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A healthy ocean is a lifeline for humanity, but the ocean’s health is at risk as epidemics devastate both habitat-forming species, like seagrasses and corals, and keystone species, like starfish and salmon. Humans have created a perfect storm of outbreak conditions: aquaculture and human sewage introduce new infections and fertilize existing ones, shipping spreads infections globally and warming incubates them. Infections in our oceans cause massive die-offs with sweeping ecological impacts. The loss of food harvested from the ocean and its monetary value to fishers impacts our economy. Pathogens incubated in a warming ocean threaten our very health.

Ocean Outbreak explores the four biggest epidemics, taking the reader to the front lines of our confrontations with infectious diseases to investigate how four iconic marine animals have been devastated: starfish, abalone, salmon and coral reefs. The stories of these outbreaks reveal how we are tipping the balance in favor of pathogens, how detective work sleuths out the infectious agents and how environmental change amplifies their impact. Ocean Outbreak concludes by showing how we can find our way back to healthier seas, combating infection with nature’s own pathogen-fighting weapons.

Look out for this exciting new book, Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease, to be released April 2019. Listen to a podcast’s excerpt to learn of what this book is all about!


“As a marine ecologist specializing in disease, Drew Harvell worries most about the threat posed by microbes, because in oceans beset by so many stresses, disease-causing microbes can gain the upper hand and bring about rapid, wide-scale ecological change. Ocean Outbreak brilliantly lays out the risk of disease and smart plans for improving ocean health.”
Ted Danson actor, activist and founding member, Oceana

“From salmon to seastars, abalone to corals, marine disease pioneer Drew Harvell’s Ocean Outbreak eloquently captures today’s threats to the ocean and their solutions.”
Jane Lubchenco, Professor, Oregon State University; former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA; inaugural U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean

“With riveting storytelling and a chilling sense of urgency, Drew Harvell astutely analyzes catastrophic outbreaks decimating four kinds of iconic sea creatures with consequences that affect everyone, everywhere.  Knowing is the key to caring, and Ocean Outbreak has what it takes to up-end current complacency and inspire actions to heal the harm humans have imposed on the sea – while there is still time.”
Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence and founder of Mission Blue

“Part memoir and part science expose, Ocean Outbreak is a recipe for launching into the unknown, providing a roadmap for how one person can marshal the world of science to win against a global peril.”
Steve Palumbi, author, Hopkins Marine Lab, Stanford

“A marine medical who-dunnit, where the patients include sea stars who faced odds worse than humans did during the Black Death.  It is also a tale of hope, thanks to the dedication of a small band of scientists, including the author, who work tirelessly to understand and reduce the threats that disease poses to ocean life.”
Nancy Knowlton, author, Citizens of the Sea