Irish marine-science student Hannah Douglas has been awarded the 2022 European Our World-Underwater Scholarship, one of three global scuba-diving awards funded each year by the watch brand Rolex.
The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society (OWUSS) was set up more than 50 years ago in the USA to develop the careers of talented young divers with a strong academic record and a passion for building a career in the industry. Run entirely by volunteers, its other two scholarships are awarded in the USA and Australasia.
Winners get to spend a year globe-trotting to dive, work with, learn from and contribute to the work of leading divers, academics and conservationists, says OWUSS.
Douglas, 23, comes from from County Wicklow on Ireland’s east coast. She grew to love diving after leaving school and taking a PADI Open Water Diver course with Ocean Divers in Dunlaoghaire.
The entry-level training culminated in her first boat dive off Dalkey Island, swimming with seals through a kelp forest – an experience that convinced her that she should study marine science at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Continuing her diver training, and guided by kelp researcher Kathyrn Scheonrock, Douglas went on to work on field-research projects as a NAUI Scientific Diver. Her final-year thesis focused on fireworks anemones (Pachycerianthus multiplicatus) on ireland’s west coast, working with citizen-science diving body Seasearch Ireland.
She completed her PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor qualification at Water World in Co Kerry in 2021, and that summer worked as a communications content creator for the Irish research & development body the Marine Institute, as part of its bursary programme.
Douglas says she plans to continue in marine science while also studying resource management and legislation, and believes that marine biodiversity can be protected only by building global awareness of the oceans’ beauty.
Past Rolex scholars have gone on to succeed as underwater film-makers, archaeologists, diving educators, hardware designers, conservationists, marine biologists, policymakers and explorers, says OWUSS, and a number of them also do volunteer work for the society.
After attending the award ceremony in New York, Douglas begins her scholarship year studying underwater videography with UK expert Saeed Rashid in northern Indonesia. She will be expected to produce articles and publications about her experiences as well as an end-of-year short film, and her progress can be followed via the OWUSS EU Scholar Blog or on Instagram.
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