Mary Silver, professor of ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz, has been chosen to give the Rachel Louise Carson Lecture at the Spring American Geophysical Union (AGU) Joint Assembly in May. The invitation to give the Carson Lecture is an honor that recognizes the professional accomplishments of members of the AGU's Ocean Sciences section.
Silver, who was elected as an AGU Fellow in 2007, is an internationally recognized leader in biological oceanography. Her current research focuses on harmful algal blooms caused by toxin-producing marine phytoplankton (microscopic algae). She is particularly interested in determining the environmental conditions that lead to toxin production by phytoplankton and understanding the pathways by which these toxins are transmitted to higher organisms, including humans.
Silver's pioneering studies of "marine snow," which began in the 1970s, revealed the importance of the small nonliving particles that drift down through the water like snow. She showed that marine snow is a major source of sinking organic matter in the world's oceans and is the site of intense microbial activity.
Silver has received many awards and honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Mary Sears Woman Pioneer in Oceanography Award in 2002 and the Henry Bryant Bigelow Award in Oceanography in 1992, both given by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She received her bachelor's degree in zoology from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Silver joined the UCSC faculty in 1972.
The Carson Lecture is named in honor of marine biologist Rachel Carson, best known as the author of the book Silent Spring. Published in 1962, it described the environmental damage caused by widespread use of chemical pesticides, led to greater public awareness of the issue, and helped bring about increased regulation of pesticides. Carson wrote several widely read books on the sea and ecological themes, including The Sea Around Us (1951), which received a National Book Award. She taught zoology at the University of Maryland and later worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and its successor, the Fish and Wildlife Service.