Women in STEM | Sylvia Earle

In physics, from the 17th to the 25th of January, we spent time diving deeper into women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). I was researching about a marine biologist named, Sylvia Earle, and this is a short profile I wrote about her.

Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist, adventurer, and author. She was born on August 13th, 1935 in a small called Gibbstown in New Jersey, United States. At the age of 20, Sylvia graduated from Florida State University, majored in botany and mastered it the following year. She, later on, got a Ph.D. degree in phycology in 1966. Three years later, Dr. Earle published the Phaeophyta of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, where she had to study over 20,000 samples of algae. Sylvia is most well known for her report about marine algae, her books and documentaries about ocean pollution and overfishing, and her recording breaking dive that took place in Oahu, Hawaii in 1979.

Using an atmosphere diving suit (ADS) called JIM, Sylvia set the record of the deepest untethered dive at the depth of 381 meters (1250 feet) with a whopping dive duration of 2 hours. The JIM suit was a suit built to maintain the internal pressure no matter what the external pressure is. Sylvia described what she saw as “a forest of corals that looked like giant bed springs,” and she was fascinated by all the bioluminescence down at the seabed. Besides that, Sylvia was a “pioneer” of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus gear (SCUBA) by being one of the first people to dive using SCUBA gear and she’s diving now. At the age of 82, Dr. Earle is still diving all over the world and since the record-breaking dive, she had been going back to visit that site several times. Throughout her life, she’d clocked in about 7000 hours of total dive time and still rising. That is equivalent to about 292 days of diving.

Her passion for deep dives also led her to develop deep-water submarines. Back in 1970, Sylvia led a crew of women to live in her submarine and conduct research for two weeks underwater at the depth of 15 meters (50 feet). Sylvia spent more than 1,000 hours (42 days) of research time underwater and again, she’s still out there, today, doing it.

With all the experiences she had doing research and diving, Sylvia realized that there are problems that the ocean is facing, and she took actions toward that. Sylvia founded Mission Blue, which is an organization and also a movement to get people to explore and protect the ocean. She was also involved in several documentaries like Sea of Life, México Pelágico, A Seal’s Life and Mission Blue. She gave a Ted Talk back in 2009 to get people to see the beauty of the ocean and help protect it.

Because of the great work she’d been doing for our ocean, Sylvia had been recognized for it and gotten several awards. Back in the year 2000, Sylvia was honored the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2009, after her speech called “My wish: Protect the ocean”, she was one of the three TED Award winners.

SCUBA diving is a sport, and most sports are dominated by men. Sylvia Earle was one of the few pioneers of sports, and that broke the gender barrier of “sports aren’t for women.” Besides that, Sylvia was, and still is involving in STEM, which is a field where it is dominated by men. Her braveness, passion, and work should be recognized all around the globe.

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