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PRO+ECT Event Increases Awareness

Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Protect2

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For a conservation event with potentially apocalyptic connotations, Thursday’s “Pledging Responsibility for Oceans and Environmental Change Today” in Brendle Recital Hall was frank, optimistic and self-aware: panelist and scientist Nancy Knowlton even pledged to keep audience members “not utterly depressed,” to noticeable titters.

The panel, an effort to engage the public on the importance of oceans and their nascent fragility as a result of climate change, garnered a sizable crowd, perhaps partially due to the celebrity of the panelists speaking: Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic oceanographer; Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History; and Amanda Leland, vice president for Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Despite the preliminary call for optimism, the scientists made the audience aware of the current dire state of the world’s oceans. Overfishing and pollution have ravaged our oceans to noticeable decline: species are becoming extinct, including New England’s famed Atlantic cod. Forty percent of fisheries are in jeopardy.

The implications, Leland stated, are as environmental as they are economic: Somali pirates originated as fisherman who ran out of fish to extract. In addition, three million of the world’s population depends on the oceans as its only source of protein.

Knowlton and Leland revealed that the solution to ocean deterioration lies largely in policy, and that increased management of fishing policies can improve fish quantities in the ocean and decrease overall waste.

However, in a visit to an undergraduate and graduate lab classroom earlier that day, Earle argued that extracting any organisms from the ocean would be problematic to the structure of the food chain, according to Wake Forest professor Dr. Katie Lotterhos, who attended the earlier session and whose area of research is marine biology.

Hope for ocean renewal is within reach, the scientists said, with policy and attitude change: “Fish are not just clumps of meat waiting for us to extract them,” said Earle.

Instead, proper fishing and ocean regulations have the capacity to revitalize communities, ecosystems, and expose the “ocean’s natural resilience.”

Lotterhos, who invited the three scientists to campus, hoped the event left people “feeling cautiously optimistic.”

“We will have to take responsibility soon if we want to have sustainable ocean ecosystems, but it is not too late yet,” she said.

By Elena Dolman (’15), Staff Writer

 

PRO+ECT

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Join CEES in welcoming three marine biologists who have dedicated their lives to saving the oceans:  world-famous oceanographer and activist Sylvia Earle, renowned coral reef biologist Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian, and policy advocate Amanda Leland of the Environmental Defense Fund.  These scientists will offer perspectives during a panel discussion on the fundamental services oceans provide to the people of our planet, and how climate change is having a devastating effect on marine life.

  • Sylvia Earle: Arguably the most famous oceanographer on the planet, Dr. Earle is a diver, writer, and scientist-in-residence for National Geographic. She is also the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER), a research group that designs robotic sub sea systems. She has campaigned for public awareness of the need to protect ocean systems for more than 30 years. A film documentary of her life, Mission Blue, was just released in 2014.
  • Nancy Knowlton: Knowlton is the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a scientific leader of the Census of Marine Life. She wrote the book, Citizens of the Sea, to celebrate the ten years of the Census. She founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, San Diego. Knowlton has devoted her life to studying, celebrating, and striving to protect the multitude of life-forms that call the sea home.
  • Amanda Leland: Leland is Vice President for Oceans at the Environment Defense Fund.  EDF works to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends, focusing on the most critical environmental problems. She is responsible for leading a diverse team of 50 scientists, lawyers, and advocates for healthy and abundant oceans.  She focuses on strategies to transform resource management to achieve productive and profitable fisheries in the US.