I hope for your help to explore and protect the wild ocean in ways that will restore the health and, in so doing, secure hope for humankind. Health to the ocean means health for us. – Sylvia Earle
In honor of Women’s History Month this March, we’re recognizing just a few of the women who have dedicated their careers to marine sciences and the protection of our precious and fragile blue planet.
Dr. Sylvia Earle examining a specimen during a dive. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.
Sometimes called “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” Sylvia Earle is the face and voice of modern oceanography. She is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and founder of Mission Blue.
Earle has paved the way for women in ocean research, leading more than 60 expeditions worldwide and tying Graham Hawkes’ world record for solo dive depth in a sub and setting the record for women. At 77, Earle shows no signs of slowing down. After receiving a TED prize in 2009, she launched Mission Blue, which advocates for protected marine areas worldwide.
Researcher Diana Reiss with some of the National Aquarium’s dolphins. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.
Diana Reiss has focused much of her research as a cognitive psychologist on marine mammals. Her much-applauded research includes the discovery that dolphins have complex cognitive function, including self-recognition in a mirror and communication capabilities.
In addition to her research, Reiss has also become a strong advocate for dolphins worldwide. She has strongly voiced her opposition to the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, and has said, “Our science must be applied globally now to gain increased protection for dolphins and whales.”
Cindy Lee Van Dover
Cindy Lee Van Dover. Photo courtesy of the University Museum of Bergen.
A biologist and underwater explorer, Cindy Lee Van Dover has made close to 50 dives in Alvin, a three-person submersible. She was the first woman to pilot Alvin, and together they have discovered new species of mussels, shrimp, tube worms and bacteria that call the deep sea home.
At 53, Van Dover became the first woman to direct the Duke University Marine Laboratory. When asked by the New York Times why we should care to protect the deep-sea environment, Van Dover said, “Most of us will never get to Yellowstone, but we want it to be there. This is a wilderness that we should be protecting.”
Eugenie Clark. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.
Eugenie “The Shark Lady” Clark is an American ichthyologist (the scientific study of fish) with a passion for sharks. She credits a visit to the New York Aquarium at the age of 9 as the spark that inspired a life-long insatiable thirst for knowledge of these majestic marine animals. Clark has been studying the behavior of fishes and sharks for more than 50 years.
Clark has been the recipient of three honorary Doctor of Science degrees and countless awards from institutions such as the National Geographic Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. She has even had several species of fish named after her!
No stranger to global expeditions, Clark has represented the Society of Women Geographers in her travels to Ethiopia, Japan and Egypt. At nearly 91 years old, Eugenie Clark remains active in field research utilizing scuba and submarine dives.
Rachel Carson. Photo courtesy of Biography Channel.
Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist and conservationist from Silver Spring, Maryland, wrote the acclaimed book Silent Spring, which has been credited with launching the modern environmental conservation movement. As a result of its publication, the harmful chemical DDT was banned nationwide and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was born! In addition to Silent Spring, Carson was an aquatic biologist at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
A gifted writer, Carson forever changed the American perspective on environmental degradation and pesticide use. She was able to show the public how everything in an ecosystem has an inherent connection.
Is there a female scientist you’ll be celebrating this month? Tell us who in the comments!