The spring 2018 lecture series will begin in March. 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 the lecture series archive page.

John Flynn, co-founder and director of Wildness, and New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow

One Life at a Time – Saving Sea Turtles in Ghana

Thursday, March 29, 2018

John Flynn, co-founder and director of Wildseas and New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow*

*The MCAF Fellows Program is supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

During a 2011 visit to the western region of Ghana, Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) Fellow John Flynn and his colleague Neil Davis witnessed the rampant poaching of nesting sea turtles and their eggs. They reached out to local village chiefs, recruited a dedicated team from the community, and began nightly beach patrols to deter poachers. Within a few years, Flynn, Davis, local anti-poaching patrol leader Enock Agyimah, and numerous seasonal staff helped protect thousands of turtle eggs and many nesting turtles from poachers. The conservation mission of the group, known as Wildseas, soon grew beyond protecting sea turtle nesting beaches.

In 2012, Flynn and Davis’ interpreter, Eric Quayson, alerted them to high bycatch rates of sea turtles in offshore fishing nets. Working with Quayson, who served as a liaison to the fishing community, Flynn and Davis secured a commitment from the fishermen to safely release turtles caught in their nets. This collaborative safe-release program has saved nearly 1,000 turtles since 2012. Flynn will speak about the many challenges and successes he and his team have experienced in their efforts to save turtles, collaborate with fishermen, engage local communities, and build local capacity for conservation.

Sea otter

Return of the Sea Otter – America’s Cutest Animal

Tuesday, April 3

Todd McLeish, Science Writer

Sea otters were nearly driven to extinction during the fur trade in the late 1700s and 1800s, but they have recolonized most of their former range and have become one of the most popular–and cutest–animals in America. While their population is growing in many areas, they are still threatened by sharks, killer whales, oil spills, fishermen, and native hunters. Join author Todd McLeish as he shares adorable photos and describes his adventures studying sea otters from California to Alaska. This will be Todd’s first presentation of his new book, Return of the Sea Otter, and he will sign copies of the book in the IMAX lobby following his lecture.

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry and the cover to his children's book Ultimate Book of Sharks

Shark Stories

Thursday, April 19

Brian Skerry, National Geographic Photographer and New England Aquarium Explorer In Residence

This lecture is specifically for children and families.

Brian Skerry saw his first shark in the wild in 1982 and was hooked. During the last three and a half decades, he has spent countless hours underwater in locations worldwide photographing these enigmatic animals.

In this presentation, Brian will share his personal journey with sharks, from the ways that he’s been inspired by them to his approach with photography and what he has learned along the way. Among the species to be highlighted will be tiger sharks, makos, oceanic whitetips, and great whites. His latest book for children is entitled The Ultimate Book of Sharks. 

atlantic salmon

Atlantic Salmon –
Lost at Sea
film screening and discussion

Thursday, May 10

Introduction by the film’s producer, Deirdre Brennan, followed by a question-and-answer session with Jonathan Carr, Vice President of Research and Environment, Atlantic Salmon Federation 

Co-hosted by the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Narrated by Irish actor and films director Gabriel Byrne, Lost at Sea takes the viewer on an epic journey through the oceanic kingdom of the Atlantic salmon–king of fish–in an attempt to unravel the mystery of their life at sea. Populations of salmon are plummeting to critical levels, even going extinct in some southern rivers. Despite conservation efforts worldwide, populations continue to fall. The cause is mortality at sea.

For the first time, scientists, using the latest DNA technology, are able to track the salmon from the rivers, through the estuaries, and into the vast North Atlantic Ocean and back again, in hopes of finding an answer before it is too late.


Distance Vision and the Early Origins of Awareness

Thursday, May 31

David Edelman, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College

The ability to resolve distant objects within a complex visual scene probably emerged more than 500 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion, a period characterized by the appearance of diverse new sensory innovations, including every major type of eye found in living vertebrates and invertebrates today. David Edelman, Ph.D., argues that distance vision and its underlying neural circuitry provided the first critical substrates for sensory consciousness. Seeing objects from afar engendered a new sort of neural faculty that effectively linked space and time. Animals equipped with this faculty were able to not only monitor their environment for salience (e.g., identify and track predators or prey), but also make predictions about future outcomes on which their survival likely hinged. Making such predictions must necessarily have relied on an ongoing linkage between perception and memory: a connection that, some suggest, is a critical requisite for conscious experience. He makes the case that, as a capable predator with acute vision, the octopus provides a striking test case for subjective experience in an animal quite distant from the vertebrate line. Indeed, probing the octopus visual system could conceivably help identify neuroanatomical and neurophysiological properties of conscious states that are universal among animals with sophisticated sensory faculties and complex nervous systems, regardless of profound morphological differences and divergent evolutionary histories.

Kara Yopak, Are Sharks Smart? spring 2018 lecture

Are Sharks Smart? Exploring the Brain of Sharks and Their Relatives

Thursday, June 21

Kara E. Yopak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Selection for cognitive ability has been proposed as a key factor driving the evolution of larger brains and/or the brain structures associated with problem solving, social behavior, and other cognitively demanding tasks. These brain structures are often subject to different selection pressures, resulting in a significant degree of variation in brain size and complexity across vertebrates. Kara Yopak, Ph.D., explores major evolutionary patterns of brain organization in fishes, with particular emphasis on one of the most basal vertebrate groups, the cartilaginous fishes, which includes sharks, skates, rays, and chimaerids. Across a dataset of more than 150 species–including iconic species such as the great white shark to species with extreme morphological specializations, like the filter feeding whale shark–Yopak will explore how the variation in the size and complexity of major brain structures reflect an animal’s ecology, even in phylogenetically unrelated species that share certain lifestyle characteristics. These data may pave the way for predicting cognitive function and/or more complex behavioral repertoires in fishes, with implications for how “intelligence” has evolved across vertebrates.

Andy Mann diving with shark

Ocean Conservation Storytelling

Thursday, June 28

Andy Mann, Conservation Photographer and Filmmaker, National Geographic, SeaLegacy

With the magnificent honor of documenting the world’s oceans comes the incredible responsibility of telling these stories correctly and to the right people. Through photo and video storytelling, Andy Mann and SeaLegacy aim for the highest level of cinematography and social impact in order to bring change and raise awareness for our most threatened marine ecosystems. Through multimedia, Mann will share stories (and misadventures) from his excursions in all seven continents, including recent diving expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic, Cuba, Macaronesia, and other locales, shining light on our most precious and threatened ecosystems.

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.
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