The Rolex Scholarship – a concept not many people are familiar with. For those of you who never heard of it, there is 3 main Rolex Scholarship that is provided for three regions: North America, Europe, and Australasia. One scholar from each region is selected and they spend one year, working side by side with the current leaders in the underwater fields.
The 2018 Rolex Scholarship for North America went to Yann Herrera Fuchs, a passionate diver from Mexico. When Paralenz heard about the scholarship and his plans for future projects, we jumped at the occasion to give him the opportunity to video log all the dives and to have visual proof for any needs the project might bring.
You can find more about Yann and the 2018 North America Rolex Scholarship on this blog, and below you can find a few words from him regarding his passions and some of the plans for future projects.
My first dive
The first time I went diving was off a port in Veracruz, Mexico, where I was very skeptical about the things that I would see. Of course, I was excited, I had been practicing basic scuba skills in a pool and had already had a taste of floating and breathing in the liquid medium. But I never really thought that I would see so much in such an industrial and frequented port. I guess these thoughts worked in my favor because the moment I stuck my head in the ocean I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and amazement.
The colors, the light, the marine life, the seascapes and the feeling of floating through it all was truly astonishing. It was this moment that made me realize that I wanted to focus my career path into exploring these underwater sceneries and learning how they can be resilient even when the human activity becomes ever more pressing.
The 2018 Rolex Scholarship
I had spent the last couple of years studying and working from a computer trying to contribute to marine conservation from my desk and it just didn’t satisfy me enough. At that moment I wasn’t really sure what I was working so hard to protect. I needed to know what was underneath the surface to understand the work that needed to be done. When I found out I had been selected for the 2018 North American Rolex Scholarship I felt like I had suddenly hit the lottery. It was my opportunity to dive into the field and experience first hand what I was facing. The urge for exploration grew, and ever since it started I have not stopped learning.
My first couple of projects took me back to basics, where I was able to dial in my skills underwater and understand the physiology of diving a bit better. I was new to gear, to working in a different medium and to so many other activities that we are so lucky to be able to undertake beneath the surface.
I participated in a project with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad, which took me to the island of San Pedro Nolasco in the Gulf of California to do baseline surveys of six different sites along the coastline. Three of them had been declared by fishers as no-take zones and the other three were open access. This meant that three of the sites would be protected from fishing and acted as a refuge for fish populations to recover while some fishing would still be allowed in the other three sites. Fish refuges like these have been COBI’s ongoing projects at different fishing communities, where they work together with the locals to monitor, evaluate and protect the areas.
Another project that I was able to partake was a clam research project in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, where scientists from the Swinomish Indian tribe were collecting data on clam gardens. These are terrace-like structures that communities from the Pacific Northwest used to create to form artificial seeding beds for clams to grow. There is currently an effort in trying to recover the tradition of clam gardening, and the Swinomish tribe was interested in looking at ways in which this ancestral practice could also become a climate adaptation strategy for sustainable shellfish harvesting in the years to come.
One more project that I was involved in the last couple of weeks was an abalone research project off the coast of Northern California, where scientists from Bodega Marine lab are trying to monitor the population of kelp as it gets threatened by the bursting numbers of sea urchins. This project was huge, with full day dives consisting of around 20 volunteer divers in some days. We evaluated several different sites and recorded the data to continue monitoring throughout the season.
The use of Paralenz during the scholarship
I have now traveled across different oceans learning about diverse projects which all happen to bridge the people-nature gap. Community-based initiatives like these have really given me a grasp of the magnitude that conservation projects can have when working with locals. I have also been able to experience completely new environments, from the cold waters of Browning’s Pass to the mysteriously decorated caves of Abaco Island, with very close interactions with the creatures that inhabit them.
Now, as I continue my formation as an underwater professional, I look forth to enriching this exploration process and reflecting on the role that people take to protect aquatic resources. And with the help of technology, my aim is to become better versed in how to make this process more efficient and to communicate the needs and results of good practices with a larger audience.
It is within this context that the Paralenz Dive Camera will be an outstanding tool to record and document my experiences. Given that I can bring it with me essentially everywhere without having to worry about it intervening with any work that I do underwater. I’ll be able to keep a visual log of my activities which will ultimately serve for learning and communication purposes. Its high-end design allows for easy adjusting and high resolution, with imagery that is only a click away.
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