The Aquarium has been providing free lectures and films by scientists, environmental writers, photographers and others since 1972. The Aquarium Lecture Series is presented free to the public through the generosity of the Lowell Institute, which has been providing funding for free public lectures at universities and museums since 1836.
Lectures are free and open to the public. Registration is requested. All programs start at 7 p.m. in the Aquarium's Simons IMAX Theatre unless otherwise noted. Programs last approximately one hour. Most lectures are recorded and available for viewing on our YouTube channel.
Fall 2014 Lectures
Thursday, November 20
Things That Go Bump in the Night:
What Do Whales See?
Dr. Scott D. Kraus, vice president, Research Department, New England Aquarium
To reduce or eliminate the problem of right whale entanglements in fishing gear, scientists and gear developers have considered the feasibility of enhancing ropes and nets to improve their detection by whales. To determine whether changing the color of the ropes alters the distance at which whales can detect them, we conducted three years of field trials in Cape Cod Bay in the spring months (2011-2013). Right whales appeared to change behavior in order to avoid the experimental “ropes,” suggesting that changing commercial fishing rope color may enhance the whale’s ability to visually avoid entanglements in the wild. Dr. Kraus will talk about whale vision generally, and then specifically address the feasibility of making fishing gear more visible. Register here.
Thursday, December 4
The Next Great Sustainable Seafood?
Matt Thompson, aquaculture project lead, Conservation Department, New England Aquarium, and
2013 John H. Cunningham Award Winner
“Is seaweed the next kale?” asked an article promoting seaweed as a health food, but what of its potential as a sustainable seafood? Seaweed farming is one of the largest segments of the global aquaculture industry, which includes a small but growing US contingent. Seaweeds have the potential to be farmed with few environmental impacts and inputs, but they have received little attention in the sustainable seafood movement and aren’t commonly found on US dinner plates.
In an effort to gain a fuller understanding of farmed seaweed, Matt applied for the 2013 John H. Cunningham Award, a professional development program for Aquarium staff to further their knowledge in a particular area. His finding swill be shared during this talk; he will focus on the sustainability of seaweed farming, including recent visits to US and Chinese seaweed farms, and in doing so, ask how we embrace seaweed as a sustainable seafood. Register here.
Thursday, December 11
Reversing the Tide of Plastic Oceans
Dr. Mike Biddle, founder & director, MBA Polymers, Inc.
Plastics provide us with many lifestyle as well as economic, health and environmental benefits. And because of this, plastics have become one of the major material categories in use on the planet, with over 500 billion pounds produced each and every year around the world. Unfortunately, very little of this plastic is re-used, and much of it ends up either burned or buried, with potentially negative environmental impacts and lost economic opportunities. Even more concerning is the fact that billions of pounds of plastics enter the oceans each year, sometimes with devastating impacts on sea life and the overall health of our oceans.
Dr. Biddle will discuss why plastics are the last major material category to be recovered from end-of-life products on a large scale, the impact they are having on our oceans and beyond and what is required to propel this last frontier of recycling forward on a global scale. He will also discuss the development of breakthrough technology for the "above-ground mining" of plastics from highly mixed waste streams and why this is important for economic as well as environmental reasons. Register here.
Fall 2014 Previous Lectures
American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
Paul Greenberg, author, and Alex Hay, chief operating officer, Mac’s Seafood, Cape Cod, MA
*Book signing to follow
New York Times bestselling author Paul Greenberg is back with his latest book, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood. In American Catch, Greenberg explores the idea that Americans need to repair their relationship with local seafood. As more of us become health-conscious and realize the benefits of eating fish, we also need to support local fishing and ensure the protection of these natural resources. From Alaska's salmon in Bristol Bay, to New York City’s oysters, learn more about how you can protect the ocean with the choices you make in the grocery store.
As an added bonus, Greenberg will be joined by local fish supplier Mac’s Seafood for a conversation about how consumers can support their local seafood better. Located on Cape Cod since 1995, Mac’s Seafood is a family business that has been buying local seafood since the very beginning. Why? Because they knew there was nothing better out there. Watch the recorded lecture on our YouTube Channel.
Ocean Stewardship Spotlight
What Does Adapting to Climate Change Look Like?
Allie Goldstein, associate, Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, and Kirsten Howard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coastal Management Fellow, NH Department of Environmental Services
What does adapting to climate change look like? In the summer of 2013, Allie Goldstein and
Kirsten Howard set out on a cross-country road trip to answer that question. They met with
farmers, city planners, climate scientists, rainwater harvesters and a queen to find out what communities across the United States are doing to build resilience to climate impacts such as hotter temperatures, more extreme storms and droughts, and rising seas. Over three months, they visited 31 states and gathered 33 stories of climate resilience, which were published on their blog, www.adaptationstories.com and in national news outlets. Allie and Kirsten will share some of these stories and the most important lessons they learned about how we can adapt to the impacts of climate change. Watch the recorded lecture on our YouTube Channel.
Big Cats, Panamá, and Armadillos: A Story of Climate and Life
Peter Molnar, 4th Annual John H. Carlson Lecture, presented by MIT’s Lorenz Center and The New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is pleased to welcome the Lorenz Center’s 4th Annual John Carlson Lecture to the Simons IMAX Theatre. Understanding and predicting global climate change may be one of the most complex scientific challenges we face today. MIT’s School of Science launched the Lorenz Center, a new climate think tank devoted to fundamental inquiry, to foster creative approaches to learning how climate works. The annual Carlson Lecture features exciting new results in climate science each year to the general public; it is made possible by a generous gift from MIT alumnus John H. Carlson to the Lorenz Center at MIT.
Three million years ago, ice covered Canada for the first time, the first Ice Age, in hundreds of millions of years. Concurrently, mountain lions crossed the Isthmus of Panamá from North America to South America, while Armadillos moved into North America, in the Great American Interchange. Many geologists imagine that the Isthmus of Panamá emerged three million years ago not only to provide a land bridge for the Interchange, but also to facilitate Ice Ages. During Ice Ages, however, Panamá cools and dries out. Could it have been global climate change instead, associated with an ice-covered Canada, that temporarily transformed Panamá’s uninviting jungles into a savanna highway conducive to overland travel? Watch the recorded lecture on the Aquarium's YouTube Channel.
Kelp and Climate Change: Reef Life in Your Backyard
Dr. Jarrett Byrnes, assistant professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston
New England is a kelpy wonderland. Along our shores, we have rolling meadows of kelp full of crabs, lobsters and more. But it’s not just us. Kelps beds, meadows, and forests are found in one quarter of the world’s coastal areas. They provide food for humans and fish alike, alter shorelines, and shape the temperate reefs around them. But these big beautiful cold water algae have started to respond to changes in water temperatures and wave action. Come learn more about what kelps means for you and what changes may be in store for the future. Watch the recorded lecture on the Aquarium's YouTube Channel.
The Bees and the Seas:
Finding Similarities in Conservation Goals
Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, founder and chief scientific officer, The Best Bees Company, and Dr. Randi Rotjan, associate scientist, New England Aquarium
*Book signing to follow
The urban gardening movement is well aware of the importance of pollinators, native plants and water conservation, but the oceans are not a regular part of the conversation. The story is the same (but reversed) for ocean enthusiasts, who are well versed in issues of water conservation, pollution and overfishing, but the terrestrial environment is often ignored. Here’s a chance to finally talk about both the bees and the seas—how the “green” and “blue” movements have aligned goals and mutual interests. It may come as a surprise, but most of the actions needed to promote honeybee pollinators are the same actions necessary for healthy oceans. Come find out why, and your local honey will taste twice as sweet. Watch the recorded lecture on the Aquarium's YouTube Channel.
Marine Conservation Action Fund:
Supporting Coral Reefs in India and Coastal Dolphins in Pakistan
MCAF grantees Dr. Rohan Arthur, senior scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation, and Dr. Gill Braulik, research fellow, University of St. Andrews
The Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) is a unique program that supports the New England Aquarium’s commitment to ocean conservation by funding small-scale, high-impact projects across the globe. Tonight’s lecture will feature the work of two past MCAF grantees.
Dr. Rohan Arthur focuses his research on coral reefs across the world and the uncertain future they face. In few places is this more evident than in the developing tropics where the health of the reef is linked inextricably with the livelihoods of the human communities that depend on them. He will string together a set of narratives from the Lakshadweep Archipelago and the Andaman and Nicobar islands (both in Indian waters) to build a case for “incidental conservation”, where the goals of reef resilience emerge as happy accidents of apparently unrelated community or economic processes. When they work, they can be at least as successful in enhancing reef resilience as more direct conservation measures. And if they do nothing more, these narratives may help us conceive of the range of situations under which reef conservation is likely to work. And yes, one of his stories involves a giant octopus.
Dr. Gill Braulik will then take you on an adventure with river dolphins found in several of Asia’s largest river systems, many of which run through some of the most densely populated human regions of the world. Subject to a myriad of threats, from construction of mega-dams, to intensive fishing, to intensely polluted waters, these dolphins are now among the most endangered mammals in the world. The Indus River dolphin is one of the most ancient of all dolphins, a brown, blind but fascinating creature that has persisted in the desert rivers of India and Pakistan for millennia, but now is reduced to just a few thousand individuals. Dr Braulik tells the story of her 12 years of working against the odds, and often in hostile environments, to try and save the blind river dolphins of the Indus River in Pakistan. Watch the recorded lecture on our YouTube Channel.
Thursday, November 13
Penguins as Ocean Sentinels:
What Penguins Are Telling Us
Dr. P. Dee Boersma, Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science, University of Washington, and Director, Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels
*Book signing to follow
Biodiversity on planet Earth is in peril. More than one half of the 18 species of penguins are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Penguins are sentinels of the southern oceans, helping humans understand how the planet is responding to global climate change. Habitat alteration caused by climate change is a new source of mortality for penguins. Natural history, long-term studies and communication of what we learn can alter the fate of penguins, other species and humans.
Long-term studies of penguins demonstrate that penguins face new challenges. If humans are to mitigate their impact on wildlife, we must use science to inform decisions and pay more of the true environmental cost of our actions. Only people can alter the course of our biodiversity crisis and improve the fate of penguins. Paying the true costs of environmental damage is an important tool humans can use to reduce the impact of our growing population on the planet.