Meet Dr. Ellen Prager!

Published May 05, 2015

In advance of her lecture, “Sex, Drugs and Sea Slime: Celebrating our Ocean’s Oddities,” on May 13th, we chatted with Dr. Ellen Prager about what first interested her in marine science: 

Do you have a favorite ocean oddity?

It is difficult to pick just one! So many marine organisms have amazing capabilities or unusual strategies for living or reproducing. And every year scientists are discovering more. One of my favorites however has to be the octopus. Octopus have the fastest camouflage abilities on the planet, are incredibly smart, strong, and are the ocean's Houdinis, in that they can squeeze through surprising small spaces. I've actually had a tug of war with one trying to get it out of pipe in a desalination system…guess who won!

Why do you think it is so important to educate all age groups about ocean science issues?

Our survival and well being on planet Earth is inherently connected to the ocean. Not only is the ocean part of the life support system of the planet, it also provides human society with hundreds of millions of jobs, billions in economic revenue, an important source of protein, new drugs to combat disease and illnesses, and the very quality of life we have come to enjoy and desire. 

Unfortunately, the ocean's invaluable resources are now at risk due to issues such as climate change, overfishing, marine pollution, habitat loss, and invasive species. It is critical for people of all ages to understand the problems in the ocean so that we can invest in and find the solutions that will restore and protect the ocean and marine life for future generations. Kids cannot be left out of the mix as they have powerful influence now and will be our future leaders in science, policy, conservation, education, philanthropy, and innovation.

When did you begin to link science with entertainment?

I have always loved to laugh and think I have a pretty wicked sense of humor. But it is only within the last ten years or so that I've really integrated humor and entertainment with science in my books and public speaking. I've been interested in communicating science to broader audiences for many years and have used storytelling as a means to make science engaging. 

How can the average person protect marine species in their everyday lives?

Often, individuals think that as just one person they cannot have an impact. But it is the collective of individuals along with our leaders that can make all the difference in protecting the ocean. Here are a few simple things people can do to make a difference:

  • Dispose of your trash properly and get your family, friends, and peers to do the same.
  • Eat sustainably caught, farmed, or managed seafood.
  • Support national, regional, and local policymakers that view the ocean as a priority and promote wise investment and legislation for ocean and coastal protection, sustainable fisheries, etc.
  • Conserve energy and support policies to combat climate change.
  • Clean boats and other gear between uses to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • Get out there, enjoy the ocean and bring others with you to promote its value and importance.
  • Support organizations such as the National Aquarium that promote education, research, and conservation of marine life!

Don’t miss Dr. Prager’s lecture at the Aquarium!

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