Cynthia Vernon

Cynthia Vernon

Chief Operating Officer

In her leadership role at the Aquarium, Cynthia Vernon draws on more than 30 years of experience in informal science and conservation education at aquariums and zoos. She leads the education, guest experience and visitor research programs and serves on the senior staff Executive Committee.


"Years ago in Baja California Sur, a whale calf spy-hopped right next to me and I instinctively reached my hand out to touch its head. I'm still amazed and inspired by the beauty and power of the ocean and that whale."

She also chairs the inter-divisional Programs Team and is the staff liaison to the Board of Trustees' Programs Committee. Prior to moving to California in 2001 to join the Aquarium, Cynthia held key management positions at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana.

Cynthia 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 remains 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. Cynthia's also the past chair of the AZA Professional Development Committee. She is a committed, longtime Girl Scout volunteer and serves on the Point Lobos Foundation Board of Directors. Cynthia 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.