Acclaimed oceanographer Sylvia Earle went on an expedition to Hawaii's Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to spread awareness of issues concerning the area's fragile ecosystem. Called the "Searching for Wisdom" expedition, her trip included diving off of the Midway Atoll's southern reefs and helping marine artist Wyland paint a colorful mural.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service recorded Earle's visit, during which she took photos of local marine and wildlife, including green sea turtles, Laysan albatross and the recently reintroduced endangered Laysan ducks.
Here, a look at some of the photos documenting Earle's exciting expedition.
Sylvia Earle and renowned marine life artist Wyland set off for their first dive together at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 7. Earle is the first woman to serve as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s chief scientist and has led more than 60 marine expeditions worldwide.
Earle and Wyland exploring together during a dive just outside the reef on Jan. 7. Earle saw an 18-foot (5-meter) manta ray, colorful morwong fish and dozens of reef sharks. She described the experience as a "lifetime dive."
Wyland captured this breathtaking photo of a shark during his dive with Earle at the atoll on Jan. 7.
"We used to worry about man-eating sharks. Now we worry about man eating sharks," Earle said regarding the large decline of the predators, which play a vital role in balancing ocean ecosystems.
Earle and photographer Susan Middleton photographed discussing the challenges posed by marine debris on Eastern Island. A Laysan albatross has built a nest in the monofilament netting of the debris pile shown above. The nest will need to be gingerly moved off of the trash to protect the bird's chick.
Earle tries on a construction helmet found among plastic debris on the beach of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) credits Earle as being instrumental in forwarding the cause of protecting the refuge.
"Protecting nature is what we must do if we are to survive," Earle said in a statement.
Earle's expedition of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge included a guided viewing of Hawaiian monk seals. Above, a Hawaiian monk seal rests along the beach. [Gallery: Seals of the World]
Earle is shown rejoicing over the expanse of the Laysan albatross population at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. The atoll is home to the world's largest population of Laysan albatross.
Earle's visit included helping renowned marine life artist Wyland paint a large mural celebrating the area's local wildlife on the exterior entry wall of "Charlie Barracks," a former naval building. The building was surrounded by albatrosses while the group worked on completing the mural
Earle and Wyland high-five as they work on their mural depicting local wildlife a. This corner of the mural consists of a green sea turtle and algae. To the left of the photo, Michelle Jones of Hawaii's Division of Forestry and Wildlife holds open Susan Middleton's book, "Archipelago," to provide algae inspiration.
The new, colorful mural at Charlie barracks consists of a couple of Laysan albatross, a Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle. A time lapse video of the mural's creation can be viewed here.