarium’s work with the Feinstein Foundation, Providence After School Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the state, the Rhode Island Foundation, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and other groups.

Congratulations to Dr. Sanchez on becoming the College’s 10th president. I am looking forward to working with him on growing our partnership with the each other’s institution and many of these other organizations that are so important to us.

Winterfest and Old Man Winter

This has been a busy week for attendance at Mystic Aquarium. Thank you to all of our team members who have worked so hard to welcome the thousands of visitors participating in Winterfest during the week. I especially want to thank Old Man Winter for holding off on a snow storm that we were expecting.

Old Man Winter

We welcome everyone, of course, even Old Man Winter!

Charles River Laboratories

We were very pleased to welcome James Foster, the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Charles River Laboratories and his family this week.

James Foster
James Foster
Norman Wainwright, PhD
Norman Wainwright, PhD


During his visit we had an opportunity to brief him on the growing research collaboration between Mystic Aquarium and Charles River Laboratories. I am particularly grateful to our own Chairman, Dr. George M. Milne, Jr. and our Trustee and Dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Deborah Kochevar, who have facilitated this partnership. Dr. Norman Wainwright, a senior scientist at Charles River Laboratories is also a Scientist-in-Residence at Mystic Aquarium.

Dr. Wainwright has been working on the primitive innate immune system found in the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) for almost 30 years. Most recently, he has directed research and new product development at Charles River Laboratories in Charleston SC, a major manufacturer of the bacterial endotoxin test (LAL) derived from the blood cells of the horseshoe crab. Click here to learn more about this process and purpose.

LAL is an ultra-sensitive enzyme cascade, adapted from the immune response of the crab to bacterial infection. Miniaturization of the test and a development of a “hand-held” instrument to read it has resulted in a major decrease in the amount of horseshoe crab blood needed. The portable test has become a standard in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, assuring safety of injectable drugs. It has also been flown to the International Space Station as a test of new technology to rapidly assess microbial cleanliness of spacecraft. Prior to Charles River Laboratories, Dr. Wainwright was a Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where the LAL test was discovered.

His recent research involves a continued interest conserving species of horseshoe crabs around the world as well as studying the molecular biology of marine invertebrates. Practical applications stemming from this technology include monitoring the health and safety of humans and animals. Dr. Wainwright also continues his work with NASA on the development of new life detection and planetary protection procedures using the rapid, point of use technology.

In addition to collaborating on research, Mystic Aquarium is working with Charles River Laboratories to create public outreach and conservation programs to protect Horseshoe Crabs.

Additionally, Mystic Aquarium has been working for several years with Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore to develop conservation measures in that nation to protect and conserve threatened horseshoe crabs. We also work closely with Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut to engage volunteers in a population count of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound.

Ancient and honorable, the horseshoe crab is a vital species to our eco-system and holds many secrets related to human health. We are very grateful to Dr. Wainwright, Charles River Laboratories, Resorts World Sentosa, and Sacred Heart University for working with us to better understand this animal and to engage the public in assuring its future.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman

Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman is a big fan of Mystic Aquarium, and of beluga whale Kela. She shared this tweet this afternoon.

Happy New Year!

2016 was the first year of implementation for our strategic plan, “One Ocean, One Mission” a copy of which can be found here.

We have made much progress during the year in advancing our mission of conservation, education and research. As the year draws to a close, I want to thank you for your support and dedication as a member of our community.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year!

See you all soon!


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