Mystic, Conn. (October 25, 2016): Recently Mystic Aquarium received a grant in the amount of $25,000 from the Sea World & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and Rising Tide Conservation in support of their ongoing Research and Development of marine ornamental aquaculture with the Marine Science Magnet High School (MSMHS) in Groton, CT. The program is also supported by Connecticut Sea Grant.
“This is another example of how Mystic Aquarium and our dedicated and diverse staff are having a global impact with a program that exemplifies the core aspects of our mission to inspire people through conservation, education and research,” said Mystic Aquarium President and CEO Dr. Stephen M. Coan.
It is widely understood that coral reefs are declining due to human activity like climate change, pollution and overfishing. As societies grow more disconnected from nature, human impacts on natural ecosystems may go unchecked. Public aquaria serve a vital role in re-connecting youth and families to the ocean environment. The marine aquarium hobby can also serve this role in the home. A child who learns compassion for the fish under her care is more likely to grow up to be a conscientious adult who is more aware of her actions and how they affect the world around her. Mystic Aquarium is dedicated to helping the marine aquarium industry accomplish this educational goal sustainably and responsibly.
The goal of the program is to research and develop methods for aquaculture of the royal gramma (Gramma loreto) for the industry. The fish represents a valuable species to connect the public with the world’s oceans. This small planktivore lives on shallow reefs in the tropical western Atlantic. Its populations in this region are highly fragmented and vulnerable to local environmental pollution and overfishing. It is also a preferred prey item for invasive lionfish in its native habitat. With its tenuous conservation status, ease of culture, and its demand and value, the royal gramma holds promise as a profitable aquaculture candidate.
The program features a joint internship co-supervised by Mystic Aquarium and MSMHS with a dedicated laboratory at MSMHS.
“While this project is intended to develop easily adoptable methods to accelerate the royal gramma’s presence in commercial culture in order to preserve wild royal grammas in their native habitats, we are also helping to cultivate the next generation of marine aquaculturists for the marine aquarium trade,” said Dr. Paul Anderson, Mystic Aquarium Research Scientist and Program Coordinator. “I am incredibly proud to be able to have the opportunity to inspire and train the students of the Marine Science Magnet High School.”
The lab has accomplished and routinely maintains the successful aquaculture of phytoplankton, zooplankton and clownfish. The goal of this study is to publish and distribute an efficient and cost-effective protocol that can be implemented by commercial aquaculturists, benefitting the conservation of the species, as well as entrepreneurs engaging in aquaculture.
“Whenever schools and industry partner together, kids win,” said MSMHS Principal, Dr. Nicholas Spera. “Our collaboration with Mystic Aquarium and their incredible staff has allowed us the opportunity to embed ongoing research within our curriculum. This unique opportunity builds valuable research skills in our students that ultimately gives them a distinct advantage when they continue their studies at the postsecondary level.”
“I feel so lucky to be involved in this partnership that empowers students to think critically in order to solve these real world issues associated with our marine environment,” said MSMHS Aquaculture Teacher, Eric Litvinoff. “This collaboration offers MSMHS students the opportunity to work with industry professionals, while equipping them with technical training in marine ornamental aquaculture. Aquaculture is the future and with this partnership, we can envision an influx of talented and skilled workers who will contribute to the growth and sustainability of the marine aquarium industry.”
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 MysticAquarium.org.
About The Marine Science Magnet High School
The Marine Science Magnet High School is a safe, respectful, and nurturing environment. The MSMHS Family believes that effort creates ability and that all students can succeed. Our learning community is committed to innovative instruction that promotes effort and ensures academic rigor through a curriculum responsive to our diverse student body. Furthermore, the MSMHS community collaborates with all members to prepare students for post-secondary education by supporting the personal, academic, and career goals of every student. MSMHS inspires students to develop the mindset and character needed to be active stewards of the ocean and contributing citizens in a global community.