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By Joana Reis, staff writer and marine biologist

I have always been fascinated by our blue planet. I remember having the desire to be a marine biologist from a young age. I was lucky enough to live close to the ocean and spend all my summers in the water. All I wanted was to spend my life in the sea. But then something happened. As I grew up, I started understanding how sick our oceans are and how badly they need our help. This made me want to become a marine biologist even more.

My mission is to save our oceans. But just loving them is not enough to help, so I want to do everything I can to learn and deliver my best efforts. 

Although books, classes, and exams are essential to teach us what the oceans need from us, I believe that there’s more that can be done to prepare us, the future marine biologists, for this work. I think I can speak for all of us.

I guess it’s like getting your driving license – it’s not enough to learn to drive a car in a classroom; it all comes together when holding the steering wheel.

The same is true for marine biologists. To help the ocean, we need to get in there, be familiar with it, to understand it firsthand. Thus, I think that becoming a certified diver is one of the keys to getting us closer to saving the oceans.

The fact that the not-for-profit Reefs For Oceans provides diving courses is outstanding. We students don’t need to worry about how we will pay for our courses, or if our parents/caregivers can sponsor us. Reefs For Oceans and Imagination Reef give us all the support we need, because they consider this an essential thing to learn. How else can we help marine life to thrive, if we can’t dive and see it with our own eyes? If we combine what we learn in the classroom with underwater practice, we will become better scientists.

We need to dive, and we need to go underwater countless times to understand what the ocean is asking of us. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all marine biologists have to scuba dive to be able to help. But it’s just impossible not to fall deeply in love with the ocean when you’re underwater. It’s the bond we create with it, and it is that bond that gives marine biologists the motivation we need to do our best job. To save the oceans.

Imagination Reef will have roughly 10 acres of underwater classroom, ready to enrich our knowledge. How exciting is that? I can’t wait to be there, to take my diving certification courses and to learn everything I need to know about helping corals grow and thrive. Being able to get close to corals in their in situ environment and learn how to apply the assisted evolution technique gives me a hopeful view of the future. This will be a massive reef project for which I have the highest expectations. There’s an incredible mission at work here.

I believe that after doing a Reefs For Oceans summer camp at Key Biscayne, I’ll be able to dive like a pro, know how to make our corals more resistant to the consequences of global warming, and help the oceans to become healthy again. More importantly, I’ll be able to take that knowledge with me and use it anywhere in the world. After I leave summer camp, my goal is to teach others from areas where corals are dying. If we all do the same, we have the chance to repopulate corals all over the planet a whole lot faster. We need to hurry.

So, a big thank you and kudos to the Imagination Reef Project and Reefs For Oceans. Thank you for opening a gate to the ocean for all marine biologists, and for providing us with some of the tools we need to help protect the oceans and save our reefs.

We will do our job and make you proud.