Our World – Underwater Scholarship Society in North America
2016 North American Rolex Scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society
Chris Millbern is a latecomer to the underwater world, but his passion for diver safety and adventure has made him a natural fit for the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society's Rolex Scholarship Program.
Majoring at UCLA in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, Chris became a concerned conservationist and backpacking guide, combining his love of adventure sports, photography, and the biological sciences. Chris learned a deep appreciation for the importance of protecting our environment by participating in multiple valued studies and earning the Santa Monica Audubon Society Research Award for his work on anticoagulant poisoning in local bobcat populations.
It wasn't until an Open Water class his senior year that everything changed. In the next two years, Chris became a PADI Rescue Diver, AAUS Scientific Diver, and joined the UCLA Gonda Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine as an E.M.T. and Certified Hyperbaric Technologist. Working with patients in hundreds of chamber dives, he became enamored with hyperbaric medicine and took every opportunity to teach it. He has given educational talks to local dive shops, high school programs, visiting physicians, and even the 95th Aerospace Medical Squadron from Edwards Air Force Base.
While working at the chamber, Chris became involved in a number of research initiatives focused on diver safety concerning transport of injured divers, nation-wide hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) availability, and emergency equipment testing. Most importantly, he was introduced to a problem facing artisanal fishermen in Mexico: divers' air sources were being contaminated with engine exhaust and annual decompression illness rates exceeded 75% of the diving population. Chris helped design and machine an effective detachable snorkel to elevate the intake above the exhaust fumes and drastically reduced carbon monoxide concentrations. Today the design has spread to multiple cities and fishing cooperatives, and will hopefully continue to save lives for years to come. Chris has made it his life goal to continue introducing safe diving practices and innovative solutions to problems facing divers around the world.
As a newly minted Diver Medic, Chris has begun working with ecological survey groups across the California coast. Encouraging marine preserves through responsible ecotourism, driving research and public policy towards pragmatic solutions, and bringing a love of the ocean to a new generation of divers are all things Chris hopes to achieve. Most importantly, he wants to give back: "The underwater world has given me a sense of purpose and the community has given me a home. All I really want is to keep the environment safe, and the people who protect and enjoy it even safer."
One of the world's most accomplished and well known wreck divers, John Chatterton was one of the co-hosts for the History Channel's Deep Sea Detectives. Prior to his career in television, John spent twenty years working as a commercial diver in and around New York City, and was actually working on a project in the waters underneath the World Financial Center, across the street from the Tower #1, on September 11, 2001.
Researching,locating, and diving the world's shipwrecks has been John's passion. The discovery and six year quest to identify the German submarine U-869, off the coast of New Jersey, has been the subject of several television documentaries including a two hour special for the popular NOVA series on PBS. This same story became the subject of a Random House bestseller by Rob Kurson, Shadow Divers.
In August of 2005, John and his partners put together an expedition to the most famous shipwreck in the world, Titanic. Diving to a depth of 12,500 feet in the MIR submersibles from the Russian Research Ship Keldysh, they made discoveries about the wreck that were featured in two History Channel specials and a book. Author Brad Matsen brought the story to bookshelves with his bestseller, Titanic's Last Secrets.
Currently John and his partners are working in an ongoing relationship with the government of the Dominican Republic in a multi faceted commercial project that involves locating, surveying and identifying colonial era shipwreck sites in the waters around the island of Hispañola.
Cody's First Step Foundation
Since being paralyzed in the 6th grade by a spinal cord inflammation, Transverse Myelitis (TM), Cody has raced nonstop to raise awareness and find a cure. As the daughter of Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., she dreams of walking on the racetrack one day. When she was just 14, she and her mother, Shelley, formed the Cody Unser First Step Foundation, which is dedicated to providing quality–of–life programs for those suffering from paralysis. These programs include a TM research consortium spearheaded by Johns Hopkins Hospital; Cody's Great Scuba Adventure, created to share her new found freedom for all disabilities; and "Operation Deep Down", a military diving program that introduces wounded veterans to scuba as a way to rehabilitate through recreation. Cody is a political activist who has testified before Congress and lobbied nationwide for stem cell research, following in the foot steps of her friend, late actor Christopher Reeve.
SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba)
Wounded Warrior, SUDS Diver
Like too many other service men and women, Matias Ferreira was injured while serving his country. Instead of letting the bilateral below-the-knee amputation break his spirit, he picked up his remaining pieces and turned himself into a walking, talking, sports-playing, scuba diving inspiration...all before his 25th birthday.
Today Matias volunteers his time to help fellow wounded warriors through SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba), and inspires children facing similar problems though the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Kids Camp. He shows us all that anything is possible, and it is this, combined with his dedication to others, that makes Aqua Lung proud to have Matias Ferreira as an Ambassador.
Explorer and Photographer
Explorer and storyteller, founder of the Wild Image Project, Fox uses his narrative to inspire the public to reconnect with the wilderness. Sometimes philosophical, sometimes poetic, his stories, his photos and his videos capture the viewers through all their senses, leaving them sifting through their memories and remembering their own moments when they felt connected.
He writes about conservation, exploration above & beneath the sea and about the complexity of Man's relationship with nature. You can find him on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+. He publishes his videos on YouTube. His photography portfolio is available on Behance. To learn more on the Wild Image Project, visit the above links or the website at wildimageproject.com