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Carlie Wiener: Exploring the Ocean for Solutions to Global Issues

Carlie Wiener: Exploring the Ocean for Solutions to Global Issues


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Carlie Wiener, director of communications at Schmidt Ocean Institute. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Welcome, Carlie. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me what challenge Schmidt Ocean Institute is addressing?

Carlie: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. Schmidt Ocean Institute is boldly exploring our unknown ocean with our research vessel Falkor (too) and underwater robot ROV SuBastian. We provide ship time for scientists around the globe to conduct cutting-edge science with the goal of generating new information and interest in our ocean and the creatures that live in it. We openly share all of our discoveries to inform the wise stewardship of our planet.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Carlie: I am very passionate about bringing the ocean to the public. You are making something that is very intangible for a lot of people tangible, and making them conscious of it. That is very powerful. We still know so little about the ocean. It’s interesting that while humans may have been exploring the oceans for thousands of years, we are only now able to learn so much more with the technology we have. Let me give you an example: In 2020, we discovered the world’s longest known sea creature, a siphonophore reaching nearly 50 meters and a 500-meter-tall reef in the Great Barrier Reef—the first discovery of its kind in 120 years.

Spiffy: That’s awesome! What would you say is the impact of your work?

Carlie: With exploration we can learn more—the deep sea may be a potential solution to carbon excess in our atmosphere or hold microbes and bacteria that are the cure to diseases. We have made all kinds of discoveries, including more than one hundred new species and helped to map more than one million square kilometers of seafloor. We currently only have 25% of the entire seafloor mapped in high resolution. Better understanding of our ocean can help to better protect it.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make?

Carlie: This year, Schmidt Ocean Institute has made many discoveries with our new research vessel Falkor (too). We discovered hydrothermal lost cities that captured attention around the world. The microbes living in these depths may provide insight into the circumstances that facilitated the beginning of life on Earth and, possibly, other planets. On subsequent expeditions, we looked at coral health off the coast of Puerto Rico, searched for octopus nurseries near Costa Rica, studied microplastic pollution near the Panama Canal, and traveled to the Galapagos Marine Reserve. With our robotic guide, we experienced wonders few humans have witnessed—deep-sea corals and sponges, glass octopus, shrimp parties, and hydrothermal vent communities.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Carlie: Every time we explore the deep sea with our underwater robot, ROV SuBastian, we broadcast live—so anyone, anywhere, can participate in the discoveries. You can follow up on our YouTube page or social media channels @SchmidtOcean to be notified when we dive and stay up to date with our discoveries.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Carlie—it’s been an honor!

Dr. Carlie Wiener is the director of communications at Schmidt Ocean Institute. She has more than fifteen years of experience in marine science communications, working on strategy, research, community outreach, evaluation, and professional leadership. Carlie received her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communications and her master’s and doctorate degree in environmental studies from York University in Toronto, Canada. Carlie also hosted the monthly marine science podcast, All Things Marine, for six years, and has taught several courses on communicating ocean sciences for the public. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 13, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.