• ©DePauw University / Wallace J Nichols
  • ©California Academy of Sciences / Wallace J Nichols
  • ©Local Catch Monterey / Wallace J Nichols
  • ©Billion Baby Turtles / Wallace J Nichols

About J

Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols, called “Keeper of the Sea" by GQ Magazine and “a visionary" by Outside Magazine 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).

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 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 and more 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, 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 well-being; 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 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 Life a global campaign to reconnect people to water.

He co-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 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 info@wallacejnichols.org.

An abbreviated timeline of signiticant 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 spinal meningitis and became intimately acquainted with 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.

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.

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.

1998-1999: Lived in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico as a Fulbright Fellow, work with Dr. Alberto Abreu in his conservation genetics lab.

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.

2001: Daughter W. Grayce was born and rocked our world.

2003: After our 1,200-mile 112-day trek down the coast from Oregon to Mexico we founded Slow Coast: Authentic Ocean Spirit.

2004: Daughter Julia (aka Boo) was born and rocked our world even harder!

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.

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.

2009: We publicly presented the first blue marbles at the New England Aquarium in a presentation in their IMAX theater called Live Blue: Live like you love the ocean. This was followed by a productive communications staff meeting to introduce them to the Live Blue Campaign, which they embraced and joined.

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.

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.

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.

GQ Magazine