Vice President of Biological Research / Chief Scientist
Leading the exceptional Mystic Aquarium research team is Dr. Tracy Romano, a founder of the field of marine mammal neuroimmunology and leader in the field of marine mammal health. After receiving her PhD in 1993 from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine, Tracy was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship through the National Research Council to investigate the marine mammal immune system and the impact of stress and the environment on marine mammal health. These studies were carried out in collaboration with the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. After her postdoc, Tracy was awarded $1 million in grant money to establish a research laboratory focused on studying stress and the immune system at the U.S. Navy facility. Some of Tracy’s main research accomplishments include: the first cloning and molecular characterization of Dolphin CD4 (an important immune recognition molecule and receptor for HIV), the finding that the majority of dolphin T cells express class II molecules (which is unique to dolphins), field studies of the beluga and bowhead whales in the Arctic, studies that addressed the effects of loud sound and changes in water temperature on the health of dolphins, and participation in a study mandated by Congress to understand how repeated chase and encirclement with tuna nets impacts the health of dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CHESS experiments). Tracy moved her laboratory and research program to Mystic Aquarium in spring 2004 to assume the role of Vice President of Research and Veterinary Services.