In Fall 2016, I had the privilege of traveling down under and spending four wonderful months in Townsville, Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world, is located closely off of the coast of Townsville in Northern Queensland. Thanks to Paul Gilbert and Mrs. Patricia Romeo-Gilbert I was awarded a travel enrichment grant that allowed me to take advantage of this incredible geographic location. During my semester abroad I was able to gain my Open Water PADI Scuba certification, which allowed me to discover the Great Barrier Reef and learn more about it up close.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world. It is home to a plethora of corals, plants, and organisms that contribute to the unique biodiversity of Australia. Although it is not well known to most people, coral reefs hold the cures to some of our most common and serious medical ailments as well as contribute significantly to the medicinal properties of a variety of therapies and antibiotics. However, in recent years, The Great Barrier Reef has faced many problems in global climate change affecting the degradation of the reef.
Being a Biology major, with interest in pursuing medicine in my future, and having past field experience from high school on a marine biology field trip in Key Largo. I have taken an interest in coral reefs and marine conservation. This interest led me to write a grant to receive funding so that I could become scuba certified in hopes to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef and the chemical relations of the Coral Reef and its recent bleaching event.
The opportunity I received was truly wonderful and I am so grateful to have been able to do so. After training in a pool to learn the basic skills, I spent the weekend on Pelorus Island obtaining my scuba certification. We left early on Saturday morning driving north to meet our boat for the weekend. We set out to the island to set up our camp for the night. Throughout the day on Saturday we completed three dives to test our previously learned skills, and spent that night under the stars in our sleeping bags and cots on the island. Sunday morning included one last test before we became fully certified at which point we spent the rest of the morning diving on our own exploring two different dive sites around the island.
Through the process of getting scuba certified I met a handful of very helpful individuals and even made some new friends along the way. After returning from my scuba expedition, I was able to get into contact with some very knowledgeable peers and professors in the area of study to carry out the rest of my research.
From these encounters, I was able to gather that the outlook seems likely that scientists will uncover even more benefits from coral reefs and tropical environments if they can be protected and maintained. Therefore, being able to familiarize myself with these plants and organisms through library and field research as well as interaction on the recreational level was an incredible opportunity.