Explorer in Residence - Sailors for the Sea

Explorer in Residence

 July 26, 2013  | By: Oceana

In conjunction with the exhibit, Dr. Sylvia Earle, the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project Global Ambassador gave a lecture to a full house last Thursday night. Dr. Earle spoke about the vastness of the oceans and the current explosion of scientific knowledge. She also discussed just how small the percentage of the ocean we have studied is and how exciting it is to find something new that we previously knew nothing about. 


Dr. Earle truly embodies the title of explorer given to her by National Geographic. She encouraged the crowd to dive, snorkel or swim to explore life beneath the waves.  She recounted stories of living at Aquarius, an underwater laboratory, learning to drive research submarines and how time at depth has brought new understanding of the creatures that live in our oceans. 

Dr. Earle’s lecture also focused on the huge impact that humans have had on the ocean over the last couple of centuries. Industrial fishing can harvest fish at a rate faster than they can reproduce driving some species to the brink of extinction. Large predators like tuna are often the most effected. She sited that we have eliminated 90% of the sharks that swam in the ocean and with them gone we are now realizing how important they are to the health of the ecosystem. It is not just fishing that impacts the health of the ocean and Sylvia highlighted how our changing atmosphere is also taking its toll. Corals depend on a specific temperature and chemistry to survive. As the oceans heat up and the acidity increases because of the COwe are releasing into the atmosphere, coral reefs are being stressed to the breaking point. 

Marine Protected Areas

Dr. Earle pointed out that for the great size of the oceans very little of them are protected. Protected areas provide some refuge from the pressures humans are placing on the ocean as well as areas to study in search of greater understanding of the ocean’s complex ecosystem. Dr. Earle asked that everyone make a pledge to support the expansion of marine protected areas and support NOAA’s proposal to designate 100 square miles off the Golden Gate Bridge as National Marine Sanctuary. She directed people to visit the America’s Cup Healthy Oceans Project web site and fill out the pledge – At the museum almost everyone was eager to lend their name to the cause!