A Tribute to Dr. Wallace J. Nichols

June, 2024


This month, friend and W2O Advisor, Wallace J. Nichols “crossed the bar.” J, as he was known, was the consummate ocean communicator, whose ingenuousness and empathy engaged us all and enabled us to connect with the ocean emotionally and psychologically like no other.

In a June 17th tribute in Santa Cruz Works, the beloved coastal town where J and his family have lived for years, Doug Erickson says it beautifully:

"J’s contributions to marine biology and environmental science were immense. With a lifelong passion for the ocean and its inhabitants, particularly sea turtles, J’s academic and field research contributions were only the beginning of his impact. His book, Blue Mind elegantly synthesized years of research and insights into how proximity to water can improve performance, bring peace, and foster creativity. This book sparked a new understanding and appreciation of our blue spaces, influencing everything from urban planning to mental health therapies."

However, J’s legacy extends far beyond his written work. He was a connector of people and ideas. At the Blue Innovation events, J brought together environmentalists, tech innovators, policymakers, young advocates, and community leaders, all united by a common thread: water. These events not only highlighted cutting-edge technologies and initiatives, but also fostered a community that shared a deep commitment to preserving our most precious resource.

J’s belief in the power of water to calm, connect, and inspire led to the formation of the Blue Mind movement, which has been instrumental in promoting public awareness of water's psychological and ecological importance. His vision was clear: to create a world where everyone understands the value of water and is committed to caring for it. Through workshops, speeches, community events, and the Creation of Useful Words, J educated and inspired people around the globe to look at water differently—not just as a resource but as a source of life, joy, and inspiration.

J developed a meaningful practice related to his Blue Mind philosophy, involving the giving of blue marble to people as a token of gratitude and connection. This gesture was part of his broader effort to create and promote awareness about the importance of water in our lives.

The blue marble represents the planet Earth, as seen from space—a beautiful, water-rich world. By giving a blue marble to someone who shares a water memory, J was not only thanking them for their story but also reminding them of their personal and collective responsibility to care for our water-rich planet. The practice embodies gratitude, mindfulness, and a reminder of the interconnectedness of life on Earth. Years ago, I asked J if I could join his blue marble movement, and he urged me to do so.

Since then, I've carried them in my pocket. I give one a way almost every day. The blue marble is a powerful reminder, a metaphor, an exhortation, and a commitment to sustain the ocean for peace, justice, heritage, heart, and mind.

Thank you, J. Slow coast, and blue mind, always.

Peter Neill
Founder, Director
World Ocean Observatory


The Blue Mind Movement hopes to continue their work. Remembrances may be made through contributions to the Dr. Wallace J. Nichols Memorial Fund.