Wallace J. Nichols realized early in his scientific career as a sea turtle researcher that what was driving him was not the collection of data or professional ambition or financial gain.
It was something much deeper. Something everybody shared.
It crystallized when as a graduate student his team put a satellite tag on a long captive loggerhead sea turtle and set it loose from Baja, Mexico. It was 1996, the early days of the Internet, and against his advisor’s advice he made Adelita the turtle’s tracking data openly available on the web. She swam straight to her likely birthplace, Japan, as people from around the world rooted for her. And Nichols could see he was onto something.
“Why was it so compelling to follow an animal you’d never met, to follow Adelita on a 368-day shared experience?” asked Nichols, a keynote speaker at the upcoming One Hundred Miles “Choosing to Lead Conference” on Jekyll Island Jan. 13-14. “It’s an emotional connection. People weren’t tracking her for financial reasons. It was an emotional connection.”
Scientists are trained to disregard emotion, but Nichols is trying to change that, especially our emotional response to water. There’s clinical research to back up claims that water soothes us, he said.
“We should teach every woman, man and child about how nature, particularly water, can enhance that emotional toolbox,” said Nichols, the author of ‘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.’ “And how we can use that knowledge as a force for good to create a positive feedback loop where we recognize that going to the coast makes us happier, healthier. It connects us to each other, boosts our creativity, turns a stressful day at least into a less stressful day.”
That jibes with One Hundred Miles’ philosophy, said Catherine Ridley, vice president of education and communications.
“We believe that our conservation movement is strongest when we start by celebrating what we love,” she said. “If you care about our coast and want to protect it for generations to come, then you have an opportunity to share your passion with those around you.”
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