Christian Clark

North America
Scholar Date: 
2011 to 2012

Christian Clark, 23, was born in Atlanta, Georgia but spent his early years living with his family in Brazil and Canada before finally moving back to Georgia. From the beaches of Southern Brazil to the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers to the central Pacific, the one constant in Christian’s life has always been water. He recalls that when he was about 5 years old, on a whale-watching cruise with his family, he saw a pod of belugas and had an up-close encounter with a huge fin whale. It was from this point forward that Christian knew he wanted to be immersed in the oceans for the rest of his life. During a family trip to Maui when he was 13, Christian discovered scuba diving and the wondrous Hawaiian underwater world. Consequently when it came time to go to college, his choice had already been made and he headed to the University of Hawaii (UH). After taking every ocean-related course he could find, Christian finally discovered Global Environmental Science, an interdisciplinary science program, and UH’s Marine Option Program. In August 2010 Christian graduated with a BS in Global Environmental Science. Christian’s years at UH were packed with volunteer work, research cruises, and scientific diving. He volunteered at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology’s Shark Lab, where his duties ranged from cleaning shark enclosures to deploying/ retrieving underwater receivers to capturing and tagging sharks. He joined UH’s scientific diving class, later becoming an assistant trainer, and was selected for the rigorous diving field school QUEST (Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques), eventually becoming an instructor in this program as well. Working as a research assistant in the Holland Pelagic Fish Lab, he helped quantify the movement of sharks and other apex predators around the Main Hawaiian Islands and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. As a result of this research, Christian co-authored two journal articles. Christian participated in three research expeditions to Antarctica, where he studied climate change effects on benthic ecology. This research became the basis of his senior thesis as well as two more articles, which are pending publication. His presentation of his senior thesis project at a university-wide symposium earned an award for best science presentation. Christian’s experiences in Antarctica led him to realize the importance of communicating scientific research issues and solutions to non-science people. He began filming and photographing on every research trip and attended a field school on environmental science documentary film production. He created a documentary on spear fishing and Marine Protected Areas which earned awards for Best Cinematography and Most Powerful Message. He later served on a joint committee of university and local media representatives studying ways to educate students and the public about scientific issues through documentary films. He and the university chancellor had the honor of meeting with Senator Daniel Inouye and the Chairman of the FCC to communicate the results of this collaboration. Christian has been diving for ten years and has logged over 320 dives. He is a Scientific Diver Trainer with UH’s Diving Safety Program. He earned his NAUI Divemaster certification in 2009 and has gained skills in underwater mapping techniques and technical diving. He is an avid sailor and boatman, and even lives on a sailboat. Christian is thrilled and honored to have been selected as OWUSS’s 2011 North American Rolex Scholar. He hopes to explore possible careers which would combine his diving, research, and media communication skills to the best advantage. He is excited to jump into his scholarship year and wonders, “What if I could energize the public and politicians enough to actually make a change on a global scale?”