Nathan J. Robinson
Attaching a TurtleCam to a green sea turtle in The Bahamas Author: Alex Smith
2024

Nathan J. Robinson

Marine Biologist and Science Communicator

squids, straws, and social media

meet nathan

Dr. Nathan J. Robinson is a marine biologist and science communicator from the UK. He conducts groundbreaking science that answers important ecological questions about endangered species while also connecting global audiences in the fight for ocean health. Nathan does this by creating numerous viral videos including one of him removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose, filming the secret lives of sea turtles through shell-mounted cameras, and filming the first footage of a live giant squid in US waters. Nathan has also dedicated over 15 years of his life to establishing and coordinating sea turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica, Greece, South Africa, The Bahamas, and the USA.

squids, straws, and social media
Nominated by: Milbry Polk, MED' 95
Class of 2024 Location United Kingdom
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Scuba diving in the water of Saba in the Antilles to study the behaviors of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles
Scuba diving in the water of Saba in the Antilles to study the behaviors of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles Author: Matt Hatley

The health of our oceans is undergoing a precipitous decline, necessitating planetary-scale solutions. In 2007, when I commenced my career in ocean conservation, I dedicated myself to the front-line fight for endangered sea turtles. I traveled to Costa Rica, Greece, South Africa, The Bahamas, and the USA to protect nesting turtles from threats such as poachers, predatory species, beach development, and more. Over time, I realized that the most significant threats faced by these species—climate change, fisheries bycatch, and marine pollution—required efforts extending far beyond a turtle’s nesting beach.

In 2015, my life changed overnight when a video of me removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose went viral online. This video kickstarted the international movement against plastic straws and is regularly cited as a key moment in building public support for anti-single-use plastic campaigns worldwide.

Inspired by the impact of the straw video, I began searching for new ways to film marine wildlife that would reveal important scientific insights while generating footage to engage global audiences in the fight for ocean health. I’ve since unveiled the secret social lives of sea turtles using shell-mounted cameras, started deciphering the language of deep-sea bioluminescence, and recorded the first footage of a live giant squid in US waters. My next goal, which has already taken me to the frozen waters of Antarctica, is to film the world’s largest invertebrate—the colossal squid. By sharing these stories, I aim to connect people with a sense of responsibility for ocean health, regardless of where they live. I genuinely believe that by engaging and empowering global audiences, we can halt the biodiversity crisis and build a brighter future for our ocean planet.

“I genuinely believe that by engaging and empowering global audiences, we can halt the biodiversity crisis and build a brighter future for our ocean planet.”

- Nathan J. Robinson
Descending into the depths on a Triton submarine to discover the ecosystems hidden at the bottom of the Exuma Sound in The Bahamas
Descending into the depths on a Triton submarine to discover the ecosystems hidden at the bottom of the Exuma Sound in The Bahamas Author: OceanX

My work reframes the idea of exploration in an eco-friendly, inclusive, and restorative context. I achieve this in two important ways. Firstly, I use groundbreaking camera technologies to record the natural behaviors of marine creatures in the least intrusive way possible. For example, deep-sea habitats are typically explored by submarines or Remotely Operated Vehicles equipped with noisy propellers and bright white lights. Unfortunately, these devices scare away many swift and shy ocean creatures such as large squid. So, we developed a silent, low-light camera trap called the Angler, built around the concept of “stealth.” This tool has proven to be perfect for filming many deep-sea species, including the legendary giant squid, even after eluding other scientists and filmmakers for decades. Secondly, I use social media to share the exploration process with global audiences and inspire them to take immediate action to safeguard the health of our ocean planet. For example, by sharing a video of me removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose, I connected with a vast audience in real-time, inspiring a powerful wave of plastic straw bans worldwide. By connecting low-impact cameras, global outreach, and meaningful behavioral changes, I hope to protect and restore the habitats and ecosystems that I explore. Such “responsible” exploration aims to leave the world and its biodiversity in a better place for all the explorers in generations to come.

never stop exploring

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