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October 19, 2005

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle to Receive McGovern Award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — Celebrated oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle, Time magazine’s first "hero for the planet," will receive Sigma Xi's 2005 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award and give the McGovern Lecture at the Society's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Seattle on November 3-6.

The McGovern Award is presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and society. Recent recipients include Nobel laureates Norman E. Borlaug, Mario Molina and Roald Hoffmann.

Known as an ambassador for the world’s oceans, Earle has pioneered research on marine ecosystems, led more than 60 deep-sea expeditions and holds numerous diving records. She has lived for weeks at a time on the seabed, given her name to marine forms and dived deeper and more often than practically anybody else on earth.

Earle spent her adolescence in Clearwater, Florida, learning all she could about the aquatic wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico.

In college, she became determined to use scuba diving, then a relatively new technology, to study marine life more intimately than ever before. She specialized in botany in the belief that understanding plant life was key to understanding any ecosystem.

She earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. at Duke University. A six-week National Science Foundation expedition in the Indian Ocean was the first of many scientific adventures that would take her all over the world.

As part of the Tektite II missions in 1970, she led a team of women 50 feet below the ocean’s surface to a small structure they called home for two weeks. The aquatic mission captured the public imagination and brought Earle unexpected fame.

She went on to become an outspoken advocate of undersea research and for preserving our fragile oceans, writing in the pages of National Geographic and producing numerous books and films.

In a series of expeditions she followed humpback whales, recording their journey in the documentary film Gentle Giants of the Pacific. She also walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any living human being before or since, an adventure described in her book Exploring the Deep Frontier.

In the early 1990s, Earle founded Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER), to design, operate, support and consult on manned and robotic sub sea systems. She also has served as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has been an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society since 1998.

She is executive director of marine programs for Conservation International, program coordinator at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and chair of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc.


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