Oceans in science: a tribute to great marine scientists & explorers

Annika Jönsson @ 2020-07-16 08:29:38 -0400

We know more about space, than we do about our oceans. Isn't that a mind-blowing fact? What we do know about the Oceans, is all thanks to science and the amazing people behind each discovery. We salute the ones who dedicate their lives to help us understand the secrets of the deeps. This week we are putting the spotlight on a couple of well-known and some perhaps less obvious ocean lovers that we are certain you will be inspired by!

Dr. Roger Arliner Young

Dr. Roger Arliner Young

Let’s start by talking a little bit about a true inspiration source that broke both ground and glass ceilings. Dr. Roger Arliner Young (1899-1964) was an American scientist of zoology, biology, and marine biology. She began her undergraduate studies at Howard University and then moved on to the University of Chicago to earn her master’s degree. Here she was invited to join scientific research society Sigma Xi, an honor that was very unusual for a master’s student. In 1924 her first article was published in the Science journal, making her the first African American woman to research and publish in the field. Young didn’t stop at breaking that glass ceiling. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1940, making her the first African American woman with that achievement. To emphasize the importance of Young’s work even more, it must be mentioned that in 2005, she was recognized in a Congressional Resolution, along with four other Black women “who have broken through many barriers to achieve greatness in science.” - talk about leaving a mark! Today, she is remembered by the Roger Arliner Young Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship, supporting young African Americans who want to become involved in marine environmental conservation.

Captain Jacques Cousteau

Captain Jacques Cousteau in 1972

The most obvious name in the history of oceanic explorers is perhaps that of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997). A renaissance man in the 20th century with an impressive resumé including naval officer, explorer, filmmaker, photographer, author, conservationist, scientist, and researcher. Together with Émile Gagnan, he invented the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) which made it possible for divers to swim deeper into the aquatic unknown. On the former mine-sweeper ship Calypso, Cousteau and his team began exploring the ocean for four decades, documenting previously unknown flora and fauna, but also the devastating effects of pollution and over-exploitation of the seas. His legacy includes more than 115 television films and 50 books, and The Cousteau Society environmental protection foundation.

Dr. Sylvia Earle

"Parley Talks: Sylvia Earle - In the Span of a Lifetime", PARLEYCHANNEL

Another perhaps obvious name, but no list of important ocean scientists would be complete without this fierce marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer. We are huge fans of Earl and want to give a shout out to her accomplishments. She has been swimming with whale sharks, lived underwater for 20 days, was the first person to complete an untethered walk across the seafloor at a depth of 1,250 feet (!), and has been fighting to create more protected areas of marine reserves.
Take a moment and listen to her talk at one of our favorite ocean organizations Parley, and then hop right over and see her documentary Mission Blue.

”To take care of the whole living world, as if our lives depend on it, because they do” - Sylvia Earle

"Mission Blue (2018)", Mission Blue

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson


"A love story for the coral reef crisis", TED2019

If you have ever been passionate about parrotfish you need to know about Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Her TED talk about these spectacular fish is a must-see. She is a marine biologist, policy expert, and conservation strategist, and her take on how healthy oceans are vital to fighting climate change is profoundly important. Today, Dr. Johnson is co-creating policies like the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including ocean in climate policy, serving as the CEO at her consulting firm for conservation solutions, Ocean Collectiv, and running Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank founded by Johnson advocating for conservation efforts in coastal cities. We recommend you follow her on Instagram, it’s both fun and educational.