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Mystic Aquarium Scientists In Residence

SCIENTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE

DAVID GRUBER, PhD
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, BARUCH COLLEGE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK FELLOW, JOHN B. PIERCE LABORATORY

David Gruber completed a PhD in biological oceanography from the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences in 2007. His research pertains to marine microbial ecology and fluorescent proteins on coral reefs. From 2007 to 2008, Gruber was a postdoctoral fellow at the Brown University Division of Biology and Medicine, where he worked to develop fluorescent proteins into modulatable probes with neurobiological and medical applications. Gruber is a member of the City University of New York Macaulay Honors College, a visiting scientist at Brown University and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. In addition, Gruber is committed to communicating science to the general public. He serves as a scientific advisor and producer for the WNYC Studio 360’s “Science and Creativity” series and his writings have appeared in The New Yorker, Nature Medicine and The Best American Science Writing 2007.

A former tropical forester for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, his research now utilizes remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and extended-range scuba to examine marine natural products, fluorescent proteins and bioluminescence on coral reefs. He is the co-author of Aglow in the Dark: The Revolutionary Science of Biofluorescence (Harvard University Press, 2006) and is currently co-producing a 3D IMAX film on bioluminescence. He holds master’s degrees in coastal environmental management from Duke University and journalism from Columbia University.

In collaboration with fellow Scientist-in-Residence Vincent Pieribone, Gruber has utilized animals in the Mystic Aquarium collection for imaging fluorescence; these images have been published in various media outlets. He also partners with Pieribone on ROVs to capture images at depth and was heavily involved in an exhibit that premiered at the Natural History Museum in New York and focused on fluorescence and bioluminescence in both terrestrial and aquatic animals.

JASON MANCINI, PhD
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONNECTICUT HUMANITIES; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT; VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, CONNECTICUT COLLEGE

Jason Mancini holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Connecticut and has expertise in the archaeology and ethnohistory of New England. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Brown University and an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Anthropology at UConn. He is currently the Executive Director of Connecticut Humanities, co-founder of Akomawt Educational Initiative and is the former Executive Director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Mancini is the founder and director of the Indian Mariners Project, a collaboration between multiple tribes, institutions and individuals that explores the history of and ongoing relationship between Native people and the sea.

Mancini has been instrumental in carrying out the Mystic Aquarium Point Lay and Mashantucket Educational and Cultural Exchange program and coordinating programs with local tribes. He has taken three trips to Point Lay, Alaska, as a chaperone for the Mashantucket students and has lent his expertise in anthropology to all aspects of the program.

GREG MARSHALL
FOUNDER, MARSHALL INNOVATION

Greg Marshall is an inventor, marine biologist, conservationist, and Emmy Award- winning filmmaker who has dedicated his life to studying, exploring and documenting animal life in the ocean and across the globe. Marshall’s most celebrated contribution to the research community is the invention of the National Geographic Crittercam, a small, lightweight camera that has the remarkable ability to travel unobtrusively with its animal hosts to capture never-before-seen footage of the hidden lives of wild animals.

Marshall has partnered with Mystic Aquarium in research, education and outreach. He participated in a “proof of concept” study on using Crittercam with the Aquarium’s beluga whales and then travelled to Point Lay, Alaska, to launch Crittercam on wild belugas. He has also partnered with the Aquarium on a research project that utilizes Crittercam to study the behavior of snapping turtles, complementing health assessments of turtles in different environments. Marshall helped to launch the research and education program focused on the snapping turtle initiative by travelling to the Aquarium to address students and community members. In addition, Marshall participated in the launch of the National Geographic Crittercam exhibit at the Aquarium and was a featured speaker in the Aquarium’s Conservation in Action series.

VINCENT PIERIBONE, PhD
PROFESSOR OF CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR PHYSIOLOGY AND NEUROBIOLOGY FELLOW, JOHN B. PIERCE LABORATORY

Vincent Pieribone attended New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he received a baccalaureate degree in Biology and Chemistry in 1986. He then attended New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and received his PhD in 1992 in Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology. From 1990 to 1992, Pieribone was a National Science Foundation and Fogarty Internal Fellow at the Nobel Institute of Neurophysiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Pieribone did postdoctoral work at the Rockefeller University in New York from 1992 to 1995 and became an Assistant Professor there in 1995. Pieribone joined the Pierce Laboratory in December 1997.

One of Pieribone’s current research areas involves developing genetically encoded fluorescent probes of membrane electrical potential. These probes allow for the use of optical instruments (e.g., microscopes) to monitor the electrical activity of neurons. Such an approach is less invasive than alternative techniques and allows for the study of identified cell types over large regions of the cortical surface.

Pieribone’s laboratory has also engineered miniature imaging systems that can be head-mounted on mammals in order to allow for mobile recording of neuronal activity. These types of studies will improve scientists’ understanding of the neuronal networks that encode information in the central nervous system.

Pieribone helped to create and design the fluorescent coral exhibit in the William E. Kelley gallery and has photographed Aquarium animals for education and outreach purposes in collaboration with fellow Scientist-in-Residence David Gruber.

GREGORY SKOMAL, Phd
senior FISHERIES BIOLOGIST, MASSACHUSETTS DIVISION OF MARINE FISHERIES SHARK RESEARCH PROGRAMADJUNCT FACULTY; UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL FOR MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ADJUNCT SCIENTIST; WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION

Gregory Skomal is an accomplished marine biologist, underwater explorer, photographer, aquarist and author. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD from Boston University. Skomal has been a senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries since 1987 and currently heads up the Massachusetts Shark Research Program. For more than 35 years, he has studied life history, ecology and physiology of sharks and his research has spanned the globe from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to coral reefs in the tropical Central Pacific. Much of Skomal’s current research centers on the use of acoustic telemetry, satellite-based technology and animal-borne imaging to examine movement ecology and behavior of white sharks.

Skomal has written dozens of scientific research papers and has appeared in a number of film and television documentaries, including programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC and various television networks. He has been an avid SCUBA diver and underwater photographer since 1978. Although Skomal’s research passion has focused on sharks, he has been a dedicated aquarist for over 50 years and has written more than a dozen books on the subject. His most recent book, The Shark Handbook, is a must buy for all shark enthusiasts. He is a Boston Sea Rover and a member of The Explorers Club; his home and laboratory are on the south coast of Massachusetts.

NORMAN R WAINWRIGHT, PhD
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CHARLES RIVER LABORATORIES, CHARLESTON, SC

Dr. Wainwright, has been working on the primitive innate immune system found in the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) for almost 30 years.  Most recently, he has directed research and new product development at Charles River Laboratories in Charleston SC, a major manufacturer of the bacterial endotoxin test (LAL) derived from the blood cells of the horseshoe crab. LAL is an ultra-sensitive enzyme cascade, adapted from the immune response of the crab to bacterial infection.   Miniaturization of the test and a development of a “hand-held” instrument to read it has resulted in a major decrease in the amount of horseshoe crab blood needed.  The portable test has become a standard in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, assuring safety of injectable drugs.  It has also been flown to the International Space Station as a test of new technology to rapidly assess microbial cleanliness of spacecraft.  Prior to Charles River Laboratories, Dr. Wainwright was a Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where the LAL test was discovered. 

His recent research involves a continued interest conserving species of horseshoe crabs around the world as well as studying the molecular biology of marine invertebrates.  Practical applications stemming from this technology include monitoring the health and safety of humans and animals.  Dr. Wainwright also continues his work with NASA on the development of new life detection and planetary protection procedures using the rapid, point of use technology.

AMY APPRILL, PhD
ASSOCIATE SCIENTIST, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION

Amy Apprill is a marine microbial ecologist leading the “Microbial Ecology for Ocean Conservation” research program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). She received a BA in Marine Sciences from the University of San Diego in 2001, and MS and PhD degrees in Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii in 2004 and 2009. Apprill is currently an associate scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at WHOI.

Apprill’s research seeks to understand the ecology of microbiomes that live in sensitive animal hosts and ecosystems of the ocean. She is interested in what drives microbial growth, interactions and cycle within these environments. She is also passionate about understanding the microbes’ functions and contributions to the health of their host or ecosystem. Apprill devotes much of her time to studying reef-building corals and the microorganisms that live in reef seawater. Much of the world’s reefs are threatened. Therefore, Apprill’s research is centered on defining the microbial characteristics of healthy, worldwide corals and reef waters. Apprill has also pioneered the exploration of microorganisms associated with marine mammals. She has studied worldwide species and populations, and seeks to determine if their microbial partners can be signatures for health or environmental changes.

Apprill utilizes various research tools to understand the diversity and composition, genetic make-up and spatial organization of animal-associated microbes. Taking advantage of inexpensive DNA-sequencing based microbiology, Apprill presents a holistic approach that examines the animal-microbial association using different methods. Her work has been featured in over 50 journal articles. She is the 2020 recipient of the American Society for Microbiology’s Award for Early Career Environmental Research.

ARAN MOONEY, PhD
ASSOCIATE SCIENTIST, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION

Aran Mooney is a marine biologist focusing on the sensory biology of marine organisms. He received his BS from the University of New Hampshire and a MS and PhD from the University of Hawaii in Zoology with a Marine Biology emphasis. After his degree, Mooney worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory and then the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a Postdoctoral Scholar; he is currently an Associate Scientist there.  Mooney’s research focuses on sensory biology, particularly how marine animals use and are affected by sound. This involves determining the effects of increasing anthropogenic noise on dolphins and whales, assessing means of reducing marine mammal by-catch and depredation, measuring hearing and effects of noise with marine mammals and developing new sensors to measure sound production, biodiversity and animal behaviors.

His work has been featured in such publications as Nature, Science, The New York Times and The Times (London) and he has actively collaborated with researchers in numerous countries and institutions. Mooney’s expertise has been employed as an advisor to the US Coast Guard for Environmental Impact Statements as well as National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Western Pacific Fisheries Council for means of reducing marine mammal bycatch. His research has pioneered the development of new physiological methods to rapidly and non-invasively study hearing in marine organisms.

MANUEL CASTELLOTE, PhD
RESEARCH SCIENTIST, MARINE MAMMAL LABORATORY, ALASKA FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTER; NOAA JOINT INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF ATMOSPHERE AND OCEAN; UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Manuel Castellote’s primary focus and expertise is in marine mammal acoustics and response to anthropogenic noise. He earned his BS in Zoology and PhD in Psychobiology in Madrid, Spain. His main interest is using acoustics as a tool to improve the knowledge of behavioral ecology of marine mammals for their conservation. He is also interested in the effect of anthropogenic noise in marine mammal communication and is involved in development of noise regulation for National Marine Fisheries Service and the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive. His experience includes studies from both wild and aquaria environments. He is currently applying acoustic techniques to study cetaceans with emphasis on coastal species where habitat degradation and noise is more persistent in Alaska and other northwest regions. His research is also focused in measuring the contribution of anthropogenic noise to marine mammal habitats to further understand its effect on their behavior and habitat use.

PAUL ANDERSON, PhD
FOUNDER, CORAL REEF AQUARIUM FISHERIES CAMPAIGN

Paul Anderson, PhD, CAPM is the Founder of the Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign. The Campaign is a multi-stakeholder initiative to conserve the biodiversity of coral reefs while conserving the livelihoods of people dependent on them across the global value chain.  More broadly, his career has focused on the integrated understanding of fish physiology and behavior to advance the care and aquaculture of coral reef aquarium fishes and on engaging people from all walks of life to learn about and how to conserve the oceans around them. On these themes, he has authored 23 scientific and popular publications; delivered over 300 presentations in the field to audiences of all ages all over the U.S.; (co-) managed over $1.5 M in grants and scholarships to support environmental conservation, research, education and exhibitry initiatives; developed 14 exhibits and has been featured by ABC, National Geographic and other media outlets.

Anderson joined The Florida Aquarium as its first Conservation and Research Coordinator, cultivating a blossoming and diverse program in marine conservation, research, restoration, rescue and rehabilitation. He later joined The University of Tampa as an adjunct faculty member. He was then a member of Mystic Aquarium’s research team where he contributed his expert insights in fish and elasmobranch behavior, physiology and sensory biology, while also applying his knowledge to complement a productive research program in marine mammal health.

Anderson received a BS in Marine Science from Eckerd College and a PhD in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida. 

EMERGING SCIENTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE

JUSTIN RICHARD, PhD
ASsistant professor, UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

Justin Richard has been involved at Mystic Aquarium since 1999 when he began as an exhibit educator volunteer. He completed two Husbandry internships at the Aquarium. After graduating from Connecticut College, Richard was hired as a beluga whale trainer at the Aquarium. In 2011, Richard was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowship and completed his PhD in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology at URI in collaboration with Mystic Aquarium. Richard has participated in many field research projects where he has studied beluga behavior and took part in satellite tagging. He teaches two courses on animal behavior and two courses on marine mammal biology at URI including the Seminar on Marine Mammals, which is held at Mystic Aquarium.  Richard emphasizes experiential learning opportunities for URI students in all areas of his research.

His research focuses on using minimally invasive techniques, such as behavioral observations, ultrasound and the analysis of exhale samples, to improve our understanding of beluga whale reproductive biology and to develop tools that will allow researchers to effectively monitor wild beluga populations. The study of trained belugas in aquariums is essential to this research as it provides knowledge that would be logistically impossible to attain from wild belugas.

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