Meet the team: Board Member Edition
Ruth Petzold always loved the ocean. She grew up in Michigan, but spent her summers in New
Hampshire, snorkeling and searching in tidal pools for clams, snails and sea stars. She even
collected critters from the beach and sneaked them back to her grandfather’s house. “I was a real
joy,” she jokes.
Since then, Ruth never stopped exploring the sea. She’s a long-time scuba diver and professional
underwater photographer, and even played a major role in the research of Eugenie Clarke, Ph.D.,
traveling with her on over 50 expeditions and serving as her research photographer.
Ruth attended the University of Michigan Hospital and Rockefeller University to do
immunology research. She turned to full-time underwater photography and dive travel in 1985
and has made diving her life ever since. In 2016, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall
A member of the Explorers Club, Ruth has been recognized as a Champion of the Sea due to her
philanthropic work in seeking to promote the welfare of the seas and the protection of the marine
environment through her donations. Her philanthropic actions have reached a number of marine-
oriented organizations, including The Wild Dolphin Project. We are so lucky to have her on our
board in various roles over the years.
Here’s what Ruth had to say about her experience with the Wild Dolphin Project.
Q: How did you first hear about the Wild Dolphin Project?
A: I met her at a fundraising event in South Florida, and when she said she studied wild
dolphins. I immediately got excited about it. But it took a couple of years before we connected
because I was staying up north in the winter so I could cross country ski, and I would come down
to Florida in the the summer for the diving, and that’s when she was gone all summer doing
work in the field. always doing work in the field. We finally connected, I think in 1989 and I
went out on a trip, the first trip of the season, too.
Q: What was that first trip like?
A: A mother spotted dolphin came over with her new baby. It felt like she was showing it off
saying, “look what I did while you were gone!” To see a wild animal have that much faith or
trust in a human, and in Denise, I thought, I want to be a part of this. I was hooked and then I’d come out every year.
Q: What is it about the project that you admire most?
A: I just like Denise’s approach to her project. It’s in their world on their terms, which is perfect
because so many people interfere with nature. She doesn’t touch or tag them, she doesn’t even
try to take a skin sample. She gets the DNA from catching their poop. Her work is non-invasive,
and it really is so much more genteel and kind to the animals.
And then of course, the research, to break the code of communication. If we could communicate
with the dolphins, think of what they could tell us and know and you know, the history of
underwater and what they’ve seen. I mean, they’d probably say please stop trashing the seas.
And to see somebody that dedicated, like Denise, she has dedicated her life to this work and it
deserves respect, and accolades for what she’s done.