An underwater classroom at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium

The New York Aquarium Partners with the New York Harbor School on a new hands-on dive program for high school students

Students hone their diving skills while learning about aquatic animal husbandry

Brooklyn, N.Y. – March 20, 2014 -
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium has partnered with the maritime-focused Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on a work-based learning project that brings students out of the classroom and into the aquarium to explore aquarium-specific SCUBA diving techniques and aquatic animal husbandry.

This hands-on opportunity provides students from the school’s Professional Dive Program with a saltwater environment where they can put their dive skills to the test by diving the aquarium’s 167,000-gallon Glover’s Reef exhibit dedicated to the fish of Glover’s Reef, Belize. The students usually dive New York Harbor, but the aquarium provides a warm, safe and controlled environment for them to keep up their skills when it’s too cold to dive outdoors.

The Professional Dive Program is one of six curriculum tracks offered at the New York Harbor School. Students in this program perform research dives into local waters as they pursue their official diving certificates.

“We are very excited to partner with the New York Harbor School on this interactive program,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, WCS Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium. “This partnership underscores our commitment to advancing educational and conservation initiatives within the community.”

The Glover’s Reef exhibit gives the students a new aquatic environment to explore. Simulating the real Glover’s Reef, the water is a warm 74 degrees, and home to colorful fish such as queen angels, yellowtails, and stingrays. While underwater, the young divers help aquarium staff by cleaning the exhibit. Their tasks include removing algae from the glass, vacuuming the tank floor, and scrubbing the reefs to remove algae and debris.

While the students are focused on improving their diving techniques, instructors from the Harbor School and aquarium staff are developing a curriculum that will take place inside the Glover’s Reef exhibit. This would include lessons on conducting underwater studies that can be applied out in the field. An example of an underwater study technique is a transect, which requires scientists to move along a fixed path to count the number of fish or other subjects that occur along that line.

Said Joe Gessert, Dive Safety Officer at the New York Harbor School: “Our senior dive students are very excited to be diving at the aquarium. This opportunity will keep them in the water during the winter, give them real-world experience in a professional workplace and will be many students’ first opportunity to dive in clear water with fish swimming around them. It’s also a great chance for them to show off their diving skills to the general public, and learn about animal husbandry and exhibit maintenance from the experts at the aquarium.”

The aquarium is also working with the Harbor School on its Billion Oyster Project (BOP), which will build partnerships with NYC high schools. The BOP is a long-term plan to restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor over the next 20 years. Oysters provide important ecological benefits for the harbor: Their beds provide habitats for thousands of marine species while the oysters improve water filtration.

The New York Aquarium has a strong commitment to education and raising awareness about conservation issues. The aquarium has a very successful education department, serving 220,000 school children each year, and managing a docent program that has more than 80 participants.

The New York Seascape is the aquarium’s local conservation program that strives to restore healthy populations of local marine species and protect New York marine waters. The New York Seascape covers the New York Bight, a 15,000-square-mile region stretching from Montauk, N.Y., to Cape May, N.J., as well as waters of Long Island Sound.

Barbara Russo – 718-265-3428;
Max Pulsinelli – 718- 220-5182;

Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium is open every day of the year. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fall/winter/spring hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily. Admission is $9.95 per person; children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 4 p.m. in the summer and after 3 p.m. in the fall, admission is by pay-what-you-wish donation. The aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. The New York Aquarium is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the WCS New York Aquarium, a beloved part of Brooklyn and all of the City of New York. Due to Hurricane Sandy we are partially opened. Check our website for more information.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:;;; follow: @theWCS.

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