Each year, the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society (OWUSS) awards three Rolex Scholarships to young people who are considering a career in an underwater-related discipline. Each scholar recipient spends a year working alongside current leaders in underwater fields. As a sponsor of the Scholarship Society, the PADI organization congratulates the 2013 scholars Stefan Andrews, Jeff Hester and Chloé Marécha. Read about all three of them below.
2013 Australasian Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society
PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Stefan Andrews grew up in South Australia where the ocean played a major role influencing his life from an early age. Scuba diving instantly captivated his attention and extended his world to appreciate the huge diversity of life that his local waters supported. Throughout his time studying Marine Biology at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, Andrews connected with other enthusiastic young divers keen to explore, learn and gain diving experience and qualifications. Andrews developed his boating and diving leadership skills planning trips to a variety of ship wrecks and reefs right throughout the state and by his final year of university, he was ready for his scuba diving instructor course in the isolation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
On completion of his undergraduate studies, the young marine biologist, diving instructor moved to Cairns (North Queensland) to work on a busy dive vessel to the Great Barrier Reef where he thrived on each day’s challenge of taking excited tourists on their first ever diving experience while educating them about the fish species, corals and environmental threats. Throughout his time in Cairns, Andrews was inspired by fellow instructors to continue his journey of exploration of new places, cultures and people which took him to the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. The relaxed atmosphere of island life enabled Andrews to provide a more personalized diving experience for his students and truly express his deep passion for diving through every diver he met.
Throughout his time in Thailand, environmental concerns raised by other experienced and well-traveled divers resonated strongly within his mind as he was unremittingly reminded of the destruction of aquatic environments worldwide. The confronting reality that the structure and health of this newly discovered underwater world was declining at such a rapid rate instilled within him a devastating realization. At this point, Andrews embraced his marine biology background and began volunteering as a research assistant in Western Australia, working on projects involving the ecology of important habitat forming seaweeds which structure temperate water ecosystems.
Andrews has recently completed his own research project as part of his honors degree at the University of Western Australia, involving a latitudinal study of seaweed recruitment over several hundred kilometers of isolated coastline. Now with the experience of over 2000 dives, Andrews feels strongly that scuba diving connects people with their environment and is influential to the way people live. He suggests that the more people are aware of what lies under the ocean, how they can have access to it and how they may be able to help, the more people will be in favor of marine parks, environmental protection of marine life and develop a greater appreciation of the importance towards sustaining oceans for the future.
2013 North American Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society
Jeff Hester was born in Anaheim, California, USA and moved to Portland, Oregon, USA when he was 10 years old. He developed a love for the water early on and would dive for keys, coins or other trinkets at the local pool at the ripe age of two. Growing up, Hester developed an insatiable love of the ocean through books pertaining to marine animals or life at sea as well as visits to the tide pools at nearby Cannon Beach. A yearning for exploration of the underwater world fueled his desire to learn how to scuba dive after moving to sunny San Diego, California, USA to attend Point Loma Nazarene University.
During his college career, Hester competed on the varsity track and field team, earning All-American honors in the decathlon at the national championships his senior year. He interned with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in a coral reef ecology lab that was developing a non-invasive method to measure surface area using photography to create 3-dimensional models. The following year, driven by his love for diving and marine science, Hester sought opportunities for underwater research through the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs. He was selected for an AAUS diving internship with the Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, Washington, USA to survey and assess pinto abalone outplant sites in the San Juan Islands, as part of an effort to restore their population. During that summer, he completed his advanced, nitrox, drysuit, rescue and AAUS scientific diving certifications. Since then he has added wreck and divemaster certifications to his credentials.
In his final year of college, Hester conducted senior thesis research with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) investigating heavy metal concentration in the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) and how it related to their health. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology he was hired by NOAA as a lab technician in a marine mammal genetics lab. He uses genetic techniques to study Gray Whale and Beaked Whale population structure.
Through all of these experiences, Hester has developed a passion for diving and marine biology. He is eager to work with leaders in these fields so that he can better understand the issues faced by the oceans and what we, as the human race, can do about them. He wants to make a positive difference in this world and in the oceans that are all too often taken for granted, by instilling in others the same love and curiosity for the ocean that he has. He feels that he has the responsibility and privilege to share what he has been taught so that others may understand, love, and in turn, conserve.
2013 European Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society
Chloé Maréchal of Lyon, France is a passionate diver currently pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. Her curiosity for the Ocean started early when reading Jules Verne and watching Jacques-Yves Cousteau documentaries. She started diving at the age of 18 and has since earned the PADI Divemaster, a PADI Scientific Diver Distinctive Specialty and a Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Fundamentals certification. She has around 150 dives in the Mediterranean (France), the English Channel (France), the Caribbean Sea (Guadeloupe), the Yellow Sea (South Korea), the Coral Sea (Australia), The Cerbres Sea (Malaysia) and the Atlantic Ocean (Portugal).
After completing a bachelor in Biochemistry, at Claude Bernard-Lyon 1 University (France) in July 2010, Maréchal decided to travel around Australia with the intent to learn English and dive the Great Barrier Reef. She also applied as a volunteer in different marine labs and had the chance to enjoy an internship in the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS, Townsville). There, she worked on questions about the symbiosis between corals and nitrogen fixing bacteria. Since then she has developed a particular interest in marine microbiology and symbiosis relationship. This is why she chose to conduct her master thesis about microbial communities in sponges at the Center of Marine Science of the Algarve, Portugal. She recently had the unforgettable experience to participate to a scientific expedition from Bremen, Germany to Cape Town, South Africa on board of the German research vessel Polarstern. She was part of a team working on the biodiversity and the activity of microbial biofilm in niches in the ocean.
Diving and science are not her only passion; she enjoys exploring new countries, discovering new cultures and meeting new people. Her master degree allows her to study in different countries as Portugal, Slovenia, Germany and Spain. In the last three years, she had the chance to work, travel or study in more than 10 countries on four continents. She learned that cultural differences are more than just differences in language, food, appearances, and personal habits. A person's culture reflects very deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence his or her way of life. Her education and her travel made her realize how much marine biodiversity is important in an ecological, aesthetic and cultural point of view. It provides a wide variety of goods and services including vital food resource for millions of people. She truly believes that using the ocean in a sustainable way is an urgent issue and understands other cultures help to make efficient decisions about costal management and conservation planning.
Maréchal is passionate, hardworking, and she loves challenges. Her ultimate goal is to use diving to carry out research, exploration and conservation. She believes becoming the OWUSS Rolex European Scholar will help her to reach this goal and allow her to spread her passion for the ocean and diving and encourage people world-wide to help preserve and protect our ocean life.
Once again, congratulations to Stefan Andrews, Jeff Hester and Chloé Marécha. For more information on OWUSS, visit www.owuscholarship.org.