A marine toxicologist, explorer, author, and passionate ocean advocate, Susan Shaw is widely known for her pioneering research on the toxic legacy of man-made chemicals in the ocean environment. She is credited as the first scientist to show that flame retardant chemicals used in consumer products have contaminated marine mammals and commercially important fish stocks in the northwest Atlantic.
An outspoken and influential voice on ocean pollution, Shaw dove in the Gulf of Mexico oil slick in May 2010 and has informed the national debate on the hazards of chemical dispersants. She currently leads an investigation on the effects of oil and chemical dispersants in the Gulf ecosystem and serves on the U.S. Department of Interior’s Strategic Sciences Working Group, a team of scientists charged with assessing consequences of the oil spill and recommending policy actions. She appears in several documentary films including Animal Planet’s Black Tide: Voices of the Gulf and Green Planet’s The Big Fix, the Official Selection documentary at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Shaw chairs The Explorers Club State of the Oceans Forums highlighting solutions to the crisis facing the world’s oceans.
A Fulbright Scholar with dual degrees from Columbia University in film and public health/environmental health sciences, Shaw published Overexposure, the first book on the health hazards of photographic chemicals, in 1983 with Ansel Adams. She is the director and founder of the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) in Blue Hill, Maine, and Professor at The School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, State University of New York, Albany.
The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Shaw is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and was named Gulf of Maine “Visionary” by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. In 2011 Shaw received the Society of Women Geographers’ Gold Medal Award, joining the ranks of Amelia Earhart, Margaret Mead, Jane Goodall, and Sylvia Earle.