Legendary Ocean Scientist to Speak at Gulf Coast Community Foundation Luncheon

Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder and president of Mission Blue and a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence since 1999, will headline Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s annual Better Together community-education luncheon on March 13, 2020.

Sylvia Earle Swims among plastics

An iconic ocean scientist who has logged more than 7,500 hours under water and is affectionately called “Her Deepness” by colleagues and the media, Earle will discuss the topic “Saving Our Seas.” Reservations for the luncheon, which will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, will be available in January.

“Sylvia Earle is one of the most respected ocean scientists of all time,” said Mark S. Pritchett, President | CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “She understands so well how our oceans sustain our planet and what we must do to protect them before it’s too late. Our Gulf Coast communities must hear Dr. Earle’s urgent message.”

Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer with a lifetime of experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and nonprofit organizations. Her pioneering career includes many firsts—from first person to walk solo on the bottom of the sea under a quarter-mile of water to first woman to serve as Chief Scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Dr. Earle has led more than 100 expeditions, authored more than 225 publications, and earned more than 30 honorary degrees. Among more than 100 national and international awards and honors, she was named TIME Magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet,” a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and a 2013 winner of the Hubbard Medal by National Geographic. Earle’s research concerns the ecology and conservation of marine ecosystems and development of technology for access to the deep sea.

“Think of the world without an ocean, you’ve got a planet a lot like Mars,” Earle says in Mission Blue, the 2015 Emmy Award-winning Netflix documentary about her life and work. “No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.” 

Mission Blue is also the name of the nonprofit organization Earle created after winning the 2009 TED Prize. Mission Blue works to galvanize support for a global network of marine protected areas, or “Hope Spots” as she calls them. Earle and her organization recently declared the Florida Gulf Coast, from Apalachicola Bay in the north to the Ten Thousand Islands in the south, as a Hope Spot.  


Earle’s ties to Florida’s Gulf Coast go back to her childhood, when her family moved from New Jersey to Dunedin in Pinellas County and the Gulf of Mexico became her backyard.

Earle attended St. Petersburg College before going on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and her master’s and PhD from Duke University. Her storied scientific career included a stint as interim director of Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, now Mote Marine Laboratory, in the mid-1960s and continued involvement with Mote in subsequent decades.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s annual Better Together event welcomes thought leaders and innovators to the Gulf Coast region to educate community members on important issues and pitch big ideas for transformation. Past speakers have included XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis, who helped the foundation promote the region’s innovative marine-science economy, and author and columnist Thomas Friedman, who challenged the community to commit to renewable energy. Sylvia Earle’s keynote is part of Gulf Coast’s 25th anniversary celebration and occurs during a year when the foundation is leading important regional work to develop and promote solutions to water-quality issues.



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