Dr. Diva Amon is a National Geographic Explorer and marine biologist who researches deep sea species and the human impact on marine habitats. Not only has she traveled to ocean depths that few have seen before—her deepest dive was 1.6 miles below the surface in the Cayman Trench—she also works at the intersection of three main pillars surrounding ocean life: research, policy, and communications.
“There are very few careers that allow you to be among the first people on the planet to see a species or habitat that we had no idea existed until that moment,” Amon said. “It really is the most humbling and incredible feeling.”
Before she dedicated her career to deep-sea exploration, Amon grew up loving the ocean. She spent her formative years playing on the beach, snorkeling, and sailing along the coast of her home country of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I would often look out to sea and wish I could pull away that dark murky water to reveal what was living down in the depths,” Amon said.
Years later, at university, Amon realized there was much more to ocean life than what meets the eye in the shallows. More than 96 percent of the deep ocean had never been seen by human eyes.
As she continued to learn about the ocean’s incredible depth, her desire evolved from seeking to understand the ocean to wanting to help conserve it.
“Over my career, I have learned not only how incredible the deep ocean is but also how important it is,” Amon said. “It is a vast reservoir of biodiversity, most of which is still undiscovered, and It is absolutely essential to keeping our planet healthy and keeping us alive by providing key ecosystem services and resources.”
Amon participates in research expeditions around the world and her work has been featured in outlets including National Geographic, the BBC, and CNN International.
Amon is the founder of SpeSeas, a non-for-profit NGO that uses science, education, and advocacy to further understanding of marine ecosystems among stakeholders in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region. SpeSeas launched the Maritime Ocean Collection, which integrates state-of-the-art 360º photography, Google imagery, smartphone technology, and videography to allow anyone to view Trinidad and Tobago’s remarkable underwater world.
Already, unprecedented changes are happening, with exploitation of the ocean only increasing. Amon says that if we continue to proceed blindly and irresponsibly, we will likely lose parts of our planet before we truly know them.
“Iconic places like the Okavango Delta, the Himalayas, and the Grand Canyon all likely exist in the ocean, we just need to find them,” Amon said. “And when we find them, we need to protect them but we cannot effectively manage and protect what we do not know, understand, and value.”
Amon’s work continues to increase our understanding of the deep sea. Her vision for the future is that humankind’s relationship with the ocean is transformed from one of frontiers and exploitation to one that fosters equity for people and nature.
Amon takes pride in being a conduit that brings the deep ocean to the next generation of ocean stewards. Amon says that education and simply talking more openly about the deep ocean is how we can all contribute to fostering a more conscious and connected relationship with the Earth.
“Not only do I want the kids who look out to sea to know about the manta rays, yeti crabs, and bone-eating zombie worms, but I want them to be stewards that understand and value the absolute majesty of the ocean,” Amon said. “The ocean is truly global, so all of humankind, not just an elite few, should know enough to inform the decisions we make because ultimately that’s how we’ll preserve it for generations to come.”
Watch Amon on her latest adventure in Welcome to Earth, a six-part limited series from National Geographic. Now streaming on Disney+.