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 Harborside Learning Lab unless otherwise noted. Get general directions to the Aquarium, and use this map to find the Harborside Learning Lab (pdf). Programs last approximately one hour and are followed by a reception. Most lectures are recorded and available for viewing on our YouTube channel.
Thursday, May 30
Simons IMAX Theatre
SWITCH: Discover the Future of Energy
Dr. Scott Tinker, Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology
of the University of Texas and State Geologist of Texas
What will it really take to transition from oil and coal to their alternatives? Dr. Scott Tinker, Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, State Geologist of Texas, professor of geosciences and renowned energy lecturer, embarks on a round-the-world journey to answer this and related questions: If coal is dirty, why do we keep using it? Can we really clean it up? Will oil get more expensive? Will it run out? How quickly will we adopt alternatives, and which ones? How risky is hydraulic fracturing? How dangerous is nuclear? What are the biggest challenges, and most promising solutions, to our energy transition? What role does each of us play? SWITCH goes where no film has before, deep into the world's most restricted energy sites; from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, to make the technical accessible and discover the truth of our energy future. Register here.
Thursday, June 6
The Surprisingly Familiar Family Lives of Sperm Whales
Shane Gero, Founder and Lead Investigator, The Dominica Sperm Whale Project
Sperm whales are among the most enigmatic animals on the planet. The largest of the tooth whales, they have the largest brains of any animal, they are among the deepest divers of all mammals, they “see” in the darkness of the deep ocean with the most powerful natural sonar system housed in their nose, and they consume as much squid in a year as all of humanity’s modern mechanized fisheries on all species combined! Shane Gero has been tracking families of sperm whales for the last nine years off the Caribbean island of Dominica. Having spent thousands of hours in their company observing their behavior, Gero has come to know these leviathans from the deep as individuals with personalities, as brothers and sisters or as mothers and babysitters. They are truly a community of families, each with their own ways of doing things, their own traditions, and each with a unique story; all living together as neighbors in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Sperm whales are a lot like us, more so than some of us might like to admit; and their family lives are surprisingly similar to our families. Come meet the whale families, hear their stories and discover what life lessons Gero has learnt from them. Register here.
Thursday, June 13
Deciphering Shark Secrets: Preparing New Species for the Giant Ocean Tank
Barbara Bailey, Assistant Curator of Husbandry, New England Aquarium,
2012 John H. Cunningham Award Winner
In July 2013, the centerpiece of the New England Aquarium, the Giant Ocean Tank, will be unveiled, showcasing months of extensive work and a $17 million investment. The newly renovated exhibit will have a larger, more diverse and esoteric collection, including new shark species not previously displayed in this Caribbean reef exhibit. Out of the sight of many, work began in September 2010 at the Quincy offsite facility with our acquisition of bonnethead and blacknose sharks. In an effort to gain a fuller understanding about these new shark species and greater perspective of potential future species, Barbara Bailey, assistant curator of husbandry at the Aquarium, applied for the 2012 John H. Cunningham Award. This quest for knowledge took her on a journey from Marathon, Florida, for field research on shark physiology with Dynasty Marine, Disney Living Seas and John G. Shedd Aquarium to the Georgia Aquarium for hands-on elasmobranch husbandry, handling and training. Register here.
Wednesday, July 17
Simons IMAX Theatre
Underwater Flight: Protecting the Manta Rays of Sri Lanka
Daniel Fernando, project leader, Manta Trust – Sri Lanka
With widths reaching over 20 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and weighing in at up to two tons, the graceful and mysterious manta is the largest of the ray species. Sadly, manta rays and their relatives, the mobula rays, are threatened by overfishing due to a growing demand for their gills for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Daniel Fernando, a scientist with the Manta Trust, has been documenting the grave impact of this fishery in Sri Lanka and India, which are among the world’s major exporters of dried manta and mobula gills. Daniel’s study, which was supported in part by the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund, contributed to a major victory for manta and mobula rays in March, 2013 when the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to strengthen trade regulations for these species. Daniel will speak about his research and the race to ensure the survival of these magnificent and highly vulnerable species. Register here.
Thursday, March 21
*Book signing to follow
Race France to France: Leave Antarctica to Starboard
Rich Wilson, Vendee Globe Sailing Race 2008 - 2009
During 2008 – 2009, Rich Wilson became only the second American to finish the Vendee Globe, one of the most grueling and dangerous sailing races on the planet. At 58, Wilson finished ninth out of the 30 race starters despite his age, severe asthma and numerous bumps along the way. Wilson’s tenacity, skill, determination and perseverance will inspire and motivate even the most landlocked audience member. A lifelong educator, Wilson has now turned his adventure into a book, Race France to France, and an online site for K – 12 students.
Thursday, March 28
Using Geographic Information Systems to Keep Our Ocean Blue
Brooke Wikgren, Assistant Scientist/GIS Specialist,
John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium
As human population increases, our reliance on the ocean and its resources is continuously expanding. Our coastal waters are an urbanized mecca of activity. These uses are often overlapping and competing for space with each other, as well as competing with the uses of the natural environment. Through the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we can determine how these different uses interact and overlap in space and use that information to find ways to meet our human needs, while minimizing our impacts in the natural environment. This lecture is a brief introduction to GIS and how we use it at the New England Aquarium to advance our live blue™ mission, highlighting a case study about how we help protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from entanglement in fishing gear.
Thursday, April 4
*Book signing to follow
Do Fish Sleep?
Judith S. Weis, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences,
Fishes may appear to live a dull existence, but appearances change once we understand more about how they survive. These wonders—from the 51-foot whale shark Rhincodon typus to a less-than-1/2-inch fish in the minnow family, the tiny Paedocypris progenetica—actually possess attributes that would make us superheroes if we had them. They can change color, change sex, produce light and electricity, regenerate injured fins, prevent themselves from sinking and some can even walk on land. Dr. Judith Weis will present highlights from her book, Do Fish Sleep?, and share some of the most interesting things about fish.
Thursday, April 25
*Book signing to follow
Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from
Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorists, Natural Disasters and Disease
Dr. Rafe Sagarin, author, Institute of the Environment,
University of Arizona
Organisms in nature have been successfully using adaptation to survive and thrive on a risk-filled planet for billions of years. In Learning from the Octopus, Dr. Rafe Sagarin shares nature’s secrets for adaptation and discusses how they can be applied to how we in society respond to unpredictable risks, from terrorism to economic downturns. Sagarin has been developing these biologically inspired lessons with a diverse group of biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, soldiers, first responders and business consultants that he began organizing after 9/11. This talk will move beyond the recently popular use of “adaptability” as a buzzword and delve into specifics on how organisms in nature organize themselves, use creative redundancy, rely on symbiotic partnerships and learn from success to adapt with very limited resources. Sagarin will relate remarkable stories from the human and non-human world of how octopuses in tidepools, Marines in Iraq, and public health officials working cooperatively between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, have used adaptability to keep themselves secure in a risky world.
Thursday, May 2
Perspectives of an Artist/Naturalist
James Prosek, author and artist
Writer, artist, avid fisherman and naturalist James Prosek is on a mission to share the 35 most important fish in the Atlantic Ocean before they leave us forever in his newest book, Ocean Fishes. Through intense observation, work with scientists and interviews with the fishermen who know these animals best, Prosek has created a tribute to marine splendor like no other. A published author since age 19, Prosek has been helping to share the beautiful planet that surrounds us through his words and his artwork. In addition to discussing Ocean Fishes, Prosek will touch upon his 2010 book, Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish, which is the subject of the upcoming PBS series Nature documentary.
Thursday, May 9
How Healthy Is the World’s Ocean?
Ben Halpern, Director, Center for Marine Assessment and Planning, and Researcher, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California-Santa Barbara
The last decade has seen numerous reports of oceans in peril, but also many stories of successful marine conservation and management. So where does that leave us? How healthy—or unhealthy—is the world’s ocean? Come learn about a brand new way to measure ocean health, the Ocean Health Index, that allows us to answer that question for the first time in a comprehensive, comparable way, for every coastal country on the planet. Ben Halpern, the lead scientist for the Ocean Health Index project, will present results from this first assessment and dive deep into what the results mean—how countries compare to each other, what goes into the Index, and how the planet is doing. In doing so, Dr. Halpern will challenge your ideas about what it means for the ocean to be healthy, and it turn what we need to do to better manage and protect the oceans to make them healthier in the future.
Thursday, May 16
Save Bristol Bay: The Fight for Sockeye Salmon
Barton Seaver, chef, author and Sustainability Fellow in Residence, New England Aquarium
Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay provides the best habitat for wild salmon on Earth. It is home to the world’s most abundant sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs each year. A wilderness area largely untouched by development, Bristol Bay’s crystal-clear waters are reminiscent of the historic environments in which all Alaskan fish species once thrived. Despite its unmatched productivity and critical role in sustaining healthy salmon populations, Bristol Bay is under threat from foreign mining companies seeking to turn the watershed into an industrial mining district. Pebble Mine not only risks the salmon but the culture of independent and native fisherman who have sustained on this resource for millennium. Renowned chef Barton Seaver is touring the country to educate the public about this crucial natural resource, its place in the global ecosystem and opportunities to help preserve the bay with our forks.
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