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.
Thursday, October 15*
5th Annual John H. Carlson Lecture presented by MIT’s Lorenz Center and the New England Aquarium
Watching Water: Nature’s Field Guide to Weather and Climate
Bjorn Stevens, PhD, director, Atmosphere in the Earth System Department, Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, and professor, University of Hamburg, Germany
*Reception will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Water shapes our atmosphere. This seemingly simple molecule plays a defining role in some of the earliest recorded attempts to rationalize the cosmos, is resplendent in mythology, and has long been an element of folklore. In the late 19th century, watching water was a crucial component of the first coordinated and systematic attempts to predict the weather. In the 20th century it became appreciated that a comprehension of the global climate system, and its susceptibility to perturbations, is intimately linked to an understanding of water. What is it about the mighty water molecule that makes it so important? Can an understanding of a few key facts about water help us better comprehend our atmosphere, patterns of weather, climate and climate change? In this lecture Professor Bjorn Stevens will use a few physical examples and demonstrations to illustrate how some simple properties of the mighty water molecule give shape to the world around us.
The New England Aquarium is pleased to welcome the Lorenz Center’s 5th 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, which is made possible by a generous gift from MIT alumnus John H. Carlson to the Lorenz Center at MIT, features exciting new results in climate science each year. Click here to register.
Thursday, October 29
A Case Study of Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade: The 2015 Philippine Turtle Crisis
Dr. Charles Innis, Director of Animal Health, New England Aquarium
In late June 2015, more than 4,000 critically endangered Palawan forest turtles were confiscated by authorities in the Philippines. The turtles had been illegally collected and were destined for the international illegal wildlife trade.
Join Dr. Innis as he describes the natural history of this species, and the rescue, rehabilitation, and eventual release of these turtles back to the wild in Palawan. The complexities of the global illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, variable legal enforcement, range country socioeconomics and politics will be explored. He will also highlight the rapidly deployed network of private and institutional partners that made this effort successful. Click here to register.
Thursday, November 12
Saving the Unorthodox Whales of Sri Lanka
Asha de Vos, founder, Oceanswell and The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project, and Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow
Sri Lankan blue whales are a unique, non-migrating, endangered subspecies. They breed six months out of phase with other pygmy blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere, are half a meter shorter and have a unique vocal call. Most unusually, this population does not migrate to Polar regions, but remains in warm tropical waters year-round. Their confinement within the Northern Indian Ocean makes this population increasingly vulnerable to human activities. In particular, their high-use areas overlap with one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and whale deaths due to ship-strikes are well documented and likely to increase. This talk describes ongoing efforts to mitigate whale death by ships and highlight the importance of coupling both science and engagement for the long-term protection of this unique population of blue whales. Click here to register.
The Biomimicry Opportunity: A Panel Discussion
Sam Stier, Founding Director, Center for Learning with Nature
Chris Garvin, Principal, Terrapin Bright Green
Elizabeth Kripke, Visiting Researcher, Hanlon Lab, Marine Biological Laboratory
Moderator: Peter Lawrence, President and Co-founder, Biomimicry New England
Biomimicry is the process of emulating nature's strategies—which have been evolving for 3.8 billion years—to solve complex human problems. Join us for an introduction to this fascinating topic and its potential for advancement in education and sustainable design. Biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks inspiration from nature, often looks to the oceans and marine animals. Panelist will share their experience on this topic and how they are helping to address many of today’s environmental issues and inspire a new group of innovators to look to nature to create sustainable solutions.
Humpback Whales in IMAX 3D and in our Backyard
Dr. Scott Kraus, Vice President of Research, New England Aquarium
Dr. David Wiley, Research Coordinator, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Laura Howes, Director of Marine Education and Conservation, Boston Harbor Cruises
Humpbacks are best known to whale watchers as the gigantic, accomplished acrobats of the whale world. Now, a spectacular new IMAX movie introduces us to their complex and fascinating lives beneath the waves in unparalleled, underwater 3D footage. Humpback Whales is produced by MacGillvray Freeman Studios, one of the world’s most accomplished aquatic filmmakers, and is narrated by famed actor Ewan MacGregor. This film was shot in Hawaii, Alaska and Tonga.
Despite those exotic movie locales, Boston has some of the world’s best, and possibly most accessible, humpback whale watching, just 25 miles to its east at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. After the movie, learn from local whale researchers and naturalists what draws the humpbacks so close to one of America’s largest cities, the highlights of last year's whale watching season and what challenges face America’s only whale feeding sanctuary.
Protecting the Ocean's Giants: The Future of Manta Ray Conservation
Josh Stewart, Associate Director, Manta Trust and Marine Conservation Action Fund Grantee 2014
Manta rays are one of the most charismatic marine species on the planet, and a top attraction for dive and snorkel tourism. Despite their popularity with the public, we know almost nothing about these enormous, enigmatic rays. As targeted fisheries around the world increasingly threaten manta populations, conservation scientists are racing to learn more about their fundamental ecology to support effective conservation and management action. Learn more about the biology and ecology of these graceful ocean giants, the fisheries that threaten their existence and the research and conservation efforts currently underway to keep these icons around to inspire future generations.
Brian Skerry, National Geographic photographer and New England Aquarium Explorer in Residence
Immerse yourself in the latest amazing stories from beneath the waves as a master underwater photographer reports on his most recent National Geographic assignments. Brian Skerry’s surprisingly intimate portraits of marine life have captured the imagination of a generation. From a fascinating look at dolphins’ intelligence to a profile of the enigmatic Bluefin tuna, Skerry’s camera illuminates long-held mysteries of the deep. Explore the netherworld of seamounts and journey through the interconnected ecosystems of the Mesoamerican Reef in this special lecture event.
Wednesday, April 29
Celebrating Right Whales: The Trials and Triumphs of a Species on the Edge
Amy Knowlton, Research Scientist, New England Aquarium
North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered large whale species in the world, remain precariously close to the edge of extinction with just over 500 individuals presumed to be alive today. The Aquarium research team has been documenting the lives of these animals for more than three decades and describing the challenges the whales face from vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements. Join us as we learn about the important role the Aquarium has played in the development of policies to protect these imperiled whales, and hear stories about some of the most famous right whale families followed through multiple generations.
Tuesday, May 5
Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock
Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson
*Book signing to follow
Project Puffin is the inspiring story of how a beloved seabird was restored to long-abandoned nesting colonies off the Maine coast. As a young ornithology instructor at the Hog Island Audubon Camp, Dr. Stephen W. Kress learned that puffins had nested on nearby islands until extirpated by hunters in the late 1800s. To right this environmental wrong, he resolved to bring puffins back to one such island—Eastern Egg Rock. Yet bringing the plan to reality meant convincing skeptics, finding resources and inventing restoration methods at a time when many believed in letting nature take its course.
Dr. Kress’s amazing story is brought to life by the incredible photography of co-author Derrick Z. Jackson. Please join us for this special lecture event.
Thursday, May 14
The Soul of an Octopus
Sy Montgomery, author
*Book signing to follow
After a 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect,” about the sensitive sweet-natured giant Pacific octopus at the New England Aquarium went viral, Sy knew she had her next book idea. In The Soul of an Octopus, Sy chronicles a growing scientific appreciation of the octopus’s intelligence, personality and memory. She also tells a love story about coming to know a complex and spirited creature. Join Sy on her journey from behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium’s octopus exhibit to the exotic waters of French Polynesia.
Monday, May 18
Where Leatherback Sea Turtles Spend Summer Vacation (and Why It's Important)
Dr. Bryan Wallace, Senior Scientist, Abt Associates, and Marine Conservation Action Fund adviser
Ever wondered what leatherback turtles do on their summer vacations? Dr. Bryan Wallace will show off actual leatherback home videos, which provide a turtle's-eye view of the underwater smorgasbord of massive jellyfish on which turtles gorge each summer in Nova Scotia to fuel their high-energy lifestyle. Dr. Wallace will explain how leatherbacks' summer activities allow them to acquire the energy they need to migrate and reproduce, how not all leatherback vacation destinations are the same, and why all of this matters for marine conservation.
Thursday, June 4
Ocean Stewardship Spotlight Lecture
Notes from the Field: Conditions and Trends in Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay
Samantha Woods, Executive Director, North and South Rivers Watershed Association and
Pam DiBona, Executive Director, Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program
Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay are bordered by 50 communities, home to 1.7 million people, all of whom impact the Bays in one way or another. The MassBays National Estuary Program, one of 28 NEPs established under the Clean Water Act, is charged with assessing those impact, and reporting on trends over time—addressing questions like “Is water quality in the Bays improving?” and “Are herring coming back to our rivers?” and even, “Can our salt marshes survive sea level rise?”.
Join MassBays Director Pam DiBona for a report on the State of the Bays based on a recent scientific symposium, and Samantha Woods, Director of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, who brings hundreds of volunteers to the task of finding answers to these questions.
Friday, June 5
Special Lecture Event
The Bat Man of Mexico
Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, Scientist, Professor and Author
Did you know that bats and tequila are connected? The lesser long-nosed bat is crucial to the agave plant that is used to make the famous liquor export. Mexico's very own Bat Man, Rodrigo Medellín, has dedicated his life to saving these important pollinators from disappearing and we are lucky to have him make a stop at the New England Aquarium Lectures.
Thursday, July 16
Rescue, Rehab and What Comes Next: Saving Sea Turtles at the New England Aquarium
Dr. Charles Innis, Aquarium Director of Animal Health, and Connie Merigo, Aquarium Director of Rescue and Rehabilitation
Ever wonder what happens when a sea turtle washes up on shore in New England, or how hundreds of sea turtles are cared for during mass casualty stranding events? Since 1968 the New England Aquarium has helped thousands of sea turtles here at the Aquarium and during other emergency events around the U.S. For sea turtles found sick or injured, returning to their ocean home isn’t possible right away. These turtles become patients in our Sea Turtle Hospital and receive veterinary care until they regain optimal health and are strong enough to return to their natural habitat. This evening’s lecture will highlight turtle rescues and the medical management of sea turtles ranging from giant leatherback turtles to emergency care and management during large scale events involving hundreds of sick or injured turtles.
Thursday, July 30
Helping Endangered Species in Our Backyard
Bryan Windmiller, Executive Director, Grassroots Wildlife Conservation
We may not have wild pandas and snow leopards, but New England is full of regionally endangered and threatened plants and animals. To maintain and restore the diversity of our natural heritage, we need to intelligently and actively help many of our rare wild neighbors. Come and learn about hands-on projects, in which Massachusetts school children and adults are helping us protect rare species, with a focus on our threatened freshwater turtles.
Thursday, August 13, 7:30 p.m.*
Living Fossil and Blue Blood: The Story of the Horseshoe Crab and Human Health
*Pre-Lecture Reception – 6:30pm – 7:15pm
Live animal presentations, light bites and cash bar
Kathryn Tuxbury, MS, DVM, Associate Veterinarian, New England Aquarium, and
John Dubczak, General Manager, Endotoxin and Microbial Detection Division, Charles River Laboratories
The American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is an ancient marine arthropod with a lineage that goes back 440 million years. It is an important species for both its pivotal place in the ecosystem and for its valuable use in everyday human health; biomedical manufacturers and conservationists alike have a vested interest in making sure this species continues to thrive and flourish. As stewards of the environment, we have a responsibility to preserve, protect and strive to achieve balance between our need for this valuable material and the livelihood of the animal that provides it. In this presentation, we’ll discuss how these animals experience challenges in and out of their natural habitat and also review the significance of their remarkable blue blood to human health and the innovative technology that further safeguards this species and assures the sustainability of this important resource.
Thursday, September 17
Nets to Decks: Upcycling Fishing Nets in Chile
Bureo, Inc. – Ben Kneppers, David Stover and Kevin Ahearn
Spend the evening with the founding team of Bureo, an innovative company finding solutions to ocean plastic pollution. Learn how the team faced a dynamic range of plastic pollution in the ocean, and set out to find solutions. Becoming aware of the complications and lack of infrastructure for the disposal of derelict fishing nets, the team proposed a solution: recycling fishing nets into skateboard decks.
Active members in the growing community of ocean activists, the team will share insight into the latest research on ocean pollution and walk through a few everyday solutions to support the push for cleaner oceans. An interactive presentation, visuals and a short documentary film will be followed by a Q&A session. The Bureo Skateboard project has been supported in part by the New England Aquarium's Marine Conservation Action Fund.
Thursday, September 24*
The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey
Deborah Cramer, author
*Book signing to follow
Each year a sandpiper, the red knot, flies 19,000 miles from one end of the earth to the other and back. The migration is fueled in part by the eggs of horseshoe crabs, one of earth’s oldest animals, whose blue blood safeguards human health. Join Deborah along her journey accompanying the birds and horseshoe crabs: on remote, windswept beaches along the Strait of Magellan; in bug-infested hunting preserves and gleaming oyster banks in South Carolina; in Delaware Bay—an avian Serengeti and the world’s greatest concentration of horseshoe crabs; inside the research warrens of Massachusetts General Hospital; and up into the icy, inhospitable tundra where the birds nest.