Episode 5: Margaret Leinen discusses health of the oceans

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Mar 29, 20161h 8m
Episode 5: Margaret Leinen discusses health of the oceans
Mar 29 '161h 8m
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Margaret Leinen is a big name in oceanography. She’s the director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute and vice chancellor of marine sciences at Scripps. She was previously assistant direct of the National Science Foundation, where she worked with IHMC CEO and Director Ken Ford, who calls her “one of the most effective and most pleasant assistant directors of NSF.” Leinen’s interest in science started early: In high school, she became interested in geology and the history of the earth. When she discovered oceanography in college, she never looked back. In this episode, Leinen talks about her first dive in the Pacific, where she stumbled onto a huge hydrothermal vent system teeming with worms, clams and other colorful life forms. She also addresses current and future threats to the ocean, a non profit she established to look into mitigating the effects of climate change, and the overall resilience of the oceans. Host Dawn Kernagis, whose own interest in becoming a scientist—started with her childhood fascination with the ocean—conducts this interview. 3:00: In 2000, NSF director Rita Colwell asked Leinen to come to D.C. to talk to her about working at NSF to coordinate environmental science, engineering and education across entire foundation. 5:32. Leinen says a theme of her career has been cross disciplinary coordination. “I think it takes an optimist, and that’s me, I’m definitely a glass is half full kind of person.” 6:28: “People want to be able to cross boundaries, and most of the time they think that they do, but organizations put obstacles in front of them. My job is to find out what the obstacles are and then embrace them.” 9:10: Leinen talks about her role as director of Scripps, the oldest institute for oceanography, which just celebrated its 114th birthday. 10:00: Scripps has programs with University of California-San Diego medical and pharmacy schools. The oceans influence human health—and “Not just safety of seafood, red tides, or harmful algal blooms.” 10:24: “When you take a big breath of that wonderful salt air, you’re also inhaling thousands of viruses and bacteria from the ocean.” That may be harmful, or it may confer immunity. 11:57: We’ve gone beyond detecting climate change and attributing it to what is natural or human-induced; and we are now interested in how it impacts humans, the land and oceans—and how we must adapt.” 12:34: Understanding all these threads is “deeply inter-disciplinary.” 13:34: Leinen talks about the non-profit she started, the Climate Response Fund, to research “climate engineering,” or mitigating climate change. 17:15: The Climate Response Fund was a group of scientists and policy experts working with the public, governmental groups, non-profits and scientific groups. “It was a facilitator of discussions.” 18:00: In the U.S., research agencies have been reluctant to fund research in climate engineering, both because of the lack of a good policy framework as well as the potential pubic response. European groups have also struggled. 20:58: Leinen describes her early interest in geology as a high school student. Later, in college, “I just got seduced by oceanography.” 23:05: Leinen talks about the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), which looked at the carbon cycle in the ocean: “The ocean’s role in really the thing that keep the planet alive.” 24:13: The Equitorial Pacific extends across half the planet. “It’s very, very productive,” but that depends on whether it’s an El Nino time or not. 25:05: During normal (non El Nino) times, there is “An upwelling of deep waters,” and the breakdown of organic material by microbes. “During an El Nino this is limited, [the ocean] is not as biologically productive.” 26:50: JGOFS involved nine different two-month long cruises from the U.S. team, with 70 major scientists and their respective teams. There were other teams from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Chile.

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