Today, scuba diving is nearly synonymous with conservation–and for good reason. Divers operate at the front lines of ocean exploration, enjoyment and protection! Within the conservation conversation, these young women are taking giant strides and leaving a big impact.

1) Carola Ramírez, Shark Advocate

Carola Ramírez, 29, is a PADI Instructor and the founder of Unidos por los Tiburones (“United for Sharks”). She shares the beauty of the ocean and its most famous predators with others, teaching them about the importance of sharks. Her work unites over 91 Costa Rican and international organizations committed to shark conservation. Moreover, she has galvanized public support to stop a large chain of 14 supermarkets from selling shark meat. Finally, she hand-delivered nearly 50,000 signatures to the Costa Rican government calling for an end to the capture and trade of endangered shark species.

2) Maisy Fuller, Conservation Educator

Maisy Fuller, 29, is the operational manager and lead scientist at Gili Shark Conservation in Gili Air, Indonesia. As a PADI Divemaster, marine scientist and educator, she has shared her passion for and knowledge about the oceans with thousands of students. She is “hugely passionate about conserving the environment and reducing the anthropogenic threats ut faces,” she says. “The only way we can do this is by educating one another and working together towards a brighter future.” Overall, she hopes everyone she interacts with will gain new knowledge about the ocean and feel inspired to make a positive environmental impact!

3) Isabella Ossiander, Sustainable Seafood Researcher

Isabella Ossiander, 22, worried about the prevalence of mislabeled stingray species and illegal manta ray meat being sold in Mexico. So, she created a genetic research project to better understand how widespread the problem is. She extracted DNA from seafood samples purchased in supermarkets and fish markets in Baja California, Mexico, and she found that 11 different species are sold in Baja, all labeled as “stingray.” One of these is endangered, and 78% of the species being sold in her samples were threatened. “It was a rough finding,” Ossiander says. “We were happy there was no manta, but we only went out once a month to these markets in Baja, so I’m sure there are numerous species being sold that we happened to miss.” She took this research beyond its original purview as her senior thesis at UCSC and is now finishing it independently, with support from Manta Trust and Mobula Conservation Project. She adds, “I believe my impact is to spread awareness and knowledge. Everyone wants to help and save a species, but they don’t know where to start.” Thus, she sees her role as providing knowledge to bridge that gap and catalyze action for our oceans. 

4) Katie Hall, Conservation Changemaker

A diver takes down measurements in a coral nursery in the Florida Keys.
Katie Hall conducting coral restoration research at the Coral Restoration Foundation’s coral nursery.

As the Director of Conservation for Silent World Dive Center in Key Largo, FL, Katie Hall, 25, is spearheading their marine conservation efforts. The dive shop is one of the world’s first PADI Eco Centers and sets the tone for much of the island chain in terms of conservation. Hall also leads the charge in inspiring visitors and creating tangible change in sustainable tourism in the Florida Keys.

5) Aliah Banchik, FINstitute Founder

Aliah Banchik, 24, is a wildlife photographer, PADI Assistant Instructor and marine scientist with a focus on elasmobranchs. She says, “I am a creative problem solver with a passion for bringing people together and sharing knowledge through visual and experiential storytelling.” With this passion and unique skillset, she founded the FINstitute at James Cook University in Australia, where she currently is pursuing her Master’s degree in Marine Biology. This JCU-affiliated, student-led shark conservation consortium supports shark conservation in Australia and Indonesia.

6) Kayla Feairheller, Building a Conservation Community

A woman diver cleans wire in a coral nursery in the Maldives.
Kayla Feairheller restores coral reefs in the Maldives. Irene Pancrazi

Kayla Feairheller, 28, is passionate about building a network of ocean change-makers by working to restore reefs, hosting cleanup events and sharing underwater stories. She works professionally in kelp forest and coral reef monitoring and restoration. “It’s an honor to be included as a young leader in conservation. I am eager to learn about the other leaders who are equally as passionate as I am about our oceans,” she says. Kayla also organizes ocean cleanups both above and below the surface and spends her free time documenting the connections of underwater ecosystems all around the world. She’s the founder of Bleu World, a software engineer with Coral Gardeners, a scientific diver with Reef Check and a freelance PADI Divemaster on Catalina Island, CA.

7) Victoria Alvarez Persico, Conservation Catalyst

Despite being the newest member of Dive Ninja Expeditions in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Victoria Alvarez Perisco, 27, is inspiring the next generation. She’s a PADI Instructor and expedition guide; moreover, she’s helping develop the Ninja Ocean Guardians mentorship program, which aims to teach Mexican young adults how to become PADI Pros and conservationists. This ocean hero also helped to design the curriculum and is working to expand the program to have more impact on local communities in Baja. Furthermore, she’s actively organizing ocean cleanups and teaching local kids about sharks. “I truly think that education holds the power to create positive change,” she says.

8) Gabriela Nathania Harywanto, Sea Life Superwoman

A researcher swims alongside a sea turtle.
Gabriela Nathania Harywanto assists with manta research by participating with the locals. Marine Megafauna Foundation

Coral Catch Superwoman Gabriela Nathania Harywanto, 24, takes part in coral restoration projects in Indonesia and shares her experiences and knowledge with local communities. She has also contributed to Marine Megafauna Foundation‘s research by collecting data, processing data, and leading local community outreach. “I have a dream to encourage more people to be aware that we live side by side with other creatures that we always need to care for,” she says. Therefore, she has become a PADI Divemaster to create more chances for others to fall in love with our underwater world.

9) Vita Puspita Sari, Green Fins Guru

There aren’t many females in Indonesia working in the dive industry full-time. Vita Puspita Sari, 28, is one of the few. As a PADI Instructor, she’s been working in Labuan Bajo. There, she joined Trash Hero to clean up the land and ocean. She’s also a Green Fins certified guide who loves to teach and show people how beautiful the underwater world is.

10) Altair Irigoyen, Keeping Patagonia Clean

Born and raised in Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina, Altair Irigoyen, 19, is a PADI Divemaster at Bucea Hoy in Argentinian Patagonia. As a dedicated member of their conservation team, she participates in beach cleanups and helps raise awareness about caring for our oceans. Moreover, she makes every dive a Dive Against Debris by collecting garbage off the seafloor. Thus, she includes this debris information and reasons why the oceans are so important to our entire planet in every dive briefing she gives.

A woman diver leads other women in coral restoration techniques.
Maisy Fuller teaches students how to clean coral nursery structures. Rhys Logan

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