It is a great pleasure to announce that Mr. Ben Buchan, from New South Wales, Australia has been selected to be the 2015 Australasian Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society.
BEN BUCHAN | BIOGRAPHY:
I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales, and have lived within 10 minutes of a beach since I was 11 years old. For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep fascination with the marine environment, and have always had the desire to learn as much as possible.
I gained my open water diving certification at the age of 15 as part of my marine studies class at high school, which is when I became addicted to diving. Upon the completion of my Higher School Certificate in 2010, I started my Bachelor of Marine Science in 2011 at Macquarie University, North Ryde. Through my studies, I became more passionate about the marine environment and I was offered the opportunity to volunteer in Cambodia in the initiation of a coral reef regeneration project with Reach Out Volunteers.
For an entire month in January of 2012, I stayed on an island called Koh Rong in Cambodia, in a tiny village that had not had any western influence. The reef around this village was so degraded from the use of non-sustainable fishing practices, including the use of dynamite. Over this month, the team I was part of removed over 100 nets from the surrounding reef, and focused on teaching the village proper and sustainable fishing practices. It was through this time I realized the significance that education and public awareness has on the conservation of continued protection of the marine environment. I left Cambodia with the desire to share my knowledge and experiences of the ocean with as many people as possible.
Back in Australia, I continued my commitment to Reach Out Volunteers, and begun recruiting other students to volunteer in a range of environmental and community development projects around the world. In 2013, I became a scuba instructor, and have since been able to share my passion and knowledge of the marine environment with my students that have been from all around the world.
As part of my university degree, I secured a volunteer position at Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, and was involved in many aspects of animal husbandry from feeding, cleaning, and monitoring life support systems from rescue animals. I had the opportunity to work with animals from small fish and invertebrates, to large sharks, turtles and stingrays. Here, I had the unique opportunity to share the importance of marine conservation with a diverse audience.
Before my final semester or university in January of 2014, I returned to Koh Rong in Cambodia to again assist in the continuation of the coral reef regeneration project. I was inspired by the new attitude of the village towards the marine environment, and overwhelmed by the increased health of the surrounding reef. Over the course of January of 2014, I certified 35 volunteers for their open water course, and as a team, we deployed artificial reef pods to aid in the growth of this reef system. Now, there are over 100 artificial pods surrounding this growing reef, and the project continues today, with volunteers constantly traveling to aid in the program.
In June of 2014, I graduated with a Bachelor of Marine Science, and begun working as a Shark Dive Coordinator at Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, having the unique opportunity to not only introduce people to the diving experience, but get them up close and personal with large Grey Nurse sharks, education them about the importance of shark conservation.
I have since begun my Master of Marine Science and Management at Macquarie University, and am currently focused on the social behavior of sharks. I am currently living on Heron Island as a dive instructor, again having the opportunity to share my passion for diving, and the marine environment, with a particular focus on the importance of the Great Barrier Reef system. I look forward to the opportunity to add to my list of experiences, and participate in a number of important marine projects throughout the scholarship year.