Category Archives: News


CLIMATE CHANGE: Anyone Can Change Everything
Dr. Joe MacInnis
Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®
42nd Annual Awards Program
New York Yacht Club
April 16, 2016


IT’S AN HONOUR to be in your company. Each one of you from Rolex Scholar to intern, from
supporter to sponsor, confirm what can be done when good people do small things with great love.

A month ago, Jim Corry and Lionel Schürch of Rolex SA in Geneva asked me to talk to you for ten minutes about climate change. My heart sank. How do you describe the planet’s most pressing environmental problem—a biological crime scene—and our response to it—in 600 seconds? Faced with the possibility of certain defeat on this stage, I did what any ancient diver would do. I sat down and opened a bottle of black rum.

As the days passed and my anxiety increased, I kept thinking of the words from the Rolex Spirit of Enterprise mission statement: “Anyone can change everything.” An electric call to action. “Anyone can change everything.” But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to use the words in my speech.

Two weeks ago, I’m in a service station filling my Toyota Prius. I put my credit card into the slot and look at all the cars and trucks. Black Cadillac. Ford Fusion. Big Hummer. An 18-wheeler sucking up diesel fuel. This is a front-line of climate change. This is where energy-intense carbon molecules really hit the road.

I ease the nozzle into my gas tank. During my lifetime, I’ve done this more than a thousand times. When you factor in all the ships, trains, and planes I’ve taken, I’m a poster boy for global warming. On the plus side, I’m a nation builder. My fossil fuel payments support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As the gas runs into the tank, my mind drifts to New York, this stage, and the speech I can’t write. I think of rising sea levels in Manhattan. There will be water taxis on Wall Street. Wind surfing on Park Avenue. At the New York City Yacht Club, you’ll go to the front door, walk out on a pier, and hail a yellow gondola.

I look at the cash window on the gas pump: $10 . . . $12 . . . $15. I’m more than a poster boy for climate change, I’m a carbon addict. Every day, in one form or another, I mainline diesel fuel, jet fuel, natural gas, and plastics. For years, I thought ExxonMobil and Volkswagen were ethical companies. I know I need help.

I pick up my receipt, slide behind the wheel, and drive off. The good news is that I’m in rehab. I have weekly sessions with my fellow addicts. We tell stories of binging on tail-pipe emissions at the Indy 500. People we know buying mega-stretch Hummers with a helicopter pad. But we exchange encouraging information. How 150 nations came together in Paris to sign a climate change agreement. How cities from New York to San Francisco to Toronto are shifting to green energy. How inspiring institutions and individuals including World Wild Life, Greenpeace, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Justin Gillis are showing us what we can do.

My rehab assignment this week is to produce a short guide about climate change, and how we can adapt to it. With Rolex’s assistance, we have printed copies for each of you. Please read it. Absorb it. Pass it along. Take action. And remember . . . When it comes to minimizing the effects of climate change…with leadership and passion, “anyone can change everything.” Thank you, Jim and Lionel. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you. Justin Gillis Article


2016 North American summer internships Announcement

Founded in 1975, OWUSS has sponsored 94 experience-based Rolex scholarships and 93 internships to young people who want to pursue careers in fields such as marine biology, underwater research, and conservation. The society offers summer internships in North America for 1-3 month periods to college undergraduates and recent graduates. Internship recipients receive an educational grant to help fund travel to/from internship site, room and board, and a stipend to cover living expenses. The sponsor organizations that host the internships are leaders in their fields.

George Wozencraft, Vice President Internships, says “This year’s selection process was competitive, with many qualified applicants. In addition to those selected for the 2016 internships, I want to commend the finalists for each internship. We thank the members of our internship selection committee for their contribution. Additionally, we appreciate our internship sponsors and coordinators for the tremendous support that they provide to our volunteer organization.”

Here are the 2016 internships and recipients:

Dr. Lee H. Somers American Academy of Underwater Science (AAUS) Scientific Research Diving Internship

Allie D. Sifrit, University of Hawaii at Manoa

This internship provides experience for a young person interested in a future in science, diving for research, or scientific diving-related fields. Intern applicants can be students from colleges and universities with an interest in science and diving. The program runs from mid-May through August and will include training at one of several AAUS organizational member sites. This training will give the intern the necessary dive qualifications to allow participation on research projects requiring scientific diving and introduce the intern to careers that utilize scientific diving as a tool. Once trained as an AAUS recognized diver-in-training, interns will participate in underwater fieldwork at one or more locations and research facilities associated with AAUS.

This internship is named in memory of Dr. Lee H. Somers, who was AAUS’ first President and served as a long time officer and board member of OWUSS.

Bonnier Dive Group Publishing Internship

Melissa J. Smith, University of Florida

Based in Winter Park, Florida, the recipient of this internship will gain valuable real world experience in magazine publishing. Bonnier Corporation is one of the largest consumer- publishing groups in America, with nearly 50 special-interest magazines and related multimedia projects and events. The Bonnier Dive Group includes “Sport Diver,” “Scuba Diving,” and “Undersea Journal.” The intern will have the opportunity to contribute to these and other Bonnier Corporation publications.

National Park Service Research Internship

Garrett J. Fundakowski, Shippensburg University

The National Park Service Research Internship provides a unique opportunity to work with leading archaeologists, underwater photographers, and scientists in the National Park Service and other agencies in the American state and federal government. Specific work projects will be determined based upon the interests of the intern as well as the needs of associated projects. The internship is based in Boulder, Colorado, but it is expected that the intern will travel to projects within the continental United States and potentially overseas as part of this internship. Experiences could involve a specific project in a single park or a larger project in multiple parks.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Marine Conservation Internship

Patrick M. Peck, University of Richmond

Offered in Key Largo, Florida, the Marine Conservation Internship provides an opportunity to experience working at a nonprofit environmental organization. REEF is a grassroots, non-profit organization of recreational divers dedicated to protecting and preserving the underwater environment. Outside duties include environmental presentations to local and visiting schools, university, dive, and public groups; working with other local marine conservation entities; and opportunities for conducting marine life surveys during local dives. Office duties include handling memberships, incoming marine life survey data, answering e-mail, and dealing with the public.

For more information about the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, please visit our website:

For the official press release: 2016_OWUSS_Internship_Press_Release_March_2016.


Presentation by Dr. Joe MacInnis at the OWUSS 41st Awards Program

“Too Much of a Good Thing…Is Wonderful” by Dr. Joe MacInnis at the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® 41st Annual Awards Program on April 18, 2015


Three years ago I was the expedition journalist and safety physician on the James Cameron- National Geographic Deepsea Challenge project. Sponsored by National Geographic and Rolex, our objective was to dive Jim’s radical new research sub deeper and deeper until we had the team and technical confidence to make a seven-mile, science dive into the Marianna Trench.

It was the toughest project of my entire professional career. We had a new and untested sub. We had a new and untested team. The western Pacific is a place of hurricane winds and ship- breaking waves. We had injuries from heaving decks, slippery stairwells, and cables under tension. After our second test dive, two of our teammates were killed in a helicopter crash.

But after sixty days at sea, sixty days of overcoming technical failures and setbacks, Jim climbed into his new sub and made the first solo science dive into the deepest, darkest place on the planet. He spent three hours on the seafloor. He travelled two miles across a flat, featureless plain gathering scientific samples, making observations, and taking majestic 3D images.


We succeeded because Jim Cameron and his team had exceptional personal and professional leadership. Our leadership principles included deep empathy, eloquence, and endurance. A deep empathy for the team, the task, the technology, and the ocean. A profound eloquence in our words and actions. A deep endurance in our response to setbacks and failures.

Forty-three years ago, on a ship under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the concept for our Rolex scholarship was born. We had a new and untested idea. We had a new and untested team. As time passed, especially during the early years, we overcame setbacks and failures. Today, we have 89 interns and 91 scholars. And a splendid team of volunteers, supporters, partners, and sponsors.

We’re successful because our chairman, president and team have strong personal and professional leadership. Our leadership principles include empathy, eloquence, and endurance.
A deep empathy among our scholars, interns, and partners and what they learn from each other.
A profound eloquence in the words and images we use to tell our stories.

A sustained endurance in overcoming our setbacks and challenges.

Thank you Jim, Stewart, Mike, and everyone in this room. Scholars and interns. Officers and directors. Partners and corporate sponsors. You confirm what can be done when good people are generous with their time, talent, and tenacity. You have made it possible for young men and women to explore the rainbow edge of knowledge and imagination—and share the joy of their discoveries.

As you prepare for the coming decades, remember the immortal words of the great scholarship society philosopher Jim Corry who—paraphrasing his occasional muse Mae West—said:
“Too much of a good thing . . is wonderful.”


For the pdf and full article: ROLEX SPEECH 2015


Experiential Learning Is Key to Understanding Our Oceans


Stewart Wicht, President and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A., Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society’s Rolex Scholar Ana Sofía Guerra and Michael Emmerman, President, Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® (Photo Credit: Rolex/Scott Spitzer)

Woodridge, Ill. (May 20, 2014) – For four decades, unlocking the mysteries of the oceans – by providing experience-based scholarships – has been the central mission of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®. Since 1974, founding partner Rolex Watch U.S.A. has been the Society’s partner in education, with the Society annually selecting three Rolex Scholars – one each from North America, Europe and Australasia – to receive financial and logistical support to further their understanding of the career possibilities relating to researching the depths of the sea. Each young scholar, working closely with leaders in the marine-related fields, spends a year immersed in hands-on activity that furthers their underwater explorations. Specialists host diving-related experiences that expose the Rolex Scholars of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® to the related areas of marine biology, oceanography, medicine, physiology, research, photography and business. The year-long experience leads to a better stewardship of our seas. The introductions of the 2014 Rolex Scholars coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® and were made during a gala evening at the New York Yacht Club’s Manhattan club house. The organization boasts 88 scholars (to date), along with interns and volunteers from across the globe, all dedicated to promoting “educational activities associated with the underwater world.” The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society’s Rolex Scholars for 2014:

2014 North American Rolex Scholar – Ana Sofía Guerra (Aventura, Fla.) is a 2013 graduate of Stanford University with a BS in Biology focused on ecology and evolution. While taking classes at Stanford’s marine lab, Hopkins Marine Station, she obtained her Advanced, Rescue and AAUS Scientific Diver Certifications while also exploring California’s kelp forests. Among other things, she has studied endangered shore birds, worked as a volunteer to eradicate a threat to the reef of the Palmyra Atoll, and has studied small scale fisheries. According to Guerra, the support of the Rolex Scholarship Program of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® will allow her to explore new areas in marine science, and develop skills in communication and photography to eventually influence marine conservation practices.


Stewart Wicht, President and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A. and Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society’s Rolex Scholar Elena Salim Haubold (Photo Credit: Rolex/Scott Spitzer)

2014 European Rolex Scholar – Of German heritage, Venezuelan-born Elena Salim Haubold (Munich, Germany) studied biology and was certified as a scuba diver at Simon Bolivar University. She discovered her passion for travel while studying animal physiology and social behavior as an exchange student in Granada, Spain, and she worked with many species of sharks at the Bimini Biological Field Station to research the effects of coastal development on the spatial ecology of juvenile Lemon Sharks. These experiences inspired her to pursue an MBA in Tourism from the European University in Munich. With her theoretical and practical knowledge, her focus is the ecotourism industry. Haubold says that the Rolex Scholarship Program of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® will give her the appropriate platform from which to implement ideas that will guarantee long-term conservation of the marine ecosystem.


Stewart Wicht, President and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A., Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society’s Rolex Scholar Courtney Anne Rayes and Michael Emmerman, President, Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®  (Photo Credit: Rolex/Scott Spitzer)

2014 Australasian Rolex Scholar – From a youth spent enjoying watersports with her family, Courtney Anne Rayes (Auckland, New Zealand) developed a passion for the marine environment. She completed a Diploma of marine studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga, work focused on marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments, and went on to qualify as a PADI open water instructor which gave her additional insight into the underwater world. After undertaking a Masters in biological science at the University of Waikato, she recently submitted her thesis: an interdisciplinary study of marine wood borers’ history and genetic diversity in New Zealand. “I feel extremely privileged to be a part of such an amazing opportunity,” said Rayes of the Rolex Scholarship Program of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®. “I intend to experience and learn from a wide array of underwater projects and marine experts – a once in a lifetime opportunity. The exposure to numerous underwater fields will guide me in making significant contributions to the marine environment and allow me to focus my future path. Furthermore, the scholarship gives me the ability to travel to many places in the world, which would otherwise remain a dream.” Richard Somerset (Lancaster, U.K.), the 2002 European Rolex Scholar, explained what the 2014 scholars may expect from the coming year. “It utterly changed my direction in life. Meeting and working with extraordinary people in the diving industry gave me a deeper understanding of the issues that we face, and the way they can be addressed. More than this though, the scholarship gave me the confidence and self-belief to develop a career in the diving industry, and to grow into the person I am today – my job, beliefs and my family life have been forged by the experience of the Rolex Scholarship.” The Rolex Scholarship Program of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® is open to applicants who are between the ages of 21 and 26 at the time of the 31 December application deadline. Each must have a valid citizenship for the relevant Rolex Scholarship (North America, Europe, and Australasia); not have earned a graduate degree by April 1st of the scholarship year; not yet chosen a clearly defined career path; be of high academic standing; fluent in English; and, be certified as a Rescue Diver or equivalent with a minimum of 25 dives logged in the past two years. The application is available online beginning 1 October for the following year.



Lee H. Somers, Ph.D. Director Emeritus, Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®

Lee H. Somers, Ph.D. Director Emeritus, Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®

Lee H. Somers, Ph.D. Director Emeritus, Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®Dr. Lee H. Somers passed away quietly on New Year’s Day 2015 in Flagstaff, AZ. Lee was born on February 18, 1938, in Champaign County, IL, and raised on a farm there. He discovered his love of water and knack for teaching in Boy Scouts, becoming an Eagle Scout. After working as a commercial hard-hat diver in Florida, Lee earned a Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Michigan. He was on the University of Michigan faculty for 30 years, teaching oceanography, scuba diving, and diving technology, while serving as the university’s Diving Safety Officer. He also established a hyperbaric chamber for treatment and research at the University of Michigan. Lee was deeply involved in improving diving safety for recreational divers, public safety search and rescue personnel, and commercial divers. To this end, working with the NOAA-National Sea Grant Program, he gave countless presentations and field demonstrations across the country, and wrote dozens of books, papers, and leaflets. In 1972 Lee wrote the Research Diver’s Manual, used worldwide. He was a major contributor to the NOAA Diving Manual, the research text for all working divers and diving scientists. Lee was a founding member of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), a founder and first president of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, and a founding director and Director Emeritus of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®, which provides experiential year-long Rolex scholarships worldwide to graduates studying ocean sciences and arts. Lee received many prestigious national awards, most recently the 2013 DEMA Reaching Out Award for Education. Lee helped shape the way the world dives, and he was an inspiration and mentor to many. Lee retired to Flagstaff, AZ, with his wife, Martha, who survives him.