Let’s say you love the ocean and one day, whatever you do, you know you’re going to work underwater. But how? The career path to underwater employment is murky, a little like the depths of the ocean. Since 1974, the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society has helped young people gain experience in the field with a year’s worth of experiences, expeditions and workshops.
This year, the North American scholar Yann Herrera Fuchs visited the Vancouver Aquarium as part of his tour of duty. Born in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Herrera Fuchs has spent time in Seattle, Vancouver, Baja California and Costa Rica working for environmental non-profits and taking part in diving field work. While at the Aquarium, Ocean Wise sat down with Yann to find out more about what drives his love of the ocean and his pursuit of underwater work.
How did you become fascinated with the ocean?
Sometimes it’s hard to recall one’s first connection to the ocean, especially when you’ve spent your entire life jumping in and out of the water fearlessly. But fascination? I remember being awe-struck when I was taking my first oceanography class at the University of British Columbia, and learned that the ocean provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe. That’s pretty amazing.
What did you study at the University of British Columbia?
I studied Environmental Science with a concentration in oceanography and water resources.
What part has diving played in your love of the ocean?
Diving was the first time I was able to truly observe what was beneath the surface. My first dive was next to a port in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, and despite this the reef we dove in was blasting with life and colour. It’s like when you’re a kid and you just dream of going to outer space to discover alien-like planets. Well, you just need to stick your head underwater. Also, there is nothing like the feeling of total suspension and self-awareness when you’re in the water.
What differences do you see between your home country of Mexico and Canada?
I think the big picture is the same for both countries. And I even dare to say that at a local scale the challenges might even be very similar. However, I do feel that Mexico has a greater pressure coming from massive tourism development than Canada and the toll that reefs are paying through global warming is much more evident.
What are you most looking forward to about your scholarship with Our World Underwater?
I cannot wait to continue developing myself as an avid and capable diver and discover ways that I can use this as a tool to support Mexico’s effort to protect it’s aquatic environments.
You can follow Yann’s journey on the Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar blog at https://owussnorthamerica.org/