Sieswerda, Paul L. 1942-
SIESWERDA, Paul L. 1942-
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Seas-wer-da"; born March 6, 1942, in Winchester, MA; son of John Klaas (a bank clerk) and Nellie Plant (a homemaker; maiden name, Foley) Sieswerda; married Dorothy Marie Hilton (a homemaker), November 6, 1965; children: Paul John, Jeffrey Scott. Education: Attended Union College, 1961-63, Lowell Institute, 1965-66, and Boston University, 1972-73. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, scuba diving, photography.
CAREER: New England Aquarium, Boston, MA, began as volunteer, became curator of fishes and mammals, 1969-88; New York Aquarium, Brooklyn, NY, curator, 1988—. Affiliated with Aquatic Associates (aquarium service and installation business). Cotting School for Handicapped Children, member of volunteer board, 1978-88; People's Museum (for people with special needs), member of board of directors, 1988—.
MEMBER: European Union of Aquarium Curators (associate member), American Zoo and Aquarium Association (professional fellow).
AWARDS, HONORS: Award from National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1985, for work related to Space Shuttle Student Involvement Program; Sea Mark Concerned Diver Award, Cotting School for Handicapped Children, 1987.
Sharks, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2002.
Contributor to professional journals and other magazines, including Wildlife Conservation.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Story of Hoover, the Talking Seal, nonfiction; Stranded, a novel about "the search for understanding why whales beach themselves"; Of Reefs and Rainforests, a comparative natural history; scientific research on the stranding phenomenon of whales and dolphins.
SIDELIGHTS: Paul L. Sieswerda told CA: "While the sixties were famous for flower power, protests, and psychedelic drugs, they were also years of exciting exploration into space and into the ocean. Jacques Cousteau was popularizing that excitement with film, television, and books on 'inner space.' During those years, I was enthralled by that exciting new world and wanted to be part of it.
"I had no formal training in the sciences that could lead to a career in underwater exploration, such as geology, biology, or even scuba diving. My education was in the (very) liberal arts as an English major, but I was intent on getting my feet (and the rest of me) wet. A new aquarium was being built on the Boston waterfront, and I, literally, stuck my foot in the door, first as a volunteer, and then in numerous positions, finally leading to being curator of fishes and mammals, in Boston at the New England Aquarium and now in New York.
"During those years I have enjoyed many experiences in the natural world: scuba diving, caring for animals in the aquariums, studying their habits, and going out into the wild to catch and transport them back from exotic locations—from tropical reefs, the jungles of the Amazon, and frozen Alaska. Some of these adventures have been much like the stories of Cousteau, so I guess I have fulfilled my early dream. I also find now that I enjoy writing about natural history, either from personal experiences or by researching new information. So much is new, and so little work has been done to understand the natural world, that by simply paying attention in some areas, breakthrough theories can be tested and proved, almost by anyone.
"My current interests lie in writing about the natural world and bringing it to light in ways, perhaps, that are often overlooked: like the starlings that populate urban settings by the millions, but that most people never notice, or the natural history that exists along the median strips of super-highways. My experience in the world of aquariums has shown me that there is a need to blend scientific information with connections that are familiar to the general public. This is important because science needs general support, and members of the general public—whether they know it or not—are so affected by science every single day. I would like my work to help bring the two together. I am working now on a book that will explore the question of why whales strand themselves, perhaps suicidally, on beaches around the world. I had the opportunity to work with these animals on the beach, and in a few cases, save them. I hope to shed light on this phenomenon."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Horn Book Guide, fall, 2002, review of Sharks, p. 430.