What they’re into … with Jim Wharton (Seattle Aquarium)

This is a series I’ve been featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the different personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field. It’s essentially an extension of the overwhelmingly popular and well done Tumblr blog, This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, (BCS was featured in April!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I’ve sent a list of 15 random questions to some folks I know and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. This week’s feature shares some insight into the world of Jim Wharton.

Jim Wharton, Director of Conservation and Education at the Seattle Aquarium, feels at  home again in the Pacific Northwest after over 8 years in Florida working for the Smithsonian Marine Station and Mote Marine Laboratory. He started his career in marine science education as a volunteer, then educator at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Jim is also deeply involved with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) where he is a member of the board of directors and more committees than he has time for. You can learn more about him at about.me/jimwharton or follow his on Twitter for marine science miscellanea @jimwharton.

Jim notes, “The mission of the Seattle Aquarium is ‘Inspiring conservation of our marine environment’. To be true stewards of the marine environment people have to be science-literate and ocean-literate…but first they have to care. Marine science education helps people develop all these muscles, for flexing in support of the ocean.”

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
Unagi. I know freshwater eel is on SeafoodWatch’s sushi red list, but sometimes I’m weak. A colleague explained to me recently that one of the precursors to behavior change is a public declaration…so consider this mine. Any animal that swims thousands of miles out to sea to reproduce deserves a little more respect from me.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Dark chocolate and caramel combo…on principles of general awesomeness.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
Assuming my family and/or a satellite phone is cheating…The Demon-Haunted World, mask/fin/snorkel, sunglasses. The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, is a treatise of reason and a book I can read over and over. Mask/fins/snorkel, well, it’s an island. And anyone who knows me knows that I would be very uncomfortable without my sunglasses.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all (see above). I used to pretend to be superstitious (probably because everyone around me seemed to be), but I’ve given up believing that jinxes, broken mirrors, or wearing the same socks on gamedays have any real effect on the external world. I do think the idea of finding some locus of control in a chaotic world is a very human and understandable impulse. Wait, did I just call myself ‘inhuman?’

What is your favorite day of the week?
I’ve often bragged that Fridays and Mondays are meaningless to me. It’s a fringe benefit of loving the work you do. 

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
A star? Too much? I guess I’ll go with a triangle. Triangles are well-balanced and they have a point. I just hope people don’t find me obtuse.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I actually enjoy public speaking, but hate making toasts. Go figure.

Thank you for participating, Jim, keep up the great work! Everyone else, don’t forget to check out previous editions of “What they’re into …” with David Helvarg and Miriam Goldstein.

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