1. Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard, who is perhaps best known for discovering the Titanic in 1985, has forged a career of exploration, innovation and discovery. He is currently working on the JASON project, which invites students from all over the world to “take part” in explorations via online learning and use of interactive multimedia software. Using these tools, people are able to immerse themselves in Ballard’s expeditions and most importantly, communicate back with Ballard and his teams. Be sure to check out his TED talk, his National Geographic profile and the JASON project website via the links below.
2. David de Rothschild
Famed arctic explorer David De Rothschild has trekked across Antarctica via the South Pole and set a speed record crossing the Greenland ice cap. After founding Adventure Ecology, an education program that uses the thrill of adventure to raise environmental awareness, he set out on Mission 1 for the program: dog-sledding from Russia to Canada via the North Pole.
These days, he has his sights set on an even more ambitious project dubbed “Plastiki”: he and a crew will sail from San Francisco through the North Pacific Gyre and on to Australia–all in a boat made almost entirely of discarded plastic bottles. With this mission, David hopes “not only to encourage the world to reduce, reuse and recycle more of its natural resources, but fundamentally to “Re-Think” waste as a resource.” Below are links to his NG profile, the Adventure Ecology website and a recent CNN article detailing the upcoming voyage of the Plastiki.
3. Sylvia Earle
“Called “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker and the New York Times,
“Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and the first “Hero for the
Planet,” Sylvia is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer
with experience as a field research scientist.” As the first female
chief scientist at NOAA, she pioneered many firsts in the world of
oceanography. Recently, she released a book called Ocean: An
Illustrated Atlas along with Linda K. Glover, which showcases the 70%
of the planet that people don’t tend to think about–the ocean. This
year she won the TED prize for her work with oceans. Her wish: to save
life as we know it by protecting the oceans. Check out the links below
for more information.
4. Brad Norman
Perhaps the world’s foremost expert on whale sharks, Brad Norman has
many years of studying these gentle giants under his belt. Every year
the whale sharks return to Ningaloo Reef off of the Western coast of
Australia…and so does Norman, who examines the giant fish in their
natural habitat. He is currently perfecting a recently developed system
that he helped pioneer: tracking whale sharks through their individual
skin patterns, which, much like a human’s fingerprints, are unique.
“We found a way to modify an algorithm developed by NASA to recognize
star patterns, and apply it to match spot patterns on whale sharks,”
Norman explains. “We could never accurately analyze huge numbers of
images with our eyes alone, so this tool is crucial.” And the coolest
part of his research is this: the photos he analyzes come from everyday
people all over the world who just happened to snap a photo of a whale
5. Tierney Thys
When it comes to the Mola Mola, a.k.a. the giant sunfish, nobody is
more of an authority than Tierney Thys. The fish, which inhabits all
tropical and temperate seas, is the largest bony fish in the world,
sometimes reaching 12 feet long and weighing nearly 6000 lbs. Despite
their huge size and sprawling range, little is known about them and
their behavior. Thys wishes to change this. By using state-of-the-art
satellite tags and collecting tissue samples for genetic analysis, Thys
and her colleagues have learned much about one of the world’s most
bizarre looking fish species.
In addition to studying the Mola Mola, Thys is the science editor at
Sea Studios Foundation, a documentary film company based in Monterey,
California, where she has worked on a series about Earth system science
and global environmental change. The two careers, she says, are
complementary: “I hope all aspects of my work can help raise awareness
of the oceans–not only of the spectacular life within the boundaryless
blue, but also the pivotal role the oceans play in our global climate
and the livelihood of humanity.”