Alumni Spotlight: From WPI to the Oceans

Jonathan Bird's most famous endeavor has been the creation of his award-winning television show, 'Jonathan Bird's Blue World.'

Profile of Jonathan Bird '90

Jonathan Bird should perhaps be called Jonathan Fish. As a student at WPI, Jonathan was first exposed to what would become a lifelong passion for the ocean. He began taking scuba diving lessons as a physical education course (as well as an extra-curricular activity) and was hooked from the very start. He continued his undersea adventures after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a master's degree in ocean engineering. In 1991, Jonathan started the Oceanic Research Group, Inc. The non-profit organization seeks to promote awareness of ecological issues affecting ocean life. Its marine conservation efforts led to the creation of multiple videos and educational resources (including the Emmy-winning documentary “Underwater New England”), as well as the creation of an endowed scholarship fund. Through this fund, both undergraduate and graduate students can receive financial aid in order to pursue careers in the marine field. These efforts earned him WPI’s Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement in 2000.

Jonathan's most famous endeavor has been the creation of his award-winning television show. First airing in 2007 as a series of webisodes, “Jonathan Bird's Blue World” soon made the leap to public television, landing a time slot with WGBH in Boston. Since then, it has received numerous awards and honors, including endorsements from the National Educational Association and the National Science Teachers Association. Even more impressive, the show recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in a Magazine Feature or Segment. Working alongside his wife, Christine, he continues to bring informative, entertaining lessons to children about the aquatic world. This ability to take lessons learned at WPI and use them to make a difference in the world makes him this week's Alumni Spotlight.

The WPI experience helped me in my career path because…

Many people ask what possible good electrical engineering was to my chosen profession. The fact is that engineering is a great background for a lot of non-engineering jobs. At WPI I didn’t just learn how to design circuits, but how to think and solve problems. I learned skills that improved self-confidence and got me to always believe that I could get around obstacles. I directly use my engineering skills to build my own custom gear for underwater work and fix the gear I break. But more than that I think like an engineer — always looking to improve a process or piece of gear. 

The biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life is…

I gave up a perfectly good engineering job at a good company with great co-workers and a regular paycheck to go out on my own and pursue a passion. Instead of sitting in a cubicle, I explore the ocean. But the downside was a long period of lean years being broke! 

I’ve helped create change by…

My television show about the ocean has gotten thousands of younger viewers interested in the mysteries of the sea. If just a few of them grow up to become scientists or biologists, they will do great things. With “Jonathan Bird’s Blue World” on the Internet, I get incredible fan mail from all over the world. It blows my mind that kids in Australia are big fans of the show! These kids are the next generation and they are going to look at the world in a different way.

My favorite campus memory is…

I have so many wonderful memories of WPI that I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite. I made lifelong friends, played in bands, and generally had a great time. I hated the end of the year when we all had to go home for the summer. 

 

Alumni Bio

Name: Jonathan Bird

Class Year: 1990 (B.S.)

Major: Electrical Engineering

Family: Married to Christine Bird 

City: North Reading, Mass.

Job Title: Producer/Host of “Jonathan Bird’s Blue World”

Claim to Fame: Winner of multiple Emmy Awards

 

 

October 15, 2010