The New England Aquarium Lecture Series Delights and Educates Animal-Lovers of All Ages

Posted by Jake Safane

Common preconceptions are that sharks are scary and lectures are boring. But at the New England Aquarium Lecture Series, these preconceptions were shown to be misconceptions.

On Thursday evening, a packed house filled the Aquarium’s Harborside Learning Lab for a presentation titled “The Whale Shark: Our Enigmatic and Peripatetic Global Ambassador for Sharks.” Dr. Rachel T. Graham, Director of the Gulf and Caribbean Sharks and Rays Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, spoke to a captive audience of around 100 people ranging from elementary school children to senior citizens. The audience soon learned that whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, are actually gentle giants of sorts, who use a suction-type method to vacuum tiny sea creatures such as plankton and krill… nothing like the Jaws stereotype.

With her vast knowledge and experience, Graham delighted the crowd with stories of tracking and swimming with whale sharks around the world, along with some additional information on the importance of preservation of all types of sharks. By the end of the lecture, guests were coming up to Graham to ask for travel recommendations so that they could swim with whale sharks.

“There seems to be lecture types that people are drawn to. People are drawn to personal experiences,” said Sunnye Collins, director of the Lecture Series.

The experiences Graham shared ranged from taking biopsies of whale sharks killed by fisheries in Asia to a curious attempt by a whale shark to socialize with her by bumping its head against Graham’s stomach.

“I’ve never spoken at an aquarium before, so it was a great opportunity” said Graham. “I’m happy I could do it.”

In addition to whale sharks, the Lecture Series covers a wide range of marine topics, ranging from cod to next week’s talk on “freshwater giants” with Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic Channel’s Monster Fish.

The Aquarium has been offering free lectures since 1972,  thanks to generous funding from the Lowell Institute. Collins puts together a spring and fall season with a total of 20-24 lectures throughout the year. This fall, the series runs on Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the Aquarium provides coffee, tea and cookies after the lectures.

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Posted by Jake Safane on Oct 24 2011. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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