Darwin Evolving: Distinguished Naturalists

Dr. Jeremy Jackson Jan 28, 2009

Jeremy Jackson

"Brave New Ocean"

The great mass extinctions of the fossil record were a major creative force that provided entirely new kinds of opportunities for the explosive evolution and diversification of surviving species. Today, the synergistic effects of human impacts are laying the groundwork for a comparably great Anthropocene mass extinction in the oceans with unknown ecological and evolutionary consequences. Combined effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, introduced species, warming, acidification, toxins, and massive runoff of nutrients are transforming once complex ecosystems into simplified, microbially dominated ecosystems with boom and bust cycles of toxic dinoflagellate blooms, jellyfish, and disease. We can only guess at the kinds of organisms that will benefit from this mayhem that is radically altering the selective seascape far beyond the consequences of fishing or warming alone. Halting and ultimately reversing these trends will require rapid and fundamental changes in fisheries, agricultural practice, and the emissions of greenhouse gases on a global scale.


William and Mary B. Ritter Professor of Oceanography Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, winner of the 2007 BBVA Foundation Award for Scientific Research in Ecology and Conservation Ecology. Dr. Jackson is a marine ecologist and paleontologist whose recent research centers on the historical causes of the modern collapse of coastal marine ecosystems around the world, and on new ways to use this historical perspective for more effective ecological restoration and management. Recent books edited by him include Evolutionary Patterns: Growth, Form, and Tempo in the Fossil Record (2001) and Evolution and Environment in Tropical America (1996).