Tierney Thys, swimming with giant sunfish

Named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2004, Tierney is a California Academy of Sciences Research Associate, expert for National Geographic Expeditions, Daily Explorer in Animal Jam (Nat Geo’s online animal world), TED Allstar speaker and producer of numerous TEDed lessons listed below:

Photographs by Mike Johnson/courtesy of Tierney Thys

National Geographic has held a long-standing interest in giant sunfish, says Tierney, in this post she wrote for the Society blog. From supporting satellite-tagging research in California (1), Galapagos (2,3), South Africa (4), Japan (5) and Bali, Indonesia (6), to helping host international underwater biotelemetry training workshops (7). Nat Geo has also featured sunfish discoveries in its magazines, educational publications, and school textbooks (8).

She has received numerous grants from the Society, has active marine study sites in Indonesia and Galapagos, and has developed student expeditions in Monterey, Belize and Bali. Additional research activities include investigating how nature imagery influences brain activity and the effects of nature on incarcerated populations.

“When I first started studying sunfishes in 2000, there were very few of us,” Tierney says. Now, battalions of talented sunfish researchers collaborate and span the globe from Australasia to Japan, South America to the UK. We now know sunfish can dive to 1000m, and that they don’t just eat jellies but change their diets as they get larger and older. We know that they migrate latitudinally and target frontal systems — and are eaten by orcas, sea lions and sharks.”

Additional online media:

How nature engages your brain | Tierney Thys

Strange Sunfish and Hope for the Ocean | National Geographic

This Is Your Brain on Nature | Nat Geo Live

National Geographic explorer Tierney Thys shines new light on ocean life

National Geographic Kids: Meet Tierney Thys

For more information on Tierney Thys and other National Geographic explorers, dig through our timeline here.


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Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn