Badass Scientist of the Week: Dr. Sylvia Earle
Dr. Sylvia Earle (1935—) is an aquanaut, oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer—she’s led more than 70 expeditions and logged more than 6,500 hours (270 days) underwater. She learned scuba diving while completing her B.S. at Florida State, and she became determined to use the new technology to study underwater life. After earning her Masters at Duke University and starting a family, she went on a six-week expedition in the Indian Ocean in 1964, became director of Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, and somewhere in there obtained her P.h.D too. In 1968 she travelled to 100 below the surface of the Bahamas in the submersible deep diver (while four months pregnant with her third child, no big deal) and in 1969, she applied to the Tektite project, which allowed scientists to live underwater for weeks in an enclosed habitat off the Virgin Islands. However, those in charge didn’t want a woman living amongst the men—so instead, Earle just casually led the first all-female research expedition. By the time she surfaced two weeks later, she was a celebrity. She became an advocate for conservation and undersea research, and began to write for National Geographic and produce books, films and television shows. Throughout the 1970s, she undertook scientific missions all over the world, including following sperm whales in 1977, and in 1979, she donned a pressurized suit called the “Jim suit” and walked untethered on the ocean floor at a depth of 385 metres—deeper than anyone before or since. In the 1980s, she started the companies Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies, which built undersea vehicles that enabled scientific research at depths that hadn’t before been possible. Today, Earle is Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society. She has received 15 honourary degrees, authored 150 different publications, and appeared in hundreds of TV shows. She continues to be a dedicated voice for the world’s oceans and its inhabitants—and basically just continues to be really, really badass.