Plenary Speakers

Tommy Remengesau Sunday, 27 February
Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr.

Past-President, Republic of Palau

Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr. completed his fourth term as president of the Republic of Palau in January 2021. His commitment to the people of Palau to “preserve the best and improve the rest” for generations to come has been the defining theme of his leadership. During his time in public office, Palau was recognized for its financial stability and good governance. Remengesau has also amplified Palau’s international leadership and emphasized the importance of regional and global partnerships.

In 2013, President Remengesau, was the recipient of the inaugural Pacific Champion Award, an honor bestowed as part of the Pacific Islands Environmental Leadership Awards for his numerous achievements as a leader in nature conservation and environmental sustainability. In 2014, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the primary voice for the environment in the United Nations system, awarded Remengesau with its top accolade – The Champion of the Earth award for his visionary leadership in strengthening Palau’s economic resilience by spearheading national initiatives to protect its biodiversity. Also in 2014, the environmental organization Rare presented Remengesau with its first Inspiring Conservation Award for his innovative and inspiring work to preserve Palau’s marine resources. In 2007, TIME magazine named him one of the heroes of the environment for initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge. President Remengesau was instrumental in leading the historic effort to implement the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. This 183,000 square mile no-take sanctuary was established in October 2015 and took effect in January 2020. It covers 80% of Palau’s territorial waters with the remaining 20% reserved for domestic fishing, providing protection for Palau’s environment while further enhancing Palau’s tourism revenues. The world’s sixth largest, fully protected marine area, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is Palau’s defining contribution to preserving the world’s ocean resources. This novel initiative garnered him the prestigious International Game Fish Association’s IGFA Conservation Award in 2014 and the 2016 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in National Stewardship.

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Peter Girguis Tuesday, 1 March
Peter R. Girguis

Professor of Organismic and evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

Peter Girguis is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He studies the physiological and biochemical adaptations of marine animals and microbes to their environment, their role in biogeochemical cycles, and their responses to a changing world. He is especially interested in animal-microbial partnerships, from the microbe-animal symbioses at hydrothermal vents to the gut microbiomes of baleen whales. He also develops novel “open-access” instruments such as underwater mass spectrometers and microbial samplers, with the goal of enabling all stakeholders to have access to such tools.

Professor Girguis received his B.Sc. from UCLA, his Ph.D. from the UC Santa Barbara, and was a Packard Postdoctoral Fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. He joined the Harvard University faculty in 2005. He was a Distinguished Lecturer for the NSF RIDGE2000 initiative, a Merck Co. Innovative Research Awardee, and chair of the National Deep Submergence Science Committee. He serves on several notable boards, including the Ocean Exploration Trust and the Schmidt Ocean Institute. He has authored or co-authored over 90 publications, and his honors include the 2007 and 2011 Lindbergh Foundation Award for Science & Sustainability, the 2018 Lowell Thomas Award for groundbreaking advances in Marine Science and Technology, and the 2020 Petra Shattuck Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was recently named a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator for his research on marine symbioses.

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Dawn Wright Tuesday, 1 March
Dr. Dawn Wright

Chief Scientist, Environmental Systems Research Institute

Dr. Dawn Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (aka Esri), a world-leading geographic information system (GIS) software and data science company. Core to Esri’s mission is to inspire and enable people to positively impact their future by connecting them with the geoanalytic knowledge needed to make the critical decisions shaping the planet. Hence, Esri believes that geography is at the heart of a more resilient and sustainable future.

As Chief Scientist, Dawn is responsible for strengthening the scientific foundation for Esri software and services, while representing Esri to the scientific community. As such, she has served on many advisory boards including the NOAA and EPA Science Advisory Boards, the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board, and the Science Advisory Boards of Conservation International, COMPASS Science Communication, and the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. Dawn is also a Courtesy Professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, The Oceanography Society, and the California Academy of Sciences, as well as Stanford’s Leopold Leadership Program. She enjoys road cycling, 18th-century pirates, her dog Riley, and SpongeBob Squarepants. Follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn.

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Angelicque White Friday, 4 March
Dr. Angelicque White

Professor, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Dr. Angelicque White is a Professor in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her primary research interests involve understanding how specific organisms acquire the elements necessary for growth and how to mechanistically characterize the magnitude and temporal and spatial variability in primary productivity and particle export. She is currently the lead principal investigator for the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) program and is passionate about spreading the gospel of HOT and the need for sustained ocean observing. Dr. White received her BS and MS in Biology (in 1998 and 2001 respectively) from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her PhD in Biological Oceanography from Oregon State University (2006).

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