The spring semester is in full swing here at the Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) as we all prepare for midterms next week, followed by a three-day field trip to neighboring islands and our spring break on Providenciales. Time has flown by as our days are filled with class, dives, snorkels, and community engagement—which have been captured by these photos.

For most of us, a few nights over the past few weeks have been occupied by the PADI Advanced Open Water (AOW) SCUBA class offered here. The opportunity to advance our skills in diving has been exciting and fulfilling, as we’ll get to use what we’ve learned diving for our Directed Research projects after break. Taught by CMRS resident PADI instructors James Squires and Clarence Stringer, the AOW class consists of five “adventure dives” on the path to certification: buoyancy, navigation, night, deep, and underwater naturalist. Each dive is rewarding as we spend time perfecting skills we’ve learned, progressing towards being better all-around divers.

The night dive and deep dive were especially thrilling, as we were pushed out of comfort zones. Heading out on the boat for the night dive, the moon illuminated the water and all senses were heightened. The thought of diving quite literally into the unknown was at once both daunting and exhilarating. Using our dive lights as guidance through the water, it felt like we were on a mission. My group had the privilege of sighting an octopus, as well as experiencing the brief magic of bioluminescence in complete underwater darkness.

Deep diving opens a whole other world of wild, and for me one of the biggest draws of opting to take the AOW class in the first place: swimming off “the wall.” At 100 feet deep, the maximum depth allowed in AOW, swimming along the wall that drops into open-ocean is enchanting. There’s really no way to fully capture the experience in words. With a reef shelf on one side of you as a reference point and the deep, big blue on the other, swimming along the wall with proper buoyancy gives the illusion of floating weightlessly. The coral reefs of the wall are bursting with life and the main attraction of diving in such a world-renowned spot as the Turks & Caicos Islands. I’m grateful for every day at the CMRS, with each offering a new adventure as we learn more about our world as seen from below the surface.