Growing up in San Diego, California, Kerry J. Nickols developed a great fascination with the ocean. An avid swimmer, water polo player and surfer, she seized every opportunity to visit the beach -- even her art projects in school were ocean related! The late University of California, Berkeley, Professor Bernard Neitcschmann had a most profound influence on Kerry with his belief that "...studying the environment comes hand in hand with studying cultures, and that one can only learn about an ecosystem by learning about the people associated with that system and understanding how they use it." This teaching ignited Kerry's passion setting a firm foundation for her career path.
A group of college students beginning their open water certification class met her with awe when Kerry introduced herself, announcing that she had logged over 115 dives in just one year. Cold-water diving experiences paling in comparison to her warm water experiences, Kerry spent most of her time diving the warm waters of the Bahamas. Her enthusiasm for learning has taken her as far as Moorea, French Polynesia and, as an underwater scientist she worked at the Caribbean Marine Research Center.
A talented musician and songwriter, she quickly learned that music breaks all language barriers. For Kerry, music has become yet just another form of expression to communicate her love of and deep regard for the ocean. She has proficiency in, and has introduced elementary students from the heart of Oakland, California to the banjo, mandolin, guitar and hammered dulcimer, when they had previously only heard music on the radio. She has spent evenings in the South Pacific unable to speak the same language, yet has reached a universal language through music.
With land only accounting for 30% of the world and the other lying under the sea, sometimes many miles deep, Kerry yearns to explore the world's underwater environment as much as she can. With the aid of cultural understanding and collaboration, she hopes to "give back to the ocean" by bringing ocean ecosystems and awareness into a brighter light. She hopes to evoke people to be as excited and intrigued by the ocean as she is and most importantly, see them make educated decisions with some knowledge of their impact on oceans worldwide. "People will take care of the things that they are passionate about, and I'm going to do anything I can to give back to the ocean", she says.
Kerry feels her undergraduate career did not satiate her desire to learn and study ocean ecosystems. The OWU-SS Rolex Scholarship will allow her to attend a graduate school and earn her doctorate studying some aspect of the ocean. Being a very hands-on person, Kerry says that diving allows her to continue intensive field studies underwater. The scholarship will introduce opportunities for her to continue her exploration and work underwater. She is very interested in studying human impacts on marine environments. The scholarship will open her eyes to many more prospects in this regard. Hoping to continue her diving education as well, Kerry would like to work towards her dive master certification and sees this scholarship as an amazing chance to meet other divers from other parts of the world. She longs to share her experience and enthusiasm and love of the underwater realm with others. "The only way I will be able to get other people excited about the ocean is to communicate to them the vast amount of wonderful things found at depth and why it is so important to protect them."