Students dive into adventure with underwater studies in Bonaire

Students holding a  51国产视频flag underwater in Bonaire

In perhaps 51国产视频University鈥檚 most unique Faculty-Student Academic Travel (FSAT) excursion鈥 hailed by co-leader Pete Stadtmueller as 鈥渙ne of a kind鈥濃12 students traveled to Bonaire, an island in the Caribbean off the Venezuelan coast, where they earned scuba diving certifications and studied Underwater Archaeology and Underwater Photography/Videography.

The setting was pristine, the planning precise, the camaraderie unparalleled, all of which coalesced to spark a universal thumbs up. So successful was that January 2024 trip that another is planned for the coming academic year: Jan. 4 to 11, 2025.

The trip was one that Stadtmueller, Director of Graphic Design and a certified divemaster who leads recreational dives professionally, had lobbied for more than once. When he learned that Dr. Audrey Forbes-Cardinali, Assistant Professor of Biology, was also a seasoned diver and had even dove at Bonaire, he knew he had the makings of a winning team.

Both were passionate about introducing students to the underwater world where they could swim with marine life like dolphins, sea horses, turtles, and eels and, not to mention, admire the beautiful formations of caverns and reefs. They were also adamant that safety protocols be meticulous.

So, in partnership with Divers World of Erie, Stadtmueller and Forbes-Cardinali worked with students during the Fall 2 Mini to teach basic diving skills, conduct research, and study鈥攅verything from mapping shipwrecks to understanding the biology of coral reefs.

Upon arriving in Bonaire, the students completed four dives in the first two days to earn their basic open water certification.

鈥淭hey can take their certification cards anywhere in the world and dive now,鈥 said Stadtmueller.

Although they were free to pursue other activities, they opted to maximize diving opportunities, including night dives. Some even earned advanced certifications, and all came away having found recreation for life. In fact, two seniors recently took a graduation trip to Mexico to dive.

Forbes-Cardinali said the students, mostly juniors and seniors, came from different disciplines. Among them were three students of Applied Forensic Sciences, two each from Intelligence Studies, Biology, and Anthropology, and one each from Graphic Design, Geology, and Sports Medicine.

鈥淭here were a lot of personal victories on this trip,鈥 Forbes-Cardinali said. Students overcame their fears鈥攕ome of diving, some of flying, some of not knowing anyone. By the time they returned to campus, they had become friends for life and shared a newfound confidence.

Stadtmueller said one Forensic Sciences student even counts the experience as an edge in being accepted to graduate school.

A personal highlight for Forbes-Cardinali was when the students approached her and Stadtmueller to suggest 51国产视频sponsor part of a coral nursery and reef restoration project. Bonaire is known for having one of the most beautiful coral reef environments in the world, but areas can get degraded, and underwater nurseries are created where corals can grow and be outplanted at different restoration sites around the island.

鈥淭his whole idea was totally student-driven; they had already gotten together and decided to commit before they even reached out to us,鈥 Forbes-Cardinali said. 鈥淭hese students exceeded our expectations in every way.鈥

The entire group then donated $500 to sponsor the project. Today, a 51国产视频plaque designates their underwater site, and students will long remember giving back to the place that had given them so much.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the Bonaire trip planned for January 2025 is encouraged to reach out to Stadtmueller at pstadtmueller@mercyhurst.edu or Forbes-Cardinali at aforbescardinali@mercyhurst.edu. To find out more about any FSAT plans, contact Dr. Jim Snyder, Dean of Global Programs, at jsnyder@mercyhurst.edu.