President’s Blog: October 31, 2017
President's Blog

President’s Blog: October 31, 2017

Dear Friend, First of all, a very happy Halloween to…

Dear Friend,

First of all, a very happy Halloween to all of you!

Below are my two new favorite Halloween pictures, the first one starring Vice President of Biological Programs, Dr. Allison Tuttle:

And this one, sent to us by Stonington Chief of Police Darren Stewart. One of our Sea Schoolers dressed up as the Stonington Police Boat. Captain Olson and Officer Cullen stopped by and thanked the future Officer for his costume.

Annual Meeting and Review of Strategic Plan

The first weekend in November is traditionally our “Annual Meeting” featuring election and re-election of Trustees, officers, and establishment of Board Committees.

I would like to share with you my letter to the Board of Trustees sent in preparation for our Annual Meeting:

We are now two years into “One Ocean, One Mission”, our strategic plan through 2020.  As we delve into a rich and positive agenda at the upcoming Board meeting, some reflection upon our plan might be a helpful guide.

Our plan states:

 “Five strategies have been identified as essential to Mystic Aquarium’s future.  They are simple in statement, complex in nature and pose a significant challenge for the organization to execute over the next five years.

-Build cash reserves

-Increase attendance and market share

-Create interdisciplinary approaches to conservation, education, exhibits and research

-Embrace local and global diversity

-Invest in people, animal collections, infrastructure, exhibits and community

Together, these strategies will transform Mystic Aquarium.  They undergird a vision of an organization deeply rooted in local and global action for protection of oceans and aquatic species, with a resolute concern for community and people.”

During the Board meeting we will be considering some bold initiatives to advance the goals of the strategic plan.  As a primer, our strategic goals are:

Goal One:  Position Mystic Aquarium as a global leader, practitioner and provider of the “One Ocean, One Mission” concept with integrated conservation, education, exhibits, and research initiatives.

Goal Two:  Increase attendance and memberships through dynamic, year-round exhibits, programs and shows that highlight the “One Ocean, One Mission” concept.

Goal Three:  Connect with and engage our neighbors, especially in Southeastern New England; the zoo, aquarium and museum community, specifically through active participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and with other global partner communities such as Cape Town, South Africa, Singapore, Asia, and Point Lay, Alaska.

Goal Four:  Foster an organization and community that embraces and exemplifies diversity, and that provides a welcoming, supportive destination for guests, employees and volunteers.

Goal Five:  Develop a robust and sustainable financial platform, which emphasizes (1) growing revenue and strengthening ROI; (2) global fundraising to secure investment in mission programs; and (3) increasing endowment to energize and sustain our long-term vision.

In 2018 we are undertaking an array of capital projects including construction of the Milne Center, new exhibits, systematic upgrading of core infrastructure such as roofs, pumps, life support systems, heating and cooling systems.  Thanks to Trustee-Nominee Mike Leven we are particularly excited about a new partnership with Georgia Aquarium to assure the future of beluga whales in the Arctic Coast habitat. 

 At the Board meeting we will be considering concepts for the proposed new Gateway to Mystic Aquarium.  We will also engage in focused discussion on resource development including fundraising, travelling exhibits and other approaches to increasing attendance.


Thank you to Trustees Completing Service on the Board

With deep gratitude for their service to Mystic Aquarium, I want to acknowledge the Trustees who are completing their service on the Board of Trustees in 2017.

  • Sanjay Gupta
  • Deborah Kochevar
  • Carleen Lyden-Walker
  • Clay Maitland
  • Elisa Schroder


Georgia Biewald, Dedicated Mystic Aquarium Employee

Recently, Volunteer Jim Gerber sent me the following feature story from a BLOG entitled” Miss-Amazing”.  The story features Georgia Biewald, who goes by “Gigi”.

Gigi is a highly valued member of our team and is employed through a partnership that Mystic Aquarium enjoys with Horizons of Connecticut an organization that specializes in serving people with special needs, including job placement and job coaching services.   We are very proud of Gigi and very appreciative of our partnership with Horizons and the work that their coaches do with our staff to create successful employment experiences at Mystic Aquarium.


Saving Dolphins and Whales the Right Way

Over the past several years, our colleagues at Vancouver Aquarium have been targeted by various legislative efforts at the local, state and federal level to cease holding cetaceans under human care at their facility.  The initiatives have ranged from efforts to end breeding and thus let the population die out, to outright prohibiting any cetacean from living in any human made environment.

In the following Op-Ed piece, Vancouver Aquarium President and CEO, John Nightingale points out how harmful the latest proposed legislation of this sort will be on the future of cetacean populations, if passed:


Mystic Aquarium Research on Beluga Whales

To Dr. Nightingale’s point, Mystic Aquarium researchers actively study populations of threatened and endangered beluga whales in the wild.

Recently, Dr. Paul Anderson, Dr. Laura Thompson, Dr. Tracy Romano and Research Volunteer Rusty Poe and others studied beluga whales in the wild near Somerset Island in Canada, where Mystic Aquarium conducted research for many years under the direction of long time Director of Research, the late Dr. David St. Aubin.

Their work was published in a the scientific journal, Behavioural Processes.  The citation follows:

Anderson, P.A., Poe, R.B., Thompson, L.A., Weber, N., Romano, T.A.  2017.  Behavioral responses of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) to environmental variation in an Arctic estuary.  Behavioural Processes 145(7):  48-59.

Some Arctic estuaries serve as substrate rubbing sites for beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in the summer, representing a specialized resource for the species. Understanding how environmental variation affects the species’ behavior is essential to management of these habitats in coming years as the climate changes. Spatiotemporal and environmental variables were recorded for behavioral observations, during which focal groups of whales in an estuary were video-recorded for enumeration and behavioral analysis. Results suggest that belugas take advantage of environmental variation to express behaviors that 1) protect young, e.g., bringing calves close to shore during cloudier days, obscuring visualization from terrestrial predators; 2) avoid predation, e.g., rubbing against substrates at higher Beaufort sea states to obscure visualization, and resting during low tides while swimming on outgoing tides to avoid stranding; and 3) optimize bioenergetic resources, e.g., swimming during lower Beaufort sea states and clearer days. Predictive models like the ones presented in this study can inform conservation management strategies as environmental conditions change in future years.

New Arrival

Finally, last week we joyfully welcomed into our world a Loggerhead Hatchling.  Here is its official “baby picture” for all to enjoy:

See you all soon!





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