Article and photos by: Stephanie Huynh | Contributor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Fischer, founding chairman of OCEARCH and co-host of the Offshore Adventures TV series, spoke to a room full of educators and students on Thursday, April 21 as the last of the Wiese Distinguished Lecture Series speakers for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Co-sponsors for the event were the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation, the Alabama Coastal Federation, and the USA Foundation.
The Wiese Distinguished Speaker Series is made possible by Pete and Marty Wiese, a couple who advocated for various environmental and educational causes across the nation. With their endowment of the speaker series, both the University and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab are able to bring leading scientists to their campuses for any and all to learn from.
Since 2007, Fischer has led 43 expeditions around the world to expand the global knowledge of great white sharks and other ocean giants. He was inspired by Jacques Cousteau, the French marine explorer who invented scuba diving. Fischer has funded and facilitated groundbreaking research that has solved many unanswered questions about sharks and their habits.
“In 1997, my noble goal was to pour the world’s oceans into people’s lives at a scale unseen since Cousteau so people were aware of what was going on, because awareness is everything,” said Fischer. “Once you have scale and awareness, problems get solved.”
The School of Marine and Environmental Sciences was launched in Spring 2021, a feat that many students think was overdue.
Marissa Hall, a freshman marine biology major, said that she was shocked that the school was launched so recently considering that South is located right along the Gulf Coast.
With the help of programs like the Wiese Distinguished Speaker Series, leaders in the college are hoping to continue providing students with the resources they need to successfully become the next pioneers of marine and environmental science.
According to Dr. Sean Powers, Director and Professor of the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, part of why the Wiese lecture series was created was to “bring in speakers from around the world that represent the different aspects of marine sciences and trying to stress the pure science of the field, but also the discovery aspect of it.”
“The path to abundance is unemotional; it’s just math and science,” said Fischer. “Sometimes, getting too much emotion tangled up in [research] can create as big a problem as any other problem there is because people get position-oriented instead of solution-oriented.”
In 2013, Fischer launched the Global Shark Tracker, which shows where all of the sea animals that he and his team have tagged are located.
“Look to grow. Look to change,” Fischer said. “Don’t get yourself in a position where you’re in a spot and change is scary.”