J. Nichols '89 Discusses His Efforts to Save Sea Turtles with Ecologist
July 2, 2011
July 2, 2011, Greencastle, Ind. — "I've been into turtles since catching them as a kid, and professionally for the past twenty years," Wallace J. Nichols, marine biologist and 1989 graduate of DePauw University, tells Ecologist. "The projects I'm attracted to seem to be those considered 'impossible' or 'too late'."
In a Q&A piece, Dr. Nichols notes, "A few decades ago I started studying sea turtles in Baja against the advice of my academic advisors and funders who thought that it was too late or too hard to help Baja's endangered sea turtles due to the tradition of hunting and eating them, severe bycatch levels, narco-influence and institutionalized corruption. I recently attended the 13th Annual Meeting of the GrupoTortuguero, a thriving and successful grassroots movement that has spread all over northwest Mexico. Sea turtles all around Baja are making a comeback."
He adds, "As a marine biologist I find endless fascination in sea turtles. They swim back and forth across entire oceans, are incredibly resilient, occupy both land and sea, yet are harmed by so many of our activities from our plastic pollution and coastal development to our shrimp dinner. I think they are a compelling and charismatic ambassador for both what is beautiful and mysterious on Earth and what needs to be fixed."
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Nichols, who goes by his middle initial, is responsible for pioneering research on the migration of sea turtles. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, TIME and Newsweek, and he was seen in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary, The 11th Hour. He regularly returns to DePauw and delivered the principal address to the University's Class of 2010, "You Are Lovers and Fighters." He was also one of the participants in DePauw Discourse 2007, which examined environmental issues. A summary of his remarks -- including video and audio clips -- can be found in this previous story.Back