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Michael George

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.


Michael George2020-02-17T09:32:11-06:00

Louise Thomas

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.


Louise Thomas2020-02-17T09:25:06-06:00

Contest – Edgar Martinez

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.


Contest – Edgar Martinez2020-02-15T11:32:18-06:00

Tim McDade

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!


Tim McDade2020-02-15T10:16:06-06:00

Morgan Murphy-Cannella

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


Morgan Murphy-Cannella2020-02-15T10:12:24-06:00

Hayls Wight

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!


Hayls Wight2020-02-15T10:10:16-06:00

Zoe Walker

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.


Zoe Walker2020-02-14T16:59:30-06:00

Sapphire Bennett

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.


Sapphire Bennett2020-02-14T09:18:34-06:00

Cayla Neil

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.


Cayla Neil2020-02-14T09:15:40-06:00

Duncan Maguire

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


Duncan Maguire2020-02-11T08:48:02-06:00
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