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Wallace J Nichols
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Dr. Wallace "J." Nichols is a scientist, wild water advocate, movement-maker, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Mind, and dad. He takes a slow, collaborative approach with leaders in businesses, government, non-profits, and academia to inspire a deeper connection with nature and inventive solutions to pressing issues. J knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking. Other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he also knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves.

His research and expeditions have taken him to coasts and waterways across North, Central and South America, to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe where he continually finds that the emotional connection to waters of all kinds--rather than force of financial gain--is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet.

J. is a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEEtheWILD, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network, and LiVBLUE.org, a global campaign to reconnect us to our water planet.

He has authored and co-authored more than 50 scientific papers and reports and his work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet and featured in Time, Newsweek, GQ, Outside Magazine, Fast Company, Scientific American and New Scientist, among others.

Nichols earned his Bachelor's degree in Biology and Spanish from DePauw University, an Master's of Environmental Management in Environmental Policy and Economics from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, and his PhD in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Arizona's School of Renewable Natural Resources where he received both a Marshall Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship. In 2010 he delivered the commencement address at DePauw University where he also received an honorary doctorate in science. In May 2014 he will receive the University of Arizona's Global Achievement Award.

He advises a motivated group of international graduate students and serves as an advisor to numerous non-profit boards and committees as part of his commitment to building a stronger, more progressive and connected environmental community.

J. lives with his partner Dana, two daughters and some cats, dogs and chickens on California's SLOWCOAST, a rural stretch of coastal mountains where organic strawberries rule, mountain lions roam and their motto is "In Slow We Trust". The Nichols chose to settle down in this area after trekking the entire 1,800 kilometer coast from Oregon to Mexico. "We like it here", Nichols said.


He blogs at wallacejnichols.org.

Entries by Wallace J Nichols

The True Value of Healthy Oceans and Waterways

(0) Comments | Posted April 11, 2016 | 5:41 PM

An open letter to world, national, political, business, union, religious, media, educational, environmental, peace, NGO and philanthropic leaders

It's a familiar refrain that water covers three-fourths of the planet and provides jobs, food, oxygen and is a major driver of the Blue Economy. Indeed, it's a fact that...

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The True Cost of Plastic Pollution

(1) Comments | Posted April 5, 2016 | 4:20 PM


Blue Mind trailer from Between Two Harbors by Richard Yelland from Wallace J. Nichols on Vimeo.

How Trash Vastly Diminishes the Cognitive, Emotional, Psychological, Social and Spiritual Benefits of our Coasts and Oceans

"I'm always happy when I'm surrounded by water...it makes me put my whole life into perspective." ~ Beyoncé Knowles

One not-so-recent morning while packing up our gear--sunscreen, towels, wetsuits, surfboards and snacks--to head to the beach with my daughters they stopped me mid-stride and said they didn't want to go with me.

Are you kidding? We're going to the beach. The beach!

Dad, they said, when we go to the beach with you all we do is clean up other people's disgusting trash. It's not just (yes, they played the justice card). Picking up diapers is gross and our friends don't want to hang out with us anymore.

Their lecture hit me hard right between the eyes. It's true, we always bring a few trash bags and clean the beach when we arrive. It can sometimes take a long time. It's just what the Nichols family does at the beach, I always said. But by doing so week, month and year after year I unknowingly associated one of my favorite lifelong activities--a trip to the ocean--with a tedious chore. It was a heartbreaking insight into my near failure as a father to learn that my kids and their friends abhorred going to the beach with me.

I adjusted our plans for the next several months, choosing a steep trail to a difficult to access beach with oceanographic conditions that ensured few people and no plastic would wash up on its shores. My kids started to fall in love again: with the tide pools, waves, cliffs and sand. Early morning and late night excursions, long walks and short swims, salt and wind, limpets and anemones returned to our lives and filtered into their childhood dreams. This became our home beach. Their beach. Their Pacific Ocean.

"I simply feel more in sync with myself when I'm in the ocean." ~ Kelly Slater

Eventually, we returned to the periodic beach clean-up routine up and down the coast, with more passion and purpose. But I had learned a few important lessons: love comes first, our children are not the adults' clean-up team and when we trash our environment the damage is far deeper than economic, ecological and aesthetic.

As a kid I dreamed of merging my greatest pleasures and deepest passions as a marine biologist, a life full of adventure and beauty. But due to plastic pollution, the reality has been something else. On beaches in El Salvador sea turtles lumber over windrows of plastic bottles to reach clear sand to deposit their eggs. During a reef survey in Indonesia we counted 74 floating plastic bags in one minute. Our field sites and favorite breaks are often accessed by swimming through plastic soup, mouth and eyes tightly closed. Last week after traveling to southern California with me to give an ocean lecture my daughter was hit in the face by a Doritos bag and had a diaper stuck to her foot as we surfed.

When the ribbons of land and water along our oceans and wild waterways are despoiled society is also robbed of some of its best sources of awe, creativity, escape, happiness, healing, inspiration, introspection, joy, peace, play, privacy, relaxation, romance, solitude, transcendence, wonder...I could go on.

When plastic replaces wild nature these benefits evaporate quickly and are replaced by "red mind" emotions including accusation, anger, anxiety, blame, disappointment, disgust, disrespect, frustration, grief, helplessness, resentment, sadness and stress.

"People with autism have no freedom. In the water it's so quiet and I'm so free and happy there. Nobody hassles us in the water, and it's as if we've got all the time in the world. Whether we stay in one place or we are swimming about, when we are in the water we can really be at one with the pulse of time. Outside of the water there's always too much stimulation for our eyes and our ears, and it is impossible for us to guess how long one second is or how long an hour takes." ~ Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump

Parents, teachers, veterans, musicians, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, scientists all access their local waters in order to live better, happier, more interesting and creative lives. We take our babies, our kids, our lovers, our friends, our colleagues and our elders to the water to be closer to them, to connect. Polluted water shrinks our lives, robs us of the sacred moments our most precious memories are made of.

"That's where I first discovered my love for music, through the motion of water. My imagination ran wild." ~ Pharrell Williams

Yet our agencies, researchers and organizations rarely mention these vast "blue mind" benefits (or "red mind" costs) when justifying their work for clean coasts and oceans, focusing mainly on important threats to the tourism economy, grave impacts to wildlife such as sea birds and turtles, not to mention the invasion of toxic chemicals into our bodies and ecosystems. When we fail to include the cognitive, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual values of healthy waters we send a message that those attributes are not important. Or worse, that they aren't real.

It is true that oceans give us life, but our planet's wild places also make life worth living and help heal us when we are broken. Especially those who need healing most.

"I feel I belong in the water--I feel we all belong in the water...I cease to be a sort of obsessed intellect and a shaky body, and I just become a porpoise." ~ Dr. Oliver Sacks

Let's update the language we use to describe our mission to protect and restore wild bluescapes.

Let's go deeper and discuss the true value of wild waters and the true cost of plastic pollution.

Let's use all of the available knowledge--including neuroscience and psychology--to justify these efforts and build a bigger, more inclusive and diverse blue movement.

Let's help our children fall head over heels in love with their water and then as young adults enroll them in the fight to protect what they love about life on our blue marble home.

Let's protect and restore our waterways and oceans for the medicine they provide.


Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is Plastic Pollution Coalition's founding advisory board chair, a marine scientist, wild water advocate and dad. His bestselling book Blue Mind explores the intersection between waterways, oceans and the human brain. The 6th Annual Blue Mind Summit will be held May 18-20th at Asilomar, more info is available at: www.bluemindcollective.com


K. J. Wyles, S. Pahl, K. Thomas, R. C. Thompson. Factors That Can Undermine the Psychological Benefits of Coastal Environments: Exploring the Effect of Tidal State, Presence, and Type of Litter. Environment and Behavior, 2015; DOI:...

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Protecting Our Oceans With Smart Policy

(1) Comments | Posted October 6, 2015 | 2:14 PM

2015-10-05-1444073308-4875027-BlueMarble_LouiseTucker.jpg
Photo: Louise Tucker

Even with the vast expansion in exploration of the past few decades and the familiarity technology brings, I am still continually awed by the vastness of the world's oceans and the mysteries they hold. Oceans blanket 70 percent of the...

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Say Something About Plastic Pollution

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 12:34 PM

On a recent weekend I joined an early Sunday morning crew of committed ocean lovers on one of our regular post-holiday coastal cleanups.

Carrying bags, buckets, clipboards and gloves we trudged down the steep trail to the beach anticipating the disaster zone of plastic bottles, cups, bags, plates, cigarette butts,...

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Silent Mentors: Quietly Go It Alone Without Being Alone

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 10:24 PM

The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.

-- Steven Spielberg

Mentors are often thought of as parents, teachers, and coaches -- elders who convey valuable life lessons and advice that help mold us...

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바다거북이의 진정한 가치

(0) Comments | Posted May 15, 2015 | 11:55 AM

물속에서 바다거북이가 헤엄쳐 도망가는 걸 본 기억이 있나?

수백만 년을 거쳐 이제까지 반복해왔듯 바다거북이가 모래사장에 올라와 100개의 알을 낳고 바다로 돌아가는 모습을 본 적 있나?

알에서 나온 지 몇 분 안 되는 새끼를 손에서 내려놓자 그 새끼 거북이가 엉금엉금 모래사장 위를 지나 바다로 나가 수십 년에 걸친 여정을 떠나던 모습을...

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The True Value of Sea Turtles

(3) Comments | Posted April 29, 2015 | 10:09 AM

Can you recall a time that you glimpsed a sea turtle swimming away from you under water?

Or you witnessed the multimillion-year-old ritual of a nesting turtle burying 100 glistening white eggs under the sand and moon?

Or the first time you carefully placed a baby sea turtle,...

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The True Value of Clean Water

(1) Comments | Posted November 19, 2014 | 9:56 AM

2014-11-18-KidsBeach.jpg

Science can now explain what we've known instinctively for millennia: water is good for our bodies, minds and souls. Whether you are an entrepreneur, angler or surfer, cutting-edge research shows that the color, texture, experience, sight and sound of water can make a...

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Ocean Wilderness Therapy: 'Ihi Ka Moana

(0) Comments | Posted October 23, 2013 | 3:45 PM

If you do a quick Google search for "ocean wilderness therapy" you'll find... almost nothing.

Despite the fact that one of the best and longest standing ocean wilderness therapy programs in the world is run by Dr. Matthew Claybaugh out of Kailua, Hawaii, the term is not well...

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No Politician Left Inside

(0) Comments | Posted May 30, 2013 | 1:02 PM

When stuck inside, attending endless meetings under low ceilings, bathed in artificial light, sipping from styrofoam cups, our brains and bodies physically change. We become mushy, shadows of our former selves. Forty-five lyrca-bound morning minutes on a treadmill can slightly delay the inevitable. But over time, capacity for...

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The Ocean Isn't Full of Plastic

(28) Comments | Posted April 15, 2013 | 12:41 PM

If you're reading this you likely know that the ocean--the flowing, living, deep, and inspiring thing that covers most of our blue planet--is in some trouble. Big trouble.

You probably know about all that terrible plastic pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification, and oil spillage.

There are times when I read the...

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A Billion Baby Sea Turtles?

(5) Comments | Posted April 11, 2013 | 1:10 PM

If you've watched Animal Planet you know that odds are generally working against sea turtles.

From the moment an egg is deposited in a sandy nest on a tropical beach, to the first time a baby turtle touches the sea, to decades later when she returns as an...

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Mirror Neurons, Empathy and Epinephrine Drive Louisville to Final Four After Kevin Ware Falls Hard

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2013 | 7:19 PM

In the first half of the Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals NCAA Men's Basketball Regional Finals, star Cardinal guard Kevin Ware came down hard on his right leg as he jumped high to block a shot, landing awkwardly and falling to the floor.

On impact his right tibia and...

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Confessing My Ocean Sins

(0) Comments | Posted April 1, 2013 | 10:40 AM

Forgive me, Mother Ocean, for I have sinned.

It has been, well, forever since my last ocean confession.

I accuse myself of the following sins:

1. I forgot to ask the waiter for "No plastic straw, please," and he brought my water with two straws.

2. I drove...

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Dignity: You Can't Stop the Tortugueros

(1) Comments | Posted March 8, 2013 | 2:22 PM

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student, I presented a doctoral research proposal to a group of eminent scientists, experts and advisors: build a diverse sea turtle conservation network, fill the vast holes in our existing knowledge, and strategically communicate the solutions to restore sea turtle populations in northwest Mexico.

...
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The Million Dollar Fish: Calling All Neuroconservationists

(5) Comments | Posted January 8, 2013 | 11:46 AM

Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of the Tokyo-based restaurant chain Sushi Zanmai, recently paid 1.76 million dollars for a very nice looking 488-pound bluefin tuna. That's an average of about $3,600 per pound -- a mere $225 per ounce.

An ounce of raw bluefin tuna is a...

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Ocean Plastic's Impact on Wild Sea Turtles

(5) Comments | Posted December 11, 2012 | 1:21 PM

Two decades ago, I took my first turtle-related job in a village called Tortuguero. As a research assistant, my job was to study green turtles, protect eggs, tag and measure turtles, occasionally guide visitors and learn from fellow biologists from Costa Rica.

Early one morning, I was sitting on the...

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Blue Marble Dreams: 40th Anniversary of Iconic Photograph of Our Home

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2012 | 10:52 AM

I remember the mission clearly. I was five years old. We sat in a circle on the floor in our Montessori classroom.

The teacher brought in a small black and white television and we quietly watched it unfold.

On December 7, 1972 the crew of Apollo 17 pointed their...

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Ocean 3.0: Popping the Blue Bubble Wrap

(1) Comments | Posted November 6, 2012 | 2:31 PM

When I was a kid, I loved to pop the little bubbles in my bubble wrap. I'd work the entire sheet until every bubble was popped. Sometimes they were tiny little bubbles. Sometimes they were big fat bubbles.

I felt great satisfaction with each "pop."

These days, when I get...

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In Slow We Trust

(1) Comments | Posted July 17, 2012 | 4:00 PM

You've probably driven right by us. I'll bet you were speeding. Next time, slow down, stop and say hi. Stay a while.

Just a few dozen miles south of San Francisco, west of Silicon Valley or north of Santa Cruz you'll find the SLOWCOAST. It's a 45-mile stretch...

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