The GT Scuba club recently participated in a service trip known as Dive Against Debris.
The organization helped to clean up over 600 pounds of underwater trash from the island of Bonaire, which is a special municipality of the Netherlands located in the southern Caribbean.
Although the group practices the techniques necessary for proper diving in the CRC pools, certification must be performed in open water. The divers have taken this requirement and turned it into an opportunity to give back to the local community of their dive spot.
Each spring break for the past six years now, the group plans out an international trip in collaboration with Campus Recreation, Student Life and Professional Education, in order to get their divers certified and simultaneously let them participate in a clean up project for their dive spot.
This specific project undertaken by GT Scuba was part of a larger organization called, Project AWARE, a global foundation of scuba divers whose goal is to help protect the oceans.
On each of the six trips taken so far, an average of over 40 divers participate, with 16 students becoming certified this year.
“We both want to introduce diving to as many students as possible in a very safe environment,” said Debbie Dorsey, the director of administration of Student Life. “Scuba is a lifelong activity that simulates the closest most will ever be to outer space. It’s a privilege to share the sea with so many amazing creatures and a huge responsibility to be good stewards of the marine environment as well. Being trained to scuba dive prepares you for this responsibility.”
Chaperoning the event were Dorsey and Jim Consuegra, the director of GT Scuba.
Dorsey was the Aquatics Director of the CRC for 16 years before her assumed her current role on campus, and Consuegra is a Master scuba instructor.
“Conducting this service project affords the opportunity to teach sustainability to all on the trip. These resources will only be around as long as we take care of them, so it’s important to protect the marine life and marine environment,” Dorsey said.
“It has become a very popular opportunity to experience an international opportunity for our students,” Consuegra said. “Past years have included trips to Mexico three times, the Bahamas once, and Netherlands Antilles [(Bonaire)] twice. This is the first time that we have included an environmental event but intend to continue it in future years.”
Students who are registered divers can participate in any GT Scuba event; interested students who are not yet certified must first enroll in the entry-level course, which can be accessed at gtscuba.gatech.edu.
On this trip, the divers were tasked with gathering 20 pounds of garbage each over the course of five hours.
“I have been diving for nine years now, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to give back,” said Kyle Lucy, fourth-year ME and one of this year’s participants. “I would definitely be interested in doing another one of these dives on a future trip.”
Although having fun is certainly part of the spring break experience, Consuegra believes that these divers can make a difference in the world’s oceans.
“There are between 2.7 and 3.5 million active scuba divers in the U.S. and as many as 6 million … worldwide,” Consuegra said. “If we could get 6 million divers to each collect 20 pounds of garbage around the world, then we could remove over 120 million pounds in half a day. Imagine if we could get each diver to sign up for two events such as ours each year … just imagine.”
“A collaborative partnership with Project AWARE gives us a great opportunity to educate our students and participants in the importance of divers’ getting involved in the protection of our water planet,” Consuegra said.
GT Scuba will work with Project AWARE in future dives.