Tierney Thys

National Geographic Staff

A marine biologist, filmmaker, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Dr. Tierney Thys has led and participated in numerous expeditions around the world, studying some of the ocean's largest animals. From giant ocean sunfish in Baja, South Africa, and Indonesia, to orcas in Argentina and whale sharks in Taiwan, she has an infectious enthusiasm for all things marine. As soon as she could walk, her parents slipped her into a homemade wet suit and tossed her into the surf. She has loved the water ever since.

A certified seaplane pilot and diver, Thys helped build a winged submarine at Deep Ocean Engineering in California with Sylvia Earle. She went on to earn her doctorate in biomechanics, investigating the mechanics of swimming muscles in fish.

Thys is a world expert on the giant ocean sunfish (mola) and has been satellite tagging these behemoths worldwide. Though mola can grow more than ten feet (three meters) long and weigh over 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms), little is known about them. By tagging and collecting tissue samples for genetic analysis, Thys and her colleagues hope to uncover the molas' secrets. This research is part of the Census of Marine Life's Tagging of Pacific Predators project.

In addition to conducting research on molas, Thys is the Director of Research at Sea Studios Foundation, a non-profit production company dedicated to inspiring public understanding of science, technology and stewardship of the environment through entertaining and innovative media. The company recently co-produced National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth project and The Shape of Life.

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