Dr. Bruce Carlson, Ph.D.

Senior Scientific Advisory Council, Board Member

Conservation Director-Emeritus, Georgia Aquarium Director-Emeritus, Waikiki Aquarium.

Bruce began his career in marine biology in 1967 while participating in a National Science Foundation program for high school students at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

In 1971, he received his bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Michigan. 

In 1972, he joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.  His task was to conduct a biological survey of the marine life of the Fiji Islands and help establish a permanent collection for the university.  40 years later, this collection still exists and is housed in a new, modern building. He also taught ichthyology and invertebrate zoology to Pacific island students at the university.

In 1975, Bruce moved to Hawaii where he ultimately earned a Doctorate in Ichthyology at the University of Hawaii.  He also started work at the University of Hawaii’s Waikiki Aquarium in 1976. As an aquarist, he initiated a series of new exhibits which were firsts in the United States, including chambered nautilus in 1976, cuttlefish in 1977, and living corals and giant clams in 1978.  His research on nautilus eventually led to a successful breeding program for these “living fossils,” and in 1991 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded the prestigious “Bean Award” to the Waikiki Aquarium in recognition of this work.

His pioneering work with corals resulted in methods for fragmenting corals, planting them using epoxy cement, and the development of powerful surge devices necessary for the growth of many acroporid coral species. All of these methods have been widely adopted by coral-culture researchers and aquarists. Many of the corals he collected in the early 1980s are still in cultivation at the Waikiki Aquarium, and some have been distributed to other aquariums around the world.

Bruce was appointed Director of the Waikiki Aquarium in 1990. In 1992, he began work on a $3 million renovation of the old aquarium. 

Bruce joined the Georgia Aquarium on April 1, 2002 as part of the original four-person team to design its exhibits and programs.

Today Dr. Carlson is retired and living in Hawaii and spends most of his time on special projects throughout the Pacific as a coral reef consultant.