100 Blue Angels: A Personalized Kickstarter for One Marine Biologist

Wallace "J" Nichols is crowdsourcing his life's work. And saving his home in the process.


It's difficult to make it as an independent scientist. You have the freedom to study whatever you want, but don't have the financial security that comes with employment at a large institution. That's why Wallace "J" Nichols, founder of Ocean Revolution and research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, almost had to sell his home three months ago. Instead of searching for a full-time job with benefits, Nichols opted to continue his independent research—with a little help from his 100 Blue Angels.

Nichols's 100 Blue Angels project launched last December as a platform to allow Nichols to continue his work, which includes documenting ocean disasters, organizing viral ocean awareness campaigns, and organizing ocean-related conferences. The project is simple: Anyone who supports Nichols's work can become one of his 100 Blue Angels by offering up a monthly contribution. Different contribution levels come with different rewards. A $25 per month contribution, for example, yields a signed copy of Nichols's children's book, Chelonia: Return of the Sea Turtle, while a $1,000 contribution offers the promise of joining the marine biologist on an upcoming research expedition.

Since launching in December, the 100 Blue Angels project has been wildly successful. Nichols already has 76 people signed up, giving him a monthly salary of approximately $4,000 (and the financial security to keep his house). The scientist estimates that he is ten times as productive as when he worked inside a larger organization, simply because he doesn't have to deal with bureaucracy."The idea is that if you have intellectual and financial independence, you don't need a big organization," says Nichols. "I can collaborate with colleagues in El Salvador who can only pay me El Salvadorean wages or take a speaking gig that only offers $50."

And, as of last week, Nichols has another way to support himself. He is selling blue marbles as part of the Blue Marbles Project, an effort to inspire ocean awareness by getting blue marbles into the hands of everyone on the planet. Launched two years ago by Nichols and Sarah Kornfeld, the initiative has already seen over one million blue marbles pass through the hands of people around the world—and now Nichols wants to leverage the Blue Marbles Project to fund his other work.

Next up for Nichols: BlueMind, a conference this coming June at the California Academy of Sciences that will explore the relationship between neuroscience and the ocean.

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Add New Comment


  • Holly Lynn Danyliw

    “You see
    things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why

    George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary
    Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for
    Literature, 1856-1950)

    How this Blue Angel sees Wallace J. Nichols.

  • Danielle Richardet

    Like Kim, my husband and I are proud to be part of Dr. Wallace J. Nichols' Blue Angels. What prompted us to want to donate to Dr. Nichols is not only the research he has done (and continues to do), but also his commitment to community. He is always willing to lend his voice (including his expertise and knowledge) to communities from which he lives thousands of miles away from

    It's impossible to go to his website and not get a gauge for how much work he does for our oceans/environment and how much he gives back...

    Here are some direct links worth mentioning: http://www.wallacejnichols.org...

  • Gordon J Millar

    J Nichols is one of the good guys. A hard-working family man, who inspires hundreds of thousands of people right around the world. He is a voice for the voiceless, a tireless advocate for this ocean planet. If we had more Dr J's, this blue marble would be a better place!
    We are with you J, all the way ~ 17,000 of us from The Global We
    Keep on doin what ya do,
    sincerely from Scotland,
    Gordon J Millar

  • sarah kornfeld

    I have the pleasure to work with J on a daily basis. Greg's judgement is unfortunate, and suggest googling on Google Scholar http://bit.ly/ihnpXB where there are 181 "hits". From his long relationship with The Ocean Foundation, to his work with The Biosphere Foundation, to global children's projects and founding Ocean Revolution with Tim, to our project http://bluemarbles.org, to being a researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, we all value J's leadership (and his 20+ years of experience with turtle research and activism).

    We NEED independent scientists who can come to their own conclusions, and feel/are free to share them with the general public. With three degrees in evolutionary biology, economics and a Doctorate in Marine Biology I'd say he's the real deal. Here's to ALL scientists of merit who work hard, and are finding ways to use their brains and voices - widely, and independently!

  • courtney thomas

    Great idea! We need independent thinkers to solve problems and independent money is the only way for this to happen. I will spread the word about you and I will be your next Blue Angel:)

  • Greg Floyd

    Wow. This story should be called "Another California Hippie Finds Way to Avoid the Real World for a Little While Longer". I've looked him up and he has made no scientific contributions, sounds like a fundraising scam. Get a job, dude.