Mystic Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research.
Sea Research seeks to achieve this mission by:
- Creating thought-provoking encounters with marine life
- Conducting research that advances aquatic animal husbandry and health
- Serving as an interpreter of marine science discoveries and conservation issues
- Sharing resources and expertise with the scientific and education communities
- Pursuing these endeavors with a commitment to excellence and innovation
Sea Research Foundation Activities
To foster an interest in and understanding of the science and conservation of the aquatic world through formal and informal programs, written interpretive materials and exposure to living marine animals.
To collect, evaluate and disseminate scientific data gathered through investigations and collaborations sponsored by the Aquarium and the scientific community. Such data will advance knowledge of aquatic animal husbandry and aquatic animal biology and behavior and promote a better understanding of our place in nature.
To develop techniques that advance the art of live animal display and its role in stimulating interest in the aquatic world.
To promote the health and stability of natural habitats and the populations of marine life, particularly those of Long Island Sound and adjacent waters.
Diversity and Inclusion
Mystic Aquarium embraces the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in our business and conservation practices. We strive to foster a sense of belonging within our organization, our guests, and the communities we serve, and are committed to dismantling systemic inequities.
Allison D. Tuttle, DVM
C. Rodney Daniels
Acting President and CEO, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees
With over 20 years of dedication to the advancement of Mystic Aquarium's core mission, Susette Tibus currently serves as acting president and CEO as well as vice chair of the board of trustees.
Susette's impact and involvement in the Mystic community is profound and extensive, having served countless community roles, including president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, vice chair of the Mystic Aquarium board of trustees, board positions for the Westerly Hospital Foundation and Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Horizons, as well as chair of the Stonington Police Commission and the Connecticut Police Commissioner's Association.
Susette is a celebrated leader in the Mystic community and beyond and is recognized for her service, leadership, and immeasurable impact toward the advancement of women in leadership roles. Susette and her husband, Chuck Sneddon, founded Simply Majestic, a fine jewelry store they continue to own and operate in Mystic.
CFO and COO
Koray Gurz has extensive financial leadership experience, and he applies his knowledge of investments, banking, finance, and taxation, along with other strategic initiatives, to Mystic Aquarium’s financial management, organizational goals, and execution of mission programs. Gurz began his career at a public accounting firm. Throughout his career, he has performed financial statement audits and reviews of companies in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). He specialized in the non-profit industry before transferring his skills to the financial management of a non-profit educational organization, overseeing all financials, departmental budgets, general accounting, and legal agreements.
As Mystic Aquarium’s CFO and COO, Gurz directs, coordinates, and evaluates various financial functions operated by his team of banking and finance professionals. He is responsible for the financial management of the organization, which includes budget development, oversight of financial control, and collaboration with lenders and other stakeholders, all while participating in strategic and operational management.
Gurz holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey, and an MBA from the University of Hartford. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Connecticut Society of CPAs.
Allison D. Tuttle, DVM
Senior Vice President of Zoological Operations
Allison Tuttle is the senior vice president of Zoological Operations at Mystic Aquarium where she oversees the Aquarium’s veterinary, animal husbandry, dive, environmental quality, and animal rescue operations. She contributes to numerous research and grant initiatives and has authored nearly 30 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. Tuttle serves as a mentor for students and veterinary interns. Within the community, Tuttle has been recognized as a Woman of Innovation and with a 40 Under 40 award.
Tuttle serves a co-chair, board member, and member on numerous animal, aquarium, and zoological committees and she is the president elect on the Executive Committee within the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.
Tuttle earned her B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Washington College and her DVM from North Carolina State University. She completed Mystic Aquarium’s internship in Aquatic Animal Medicine and Research and completed a residency in Zoological Medicine with a focus on Aquatic Health Management at North Carolina State University.
Senior Vice President for Mission Programs
Katie Cubina is senior vice president for Mission Programs. In this role, Cubina leverages her more than 20 years of non-profit experience to oversee the institution, and specifically the mission-based initiatives at Mystic Aquarium, bringing together education, research, ocean policy, and exhibits under the banner of conservation. She is the project director on a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Justice, overseeing the development and implementation of the conservation-focused STEM mentoring program with thousands of youth in over one hundred high-needs communities around the nation.
Cubina currently serves on the Aquarium Conservation Partnership executive and policy committees, has published in scholarly journals, including Current, the Journal of Marine Education, and has served on a number of expert panels in the field of conservation and youth mentoring.
Cubina holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a MEd in Science and Environmental Education from the University of Maine.
Senior Vice President, Facilities and Capital Projects
Keith Sorenson has been a member of Mystic Aquarium’s team for 49 years. He was the first person hired by the maintenance department several months before Mystic Aquarium opened its doors on October 6, 1973. Sorenson’s first job was creating infrastructure for exhibits. From his initial project to his current responsibilities, Sorenson has been instrumental in the planning and construction of the Aquarium’s major exhibits like the Pacific Northwest, Arctic Coast, Ocean Conservation Center and most recently the Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center. Currently, Sorenson oversees facility maintenance, HVAC systems, and, safety and security.
Senior Vice President, Development
Tina Couch has a demonstrated history of successful fundraising work in primary and secondary education. She joins the Aquarium after spending 15 years working in independent schools as a development professional. Couch has held a variety of leadership roles, most recently as Director of Development at Rumsey Hall School in Connecticut. Prior to that, she spent a decade as the Director of Major Gifts at Collegiate School in New York City. In 2018, she completed a historic $250M building project that required a $90M capital fund raise. Couch is skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Major Gifts, Annual Giving, Philanthropy, Governance and Strategic Planning.
As the Senior Vice President of Development, Couch is responsible for raising revenue for operations and capital projects by designing and implementing a comprehensive plan for cultivating and realizing philanthropic support. She serves as a key member of the senior leadership team and is an active participant in the Aquarium’s strategic decisions.
Couch has a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in English Language and Literature from Trinity College-Hartford.
C. Rodney Daniels
Vice President, Guest Experience
Rodney Daniels is a customer service leader who partners with department leaders and staff to enhance the guest experience, drive revenue, and reduce costs. After spending nearly 25 years working in customer service and operations for multimillion-dollar aquariums and zoos, Daniels knows that what truly drives the guest experience is how well you connect with the heart-beating people you’re trying to educate and entertain.
Daniels honed his skills as a leader in customer service, theater operations, event production, retail operations, and security at Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans and Dallas Zoo. He successfully reopened a major attraction after Hurricane Katrina, created a business plan resulting in over $1 million in revenue and reduced hard costs by just under $1 million. Daniels has served on the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana and was a committee member for Giant Screen Cinema Association.
As the Vice President of Guest Experience at Mystic Aquarium, Daniels manages guest services; interpretation; membership sales and services; and all retail, food, and beverage partnerships. He also creates and manages a concierge-level VIP guest program.
Daniels holds a B.A. in Communications and Journalism from Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Vice President, Education and Conservation
Kelly Matis serves as vice president of Education & Conservation, a role she has held at Mystic Aquarium for over 12 years. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Rochester and her M.S. in Environmental Education from Southern Connecticut State University. In her role, Matis provides organizational leadership and strategic direction on education and conservation initiatives, oversees curriculum development, budget management, and supervises departmental staff. She also fosters partnerships and relationships with the community, formal and informal education entities, environmental organizations, professional groups, and funders.
Matis is an advisor and past chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Conservation Education Committee, the education advisor to the AZA Aquarium Affairs Committee, a member of the Steering Committee of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center Network through NOAA’s Department of Education and a board member of the local Stonington Education Fund.
Board of Trustees
George M. Milne, Jr., Ph.D. (Chairman)
Radius Ventures, LLC
Susette Tibus (Vice Chair, Acting President and CEO)
Tom Mosey (Vice Chair)
President & CEO
Mini Melts, Inc.
Tom Marra (Vice Chair)
Chairman of the Board
Symetra Financial Corporation
Steven Perrelli (Vice Chair)
Vice President Sales Center Operations
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England, Inc.
Patrick L. Green, FACHE (Treasurer)
President & CEO, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital & Westerly Hospital
Executive Vice President, Yale New Haven Health
John Holstein (Secretary)
Principal & CEO
First H&M Corporation
Peter B. Barr, D.B.A.
President, Glenville State College
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council
Peter G. Drakos
The Law Office of Peter Drakos, LLC
Cecilie H. Jedlicka
Timothy J. Kane
Goodway Technologies Corp.
Richard Katz, M.D.
Sarah E. Kelly, Ph.D.
TGIR Consulting, LLC
Michael P. Lech
Founder & CEO
A Beautiful Company and Buon Appetito Ristorante
Alinea Strategic Solutions
Tan Hee Teck
Genting Singapore PLC
Dowling & Hale
Michael Rauh (retired)
President & CEO
Chelsea Groton Bank
Antonio Roberto (retired)
Managing Director of Strategic Investments
Paul O. Robertson
Department of Economic & Community Development, State of CT
Robert Williams, Jr.
Senior Managing Director
J.H. Whitney Capital Partners
Terry D. Garcia
Carolyn P. Kelly
Daniel C. Verdier
Cirrus Construction Company, Inc.