Dive, Dive, Dive!
My dad grew up as a diver exploring the wrecks off the Jersey shore and he passed his love of the sea along to me. I was lucky enough to be certified as an Open Water Diver in my sophomore college physical education class. But, after a few fun dives in Mexico after college, I hung up my fins for graduate school.
And then, I started to work on my first novel, which happens to be set in the ocean. No matter which of my eclectic academic interests you look at, research is a common thread. I am a die hard researcher. I might possibly love research even more than writing. So, I decided if I was going to have characters diving, I needed to put my fins back on to get accurate and up-to-date information. I bought some shiny new gear and signed up for a Scuba Refresher course in Florida to practice my skills. One course led to another and before I knew it, I was a Rescue Diver with certifications in coral reef conservation, fish identification, underwater navigation, and dry suit diving, among others. Who knew that I would hardly ever be dry after that?
I've always loved the ocean, but today I'm even more passionate about seeing the world under the water and working to conserve and preserve our ocean world. For me, diving is more than traveling to cool locations for vacation. It's about doing my part to educate people about caring for our delicate ocean ecosystem in a more responsible way.
I volunteer as part of the New York Aquarium Volunteer Dive Team where I am a Dive Team Leader. I help to organize logistics for our dives and coordinate my team's activities. Every month, I work with several other dive team educators to share a monthly lesson on marine life at the aquarium so our divers are prepared to answer visitor questions. It's a joy to talk with all of our visitors and remind them that we New Yorkers are island people!
The aquarium has just opened a massive new exhibit focusing on the ways sharks & humans are connected. I'm very excited to do my part to share why sharks are an essential part of healthy oceans. Jaws is a great example of how creative writing can have a lasting effect on the world. I hope our work at the New York Aquarium can write a new chapter in the lives of endangered sharks. You can read more about the dive team's work here.
In addition to my work at the aquarium, I've had the chance to participate in dive-related field work, replanting coral reefs in Florida with the Coral Restoration Foundation, accompanying researchers working to identify whale shark populations in Honduras, monitoring oyster reefs in the Bronx, and completing my basic training as a research diver.
Given my background in teaching, it's probably not surprising that all of my diving led me to train more. If you want to become better at something, that usually means it's time to study more, right? I completed my training as a PADI Divemaster in 2014. This was one of the most exciting and challenging things I've ever done, combining academic and practical hands-on training.
In January of 2016, I passed my PADI Instructor Examination (I.E.) and became a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and an Emergency First Response Instructor (EFR). I became a Master Scuba Diver Training (MSDT) in May of 2017. In preparation for my MSDT, I worked with Philippe Yersin at Eastern Academy of Scuba Education and Carolyn Caporusso at Dive Friends Bonaire. I am a specialty instructor in Wreck Diving, Deep Diving, Fish Identification, Underwater Naturalist, & Nitrox. Whether it's in the pool, introducing students to being underwater for the first time or challenging students to work on their skills in a more advanced course, I enjoy being in the water with students, teaching them to dive into adventures and fun!
One of the best parts of teaching diving is introducing students to local ecosystems in the Northeast and creating ocean champions for our waters (yes! There are things to see when you dive right here in our ocean waters!). I also enjoy encouraging more women and children to get into diving. One of my favorite annual events is PADI Women's Dive Day, which encourages more women to dive!
It's hard to describe the exhilaration and excitement of "fins down" time when I head into the water and become part of something larger than myself. And, perhaps not coincidentally, I am now diving some of those same wrecks that my father first fell in love with when he started diving.