Marine biologist, author, water-lover, turtle nerd, explorer, movement builder, embarrassing Dad & creator of useful words.
I create because I'm called to. Because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Because it fulfills me in a way nothing else ever could.
Words are the medium I work in. Spoken, written, strung together, in print, on air and online. Words, and the pauses between them, create new and useful stories. They connect us to big ideas and each other. When we share these stories, we can change the world.
The right word is worth a million pictures. It's portable, universal, sticky, personal, and engages the imagination of the reader or listener — in an age of too many images moving past us far too quickly, a good, useful word lasts.
If you appreciate my clear, simple and efficient efforts, please become a patron at any level that feels right. I depend 100% on your contribution to remain independent and intellectually free to do original work. Together we get a lot done. Thank you.
Longer Bio & Timeline:
Dr. Nichols helps people reestablish healthier, more creative and regenerative relationships with themselves, each other and their environment through water, wonder, wellness and wildlife.
Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols — called a “Keeper of the Sea" by GQ Magazine, “a visionary" by Outside Magazine, a "water warrior" by AQUATICS International, a "friend of the sea" by Experience Life Magazine, and "the godfather of water" by Irish Life Health and Santa Cruz Waves 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).
Dr. Nichols collaborates tirelessly and artfully 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 the World Oceans Festival on 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
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, innovative 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 conservation while 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 and in 2019 The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences presented him with The NOGI Award for the Enviroment, considered "the Oscar of the ocean world", the oldest and most prestigious award in the recreational diving world, recognizing individuals who have made significant career contributions to the sport, the industry and the world in the arts, sciences, environment, sports/education and through distinguished service.
"Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, is likely the world’s foremost authority on the mental-health benefits of spending time near, in, on, or under water — what the marine biologist calls a Blue Mind state." ~ Experience Life Magazine
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 The Blue Mind Movement, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies' Center for the Blue Economy, a Research Associate in the Herpetology Department at California Academy of Sciences and a co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEE Turtles, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, among other projects, organizations and campaigns.
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, modern, 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. They are slowly restoring the land after the summer 2020 wildfires took their beloved home.
To book Dr. Nichols as a speaker at your event or to organize a Blue Mind workshop for your organization, please contact Deb at Changemaker Talent.
An abbreviated timeline of some significant and formative moments:
1967: Born in New York City after an enjoyable 9.2 months in my private ocean called Mom (Sheila Youngblood), then following an additional few months in the capable hands of the Spence Chapin Agency I 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 and genetics.
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 neuropsychology and genetics became a passion and academic pursuit.
1985: Graduated from Barrington High School (Illinois).
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 about memory and music.
1989-1992: Headed to Duke University in North Carolina, surfed the Outer Banks and got a graduate degree in economics and policy.
1991: Received a Bradley Fellowship to study sea level rise at the 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 turtle genetics, migration and conservation.
1995: Sigma Xi Research Award
1996-1997: My team 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.
2000: Published our children's book Chelonia: Return of the Sea Turtle.
2001: Our daughter Wallace Grayce Nichols IV was born and rocked our world. She still does.
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, an international network of indigenous youth ocean advocates and scientists.
2004: Our daughter Julia Frances Nichols (aka "Boo" or "Rocket Baby") 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 to encourage people to play blue, shop blue, eat blue, move blue and vote blue...always with water, 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 through The Live Blue Foundation.
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: Recognizing a need to connect travelers with sea turtle 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. This projects is now known as The Live Blue Foundation
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. This project is part of The Live Blue Foundation.
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: Honored with the Blue Ocean Film Festival Leaders and Legends Power of One Award in Monterey, California.
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 the internationally bestselling book 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: International Blue Mind Day (June 10th) annually celebrates the emotional wellness benefits of time spent near, in, on and under healthy waters around the world.
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-win approaches, a great public servant, and effortly generous to everyone who crossed his path.
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” âÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Maya Angelou
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 successful endangered species recovery efforts: bringing the black sea turtle back from the brink of extinction.
2018: The UK paperback and Chinese editions of Blue Mind were released.
2019: Recipient of an International Sea Turtle Society Champion Award.
2019: Recipient of the esteemed NOGI Award for Environment from the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences.
2020: Our family's beloved home on The Slow Coast and everything we owned were destroyed in a wildfire lit by a massive dry lightning storm.
2020: The 10th Annual Blue Mind X Summit brought Blue Mind science and practice to ten online venues and workshops around the world.
2021: Most of the year has been spent cleaning up and restoring The Slow Coast property, now a group of off-grid tents in the redwoods, by a creek, not far from the ocean.
March: Received The Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, created to benefit teachers who have inspired their former students to make a significant contribution to society.
2022: DePauw University alumni citation for outstanding professional achievement.
2022: The 12th Annual Blue Mind Summit Roadshow shared Blue Mind science and practice with leading aquariums, zoos, interpretive professionals, and educators across the US.
2022: Together with my daughter Grayce and illustrator Drew Beckmeyer published our book Dear Wild Child (Cameron + Co).
2023: Completed the 700th episode of The Annual Blue Mind Online Book Club.
Connect with Dr. Nichols here.