My name is Joanna Smart and I am extremely excited to be the 2019 Australasian Rolex Scholar of the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society. I am from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and have a background in Marine and Antarctic Science, Scientific Diving, Environmental Consulting, and Seaweed Physiology.
My scholarship year started in New York City where I was introduced to the Board of the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society. It was there that I was given my amazing underwater camera set up, thanks to Reef Photo and Video. I have been learning about and even practicing underwater photography for some time and was itching to get underwater and have a practice with the camera. My first experience of the year was in Pacific Harbour, Fiji, where I spent some time with Beqa Adventure divers learning about their work with bull shark conservation and research. The trip was amazing, and I have never seen so many sharks in one place! We had over 30 bulls on the dive which were being hand-fed by the experienced Fijian shark feeders.
From Fiji, I traveled to Lady Elliot Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef to join world-renowned underwater photographers David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes on assignment with National Geographic. The diving on lady Elliot Island was spectacular and, with the expert guidance of David and Jennifer, I was able to document the pristine reef using the photo and video techniques they taught me.
For both of these trips, I used my Panasonic GX9 in a Nauticam NA-GX9 housing with two Inon S-2000 strobes and a Light and Motion Sola Video Pro 3800 video light. I shot mainly wide-angle and video on both trips as the reefs were pristine and provided gorgeous imagery and close wildlife encounters.
The photo equipment I had enhanced both of my experiences this month. I was able to document the amazing underwater life I was seeing and share it with the broader scholarship community. I have been able to share the stills I took in blog posts and on social media, which certainly added to my posts. I particularly enjoyed having the photography equipment when working with David and Jennifer from National Geographic as they gave me heaps of great tips and advice that I can take with me on the rest of my scholarship year.
In both of my experiences this month, I have learned that imaging is an important and useful tool in underwater science. Documenting wildlife and megafauna has been a useful tool for both science and communication. In Fiji, photographs and videos are used to identify individual bull sharks on the reef and aid in research conservation efforts. The number of times an individual is feeding in the area can be confirmed with photo identification, which aids in research on diet and reliance on humans.
Overall, I am extremely grateful to have been given this underwater photography equipment from Reef Photo and Video and I look forward to documenting more in the future!