Laura Thompson, PhD, Research Fellow

Dr. Laura Thompson came to Mystic Aquarium as a research intern in 2005, working on the identification and quantification of lymphocyte subsets in wild bottlenose dolphins. Dr. Thompson holds a first-class BSc with honors in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of London and obtained her PhD in Oceanography from the University of Connecticut (UConn). Dr. Thompson was the first graduate student to complete her degree through a partnership between Mystic Aquarium and UConn’s Marine Science Department at Avery Point; fulfilling the requirements for a PhD at UConn while carrying out her dissertation research at the Aquarium under the advisement of Dr. Tracy Romano. Her main research interest centers on marine mammal dive physiology and health, including the role of the immune system in the development of dive-related injury and disease. As part of her PhD dissertation, Dr. Thompson developed a method to collect samples of respiratory vapor or “blow” from beluga whales. The blow sampling has been used to measure changes in cortisol both in animals at Mystic Aquarium and in the field. As part of her postdoctoral work, Dr. Thompson is studying the relationship between immune cell function, diving and dive-related injury in marine mammals to investigate the hypothesis that a less-sensitive immune response is another mechanism through which marine mammals avoid dive related injuries.