born c. 1949

From childhood, science was Nancy's destiny. But it wasn't until she was in graduate school that the biologist + zoology student discovered her calling in Jamaica ~ coral reefs. After teaching at Yale, Nancy and her new husband, also a biologist, returned to the reefs. Taking a job with the Smithsonian in Panama was a turning point. Nancy still returns for the annual coral spawning.

The scientist has made a career of speaking for the oceans, particularly its coral reefs. Her message has changed over the years. She's moved from her nickname "Dr. Doom" to spearheading an "ocean optimism" campaign. In her long career, she's seen the total destruction of those first Jamaican reefs…to repair + flourishing of others, aided by government and scientific intervention.

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Nancy Knowlton (11)

"Hope has more to do with how you feel that human society is going to respond, rather than whether there are solutions."

Reefs in Peril | december 2007

"I think people only develop a passion for protecting things if they know what is at risk."

Smithsonian Magazine | september 2008

"When it comes to sex and the sea, there is no normal."

Citizens of the Sea | september 2010

"The ocean, at least beyond the surf zone, is out of sight and out of mind for most people."

Citizens of the Sea | september 2010

"We are literally playing Russian roulette with the planet, so in my field at least, it is not enough to just 'do science.'"

Nancy Knowlton | april 2011

"When deciding what to do, take advantage of the strengths of where you are."

Nancy Knowlton | april 2011

"It is where I really became a scientist—finally my laboratory, the coral reef, was in my backyard."

Nancy Knowlton | april 2011

"To be a good coral reef biologist, you have to live underwater for while."

Nancy Knowlton | april 2011

"Almost everything is small and not only that, almost everything is rare."

Coral Reefs: Past, Present and Future | february 2012

"Live biodiversity is much, much more valuable than anything you could sell in a market."

Biodiversity and Why it Matters | february 2012

"On some level nature can take care of itself, but it's not the nature we necessarily want to surround ourselves with."

A Refreshingly Positive Look “Beyond the Obituary” of the Sea | october 2014
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curated with care by Meghan Miller Brawley {june 2015}