CONSTRUCTION PLANNED FOR SUMMER 2017!!!
I am deeply grateful to announce that this morning Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy called and informed me that the State of Connecticut has committed $5 million towards the construction of the Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center. This monumental grant allows us to proceed with the $8 million project, as we have already raised $3 million from other sources.
The Milne Center is named for Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. George M. Milne, Jr. and Carol Milne who have been stalwart leaders and supporters of Mystic Aquarium for nearly two decades. Dr. Milne contributed $1.5 million towards the project and has been a key leader in guiding the design of this transformational building.
We are grateful to the many other donors, including the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation for their tremendous support of the first phase of this project, the complete renovation of our animal care facility which will be connected to the new building.
Governor Malloy has been extremely supportive of Mystic Aquarium in many ways. He has visited the campus numerous times since becoming Governor. He has consistently advocated for state investment in tourism institutions and marketing efforts as economic engines for the state.
I know that I speak for the entire Board of Trustees in expressing our gratitude to Governor Malloy for investing in Mystic Aquarium and making this transformational project happen this year.
On Wednesday evening I was privileged to speak at the commencement exercises for the Feinstein Non-Profit Studies and Youth Development Program at Rhode Island College. Thirty two students of varying ages graduated. Each one spoke for 20 seconds describing what they learned from their studies. It was very impressive and moving.
In my remarks I reminded them about the motto of my dear friend, Alan Shawn Feinstein, who started the program many years ago and whose support for Mystic Aquarium, schools, and other institutions in Rhode Island is legendary. You may recall seeing his motto on the side of many public buildings in and around Rhode Island: “Helping to better the lives of others is the greatest achievement.”
Speaking of graduations, Senior Director of Human Resources, Kateri Wheeler is completing a two year leadership development program sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. We are very proud of Kateri and appreciate the leadership that she provides Mystic Aquarium every day. On Thursday, she hosted the incoming leadership class at Mystic Aquarium. Senior Vice President for External Relations Andy Wood and I addressed the group.
Recently, Scientist-in-Residence, Dr. Norman Wainwright who is also a senior scientist with Charles River Laboratories, brought his family for a behind the scenes tour. Trainer of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds, Kate McElroy led the tour and introduced Dr. Wainwright and his family to many of our mammals.
Dr. Wainwright sent a thank you note to Kate that I was copied on and I want to share excerpts of Kate’s response to his note:
“…I am humbled every day that I get to work with the whales. Both Juno and Kela have such dynamic personalities. They each have a unique and special place in my heart. I am so interested in the research that is being done with Beluga whales…Some of my favorite behaviors that I have trained have been for research projects…I love being able to introduce people to the animals and see their delight and wonder when standing face to face with a 2000 pound (and growing) whale…”
Kate exemplifies two important characteristics of Mystic Aquarium. First, individuals like Kate provide tremendous personal care and expertise with our animals. Our stewardship of Beluga whales and other animals is world class and we have one of the most experienced and competent animal husbandry staffs in the world.
Second, we recognize and respect the awesome responsibility of being stewards of animals, large and small, including in many cases the survival of entire species. Beluga whales are at risk in the world. Research at Mystic Aquarium plays a key role in understanding Beluga health and the impact of external stressors like increased activity and changing environmental conditions in the Arctic on their future.
While animals are entertaining by their very nature and presence, they are not under our care at Mystic Aquarium to be entertainers. We balance our role as a tourism destination, key to the New England economy, with our mission of conservation, education and research placing animal care and stewardship of species as our core focus.
One important aspect of our conservation mission is the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals along the Connecticut and Rhode Island coastline. Our work in this area has helped to assure the recovery of various seal species that were once highly threatened.
Last week the Animal Rescue Program admitted a premature female harbor seal pup found in Newport, Rhode Island. The pup, which would still be dependent on its mother in the wild, weighs just under 14 pounds and still has her lanugo (or baby) coat. She is being tube fed and receiving nearly round the clock care to deliver the necessary nutrition. Here is a great picture of her:
Vice President for Research and Chief Scientist, Dr. Tracy Romano recently published a scholarly article in the open access online journal Plos One.
The article investigates and compares the immune and endocrine responses in dolphins housed in different environments. Comparative sites included an aquarium, sea pens in San Diego Bay, and free ranging dolphins. The study concluded that the immune and endocrine systems in dolphins appear to be shaped by their environment. The full article can be viewed at the link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176202
Mystic Aquarium is a dynamic and multi-faceted institution. We continue to strive to live up to our own motto, “Protect our Oceans.”
See you all soon.