2020 Training Grant Essays

Please read the following essays and vote below:

Essay 1 – Open Water:

I’m a Junior at Ellis Technical School studying collision repair. We learn about dent removal, painting and welding. I prefer painting or welding over actually repairing the dent. I was thinking about underwater welding because I really enjoy welding and being in the water. Being at Ellis helped me stick with one trade and put all of my focus on that. I am a hardworking determined student currently holding a 88.71 GPA. 

I was first introduced to diving during a Discover Diving event at Boston Sea Rovers a few years ago.  They set me up with flippers, goggles and an oxygen tank. They said it might take a few tries to be comfortable breathing with the tank but I got in on the first try.  I love being underwater and exploring the marine life and can often be found snorkeling at Bluff Point. I love looking for horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs. I have always had an interest in marine biology, and I love the ocean and plan on applying to the University of New England to study Marine Biology. I feel like a great marine biologist is scuba certified and I want to be the best I can. I am a hands on learner and being able to dive and be a part of the action will help me learn more. It will open doors to a new opportunity.   

 Thank you for consideration for this opportunity. 

Essay 2 – Open Water:

I remember staring up at the brilliant blue water from my spot on the living room floor. Crayon-colored fish swam across the screen of a television deeper than it was tall. From the speakers came the thick French accent of Jacques Cousteau––narrator of my favorite television show. Maybe this faded memory from the age of 5 is why now, at 22, I’m perched on the edge of a career in marine conservation.

It’s more likely, though, that this career path came from Ms. Heather Fried, my freshman biology teacher at Lyme-Old Lyme High School. She picked up on my love of fishing and marine life soon after I arrived at the school. After a few discussions of our shared interests, she connected me with Dr. Jim Carlton of the Williams-Mystic Seaport program. That connection, and three years of invasive shrimp research with Dr. Carlton, deepened my love of the ocean. I carried this love to college, where I first worked to characterize the population genetics of the European Green Crab in the Gulf of Maine. I later took part in the Bowdoin Marine Science Semester, where I had the opportunity to perform research on marine communities in both Maine and Baja California Sur. Since my graduation from Bowdoin College this past May I’ve worked at the Virginia Seafood Research Center, where I’ve developed an original research project to increase the sustainability of the aquaculture sector. I plan to work in the marine conservation field for the rest of my life.

This love of the ocean and my commitment to a career in marine biology is a central reason that I want to be SCUBA certified through the Open Water SCUBA Training Grant. A SCUBA certification would remove the limitations to my exploration of the underwater world, permitting me for the first time to swim with the organisms I study. A SCUBA certification would also help me contribute to the protection of the ocean in a professional capacity––diving under salmon net pens to observe evidence of environmental degradation or taking reef transects to quantify changes in benthic communities.

More than this, though, I want to be SCUBA certified so that I can see in person the ecosystems that will soon be victims of climate change. Climate models predict the extinction of coral reefs even with rapid reduction in carbon emissions. Wild fish populations, faced with the appetites of billions, decline by the week. I ask to be SCUBA certified so that I can protect the ocean. I also ask selfishly. I want the boy who lay on the carpet watching Jacques Cousteau to finally see the rest of our water planet.

Essay 3 – Open Water:

Since I was a toddler I’ve been drawn to the sea. I was born in Grand Cayman and when I was little after collecting me from daycare my mother and I would stop at the beach on our way home. While my mother retrieved the beach bag from the car I would toddle across the hot sand and into the shallows, pampers and all. As soon as the water began to lap against my knees, I would sit down, cup my hands, and drink the saltwater from my hands. While my mother was not impressed by my “favorite treat” the smiles in those pictures remind me of where I am happiest.

As I got older I progressed from sitting still to exploring the fauna beneath the waves. I moved to CT when I was two years old and during summers and school breaks, I would return to Cayman where the water is extremely clear and I discovered a love for snorkeling. As soon as I could find someone to accompany me I would snorkel. While I found the cuttlefish, turtles, and other sea creatures beautiful they also piqued my curiosity. I would spend just as much time at home trying to identify what I’d seen, what they ate, and what they did to survive. This curiosity is what drove me to learn more about CT’s sea life. In second grade our thematic studies for the year was oceans and ecosystems, my favorite part of the day. I still remember presenting my research about the ecosystem of Mangroves forests with pride in front of the school. I also became interested in conservation and during summer, when in Cayman, I forced my mother to get up early and search for turtle nests for me to help the Turtle Nesting Program. 

I have always wanted to know more about the fauna in CT however. While I have done lots of research about CT’s sealife and the few times I have gone to the beach I enjoyed trying to identify what fish I saw, I have always wished to explore further. By learning to dive I would have that chance to explore CT’s shore more and learn ways to help protect its sea life. I know pollution is threatening Ct’s shores and I would love to assist in ocean clean-ups and other conservation efforts. CTs shores have such a diverse ecosystem, one that we humans are connected with. To learn more and help conserve this is something I would like to be able to do.

Essay 4 – Advanced Open Water:

I firmly believe that Atlantic sea scallops are the most charismatic bivalves to ever exist.  My reasoning for this is threefold. First, anything with more than two eyes is inherently cool.  Second, they can be weaponized as squirt guns when you take them out of the water. And third, of course, is their ability to swim.

I consider myself qualified to make this lofty statement because for the past two summer seasons, and beginning again this May, I’ve worked as a research assistant on a scallop aquaculture farm in Maine’s Penobscot Bay.  Our primary missions are to determine best growing practices for these native scallops and to answer community-driven questions around the process. Our experiments, therefore, cover a wide and ever-evolving range. On the 3.2-acre lease site, we compare growth rates at different stocking densities, monitor the spawning times of farmed scallops, and collect our own spat.  For this work, diving is a necessity. Besides our data-driven diving, the farm equipment must be monitored, set up, and, more times than I would like to admit, retrieved when lost. Additionally, I conduct dive surveys to monitor the local wild populations of the Atlantic sea scallop in the waters near the aquaculture farm. Maine institutes a rotational closure management program for fishing of wild caught scallops.  We hope to create a time series of population data for these waters over the period of mandatory closure.  

I believe that aquaculture, and especially bivalve aquaculture, will be one key component of addressing the food crisis that the world is heading towards.  While this sustainable branch of farming is a rapidly growing industry all over the world, scallop farming is still in its infancy in the Gulf of Maine. Scallops, which are filter feeders, are low on the food chain, meaning they require fewer resources to grow and clean the water as they eat.  Farmed scallops have the same diet as wild scallops with no additives such as hormones or antibiotics that farmed fish often have. So, they are good for people and the planet.   

To perform the best possible research of scallop aquaculture and to be safe while I do so, I need to further my dive training.  I completed my Open Water Certification in 2016 with 28 dives to date. Advancing my training would translate into more experience and skills, and therefore better, safer dives.  I plan to continue my education on a graduate level with scuba playing a vital role in the data collection portion of my research. Or, perhaps, I’ll open my own scallop farm. Either way, I love to be underwater, and plan for scuba to be apart of my life now and in my future.  Receiving the SECONN Advanced Training Grant would give me more time underwater, strengthen my skills, and help me be safer as I do what I love.

Essay 5 – Advanced Open Water:

Scuba diving has opened a new world for me.  I find its never-ending possibilities and uses intriguing. I was Open Water certified in October but I have not been able to go on dives besides the ones I needed to attain my certification. I have always been interested in marine biology and the vast differences between the aquatic animals in the ocean and those on land. Fishkeeping has long been a hobby of mine. I keep multiple fish tanks, both saltwater, and freshwater.  I keep Cichlids, Loaches, many types of Catfish and even an Arowana and angelfish. I enjoy watching them and studying the way they move and how they behave with other fish. 

I believe getting an advanced permit in diving will allow me to study these fish in their native waters and observe how they behave in their natural habitats as well as how they interact with other aquatic creatures. This would allow me to better understand these organisms.  I could better care for them and discover what other species would be best for them to live with. 

I am also interested in studying marine sciences and how to preserve marine life from the changes in the environment such as climate change and pollution. I would be thrilled to discover new species of fish and to help protect the natural order of marine life. I am also very interested in cephalopods and their population development in our changing oceans. Due to the diversity of cephalopod environments, cuttlefish and octopi in reef environments, nautilus in deep waters, and squid in a variety of ocean environments continuing advanced diving training is needed to explore this interest.

Additionally, diving helps me connect with other people with similar interests as my own. Scuba diving has also become a hobby in both me and my father have become interested in. We both certified in the late summer of 2019 and have since been able to bond and share experiences through scuba diving. We dream of traveling to Aruba and Cozumel to observe the diversity of marine life there. We also now have a way to meet other marine enthusiasts as we have been welcomed in the New England Diving community.

Through exploring research environments with my parents since I was born, I have developed a love of marine life and a desire to continue learning about our oceans in as many ways as I can.  My love of cephalopods began when I was in early elementary school. As an athlete, diving came easily to me and I look forward to developing my skills further. As a member of a community, the camaraderie in scuba, the dedication of people to each other and the oceans is a gift, I hope I can develop and share with others.

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