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 with experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and non-profit 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 Research, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Ocean Futures, and Ocean Conservancy.
Formerly Chief Scientist of NOAA, Dr. Earle is a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Founder of SEAlliance, Mission Blue, and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., and Chairs Advisory Councils for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies; the Ocean in Google Earth; the Marine Science and Technology Foundation and the Schmidt Research Vessel Institute. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and PhD. from Duke University, 19 honorary degrees, has lectured in more than 80 countries, appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions and has authored more than 175 scientific, technical and popular publications including Exploring the Deep Frontier: Sea Change, Wild Ocean, Dive, The National Geographic Atlas of the Ocean and The World is Blue.
Dr Earle has led more than 100 expeditions and logged nearly 7000 hours underwater with a record solo dive to 1000 meters and nine saturation dives including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project. Her research concerns marine algae and deep water 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.
She has been awarded more than 100 national and international honors including the 2009 TED Prize, the Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Academy of Achievement, and medals from the Explorers Club, the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Lindbergh Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sigma Xi, Barnard College, Society of Women Geographers, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Natural Resources Council.
Environmental philanthropist and ocean activist Shari Sant Plummer brings her significant organizational skills, leadership and diving talents to the Mission Blue expedition team. In addition to her role as a Mission Blue Foundation board member, she is President of Code Blue Charitable Foundation, Secretary/Trustee of the Summit Charitable Foundation, Vice President/Trustee of Seacology, President of Lechuza Beach Conservancy, and member of the Smithsonian Ocean Initiative Advisory Council and the World Wildlife Fund’s National Council and Marine Leadership Committee.
A graduate of NYU with a BA in sociology, Shari worked as a stylist and Design Director for Ralph Lauren in New York for nine years before moving to San Francisco to be Esprit’s Visual Director. She later founded the environmental fashion and home furnishings store Worldware in San Francisco in 1994, one of the first cutting edge lifestyle stores with an environmental focus. She sold the business in 2001 and now devotes herself full-time to her conservation work. An avid diver and ocean activist, Shari travels extensively throughout the world promoting ocean conservation and environmental awareness.
Dr. Rachel Graham is the Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Gulf and Caribbean Sharks and Rays Program and an active researcher and conservationist in tropical elasmobranch biology, spatial ecology and fisheries. She received her undergraduate degree in Zoology at Oxford and a masters at the University of Edinburgh. Following a serendipitous encounter with the unique natural phenomenon of whale sharks aggregating to feed on the spawn of reproducing snappers, Rachel set her life’s course on shark research and conservation. She completed her PhD at The University of York on the behaviour and conservation of whale sharks on the Belize Barrier Reef, research that focused on the seasonal aggregation of whale sharks, the biology and fisheries of reef-fish spawning aggregations and the economics of both the fisheries and whale shark tourism. Her research supported the declaration of the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve and led to the protection of whale sharks in Belize. She supported the creation or expansion of megafauna research programs in a range of other countries including the Madagascar, the Seychelles, Honduras, Mexico, USA, Cuba, Pohnpei and Mozambique. In 2004, Rachel expanded her research to encompass a range of reef-associated species of sharks and rays, conducting fisheries-dependent and independent shark assessments, the role of marine protected areas in shark conservation, and the consumptive and non-consumptive value of sharks. A key component of her approach has been grassroots outreach to help change attitudes towards sharks and support shark-friendly legislation. Rachel is a member of the IUCN shark specialist group and provides the Belize government with technical advice on shark management issues at the national and international levels. She has published several papers and articles on fisheries, fish behavior and conservation. For her efforts to increase the understanding and conservation of sharks at the community level in Belize, Rachel was awarded a Whitley Gold Prize in 2011.
David Shaw is Managing Partner of Black Point Group, with wide-ranging interests in technology companies and public service. His business experience includes IDEXX (founder/CEO,) Ikaria (founding CEO/chair,) Sapphire Energy (director/investor,) Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (director/investor,) DirectVetMarketing (co-founder/chair,) Fetch (co-founder/chair,) Skinetics (co-founder,) Cytyc (director/investor,) Magen (director), Physion (director,) Cambria (director,) Venrock (partner,) New Mountain Capital (senior advisor,) and others.
Shaw is chair of the Sargasso Sea Alliance (ocean conservation,) Treasurer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) publisher of Science, a director of the National Parks Foundation, and a science advisory board member to Discovery Communications. Other affiliations have included faculty member and advisory board Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, chair of The Jackson Laboratory (genetics research,) a board member of Maine Medical Center and Hurricane Island Outward Bound, Executive Committee of the US-Israel Science and Technology Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, ServiceNation, the selection committee for America’s Best Leaders (US News and World Report),) YPO, CEO and others.
Brian Skerry is an award-winning photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic magazine producing iconic stories that both celebrate the ocean and shed light on environmental threats. He typically spends at least eight months in the field each year working in widely ranging ecosystems, from tropical coral reefs to diving beneath polar ice. Brian also frequently speaks to audiences worldwide having presented lectures at venues such as The National Press Club in Washington, DC, TED Talks and the Royal Geographical Society in London and is a regular guest on programs such as the Today Show, CBS’s Sunday Morning and Good Morning America. Brian’s has also worked on assignment for or had work featured in magazines such as Smithsonian, GEO, BBC Wildlife, Men’s Journal and Audubon. His monograph, Ocean Soul, was released in November, 2011.
Melanie McField is the Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI,) a multi-institutional effort to track the health of the reef ecosystem, the human choices that shape it, and our progress in ensuring its long-term integrity. She is employed by the Smithsonian Institution and serves on a number of national and international marine conservation and research committees, including the Council of the International Society of Reef Studies, the Board of Directors of Southern Environmental Association and Shipstern Nature Reserve.
Melanie has lived and worked in Belize since 1990; first as a field biologist with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (and Peace Corps volunteer,) then with the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, and later with World Wildlife Fund. Melanie earned a PhD degree (2001) at the College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, after receiving the first International Society of Reef Studies Coral Reef Ecosystem Science Fellowship for her dissertation research exploring the role of disturbance events and the impact of marine protected areas on coral reef community structure in Belize.
Melanie has published numerous scientific manuscripts, book chapters and technical reports on topics ranging from coral bleaching to coral reef monitoring methods, marine protected areas and coral reef management. She has also been featured on several television appearances including the TODAY show, National Geographic, Animal Planet and the BBC.
Ian Drysdale is the Honduras and Guatemala Coordinator of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative. He is in charge of data collection and management as well as the development of partner relations and other outreach and media effort in both countries.
Ian has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering (Catholic University, Honduras) and is currently writing his thesis for a Sustainable Development master’s degree (La Plata University, Argentina). His passion for reef conservation began back in 1997, when, alongside his fellow classmates, was invited to participate in an AGRRA (Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment) training course in Cayos Cochinos. Over the years he has worked on different projects with The Nature Conservancy (TNC,) World Wildlife Fund (WWF,) Conservation International (CI,) International Resources Group (IRG,)Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL,) United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and CARE.
He considers himself a Central American. He was born in Guatemala, grew up in El Salvador and now resides in Honduras with his wife Jenny Myton. Together they founded Luna Environmental, a consulting company based on Roatán, and have been working on reef protection and management since 2002.
Honduras Field Manager – Coral Reef Alliance
Jenny is an American-Honduran who has lived in Honduras her whole life. She currently resides on the island of Roatan, where she and her husband, Ian Drysdale, serve on the water board and for the local business association. Jenny has more than nine years of experience monitoring coral reef health and working on community-based resource conservation initiatives, including two years with the Bay Islands Environmental Management Program (funded by the Inter-American Development Bank). She has worked with Coral Cay Conservation, UNEP, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy, among others. Jenny and Ian founded and run Luna Environmental, an environmental consulting company, and have carried out environmental impact studies throughout Honduras. In addition to her work for CORAL, Jenny is currently completing a master’s degree course in sustainable development.
Roberto Pott is the Belize Coordinator and Social Scientist for the Healthy Reefs Initiative. With over 10 years in conservation in Belize, Roberto helped to create the first zoned area for Whale Sharks for Belize at Gladden Spit, improved management effectiveness of Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye National Parks and helped to draft various policies, including legislation protecting snappers and groupers which he did as chair of the Belize Spawning Aggregation Working Group.
Roberto picked up his social research skills from the Nicholas School of Environment at Duke University where he earned a Masters in Environmental Management with a concentration in Coastal Environmental Management. His research included a study evaluating the access to seafood in Belize City in which he documented the competition between local residents and the tourism industry for affordable sea food and growing concern of residents with declining seafood quality. Roberto sees the HRI as a regional effort much like an “orchestra de la papaya” that embraces diversity and respects national identities, while working towards a healthier reef for healthier people of the Mesoamerican Reef. Roberto is an avid dinghy sailor and enjoys sailing with his family in the Buttonwood Bay of Belize City. He sits on the board of the Belize Sailing Association and also makes time to volunteer with the local Sea Scouts.
Kip Evans is a professional photographer, underwater explorer, and award-winning cinematographer. Throughout his career, Kip has collaborated with many notable organizations and individuals. For over 10 years, he has worked on several National Geographic Society projects including the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, serving as the chief photographer for noted marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle. During this project, Kip traveled in the US, Mexico, American Samoa, and Belize, exploring remote offshore underwater canyons, pinnacles, and reefs, and spending over 300 hours diving submersibles at depths of 1,800 feet. Kip joined the Sylvia Earle Alliance in 2008 as the Director of Photography and Expeditions. Since then he has lead expeditions to Belize, Cuba, and Mexico, documenting “Hope Spots,” special areas of the ocean that need critical protection.
Kip’s images have been widely published in books, exhibits, advertisements and magazines worldwide, including National Geographic Magazine, Patagonia, Outside, Sea, and Coastal Living, just to name a few. From 2007 through 2009, he provided photographic support through National Geographic for the California Education and the Environment Initiative, a state mandated program designed for California’s K-12 education system. Kip is also a Goggle Ocean partner and his photography was featured on the NBC Nightly news with Brian Williams in 2009 as part of this new initiative.
As a cinematographer, Kip has worked on a number of underwater documentaries, including specials for CNN, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic, including “Pearl Harbor – Legacy of Attack” with Dr. Robert Ballard, the discoverer of the Titanic. Several of Kip’s films have debuted at both the San Francisco Ocean and the BLUE Ocean Film Festivals and his documentary, “Isla Holbox – Whale Shark Island,” was an award winner at the 2010 BLUE Film Festival held in Monterey, California.
In addition to his media experience, Kip has worked as a marine biologist, expedition leader, and an educator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program. As a scuba diver, he has amassed over 1,500 hours underwater – nearly half of those piloting high-tech submersibles, such as the Deep Worker and Deep Rover to their full operating depths of 2,000 and 3,000 feet respectively.
Marisol Rueda Flores is the Mexico Coordinator for the Healthy Reefs Initiative and is based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She earned her degree in Biology from Morelos State University in 2004 and later completed her Masters in Science on Marine Resource Management in 2007. She studied blue whales and collaborated as research assistant on different projects from population structure, fatty acids and isotopic change of several cetaceans as well as the geochemistry in the Gulf of California. She has participated in diverse programs focusing in the ecology and biology of marine invertebrates and their substrates, cetaceans, sea turtles, tortoises and vegetation in different countries like Mexico, Costa Rica and Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Her drive is sharing information with other people and she has been a passionate scuba diver since 1999. Her favorite hobbies are photography and extreme sports.
As a Honduran born biologist, he has gotten to know first hand many of his country’s most marvelous natural wonders, many of which lay within the national protected areas system. Since 2004, Andres has been directly involved in protected area’s management, focusing primarily on Biological Monitoring & Surveillance programs aimed to develop an adaptive management approach towards conservation efforts, i.e., science based conservation.
After many thrilling adventures Andres has worked up-close in much of Honduras’s natural ecosystems, from the high altitude primary cloud forests to the submerged colorful coral reefs. Although he is certainly fascinated with the great diversity found in mainland, coral reefs have proved to be the one he is most passionate about. Involvement with marine conservation efforts started for him as he searched for hands on experience to complement his undergraduate studies in Tegucigalpa; he has volunteered for several reef survey efforts such as Coral Cay Conservation (CCC,) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (SAM) and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA.)
Further on while working at the National Forestry Conservation Institute (ICF) as a government official dedicated to biological monitoring efforts within protected areas, Andres has been able to promote needed reef conservation awareness among policy makers in Tegucigalpa. Now he currently represents a fresh face in front of Roatan Marine Park where he is setting important goals towards integrated conservation, community involvement and financial sustainability. Andres considers passion, creativity, professionalism and hard team work, to be the keys to success.
Wolcott is president and chairman of The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, which supports marine conservation projects with an emphasis on fisheries, marine protected areas, and coral reefs. Wolcott has served on the board of directors of the World Wildlife Fund-US, The Ocean Conservancy, and numerous advisory boards of non profit organizations. He is the founding chairman, and a current director of The Ocean Foundation, and serves on the boards of EarthEcho International, the International League of Conservation Photographers, and World Wildlife-Philippines. He received a B.A. from Denison University (1979) and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University (1983.)
Wolcott is also an accomplished underwater photographer. In 1998, he collaborated with Dr. Sylvia Earle on a large format book on our national marine sanctuary system called Wild Ocean, published by the National Geographic Society. His images have been published in a number of national magazines and newspapers, and many non profit publications, and can been seen at the Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall, and the World Wildlife Fund headquarters in Washington, DC.
In 2001, in order to further the use of high quality photography to further marine conservation issues, he created Marine Photobank, a non-profit stock photo website that focuses on images of human impacts on the marine environment. It now has over 1,000 contributing photographers and 4,700 non profit members representing over 100 countries, including 350 media download members.