Jerry Schubel, the long-time president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific—and a ubiquitous champion of environment causes—announced Friday he is retiring from the 20-year-old institution.
Schubel will stay on until the aquarium’s Board of Directors finds a successor. A search for his replacement will begin this month, with the board expecting to have someone in place by next summer.
Schubel, who joined the Aquarium in 2002 having served as president and CEO of the New England Aquarium, dean of Stony Brook University’s Marine Science Research Center, and associate director of Johns Hopkins University’s Chesapeake Bay Institute, led the Aquarium to address controversial environmental issues from both a global and local standpoint.
From the small things, like encouraging local beach cleanups, to big-picture topics such as the Aquatic Forum—a biannual gathering of scientists, policymakers and stakeholders to discuss solutions to nationwide environmental dilemmas—Schubel shepherded the aquarium to prioritize connecting the public to the ocean’s wonders through new technologies, art, design and performance through exhibits and programming.
Named by the Bolsa Chica Conservancy as Conservator of the Year in 2015, the oceanographer’s expertise includes ocean acidification, climate change and its impact on the planet, marine spatial planning, sustainable seafood and urban ocean issues; he’s published more than 200 scientific papers throughout his career, some as the lead author on reports from the aquarium and the Marine Conservation Research Institute.
In an effort to create, and inspire others to create, a more sustainable future for the planet, and specifically, for Long Beach, Schubel responded to Mayor Robert Garcia’s request asking the aquarium to assess the primary threats climate change posed to the city. A report was released by the aquarium in 2016, and later a citizen’s guide, for building a more climate resilient Long Beach.
Schubel led the development of the campus master plan, which included the Aquarium’s largest expansion, the $53-million Pacific Visions wing that opened to the public in May. The 29,000-square-foot space uses art and science to inspire visitors to think about the ecosystems that make life possible, Schubel said.
During his tenure, Schubel also implemented the Aquatic Academy, offering evening classes to adults to encourage dialogue on topics from offshore aquaculture to genetically modified organisms. He is also director of the aquarium’s MCRI, supporting research, forums and policy work on local and nationwide marine issues. He also oversaw the aquarium’s Seafood for the Future program, promoting the expansion of responsible ocean farming in the U.S.
Also under Schubel’s leadership, the aquarium fostered partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the Annenberg Foundation, and the ArtCenter College of Design, to name a few, and connected the aquarium with scientists from Stanford University to UCLA.
Schubel and the aquarium’s ultimate goal is a long-term effort to preserve and protect coastal resources, to adapt to change and also create change, however small, for the sake of the planet.
“Jerry Schubel’s visionary leadership has created a lasting legacy for the Aquarium and for the City of Long Beach,” said Kathleen Eckert, chair of the aquarium board. “We are incredibly grateful for his hard work and for his unwavering commitment. He leaves us well-positioned to successfully carry out our mission for years to come.”