A wake-up call in the Keys
They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. They do not say that about the Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia physalis), which Domenic and Lauren Narducci learned the hard way while snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
“Oh yeah, that’s one of the good ones!” Lauren remembers the boat’s captain exclaiming as he pulled the iridescent venomous tentacles off her back and shoulders. Once the searing pain subsided, she was ready to jump back in. “What are the chances of it happening twice?” she wondered to Dom, understandably wary. Quite good, as it turned out: Dom was soon man-of-war victim #2, sustaining painful stings to his shoulder.
While this animal encounter might have spurred less intrepid snorkelers to permanently hang up their masks, the Narduccis were undeterred—and far more stung by something else they saw that day. The coral reefs of their beloved Keys were bleached and barren, nothing like the teeming, technicolor wonderlands Lauren fell in love with during her Florida childhood. Witnessing the dramatic decline of Florida’s fragile coral reefs over the course of just a couple decades stuck with Dom and Lauren, transforming them into tireless advocates for marine conservation—and supporters of the Academy.
Connecting with coral at the Academy
A NightLife date was the Narduccis’ first Academy experience, followed by a string of subsequent visits to new favorites like the planetarium, Amazon Flooded Forest Tunnel, and, of course, Claude, the American alligator with albinism. As their careers in tech flourished, they looked forward to a philanthropic future and immersed themselves in the science happening behind-the-scenes at the Academy.
“Academy scientists are empowered to explore their own interests,” says Lauren, “and the people who are the best at their jobs are the ones who are the most passionate.” It was the passion of our scientists that resonated most deeply with both Lauren and Dom, leading to their recent major gift in support of marine science initiatives like Rebecca Albright’s Coral Spawning Lab and Terry Gosliner’s community-based coral reef conservation work in the Philippines. “We didn’t want to dictate to the Academy how to use the gift,” says Dom. “We just wanted to enable the scientists to pursue their work.”
“What struck me most about Dom and Lauren was their clear sense of urgency in creating healthy and sustainable approaches to remedy climate change and other environmental issues,” says Dr. Gosliner, Senior Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology. Adds Dr. Albright, Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Zoology: “They are always so engaged and interested in understanding the challenges we're facing and how they can contribute in a meaningful way. Their passion for ocean conservation is both refreshing and inspiring.”
The power of passion
While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by any number of global environmental challenges, the Narduccis choose hope—a philosophy shared by the Academy scientists they’ve grown close with. “There’s no alternative to optimism,” says Dom. “If you dwell on every worst-case scenario, you have left no door open for any improvement.” Whether it’s making a donation or uploading photos to iNaturalist, the Narduccis believe in the transformative power of participating in science, wherever you are. “If there’s a problem, do what you can to solve it,” says Lauren. “Find something that interests you, and go deep.”
The Academy extends its deepest gratitude to partners like the Narduccis, whose support allows our scientists to explore, explain, and sustain life, all over the world, 365 days a year. We invite you to support groundbreaking Academy science by making a generous gift today.
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