Sylvia was born in 1935 in Gibbstown, New Jersey. She spent her early childhood on a farm where she enjoyed exploring the nearby woods. When she was twelve, Sylvia's family moved to Dunedin, Florida, close to the ocean. Her backyard was now the Gulf of Mexico. This home offered Sylvia the opportunity to observe the oceans and the nearby salt marshes. Sylvia decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life.
She attended Florida State University and graduated in 1955 with a degree in botany. Sylvia obtained her Masters in botany from Duke University a year later and went on to earn her doctorate in 1966.
She became renowned for her groundbreaking exploration of the ocean. In 1964 Sylvia had the opportunity to be a part of the International Indian Ocean Expedition. At that time it was unheard of for women to be part of an oceanographic research team. Sylvia was the only woman with seventy men on board a research vessel for six weeks at sea. Although the headlines focused on this, Sylvia had no problems and enjoyed this experience immensely.
In 1970, Sylvia Earle led an all-female team of researchers who were part of the Tektite II experiment. This experiment saw the women aquanauts live for up to twenty days underwater in a special habitat to undertake research and observe the effects of living in a confined environment. During the 1970's she began an association with National Geographic to write books and produce films on ocean life. She led many undersea explorations and in 1979 set a world record for the deepest untethered dive, descending 1250 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Sylvia Earle was the first woman to serve as chief scientist of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) from 1990 to 1992 and in 1998 she became the first female explorer in residence for the National Geographic Society.
|Dr. Sylvia Earle|
In interviews, Sylvia has stated that it "was considered a little unusual for girls to want to be scientists when I began." She stated that her parents were extremely supportive of her decision to become a scientist. "..I think because they had that attitude I didn't know that it was unusual."
Sylvia's message is to "encourage people to connect to nature, to understand that our lives are totally linked to the natural world..."
Life in the Ocean describes Sylvia's early life and her oceanographic work in detail accompanied by the delicate and colourful watercolour illustrations by the author. Nivola's paintings capture the beauty and mystery of the world's oceans and help portray its vastness to younger readers.
The author includes a detailed Author's Note and also a Selected Bibilography at the back. Life in the Oceans is a beacon to all young girls who desire a career as a scientist and a reminder to their parents that the best way to encourage more women in science is the nurturing and support of these interests by parents.
Life in the Ocean by Clair A. Nivola
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux 2012