All lectures start at 7:00 p.m. in the Simons IMAX Theatre, unless otherwise noted.

Jeremy Jackson

Wednesday, September 28

Can We Save Coral Reefs and If So How?

Jeremy Jackson, Professor of Oceanography Emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution

Reef corals are declining worldwide. Climate change dominates the headlines, especially in relation to the recent mass bleaching and death of corals along the northern Great Barrier Reef and throughout the Pacific. But climate change is only half of the story. Up to now, the destructive impacts of climate change on reefs have been much less than the localized effects of overfishing, land-based pollution, and loss of habitats due to coastal development. A recent study of changes on Caribbean reefs over the past 50 years demonstrates that reefs with effective local protections and governance have double the amount of living coral, more fish, and clearer waters than reefs without protections. These new findings show that there are things we can do right now to help reefs recover. We need to stop all forms of overfishing, establish very large marine protected areas, and impose strict regulations on coastal development and pollution while at the same time working to reduce the use of fossil fuels. It’s not either/or, but all of the above.

lecturers emily callahan and amber jackson

Thursday, September 29

Rigs to Reefs: A Blue Solution to Repurpose the World’s Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms

Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson
Co-Founders of Blue Latitudes

There comes a time when the useful life of an oil platform comes to an end, at least when it comes to drilling for oil, and that’s when Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson, co-founders of Blue Latitudes, dive in. They are marine scientists on a mission to re-purpose offshore oil and gas platforms as artificial reefs around the world. The oil platforms found in their home state of California, like most offshore oil platforms around the world, are home to some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. As the world’s natural reefs are overfished, over-trawled and polluted, Amber and Emily believe that re-purposing these structures, some the size of the empire state building, as artificial reefs, may be the best decision for the future of our oceans. It’s time to think creatively about the resources we have, and proceed forward boldly with radical new tactics for ocean management. Join Callahan and Jackson to hear how Rig2Reef Exploration has successfully conducted research expeditions in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico and California, investigating the ecological, economic and cultural benefits of re-purposing these offshore platforms in a variety of ways, from eco-tourism hot spots, to national marine sanctuaries.

lecturer kerstin foresberg

Wednesday, October 5

Pioneering Manta Ray and Community-Based Conservation in Peru

Kerstin Forsberg
Founder and Director, Planeta Océano, Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow


One of the world’s largest populations of giant manta rays migrates into the waters off of Peru. However, mantas in Peru had been severely overlooked and were exposed to unregulated fisheries. Since 2012, Kerstin Forsberg has been leading initiatives to pioneer manta ray conservation in Peru in partnership with local fishing communities and international organizations. Her team’s comprehensive efforts have included researching manta harvest and occurrence, building local awareness, and engaging artisanal fishermen in community-based manta eco-tourism. Building upon this work, and after two years working with the Peruvian government, Forsberg led the effort to secure full legal protection for manta rays in Peru. Join Kerstin Forsberg as she shares the story of her groundbreaking work with mantas, and describes how her organization, Planeta Océano, is growing into a model for community-based conservation.

lecturer Dr. Richard Alley

Thursday, October 13

Big Ice: Antarctica, Greenland, and Boston

Sixth Annual John H. Carlson Lecture Presented by MIT’s Lorenz Center and the New England Aquarium

Dr. Richard Alley
Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

An ice sheet is a two-mile-thick, continent-wide pile of old snow, spreading under its own weight and sculpting the land beneath. The ice sheet that buried Boston 20,000 years ago melted when slowly acting features of Earth’s orbit raised summer sunshine and atmospheric carbon dioxide, warming the climate. The history of that Ice Age can still be read in Boston Harbor and in the layers of the surviving ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland. Join Dr. Richard Alley to learn how more warming may melt those ice records, as break-off of huge icebergs and outburst floods speed sea-level rise.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for educational displays and light refreshments with MIT students and scientists

Thursday, October 20

Lessons from the Gulf of Maine on How to Live in a Warmer World

Andrew J. Pershing
Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Waters all over the world are warming. However, due to its unique oceanography, the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming regions of the global ocean. The warming of the waters off New England has led to declines in important commercial species such as northern shrimp and cod, but it is also creating new opportunities as warmer-water species move northward. Join Dr. Pershing to hear how the rapid warming in the Gulf of Maine gives us a unique opportunity to understand how ocean animals respond to changes in temperature and how we can prepare for the changes that we know are coming.

marine iguana in Galapagos

Thursday, October 27

Stress in Wild Animals: From the Arctic to the Equator

L. Michael Romero, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, Tufts University

In contrast to stress-related disease in humans, the stress response is vital for helping wild animals survive in their natural habitats. The hormonal and physiological responses to stress are similar in all vertebrates. When these systems are activated at the wrong times for the wrong durations, disease can result. However, these same systems allow wild animals to survive natural stressors such as storms, predation attempts, and starvation. Join professor Michael Romero as he presents highlights from more than 25 years of research on stress in wild animals. Furthermore, he will discuss how understanding the stress response may also show us how animals cope with human-created changes in their habitats.

lobster with shell disease

Thursday, November 3

Epizootic Shell Disease in the American Lobster, Homarus Americanus

Jeffrey Shields
Professor of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary

Populations of the lobster, Homarus americanus, off southern New England are threatened by epizootic shell disease (ESD). The disease causes a rapid necrosis of the shell making infected lobsters unmarketable. The disease has negatively affected the fishery, but it has been difficult to quantify its impact on lobster populations. ESD is caused by a shift in the bacterial community (dysbiosis) that occurs in relation to changes in environmental and anthropogenic stressors. Temperature is a key variable in ESD but its effect has not been well characterized.

Join Jeff Shields as he discusses environmental diseases in lobsters and what can be done about them. He will present an overview of the disease and give new findings on his recent studies. He will also address aspects of the dysbiosis, the effect of temperature on individuals and projected effects on populations, as well as new insights into the epidemiology of the disease. Understanding the complex interplay among temperature, disease dynamics and lobsters is critical for assessing the risk of expansion of the disease into the Gulf of Maine. 

Lecturer MatT Ayer holds fish

Thursday, November 10

Fish Blowing Up? Handling Barotrauma in the Gulf of Maine

Matt Ayer
Recreational Fisheries Biologist, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

Barotrauma is an injury caused by a change in gas pressure. In many fish species, barotrauma occurs when the swim bladder expands or ruptures as fish are brought to the surface. In the recreational groundfish fishery in the Gulf of Maine, there are multiple species that exhibit signs of barotrauma when caught. In some cases, these symptoms can be severe and significantly increase the mortality of discarded fish. One method of increasing the survival of released groundfish is to assist their descent and re-compression using a “release device.” Such devices are commonly used in other parts of the country, but have been only recently introduced to Gulf of Maine anglers. Learn from recreational fisheries biologist Matt Ayer about fish filled with air and how anglers may be able to help them

lecturer robert vincent

Thursday, November 17

Invasive Species and Carbon Cycling in Coastal Dunes of Cape Cod

Robert Vincent, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sea Grant College Program

MIT Sea Grant coastal ecologist Dr. Robert Vincent is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service to study carbon cycling in coastal dune habitats, as well as the effects of historic peat deposits on the establishment and persistence of invasive plants (Phragmites australis). With the increased risk of erosion from coastal storms exposing the once-buried peat deposits, and the challenge of controlling an aggressive invasive species, this dynamic system has a lot going on. Join Dr. Vincent to learn how the research findings from this study will inform future conservation efforts in the region as well as allow us to gain a deeper understanding of carbon cycling in coastal dunes.

lecturer Brad Chase stands in water

Thursday, December 1

The Sea-Run Fish of Massachusetts

Bradford Chase
Marine Fisheries Biologist, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

Diadromous, or sea-run fish, have the risky life strategy of leaving the ocean to migrate toward coastal rivers where humans and many types of fish and wildlife predators challenge their quest. Less than one percent of the fish on the planet have adapted to this reproductive life history, but many, such as salmon and eel species, are well known for their high value and cultural importance. Join Bradford as he discusses the diadromous fish of Massachusetts with information on their biology, management, and threats to survival, with a special focus on the iconic river herring and American eel.