Of course my favorite part was getting to meet everyone, both my fellow panelists and guests at the event. A theme of the evening, and of the Aquarium's work in general, is how much there is to learn from your own backyard. Dr Wagner reminded us that just last year (in 2018!) researchers discovered a vast coral reef just about 160 miles off the coast of where we were seated for the panel (NBC article about discovery). Dr Ebert found and named new shark species in his backyard of Monterey Bay, California. I thought Monterey Bay must be one of the best understood marine areas because it's had an excellent research center there for decades. Apparently we still have a lot to learn even there! I find that motivating and exciting.
The South Carolina Aquarium runs an impressive set of events and activities that inspire conservation of the natural world. Several people I met at the event were pushing for limits on plastic pollution in the city and its surrounding suburbs. A few days before this event, Charleston County approved a ban on plastic bags and foam packaging. There was concern that the state might invalidate the ban, however (local news article). Several Charlestonians I met were also looking for ways to protest against the seismic testing planned off their waters (and all along the east coast), as this is known to harm whales and other marine life. There is grave cause for concern. Unfortunately it seems the testing is slated to continue. I wish I could get ahold of the environmental assessment report for this activity; if anyone has leads please contact me or contact below. Those on land might not notice, but those underwater will.