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Dr. Nancy Knowlton

Dr. Nancy Knowlton has been a scientist with the Smithsonian since 1984, first in Panama at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and now at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.  She has also been a professor at Yale and at the University of California in San Diego, where she founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is the author of Citizens of the Sea, former Editor-in-Chief of the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal, and contributes regularly to the global ocean conversation via @seacitizens.  She is a winner of the Peter Benchley Prize and the Heinz Award, and in 2013 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. 

Dr. Knowlton learned to dive in 1972 and has since spent so much time underwater that she long ago lost count of the hours.  Her research on coral reefs has taken her around the world, from the remote reefs of the central Pacific to the Caribbean. In the laboratory, she leads a team that uses the latest tools of molecular genetics to characterize life in the ocean.  Her current passion is creating a more positive narrative for conservation. In 2014 she helped launch #OceanOptimism on Twitter, and in 2017 she was the co-host of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit. Dr. Knowlton now lives in downeast Maine and New York City with her husband Jeremy Jackson.