Big, Weird Creatures – The Ocean Doctor Visits Principia
“How did we miss so many big, weird creatures?” Printed on the wall of the Smithsonian for all to see, this is the nagging question Dr. David E. Guggenheim, a.k.a. “the Ocean Doctor,” has spent his career exploring. With a PhD in Environmental Science and Public Policy, Guggenheim has been scouring the ocean depths for 25 years, searching for (and finding) new marine species, as well as leading ocean research and conservation efforts in the U.S., Cuba, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. While other teens of the day were “Lost in Space,” fascinated by astronauts and space travel, Guggenheim was glued to his seat watching “Sea Hunt,” dreaming of giant squid, sharks, and the undiscovered reaches of the sea where life carries on in total darkness.
On Friday, May 1, Principia was honored to welcome the Ocean Doctor as the Missouri school selected to receive one of 50 talks Dr. Guggenheim will give this year. He’s made it to 9 states so far, speaking to more than 6,000 students about how they will soon be “in the driver’s seat of the sub,” with the privilege and responsibility of exploring and protecting our magnificent seas. Lower, Middle, and Upper School students, faculty, staff, and visitors listened intently to Guggenheim’s stories of deep sea inhabitants—giant purple sea slugs, swarms of squid in the Bering Sea, and vast forests of coral off Florida’s coast.
The audience was even more captivated by Guggenheim’s description of challenges facing the oceans today—worldwide overfishing, nutrient pollution, and the phenomenon of “shifting baselines” or forgetting what the sea used to be like in the past, as when Christopher Columbus described a sea “covered with turtles too many to number.”
Far from being pessimistic, Guggenheim assured students their generation would do great good and correct many of the imbalances in the ocean. He urged them to start now by writing messages to the Obama administration, which he will hand deliver during a special ceremony in Washington this fall. He also invited everyone to join his blog (OceanDoctor.org), follow him on Twitter, and “friend him” on Facebook. Whether it was his impassioned plea to consider science as a career, or the ultra cool photos of the “Iron Man” deep sea suit complete with jet pack, there’s no doubt many young Principians will soon be dreaming of the immensity of the sea.