Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols - called “Keeper of the Sea" by GQ Magazine, “a visionary" by Outside Magazine and a "water warrior" by AQUATICS International - is an innovative, silo-busting, entrepreneurial scientist, movement maker, renown marine biologist, voracious Earth and idea explorer, wild water advocate, bestselling author, sought after lecturer, and fun-loving Dad. He also likes turtles (a lot).
Dr. Nichols collaborates tirelessly to create the new story of water and share it with the world. This story includes the vast cognitive, emotional, psychological, social, physical, and spiritual benefits that we can all derive from healthy waters and oceans throughout our lives.
In 2017 Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama presented the Champion of Change Award at World Oceans Festival at Governor’s Island, New York to Dr. Nichols.
“I’m delighted to present this important award to someone who shares my passion and emotional attachment to the health of our oceans", PM Bainimarama said.
Nichols' experiences and creativity as a field research scientist, government consultant, founder and director of numerous businesses and nonprofit organizations, teacher, mentor, parent, and advisor all support his quest to build a stronger, more inclusive and diverse blue movement.
Formerly a Senior Scientist at Ocean Conservancy, Nichols holds a B.A. degree from DePauw University in Biology and Spanish, an M.E.M. degree in Natural Resource Economics and Policy from Duke University, and a Ph.D.degree in Wildlife Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. He received a Bradley Fellowship to study the impacts of sea level rise at Duke University Marine Lab, a Marshall Fellowship to study at the University of Arizona, and a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico marine station in Mazatlan. In 2010 he delivered the commencement address at DePauw University where he also received an honorary doctorate in science. In 2011 he was inducted as a Fellow National member of the Explorers Club. In 2014 he received the University of Arizona's Global Acheivement Award.
He has authored more than 200 scientific papers, technical reports, book chapters, and popular publications; lectured in more than 30 countries and nearly all 50 states; and appeared in hundreds of print, film, radio, and television media outlets including NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Outside Magazine, USA Today, Elle, Vogue, Fast Company, Surfer Magazine, Scientific American, and New Scientist, among many others.
His research interests span ocean and aquatic ecosystems, migratory species, marine protected areas, fisheries management, and plastic pollution with special emphasis on building new action networks and developing novel interdisciplanary solutions, sometimes involving so-called enemies. He takes a slow, collaborative approach with leaders in businesses, government, non-profits, and academia to inspire a deeper connection with nature and inventive approaches to pressing issues ranging from supplies of fresh water to improved hospice care for our aging population.
His current focus is on what he refers to as Blue Mind, a powerful new universal story of water. In this story society accurately describes all of the physical, ecological, economic, cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical, and social benefits of healthy oceans and waterways. By connecting neuroscientists and psychologists with aquatic experts and artists to ask and answer exciting new questions his work is transforming many sectors, including: health and wellness; education and parenting; arts, architecture and design; real estate and urban planning; travel and leisure; and sports and recreation.
His book Blue Mind, published in summer 2014 by Little, Brown & Company, quickly became a national bestseller and has been translated to numerous languages and inspired a wave of media and practical application.
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. At every turn he encourages people to disconnect from the grid and reconnect with themselves, those they love, and the special places they care about.
His research, expeditions, and work as a guide 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 or financial gain—is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet.
J. is currently Chief Evangelist for Water (CEH2O) at Bouy Labs, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies' Center for the Blue Economy, a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEE the WILD, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network, and Blue Mind a global "movement of movements" sharing the new story of water.
He co-mentors 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 more creative, stronger, more progressive, and connected environmental community.
J. lives with his partner Dana, two daughters and some cats, dogs, and chickens on California's Slow Coast, a rural stretch of coastal mountains overlooking the Monterey Bay 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 liked it here", Nichols said.
To book Dr. Nichols as a speaker at your event or to organize a Blue Mind workshop for your organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An abbreviated timeline of some signiticant and formative moments.
1967: Born in New York City and after an enjoyable time in the capable hands of the Spence Chapin Agency was adopted by Wallace & Sheila Nichols.
1967-1982: Explored the Greater NYC Area, played sports, went to school, lived with pet frogs, an adopted brother, three foster sisters, and a revolving door of exchange students.
1972: Survived a bout with spinal meningitis and became intimately acquainted with and curious about my nervous system.
1982-1985: After looking at the map and noticing all the "blue space" as well as two baseball teams we located to the Chicago Area where I attended Barrington High School.
1985: Met my biological mother, also named Sheila, for the first time at high school graduation. A lifelong curiosity about genetics became a passion.
1985-1989: Studied biology and Spanish at DePauw University, learned SCUBA and explored nearly every lake, river and quarry in Indiana.
1987: Met Barbara Dougherty who taught me a lot.
1989-1992: Headed to Duke University for graduate school, surfed the Outer Banks and got a degree in economics and policy.
1991: Received a Bradley Fellowship to study sea level rise at thye Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina.
1993-1994: Studied marine biology at Northeastern University, spending time at marine labs in Friday Harbor, WA; Discovery Bay, Jamaica and East Point, Nahant, MA.
1994-1999: Posted up in Tucson, Arizona and made frequent trips to Mexico as part of my PhD reearch on sea turtles.
1995: Sigma Xi Research Award
1996-1997: We attached an Argos - Telonics satellite transmitter to the shell of a loggerhead sea turtle named "Adelita" who made history by swimming 7,000 miles across the entire Pacific Ocean in 368 days. This also marked the beginning of my efforts to end plastic pollution in our oceans.
1997-1998: Lived in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico as a Fulbright Fellow, work with Dr. Alberto Abreu in his conservation genetics lab.
1998: Received a Marshall Fellowship while studying at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
1998: Married Dana by the ocean in Big Sur.
1999: Recognitizing a need for a binational and bilingual conservation team I co-founded WILDCOAST with Serge Dedina to protect the wildlands and wildlife of the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico and California, USA (aka The Californias).
1999: Grupo Tortuguero was founded and our first annual meeting held in Loreto, BCS, Mexico.
1999 Archie Carr Student Paper Award, Nineteenth Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation.
1999: Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Departmental Graduate Fellowship, University of Arizona, Tucson.
1999: Became a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences in Sanfrancisco, California.
2001: Our daughter Wallace Grayce Nichols IV was born and rocked our world.
2002: Coastal Living Magazine, Ocean Leadership Award.
2003: After our 1,800-kilometer 112-day trek down the coast from Oregon to Mexico we founded Slow Coast: Authentic Ocean Spirit. Try camping/walking for 4 months with a one year old!
2003: Co-founded Ocean Revolution with Tim Dykman, a global network of indigenous youth ocean advocates and scientists.
2004: Our daughter Julia Frances Nichols (aka Boo) was born and rocked our world even harder!
2004: Joined the Ocean Council at Oceana.
2006: Barrington High School Distinguished Alumni Award.
2007: I worked on The 11th Hour, a documentary film, created, produced, co-written and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, on the state of the natural environment. It was directed by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners and distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. Its world premiere was at the 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival (May 16–27, 2007).
2007: We developed and launched the Live Blue Campaign with the Ocean Conservancy, to encourage people to play blue, shop blue, eat blue, move blue and vote blue...always with ocean, lake and river health in mind. A few years later this eveolved into the Annual Blue Mind Summits, but the #LiveBlue theme remains our call to action.
2007: DePauw University Distinguished Alumni Award.
2007: After a lecture about his new book Musicophilia about the brain on music, I suggested to Dr. Oliver Sacks that he write a similar book about his love of water. He responded "That's a fine idea. You do it." That simple, powerful mandate from a man whose life and intellect I admired took hold. Seven years later I published Blue Mind with Little, Brown & Co.
2007: Elected President of the International Sea Turtle Society and served on the Board of Dirtectors for four years.
2008: Recogniizng a need to connect traveles with sea turttle conservation projects around the world, Brad Nahill and I founded SEE Turtles, a conservation travel and education project. SInce then we have supported dozens of projects with over a million dollars in revenue from volunteers and docations.
2008: Worked on Battle in Seattle, a political action-thriller film written and directed by Stuart Townsend and starring André Benjamin as Django the sea turtle activist, Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta and Channing Tatum. The story is based on the protest activity at the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 where sea turtles played a prominent symbolic role. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival.
2009: I was honored to be nominated for a second time to receive a Pew Marine Fellowship and submitted an extensive proposal for Blue Mind, again unsuccessfully applied for the award. However, like the previous proposal for Grupo Tortuguero, the project was a winner thank to our amazing partners.
2009: We publicly presented the first blue marbles at the New England Aquarium at a presentation in their IMAX theater. This was followed by a productive communications staff meeting to introduce them to the Live Blue Campaign, which they enthusiastically embraced and joined.
2009: Co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition and became chairman of the Science Advisory Board to address the growing problem of plastic in our oceans and waterways.
2010: I was honored to present the commencement address at my alma mater DePauw University: You Are Lovers & Fighters. We shared 7,000 blue marbles with attendees, faculty and graduates.
2010: The Blue Marbles Project was expanded globally on Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday celebration at the California Academy of Sciences.
2010: We launched Billion Baby Turtles, with the aspirational goal of raising funds for community-based sea turtle nesting beach conservation projects around the world. To date, Billion Baby Turtles has saved more than 1 million hatchlings due to support from sponsors, schools, donors, and SEE Turtles conservation tours!
2011: Following the success of SEE Turtles, we decided to create See The Wild and expand to other animals including sharks, whales, big cats, and more. People can now participate in nearly 50 different wildlife trips supporting local conservation group.
2011: Blue Mind was featured on the cover of Outside Magazine and in an award wining article by Michael Roberts.
2012: Save The Waves Coalition's 2012 Wave Saver Award.
2013: Lost my biological father, Jack Hoy, to pancreatic cancer. He was "a pioneer who often had ideas before they reached their time”, someone who "always had something to tell you and teach you if you wanted to listen", and a man who "understood failure as a force even if he didn’t suffer it much.”
2014: Published Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do with Little, Brown & Company.
2014: Presented the inaugural Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award to Jack Johnson at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's 30th Anniversary. Taught him to play the 59th Street Bridge Song.
2015: Worked with Pharrell Williams and director Jake Sumner on a short documentary film called The Plastic Age.
2015: Honored as an "Alumni Legend" by the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation as an alumnus of Barrington High School, and returned to Illinois for the event.
2016: Lost my adoptive father. Wallace J. Nichols Jr.,due to complications from a traumatic brain injury, on Earth Day under a full moon. He was a quiet leader who believed in finding win-win approaches, a great public servant, and effortly generous to everyone who crossed his path.
2017: I was honored by Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with the Champion of Change Award at the World Oceans Festival at Governor’s Island, New York.
2017: Honored to receive the Tuolune River Trust Water Champion Award.
2017: I joined Middlebury Institute for International Studies' Center for the Blue Economy in Monterey, California as a Senior Fellow.
2018: Grupo Tortuguero celebrated its 20th anniversary in Loreto, BCS, Mexico, highlighting one of North America's most successfl endangered species recovery efforts: bringing the black sea turtle back from the brink of extinction.
2018: The UK paperback edition of Blue Mind was released.