Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

Rolling in the Deep

In Faculty, Research on September 8, 2011 at 1:19 am

Wonder Beneath the Waves

Ever wonder what is going on beneath the waves as you sun on the beach? Associate Professor of Biology Lisa Kaplan’s knowledge of marine  biology may be vast, but the immense undersea world still holds plenty of wonder for her. Dr. Kaplan spent her summer swimming eye-to-eye with sea life in Utila–one of the Bay Islands of Honduras–where she was reminded that “there is more to our world than the human mind can conceive.”

In addition to watching and interacting with various sea creatures, Dr. Kaplan experienced what she describes as “thrilling educational moments,” including a daring swim to follow dolphins and a surprise encounter with 50 pilot whales. Along the way, she also learned a lesson about the excitement of ditching her comfort zone and following her instinct for discovery.

“It was in between two dives (called a surface interval) that I had two of my more thrilling and educational moments.  In the first, we were surrounded by a pod of approximately 100 dolphins.  The captain positioned the boat and we slipped off the transom and into four-foot seas.  The dolphins were hunting and paid us no mind.  Without a thought in the world about the position of the boat or the swells that blocked my view, I followed the dolphins out into the blue.  When they left, it finally occurred to me that I had no idea where I was, but I didn’t care. Such focus and gleeful abandon–no deliberate consideration of risk or hazard–was invigorating and something I had not experienced before.”

“Two days later, we saw dorsal fins again and immediately slipped into the water expecting to see dolphins.  This time we did not find dolphins, but 50 pilot whales.  Even now, I fail to find words to convey the emotion that the encounter engendered.  I still cannot believe that the whale looked directly at me (yes, I was so close that I could see its pupils).  Even small whales are gigundous!”

“Besides the creatures – big and small – I completed my 250th dive, and led my first dive along a wall with a 200 ft drop-off.  Leading the dive was scary, and I was very nervous.  It involved navigation, finding a small cable amid an over-grown field of coral and sponges, identifying creatures for the divers I was leading, and ultimately leading everyone out of the water through a narrow channel lined by rocks, fire coral, and a strong surge. The experience taught me the value of moving outside my comfort zone, challenging myself physically and intellectually, and trusting that my base of
knowledge can carry through to other aspects of my life – especially in amazing and exciting situations.


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