2019 North American Rolex Scholar Announced

February 16, 2019

Dear OWUSS Friends,

It is my privilege and great pleasure to announce that Ms. Neha Acharya-Patel, of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada has been selected to be the 2019 North American Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society. Interviews were conducted by the Selection Panel in Chicago on February 10th.

The Selection Panel feels confident that Neha is highly qualified to excel in her role representing the Scholarship Society and that she has the passion, vision, competence, and spirit to be a positive influence on the future of the underwater world. We are pleased to have Neha as our first Rolex Scholar from Canada.

Neha earned a BS in Biology with a Marine Specialization from the University of British Columbia. She is not only a qualified Scientific Diver with experience working at a marine lab and an aquarium, but she served as a Divemaster and ran a research program in Malawi. She is currently a scientific diver and technician at the Hakai Research Institute on the central coast of British Columbia and is especially interested in diving physiology in both humans and animals.

I am sure you will all wish to join me in welcoming Neha to the Scholarship Society family and wish her success in her upcoming year of challenge, exploration, and learning. She can be reached at nehaacharya.patel@gmail.com. Please see Neha’s bio and photo, below.

With kindest regards,

Robin MacFadden Parish
VP – North American Operations
Class of 2019
1976 Rolex Scholar

______________

Neha Acharya-Patel Named 2019 North American Rolex Scholar

Neha Acharya-Patel      

Growing up in Waterloo, Ontario, Neha, now 24, spent much of her summers exploring the lakes and rivers that make up the Great Canadian Shield. Comfortable in the water from a young age, and ever curious about her surroundings, Neha’s interest in aquatic environments naturally extended to the sea. In high school she first took the plunge, and learnt to dive in a snowy little “dive park” – essentially a pond with a collection of sunken refrigerators and toilets.

She did not dive again until 5 years later when she moved to the west coast to attend the University of British Columbia to study Biology with a Marine specialization. There, she was exposed to one of the most diverse temperate ecosystems in the world, and there was no going back. Through university she completed her Scientific Diver training, receiving her CAUS certification, and subsequently participated in a marine ecology course at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center on Vancouver Island. At this station she also did a study examining elasmobranch cardiorespiratory regulation, which inspired her interest in animal and diving physiology, and resulted in her first academic publication. Following her undergraduate degree, Neha worked as a diver and interpreter in a small catch and release aquarium, where she realised the value of effective science communication, something she hopes to hone this upcoming year.

Neha also completed her PADI divemaster training, which facilitated her next job as a research assistant and divemaster at a research center in Malawi, diving in one of the great African lakes, and monitoring the biodiversity of the evolutionarily fascinating cichlid fish. Through this, she gained technical field and project management skills, and experienced first hand the challenges of running a research program in a developing country with very different cultural expectations. As a second-generation immigrant and avid traveller she believes that true conservation efforts can be made only when certain cultural nuances are understood and acknowledged.

Following her work in Africa, she began working as a research diver and technician with the Hakai Research Institute studying rates of change in temperate coastal ecosystems in the context of an anthropomorphically influenced world. Working there has allowed her to further nurture her passion for the marine world, and cultivate her diving skills.

Becoming this year’s North American Rolex Scholar is a dream come true for Neha.  As an aspiring scientist she hopes the scholarship will allow her to explore different research avenues, diving technology, and prioritize communication with the general population in order to inspire change from a wider diversity of people. She aims to take away a well-informed picture of the environmental challenges being faced globally and use this information to make a meaningful contribution to marine conservation.

Neha can be reached at nehaacharya.patel@gmail.com

 

About Gene Muchanski

Executive Director at Dive Industry Association. Board Member at Dive Industry Foundation. Marketing Consultant to the Diving Industry. I have been a certified Scuba Diver since I was 15 years old and have been a passionate waterman for as long as I can remember.
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