Clarice Yentsch, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor & NSU Graduate
Exploring Science and History in the Ocean
Clarice Moreth Yentsch, Ph.D. has always loved the water – from her first splash in a puddle to a childhood spent swimming in ponds. So, it was hardly a surprise that the oceans became her life’s work.
“My best times have been on, in, or under the water,” said Yentsch adjunct professor and NSU Oceanographic Center alumna.
The Oceanographic Center has allowed Yentsch to channel her interest in the seas and provided her with a career that continues to challenge and inspire her.
“I’m a curious person, curious about the water world. My research involves thinking of our oceans as a complete system,” Yentsch said.
Today, Yentsch is doing her part to introduce students to the exotic underwater environment. She teaches NSU’s Anthropological Marine and Coastal Influences, an online course.
“We are excited to have Yentsch rejoining us,” said Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D., dean of NSU’s Oceanographic Center. “She has gone on to have a distinguished career as a research scientist and educator.”
Yentsch also enjoys the distinction of having received her doctorate as one of the 17 members of the Oceanographic Center’s very first graduating class in 1970. She fondly remembers those early days of “The OC.”
“You knew you were part of an intense team trying to advance human understanding of the ocean and its organisms. So many new ideas and instruments were part of the experience. You felt privelaged and proud to be included,” she said.
“The OC team at the time was few, but world class.”
And her thoughts on the OC now?
“It is a real humming place with fabulous potential and so much learning going on,” she added.
Nowadays, Yentsch splits her time between Key West and Maine. There, she and her husband, Charles, a former NSU professor, co-founded the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in 1974. She founded the lab’s J.J. MacIsaac Flow Cytometery/Cell Sorting Facility. Bigelow Lab recently received a grant from the state of Maine to study how natural products from marine organisms can be commercialized.
She has also co-authored two books, The Sea Is All About Us and The Woman Scientist: Meeting the Challenges for a Successful Career, and has more than 50 other publication credits. A host of prestigious agencies have funded her research examining the fate of sunlight in seawater, critical to the survival of coral.
Four years ago, the OC presented Yentsch with its Distinguished Alumni Award in oceanography.
This past summer, she represented NSU in discussions with the state’s Bureau of Archaeological Research to establish a South Florida display site for its massive collection of treasure recovered from shipwrecks off its coast. This is a collaborative effort with the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University.
“Shipwrecks and artifacts offer keen insights into the past,” said the research scientist, who served six years as curator of education at Key West’s Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.
“When someone discovers treasure, 15 to 20 percent of the value goes to the state. It would be exciting to improve public access to the tens of thousands of items accumulated over the past 40 to 50 years,” Yentsch said. “We have to be stewards of our cultural and natural resources.”