AOA (Asociacion de Oceanógrafos Andalucía) joins the commitment to work to end the gender gap, and support initiatives that promote greater investment in education and development to offer greater opportunities in the scientific career for Women. For this reason, they have joined in the support of the Movement # 8M.
I am so honored to open the monthly interview series for AOA. Find in the link bellow the spanish version of the interview and continue reading for the english version.
AOA, Thank you very mucho for all the support and kindness!
Diana García Benito, oceanographer and passionate about ocean conservation.
Good morning, Oceanographers!
Today is March 8, International Women's Day. As commented in the entry yesterday, the AOA joins the commitment to work to end the gender gap, and support initiatives that promote greater investment in education and development to offer greater opportunities in the scientific career for Women. For this reason, we have joined in the support of the Movement # 8M.
In addition, we wanted to visualize the figure of women in oceanography with a real case, and opening our new section "Interviews of the month". For start this section we have had the collaboration of a woman whose life has been linked to the conservation of the ocean, and as you discover her career throughout the interview, it will not leave you indifferent.
Diana has a double degree in Marine and Environmental Sciences from the University of Cádiz, Spain. Founder of the DeepChange Project, this incredible professional is an oceanographer, submarine pilot, apnea and yoga instructor. Surely you want to know a little more about her. Come with us in this interesting interview ...
"My advice for students of Marine Sciences is that they look for their passion and work hard to achieve their goals, nothing is easy and it is an infinite learning process"
AOA: Hello Diana! Tell us about your childhood. When did you know that your life was linked to the sea?
DGB: I was born and raised in Venezuela. We lived in a small farm in the middle of the jungle, without electricity (we had kerosene and gas lamps) and no drinking water (we used a rainwater collection system), we cultivated vegetables, cereals, fruits, etc. and we had our own honey. My childhood was based on books and comics and nature. I always had a lot of curiosity about the aquatic world, I never had much contact with it, but it fascinated me. My attention was focused on reading about the sea and the underwater world (Jules Verne, National Geographic, Aquaman!), Of course the films and documentaries that had to do with the subject.
AOA: How did you become a submarine pilot?
DGB: It's a very long story! But I will try to summarize it. Arriving in Costa Rica, I volunteered in Marine Conservation projects in the Caribbean area (without contract or salary options). I survived working in black (one of my jobs was in a bilingual school as a teacher of children who needed support to study in English). By causality, I met a person whose best friend worked as a submarine pilot and was doing his last project and after that he stopped working as a pilot. He recommended that I get in touch if they needed someone else as a pilot. I wrote an email to the company, explaining my career and specialty. But the response from them was that they were grateful for my interest but the company's policy is that women are not allowed on board!
My dream of being a pilot vanished at once. Eventually I became friends with the ex-pilot and went to his company's farewell party. There I had a conversation with the manager of the submarine and after meeting me he spoke with the owner of the company and after a long and hard interview, they gave me the opportunity to enter the candidacy program, with two other candidates, where they had the priority. After 8 months, without salary, theoretical and physical tests I was the best candidate and I started the pilot training that lasted almost a year and then I worked full time as a pilot for almost 4 years, now I only do punctual work. I became the first commercial submarine pilot woman in the world (I learned about this years later!).
"My hero in life is Dr. Sylvia Earle, to whom I had the honor of meeting and working with her on projects with the submarine and being her pilot, in one of the best dives I've done with the submarine"
AOA: How is the daily life of a submarine pilot?
DGB: Buf is a very long one! We start at 6:00 with checks and preparation of the submarine, place the submarine in the water, go back to check security, passengers enter, the cabin is closed and we are completely isolated from the outside, we go to the site of the immersion, we make the investment, we return to the mother ship, passengers are lowered, more checks are made !. If a second dive is made during the day, the submarine is again prepared for it, otherwise the submarine is loaded aboard the mother ship, washed with fresh water (all its corners, screws, etc.). more checks, closing the operation, if maintenance is needed we stay there if necessary all night awake (the pilots are the mechanics of the submarine too), dinner and there is computer work to be done (data and videos of the dive) . Normally the day ended at 21:00 !. Then going to sleep (if you did not have night watch on the mother ship) and wake up early again.
AOA: Your DeepChangeProject project aims to preserve the oceans. How and when was this idea born? Tell us a little about him.
DGB: It was born since I started studying at the university because was when I realized the true health status of the oceans. How degraded it was and the need for its protection and conservation.
AOA: We know that you also practice apnea. At the end of March it will be your first competition in Bali, Indonesia. What do you think in those moments when you submerge and there is only silence?
DGB: It is very difficult to describe ... It is such a deep connection with the Ocean and your own being. You can not talk or breathe, you only hear the sounds of the sea (which are many!) And your voice in your head, you feel the colors and the change of temperature of the water, the magical encounters with the marine fauna ... It is a sensation of peace that I had never experienced before in my life.
AOA: What inspires you from the ocean?
DGB: Its immensity, its ability to balance the world, its creatures with advanced physiological systems capable of living hundreds of years, its colors, its smell ...
AOA: Is there anyone you admire in the field of oceanography?
DGB: My hero in life is Dr. Sylvia Earle, to whom I had the honor of knowing and working with her on projects with the submarine and being her pilot, in one of the best dives I've done with the submarine. Eugine Clarke is another example to follow, David Katz, Mauricio Hoyos, Enric Sala among others. But I am also very proud of several colleagues from the university who have projects and jobs that are making a spectacular change for the conservation of the ocean, Inma Vegas Delgado, Emilio Beladiez Martinez, Ana Payo Payo, Emilio Garcia.
AOA: How would you define yourself as a professional? Conservationist, activist, explorer ...
DGB: All of them, I do not believe in a single label. You do what you can with what you have around. Sometimes it is as an explorer, sometimes as an activist, sometimes as a conservationist, sometimes as a teacher and always as a student.
AOA: What advice would you give to new students of Marine Sciences?
DGB: Look for your passion and work hard to achieve your goals, nothing is easy and it is an infinite learning process. But focusing your strength on what you really like, if you like it, you will stand out and there will always be motivation.
AOA: What is your next goal?
DGB: I would like to have more conservation projects with my company and collaborate with others. Founding my apnea school, not only with apnea and marine conservation courses, but helping to solve local and global problems, teaching on how to lead a more respectful lifestyle with the planet Earth.
Thank you Diana for all your time and for sharing a bit of your experience with us!
If you want to know more about their work, we encourage you to visit their website, www.deepchangeproject.org, where you can get in touch with her. You can also find the link in our "Links" tab.
In this link you can also reach her "Gofundme" campaign where Diana can receive help through financial funds to carry out her goal of trying to break the Spanish Women's National Record of Apnea in the depth mode.
We are already preparing the next Interview of the month of April. Surely you will be surprised.