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Mystic, Conn. (May 10, 2017): On Sunday, May 14, 2017,…

Mystic, Conn. (May 10, 2017): On Sunday, May 14, 2017, Dr. Tracy Romano will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Saint Michael’s in Colchester, Vt., as part of the 2017 commencement ceremony. Romano, who received an undergraduate degree from St. Michael’s in 1986, is chief scientist and vice president of biological research at Mystic Aquarium.

“I am truly privileged and blessed to have had a well-rounded liberal arts education from St. Michael’s college,” said Dr. Romano, “which gave me a solid foundation to grow and develop in mind, body and spirit.  I never ever take it for granted.”

Through Dr. Romano’s leadership Mystic Aquarium, in conjunction with the University of Connecticut, became the first aquarium to receive funding from the National Science Foundation and the first Aquarium to establish an NSF “Research for Undergraduates” site. With Romano as the principal investigator (PI), implementation of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at UConn and Mystic Aquarium research laboratories begins on June 6.

Along with UConn Avery Point faculty member in ecology and evolutionary biology Michael Finiguerra, Romano will engage students in research projects investigating the overarching question of: How do environmental stressors affect the physiology, behavior, and ecology of phytoplankton and marine animals in relation to the marine ecosystem?  The three-year project will connect undergraduate students with established research mentors to investigate how global environmental change affects marine animals and their ecosystems.

Romano is the founder of the field of marine mammal neuroimmunology and is a leader in the field of marine mammal health. She graduated with a BS in Biology from Saint Michael’s, and received her doctorate in neurobiology and anatomy from the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine. While a graduate student, Romano spent her summers with the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego investigating neural-immune interactions in bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales.

Research to investigate the marine mammal immune system and the impact of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on marine mammal health was part of Romano’s postdoctoral work as a National Research Council fellow and continues today. Currently she leads a team focused on aquatic animal health and conservation biology.

For over 15 years, Romano has led Mystic Aquarium and other scientists on annual visits to Alaska and other Arctic locations to monitor the health of beluga whales to determine whether climate change, pollution, and other factors are having an impact on their well-being and conservation status.  During that time she has also created and implemented a nationally recognized science-based education and cultural exchange program for Native American youth.

Dr. Romano maintains active connection to Saint Michael’s in alumni leadership and giving roles and in 2012 was inducted in the College’s Academic Hall of fame.

“I am so grateful for this wonderful honor and especially to be in the company of such extraordinary honorees,” concluded Romano.

Also receiving honorary doctorates from their alma mater during this Commencement ceremony will be bestselling author Loung Ung ’93 and Brian Lacey ’72, president of Lacey Entertainment in New York, and U.S. Marine Corps General and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. ’77, who will give the commencement address.

About Mystic Aquarium

Mystic Aquarium, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, is counted among the nation’s leading aquariums with more than 300 species and an extensive collection of marine mammals, including New England’s only belugas. Mystic Aquarium has been a pioneer in offering guests a variety of up close encounters with a wide range of marine animals. The mission of Mystic Aquarium is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research. Mystic Aquarium receives major support from The Coca-Cola Company, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Resorts World Sentosa and United Technologies Corporation. Learn more at

About Saint Michael’s College

Saint Michael’s College, founded in the great Catholic intellectual tradition, which also recognizes the principles of social justice and compassion, is a selective, fully residential Catholic college in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. Our closely connected community delivers internationally-respected liberal arts and graduate education near Burlington, one of the country’s best college towns.  To prepare for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, young adults here grow intellectually, socially, and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other and their world.

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