Who is Doctor Sylvia Earle?

written by Linda Chivell
 73176 254x191Sylvia Earle's love affair with the sea began when she was a child. "On my first visit to the shore, a great wave knocked me off my feet," she says. "I've been irresistibly drawn to the ocean ever since." 
Sylvia eventually earned a doctorate in oceanography at Duke University; here she initiated a now-classic study of underwater plant life in the Gulf of Mexico.  From her home in Oakland, California, she has catalogued more than 20,000 marine plant specimens --a project she continues to this day. 
Behind her soft-spoken, petite facade, Sylvia Earle is a woman who lives on the edge-- a maverick who once gave up a prestigious U.S. government position to devote more time to fieldwork. 
Sylvia Earle is an inveterate explorer  who relishes adventure and speaks with an evangelical zeal about the watery realm that makes up 75 percent of the planet's surface. 
"The living ocean," she says, "drives planetary chemistry, governs climate and weather, and provides the cornerstone of the life-support system for all species on Earth. If the sea is sick, we will feel it. If it dies, we die. Our future and the state of the oceans are one." 
dr sylvia earle uw
dr-sylvia-earle-uw.jpgWhen the budding scientist began her fieldwork in the early 1950s, scuba equipment was just becoming widely available. At the time, Earle was one of the world's few diving female oceanographers. …but in spite of this humble beginnings she has to date she has logged more than 6000 hours underwater.
Today, after a career that spans four decades, Dr Earle won international acclaim as a scientist who has made a number of important discoveries noticeably discoveries regarding ecology of marine plants.
An astute businesswoman, she is involved with deep-sea submersible technology and according to Canadian engineer Phil Nuytten, who designed the submersibles for the Sustainable Seas project, "She possesses a wonderful combination of ecological expertise and homespun good sense."
The final  word comes from National Wildlife Federation President Mark Van Putten,
 "Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is her ability to popularize the mysteries of the oceans for non-scientists all over the world"
This renowned oceanographer's passion for scientific exploration is surpassed only by her efforts to protect the underwater realm



© Written, Research and Photos:  Carole Knight - http://caroleknight.co.za/

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