Igniting Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Tierney Thys The Marine Biologist

Unlocking the mysteries of the ocean


Tierney is driven by a love for the ocean, for the life it sustains and for the amount of joy it brings to her life.

Since 2000, the marine biologist has been exploring the world’s open oceans studying the giant ocean sunfish, a species that might hold the key to understanding the ecology of the open ocean. She has contributed research to the Census of Marine Life, the most comprehensive effort to assess the diversity of life in the oceans. A 2004 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Tierney is also an advisor for numerous media initiatives that help deepen the public understanding of the importance of scientific research and conservation of the ocean.

More About Tierney

Want to be a marine biologist?

Tierney reveals why an interest in biology led her to conservation.

My interest in science initially came from an intellectual desire to better understand form and function in the ocean. Once in graduate school, however, I gained more and more reverence for the natural world. This kind of stewardship isn’t built in a semester, but over a lifetime. You’ve got to get good teachers and learn the fundamentals but it’s just as important to find a mentor that will inspire you. That’s where it will stick. Here, COSEE can be a great resource. Even outside of school, it’s important to always keep learning. I love the Seven Principles of Ocean Literacy. One of my all-time favorite bloggers is Andy Revkin. He writes a lot about climate change and really gets the Earth as an integrated system. The LA Times recently produced one of the best multimedia reports on the state of the ocean. It’s very sobering but really very good. And of course, Carl Safina’s work at the Blue Ocean Institute is always inspirational.

  • Strange Days on Planet Earth

    Creating an award-winning documentary series on global environmental issues requires a broad understanding of biological and chemical processes. For this project, Tierney needed to figure out how to present the complicated impacts of pollution on the ocean in ways that would be accessible to almost anyone. She also needed to connect this material to concrete action. For example, she revealed how multi-national collaborations might be powerful enough to address the worlds’ most critical challenges.

  • The World’s First Catalog of Marine Life

    Jump into the largest oceanographic project in history! The decade-long census of marine life required the help of a global network of researchers from more than 80 nations. Such a project will help researchers better understand the biological diversity of the global ocean, an ecosystem that remains almost completely unexplored. It will also help them to better understand alarming worldwide declines in species like tuna and shark.

Create Your Own Universe Online

Create Your <span>Own Universe Online</span>

Tierney believes that saving the world’s ecosystems requires a critical understanding of the importance of biological diversity. Soon after game designer Will Wright created SPORE, an online game that explores one billion years of evolutionary history, Tierney spoke to him about diversity and evolution. Check out this video clip, and then download the game.

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