Cynthia Vernon, Chief Operating Officer

As Chief Operating Officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cynthia Vernon directs the divisions responsible for the aquarium’s core operations and visitor experiences (facilities, husbandry, exhibitions, guest experience, education programs and visitor research and evaluation).

As a member of the aquarium’s Executive Committee, she helps determine its goals, priorities, and budget.

Cynthia has more than 30 years of experience in informal science and conservation education at aquariums and zoos, including 14 years at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as Vice President of Education and Guest Programs.

Cynthia has a special interest in understanding the role of visits to aquariums and zoos on conservation behavior, and has led several large visitor research studies to investigate that effect. She is also involved in a national coalition to encourage more effective interpretation and action about climate change.

Prior to joining the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2001, Cynthia worked at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, where she served as its director of communications, curator of education and education specialist. She was also a member of the zoo’s capital development coordinating team, which was responsible for a 10-year, $40 million capital and renovations projects program.

She has also worked as an education curator at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, an instructor in the biological sciences department at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and a teaching assistant in the zoological department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

She holds a master’s degree in zoology (animal behavior) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a bachelor’s degree in zoology from DePauw University. She is the author and co-author of several publications about visitor engagement and the impact of visits to zoos and aquariums.

Cynthia is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, having served on its national board of directors and currently sitting on its ethics board and aquarium affairs committee.

She is the president of the Point Lobos Foundation Board of Directors, is a life-long Girl Scout volunteer and enjoys choral music, international travel, playing golf and being in nature.

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