Where are they now?

Alumni Updates: Carolyn Sotka

Carolyn Sotka, M.A. 2001, MAF

Carolyn Sotka is co-author of a new book “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” published by Island Press in November 2010 (http://www.islandpress.org/bookstore/detailsyy01.html). Written with Dr. Steve Palumbi, director of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, the book traces the history of the natural and cultural history of Monterey Bay and tells a story of life, death, and revival in all its stunning color and bleak grays.

Carolyn Sotka

Anyone who has ever stood on the shores of Monterey Bay, watching the rolling ocean waves and frolicking otters, knows it is a unique place. But even residents on this idyllic California coast may not realize its full history. Monterey began as a natural paradise, but became the poster child for industrial devastation in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, and is now one of the most celebrated shorelines in the world.

The Death and Life of Monterey Bay begins in the eighteenth century when Spanish and French explorers encountered a rocky shoreline brimming with life raucous sea birds, abundant sea otters, barking sea lions, halibut the size of wagon wheels, waters thick with whales. A century and a half later, many of the sea creatures had disappeared, replaced by sardine canneries that sickened residents with their stench but kept the money flowing. When the fish ran out and the climate turned, the factories emptied and the community crumbled. But today, both Monterey’s economy and wildlife are resplendent. How did it happen?

The answer is deceptively simple: through the extraordinary acts of ordinary people. The Death and Life of Monterey Bay is the biography of a place, but also of the residents who reclaimed it. Monterey is thriving because of an eccentric mayor who wasn't afraid to use pistols, axes, or the force of law to protect her coasts. It is because of fishermen who love their livelihood, scientists who are fascinated by the sea's mysteries, and philanthropists and community leaders willing to invest in a world-class aquarium. The shores of Monterey Bay revived because of human passion that enlivens every page of this hopeful book.

Sotka Biography:
After studying zoology at the University of Vermont Carolyn Sotka earned a Masters in marine policy from University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Over the last two decades, Carolyn has helped start ocean conservation programs at prestigious aquariums, universities, and non-profits; authored reports, book chapters, videos, and podcasts on critical ocean issues; rehabilitated sea lions and monitored sea turtle nests; observed fishing activities at sea; and taught and instructed others on how to communicate marine science. Through her work at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, she unearthed this book's protagonist Dr. Julia Platt, whose passion, if cantankerous politics, helped secure a legacy of coastal preservation and this book’s story unraveled. Currently, Carolyn leads outreach efforts to Congress, the media and general public, and government agencies for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Oceans and Human Health Initiative. She lives with her family on James Island in South Carolina.

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