Top neuroscientists, ocean explorers and advocates explore the science of our emotional connection to the sea.
[Livestreaming 9-5 pm PST June 2nd from www.BlueMInd.life]
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Why do we seek respite at the ocean's shore? Why are the words "Ocean View" the most valuable in real estate? Why does the sound, smell, touch and taste of the sea set our souls at ease? These questions and much more will be on tap, Thursday, June 2, 2011 as leaders in neuroscience and ocean exploration converge at the California Academy of Sciences for the first-ever Blue Mind Summit.
Blue Mind Summit is the brainchild of Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a noted sea turtle biologist, ocean advocate and Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. He and a team of scientists and entrepreneurs have invested two years of thought and planning into this one-of-a-kind summit.
Blue Mind is the only event ever to explore the intersection of brain and ocean. Bringing together neuroscientists, ocean scientists, experts in technology forecasting, photographers, explorers, writers, and ocean advocates, this unprecedented Summit will help define an emerging field that unites neuroscience, ocean exploration and stewardship, providing the first opportunity for participants to engage in this dialogue and to shape a new era of scientific understanding of the ocean and its great emotional power.
“Humans have a deep connection to the sea that drives many of our decisions—from what seafood we eat and where we live, to how we vacation and relax,” said Dr. Nichols. “But that connection is poorly studied and tricky territory of discussion among scientists and policy makers. So, I decided it was time to bring the mind and ocean together. The result is Blue Mind. Understanding the connection between neuroscience and the ocean may shed new light on the best use of our brains to evolve our relationship to our ocean planet.”
With ongoing threats to the ocean intensifying, there is urgent need to focus on solutions. Nichols and his team believe that new insights may emerge as we understand our brains more deeply—and most critically, our brain’s interrelationship with the ocean planet.
Little data exists about the brain ‘on the ocean’ either in the field of cognitive neuroscience, or the oceans community. What happens to the brain when a person is in proximity to the ocean? Why do we spend hard earned money to vacation, live or dine within the view or sound-shed of the sea? What are the links between the ocean, relaxation, stress and public health? Blue Mind will provide a platform for leaders to discuss, debate and better understand these interconnections, and the interrelated state of the “brain on ocean," and will support further exploration of the implications for ocean and human health.
“The goals of the Blue Mind Summit are to jumpstart several new lines of mind and ocean research and add a new tool to our ocean conservation toolbox,” say Nichols.
The daytime invitation-only Summit will be livecast to the public free of charge. The summit will then spill over into the California Academy of Science’s 4,000-person NightLife Ocean evening celebration including a Mind and Ocean session in the planetarium with Dr. Philippe Goldin, a Stanford University neuroscientist, Dr. Nichols, and writer Julia Whitty. For program details and further information on Blue Mind, please visit www.bluemind.life
Blue Mind Quotes:
Speakers at the event include trailblazers in a variety of fields including neuroscience, culinary arts, yoga, ocean conservation academia, dance and more. Provided below are quotes from speakers:
Speaker Jaimal Yogis, author of Saltwater Buddha, reflects: “Spending so many of my days in the ocean, I've always thought that it's a perfect metaphor for the human mind: unhindered, wild, at times violent, while at the same time profound, serene, and playful. All life comes from the sea, and human consciousness still reflects that. It's exciting to be part of an event that honors that connection. I think we're just beginning to tap the knowledge of the sea.”
“As a clinical neuroscientist, it is clear to me that the mind-brain and the ocean are two vast dynamic organic domains,” explained Dr. Philippe Goldin, Research Psychologist at Stanford University. “Both are complex and intriguing, and they require our attention and care for their continued well-being and existence.”
"I've always been drawn to the ocean. It's interesting to know there may be a neurological basis for that attraction. But perhaps more importantly, if we can use that connection to help people become connected to the ocean in a meaningful way that translates to better stewardship, hallelujah!" -Mark Shelley, Executive Director, Sea Studios Foundation
"My father, who spent months at a time away from us while he was under the sea (in submarines). When home he often repeated, 'Just plain old water, it's the most valuable thing we have and we don’t even know it. When we do, you’ll see wars being fought over it.' His passion had a profound impact on us ... and, it was absolutely an influence that would eventually prove the vital ingredient in the artificial intelligences and virtual worlds we would create in the decades to come. Blue Mind is like a homecoming for me—finally, we're engaging a most overdue conversation for our time: the brain and the ocean." -Lorne Lanning, Game Designer, OddWorld and OddMobb
The Blue Mind Summit is part of The Mind and Ocean Initiative, a collaboration between leading researchers in the ocean and cognitive sciences. MindandOcean.org
The California Academy of Sciences is an international center for scientific education and research and is at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity of Earth’s living things. The Academy has a staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level scientists, supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows. It conducts research in 11 scientific fields: anthropology, aquatic biology, botany, comparative genomics, entomology, geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, and ornithology. Visit research.calacademy.org.
SeaWeb is the only international, nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to strategically communicating about ocean issues. We transform knowledge into action by shining a spotlight on workable, science-based solutions to the most serious threats facing the ocean, such as climate change, pollution and depletion of marine life. We work collaboratively with targeted sectors to encourage market solutions, policies and behaviors that result in a healthy, thriving ocean. By informing and empowering diverse ocean voices and conservation champions, SeaWeb is creating a culture of ocean conservation. www.seaweb.org
Jackie Marks (east) 301.459.9570 firstname.lastname@example.org
Daria Siciliano (west) 415. 913.7224 email@example.com
Sarah Kornfeld 415.246.9654 firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Taylor 415.379.5128 email@example.com
This event is possible thanks to the generous support of BLUEMIND sponsors:
Light + Motion
St. Supery Winery
Turtle Island Restoration Network
California Academy of Sciences
Max Davis Co.
The Ocean Foundation
BLUEMIND speaker institutions:
Algalita Marine Research
California Academy of Sciences
Institute for the Future
Institute of Neurosurgical Innovation
International League of Conservation Photographers
New York University
Ocean Conservation Research
The City of Long Beach, California
The Moss Room
University of California, San Diego
University of California, San Francisco
University of Texas, Austin
Kristen Weiss and friend
Julia Rhodes Davis
Wallace J. Nichols
Draft agenda, confirmed themes and speakers as of May 19th, 2011
• June 1st, 6 pm ARUP Oceans Panel and reception w/ Drs. Sylvia Earle, Wallace J. Nichols & other leading ocean voices (AutoDesk Gallery, 1 Market, SF, CA)
• June 2nd, 9 am to 5 pm BLUEMIND Summit @ California Academy of Sciences (PLEASE arrive at 8 am to the Business Entrance on Middle Drive, Golden Gate Park, SF, CA)
9am: Welcoming Remarks, Dr. Christopher Andrews (Steinhart Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences) &
BLUEMIND: Your Brain On Ocean, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols (Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences)
Our Blue Marble: Science of Happiness, Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude & the Ocean Connection,
Dr. Kelly McGonigal (Stanford) & Andi Wong (teacher, Rooftop School)
Mind, Rhythm & the Ocean: Neuroauditory Science & the Sea,
Dr. Shelley Batts (Stanford) & Michael Stocker (musician and acoustic biologist/Ocean Conservation Research)
Light, Color & the Ocean,
Amir Vokshoor, M.D. (Inst. of Neurosurgical Innovation) & Neil Osborne(conservation photographer)
Why is “Ocean View” the Most Valuable Phrase in the English Language & Why It Matters,
Dr. Marcus Eriksen (Algalita Marine Research) & Eric Johnson (Sotheby’s)
Science of Taste, Smell & the Ocean,
Dr. Andrea Garber (UCSF School of Medicine) and Loretta Keller (chef Coco 500 and The Moss Room)
Neuromarketing, Behavior Change and the Ocean,
Dr. Jennifer Scott (Ogilvy) & Dawn Martin (SeaWeb)
1 pm: Dopamine, Addiction, Stress & the Ocean,
Dr. Howard Fields (UCSF), Lorne Lanning (gaming guru, OddMobb) & Jeff Clark (Legendary big wave surfer)
The Science of Ocean Meditation,
Dr. Philippe Goldin (Stanford University) & author Jaimal Yogis (Saltwater Buddha)
The Science of Ocean Advocacy,
Dr. Darren Schreiber (UCSD) & Fabien Cousteau (ocean advocate, PlantaFish.org)
Neurolinguistics & Ocean Words,
Dr. David Poeppel (New York University) & Jay Salter (poet)
Why is the ocean sexy?
Sheril Kirshenbaum (U Texas-Austin) & Anne Alexander Rowley
The Ocean's Futures: What BLUEMIND Means For Ocean Policy & Governance,
Dr. Jake Dunagan (Institute for the Future) & Suja Lowenthal (Vice Mayor, Long Beach, CA)
Mind-Body-Ocean: What the Ocean Can Teach Us About Our Brain (and vice versa)
Jodi Lomask (Capacitor.org) & Dr. Michael Merzenich (UCSF Professor Emeritus, Neuroscience)
• June 2nd, 6:30 pm “Ocean Meditation” in Planetarium with neuroscientist Dr. Philippe Goldin and author Julia Whitty
followed by Ocean NightLife @ California Academy of Sciences, Kristin McArdle Dance Company and a Blue Mind conversation w/ the public in African Hall
Editorial: Blue Mind: Your Brain On Ocean (by Wallace J. Nichols)
We are more than logical. We are human." - Jacques Yves Cousteau
Once I met a man who hated the ocean. Intensely, he said. He described to me fear, negative associations and a general unease he couldn't quite put his finger on. His aversion was so strong -- especially when measured against my own great, unabashed love for the ocean -- that I'll never forget my bewilderment. Everyone I have ever known loves the ocean. I'm not talking about lower-case "l" kind of love either; the kind that we apply indiscriminately to pop stars, sports teams, soft drinks and chocolate bars. I mean the capital "L" kind of Love; the love that is unfathomable and ineffable, a fusion of respect, understanding, awe, sensuality and mystery.
Nearly a decade ago, I read with great interest reports of interrogators at Guantanamo promising detainees a swim in the tropical ocean as an inducement to cooperation. From those small, hot jail cells, clad in heavy jumpsuits, the ocean must have looked mighty inviting. The technique worked.
Later, in the summer of 2003, on a coastal trek from Oregon to Mexico, I walked past a beachfront bungalow for sale in Del Mar, California. Eight-hundred square feet, no lot, but the sound, smell, sight, touch and taste of the Pacific awaited just beyond the bedroom window. The asking price? A cool $6.3 million. They got their asking price, then some.
It turns out that globally the ocean imparts a trillion dollar premium on hotel rooms, condos, houses and all other forms of coastal real estate. People want to see and hear the sea from where they eat and sleep and are willing to shell out a lot of green to get some blue.
I've also spent a lot of time with fishermen around the world. I've seen their working love of the ocean up close. Theirs is boundless joy in the freedom of a wide open, big blue space. It is the irresistible draw to a life spent catching seafood. In one Mexican lobstering co-op I work with, the rogue member who dares violate the community rules of "how many" and "how big" is banished to the packing facility with a never-ending view of white walls and stainless steel tables instead of big blue. For them, it is the worst punishment imaginable. Few, if any, subvert the community standards.
he poet Robinson Jeffers found language in the rhythm and drone of ocean waves and the meditative act of rolling boulders up from the sea to build his stone home. "The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to itself; the heartbreaking beauty will remain when there is no heart to break for it," he wrote.
Canadian actor Michael J. Fox famously quit television right after spending a few hours blissfully following a sea turtle gliding through the blue Caribbean sea. "Never once after my encounter with the sea turtle have I wavered in my conviction that it was the right thing for me to do and the right time for me to do it," he wrote.
A girl in the fourth grade at the San Francisco School sat in front of me holding a bright blue marble to her left eye. "It's beautiful in there, I can see whales and turtles and hear the ocean," she said. "I know just who I'm going to give this to."
I also queried the modern oracle (Twitter) on the topic of the #1 seafood (shrimp) and learned a lot about American's unbridled passion for cheap, fried crustaceans. We know that a certain kind of obsessed food and power addition underlies the extirpation of bluefin tuna, sharks and sea turtles, that get caught in shrimp nets, from the ocean.
@DSchnell: Ate 90 pieces of shrimp at Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp, now it's time for bed
@davezatz: Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp would be more appealing if they provided an announcer and scoreboard. Gluttony ftw
@OREOaddict16: i just ate my weight in endless shrimp at red lobster..yum =)
And, whenever I travel -- which is a lot -- I invariably meet total strangers who say: "So, you're a marine biologist? I dreamed of being a marine biologist when I was a kid!" And they'll disappear on the red Zodiac, chasing down whale songs on the ocean in their head.
We humans offer up our dreams, our secrets and our treasure to the sea from whence we came. Those imprisoned terrorists, lifelong fishermen, deep-pocketed property owners, poets, shrimp and tuna addicts and world-weary travelers clearly feel great emotional pull towards the ocean. But, why? What is it about the ocean that speaks to us on such a fundamental, profound human level? I have always wanted to know, but my chosen profession, science -- skeptical, detached, dispassionate science -- wouldn't allow me to go there.
When I was a graduate student, I tried to weave emotion into my dissertation on the relationship between sea turtle ecology and coastal communities. No luck. My advisors steered me to other departments, another career even. "Keep that "fuzzy" stuff out of your science, young man," they counseled. Emotion wasn't rational. It wasn't quantifiable. It wasn't science.
But, the human-ocean connection, Blue Mind as we've dubbed it, held me in its grip even as my career as a scientist blossomed. Eventually, I shaped my general philosophy into an effort called "The Mind and Ocean Initiative." Today, I think -- actually, I know -- it is time for a new kind of ocean science.
Economists, marketers and politicians recognize that deep-seated, inscrutable emotions, not rationality, are what rule human behavior. Aided by cognitive neuroscientists, these fields have begun to understand how our deepest, most primordial emotions drive virtually every decision we make, from what we buy to the candidates we elect. To my way of thinking, if the lessons of cognitive neuroscience can be used for the crass purposes of influencing what people buy and how they vote, why not use such knowledge for ocean conservation? I believe we can. And, I believe we should.
Consider these questions:
Why is "ocean view" the most valuable phrase in the english language, bestowing a 50% premium on everything from lunch to a night's sleep in a hotel room to a beachfront cottage?
If stress causes disease, and the ocean reduces stress, is time spent in, on, under or near the ocean good medicine?
Can our deepening understanding of brain science be applied to better protection for ocean animals being eaten to extinction by addicted and power-hungry humans?
We must seize this particular moment in time -- when the nascent power of neuroscience is burgeoning and the popular momentum is toward conservation rather than exploitation. We can use science to explore and understand the profound and ancient emotional and sensual connections that lead to deeper relationships with the ocean. I believe that if we do that we have an opportunity for real conservation gains that could do some true and lasting good for the ocean and planet Earth.
It's time to drop the old notions of separation between emotion and science. Emotion is science. Let's convene the top marine scientists, skilled communicators, dedicated conservationists, and leading neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists to ask and answer the most probing and compelling set of questions about the ocean that we can imagine. Let's explore the mind-ocean connection -- our Blue Minds.
Let's mentor a new wave of passionate and brilliant graduate students to get their PhD's in the breakthrough field of NeuroConservation. And together, let's mine neuroscience to develop a set of powerful conservation tools that educators, advocates, policymakers, medical doctors and scientists can use to better and more deeply engage, inspire and lead people in the restoration and protection of our beloved ocean.
Who knows what we will find. It's likely, maybe even certain, that the greatest unexplored mysteries of the sea are buried not under a blanket of blue, but deep in the human mind. The lessons and new questions are in there. They await only discovery.
Blue Mind: Your Brain On Ocean is being held June 2nd, 2011 at the California Academy of Sciences. Watch and listen live online at MindandOcean.org
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