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Special Guest Lecture: Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer and TED Prize Winner
This week, Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Fellow, TED Prize-winning scientist and ocean explorer, as well as founder of DOER Marine (Deep Ocean Exploration and Research), among other organizations, visited students at Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School to teach about the wonders of, and the dangers facing, our oceans.
Dr. Earle, whose grandsons Morgan and Taylor attend SJND, spoke with Ms. Zamora's AP Environmental Science students for nearly and hour and a half. Science teacher Laura Zamora shared, “This is a dream, having this renowned scientist and explorer come to Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School. We are so grateful for her generosity.”
Dr. Earle showed students the opening scene of the documentary Mission Blue, which features her swimming with whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. She encouraged students learn more about the role each of us play in reversing harmful chemical changes in the ocean—changes that threaten to destroy all kinds of life.
She spoke of living underwater in a submarine for six days in the Florida Keys. While sharing harrowing statistics with the students about diminished populations of sharks, blue fin tuna, rockfish and other species affected by overfishing, as well as chemical changes in the ocean’s composition, Dr. Earle cautioned the high school students that they needn’t feel helpless or cynical.
“You have had the great wisdom to be born at an unprecedented time. With real-time access to information on a global scale, there is more opportunity than ever to learn about widespread changes and to work with the other nearly 8 billion people on the planet to reverse the damage that’s been done.” Dr. Earle said.
In the classroom at SJND, Dr. Earle shared the same message with students that she shared in her TED Talk and for her TED Prize wish: to “use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”
Along with teaching about the ocean and how to protect it, she also addressed lighter questions, like student Jack Keane's inquiry about the world’s best dive spot, to which she replied, “Always the next dive, because you never know what you will find. The anticipation is wonderful.”
She encouraged students to get involved in a variety of ways: save sharks and other endangered sea life; explore and appreciate the ocean; join Mission Blue and other organizations focused on preserving the ocean and the life in it; visit engineers and scientists at DOER Marine in Alameda to learn about the amazing projects that are underway to protect and preserve the deep seas; no matter what your eventual career is, find ways your skills and talents may support efforts to protect and enhance the ocean.
After she finished, student Allie Oilar asked if she is still working after all these years and what her job is. Dr. Earle paused at the idea of a job, then replied, “Exploring. I’m fortunate to be the Explorer-in- Residence for National Geographic. So, I seek undiscovered life in the ocean. My job is exploring.” A collective hush of wonder and amazement was a fine finish to an hour and a half of deep learning from the woman the New Yorker has deemed "Her Deepness."