Making Connections in My Own Backyard: meeting some professionals of the underwater world making a difference in Northern California

I came home to the Bay Area for a week after the Kelp Forest Monitoring Cruise in Channel Islands National Park, to prepare for what I thought would be my next adventure in Lake Mead National Recreation Area (more on that later). During my week at home, I was fortunate enough to connect with Sara Shoemaker Lind, the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society (OWUSS) 1997 Rolex Scholar, and Abi Smigel Mullens, OWUSS 2001 Scuba Diving magazine Intern, who are both underwater photographers based in San Francisco. Sara and I couldn’t find a time to connect in person, but we had a great phone conversation during which I received a lot of valuable career advice. She also put me in touch with another former OWUSS Rolex Scholar, Anya Watson, who is currently based in Washington DC, where I would finish my internship. I was able to meet Abi up in San Francisco and speak with her about pursuing a career in underwater photography, and how she balances her field schedule and local photography business. Thank you so much to both Sara and Abi—it is so inspiring to meet other female photographers who are so successful and happy after going through the Our World-Underwater programs.

If you are interested in seeing the work of these two talented women, check out their websites at and

I was also able to go to Monterey and take a tour of Light & Motion (an underwater camera housing company) with CEO, Daniel Emerson. Their facility is right on the water in downtown Monterey on Cannery Row (in an old cannery, of course). As I entered, I examined the examples of their housings from throughout the history of the company (which was actually co-founded by OWUSS 1987 Rolex Scholar Michael Topolovac). I found the entire staff to be extremely friendly and welcoming, and I was really impressed by the level of in-house innovation and productivity. Daniel gave me a tour around the building and showed me their range of products, which not only includes their awesome video camera housings but a wide array of underwater and bicycle lights. The new designs he showed me make me so excited for the day when I will invest in my own underwater setup. Their team of engineers is constantly striving to make smaller, more powerful, efficient, and intuitive products. Every step of the process, from design, to engineering models, to fabrication, to packaging, happens at their base in Monterey. As a marine conservation student, I had never seen processes like plastic injection molding and the printing of 3D models before, so all the technical aspects were really interesting to me. I was especially impressed by all the environmental considerations taken in the production of their products. Recycling, minimizing chemical and plastic use, and energy efficient lighting were just a few of the many clear indicators I saw of their environmental commitment. They have actually won several awards for their green business practices (you can find more info on that and their products at

It was a fascinating morning, and I can’t thank everyone at Light and Motion enough for being so friendly and generous with their time!

It is always nice to get to know people in your own backyard who have similar backgrounds and interests—this week was a great introduction to the incredible people and companies that call northern California home. This is definitely one of the most unique and wonderful aspects about the OWUSS programs—going through a scholarship or internship provides a lifelong web of people and resources that can guide you on your way to success in the underwater fields (topside too, for that matter!). In fact, I received a call later in the week from Woods Hole’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory (, which as you may recall collaborates with NPS Submerged Resources Center for 3D filming of resources in the park system. After I met them working with Brett Seymour in Hawaii, they needed some extra help on a project and called to see if I could come out to Massachusetts ASAP. What an unexpected curve ball! After discussions with my coordinators at NPS, we all decided that working at Woods Hole was an opportunity not to be missed, especially at this lab where my passions of imaging and science are one in the same. In the end I didn’t make it to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, but I still ended up going to Washington DC to wrap up my internship and see the role of NPS on the national level, so be on the lookout for that last blog, coming soon!


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