Posts Tagged ‘marine conservation’

Become a 2016 Rolex Scholar and Dive Into Your Full Potential

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

In just six months, Danny Copeland traveled to Egypt and became an open-water scuba instructor, filmed the world’s largest aggregation of manta rays in the Maldives, and explored freshwater wrecks in Canada. How, you ask? As the 2015 European Rolex Scholar, Copeland was afforded a year of fully funded travel, giving him not just one experience of a lifetime, but an entire year of bucket-list diving adventures.

Copeland says he has had an unbelievable year as the 2015 European Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society Rolex Scholar— who wouldn’t enjoy swimming with bottlenose dolphins in the wild? — and it’s not over yet. Copeland doesn’t shy in sharing his excitement about plans to work with the BBC, National Geographic and a potential excursion to Antarctica in the future. The opportunities that come with the title of Rolex Scholar are nothing short of spectacular, and Copeland proudly proclaimed he wouldn’t change it for the world.

Recipients of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society Rolex Scholarship are immersed in experiential education centered on marine environments and are able to tailor their scholarship year to their personal interests. In Copeland’s case, that meant taking advantage of underwater-photography workshops and being mentored by some of the industry’s finest photographers. Copeland recalls a trip to the Red Sea as one of his favorite experiences so far: “ I learned so much being surrounded by other underwater photographers that my own abilities increased substantially — it would have potentially taken years to learn the same amount off of my own back.”

Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society and Rolex have been working together for more than 40 years on a shared mission: Identifying and developing the next generation of dive leaders and underwater researchers. During that time, the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society and Rolex have fostered the development of future leaders of the underwater environment like Copeland. OWUSS and Rolex are currently seeking applicants for the 2016 Scholarships. Rolex Scholarships are awarded to a single applicant from each region: North America, Europe and Australasia. During the scholarship year, the three winners travel internationally and learn from the world’s leading experts in conservation, underwater photography, maritime archaeology, marine engineering and other related fields.

If you or somebody you know are between the ages of 21 and 26, have high academic standing and have achieved Rescue Diver or equivalent certification, continue reading at to learn why being the next Rolex Scholar is a life-changing experience. Application deadlines for the 2016 Scholarship year are as follows: North American and European applications are due Dec. 31, 2015. Deadline for 2016 Australasian Scholarship application is Jan. 31, 2016. The organization also offers numerous internships, which can be viewed here. Application deadline for internships is Jan.31, 2016.

Keep up with Copeland’s adventures as the European Rolex Scholar on his blog.

Underwater Architecture Could Be The Real Estate Of The Future

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Sci-fi fantasy could become a reality for divers who dream of living beneath the surface of the ocean if these forward-thinking projects ever come to fruition.


Billed as “a new interface between humankind and the deep sea,” Ocean Spiral is a wild future-city concept by Japanese engineering corporation Shimizu Corp. designed to solve present-day environmental challenges including shrinking food production, growing energy demand, decreasing freshwater reserves, increasing CO2 emissions and dwindling natural resources.

At the surface, a population up to 5,000 will inhabit the Blue Garden, a floating sphere measuring 1,640 feet in diameter that houses residences, businesses, a hotel, research facilities and other infrastructure in a 75-floor central tower with 360-degree views. Plunging more than 2 miles deep, the Infra Spiral will contain a factory producing power from carbon dioxide using micro-organisms; generators that create energy from seawater through thermal conversion; aquaculture farms to grow food; and a desalinization plant to create fresh water.

At the bottom, the Earth Factory will store CO2 emissions and house a submarine port. Total cost for the self-sustaining city, if built, is estimated at $26 billion, and construction could take five years.


From the mind of French architect Jacques Rougerie, who also envisioned the Sea Orbiter oceangoing skyscraper, this “universal city” is designed to house an international community of 7,000 scientists, teachers, students and other ocean lovers for extended periods. Measuring almost 3,000 feet long and 1,600 feet wide, the floating structure would offer living quarters, laboratories and classrooms, along with recreation areas and lounge spaces. It’s designed to be self-sustaining and autonomous, running on renewable energy drawn from the surrounding marine environment and leaving behind no waste.

The mantalike design is inspired by the creator’s love for the ocean. “Another type of imagination is awakened in me as soon as I am underwater,” Rougerie told radio station France Inter in 2014.


When Earth becomes uninhabitable due to “a runaway green-house effect, it might be safe living underneath the sea in the long term,” says British designer and futurist Phil Pauley. To preserve all forms of life, the Sub-Biosphere 2 would act as a global seed bank and house 100 people, “the minimum number required to rebuild our species,” Pauley says. In his design, eight biomes recreating Earth’s climatic zones would be arranged around a larger central biome housing integrated life-support systems that link each outer zone to exchange water and air in a manner meant to mimic our planet’s weather. Inside the complex, which measures more than 1,100 feet wide and can be raised or lowered to avoid foul weather or natural disasters, the human inhabitants would interact with each biome to grow hydroponic crops, raise animals, perform research and sustain life as we know it.

SnotBot Drone Used to Collect Whale Data Using “Snot”

Monday, November 9th, 2015
SnotBot, a drone that collects whale snot for research

Eliza Muirhead

The SnotBot is on a mission to silently hover over whales while collecting their snot for research.

There’s a new drone in town, and it’s nothing to sneeze at. OK — maybe that’s exactly what it is. Dubbed the SnotBot, this data-collecting drone was created by Ocean Alliance and Olin College of Engineering and is designed to catch the spray emitted from whales’ blowholes.

The mucus-rich “blow” provides scientists with a wealth of information, such as hormone levels (which can indicate if an animal is stressed or pregnant), evidence of infections (from bacteria, viruses or even environmental toxins) and tissue samples that can be used for DNA analysis.

Ocean Alliance is running a Kickstarter to fund SnotBot, with a little help from former Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who has given his support to the new technology.

“I’m asking you to support my good friend Capt. Iain Kerr at Ocean Alliance in their quest for better, more effective, less invasive, innovative research that will give us answers to some of the mysteries about the ocean and particularly whales,” Stewart says in the video.

Traditionally the “snot” was obtained by leaning over the railing of a boat with a 10-foot pole while chasing down the whales. This approach to data collection is invasive and can put undue stress on the animals, which could influence the information retrieved. The SnotBot is designed to study these marine mammals without disturbing them.

“Imagine if everything your doctor knew about your health came from chasing you around a room with a large needle while blowing an air horn,” the SnotBot team says on its Kickstarter page.

SnotBot will hover quietly above the whales and passively collect snot, using spongelike pads as the whales go about their business undisturbed — no chasing, prodding or other stress-inducing activities required.

Research projects of this nature require certain permissions, so Ocean Alliance is seeking approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service for its expeditions later this year.

SnotBots will be used to gather data on whales in three locations: Patagonia, the Sea of Cortez and Frederick Sound, Alaska. Researchers hope to collect snot from previously studied individuals in order to compare the SnotBot’s data to older data collected via traditional methods.


Banned in 1986, commercial whaling took a serious toll on whale populations through the years. Although few countries still engage in the activity, its lasting damage has already been done — leaving most whale populations reduced in size by 90 percent or more.

The result of this dramatic loss is that dwindling whale populations were left vulnerable to an ever-increasing throng of anthropogenic threats. Whale fatalities via boat collisions, ingesting plastic pollution, exposure to environmental toxins and entanglement in fishing gear are impacts that a prewhaling population could have shrugged off, but now they can put an entire species as risk.

Ocean Alliance is working to gather new data to better understand how these stressors are affecting whales and what we can do to help them — and SnotBot might help reach that goal.

Ocean Action: Help Save Sharks with the Whale Shark Research Project

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
Underwater Photo Whale Shark Chasing Fish

Brandon Cole

Volunteer and help protect these gentle giants.


MISSION Generating marine conservation through researching whale sharks, preserving the marine ecosystem and encouraging the sustainable use of Mexico’s natural resources

HQ Baja California, Mexico



PROJECT Spanning up to 40 feet and weighing over 45,000 pounds, whale sharks are the ocean’s largest living fish. The Whale Shark Research Project is committed to conservation, scientific research, public awareness and education for these gentle giants.



WSRP participants have the opportunity to spend between one and 10 weeks making a difference while exploring La Paz Bay, Espiritu Santo Island or Los Cabos in the Gulf of California. During your time volunteering, you’ll have the opportunity to learn data-collection techniques, monitor juvenile whale sharks, participate in field research and immerse yourself in Mexican culture.


Akin to a human fingerprint, distinct spot patterns can be found around the shark’s gill area. Divers can upload whale shark photos to an online global identification database at After photos are submitted, spot-recognition software identifies the whale sharks, allowing scientists to follow their travels and analyze shark-sighting data to discover more about these mammoth fish.


Support WSRP’s eforts by adopting your very own whale shark. Your shark won’t be coming home with you — instead it will remain wild and free while you receive updates on its journey through the ocean. After choosing either an annual adoption basis or a lifetime option, adopters are offered a life history of the shark along with a professional photograph of the newly adopted family member.


Save coral reefs in Little Cayman

Take a bite out of invasive lionfish

Get trashy with marine art

Top 100: Diving in Bonaire

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

From the pioneering work of the flamboyant and determined Capt. Don Stewart to its oft-copied marine-park model, Bonaire has been a leader in establishing ocean-conservation standards in the Caribbean. After arriving in 1962, Capt. Don, who died last year, recognized Bonaire’s underwater treasures, and he helped persuade locals and the government of the Netherlands to establish meaningful protections. The result is an island beloved by divers— and by our readers. Bonaire earned four No. 1 awards in the Caribbean and Atlantic region in our 2015 Top 100 Readers Choice survey, for macro, advanced, beginner and — for the 22nd consecutive year — shore diving. It also notched three top-five finishes, for underwater photography, overall diving and overall best destination.


Even divers who have been here so many times they’ve lost count are required to attend an orientation class and make a checkout dive. Then they’re required to purchase a $25 annual tag or $10 day pass. If that seems like a hassle, consider how easy it is to dive here. All you have to do is rent a truck — often included with resort packages — load it with tanks (usually available 24/7) and choose between dozens of sites, most of them along the island’s leeward west coast. You’re the boat captain and divemaster! No schedules to adhere to, and no enforced bottom times. Although there are dive resorts and operators that offer this dream setup, there is not another place in the Caribbean that caters to divers this way islandwide.


The signs are everywhere to remind visitors that this island is tailor-made for divers — red-and-white fags fluttering over dive shops; yellow stones along the roadside, pointing to dive sites; license plates inscribed with “Divers Paradise;” 24/7 tank-refill stations. Counting the dive sites that ring Klein Bonaire, there is a total of 86 places where divers can blow bubbles — many of them accessible from shore and open to divers any time of the day or night. The road to building this underwater utopia hasn’t been without bumps, but islanders were quick to realize the value of their marine resources. As Capt. Don noted in his ship’s log when he first sailed into Kralendijk’s harbor, “Bay like glass, a spectrum of shimmering blues, extraordinarily clear. To the north, a craggy silhouette of small mountains sloping southward to a fat spit of coral- rimmed beach. Brilliant tropical fish of all varieties. Looks to be a fantastic underwater island.” Indeed it is, and readers named it the No. 1 spot for shore diving and No. 2 for best overall diving.

Just a sampling of dive sites gives you an idea of how sweet it is to dive the waters here. It’s a short swim out to the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, a 236-foot cargo vessel with a shady past (25,000 pounds of marijuana was found in a false bulkhead after the ship had engine problems and was towed to Kralendijk). It’s a popular site — get an early start so the only crowds you’ll bump into are the mobs of fish here. Bonaire isn’t known for wall diving, but it is possible to get vertical at north-western sites like Rappel, famous for its healthy stands of swaying sea fans, and Wayaka, in Washington Slagbaai National Park. These drop-offs aside, Bonaire’s fringing reef is mostly a terraced affair, sloping down gently from about 30 feet to 130 feet. It’s a reason why the island earned a No. 1 award for beginner diving.


Bonaire’s advanced-diving opportunities — another No. 1 award — are truly challenging. Northwest sites like Playa Funchi, Playa Bengi and Bise Morto, in Washington Slagbaai, are slammed by heavy current. But if you’ve got the stamina, you’ll be wowed by the most pristine corals found not only in Bonaire but in the Caribbean. As you drop down, look for schools of horse-eye jack.


Bonaire’s waters teem with nearly 400 fish species, according to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, and underwater photographers (the island got a No. 2 nod from readers in this category) will appreciate setting up for reef scenics that pulse with marine life. If you’re a fan of tiny critters (No. 1 for macro), the island is silly with flamingo tongues, seahorses, and hermit and coral crabs. Is behavior more your thing? Look for jawfish aerating their eggs, sergeant majors protecting their nests, and juvenile spotted drum flying their dorsal fins like pennants in the wind.


Along with the fishy reefs, you’ll fall in love with the warm and friendly locals — learn a few words, like mi dushi (“my sweetheart” in Papiamento, the Creole language spoken here) — the charming Dutch-inspired architecture of the capital Kralendijk, and the crazy-quilt landscape that looks a little like the American Southwest plopped down into the Caribbean. The island’s salt ponds are a natural habitat for brine shrimp, a favorite meal for hundreds of pink flamingos and other migratory birds that flock to the island. By the time you pack for home, you’ll be saying, “Mi stima Boneiru” (“I love Bonaire”). Our readers certainly do, giving the island a coveted top-five listing for best overall destination.


The dive resorts all have beach bars, including Plaza Resort’s Coconut Crash (, or venture of premises to Kralendijk’s harborfront and drop in at Karel’s Beach Bar for a lively happy hour (


Choose between two restaurants at Divi Flamingo: Chibi Chibi or Pureocean ( Either way, you’ll have calming views of the Caribbean. In Kralendijk, you’ll find eateries with inventive menus, such as At Sea — the terrace is lovely.


With two swimming pools, its Ingridients restaurant, drive-thru air-fill station and house reef, Buddy Dive Resort (buddydive .com) is perfect for the do-it-yourself diver. Want to do your own cooking? Apartments have fully equipped kitchens.


When To Go It’s dry and sunny year-round. Bonaire enjoys a lucky geographic location — it lies outside the Caribbean tropical storm belt and averages only 22 inches of rainfall annually.

Travel Tip Consider getting a room or suite with a fridge — the markets in Bonaire are well-stocked, and you can get fresh fruits and vegetables at the harborfront in Kralendijk.

Dive Conditions Water temps average in the low 80s. On most sites, viz is a dependable 100 feet.