Shelley M. Brown Ph.D. - Sailors for the Sea

Shelley M. Brown Ph.D.

Shelley is a native Rhode Islander who has spent a lifetime sailing with family from Bar Harbor, ME to Long Island, NY. She has a doctoral degree from the University of Rhode Island with a focus on microbial ecology in coastal marine environments. Prior to becoming the Director of Sailors for the Sea, she was the Program Director of the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI) and was a member of the education team on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

As a scientist and educator, Shelley is intrigued by the interactions between humans and our ocean, and therefore driven to better understand our influence on the marine environment. She believes that as the effects of overfishing, warmer water temperatures, and increased frequency of extreme weather events become more apparent, it is increasingly more difficult for society to ignore our impact on the marine environment. Her goal is to promote more “marine-centric” thinking to identify or emphasize the aspects of our life the oceans most often impact.

What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
As a young girl, I remember spending most summer days exploring tide pools, taking swimming lessons and sailing with my family on our Triton in Narragansett Bay, RI. My parents tell me I always wore a bathing suit, just in case there was the slightest chance to go swimming.

What is the biggest threat to preserving the ocean and local waters for future generations?
One of the greatest threats our ocean waters face is pollution. Runoff and sewage flow into our waterways, leading to several negative downstream impacts, including harmful algal blooms, “dead zones”, and degradation of our marine habitats. Plastic debris poses another serious threat to our oceans. Not only can marine life become entangled in or ingest plastics, but the debris can also act as a habitat that transports invasive species to new regions of the ocean. These and other pollutants heavily impact our waters, and although our ocean is vast, it is not endless and has limited resources. The solution to pollution is NOT dilution!

Why did you choose to get involved with an organization focused on ocean conservation?
The ocean impacts every aspect of our lives and we can no longer ignore human’s negative influence on the marine environment. To create a more sustainable future for our oceans, I believe it is critical that our society becomes aware of our reliance on marine resources and the oceans, and our direct impact on them. I am excited to be a part of an organization that is doing incredible work in trying to raise awareness about our ocean’s health and preserving it for future generations.

What was your “aha moment” that turned you into a conservationist?
Each time I am hiking along the coast, exploring the underwater world, sailing on the majestic ocean or reaching the peak of a mountain is an “aha moment” for me. From a young age, I have always been awestruck by the beauty of nature and passionate about finding ways to preserve and protect the environment.