From “ad girl” to ocean advocate, Caitlin changed her life from a Texas born Advertising graduate to a conservationist woman of the ocean. After a few moves and a few big life changes, including Australia, New Zealand, and a dive master certification, Caitlin discovered her true purpose - to save the ocean. She then embarked on her journey of scientific diving, education, and research in the place she calls home now, South Florida.
This is where she set up her business Eco Conscious Diver - a community, learning resource centre, lifestyle brand, and podcast, illuminating our paths to Eco-Conscious Diving, overall sustainability and healthy planet for future generations. Caitlin is helping people become an ocean conservationist from anywhere in the world, even if you don’t live by the sea.
You help others begin their eco journey, but where did yours begin?
I would say I became the most aware of how important diving and living eco-consciously is for our environment while living in Key West, Florida. I was there for two years and during that short amount of time, I saw a noticeable decline in the Florida Reef ecosystem. While there, I was also drawn back to school to learn more about it and attended the Marine Environmental Technology program at Florida Keys College. I was completely shocked at everything I learned about what was happening to our ocean and it changed my life.
How has diving helped you grow into the person you are now?
I began diving when I was 12 years old, as my father wanted our family (me, my mom, my brother, and him) to go on vacations to dive together. I think that's the best thing he could've done for me! I have loved the ocean from a young age and as I've matured and learned more about it, I feel I truly appreciate it, and not just when I'm diving, but perhaps just swimming in it or being near it! I feel very grateful to have found something I'm so passionate about. Strangely, I think it's helped me to be more empathetic towards other people and more kind to myself, too. The ocean has a way of making our own personal problems feel much smaller. I truly believe in the ocean as a form of therapy - it's definitely mine!
What has been the most rewarding experience of your career with @ecoconsciousdiver ?
Honestly, beyond all of the superficial things, like getting to be my own boss, having [x] amount of students in my courses, etc... The most rewarding experience has been connecting with other like-minded people who want to join this movement and hearing how much value they've gotten from what I've created (the courses, podcasts, etc.). It feels like I'm doing something important with my everyday and helping other people/the ocean, too. What could be better?
Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges the ocean faces you've seen in the South Florida area, including the dead zones popping up in Miami?
Oh boy, how much time do you have?! Jokes, aside, scientists have called the issues that coral reefs face 'death by a thousand cuts', because it's not just one or two things that contribute to the state the reefs are in now, but a thousand small things that create this awful reality. Among the most noteworthy issues, specifically in South Florida, are overpopulation from urban development and pollution of coastal waters. Now it's easy to see why a coral reef, some of which is sitting right off shore of Miami, one of the largest cities in the U.S., is in decline. And now, on top of this, the Florida reef tract is facing a disease outbreak called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which affects over 20 species of hard corals in the Caribbean. It's all just too much for the corals to handle.
What is your best piece of advice for people just starting out on their ocean conservation journey?
Education! Seek out any educational resources you can find. It is important for you to know why you care about this, why it's important, and it's also important so that you can share this information with others. We want ocean conservation to have a ripple effect, meaning it expands and doesn't just stop with us. If you're looking for a great starting point, Eco-Conscious Diver does offer an online course, titled 'A Complete Introduction To Marine Conservation™️ '. Head here to learn more + enroll: https://www.eco-consciousdiver.com/online-learning
Which environmental issue are you most passionate about?
One of the most pressing issues for our ocean worldwide is the plastic problem. Every day, approximately 8 million pieces of plastic enter our ocean. This plastic is eaten by and also entangles marine organisms. I think this issue is also something that everyone can work on in their own lives. Making plastic-free eco-swaps in our everyday lives or helping to pick up plastic trash from beaches or parks can really add up, and it's a great entry-level way that everyone can get involved in helping our environment.
We reached out to you because you are an inspiration to many and us, but who or what inspired you to begin your environmental journey?
My biggest inspiration was actually one of my professors at Florida Keys College. His name is Dr. Alex Brylske, and he's a diving legend, and also a PhD Marine Biologist who has dedicated his life to helping our ocean. He has a wealth of knowledge and really teaches in a way that inspired me and drove me to action. If you're interested in learning from him, he does have books (available on Amazon) as well as a dive program called Eco-Pro, for professional level divers, that he lets me help out with here in Fort Lauderdale. :)
Caitlin is an inspirational example of how we can take the fate of the ocean into our own hands no matter where our beginnings lie. She is not only leading by example, but also teaching, giving the education and opportunity to dive into ocean conservation [ scuba gear in hand ;) ] to everyone.
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