It has been revealed on social media that Neha Acharya-Patel has been selected as the North American Rolex Our World-Underwater Society scholar.
Acharya-Patel (24) is from Waterloo, Ontario in Canada. She spent much of her summers exploring the lakes and rivers that make up the Great Canadian Shield. Comfortable in the water from a young age, and ever curious about her surroundings, Neha’s interest in aquatic environments naturally extended to the sea.
She learned to dive in high school and conducted her first open water dives in a snowy little 'dive park'. Apparently this was akin to a pond complete with a collection of sunken refrigerators and toilets. She then had a five year gap where she didn't dive.
University of British Columbia
Acharya-Patel studied Biology with a Marine specialisation at the University of British Columbia. BC waters have some of the most diverse temperate ecosystems in the world. It is top drawer cold water diving!
Whilst at university she completed her Scientific Diver training, received her CAUS certification, and subsequently participated in a marine ecology course at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center on Vancouver Island.
It was during her time at this station that she examined elasmobranch cardiorespiratory regulation. This study inspired her interest in animal and diving physiology, and resulted in her first academic publication.
Following her undergraduate degree, Neha worked as a diver and interpreter in a small catch and release aquarium, where she realised the value of effective science communication, something she hopes to hone during her scholarship year.
Cichlid fish monitoring
Neha is a PADI Divemaster. This helped her when she worked as a research assistant and divemaster at a research center in Malawi. She was diving one of the great African lakes to monitor the biodiversity of the evolutionarily fascinating cichlid fish. This enabled her to gain technical field and project management skills, and she experienced first hand the challenges of running a research programme in a developing country with very different cultural expectations. As a second-generation immigrant and avid traveller she believes that true conservation efforts can be made only when certain cultural nuances are understood and acknowledged.
We are pleased to have Neha as our first Rolex Scholar from Canada. Robin MacFadden Parish, OWUSS
Following her work in Africa, Neha worked as a research diver and technician with the Hakai Research Institute studying rates of change in temperate coastal ecosystems in the context of an anthropomorphically influenced world. This has allowed her to further nurture her passion for the marine world, and cultivate her diving skills.
First Canadian Scholar
Becoming this year’s North American Rolex Scholar is a dream come true for Neha. As an aspiring scientist she hopes the scholarship will allow her to explore different research avenues, diving technology, and prioritize communication with the general population in order to inspire change from a wider diversity of people. She aims to take away a well-informed picture of the environmental challenges being faced globally and use this information to make a meaningful contribution to marine conservation.
"The Selection Panel feels confident that Neha is highly qualified to excel in her role representing the Scholarship Society and that she has the passion, vision, competence, and spirit to be a positive influence on the future of the underwater world. We are pleased to have Neha as our first Rolex Scholar from Canada."
Her scholarship year will begin this Spring.