Each year the Mystic Aquarium Point Lay Mashantucket Educational and Cultural Exchange Program engages students from both the North Slope Borough of Alaska and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal nation in nearby Mashantucket, CT, to empower students to become their own natural resource managers for their people. In alternating years, students from Alaska visit Connecticut and vice versa all with the goal of inspiring the next generation of beluga biologists to carry on important research.
The science-based program allows the youth of Point Lay to help scientists in the field with beluga tagging and sampling. When traveling to Connecticut, the students are able to participate in the hands-on analyses of the research samples. Back at Mystic Aquarium they are also immersed in beluga biology as well as participation in a variety of activities including marine environment exploration, career workshops and much more. The entire group spends time at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center and Reservation to share and exchange culture. They also explore other regional attractions.
Similarly, the local tribal Mashantucket youth, who also participate in the aquarium programming, when traveling to Point Lay have the opportunity to participate in the fieldwork as well.
With the funding support of the Mayor of the North Slope Borough, we have launched eight successful educational and cultural exchanges.
Conservation and sustainability of belugas for future generations begins with all of our youth today. Through this program we try to reinforce the importance of our ability to manage and sustain our precious marine resources. It is this premise that is at the root of everything we do at Mystic Aquarium and exemplified by the pillars of our mission through conservation, education and research.