Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, marine botanist, ecologist, and writer. The author of five books and numerous scientific and popular articles, Earle tirelessly calls for the preservation and exploration of the world’s marine ecosystems.
Former chief scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earle is author of more than 125 scientific and popular publications, including a 1995 book, Sea Change. Her research places special emphasis on marine plants and the development of technology for access and research in the deep sea. She played a key role in a decision in early 1999 by the Clinton Administration to double the budget of the U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries.
A pioneering aquanaut and marine explorer, Earle made her first scuba dive at 17. She has since set the women’s depth record for solo diving (1,000 meters/3,281 feet) and logged more than 6,000 diving hours—feats that garnered her the moniker “Her Deepness.”
“I was swept off my feet by a wave when I was three and have been in love with the sea ever since," Earle said. "Even as a child I was lured into the sea by the creatures who live there: horseshoe crabs on the New Jersey beaches; starfish and sea urchins in the Florida Keys; and everywhere strange and wonderful forms of life that occur only underwater. It was and is irresistible."
She has been an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society since 1998. Named Time magazine's first "hero for the planet" in 1998, Earle has pioneered research on marine ecosystems and has led more than 50 expeditions.
Earle works with the Society on projects involving her passion—most recently as project director of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions. Sustainable Seas was a five-year project of the National Geographic Society and NOAA, which administers the 12 U.S. marine sanctuaries, the underwater equivalents of national parks. The objective of the initiative was to explore and photodocument the geology and creatures in the deep waters of each of the sanctuaries. Earle also has written three books for the Society, two children's titles, and Wild Ocean: America's Parks Under the Sea.
“If we have a hope of really understanding our place in nature and of carving out a place for ourselves that is sustainable, it’s primarily because of the new level of communication,” says Earle. “It used to be, ‘What you don’t have in your mind, you have on your shelf.’ But now we have the Web.”
Earle co-founded the company, Deep Ocean Engineering, and is a recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. She founded the Sustainable Seas Project, which is currently conducting a series of explorations of the United States' marine sanctuaries. Sylvia Earle's advocacy for the fate of the oceans makes her a true ambassador and champion of the world's most precious resource.
Earle was born August 30, 1935, in Gibbstown, New Jersey. She has a bachelor's degree from Florida State University and a master's degree and doctorate from Duke University as well as 12 honorary doctorate degrees. She lives in Oakland, California.