Dr.Sylvia Earle:A Hero for the Planet

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                                                                    Dr. Sylvia Earle: A Hero for the Planet

Having spent years in the study of Oceanography and getting considerable appreciation for her work from fellow scientists, Dr. Sylvia Earle came into the public eye through her TED Talk about the oceans. While the 2009 TED Prize proved to be a huge accomplishment in the life of Dr. Earle and her enthusiastic nature motivated the masses to work towards one of her biggest dreams, this scientist’s journey has not been easy.

Early Age and Fascination Towards Nature

Born in 1935 in New Jersey, Dr. Sylvia Earle had an early interest in nature. She would spend her days in the wild simply exploring the beautiful wonders of it. From insects to plant bodies, young Dr. Earle was fascinated by it all. She lived on a farm, and she had wildlife within walking distance from her house. Her parents never held her back and only encouraged her to learn more about these things. Therefore, she grew up in an environment where, being scared of any creature was not taught.

“I was not shown frogs with the attitude ‘yuk’ but rather my mother would show my brothers and me how beautiful they are and how fascinating it was to look at their gorgeous eyes.”

At an early age, Earle and her family shifted to Clearwater, Florida. This allowed Earle to witness the Gulf and its coast’s wildlife. These first-hand experiences allowed Dr. Earle to develop a unique understanding and appreciation for all kinds of natures.

Educational Journey and Interest in Marine Life

The educational journey of Dr. Sylvia Earle went relatively smoothly, thanks to her brilliant performance throughout her academic life. She managed to get a scholarship for the Florida State University and supported herself by working at college laboratories. She gained considerable experience in the field of oceanography while her studies went side-by-side. Dr. Sylvia got closer to the water after learning scuba diving and spending her days exploring marine life. This resulted in Earle deciding to study Botany in her future years. She later moved to Duke University for her master’s degree and received her Ph.D. from the same institution.

Entry into the Practical World

It can be said that the first steps Earle took towards her career were as a result of her Ph.D. dissertation. In the 1960s, a marine scientist writing such a detailed account of aquatic plant life was something unheard of, and so granted Dr. Earle the title of first such scientist with this achievement. As a result of this success and her excellent academic performances throughout her life, Earle worked as a Harvard research fellow in 1967. She then worked as a resident directorship of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Florida.

Managing Work and Private Life

Like many women in the work field, Earle had to carry out two work shifts every day: one at her home and the other at her office. In 1964, she had to leave behind her children for a six-week expedition in the Indian Ocean. Then, in 1968, she had to travel a hundred feet below the waters of the Bahamas in the submersible Deep Diver while she was four months pregnant! These shocking efforts of Earle for the field of oceanography distinguishes her from other scientists. She also did work together with her later husband, and in 1982, she founded Deep Ocean Engineering with him; a company to build an innovative submersible craft that could help explore ocean life at greater depth than a normal SCUBA gear. She also served as a chief scientist; a pioneer for being woman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


In 1970, she headed an all-female expedition 50 feet underwater for two weeks. This expedition was under the Tektile II, the sixth mission adaption to the mission Earle had applied for and had faced rejection from. According to Earle, the only reason she was denied the expedition despite her experience underwater being more than others was because the idea of men and women living together underwater was unacceptable at the time.

After gaining much recognition from the expedition, Earle moved on to write for National Geographic. Under the National Geographic Society, she led the five-year program of Sustainable Seas Expeditions from 1998-2002. She even became a speaker to spread awareness about environmental degradation and other issues surrounding marine life.

“The most valuable thing we extract from the oceans is our existence”

                                                   -Sylvia Earle

All the works of Earle proved to be quite beneficial for the world, and so her awards are not the only achievements of hers, but her work is an achievement in itself. Dr. Earle is also serving as Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic Society.


         “I hope for your help to explore and protect the wild ocean in ways that will restore the health and, in doing, secure hope for mankind. Health to ocean means health for us.” 

Her Dream

The TED talk of Dr. Earle gave her its support to launch the Mission Blue. Under this mission, she plans to establish marine protected areas across the world. Her dream is to achieve 30 percent of the ocean protection by 2030. This dream is being supported by more than two hundred organizations, all motivated by her work. The Mission Blue is a significant part of her life as it is evident that a Netflix documentary about her life featured this mission in great detail. Sylvia Earle is 85 years old today, and her dream to help the ocean bodies remain firm.

About Rija:  Rija is a freshman studying English Literature at Forman Christian college. She is a freelancer as well. Her favorite hobbies are writing short stories and poetry. Zaidi enjoys binging Big Bang theory and reading classic novels.

About Rabia: Rabia is in her final year of Engineering at University of Engineering and Technology Lahore. She is an environmental engineering enthusiast and founder of Earthly Perspective Magazine.






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