Your Brain on Ocean: Neuroscience and Ocean Exploration Intersection at San Francisco’s BLUEMiND SUMMIT

On Thursday, June 2, 2011 I had an opportunity to attend the BLUEMIND SUMMIT at the California Academy of Sciences for the first-ever BLUEMIND Summit to explore the intersection of brain and ocean. The goal of the conference is to shape a new era of scientific understanding of the ocean and its great emotional power.

Why do we seek respite at the ocean's shore? Why are the words "Ocean View" the most valuable in real estate? Why does the sound, smell, touch and taste of the sea set our souls at ease? These questions and much more will be on tap, as leaders in neuroscience and ocean exploration converge at the BLUEMiND Summit is the brainchild of Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a noted sea turtle biologist, ocean advocate and Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences.

“Humans have a deep connection to the sea that drives many of our decisions—from what seafood we eat and where we live, to how we vacation and relax,” said Dr. Nichols. “But that connection is poorly studied and tricky territory of discussion among scientists and policy makers. Understanding the connection between neuroscience and the ocean may shed new light on the best use of our brains to evolve our relationship to our ocean planet.”

With ongoing threats to the ocean intensifying, there is urgent need to focus on solutions. Nichols and his team believe that new insights may emerge as we understand our brains more deeply—and most critically, our brain’s interrelationship with the ocean planet.

Little data exists about the brain ‘on the ocean’ either in the field of cognitive neuroscience, or the oceans community. What happens to the brain when a person is in proximity to the ocean? Why do we spend hard earned money to vacation, live or dine within the view or sound-shed of the sea? What are the links between the ocean, relaxation, stress and public health? BLUEMiND will provide a platform for leaders to discuss, debate and better understand these interconnections, and the interrelated state of the “brain on ocean," and will support further exploration of the implications for ocean and human health.

“The goals of the BLUEMiND Summit are to jumpstart several new lines of mind and ocean research and add a new tool to our ocean conservation toolbox,” say Nichols.

The BLUEMiND Summit is part of The Mind and Ocean Initiative, a collaboration between leading researchers in the ocean and cognitive sciences. MindandOcean.org http://MindandOcean.org

The California Academy of Sciences is an international center for scientific education and research and is at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity of Earth’s living things. The Academy has a staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level scientists, supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows. It conducts research in 11 scientific fields: anthropology, aquatic biology, botany, comparative genomics, entomology, geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, and ornithology. Visit research.calacademy.org http://research.calacademy.org

SeaWeb is the only international, nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to strategically communicating about ocean issues. We transform knowledge into action by shining a spotlight on workable, science-based solutions to the most serious threats facing the ocean, such as climate change, pollution and depletion of marine life. We work collaboratively with targeted sectors to encourage market solutions, policies and behaviors that result in a healthy, thriving ocean. By informing and empowering diverse ocean voices and conservation champions, SeaWeb is creating a culture of ocean conservation. www.seaweb.org http://www.seaweb.org

Guest contributor Greg Reitman is the founder of Blue Water Entertainment, Inc., an independent production company focusing on environmentally conscience entertainment. Reitman produced the 2008 Sundance Audience Award-winning feature documentary “Fuel;” wrote, produced, and directed the feature documentary “Hollywood's Magical Island - Catalina" and is in production on a new feature documentary film, “Rooted in Peace.”