Harvard Science Book Talk: Helen Scales, in conversation with Kristina Gjerde, "The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It"


Wednesday, December 1, 2021, 5:00pm

Where Online: https://www.harvard.com/event/virtual_event_helen_scales/
When December 1, 2021 @5:00PM
Organization/Sponsor Harvard Division of Science, Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store
Speaker(s) Helen Scales and Kristina Gjerde
Cost free
Contact Info science_lectures@fas.harvard.edu

“The oceans have always shaped human lives,” writes marine biologist Helen Scales in her vibrant new book The Brilliant Abyss, but the surface and the very edges have so far mattered the most. “However, one way or another, the future ocean is the deep ocean.”

A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway. Revolutionary studies in the deep are rewriting the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, with a topography even more varied and extreme than its Earthbound counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more—good or bad depending on how it is exploited. Currently the fantastic creatures that live in the deep—many of them incandescent in a world without light—and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere; and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by many nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing.

Eloquently and passionately, Helen Scales brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted. The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world.


Helen Scales, PhD, is a marine biologist, writer, and public broadcaster. She is the author of Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells and Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean, and Everything. She has written for National Geographic, the GuardianNew ScientistBBC Wildlife Magazine, and BBC Focus, among others, and also presents the Earth Unscrewed podcast. She teaches marine biology and science writing at Cambridge University and advises the marine conservation charity Sea Changers. She divides her time between Cambridge, England, and the French coast of Finistère.

Kristina Gjerde is Senior High Seas Advisor to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Global Marine and Polar Programme and adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, where she teaches an intensive course on international marine law. For almost 30 years, Kristina has worked on the progressive development of public international law relating to the marine environment, with a growing focus since 2003 on the high seas and international seabed area. To advance science-based progress, Kristina co-founded and currently serves on the boards of four initiatives: Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), a multidisciplinary scientific partnership, Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative, Sargasso Sea Project and the High Seas Alliance. Most recently, Kristina became a member of the Executive Planning Group of the UN Decade of Ocean Science. Kristina is the author or co-author of over 150 publications, many with leading ocean scientists. She received her Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law with a focus on comparative and international law, and practiced admiralty law for several years in a New York City law firm.

For more information and videos of Harvard Science Book Talks, see https://science.fas.harvard.edu/book-talks.