Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Earle: inspiring ocean explorer and advocate

I recently had the opportunity to meet and spend some time speaking with Dr. Sylvia Earle, world renowned oceanographer and a leading advocate for marine conservation. Currently, an explorer in residence with the National Geographic Society, Dr. Earle carries a distinguished list of aquatic accomplishments to her credit. Here are just a few:
  • She began her oceanic studies with botany, ultimately writing one of the definitive dissertations on aquatic plant life.
  • While men walked the moon, Dr. Earle led an all-women expedition team aboard Tektite II, an undersea research platform, spending two-weeks at 50 feet underwater off the Virgin Islands.
  • In 1979, she set a depth record for an untethered dive of 1,250 feet wearing the Jim Suit, a pressurized deep sea suit. Brought to the bottom sea floor off Oahu by the submersible Alvin, her 2-hour excursion remains a record unbroken to this day.
  • Started several companies responsible for the design and development of some of the world's most advanced deep sea submersibles used throughout the world.
  • A prodigious author of books on ocean exploration and a producer of documentaries with recognized filmmakers like Al Giddings.
  • In the 90's, was chief scientist for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Currently, Dr. Earle is the driving scientific force behind the latest version of Google Earth which now includes the oceans. And, with co-author Linda Glover, she has just completed an updated Ocean Atlas for National Geographic Publications, available in bookstores now. Like an aquatic Everyready bunny, she just keeps on going.

It was an obvious honor to meet such an accomplished individual, but what struck me most was her enthusiastic support for anyone doing anything to advance the cause of ocean education and enlightenment. My efforts to date regarding shark conservation or working with groups like InMER on climate change issues are small potatoes compared to what she has done, but you would never think it while you're in her presence. She wouldn't let you think it, encouraging you instead and egging you on to "get it done." A true inspirer comes not from what they have done, but from how they make you feel about what you can get done.

I have had the opportunity to meet several celebrities and accomplished individuals throughout my career. Some have been polite but curt, some have been major disappointments, and some have been people like Sylvia Earle - who make us feel good about our hopes and our dreams for a healthier ocean, a healthier planet.

No comments: