April 13, 2020
Living the Diving Dream
- as seen by -Joseph Gessert and Katherine Gomero
The volunteer dive team at WCS’s New York Aquarium consists of over 100 volunteers. Every two weeks, each volunteer spends a day underwater in the aquarium’s exhibits, cleaning glass, scrubbing algae, vacuuming debris, and making sure our animals are healthy. Joseph Gessert is the aquarium’s dive safety officer and volunteer coordinator. Katherine Gomero is a volunteer diver and also associate video producer with WCS. Recently, they were diving in the aquarium’s Canyon’s Edge, part of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit.
GESSERT: Hey Kat, can you believe that our job is to go dive with sharks?
GOMERO: Not just any sharks, Joe. Seven to eight-foot sandbar and sand tiger sharks. I’ve watched them for hours from outside the exhibit, and it’s even more incredible underwater.
GESSERT: My favorite part of our the dive was when Blue, the loggerhead sea turtle (above), swam over and thought about taking a bite out of your fin. These turtles explore with their mouths.
GOMERO: I have a great video moment of you looking out at Blue as she swims about in her environment. I was able to capture her curious and attentive nature. I relied on your experience underwater and knowledge of these animals to know when to give her space and observe at a respectful distance.
GESSERT: How does it feel to transition from a relatively inexperienced diver to working professionally in the big shark tank?
GOMERO: It is a complete dream that I never thought would happen so fast. I have been able to practice my diving techniques and now my camera work by joining the aquarium’s volunteer dive team. Observing these wonders that live here and in our New York City waters is eye opening. How does it feel for you as our dive safety officer?
GESSERT: I’m living the dream. And not ironically, either — for real! Getting to dive is great, but a lot of my job is actually risk management — making sure that our divers are safe. What does an associate video producer do?
GOMERO: My role supports WCS’s video projects, and I manage projects of my own that promote WCS’s work both locally and internationally. Learning about environments and the animals that live in them is an important part of my job. A personal interest for me is marine life. For you, Joe, risk management is one of your priorities. Do you also interact with keepers and other volunteers at the aquarium?
GESSERT: When I’m not doing paperwork or underwater with sharks, I love my time with the aquarium staff and volunteers. I feel very lucky to be part of this community. I should probably break off now and get back to researching prevention of coronavirus through scuba regulators, which is actually pretty interesting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The New York Aquarium volunteer dive team is always looking for more prospects, especially if you have daytime availability during the week. Details and contact information are available on our website.