Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of current and past members of the Department of Commerce during Women's History Month.
When Emma Hickerson started volunteering at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary headquarters in Galveston, Texas, in 1996, it was just a "temporary thing" – or so she thought. But things didn't quite work out that way. Now, 18 years later, what began as a temporary volunteer gig has turned into her life's work. Hickerson became the sanctuary's full-time research coordinator in 1997 and has since logged more than 1,200 scuba dives around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. And on March 29, she will be joining some of the most accomplished women in her field when she's inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
"The only way to really know the Flower Garden Banks is through diving," said George Schmahl, sanctuary superintendent. "Emma has taken full advantage of a variety of diving technologies, from scuba to submarines, to explore and understand the underwater world of the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Her commitment to protecting the ocean environment is evident in everything she does. Emma is a huge asset to the sanctuary team, and is truly deserving of this prestigious honor."
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Hickerson has coordinated or participated in more than 150 research missions, using scuba, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and submersibles. She has lived and worked underwater as a saturation diver at the Aquarius research laboratory in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and piloted a handful of submersible dives. Much of the focus of the science she has been involved in has been used to inform management in the sanctuary. She is not only passionate about studying the marine environment but also interpreting science through photography, videography and art.
“I am tremendously honored and humbled that I have been nominated and accepted as a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame,” Hickerson said “My accomplishments reflect the amazing opportunities I have been afforded through my work with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which I don't consider work, but a lifestyle. I am surrounded by talented, passionate friends and colleagues who are all partially responsible for accomplishments that led to this honor. A day doesn't go by without thinking how very fortunate I am to be able to study, observe, protect, photograph, film and share the marine environment.”
Hickerson is one of six new members in the Women Divers Hall of Fame Class of 2014. The women, who represent a wide variety of disciplines, will be inducted at the Beneath the Sea Awards Banquet in Secaucus, N.J. For additional information about the Women Divers Hall of Fame, visit www.wdhof.org/aboutus.shtml
Read more about Emma’s work at the Flower Garden Banks: flowergarden.noaa.gov/science/science.html