Environmentalist and explorer Céline Cousteau will take a break from swimming with sharks and adventuring in the Andes to greet a crowd of 5,000 incoming UCSB students as this year’s Convocation Ceremony keynote speaker.
The New Student Convocation will take place on Monday, Sept. 22 on the Faculty Club Green from 3 to 4 p.m. Following the ceremony, Céline and her father, filmmaker and ocean explorer Jean-Michel, will give a lecture and video presentation in Campbell Hall at 7:30 p.m. entitled “Ocean Adventures — Encounters between Humans and Water Creatures.”
The Cousteau family is renowned for its legacy of promoting education and preservation of the world’s oceans and natural habitats. Céline’s grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, was a famous explorer, photographer, filmmaker and researcher of marine life and oceanography with over 50 books and 120 documentaries to his name.
Currently, Céline and Jean-Michel are featured in a PBS series entitled “Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures” and also appear on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
Through her explorations across the globe, Céline said she seeks out new and unusual stories to offer her audiences.
“We are in a way the messengers — we share our stories,” Cousteau said. “I’m inspired by the researchers and scientists in the field. Their stories are also the ones that should be told. People know [my family] because of our name, but part of my role is to tell those stories that people or nature might not have the opportunity to tell.”
According to Cousteau, she will use such anecdotes and narratives to encourage UCSB’s new students to act environmentally responsible.
“One of the approaches that I like to take is basically using storytelling to inspire people,” Cousteau said. “I think people react to images that connect them to their environment and influence them to do something positive about it. Hopefully that way, it’s not overwhelming to take steps in doing something positive for the environment.”
Cousteau said with UCSB’s location, the campus community is in an ideal position to protect its natural environment.
“UCSB is right on the water and so its students are in direct contact with the ocean,” Cousteau said. “There are a lot of opportunities to preserve UCSB’s natural beauty. Just to leave the campus and walk on the beach gives students a tremendous ability to see what they can do to clean it up.”
Even so, Cousteau said college students currently working to preserve the environment locally have the capacity to extend their efforts even further.
“I think it is about the next step and inspiring students to work beyond the UCSB campus,” Cousteau said. “Part of the reason why the UCSB campus invited me to be here is because they are already working at the local level. Of course at a certain level, preaching to the choir is just that, but college students are the next ones to take over and that’s all the more reason to listen to you and see what your ideas are.”