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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Mystic Aquarium expands offshore wind exhibit with youth in mind

    Expanded parts of the Renewable Ocean Energy exhibit at the Mystic Aquarium are seen Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Expanded parts of the Renewable Ocean Energy exhibit at the Mystic Aquarium are seen Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mystic — In light of New London’s growing offshore wind industry, the Mystic Aquarium expanded its Renewable Ocean Energy Exhibit to educate the region on protective ocean wildlife methods this week.

    The expansion is in collaboration with Ørsted and Eversource, two developers of Connecticut's first large-scale offshore wind farm. The offshore wind projects are expected to power up to 70,000 homes on Long Island when completed.

    The two companies gave the aquarium two grants totaling $1.25 million to study the effects of wind turbines on marine mammals and sea turtles.

    Katie Cubina, senior vice president for mission programs at the Mystic Aquarium, oversees the exhibit, as well as the research teams tasked with ensuring ocean wildlife safety. She explained that partnerships between the aquarium and offshore wind developers are essential to sustainable development.

    “(Climate change) is a big problem and you're never going to solve it by yourself. So you have to work collaboratively with organizations and entities public, private and nonprofit, in order to band together because we may have one part of the puzzle and another group may have another part,” Cubina said.

    The research conducted by the aquarium uses novel methods to collect DNA of ocean wildlife near the offshore wind sites. The data will go toward further understanding how to mitigate negative impacts on marine life.

    “We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with these wind farms going up as we speak to be able to get data before, during construction and after … We're really happy that we're part of the solution,” Cubina said.

    Stations in the exhibit provide an in-depth look at how offshore wind energy is cultivated. One screen presents interviews with engineers and technicians who work on offshore energy. The goal is for younger people to be introduced to professions in sustainable energy, so they can see themselves holding those roles one day.

    “One of the things that's really important in our mission is career awareness, workforce development and making sure that every kid out there knows that there's a place in the world of S.T.E.M,” she said.

    Cubina believes that the youth will play a crucial role in sustainability efforts. The exhibit seeks to provide students of all ages and demographics in the region with sustainable energy awareness.

    Throughout New London County, voices pushing for sustainable energy and climate change awareness have risen, specifically among young people. Earlier this month, 100 students from high schools throughout the county gathered for an inaugural Southeastern Connecticut Youth Climate Summit.

    “They are the ones who are going to be creating the climate of the future. And the more we can help support that and amplify that youth voice, the better,” Cubina said.

    t.wright@theday.com

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