WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — Famed oceanographer, aquanaut and general ocean lover Sylvia Earle spoke to West Humboldt Park high school students about conserving the natural world for future generations.
Earle — who previously served as the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has logged more than 7,000 hours under water — was in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ARKive, a conservation group that works to document endangered species.
Earle, 77, now serves as an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic and has led more than 100 underwater expeditions.
After visiting the Shedd Aquarium in the morning, she toured the Rowe Clark Math & Science Academy charter high school, 3645 W. Chicago Ave., and spoke to students about their role in conservation.
"You face a world that's already lost a lot," she told a classroom full of freshman physics students as she spoke of the extinct Caribbean Monk Seal and the rapidly declining coral reefs. "I mean, they're totally gone. You'll never be able to know what your great, great grandparents saw."
It is those threatened species and ecosystems that Earle said makes groups like ARKive vital.
The nonprofit group helps wildlife filmmakers and photographers capture endangered species to bring public awareness to their plight, including in Cook County, where 112 species are threatened or endangered, according to an October 2012 report from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"We have a chance to get it right," Earle said. "We can protect what remains of these animals."
National Geographic Editor Kathy Moran also spoke at different events across the city, which culminated with a gala and fundraiser at the Racquet Club of Chicago in Lincoln Park, where both women were keynote speakers.