Keynote Speakers

Plenary presentations will be used to bring delegates up-to-date on the latest news about what is happening to our ocean and freshwater environments globally.

Rising Seas and Ocean Acidification: The Significance for the Global Oceans 

Climate Change is making the sea warmer, changing the acidity, and adding vast amounts of fresh meltwater -- raising sea level and altering ocean currents. Oceanographer John Englander explains the big picture of change with compelling visuals and stories. He believes that leadership for aquariums in public education, research, and conservation is more important than ever, and more sensitive. Our rapidly changing ocean planet requires a frequent re-evaluation of programming and messages considering the potential impact on the public and on public policy. 

John Englander

John Englander is an oceanographer, consultant and noted expert in sea level rise. His broad marine science background coupled with degrees in geology and economics allows him to see the big picture on climate and look ahead to the large-scale financial and societal impacts, particularly as they relate to sea level rise. He brings the diverse points of view of a scientist, entrepreneur and CEO.  John is also now turning his attention to the impacts of CO2 on the oceans – the acidification – the oceans becoming less basic and more acidic as the Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere increases.  

For over 30 years, he has been a leader in both the private sector and the nonprofit arena, serving as CEO for such noteworthy organizations as The Cousteau Society and The International SeaKeepers Society. As the Founder of the Rising Seas Group, he works with businesses, government agencies, and communities helping them to understand, plan and adapt to the financial risks of rising sea levels.

His bestselling book, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, clearly explains the science behind sea level rise, the impending devastating financial impacts and the "intelligent adaptation" that all businesses and coastal communities must consider today. He believes that along with the tremendous risks in the coming decades there will also be enormous economic opportunities that will allow us to thrive if we begin now to plan and adapt for a more resilient future.

Mr. Englander is a sought after keynote speaker. His recent media appearances include MSNBC, ABC, Fox Business Channel, The Weather Channel, PBS, CCTV (China), National Public Radio (NPR), and SkyNews TV-UK.  He has been featured in USA Today, Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Climate, Climate Models, and Climate Projections

This talk will attempt to encapsulate a large and growing body of climate science research – research that addresses questions of how the climate system works, how it is changing, why it is changing, and how human activities will shape future change. I will start with an overview of the climate system and the connections between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. I will then review some of the observed changes and the current scientific understanding of their cause. Climate models – comprehensive, physically-based computer simulations of the coupled atmosphere, ocean and land system – provide powerful tools to test our understanding of the climate system and to make quantitative projections of future climate. I will summarize what we have learned from climate models, what they tell us about future climate change, and how they inform the global policy discussion about mitigation and adaptation. I will conclude with a look ahead to some international efforts currently underway that will provide further policy-relevant information on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.


 Dr. Gregory Flato

As a senior scientist and former manager at Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Dr. Gregory Flato has extensive experience in global climate model development and application.   He will provide an overview of how increasingly complex climate models are used to understand coupled processes in the Earth System, its past variability, and the changes that will result from future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. 

Dr. Flato researches global and regional climate modelling, climate prediction and projection, with a focus on the cryosphere.   He serves as the Co-Chair of the World Climate Research Programme’s Climate and Cryosphere core project, and was a coordinating lead author of the model evaluation chapter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, published in 2013.   He currently serves as a vice-Chair of the IPCC's Working Group I.

Going, Going…. Coming Back? Fish and Fisheries at the Crossroads 

Using the latest data and discoveries from fisheries science, this talk will highlight both challenges and solutions for the conservation of fish species at a global scale. It will be shown that globally speaking, fisheries are at a critical juncture, where we have a real opportunity to transform to a sustainable seafood production model. Education and engagement of a broad sector of society is a necessary prerequisite for these changes to occur. Scientists and aquaria need to work hand in hand, to achieve these important objectives. Some consequences of business-as-usual versus transformative practises will be highlighted.


Dr. Boris Worm

Boris Worm is a marine ecologist and Professor in Marine Conservation Biology at the Biology Department, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of changes in marine biodiversity, and its conservation on a global scale. He is particularly well known for his studies on the global effects fishing and climate change on ocean ecosystems. He has a special interest in the rebuilding of fisheries resources, and in policy solutions that can help to prevent further loss of marine biodiversity worldwide. He is a frequenter presenter on CBC radio and television, and has contributed to a number of award-winning feature documentaries, such as End of the Line, Sharkwater, and Racing Extinction.


Act Now or Say Goodbye

Although free-standing fresh waters comprise ony 0.5% of the earth’s water, they are home to 40% of the c. 33 000 described fish species. In the face of unprecedented levels of anthropogenic environmental degradation, the I.U.C.N.recognizes 2263 species of freshwater fish as Critically Endangered or Endangered. While preservation of viable habitat is the preferred strategy for assuring survival of threatened species, political and economic realities preclude its timely implementation in most highly biodiverse regions.  Captive breeding represents the only means of assuring near-term survival of most of these threatened fishes.  The husbandry expertise and oft-proclaimed conservation mission of public aquaria as broadly defined would suggest that they would play a leading role in such efforts.  The current situation in North America suggests otherwise. This lack of  commitment to a proven means of saving endangered species from extinction calls into question the oft-proclaimed commitment of public aquaria and zoos to the preservation of global biodiversity.

While hardly excusing this failure, the scope of this crisis is such that even the total commitment of institutional resources world-wide would be insufficient to the task of saving a significant percentage of the world’s endangered freshwater fishes.  This objective can only be accomplished by tapping into the expertise and resources that both serious aquarium hobbyists and the ornamental fish industry can bring to the effort and harmonizing captive breeding programs with in situ conservation programs in range states.  Public aquariums are potentially well placed to coordinate such efforts.  However, before they can credibly position themselves to assume such a role, they must demonstrate their conservation bona fides by committing significant resources to existing captive breeding efforts and broadening the scope of such initiatives to include the fish communities of other threatened freshwater biomes.   


Dr. Paul Loiselle

Dr. Paul V. Loiselle is Emeritus Curator of Freshwater Fishes at the New York Aquarium and a Senior Conservationist of the Wildlife Conservation Society.  He currently represents the New York Aquarium on the Steering Committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's Freshwater Fish Taxa Advisory Group and serves as Scientific Advisor to the A.Z.A.  Lake Victoria Cichlid Species Survival Program and the Madagascar Flora and aunal Interest Group and is the Madagascar Regional Chair of the I.U.C.N. Species Survival Commission’s Freshwater Fish Specialist Group. During the course of his career, Paul has had the opportunity to study the freshwater fish communities of Madagascar, West Africa,  Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, Haiti, Mexico, Central America and the Peruvian Amazon.  For the past two decades, he has been actively involved in conservation programs focused on the endemic fishes of Madagascar.  Paul is an enthusiastic aquarist of 50 years' experience.  He is a founding member and Fellow of the American Cichlid Association and a life Member of the Association France Cichlide.

In addition to his scientific publications, he is the author of numerous popular articles on the care and breeding of ornamental fishes and such books as The Cichlid Aquarium, Your Garden Pond and The Fishkeeper's Guide to African Cichlids

Coral Reefs in the 21st Century: Reasons for Both Optimism and Despair

For decades the warning bells have been sounding that coral reefs are increasingly being degraded by human activities. The decline began centuries ago, but the rate of devastation has dramatically increased in the last few decades. The combined effects of coastal land use change, destructive fishing and global climate change have led to many reefs shifting away from diverse, coral dominated, structurally complex habitats. The prognosis for coral reefs is highly uncertain but there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. Some reefs appear remarkably resilient and are able to recover from major disturbances much faster than predicted. Furthermore, evidence is emerging that some corals have an underappreciated capacity to adapt to a changing climate. There has also been a dramatic increase into solution driven research, with multi-disciplinary groups keenly focused on developing and testing techniques to reverse the global decline in reef health.  


Dr. James Guest

Dr. James Guest studied marine biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) and completed a PhD at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Previously he has held positions at Newcastle University, NUS, University of New South Wales and Nanyang Technological University. He currently holds a research fellowship at the University of Hawai’i. His research primarily focuses on coral reefs in Southeast Asia and Micronesia, and the ecological processes that effect recovery and persistence of reef communities, particularly in heavily impacted environments. James is also a science advisor for SECORE International, a coral reef conservation charity that works closely with public aquariums. 

Adapt or Perish: Amphibian Conservation in a Rapidly-Changing Landscape

The amphibian conservation realm is rife with change and significant challenges.  As such, projects are best handled using an adaptive management strategy, suffused with optimism.  It could be argued that in this field there is one constant variable: insufficient resources for effectively managing the magnitude of global amphibian decline. New and particularly daunting challenges facing amphibian survival include the newly-discovered salamander chytridiomycosis (Bsal); insufficient governmental policies for addressing disease mitigation and trade in threatened species, and a perennial lack of funding for ectotherm conservation relative to efforts for “charismatic” warm-blooded species.  A current overview of global amphibian conservation efforts is provided with examples highlighted from the author’s first-hand experience with anuran conservation.  Tools for adaptively managing amphibian conservation programs, such as the One Plan Approach are discussed. Given new challenges facing amphibians such as climate change, novel emerging pathogens, and unregulated trade, a concerted, global plan dedicated to amphibian conservation is needed including government-led initiatives, effective fundraising, and a “triage” approach toward protecting areas supporting the highest biodiversity and endemism.    


Dr. Jennifer B. Pramuk

Dr. Pramuk is a curator at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, USA. Her professional experience includes research on the biology and evolution of amphibians and reptiles, resulting in the description of 21 species of frogs and toads new to science and more than 25 scientific publications. In graduate school, her descriptions of species that had already gone extinct made her realize the importance of working on amphibian conservation initiatives. Her work in North American zoos involves local and international conservation programs for endangered chelonians and amphibians in addition to teaching workshops on amphibian conservation and biology in the United States and abroad. Jenny’s experience with reintroduction programs has enabled her to become well versed on the often complex issues germane to species recovery. She serves as an affiliate curator at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and as the Co-Chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group.

Ocean Pollution and Ocean Plastics

Pollution of the world’s oceans is one of those topics that makes most people want to bury their heads in the sand. With as many as 250,000 chemicals on the global market, and 1,000 new ones available every year, the tasks facing environmental scientists, natural resource managers and regulators is daunting. Certain chemicals have achieved notoriety because of the effects of their release on unwitting populations of humans and wildlife. This list includes organic mercury which was responsible for the contamination of fish in Minimata Bay in Japan and the poisoning of the local human population, the widespread extirpation of aquatic birds due to DDT-associated eggshell thinning, the disruption of endocrine systems in pinnipeds and cetaceans by industrial PCBs, and the feminization of male fish in freshwater rivers by estrogenic sewage effluent. In all of these cases, studies of aquatic invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals helped guide the design of solution-oriented practices.  The end result has been dramatic declines in the levels of these nefarious contaminants and consequent improvement in the health of aquatic species and those people who depend on them. But while aquatic toxicologists have long studied the effects of chemicals on the health of biota, there are increasing concerns about the breakdown of plastics into tiny particles referred to as microplastics. This ‘structural pollutant’ can suffocate, lacerate, impede feeding or artificially satiate individuals. With these microplastics (<5 mm) coming from a multitude of sources, including the breakdown of packaging, beverage containers, toys, textiles and furnishings, the world has a chance to re-think its plastic economy and create an after-use market for plastic packaging and products. Creative and focused scientific research to document source, transport, fate and effects of microplastics in the world’s aquatic ecosystems is needed to inform solutions, but the public may already be ready and willing to learn, act and change.

Dr. Peter Ross

Dr. Peter S. Ross is the founding Director of the Ocean Pollution Research Program of the Vancouver Aquarium’s newly-launched Coastal Ocean Research Institute. He will provide an overview of the key pollution issues facing the world’s oceans including the rapid increase of both micro and macro plastics and their impact on ocean ecology and species.  

Dr. Ross is an international expert in the area of ocean pollution, having published over 140 scientific articles and book chapters. He served as a Research Scientist with the Canadian government between 1996 and 2013. He is Adjunct Professor at the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. He obtained his PhD from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (1995), MSc from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1990), and BSc (Honours) from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario (1985). He has pioneered new techniques to evaluate the effects of pollutants on the health of marine mammals. He has conducted field studies of marine mammals in a way that informs and understanding of source, transport and fate of a number of priority pollutants in our oceans. He is a frequent advisor to conservation teams in different parts of the world, and has provided advice in support of chemical regulation, species at risk, ocean disposal and ocean health. Dr Ross attaches great importance to his work with coastal First Nations and Inuit communities on issues surrounding safe traditional seafoods. His team is currently conducting research on microplastic pollution, marine mammal health, oil spills, safe traditional seafoods and a coast-wide pollution monitoring project (PollutionTracker) in British Columbia.  


Road Map to a Sustainable Future: Will Aquariums Meet the Challenge?

Over a quarter century has passed since the international aquarium community gathered in Monaco at the first IAC meeting to share ideas and best practices. Over time, our missions have evolved as the world has changed, toward more focus on our role in solving the growing environmental crisis that surrounds us. But, are we doing enough? 

Freshwater aquatic systems are a basic requirement for human survival, from drinking water to food security.  And, healthy ocean and aquatic ecosystems are critical to enabling life on Earth to exist.  Their future will determine our future... and in fact, our very survival.  The ocean is our pantry, our lungs, our playground, a massive driver of global commerce and a storehouse for innovation to meet human needs.  But, we know now that these aquatic systems are changing at a dangerous pace. 

Our global community of aquariums has a massive untapped opportunity to turn this tide.  We have done a good job of helping millions of visitors know more and care more about the ocean and aquatic life, but we haven't done nearly enough to guide them to take the next step.  

Fortunately, we have created an amazing array of effective models for ocean and aquatic conservation, from marine protected areas to fisheries governance reform to consumer movements for sustainable seafood.  And, we now have a road map in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals which include specific targets for freshwater and life in the sea. 

I am confident we can turn the tide -- by investing in people and ideas to demonstrate solutions, nurturing hope and aspiration, and showing our audiences how they can engage to make change.  The collective action of everyone in this room -- whatever we decide to do at our institutions in the next few years -- will help shape the future for humanity on this planet. 


Julie Packard

Julie Packard is founding executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Based on a lifelong passion for science and nature, she has led the Aquarium to become a global force for ocean conservation.  She chairs the board of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a global leader in deep ocean science and technology and she is deeply engaged in ocean conservation strategies through her work as a trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Julie served as a member of the Pew Oceans Commission which published a blueprint for improving governance of America's ocean waters, and more recently served on the California Parks  Forward Commission to develop a sustainable path for California's state parks. Julie holds a masters degree in biology with a focus in marine algal ecology.