President and Chief Executive Officer
Bridget C. Coughlin, Ph.D., was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Shedd Aquarium in 2016. Under her leadership, 1.9 million aquarium guests each year enjoy innovative experiences that are focused on Shedd’s Mission of compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. A relentless advocate for access in all ways, Dr. Coughlin commits the organization to offering tens of millions of dollars in free admission each year; champions varied learning styles and approaches; and is a voice for real diversity, equity and inclusion practices in the business world.
A nature lover and scientist at heart, Dr. Coughlin is passionate about animal life in oceans, rivers and lakes and her commitment to learning and conservation extends well beyond the walls of Shedd Aquarium. She has connected families and community members to Shedd’s aquatic life on the Great Lakes, in neighborhoods across the city and in the digital world with urban outposts and immersive virtual learning experiences.
Shedd is also a founding member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, and Dr. Coughlin has played a critical role in guiding this organization’s work to reduce global plastic waste and advance the protection of marine sanctuaries. In 2017, as a leader in this partnership, Dr. Coughlin was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Our Ocean Conference in Malta where she represented 19 U.S. aquariums in the commitment to ultimately eliminate the use of single-use plastics across business operations.
Before joining Shedd, Dr. Coughlin served as vice president of strategic partnerships and programs and adjunct curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS). At DMNS, she was responsible for education, programs, external partnerships, membership and fundraising for the 115-year-old institution. There, she led the creation of a globally recognized health exhibit and established a community-focused National Institute of Health-funded Genetics of Taste Lab. She was the driving force and lead on the Museum’s 126,000 square foot expansion that opened in 2014 and added massive state of the art museum collection space, early childhood education, community and innovative temporary gallery spaces.
Prior to DMNS, she spent five years with the National Academy of Sciences, where she served as managing editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She has also led research teams funded by the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
Currently, Dr. Coughlin is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums where she was a member of the Animal Welfare Committee. She serves on the boards of after School Matters, mindSpark Learning in Denver and the Alaska SeaLife Center and is a member of Latin School of Chicago’s Strategic Planning Committee. Dr. Coughlin is also a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Chicago Network (Arts and Letters Subcommittee), and the Economic Club of Chicago.
A Colorado native, Dr. Coughlin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Knox College, a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Iowa and an executive scholar certificate in finance from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She enjoys outdoor activities, sports of all kinds, theater, board games, and most of all spending time with her husband and three sons. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @SheddAquaCEO.