Registration is requested for all programs, which 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 the lecture series archive page.

Call 617-973-6596 with questions about our lectures, RSVPing, or for more information.

Chasing Coral movie image

Chasing Coral: The Peabody and Sundance Award-winning film followed by audience Q & A

Thursday, September 20


  • James W. Porter, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology, Emeritus, University of Georgia, and Scientific Advisor and Principal Cast Member, Chasing Coral
  • Zackery Rago, Youth Outreach Manager, Exposure Labs’ Chasing Coral Impact Campaign
  • William S. Spitzer, Ph.D., Vice President, Programs, Exhibits, and Planning, New England Aquarium

The Peabody and Sundance Award-winning film Chasing Coral taps into the collective will and wisdom of an ad man, a self-proclaimed coral nerd, top-notch camera designers, and renowned marine biologists as they invent the first time-lapse camera to record bleaching events as they happen. Unfortunately, the effort is anything but simple, and the team doggedly battles technical malfunctions and the force of nature in pursuit of their holy grail: documenting the indisputable and tragic transformation below the waves. With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral is a dramatic revelation that won’t have audiences sitting idle for long.

The runtime for the movie is 93 minutes to be followed by a 30-minute panel discussion.

lecturer kerstin foresberg

Kerstin and the Giant Manta Rays: Film screening and Q & A

Wednesday, September 26

Kerstin Forsberg, Founder and Director, Planeta Océano; New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow; and Rolex Laureate

Note: The film screening will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the Q & A.

The film Kerstin and the Giant Manta Rays features Peruvian marine scientist and social entrepreneur Kerstin Forsberg and her pioneering efforts to protect giant oceanic manta rays in Peru. To save these enigmatic species, which are globally threatened by overfishing and bycatch, Forsberg and her team at Planeta Océano garnered the help of local fishing communities, government officials, and international organizations. She also engaged teachers and schoolchildren throughout Peru in raising awareness and building appreciation for these gentle giants as flagship species of their country. Through leading these collaborative efforts, Forsberg brought about the full protection of manta rays in Peru in 2015. She received international recognition for her work, including a prestigious Whitley Award, and was named a Rolex Laureate and New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow. However, Forsberg notes there is much more work to be done to continue this conservation success story and ensure a bright future for this iconic species.

The runtime for the movie is 53 minutes followed by a 20-minute Q and A with Forsberg.

John Grotzinger speaks during a lecture

Searching for Ancient Life on Mars

Thursday, October 11

John P. Grotzinger, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology; Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology

This is the eighth annual John H. Carlson Lecture presented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lorenz Center and the New England Aquarium. The registration list will be shared with MIT.

Over the past 20 years, NASA has built and sent to Mars a series of orbiters, landers, and rovers designed to explore the red planet’s earliest history and seek signs of life. These missions discovered that in contrast to its current harsh environment, the ancient surface of Mars was wet, with a warmer climate, and thought to have been habitable by simple microorganisms. Nutrients, sources of energy, and all the key ingredients to sustain life appear to have been present. The remaining question for future missions is now to determine if life ever originated on Mars. The next rover mission, due to launch in 2020, will collect rock samples for return to Earth, where they can be examined with our most technologically advanced scientific instruments, giving us our best chance to date to search for fossils of ancient life.

woman pictured outside city infant of stone enscribed with

Inclusive Community Resilience Building in East Boston

Thursday, November 1

Panelists are Magdalena Ayed, Founder of Harborkeepers; Alex DeFronzo, Executive Director of Piers Park Sailing Center; and Kannan Thiruvengadam, Founder of Eastie Farm. Moderated by John Anderson, Director of Education, New England Aquarium

Communities across the United States are facing a variety of changes and challenges. Three local leaders in East Boston are taking steps to engage diverse residents in activities to help foster community resilience in light of the challenges. New England Aquarium is collaborating with these leaders on a project called Communities Advancing Science Literacy. The panelists will discuss why they do their work, how it is making a positive difference, and how more people can get involved to foster community resilience.

The panelists include Magdalena Ayed, Alex DeFronzo, and Kannan Thiruvengadam.

Ayed founded Harborkeepers to build coastal community resiliency and foster environmentalstewardship through education, engagement, and advocacy.

DeFronzo is the Executive Director of Piers Park Sailing Center, which offers 100 percent accessible recreational, educational, and personal growth opportunities for people of all ages and abilities in Boston Harbor. Piers Park empowers participants to become stewards of a stronger community, advocates for a healthy Boston Harbor, and leaders of individual and family wellness.

Thiruvengadam founded Eastie Farm to improve food access and community resilience by developing interactive urban agricultural spaces, where residents of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to learn and take part in the production of healthy, locally grown, and culturally relevant foods.

Community partner ZUMIX will gather short audio interviews about building community resilience. It will invite participation before and after the panel discussion in the IMAX lobby. ZUMIX is an East Boston not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth to use music to make positive change in their lives and communities.

David Balton

Diplomacy and Intrigue in the Arctic

Thursday, November 8

David Balton, Senior Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Former Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries, U.S. Department of State

The Arctic region is undergoing profound changes, driven primarily by a warming climate. The nations and peoples of the Arctic are struggling to adapt to these changes. Over the past decade–and despite all manner of friction in the relationship between the United States and Russia–a new international architecture for governing the Arctic is beginning to emerge. Ambassador David A. Balton, who has played a key role in building this architecture, will review the state of play and consider what may lie ahead in the coming years.

Ambassador Balton is a Senior Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science, attaining the rank of Ambassador in 2006. He was responsible for coordinating the development of U.S. foreign policy concerning oceans and fisheries, and overseeing U.S. participation in international organizations dealing with these issues. His portfolio included managing U.S. foreign policy issues relating to the Arctic and Antarctica.

Ambassador Balton functioned as the lead U.S. negotiator on a wide range of agreements in the field of oceans and fisheries and chaired numerous international meetings. During the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2015-2017), he served as Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. His prior Arctic Council experience included co-chairing the Arctic Council Task Forces that produced the 2011 Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic and the 2013 Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic.  He separately chaired negotiations that produced the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.

These programs are made possible due to the generous support of the Lowell Institute. Founded in 1836 with a mission to inform the populace regardless of gender, race, or economic status, the Lowell Institute has reached thousands of Boston-area residents by sponsoring free public lectures and other educational programs.
lowell institute logo