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Animals Up-Close

Encounters with the animals that call Mystic Aquarium home

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Paul Anderson, PhD

Founder, Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign

Paul Anderson is the founder of the Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign, a multi-stakeholder initiative to conserve the biodiversity of coral reefs while preserving 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.

He is a former member of Mystic Aquarium’s research team where he contributed his expert insights in fish and elasmobranch behavior, physiology, and sensory biology, and marine mammal health. Anderson received a bachelor’s degree in Marine Science from Eckerd College and a doctorate degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida.

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. She received her bachelor’s in Marine Sciences from the University of San Diego in 2001, and master’s and doctorate degrees in Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii in 2004 and 2009.

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 cycles within these environments and studies the microbes’ functions and contributions to the health of their host or ecosystem to determine if their microbial partners can be signatures for health or environmental changes.

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 bachelor’s degree in Zoology and doctorate 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. He is currently applying acoustic techniques to study cetaceans with emphasis on coastal species in Alaska and other northwest regions.

David Gruber, PhD

Professor of Biology, City University of New York

David Gruber completed his doctorate in Biological Oceanography from the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences in 2007, and holds master’s degrees in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University and Journalism from Columbia University. His research pertains to marine microbial ecology and fluorescent proteins on coral reefs and he uses remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and extended-range scuba to examine marine natural products, fluorescent proteins and bioluminescence on coral reefs.

In collaboration with fellow scientist-in-residence Vincent Pieribone, Gruber has utilized animals in the Mystic Aquarium collection for imaging fluorescence.

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 doctorate degree in Anthropology from University of Connecticut (UConn) and has expertise in the archaeology and ethnohistory of New England. 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, MS

Founder, Marshall Innovation

Greg Marshall has partnered with Mystic Aquarium in research, education, and outreach. He is the inventor 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, and he participated in a “proof of concept” study on using Crittercam with the beluga whales at Mystic Aquarium. He then traveled to Point Lay, Alaska, to launch Crittercam on wild belugas. He also partnered with the aquarium on a research project that utilized Crittercam to study the behavior of snapping turtles, complementing health assessments of turtles in different environments. In addition, Marshall helped launch the snapping turtle research and education program and the National Geographic Crittercam exhibit at the aquarium, and he and was a featured speaker in Mystic Aquarium’s Conservation in Action series.

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 bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and a MS and PhD from the University of Hawaii in Zoology with a Marine Biology emphasis. 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.

Vincent Pieribone, PhD

Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, John B. Pierce Laboratory

Vincent Pieribone’s current research includes developing genetically encoded fluorescent probes of membrane electrical potential to monitor the electrical activity of neurons. He has also engineered miniature imaging systems that can be head-mounted on mammals to allow mobile recording of neuronal activity and 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 Program

Adjunct 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 doctorate 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.

Paul Turner, PhD

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

Paul Turner obtained a B.A. in Biology from University of Rochester and a PhD in Microbial Evolution from Michigan State University. He joined Yale University in 2001, where he serves as director of the Center for Phage Biology and Therapy and directs Yale University’s Quantitative Biology Institute. Turner studies evolutionary genetics of viruses, particularly phages (bacteria-specific viruses) that infect bacterial pathogens and RNA viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, and researches the use of phages to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases. He is very active in science-communication outreach to the general public, and is involved in programs where faculty collaborate with K-12 teachers to improve STEMM education in underserved public schools. Dr. Turner’s current service includes the National Science Foundation’s Bio Advisory Committee and President-elect of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

Norman R Wainwright, PhD

Senior Director of Research and Development Charles River Laboratories, Charleston, SC

Norman 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, 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. 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.  He also works with NASA on the development of new life detection and planetary protection procedures using rapid, point of use technology.

Justin Richard, PhD

Emerging Scientist in Residence

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 received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowship and completed his doctorate degree in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Rhode Island (URI), in collaboration with Mystic Aquarium. 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.