By Morgan Murphy-Cannella, Dive into Science Program Manager
This month, two cohorts of foster youth from Antelope Valley and Los Angeles participated in the Dive into Science Open Water Scuba certification course at Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island.
The Dive into Science (DIS) program supports youth and young adults from underrepresented or Tribal communities to experience the ocean in a way that will support their long term educational or career goals. The program offers scuba and scientific diving certification courses, experiential ocean stewardship training, and marine science educational opportunities.
During the two weeks on Catalina Island, students learned about scuba theory, practiced and mastered scuba skills, learned about kelp forest environments and dove in a Marine Protected Area (MPA). In addition to scuba diving, students also had lessons on kelp forest indicator species, career opportunities in marine science/scuba diving and team building exercises. Students participated in a PADI Open Water course taught by In2Deep dive shop, which consisted of 5 days of scuba practice. Reef Check is grateful to receive funding for the program through California State Park Outdoor Equity Grants Program (OEP), which aims to improve the health and wellness of Californians through new educational and recreational activities, service learning, career pathways, and leadership opportunities that strengthen a connection to the natural world.
The dive class was primarily focused in Doctor’s Cove which is situated in the Arrow Point to Lion Head Point State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). This is a no-take of invertebrates MPA and students were able to witness how an MPA can protect habitat and species diversity. The completion of this Open Water certification provided students a glimpse into the underwater world, as well as a stepping stone to continue their progression towards scientific diving. Training new ocean stewards is essential for safeguarding the health of our oceans and ensuring a sustainable future for both the environment and human society.
The completion of this training concludes the DIS program courses for the 2023 calendar year but we are looking forward to starting more cohorts with Northern California Tribal communities and Southern California foster youth communities in 2024!
Being in Catalina and having the opportunity to dive is something I’ll forever be grateful for. I was able to dance with the kelp, kiss fish, live the beautiful island life, face my apprehension to the ocean and most importantly recreate with folks who come from the same community that I do. We normally aren’t here doing this sport. After this experience I am a more confident diver and am incredibly excited to keep coloring the ocean!
As someone who thought they would stay in the desert environment all their life, going to Catalina was a completely new and amazing experience I thought I would never get to go on. I became mentally and physically stronger from the experience of gearing up and being under the water. I had a fear of dark water before this experience because I didn’t know what was hiding there, and now I know that life under the water is actually very calm and serene so my fears are gone. Scuba diving is not something I have ever heard another person from my community partaking in, so it was amazing that I and the new friends I made throughout the experience were able to get trained in this particular skill. I hope to continue on to the next phases with my cohort because it will only get more exciting from here!