President’s Blog: October 17, 2017
President's Blog

President’s Blog: October 17, 2017

Dear Friend: 11th Annual Penguin Walk / Run This past…

Dear Friend:

11th Annual Penguin Walk / Run

This past Saturday, the 11th Annual Penguin Walk / Run took place at Mystic Aquarium.  There were 475 participants in the event which raised $25,000 in support of Mystic Aquarium’s research and conservation efforts on behalf of highly endangered African Penguins.

The Penguin Walk / Run was started by Chief Scientist, Dr. Tracy Romano, who is an avid runner and who also coaches the cross country team at Pawcatuck Middle School.  Many of the runners from Pawcatuck Middle School participated in the event.

Many of our staff participated and several took top places.  Marketing Digital Content Manager Elana Deslandes-Murphy finished second in her division; Research Scientist Dr. Ebru Unal finished third in her division; and Marine Theater Team member Kim Hentz placed first in her division. They placed, respectively, 17th, 16th and 20th overall among nearly 200 runners! If you don’t mind a little more bragging, two of my children, Danielle, 17 and Brendan, 13, each finished third in their divisions.  And, I was much honored to welcome a group of alumni from my alma mater, Brandeis University, to the event.  It was a pleasant surprise to learn that they held a mini-class reunion by meeting up for the run in Mystic.

Obviously I graduated a few years earlier than them…

The Penguin Walk / Run is just a wonderful way of bringing our community together in celebration of the work that we do.  Much effort goes into running the event from all of our operating units and departments.  Senior Vice President of Development Roz Gilhuly, Director of Development Hannah Stewart, Development and Membership Data Manager, Marie DeNoia deserve tremendous credit for their leadership and hard work.

I want to especially thank Development Operations Coordinator Lydia Shell who managed the entire event.  Lydia is tireless in her commitment and efforts.  As always, despite pouring rain and related logistical challenges including assuring that our mascot, Petey the Penguin was in the right place at the right time, Lydia was kind, gracious, smiling and hospitable to everyone throughout the day.

Here are some images from the event:

Elana Deslandes-Murphy


Fun Despite the Rain


Kids Race


Penguin Team
Several Members of the Penguin Conservation Team


Trustee Alex Marku (R) brought the Buon Appetito pizza truck


Generations of Fun
Generations of Fun


Port and Starboard:  The Two Headed Turtle

Recently I stopped by the office of Assistant Coordinator of Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, Sarah Callan to see a two headed snapping turtle that she is caring for.  She noted that while it does not have an officially sanctioned name, a few people have nicknamed the left and right heads accordingly, “Port and Starboard”.

Admittance at 10g
10 months…
Port & Starboard a year later, at 392g


The turtle was rescued in Cranston, RI and was admitted to Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program for rehabilitation care on November 19, 2016. The turtle was estimated to be a few weeks old, weighing in at just 10 grams upon admit and was the size of a quarter.

As the turtle approaches its estimated one year birthday on October 19th, it now weighs an astonishing 392 grams! The turtle has been thriving in its habitat and both heads enjoy eating a mixed diet of worms, fish, and high protein pellets.

Sarah reports that coordinating movements between two brains can be challenging at times but the turtle’s agility and coordination has improved drastically over the past year. Radiograph images were taken and we hope to conduct further imaging to help determine the anatomical structure of the turtle.

Mystic Aquarium is well known for our work in rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals.  However, we also care for many other marine animals and birds. While Port and Starboard’s genetic condition is unique, the plight of turtles and other animals in danger is not unique because of habitat extinction, poaching, and other challenges.  Our work in assuring species survival begins with caring for individual animals – such as Port and Starboard – and their particular challenges.


Research Benefits of Stranded Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation

There are many research benefits that come from Mystic Aquarium’s work in rescuing and rehabilitating animals.  In fact, the wider benefits are a key reason why we invest so heavily in these efforts.  Last week several members of our team participated in an academic conference on animal stranding in the Atlantic Region of the United States.

Animal Rescue Program Coordinator Janelle Schuh presented on “Determination of an Optimal Formula for Rearing Dependent Harbor Seal Pups”.  Through her work over the years at Mystic Aquarium, Janelle created a formula which has resulted in a 100% success rate for dependent pups two years in a row.  This formula has potential to improve survival rates with a range of threatened and endangered marine mammals.

Janelle Schuh

Sarah Callan presented on “Multi-organizational Collaboration for the Rescue and Rehabilitation of a Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in New England” highlighting the role that Mystic Aquarium played in this animal’s critical care and stabilization.

Sarah Callan

Veterinary Intern, Dr. Melissa Joblon presented “Nebulization as an Adjunct Therapy for Treatment of Bronchopneumonia in Stranded Phocids”.  This was a presentation on a protocol she developed which has resulted in improved survival rates in pneumonia-affected seals. Again, this work has tremendous potential to assist with survival rates of threatened and endangered species.

 nebulization pilot study



Ocean Blue Catering

Mystic Aquarium operates a wonderful catering company under the leadership of Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance, Denise Armstrong, Executive Director Kathy Lloyd, and Executive Chef Trad Dart.  The catering team, working out of a small kitchen in the Aquarium café, caters 3-4 events per evening at the Aquarium and at off campus locations.

Recently the team catered our annual Ocean Commotion gala, serving 525 beautifully prepared meals in less than 20 minutes, a remarkable accomplishment.  We have several staff and volunteer appreciation events throughout the year, but our Ocean Blue Catering team is always working to make these events successful and enjoyable for the rest of us.

On Monday evening we had an opportunity to show our appreciation for the wonderful team at Ocean Blue Catering with a reception and dinner at the S&P Oyster House in Mystic.  It was a chance to have them be served as they are in service to the rest of us throughout the year.

Special thanks to this incredible team of people for all that they do, every day.


Panel at the La Grua Center: Coastal Resiliency

Last week we co-hosted our first speaker event at the La Grua Center in Stonington Borough to a packed hall of upwards of 100 people. It was moderated by Senior Vice President Mission Programs Katie Cubina, with panelists Jim O’Donnell, Ph.D., Executive Director, Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA); David Vallee, Hydrologist-in-Charge, NOAA/NWS/ Northeast River Forecast Center; and Juliana Barrett, Ph.D., Associate Extension Educator, University of Connecticut Sea Grant Program.

La Grua Panel

The panelists were fantastic and the audience was riveted, such that we had to cut off the Q&A after a half hour of dialogue.  Our partners at the La Grua center were thrilled, and stated that they never get crowds this big, which speaks to the timeliness and relevance of the topic:  Coastal Resiliency — Now More Than Ever. The event provided us with a great opportunity to take a leadership role on this important topic given the devastating hurricane season we have witnessed, and to tie that to the vulnerabilities within our own community. Finally, this opportunity enabled us to share with the residents of Stonington Borough the pivotal role that we play in the town given our collaborative work to restore Dodge Paddock and Beale Preserve, our participation on the town’s Climate Change Task Force and in the Coastal Resiliency plan development – all lead by Director of Education & Conservation MaryEllen Mateleska. The event also leveraged and strengthened our partnership with UConn. Many thanks to Bruce Cousineau and Hagen Cobb who provided the AV support at the level of sophistication necessary to conduct the panel in the space.  Much testing went into it, which assured a seamless execution.

The event made the front page of The Day:

Our next event at the La Grua Center will be on December 13 and will feature our very own Dr. Peter Auster.


See you all soon!

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