Diving Deep: My Fulbright Odyssey on Oahu

Dr. Emily Lester, Fulbright Future Scholar, Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation | Australian Institute of Marine Science/University of Hawai’i at Manoa

My Fulbright postdoctoral scholarship has been an incredible journey that has enriched both my professional and personal life.

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of being based on the island of O’ahu, and it’s been nothing short of life-changing. On a personal level, this experience has been a dream come true. O’ahu’s natural beauty is unparalleled, and I’ve had the opportunity to explore it in ways I never imagined.

One of my favourite activities has been scuba diving, and the waters around O’ahu are a diver’s paradise. Exploring the reefs on O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i and Hawai’i and encountering the wonderful endemic species they host has not only been awe-inspiring but also a source of relaxation. These experiences have not only allowed me to appreciate Hawai’i’s coral reefs, but have also deepened my commitment to help protect them.

WA world Ocean Day 2023 at Gage Roads Fremantle – The Jock Clough Marine Foundation- by Valentine Girardot Perth photographer

I’ve made lifelong friends both within and outside the academic community. The local culture is rich and diverse, and I’ve had the chance to immerse myself in it, learning about Hawaiian traditions, language, and history. These personal connections have made my time here truly special, and I look forward to maintaining these friendships long after my scholarship ends.

Professionally, my Fulbright journey has been nothing short of transformative. O’ahu is home to some of the world’s foremost experts in coral reef ecology, and I’ve had the privilege of working alongside them. This experience has broadened my horizons and provided invaluable insights into the field. Collaborating with these world leaders has not only expanded my knowledge but has also opened up exciting opportunities for future research and projects.

Additionally, my Fulbright scholarship has allowed me to attend conferences and workshops, furthering my professional network and enhancing my research skills. The support and resources provided have been instrumental in advancing my career as a coral reef ecologist. In conclusion, my Fulbright postdoctoral scholarship has been a remarkable journey that has enriched my life both personally and professionally.

From the breath-taking scuba dives to the friendships and professional connections forged, I am truly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience on O’ahu. It has expanded my horizons, deepened my passion for coral reef conservation, and opened doors to exciting opportunities in my field.