A Day With Rolex Scholar Megan Cook
The OWOO headquarters received a visit a few months ago from Rolex Scholar Megan Cook. The Rolex Scholarship is an opportunity for emerging ocean leaders to spend a year traveling, training and getting experience across the underwater fields such as marine science or filmmaking. We were delighted to hear about the adventures she’s had and found that her experiences and interests coincide remarkably with our work and goals here at OWOO. Now, we’re thrilled to introduce her to you.
Though Megan was always interested in the ocean, she grew up far from the coast, in the desert of Boise, Idaho. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry with an option in Marine Biology, from Oregon State University, where she began her diving career with research in the Bahamas, Australia, and sailing across the open sea Tahiti to Hawaii. After graduating, she worked for NOAA in Hawaii as a freediver, disentangling discarded fishing nets from remote island coral reefs, and worked in protecting and restoring Hawaii’s coral reefs on the state’s invasive species control team.
As a self-declared “scientist extrovert,” Megan has always found her greatest passion in connecting new people to ocean stories and inspiring conservation through enthusiasm and education.
Read on to learn about some of the amazing experiences Megan has had this year!
Being a Rolex scholar is an amazing whirlwind - one year to learn about our oceans from every angle. Every week is different: I’ve found myself crawling against the flow of Florida’s cave systems, scuba diving both underwater and underground; learning about ocean change from a third generation commercial fishing family while hauling in a line; interviewing scientists 60 feet below the surface in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea laboratory; playing rock/paper/scissors with kids from inside the aquarium glass; snorkeling amongst icebergs in Antarctica’s last wild ocean and defining personal boundaries with sea lions all too curious to check out a rebreather diver silently creeping through their world.
Halfway through, I was sure it was too good to be true, after finding heaps of mentors and getting to share the ocean with new people in new ways. In the Bahamas, on a dive where thousands of visitors a year come to celebrate sharks and redefine perceptions of sharks, I was taught to feed Caribbean reef sharks by the remarkable Cristina Zenato. These perfectly tailored, powerful animals glided around me, lazily chomping frozen herring from my hands. I left the dive exhilarated and other guests surfaced with a new appreciation for the calm, curious, and graceful animals which rule the sea. In Florida, I was certified as an open-water instructor and taught my first class–nine twelve-year-olds–to see the underwater world for the very first time. Although garbled, you can always make out the word “COOL” through a regulator. In Antarctica I was able to work side-by-side with visionary tour companies building respectful and engaging methods for a curious world to discover far away oceans.
The year has been jam-packed with research, filmmaking, hyperbaric rescue training, television production, technical dive training, publishing, eco-tourism, marine management, dive gear design, industry networking, education, ecological activism, and photography. I’ve had months of travel and adventure including trips to South Africa, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, French Polynesia, the UK–and don’t forget the dive-mecca Las Vegas. I jumped at the chance to visit the One World One Ocean Campaign headquarters because they are the best out there at the work I admire: communicating ocean messages in engaging, relevant, and important ways. When I grow up, I wanna be an OWOOer!
Even if you’ve never seen the ocean, it’s your life support system and I want to help you learn about it. Did you know the ocean makes 50% of the oxygen you breathed today and provides food for over 2 billion people? Our big blue backyards need our help. I hope you’ll jump on board.
Now that my year as a Rolex Scholar is wrapping up, I am by no means ending the train of adventures. I am eager to keep working with great organizations bringing ocean wonder to people around the world. Have time; have passion; will travel! I’m looking forward to spending a month this summer as a science communication fellow with Dr. Bob Ballard’s Nautilus Live. Exploration news will be streaming live from the deep via Mission Blue http://www.thesealliance.org/ and you can also follow along on my adventures through Twitter via @MeganCook33 or Facebook at Megan Cook-Ocean Ambassador. I hope you’ll come along for the dive!
The Our World-Underwater Scholarship is open to 21 to 26-year olds with interest in the underwater world, dive certification as a Rescue Diver or above, and no completed graduate degree. Each year one recipient is selected for each of the three regions: North America, Europe and Australasia. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2013 to be considered for a scholarship starting in April 2014 (for the Australasian region, the deadline is January 31, 2014).