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Sylvia Earle

Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2018

Sylvia A. Earle (Gibbstown, New Jersey, USA, 1935) made her first underwater dive at seventeen years of age and is still active today. A graduate of Florida State University, she earned her PhD from Duke University, subsequently carrying out research at the California Academy of Sciences and at the University of California at Berkeley, the Radcliffe Institute and Harvard University. Member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Oceans and the Atmosphere between 1980 and 1984, in 1985 she founded Deep Ocean Engineering, a company that designs, leads and provides support and advice on robotic submarine systems. She subsequently established the marine consulting firm Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER) in the nineties. She was appointed chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States in 1990, a position she held for two years. She is currently Rosemary and Roger Enrico Chair for Ocean Exploration and an explorer-in-residence of the National Geographic Society (NGS)–2006 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities– and founder president of The Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEAlliance)/Mission Blue, which she launched in 2008. She is also a member of several councils, foundations and committees related to marine research and conservation.

Oceanographer, researcher, manager and teacher, Sylvia A. Earle, known as ‘Her Deepness’, has dedicated her life to exploring and researching the seabed and the conservation of the oceans. She has participated in more than one hundred expeditions all over the world and has more than 7,000 hours of research-related diving under her belt. In 1970, she headed the first team of ‘aquanaut’ women during the Tektite Project, who lived for two weeks at a depth of 18 metres off the Virgin Islands. She also set a record for solo diving in 1,000-metres depth. Between 1998 and 2002, she led the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a programme to study the United States National Marine Sanctuaries. From SEAlliance, she has joined forces with different institutions, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature –1988 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord laureate–, to achieve the expansion of marine protected areas and the cataloguing of others, called ‘Hope Spots’, in need of urgent protection. This project is implemented through Mission Blue, a global initiative that brings together more than 200 organizations, support groups, private companies and research teams to reduce the impact of fishing activities and promote the creation of protected areas.

Author of more than 200 publications, Earle has also written books such as Sea Change, A Message of the Oceans (1996), Wild Ocean (1999), National Geographic Atlas of the Ocean (2001), The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One (2009)–2010 Stevens Institute of Technology Green Book Award laureate– and Blue Hope (2014). She participates in television productions and has given lectures in more than 90 countries. The documentary Mission Blue, which reviews her career, won the 2015 News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Editing-Documentary and Long Form.

Holder of more than 25 honorary degrees and recognized by the United States Library of Congress as a ‘Living Legend’, she was called a ‘Hero for the Planet’ by Time magazine in 1998. Among other distinctions, she has received the John M. Olguin Marine Environment Award (USA, 1997), the Spanish Geographic Society’s International Award (2006) and the TED Prize (USA, 2009). Named a ‘Champion for the Earth’ by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, 2014), she has also received the NGS Hubbard Medal (USA, 2013), the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society (United Kingdom, 2011), the Rachel Carson Prize (Norway, 2017), the Perfect World Foundation’s Award (Sweden, 2017) and the Seattle Aquarium Lifetime Achievement Award (USA, 2017).

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