Seymour Center honors Kathryn Sullivan

The Seymour Center at Long Marine Laboratory will honor Kathryn D. Sullivan–oceanographer, astronaut, educator, and UCSC alumna–at the Global Oceans Awards Gala on Saturday, March 13. The award recognizes Sullivan for her outstanding contributions to the understanding and conservation of the oceans.

“Once a year at the Global Oceans Awards Gala, we have the opportunity to celebrate a true ocean hero,” said Julie Barrett Heffington, director of the Seymour Center. “Kathy Sullivan may be best known as the first woman to walk in space, but she is also a real hero in the world of marine science and ocean conservation.”

As a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Sullivan was part of a team that called for the immediate reform of U.S. ocean policies to prevent the decline of ocean wildlife and the collapse of ocean ecosystems. The findings and recommendations in the commission’s 2003 report, “America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change,” continue to guide policymakers today.

A former NASA astronaut, Sullivan is a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame. She served as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1992 to 1996 and was president and CEO of Ohio’s Center of Science & Industry (COSI), an interactive science center in Columbus, Ohio. Sullivan currently serves as director of Ohio State University’s Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy and as a volunteer science adviser to COSI. She was appointed to the National Science Board in 2004.

Sullivan is also a proud alumna of UC Santa Cruz. She entered UCSC as a linguistics major and discovered she needed three science classes to fulfill general-education requirements. After trying what she described as “every trick in the book to get out of them,” Sullivan enrolled in oceanography and Earth sciences classes, which proved a turning point in her life. Discovering a passion for science, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Earth and marine sciences and went on to earn a Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Her doctoral studies at Dalhousie included participation in several oceanographic experiments with the U.S. Geological Survey and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She became a specialist in deep-sea geological research, but ended up entering the space program.

“I finished my Ph.D. at Dalhousie and went into the space program thinking I was giving up my dreams of diving in Alvin (one of the world’s first deep-ocean submersibles) for the chance to fly in space,” Sullivan said. Yet even in space, her oceanographic training came into play. The primary goal of the first of her three shuttle missions was to survey the Earth, the atmosphere, and the oceans.

“It is an honor to recognize Kathy for her body of work, her commitment to ocean conservation, and perhaps most importantly, her passion for science education. She is a leader and role model for us all,” Heffington said.

Sullivan joins a select group of Global Oceans Heros including former UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, now president of the University of Hawaii; photographer and conservationist Frans Lanting; Bruce McPherson, former California Secretary of State; Leon Panetta, who chaired the Pew Oceans Commission and is now director of the CIA; Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey; and Brent Constantz, CEO of Calera Corporation.