Mystic, Conn. (August 21, 2018): Over 50 women in science met with Mystic Aquarium guests as part of the fourth Annual Women in Science Day. Scientists, researchers and animal care professionals as well as women of achievement from the local scientific community showcased the amazing work they do in the name of science.
“The goal is to allow children of all ages to talk to our scientists and explore different career options in a variety of scientific fields,” said Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. “It is at the core of our mission to engage students and in this case hopefully young women with an interest in the sciences.”
Tables were set-up on the Aquarium’s main floor allowing each scientist to share information and host hands-on activities related to her work. The event was funded by a generous grant from the Petit Family Foundation.
“Science allows us to explore, create, study and get an overall better understanding of our natural world,” said Kathryn Justice, Trainer of Cetaceans & Pinnipeds. “From the smallest atoms to the whole universe, science helps us appreciate the uniqueness of all things, both living and non-living. It is the knowledge that we gain from science that allows us to create medical breakthroughs, study animal habitats, and explore our surroundings, which can help us to better our planet and conserve it for generations to come.”
Highlights from the day’s events included, among other things, demonstrations by veterinarians on the use of veterinary equipment like ultrasound systems and the ‘how-to’ of animal enrichment by animal care professionals. Among the favorites was the candy DNA making station presented by UCONN Avery Point-Marine Sciences. All participants were actively engaged in Q&A with guests of all ages.
Presenters from Mystic Aquarium included animal care professionals Sarah Dunn, Courtney Gill, Kathryn Justice, Patricia Maglione, Monique Park, Megan Priede, Allie Seifter, Aimee Sugrue, Kristen Waddell and curator of Marine Mammals and Birds, Laurie Macha, who was also featured in “A Day in the Life” on the Aquarium’s Twitter. Participation was in full-swing from the vet services team including the Aquarium’s Chief Clinical Veterinarian, Dr. Jen Flower, Dr. Barb Mangoldand Vet Tech Anne Gilewski along with Gayle Sirpenski and Amy Delmonaco.
Mystic Aquarium’s research team got in on the action as well as Dr. Maureen Driscoll, Lillian Peccerillo, Angela James and Lisa Smiegel sharing current research projects and advancements. Dedicated Animal Rescue Program volunteers Mary Barravecchia, Shauna Bosse, Heather Bring and Jess Cebelius provided an overview of animal rescue and rehabilitation work.
University of Connecticut Natural Resources Conservation Academy, University of Connecticut Avery Point Marine Science Department, Sharks4Kids, University of Rhode Island, University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island Plant Sciences, University of Rhode Island-Society for Women in Marine Science and others had representatives on site for the event as well.
Throughout the day these outstanding women shared not only their expertise and personal stories but also their love for science.
“I love science—especially working in conservation—because of the bridges that can be built between generations, socioeconomic status, and geographic location,” said Anne Gilewski, Vet Tech. “I can read an online article about an endangered animal in Madagascar and share that information with children and adults who may or may not have access to that information. What a wonderful thing! I learn something from a researcher half a globe away and through my career, raise awareness, which hopefully inspires further study.”
Spoken like a true research scientist, Dr. Driscoll said that “the best part about science is that every question you answer leads to even more questions.”
Matis hopes that by participating in Women in Science Day, children will not only learn more about the careers themselves but also about the pathways that can be taken to join the ranks of female scientists across the globe who are having real world impact in the field and in life.
Mystic Aquarium is a leader in STEM education here in Connecticut and throughout the United States. Like much of its educational programming, Women in Science Day is aimed at fostering conservation-minded citizens and scientific leaders of the future.
The event was open to the public and free with regular admission.
Fun Scientific Facts:
Liquid nitrogen is -196 degrees Celsius – although this is cold enough to freeze tissues instantly, it is actually it’s boiling temperature!¬Maureen Driscoll, PhD, Researcher
Penguins can drink salty water because they have special glands that extract salt from their blood. They excrete excess salt through their nasal passages. –Gayle Sirpenski, Animal Management Specialist
Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are conscious breathers which means they need to “think” or tell themselves to breathe (unlike humans who are unconscious breathers). This means that when they sleep, only half of their brain shuts off – the other half stays awake to tell them to breathe.
–Allie Seifter, Assistant Trainer of Cetaceans & Pinnipeds
A keystone species is one that has an extremely high impact on a particular ecosystem. With the absence of a keystone species (no matter how small), an entire ecosystem could fail to survive! Sea stars are a keystone species because they consume mussels for food in areas without natural predators. In many cases, when the sea star is removed from an ecosystem, the population of mussels proliferates uncontrollably, and negatively affects the resources available to other animals within the ecosystem.
–Jen Flower, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACZM, Chief Clinical Veterinarian