John B Weller and Cassandra Brooks are a married couple based in Boulder, Colorado.
Cassandra Brooks is an incoming Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. She’s worked in marine science and public outreach for twenty years, with the last 13 years largely centered on the remote reaches of Antarctica. She recently completed her PhD at Stanford University studying international ocean policy, with a focus on marine protection in the Antarctic. During her previous graduate work at Moss Landing Marine Labs, she studied Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea, a population that supports the most remote fishery on Earth. Cassandra was formally trained as a Science Communicator through the University of California Santa Cruz and has published more than 150 articles and multi-media stories about marine science and the environment. She has also worked with international non-profits to produce media promoting policy designed to protect ecologically important regions of the globe while writing policy reports to identify important areas for marine protection in the Antarctic and elsewhere. She currently contributes to National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog while working as a science advisor for international conservation organisations.
John Weller is a partner with organizations that fight for marine protections around the world. After graduating from Stanford in Economics, he achieved critical acclaim as a writer and photographer. An impassioned observer of nature, he followed a path through the Colorado desert to the waters of the Antarctic, and has been working on Ross Sea conservation as a SeaWeb Fellow since 2005. After four trips to the Ross Sea, including three months of diving under the ice as a guest of the United States Antarctic Program, Weller compiled a library of Ross Sea photographs that has been published in dozens of magazines; used by conservation organisations to publicize the Ross Sea all over the world; and showcased at the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. He produced many short films, has an upcoming book, and has worked closely with scientists, policy-makers, and conservation organizations invested in the Ross Sea.
John co-founded The Last Ocean project to campaign for the protection of the Ross Sea, which Cassandra also became involved in. In our conversation they describe the incredible story of their campaigning work over many years to seek strong protection for one of the remotest and most pristine marine habitats on Earth. We cover learning to deep sea dive, why toothfish are some of the most interesting marine creatures out there, how to prepare equipment for an Antarctic trip, John’s underwater discovery about how Weddel seals stun their prey, and how you get 24 nations plus the EU (including China, Russia and the US) into a room to negotiate together. And of course we find out whether they were successful in getting global protection for this incredible place.
This is one of the longer, maybe the longest, conversation I’ve recorded so far. But it is rich in detailed descriptions of the Antarctic landscape, tips on photographing in extreme environments and analysis and background on how to run an international nature conservation campaign.
Image by John B Weller.