BOUNTIFUL - Dr. David Guggenheim, a marine biologist known as the 'ocean doctor' from Washington, is on an ambitious mission that led him to Bountiful this week.
Valley View Elementary was the one school in Utah he is visiting during his trek across the nation for his 50 Years, 50 States, and 50 Speeches expedition.
Guggenheim is intent on bringing an important message to students about the world's oceans, something he decided to begin on his 50th birthday.
"There is an incredible thirst among today's students for clues to the mysteries of the oceans, such as how those blue waters affect their lives and what rewarding careers await them in marine science," said Guggenheim. "Unfortunately, few of these children are getting that from their standard curriculum."
With 95 percent of the world's oceans still undiscovered, Guggenheim is hoping the younger generation can move forward with oceanic exploration, hence his desire to reach out to thousands of students across the nation. He has made it to 19 states and one territory so far where 20,000 students have heard his presentation.
"As I've listened to students' cheers, applause and even shrieks during my presentations and seeing their wide, excited eyes, it's become clear I've tapped into an enormous, pent-up passion, fascination, and love of the oceans that I must admit even I had underestimated," said Guggenheim. "Such enthusiasm is incredibly strong even among the thousands of students I've visited that have never seen an ocean."
One of Guggenheim's friends, Robert Ballard, known for discovering the Titanic wreck in 1985, told Guggenheim he doesn't believe the Titanic wreck is the coolest thing he's ever found, but rather all of the creatures and life living deep underneath the water he has discovered.
Guggenheim agreed, telling students of a time when he was visiting an unexplored canyon underneath water that had sponge-like creatures inside. "That new species had never been seen by human eyes before, and that stuff happens to me all the time," said Guggenheim.
With new discoveries come changes in science. "Science is totally turning on its head with new discoveries happening all the time," said Guggenheim. He referred to what scientists originally believed about life not being capable of surviving without sunlight, until they discovered nine-foot-long tube worms living thousands of feet below the ocean's surface - far from reaches of any sunlight, living and thriving.
Guggenheim said he feels a lot like the explorers Lewis and Clark, when they doubled the size of the United States with their discoveries. "We're in the Lewis and Clark phase of our ocean discoveries," said Guggenheim. "We have mapped the back side of the moon, but still know so little about our deep oceans."
Guggenheim talked to students about some of the problems facing oceans today, including too many fish being pulled from the ocean. "Nearly 70 percent of the fish we eat in the U.S. is imported because we took too many fish out of our oceans," said Guggenheim, who also mentioned the shortage of fish doesn't just impact humans. "You change the ecosystem when you pull fish out. Fish have jobs to do, and part of their job in the ecosystem is to feed other creatures living in the water."
Guggenheim also mentioned that 15 percent of land in the United States is protected, but only a percent of oceans are protected, though that is changing as more areas are becoming protected as humans see the disastrous affects to wildlife in the oceans.
"What gives me hope is you," said Guggenheim, pointing to the students at Valley View Elementary. "You guys are going to have much better equipment to use than I did. If you really want to make a difference in the world, become an ocean scientist."