Monterey Bay Aquarium Announces Promotion of Cynthia Vernon to Chief Operating Officer

Jun 29, 2015

Aquarium News

Julie Packard, Founding Executive Director, is excited to announce a new leadership development at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With the pending retirement of Jim Hekkers as Managing Director, Julie announced Friday the promotion of Cynthia Vernon to the position of Chief Operating Officer. Most recently serving as the Vice President of Education and Guest Programs, Cynthia has acted in a leadership role, guiding the aquarium’s education and guest service programs. In her new strategic position, and working with an extraordinary team of leaders, Cynthia will provide critical oversight for Exhibits, Husbandry, and Facilities, in addition to Education, Guest Experience and Visitor Research and Evaluation. This move consolidates all of the aquarium’s on-site public programs under unified leadership.

During her tenure, Vernon has overseen tremendous growth in the aquarium’s work with students and teachers, and has led creation of an array of interpretive programs for aquarium visitors to advance the institution’s mission to inspire conservation of the ocean.  In the immediate future, she’ll be leading creation of a new Ocean Education and Leadership Center in a building recently purchased on Cannery Row. Through the center, the aquarium will provide free educator-led programs for all visiting schoolchildren, and double the number of teachers engaged in professional development and the number of youth in leadership programs.

Prior to moving to California in 2001 to join the aquarium, Vernon held key management positions at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in Indiana. She has led several large visitor research studies to investigate how visits to aquariums and zoos foster conservation behavior. She's also involved in a national coalition to encourage more effective interpretation and action about climate change.

She is an active and involved member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), having served on its national Board of Directors, its Ethics Board and numerous other committees. She is a committed, longtime Girl Scout volunteer and is vice-president of the Point Lobos Foundation Board of Directors. Vernon has a Bachelor of Arts degree in zoology from DePauw University and a Master of Science degree in biology (animal behavior) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.