For as long as Leah can remember, water has been her close friend. Born 22 years ago in Blacksburg, Virginia, Leah’s earliest memories are of splashing around on the banks of the New River and competing in her local swim league. In high school, she discovered the magic of scuba diving and pursued an open water certification in St. John, USVI, on a family vacation. Those first few certification dives were just the beginning of a passion that has only intensified over the past seven years.
Leah began college in her hometown at Virginia Tech and promptly became president of the scuba club. As president, she worked with her local dive shop to help create a thriving dive community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, far from the nearest ocean. During this time, she discovered her love for sharing diving with others and swiftly rose through the certification ranks to become a divemaster. An insatiable appetite for bottom time was born, and she soon realized that she wanted to be able to dive deeper and stay longer, which led to her pursuit of technical and cave diving at the age of 18.
Unable to get enough of the underwater world, Leah took a pause from school to work as a divemaster in the Florida Keys. The hard work of the high season was everything she dreamed it would be, and each day was a new adventure as she helped people experience their first breaths underwater or guided seasoned divers around beautiful marine sanctuaries. As much as she loved the salty Keys, her love for learning and the spring-fed caves of North Florida continued to call for her, and she returned to school at University of Florida (UF), where she is graduating this April with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
At UF, Leah has balanced her studies with weekends spent exploring the miles of cave passage hidden beneath her very feet. She quickly fell in love with the close-knit cave diving community, which prompted her to start thinking of ways she could give back to it. In 2015, through a Divers Alert Network research internship, Leah spent six months researching cave diving fatalities and learning about diver physiology through intense field work.
Leah’s interests lie in diver education, research, and exploration – as well as effective written and visual communication about these areas that make the underwater world a more accessible and safer place for all. She says: “Water has given me so much – life, peace of mind, passion – that there is nothing more that I want than to impact it in return in a positive way.”