As a scientist, Tissot has completed thousands of SCUBA dives and hundreds of submersible excursions across the coral reefs and deep seas of the Pacific. Through his research, he has advocated for the conservation of marine resources through testimony and law creation. He has published 80 scientific papers and his research has been featured in major media including Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, the Washington Post, and several films. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Tissot (aka “Dr. Abalone”) also produces surfing videos on YouTube and blogs about surfing, marine biology, and environmental issues on in 2000, he published his first science fiction book, Songs of Thalassa; the first of three books in the Songs of the Universe series. Here are a few science things he is known for:

Pioneering Coral Reef Research

In HAWAII, Tissot along with his colleagues have improved the management of the Coral Reef aquarium fishery along the Kona-Kohala coast by developing a collaborative research program with the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, University of Hawaii Sea Grant, University of Hawaii Hilo, and the local community. Working with the Hawaii State Legislature, he was involved in the establishment of nine marine protected areas (MPAs) developed to enhance reef fish populations and minimize conflicts between aquarium fish collectors and the local community. Using a community-based management approach combined with underwater scuba surveys, we helped to establish and monitor the long-term success of these protected areas. His lab is also involved in a cooperative fishery research program with aquarium collectors aimed at improving knowledge and management of the fishery.

Leader in Deep-Sea Conservation

Along the PACIFIC COAST, Tissot has been investigating groundfish populations (such as rockfish, lingcod, and other bottom-dwelling fishes) and their associated deep-sea living habitats on the continental shelves of Washington, Oregon, and California. Working in collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service; Fish and Wildlife departments in several states; and with several universities and non-profit organizations, he is exploring, mapping, and quantifying groundfish habitats using submersibles at depths down to 1000 m. Specifically, his lab specializes in examining the role of deep-sea invertebrates, especially cold-water corals and sponges, and how they may be important as habitat (food, shelter, or other interactions) for commercially important fishes. Information from this work has been used to formulate fishery management plans for west coast bottom trawling and in the development of legislation in Congress.

Foundational Abalone Research

ABALONE populations in California have been declining precipitously since the mid-1980s, largely in response to overfishing, disease, and climate change. Since 1986 Tissot has been monitoring abalone populations in California with the long-term goal of restoring depleted populations. He has served on NOAA’s advisory committee for the listing of black abalone under the Endangered Species Act and now serves on the Black Abalone Recovery Team. In addition, he has been a member of two scientific advisory committees to improve the management of the red abalone fishery in northern California.

My life’s passion is abalone research. It’s what got me into science in the first place, and I’ve continued doing it to this day. My ‘Dr. Abalone’ moniker just resonates with me. Everyone was laughing at first, but it stayed with me and I love it. It’s great. It personifies who I am.” — Dr. Abalone

Award-winning Teaching

At home, in TRINIDAD, California Tissot teaches marine science classes to undergraduate and graduate students and gives lectures to the public. He loves teaching and has always been torn between connecting with students and conducting scholarly research. His solution has been to integrate research into his courses and students into his research. This has proved to be an amazing synergy and a win-win situation.

Living the surfing lifestyle

I am a life-long SURFER and my world revolves around the sea. My life’s philosophy is that it is so easy to be busy, engaged, and distracted by society. There’s so much cool stuff going on. But sometimes it’s really important to get outside, disconnect, and see where that takes you. In addition to exercising the body, it’s about letting the mind slow down and be open to nature. That’s the thing with surfing: you’re so immersed in the act of being there, the other stuff melts away. The realization I get while in the ocean is that we are all connected here, the planet, living creatures, and us. We’re all part of the same thing. Surfing reminds me of that.

Science fiction writer: Songs of Thalassa

After dedicating his life to protecting the oceans through scientific research Tissot realized he needed another way to draw attention to Earth’s plight. Science is super important, but it doesn’t always reach non-scientists. So, for his first book he came up with the idea of an experiment: place a person with no environmental awareness on a virgin ocean planet with indigenous life. Thalassa was envisioned as an early earth before humans came on the scene. What would happen? He believes that person would connect and interact with its rich indigenous life, learn to appreciate the planet’s intrinsic beauty, and ultimately want to protect it with their life. This is Sage’s journey in the book: it’s a roadmap to environmental consciousness based on Hawaiin culture and pantheism.