Carl Safina

Carl Safina

Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Science Writing

Competition: US & Canada

Blue Ocean Institute; SUNY Stony Brook

The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World (Henry Holt, 2011), the writing of which was supported by his Guggenheim Fellowship, is just the latest in an impressive line of books on marine conservation that have earned Carl Safina a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a Pew Scholar’s Award in Conservation, the Rabb Medal from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, and, perhaps most important, a loyal readership. In its starred review, Kirkus voiced the critical and popular consensus that The View from Lazy Point “combines solid science and excellent storytelling,” praising it as a “superb work of environmental reportage and reflection.”

Compared by more than one critic to Henry David Thoreau, Mr. Safina is known for his accessible approach to conservation topics, and, unlike many writers in this field, his work is suffused with an optimism and joy in nature that, while not denying looming threats, adds a perspective too often missing from the more common “gloom and doom” accounts. But unlike Thoreau, who spent a year alone at Walden Pond to write his masterpiece, Mr. Safina is as conversant with the abounding life in the arctic, Pacific, and Caribbean as he is with that right outside his door, in the Long Island Sound.

Carl Safina was educated at SUNY Purchase in environmental studies (B.A., 1977) and at Rutgers University in ecology (M.Sc., Ph.D., 1987), where for his dissertation he studied seabirds and fish. Carl Safina’s long-standing concern with sustainable fisheries propelled his successful efforts to not only raise awareness of dwindling fish populations but to win changes in U.S. federal fisheries law and help pass a U.N. global fisheries treaty. And as Vice President for marine conservation at the Audubon Society, he was instrumental in launching its “Just Ask” campaign, which aimed to provide “consumers and sellers the tools they need to begin choosing better managed and more abundant fish.”

This lifelong interest also led to his first book, Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World’s Coasts and Beneath the Seas (Holt, 1999), in which he travels the oceans in the wake of blue fin tuna, chronicling their decimation and detailing methods for preserving them and other threatened species. It was an instant popular and critical success. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Thurston Clarke praised it as an “engrossing and illuminating,” “passionate and enthralling narrative” and a “landmark book,” sentiments echoed by Harry E. Demarest in his review for the San Francisco Chronicle: “[Safina’s] bright new voice joins that influential chorus, which includes Rachel Carson and Jacques Cousteau, of scientists turned eloquent ocean advocates.” Song for the Blue Ocean claimed a place in the New York Times’ list of notable books of the year, was selected as a Best Nonfiction and Best Science book by the Los Angeles Times and Library Journal, respectively, and won for its author the Lannan Literary Foundation award for nonfiction.

He continued to amass honors with his next two publications. Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival (Holt, 2002) won the John Burrough’s Medal for nature writing and was chosen as the year’s best book for communicating science by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur (Holt, 2006) was a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

He has also authored A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout (Crown, 2011), as well as the children’s book Nina Delmar: The Great Whale Rescue (Blue Ocean Institue & Manta Publications, 2010), with illustrations by Dawn E. Navarro.

In addition to these monographs, Mr. Safina has written extensively for such popular and scientific publications as National Geographic, Scientific American, Endangered Species Research, Conservation, and Science, among many others. Himself an ardent angler, for several years he also wrote a conservation column for The Fisherman magazine. He has appeared in the PBS documentaries The Blue Planet and Empty Oceans, Empty Nets (both in 2002), Farming the Seas (2004), and Journey to Planet Earth: State of the Oceans (2007), and has been an advisor for eight documentaries for Audubon Television Films. The series Saving the Oceans with Carl Safina, for which he is the producer and host, premiered on PBS in 2011, and more episodes are being completed for airing in 2012.

Currently Carl Safina is an Adjunct Professor in Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and its Center for Communicating Science as well as President of Blue Ocean Institute, which he cofounded in 2003.


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