Sylvia Earle


Explorer-in-Residence, Rosemary and Roger Enrico Chair for Ocean Exploration

At habitat's hemispheric window Dr. Earle shows algae to an engineer.

Photograph by Bates Littlehales

Photo: Sylvia Earle

Photograph by Becky Hale

National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, called "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times, "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, and first "Hero for the Planet" by Time magazine, is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. She has experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and nonprofit organizations, including the Kerr McGee Corporation, Dresser Industries, Oryx Energy, the Aspen Institute, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Mote Marine Laboratory, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Rutgers Institute for Marine Science, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Ocean Futures.

Formerly chief scientist of NOAA, Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., founder of Mission Blue and SEAlliance, and chair of the Advisory Councils of the Harte Research Institute and the Ocean in Google Earth. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and PhD. from Duke University, and 22 honorary degrees. She has authored more than 190 scientific, technical, and popular publications; lectured in more than 80 countries; and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions.

Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970; participating in ten saturation dives, most recently in July 2012; and setting a record for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth. Her research concerns marine ecosystems with special reference to exploration, conservation, and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments.

Her special focus is on developing a global network of areas on the land and in the ocean to safeguard the living systems that provide the underpinnings of global processes, from maintaining biodiversity and yielding basic life support services to providing stability and resiliency in response to accelerating climate change.

Earle is the recipient of more than a hundred national and international honors and in 2014 was named a Glamour Woman of the Year. Other honors include the 2011 Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal, 2011 Medal of Honor from the Dominican Republic, 2009 TED Prize, Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, Australia's International Banksia Award, Italy's Artiglio Award, the International Seakeepers Award, the International Women's Forum, the National Women's Hall of Fame, Academy of Achievement, Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, and medals from the Explorers Club, the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Lindbergh Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sigma Xi, Barnard College, and the Society of Women Geographers.

Inside National Geographic Magazine


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    Explorers Recommend

    Explorers recommend fiction and non-fiction books for children, young adults, and students.


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    Nat Geo E-Team

    What are Sylvia Earle and the rest of the National Geographic Explorers up to? Meet the E-Team and learn about their projects in this interactive mural.

  • Photo: Sylvia Earle in a diving suit

    Interview With Sylvia Earle

    Ocean explorer Sylvia Earle talks about growing up and what she was like as a kid.

In Their Words

I hope for your help to explore and protect the wild ocean in ways that will restore the health and, in so doing, secure hope for humankind. Health to the ocean means health for us.

—Sylvia Earle


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    An Ocean Book for the World

    Help Sylvia publish a book filled with beautiful images and quotes about the beauty, and distress, in our oceans.

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    Sylvia Earle, Into the Unknown

    Sylvia Earle has spent nearly a year of her life diving beneath the ocean. In the 1960s the oceanographer had to fight to join expeditions.



Listen to Sylvia Earle

Hear an interview with Earle on National Geographic Weekend.

Road to Rio+20

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