Call Dr. Sylvia Earle an oceanographer, aquanaut, ecologist, writer, mother of three, grandmother of four―all are correct. This 5-foot-3-inch pioneer is National Geographic Society's Explorer-in-Residence (since 1998), program director for the recently endowed Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, a former chief scientist of NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), author of 10 books, founder of a company that designs and builds submersibles, and holder of the depth record for solo diving.
The urge to submerge: "It started in New Jersey, nearly 65 years ago. At age 3, I was knocked over by a wave and guess I never fully recovered. I have absolute love of the life that is in the ocean."
Making a career of it: "I was blessed with parents who encouraged my dreams from the start. I'm driven by living in an era of exploration. We've learned more about the ocean in the past 25 years than in all preceding history combined."
Ocean health: "It's linked to the state of the world. Look at terrorism: In troubled places, there's a correlation between contaminated water/scarce food and malcontentment. Degraded environments, poverty, and unrest are interconnected."
Hope for the future: "We can't go back to the way it was 100 years ago, but we can make things better than they are. I'm on the board of Conservation International, and we've agreed with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund to join forces for the ocean. And my grandchildren give me hope. To see awe and wonder and discovery at work, go to the wild places and take a child with you. If you don't have one, borrow one. If you are a child, take an adult."