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Sylvia Earle-Explorer in Residence, National Geographic Society

Sylvia Earle was born in Gibbstown, New Jersey. From the time she was very small, Sylvia loved exploring the woods near her home. She was fascinated by the creatures and plants that lived in the wild. When Sylvia was 13, the family moved to Clearwater, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout her school years, she supported herself by working in college laboratories.

In college, she first learned scuba diving, determined to use this new technology to study marine life at first hand. Fascinated by all aspects of the ocean and marine life, Sylvia decided to specialize in botany. After earning her Master's at Duke University, Sylvia took time off to marry and start a family but remained active in marine exploration.

In 1964, she joined a National Science Foundation expedition in the Indian Ocean. In 1966 Sylvia Earle received her Ph.D. from Duke. Her dissertation "Phaeophyta of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico" created a sensation in the oceanographic community. Since then she has made a lifelong project of cataloguing every species of plant that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Earle's burgeoning career took her first to Harvard, as a research fellow, then to the resident directorship of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, in Florida. In 1969 she applied to participate in the Tektite project. This venture, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Navy, the Department of the Interior and NASA allowed teams of scientist to live for weeks at a time in an enclosed habitat on the ocean floor fifty feet below the surface, off the Virgin Islands.

The publicity surrounding this adventure made Sylvia Earle a recognizable face beyond the scientific community. After that Sylvia Earle was increasingly in demand as public speaker, and she became an outspoken advocate of undersea research. At the same time, she began to write for National Geographic and to produce books and films.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Earle took a leave of absence from her companies to serve as Chief Scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. There, among other duties, Sylvia Earle was responsible for monitoring the health of the nation's waters.

Today, Dr. Earle is Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society. More recently, she led the Google Ocean Advisory Council, a team of 30 marine scientists providing content and scientific oversight for the "Ocean in Google Earth." To date, she has led over 70 expeditions, logging more than 6500 hours underwater. Among the more than 100 national and international honors she has received is the 2009 TED Prize for her proposal to establish a global network of marine protected areas. She calls these marine preserves "hope spots... to save and restore... the blue heart of the planet."