Contest – Landing 2019-12-11T16:51:38+00:00

Video – Contest

Michael George

By | February 17th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Since I moved back to Utila back in 2018, I started volunteering for the Saving the Lobster Divers program. Where we provide local lobster divers free open water certifications to try to help them from getting bent and teaching them how to hunt for lionfish. So that they can help hunt lionfish on seamounts all around Utila year-round. I also do everything I can to volunteer to assist in every course that we have had. I love helping people to overcome some of the same fears I once struggled with in the past. I also try to be the best abassadiver by leading by example. Anytime I see trash, whether on land or in the sea, I try to pick it up and dispose of it appropriately. I also try to be a positive influence on none divers by taking every opportunity I can to correct misinformation about the ocean. For instance, many people I know back home want sharks to go extinct because they base all their beliefs about them on Jaws. If I can become a dive instructor, I would, on top of continuing what I am currently doing, use my new abilities to reach even more people by trying to certify many of my friends and family back home. Then I would try to bring them down to Utila so that they may be able to see and appreciate our valuable and fragile marine environment.


Louise Thomas

By | February 17th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I’m hoping as fellow dive professionals, you will understand when I say ‘the water is my home’. It’s not just my workplace: it is a place of play, escape, adventure and healing. I have dragged myself in wearily limbed to soothe burning fevers; long swims clear my mind of ex-boyfriends; and freediving with eagle rays quickly lift my mood. I have discovered underwater worlds unseen that change can change with the wind and enjoy pushing myself physically in the pursuit of exploration. When I’m on land to refuel or driven out of the water by bad weather, I am listening to diving podcasts, watching YouTube videos on fish behaviour or reading about the culture of marine mammals. My will asks for my ashes to be spread into Vieques’ bioluminescent bay. I have three goals for my diving career: 1. Build a coral reef. Perhaps more than one. 2. Volunteer for Sea Shepherd 3. Dive to my deepest limits Therefore, it is in my interest to protect our ocean – and to recruit others to do the same. The secrets of the ocean lie under its surface. Its lure for me is also its weakness, because people don’t know what they can’t see. I believe that through real connection we can help people to understand their impact on the planet and I find that is most easily built through joy, passion, excitement and patience. So, to connect people with the water, we need to get people in the water but, as a tour guide, I have witnessed even seasoned swimmers, lane and lake lappers alike needing help to overcome a fear of the blue. By completing my IDC with Utila Dive Center I would like to share my love for the ocean but also pass on the skill and pleasure of diving to help people overcome their fear of the unknown and succeed and thrive in the underwater world.


Contest – Edgar Martinez

By | February 15th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I believe I am making a difference in my diving community each day. Having been brought up around the dive community in Utila, I saw what a positive impact this style of living can have on someone. I am an example of that. With all that I have learned from my diving experience as a divemaster, I believe that diving is one of the most impactful opportunities available to someone and I want to have the chance to share that experience with as many people as I can. I grew up here in Utila my whole life and I want to help share with the people that anyone can become a diver in our community. Diving has no obstacles- money, nationality, language, ability, or background. As an instructor, I would work hard to inspire everyone that their diving dream is possible. I want everyone to believe they have a chance to be a part of it. Diving makes me feel like I can do anything and I hope to share that feeling with others. My positive contribution would consist of opening the diving world to people of all types. I know that someone believed in my diving career when I was younger, and I want to have that same impact on others. I have met many people who have told me, “I can’t do that”, “I don’t have the money for that”, or “I don’t have that opportunity”. I thought those things too, until someone inspired me to believe that I could. Since becoming a divemaster, I have tried so hard to go above what is expected of me and to show my thankfulness for the opportunity in front of me. I believe so strongly in the diving community and I want to do everything I can for everyone involved. Having the chance to be an instructor will give me so much more opportunity to bring people from all types into our community. I can help make everyone feel accepted, show them that everything is possible, and welcome them into our beautiful island of Utila. I want to be a local person that people look up to for all of the things that they need. I would feel overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to become an instructor because I feel that I could be the difference.


Tim McDade

By | February 15th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


After tons of hardwork and dedication ,I became a PADI Divemaster with 230 dives in January 2019. Besides having the time of my life, setting Dive floats, working the swim step and being a gear hauling-tank monkey with my best friends as co-workers. I've had the pleasure of helping build 100+ of new divers. Due to my passion for diving, I've assisted in 30+ Open water classes, AOW and rescue classes. That amounts 157 new certifieded ocean ambassadors to protect our oceans ! Ive led over 100 dives this past year for my local dive shop Pacific Wilderness (free guided dives to the public). Bringing in new customers for the shop which helps them sell more gear, sell further dive education and book dive trips. These dives help bridge the gap between new divers and experienced divers, keeping new Divers in the water, bringing people together while creating new connections. I make sure to invite EVERYONE I meet into our Bubble family in-turn Expanding the dive community. The photo I submitted was one of those guided dives. We were out on an Advanced night dive to the "Bad Wolf" sailboat wreck at 90' off the Redondo beach pier in California. Yes ,that is a pink dive bunny in our group. California can have some very challenging dive conditions, especially for a new diver, so I do my best at making them feel welcome while continually helping build their skills. I love helping people overcome their fear, anxiety, and timidity and turning it into courage, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment. I strive to build strong confident divers, both physically and mentally; In and out of the water. People protect what they love and by sharing my knowledge, I've helped to kindle peoples’ passion for diving into a passion for conservation. Experiencing peoples’ joy and wonder the first time they dive into our underwater world is what motivates me to keep teaching. Knowing that I helped someone overcome their fear or was able to provide the confidence and knowledge for them to keep diving will continue to push me forward in my dive career. I am living my dream. The Instructor Development course is the next stop for me, and I look forward to the opportunity of sharing it with you in UTILA!


Morgan Murphy-Cannella

By | February 15th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Across the world from the island of Utila lies a much different coast. Here, the water is cold, the viz is colder still, and for half the year the swells make diving all but impossible. While coral reefs are the lifeblood of the tropical ocean biome, the Pacific Northwest of California is nurtured by forests of bull kelp. These two coasts, to be sure, are vastly different. But, they share a commonality that transcends their geographic location: a quest to better understand and mitigate the dynamic forces of climate instability that threaten the worlds oceans. We are tackling a major issue on our coastline; the failing equilibrium of our ecosystem due to drastic environmental changes. We have lost over 90% of our kelp and many organisms are in severe danger. This has all happened very fast and we are working hard to understand the situation. Northern California is not a popular place for people to swim or dive because of the harsh conditions, so most of our current situation is unseen by most. Coral reefs are facing a similar situation, but fortunately for these reefs there is an abundance of concerned divers researching tropical warm water ecosystems. Cold water kelp forests, however, simply don’t have such a large pool of divers, recreational or scientific. I want to be able to teach more people on the North Coast to dive so our ecosystem receives more exposure, understanding, and appreciation. I want to inspire new divers to become involved with scientific diving, either recreational or professional. We need all the help we can get. I am also working to become the Dive Safety Officer (DSO) for the Noyo Center for Marine Science. In order to become a DSO, you must be an instructor. Then we can partner with the American Academy of Underwater Sciences and legitimize our program which will enable us to collaborate with Universities and other organizations. Once we do so, we will have the ability and support to conduct more research and mitigation. The NCMS is a fairly new non-profit and we are still building our foundation. We are getting more recognized as a reputable institution, and if we become an affiliate with AAUS, we will be able to legitimize our scientific diving program. This opportunity will contribute immensely to me personally, the NCMS, but mostly it will help our coastal town of Fort Bragg to become an integral contributor to marine science in California. After becoming an instructor at UDC, I will spearhead the dive operations with the Noyo Center for Marine Science and I will perpetuate Andy’s passion and legacy across oceans to my students in California. The instruction at UDC is the best there is. Andy created an amazing professional and passionate foundation that I want to be apart of and learn from so I can spread that legacy, passion, and knowledge to our future ecowarriors of the sea. #bethedifference #helpothersbecomethedifference


Hayls Wight

By | February 15th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


With incredible support from my dive family, I have adopted a dive site and organise regular clean-up dives. One of the biggest events saw nearly half a tonne of trash collected. The community support was incredible after a local favourite Dolphin, Luca sadly passed away after a fishing line entanglement. I share the message, report findings and introduce divers to clean up diving, encouraging them to make every dive a clean up dive. I've volunteered with habitat restoration and enjoy checking in on the sites to see the affected areas improve over time. I'm excited for what 2020 will bring! fingers crossed for my IDC. See you in the Sea!


Zoe Walker

By | February 14th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I live, work, and thrive in the ‘in between’. In between Polar research and policy, in between ecology and conservation, in between tourism and education, in between the Arctic and the Tropics, in between people and the environments they impact. My time in the ‘in between’ has helped develop my greatest skill - connecting. Connecting academic disciplines, connecting people, and connecting ideas to strengthen, empower, and create change. I have worked non-stop to develop my understanding of people, place, and problem, and have finely tuned my interpersonal and educational skills. My joyously extroverted personality is well suited to turning potentially ordinary moments into engaging, educational, empowering experiences. I hope this sparks people to do what they think is the most right thing for our environment and society based on their personal values. I have committed large parts of my life to marine research and conservation, but I understand that for many (if not most) people that isn’t possible. So, I seek to encourage people I interact with - both personally and professionally - to find an issue they feel strongly about, and connect it to their regular practice. Through my research, Divemastering, adventure guiding, teaching, and global travels I have connected with, and learned from a vast kaleidoscope of people. From my experience I have learned that many people feel disconnected from the social and ecological systems around them. Unable to connect with the high-level environmental policy debates, or the implications of marine plastic pollution, or the reality of the Climate Crisis, and that’s where I see myself as most valuable to society. My broad and diverse background allows me to provide insight, answer questions, find solutions, and be a human face of environmental science; for some people, that makes all the difference.


Sapphire Bennett

By | February 14th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I try to keep the oceans clean by diving with a net bag attached to me during dives. I mainly keep an eye out for trash, especially floating bags that can unfortunately be mistake as jelly fish by the sea turtles. I became vegetarian and stopped eating fish 3 years ago, as I am a huge fanatic when it comes to scuba diving and I want my Great Great Grandchildren, to be able to explore a beautiful coral jungle one day rather than rusty dead coral that I am starting to see more often than not. I have worked my way up the padi ranks, so at some point I can hopefully get the chance to work along side, David Vaughan and his coral growth program. On my dives I love to see coral thriving, which I find more exciting than some of the sea life at times as of course the coral is so important, to the sea life and is a major part of our eco system. I don’t wear sun cream, before going in for a dive or even a swim and don’t clean my mask in the water, with anything I do this all before my dive or just use the natural spit and wipe technique haha. When I do dive and see beautiful shells, I now leave them where they belong rather than stashing them in my pockets and keeping them as trophy items, I believe everything in the sea should be kept there, as I have got older and learnt more about the seas and oceans. In my house hold, I find products that are eco friendly, when it comes to doing my washing and cleaning dishes, as I live close to the beach I know some of the old houses, I have lived in have a pipe running straight to the sea. When I was in the Philippines, I accidentally got myself into a locals boat and the captain and his crew were throwing their cigarettes into the sea, I asked them to collect bottles, they see from the sea and use them as an ashtray and send me a picture when it is full and when I go back I promised we would all go for pizza, which they chose as their reward. I try and teach people without boring them to death with words, just by doing the actions myself and more often than not they follow, the small steps I take to trying to make the oceans a safer, cleaner and better place for everyone and everything.


Cayla Neil

By | February 14th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Keeping the focus on fun and having a can-do attitude combined with 10 yrs of recognized and awarded customer service… I genuinely care about the wellness and happiness of everyone I meet along my journey. I go through life with a light in my eyes; it’s because I have a song in my heart and smile on my face. Striving to make a difference by setting an example of enthusiasm, kindness, and passion within my community. I’m attentive and conscience about our Mother Earth and the environment- knowing that it is My responsibility as an advanced species (and the cause of so much destruction and debris) to recycle-refurbish and minimize waste. I am always one of the first to dive right in and help out by cleaning up trash along a hiking trail or on a dive site- I want keep my playground clean and clear. Supporting green energy and proactive programs such as “Painting the Mountain Green” and “Green Fest” -one of our annual celebration on Earth Day here in Las Vegas. I am eager to work with the Utila Dive Center and lead by example just like Andy had. I will show you that I am the difference, by the way I lead, by the way I interact, by the way I can influence this community on land or sea. I strive every way in every day to make this world a bit brighter by bringing out the best in others around me. I am excited to bring a sense of passion, enthusiasm, professionalism, and love for the learning and of diving to others while also advancing my own education of scuba. It would be an honor and a privilege to be accepted into the Utila Dive Family.


Duncan Maguire

By | February 11th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Research Since falling in love with the underwater world (see the about me for more details), I have been living in and out of Malaysia and Indonesia for the past 2 and a half years. I have been doing research on coral reef health by taking lots of different types data to understand the pattern and relationship of the different parts of the coral reef ecosystem. This helps us understand how the reef works and what are the best ways to protect it! We have used SVS cameras to record fish biomass (that’s what I am doing in my picture!), taking 3D modelling of the reef, measuring rugosity (how up and down the reef is), measuring the corals the invertebrates and also things that attach to the reef over long periods of time. This helps us understand more about the complexity, symbiosis between species and interconnected relationships of coral reefs, they truly are the rainforests of the ocean! Teaching I have been teaching about corals, turtles, plastic pollution and the importance of these ecosystems to tourists, volunteers, school students, undergraduate and masters students. During this teaching I have also been showing how to take data through scientific methods, working for Operation Wallacea and other smaller conservation projects. I am also a Reef Check ECO diver Instructor, enabling me to certify students that have met the requirements for reef check standards. I believe more and more divers are interested in becoming eco divers and having a certification can help people stand out and become ambassadors for the ocean themselves! Supporting novel research and coral nursery I have been assisting PhD students in looking at thermal tolerance of corals and how depth and light intensity might also make a difference to corals ability to avoid bleaching in the future. This is hugely important work and has increased my understanding of the biology of corals and the nuanced differences in the more technical stuff (such-as the clades of zooxanthellae and species-specific bleaching). I have also managed my own coral nursery in Malaysia, trying to re-establish a reef in difficult turbid (murky) conditions. Trying to reseed reefs is a hugely important part of the fight to save our coral reefs! Created a not-for-profit website I have also made a website for anyone passionate about marine (and terrestrial) conservation where they can search for projects all over the world… and it’s completely free! It wasn’t easy building and coding a website, but I feel like it would’ve helped me so much when looking for conservation projects to volunteer on. There is so much out there and it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting into. I have social media pages that run form this website that showcase biodiversity and projects around the world! Feel free to check it out here - www.theconservationnetwork.org


John Furst

By | February 9th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Being the difference. For me being the difference is not only a one subject thing. Being the difference is a daily task, a life style. Trying to be better every single day, setting an example, smiling more to everybody, being more conscious about our eco system, caring more about living and enjoying life and leaving a positive impact to your surroundings. I am always proactive in my briefings to my divers to be respectful with marine life and good diving habits as good buoyancy and respect the creatures in their natural habitat. I also promote the use of reef safe sunscreen and encourage sustainable choices refusing to single use plastic. I am also a true believer of being nice and kind to people, with a simple smile you can make somebody’s day! Being the difference is giving your best always no matter what you are doing. This is how I am being the difference.


Rick Hayden

By | February 7th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Currently, I work on the front lines of marine conservation, actively laboring to restore the, now, lifeless coral reefs surrounding the Florida Keys. Once a majestic paradise for diving, the Florida Keys have endured decades of abuse from industrialization and pollution, resulting in approximately 97% of reef-building corals dying in surrounding waters. My work at Coral Restoration Foundation™ aims to reverse this damage and return the reef to its original, beautiful state. Each day I work to grow, maintain, and restore our nursery corals and our recovering reefs through an implementation of restoration, monitoring, and research techniques. 
 Additionally, I’ve learned about the nature of non-profits as a whole, growing my foundational ability to make a difference in both conservation as well as the community and society at-large. Not only has it increased my knowledge and skills in the fields of restoration and science, but it’s boosted my experience in educating the public, outreach events, and mentoring students to follow their own career in marine sciences and conservation. My current position only multiplies my desire to cultivate a path to protect the vulnerable, weak, or those unable to speak (corals!). I hope in the future to expand that influence to a greater level to create effective change that our planet desperately begs for. I think this opportunity with Utila Dive Center would not only expand my experience and skills, but allow me to flourish to a heightened level as a vanguard of conservation.


Albin Björk

By | February 5th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Since doing my DM I've decided to go flight free and have a shop stop, apart from being vegan. I'm currently involved in climate activism through Extinction Rebellion, trying to force governments to go climate neutral by 2025 and not 2050 when it is already too late for the coral reefs and civilisation as we now know it. I've been to climate actions all over Europe last year, and now working towards a big rebellion in Stockholm this summer and Glasgow for COP26 in November. If I would win the IDC I would try to reach Honduras by sailboat after COP26 to still be flight free for the environment.


Ryu Lippmann

By | February 4th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


In my final year of Engineering studies, I was required to undertake a major work capstone project and submit a thesis. My passion for diving was linked with my concern for marine life and the natural environment which is threatened in the current world. Undertaking a meaningful major work was the only option for me if I was going to keep up the motivation to complete it. My thesis topic was designing a regenerative reef that was powered by a water turbine, driven by an underwater current. This was designed for Gili Eco Trust, Indonesia, in an area where there are strong currents. I was awarded a Distinction for the thesis project. After graduating, I volunteered with Sea Shepherd Global as an Engineer in the Engine Room onboard the Steve Irwin ship. In my 3 months onboard the ship, I dedicated blood, sweat and tears as a passionate supporter of marine conservation in my efforts towards direct action. Through this, I met many amazing people from all over the world who were all passionate, and willing to put their lives towards making a positive contribution. The captain on the Steve told me about a project that he was running through a university. The focus of this project was to restore the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living structure and one of the seven wonders of the world. Being Australian, I was very interested in this and was driven to be part of the project to put my efforts towards this great cause. I am now undertaking a PhD in Mathematics as a part pf this Reef Restoration Program. This is a true blessing to be contributing to the improvement of the natural marine world, with many animals lives at stake, whilst using my skills and strengths in a project that I am so passionate about. This is how I am being the difference - by synthesising my passion, career, skills, interests into one course of action for the next 4 years, and beyond!


Elliott Pendrous

By | February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


As a Royal Navy Clearance Diver we remove a range of hazardous ordnance, from state-of-the-art mines to World War Two devices within the marine environment making it safe for all other maritime water users to carry on there daily lives in safety. Often were faced with active legacy ordinance throughout the world found by Civilian divers and fishermen. Removing this allows them to enjoy the marine environment without the danger of being injured. As im planning on taking a sabbatical period in the coming year, I want to use my specialist skills to become an instructor and educate more individuals on how to safely enjoy the sport of diving. After having the opportunity mostly through my career to dive In a variety of international sub aquatic environments I saw the struggle our oceans are facing from plastic, coral bleaching, tourism etc. That's why I want to use my underwater construction skills to aid in reef fragmentation projects; using diving to create a positive impact. I'd use my current expertise combined with the amazing opportunity of being a instructor to educate others on how to make a positive contribution by instilling good dive practices: • Buoyancy • Enviromental Awareness when diving. • Equipment selection/set up • Marine life appreciation • Choosing the right dive guide • Promote eco-tourism I believe we can reduce the level of damage dive tourism causes in so many areas and instead have a direct positve impact on its rehabilitation for generations to enjoy. I'd also like to document me journey from start to finish to allow others to have a better understanding of the process. Cheers 🤙


Ian hastings

By | February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


my dad is being the difference as a ‘dad girl’ which has giving me the passion and shown me how amazing the underwater sea world is. He’s so passionate of scuba diving that he even tells a lot of his work colleagues about it, spreading awareness that this activity exists and that its for everyone. I remember too when we both went diving many times in France and Saudi Arabia that each time he would see a bit of plastic or metal or any other toxic and harmful material, he would keep hold of it to put it in the bin and would tell me to do the same when i would ever see pollution. This man has made me love diving so much that I now actually want to become a Padi instructor when I’m an adult for a few years. He is making the difference by helping to remove toxic materials from our oceans and also by spreading the love of diving. He’s my dive buddy 🙂


Melanie Jade

By | February 1st, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I’m making a difference where it’s needed most. After natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and fires I have been a strong digital marketing coordinator, an active, passionate and informative tour guide and a motivator to the business owners who have suffered from severe damages to the natural environment. The education I have completed for Tourism and conservation was at Sydney’s Taronga Conservation Society and Training Institute. Along with volunteer services for local council, Australian Marine Conservation Society and SeaShepard. With SSI dive certifications I began diving in the Whitsundays on the Great Barrier Reef where I experienced my first natural disaster, Tropical Cyclone Debbie, a category 4.5 storm that devastated the reef, surrounding islands and townships. The opportunity to regrow a region after a natural disaster stirs a passion in me that is deeper than the Mariana trench. I am now a PADI divemaster and work on Montague Island with Australian Fur Seals, Port Jackson and Grey Nurse sharks at my side. I’d love to share my passion skills and techniques for survival and business growth with the Utila Dive Centre.


Liana Houston

By | February 1st, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


While living in the United States, I had the opportunity to be an Environmental Educator near national parks and the coast for 3 years. I immersed large groups of students in nature, taught them forest ecology, survival skills, and marine biology, and challenged them to step outside of their comfort zone through hiking, climbing, kayaking, and swimming in hopes that they would rekindle their connection to nature while gaining an appreciation for the environment and caring about protecting it. Keen to explore the Indo Pacific region and delve deeper into the world of diving, I began teaching science at a primary school in Thailand - imagine teaching 30 students with minimal English about moon phases, changes in states of matter, and forces! My main focus was to get my students outside for experiments - the oobleck and dry ice sublimation were the crowd favorites. Next, I was lucky to find a voluntary Project Coordinator position with the Island Watch Conservation Initiative. My role involved monitoring and protecting nesting sea turtles in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia on tendered beaches, developing training materials, setting up the camp, and training/ supervising volunteers. We were able to work with Fisheries to relocate and save sea turtle nests from crowded tourist beaches, poachers, or potential flooding. We collaborated with the Ecoteer project to share nesting turtle data and provide a wider coverage of beaches monitored. We joined cleanups with Ecoteer and ensured our sea turtle nesting beach was free of trash every day before any nesting occurred. I made it a point to collect as much trash and fishing gear as possible while walking around the islands, swimming or diving on and off the project site. Upon doing this, the volunteers would join in and it became part of our routine. Another rewarding outcome of this project happened when I returned to visit my school in Thailand and talked to my students about sea turtle behavior and reducing plastic use to help them survive. After this, I volunteered to help the Togean Conservation Foundation clean an overabundant population of crown of thorn starfish from the reefs via diving/ snorkeling. The best encouragement for perfect buoyancy and trim definitely involves avoiding being stabbed by crown of thorns spines! Recently, I completed a divemaster training with the Indo Ocean Research/ Conservation Project in Nusa Penida. We planted mangrove propagules, participated in TrashHero beach cleanups, contributed to fish ID species surveys, shark/ ray species ID via BRUV video analysis, and the Sea Turtle Wildbook database. The photo below captured the Island Watch team and I doing a post hatch inspection of a nest from Rawa - Contrary to the expression on our faces, we were bummed that some of the eggs did not develop into sea turtles but at least all the eggs weren't eaten by monitor lizards or poached due to our night patrols and nest covers! We appreciated the chance to examine the unhatched eggs and document the results.


Paulina Mena

By | January 31st, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


In each dive that I have done where I see the sea is with garbage, I try to clean what I can to fill the bcd, but my contribution to the ocean is also terrestrial, the stop using plastics in my life has been considerable, the Recycling learning and my persuasion in my family, social and labor circles to convey the disuse of plastics and use of recycling is constant. Unfortunately, I am not working in the Marine world as I would like, because I discovered after my 30 years that this is my passion and I really want to be an instructor, and I am here in Australia with my work and holiday visa cleaning and saving money to be able to take the course. My family always told me that they saw me as a future teacher and I could never imagine doing math classes, languages, history, etc. and here life turned me to something I didn’t know and here it is! My family was right, the only thing I want is to continue learning to be able to teach diving in the future


Patricia Zwolinski

By | January 30th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I have participated in Project Aware programs. As well as, conducted coral research and wrote a report to show the effects that may cause the population to decrease and ways that it can changes. With that data I was able to go to several resorts to help them become more eco friendly. I have also started implementing plastic free lunch days at preschools.


Angelina Pilarinos

By | January 25th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Hi my name is Angelina and I work at the Great Barrier Reef. I am an underwater photographer and divemaster. I have the privilege of working for Calypso Reef Cruises, ex Port Douglas, Australia. Every day I get to take people out to the reef and show them the largest reef system on this planet! I get the amazing opportunity to show people the sheer beauty and life on the reef. Me and my team are ambassadors for the reef, we educate people by giving snorkel tours, doing reef chats, and giving them a first hand experience on what the reef has to offer through scuba diving and snorkeling. At the end of the day seeing people’s smiles on their faces and hearing how amazed they were by the reef makes my job worthwhile. I hope that every single person that walks off the boat at the end of the day realizes how important our reef systems are and has learned at least one new thing about the ocean. While working in the divemaster/snorkel guide role, I get the chance to show people massive coral structures, clown fish, sharks, turtles, cuttlefish, nudibranch’s, the list goes on and on. While working as a photographer on board, I take photos of people with the corals and if they're lucky enough maybe a turtle will show up and grace us with its presence. These passengers take home the photos of themselves enjoying the reef and then post them to social media and hopefully tell their friends and family what an amazing time they had. By sharing their photos, videos and first hand experiences out on the reef it is one step closer to making more people aware that the Great Barrier Reef is still alive, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure it stays that way. There is an unfortunate mindset that the Great Barrier Reef is dead, that statement is just not true. While the reef is still alive it is still under a lot of pressure from many environmental impacts; seeing it in person is really what opens people’s eyes and starts a conversation to make change. Although the reef is far from pristine, it is still one of the best managed and healthiest reef systems on this planet. As well as taking photos of my customers, I also photograph the corals and marine life at the reef every chance I get; posting my photos on social media and trying to show as many people as I can what a beautiful wonder the ocean is. I work to make sure my passengers have a great day, and I strive to show people that the Great Barrier Reef, the worlds largest living organism, still needs our help and is worth our time and energy. I made this video to give you a glimpse into what I see at work, hopefully it inspires you to come to Australia and see it for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7DX6MNGHMg&feature=youtu.be


Maita Mendieta

By | January 25th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I tried diving for the first time in Thailand a few years ago. After my first breath under water I was hooked. Returning home I had to finish university but I was already researching where I could do my professional training. One day, a Utila Dive Center's alum pointed me in the right direction. He told me to go to Utila, a small Carribean island off the Coast of Honduras, and train at UDC. Finding Utila Dive Center changed the course of my life. I started my Dive Master Training there in Dec. of 2018. Mentally I was prepared but my physical body was not. The first several weeks on the island were nothing but eye and ear infections, barotrauma & endless rounds of strong antibiotics. At a point, I began to feel defeated. It was at that precise moment when the UDC family stepped up. New friends had a special mask sent down from the USA and so I persisted. Diving taught me an important life lesson; no matter the adversity, with passion, perseverance, dedication and a compassionate community of support we are able to overcome obstacles too large to embark upon alone. Diving is more than just a sport, it is one of the passions of my lifetime! As a vegan and environmentalist, I find it alarming the way our oceans are being abused and think that on land education is more important now than ever before. Andy Philips told us to go out and 'be the difference' and although diving under the sea is fun, advocating for the health of our world's oceans is an absolute necessity. That's why I dedicate my entire adult life to educating myself, my family and my friends on the importance of protecting our planet. Scuba is the accumulation of all of my passions; conservation, education, language acquisition (I dream of teaching in the 4 languages I speak!), advocacy and fun of course. I see it as an opportunity to make MY personal impact on the world. I can't think of a place I've been where I haven't picked up trash or talk to someone about the environment. Scuba is a sport composed of 70% men. Me and other female divers around the world agree, it's time to tip the scales! Utila Dive Center brought many beautiful friendships into my life. A few months ago, I hosted two UDC's alumni's in my hometown and we spent many hours brainstorming ways the scuba community can stay connected international to make positive change both on land and underwater. Building a global network of friends who became family has been one of the unexpected gifts from Utila Dive Center. It is my dream to come back to Utila in the Summer of 2020 and complete my Instructor Development Course (IDC). If I receive the scholarship, I will return to UDC with my big brother and introduce him to the magic of the underwater world while he completes his Open Water through DMT. Thank you for the opportunity to apply for this scholarship. It is for me a wonderful way to honor Andy's memory. I am so grateful for all the ways UDC has blessed my life and I can't wait to create many more memories on the Rock and help educate future generations of eco-warriors around the world. -No blue, no green- Maita Mendieta


Alex O’Brien

By | January 24th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Being the difference is something I have strived for in all areas of my life. When I was at university, I was involved with the marine science education of school children, holding workshops to teach them practical skills that would be useful in science disciplines(Oceans of Opportunity). I also presented talks on regional marine life to groups of locals who are passionate about citizen science and getting to know the rocky shores around them (Capturing our Coast). In my second year at university, my friend and I founded the Marine Science Society, and spent my third year as the Vice President to the society, bring students together who are interested in marine life. In Thailand, every day was a new opportunity to teach people about the ocean, and they’re divers who are already passionate, so it was never really a hard sell... I got to answer questions on the ocean floor, to how to live more sustainably. Being able to pass on what I had learned was very rewarding. About a month into my DMT I was lucky enough to be selected to represent the dive shop I was working at for the ‘Save Phi Phi Day’. Our team of divers were tasked with the annual cleaning of the famous Maya bay & the island’s pier (Koh Phi Phi Don). Here, my passion shone through and I was invited to get involved with the coral nursery on the adjacent island (Koh Phi Phi Leh). With my remaining time on the island, I spent several days volunteering with the maintenance of this coral nursery, cleaning it and taking necessary samples from upon its structure. In June I hope to be returning to Utila, to work with Operation Wallacea again, spearheading a project that will hopefully help us to gain more knowledge about the impacts of the changing climate on our reefs. When it comes to these issues, I am extremely motivated and enthusiastic to help other people be the change as well. And with the help of UDC, I can continue to make a difference by encouraging and educating others on our beautiful underwater world.


Bryan Oliva Cruz

By | January 22nd, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I’ve participated in all lionfish derby’s either as a captain or as a diver since I arrived to Utila. I’ve done diving against debris every time I can. I’ve participated in so many beach cleanups I am an expert in picking up microplastics from the sand now. It felt a bit short. My big breakthrough came when I started working with Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation Facility. I started as a field guide going to the mangroves looking for Ctenosaura bakeri, the endemic iguana of Utila, for Kanahau’s population studies. I was able to get involved in creating awareness in the community, the tourist and the interns, about the importance of protecting the mangrove to preserve the coral reef and vice versa, it’s importance as a nursery for different species and how it provides food for the reef inhabitants. One of the things I am most proud of is helping to developed Kanahau’s environmental education program, School of Nature, along their new environmental education coordinator, in which we turned the environment into the classroom children can learn about nature. We like to say it is a school without walls, cause what better place to learn about nature than the environment itself. I am the person in Kanahau (in site) with the highest diving certification at the moment, so I am responsible for most of the water activities with the children. We go on snorkeling trips where we teach them about fishes, corals and reef associated organisms; on kayaking trips where we teach them about the mangrove, its importance to the reef, bioluminescent organisms and on many other activities. The School of Nature is not focused on marine conservation, but on terrestrial conservation as well, it is a holistic approach of teaching environmental education. So far, we’ve had 23 children from 10 to 16 years of age participating in our activities, they are all amazing and interested in learning about nature. By teaching children about the environment now, you are saving it in the future. However, most of these children will probably never dive. Diving is expensive for most Honduran people, especially the children of those who left the main land looking for a better life in Utila. Most of them had never snorkeled before we took them, so they couldn’t really understand why so many people from all over the world came to their little island. Imagine living in a diving paradise and have no opportunity to dive because you have no money. I am doing as I can as a dive master to teach the children about the ocean. But as a dive instructor the things I could do would be so amazing. We could work to raise funds to certified the school of nature children for free. Also offer discover scuba diving and bubble maker experience to the smallest ones. That would be a dream come true, as I will be giving back what others gave me when I first arrive to Utila.


Breanna Cheatham

By | January 19th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Since my training at udc I have moved to Florida and am working as a divemaster. I make it a goal on every excursion to spread awareness and get people thinking about some of these issues our oceans are facing. In my personal life I have made some changes for example I am working on cutting down my carbon foot print by walking or biking to my destinations. I have also cut out all sea food and meet in my diet. I refuse plastics everywhere where possible and plan on participating in as many monthly dive against debris events as I can with our neighboring dive shop. These opportunities of getting my divemaster and studying about our environment were incredible but it was just the first step. If I win I want to take my diving to the next level while continuing my education in marine science. I plan on working on more coral restoration projects and continuing to gather useful data for research databases around the world. I also want to continue cutting out plastic use in my own life and in my communities along with spreading the word about sustainable resources. Last but not least I hope to instill the same level of enthusiasm for my love of the ocean with every diver I get the chance to meet.


Nick Gillingham

By | January 18th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


I started diving around 3 years ago and I decided I wanted to pursue diving as a career so I can teach something I love and am passionate about, whilst spreading awareness, contributing something positive towards the planet as well as help encourage others to respect our oceans. I am currently participating in two courses , coral nursery and lion fish containment course . I am learning about the issues we are facing with regards to our corals , whilst learning about the detrimental effect lion fish are having on our reefs so I am able to do something positive when diving , whether it be cleaning corals at the nursery , spearing lion fish to help reefs or photograph /video amazing moments to help show the beauty that lives in our oceans. I am always on the hunt for rubbish whilst diving and I have participated in numerous ocean cleanups. I created a facebook page to organise events and clean ups in the uk where we cleaned mass amounts of beaches and numerous dive sites. I try to organise or clean at least one beach clean in each new place I travel, I also make videos to spread awareness and show the issues we are facing to help people understand. My goal is to become an instructor and Once I have gained more experience in teaching and diving I would like to show images and videos I have documented along my journey and present them to schools and dive centres to help people understand how to make a positive change towards saving our oceans. check out my video on UDC page to get an idea ! SAFE DIVING !


Andrea Carolina Chiong Merlo

By | January 18th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Each week I have the blessing to be apart of the great adventures and vacations for guests who visit us at the Kona Aggressor II, in Hawaii. I work on a liveaboard boat as a Divemaster, Videographer, and Stewardess. This allows me the opportunity to share and enjoy the scuba diving world with amazing guests, but also with experienced instructors who have helped me develop the skills needed to be a role model as a professional diver. My friends and co-workers received their instructor certifications with Utila Dive Center and speak very highly about your programs. This is why it is my goal to take my Open Water Scuba Instructor course with you. Besides, I am Honduran, and this inspires me to continue telling all the people I know that there is a beautiful island in my country that is a world-class destination for diving with the best preparation center where they can turn their passion into a career. I also want to honor the memory of Andy. I had the opportunity to meet him in September, 2018, when my husband and I traveled to Utila. He was my husband's friend and Course Director. At that time, I only had my Open Water certification and I was going through a moment of dissatisfaction with my old job as a TV hostess. Andy advised, "Stop giving broad media news. You can produce content on how we can save the oceans. You can BE THE DIFFERENCE". His words motivated me to leave my comfort zone and understand that the more people we show others the value of our seas, the more WE CAN contribute to PRESERVE the MARINE KINGDOM and the health of OUR PLANET. I want to say congratulations on your initiative and kindly ask for your approval to participate in this challenge.


Ronja Frosch

By | January 17th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


When I started as a volunteer with MRCI in Madagascar I barely knew anything about diving responsibly or marine conservation. I was an AOW with barely 15 dives. After studying benthic creatures I found my passion for them and got super excited every time i saw the simplest most common nudibranch. I was able to extend my stay and became a marine intern where I was able to do my DM and teach people about benthic and witness how they got excited about it too! Almost everyone left knowing a little bit more about our oceans and its creatures, wanting to do their part in trying to save it. I had an amazing team that taught me so much about diving in general and marine conservation.


Layla Elise Boulema

By | January 17th, 2020|Categories: Contest|

How i´m being different?


Hi all! I'm Layla, I'm 31, from Amsterdam, and I finished my Dive Master Training with UDC in April 2018. I’ve dived around the world and tried to always be educated of the best way to limit my impact on the environment. With that my behaviour changed in terms of recycling, eating less and less meat, shopping, use of plastic, et cetera. During my Divemaster training, my awareness kept developing and as some of you know, performing Coral Watch dives is included - this inspired me even more to contribute to healthy reefs. During my stay I also started cleaning the reef by containing lionfish after completing the specialty. Back at home I replaced all my cosmetics for natural products without packaging and only gifted people with likewise things, or a nice water bottle or lionfish jewelry. I worked as a Divemaster in the Netherlands and took every opportunity I got to reach and inspire fellow divers. Approximately seven months later I returned to UDC to follow the Go Eco program. I felt I could really make a difference, doing reef monitoring surveys and working at the coral nursery. My love for the ocean and specifically its corals grew. After Go Eco my passion for the sea and my sustainable lifestyle really escalated (in a positive way). Back at home I participated in meetings about sustainability in the hospital I work at and not long after Go Eco I decided to go to Curaçao to volunteer for the Coral Restauration Foundation Curacao. I got to not only clean coral trees, but also plant the trees, 'frag & tag', outplant grown coral (both Staghorn and Elkhorn), perform treeswaps and build underwater structures to outplant on. When I met the coordinator of CRFC she told me: "sometimes I get discouraged and I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle, but then I meet people like you". That was a compliment I will never forget and as my Go Eco mentors I will spend my life trying to fight the battle for healthy reefs alongside them. During my volunteer work at the nurseries a documentary was being filmed (Diving for balance, about the work CRFC does, check it out!), in which I participate too. Next to that I did some freelance work as a Divemaster. During this work I try to inspire my costumers in a polite and inviting manner by teaching them fun facts about the ocean but also why you can better order lionfish then shrimp. All together, I try to be the difference as much as I can, whether I am at home, at work, with friends, freelancing, travelling, above or underwater. Why I should win this contest? To be able to reach, teach and inspire more people to help the ocean, its coral reefs and its precious inhabitants that are oh so important to us.