WOMEN DIVERS HALL OF FAME, CLASS OF 2015
The following summary provides a glimpse into the exciting and diverse backgrounds of the newest class of WDHOF members:
Wendy Benchley, Marine Conservation Leader, Ocean Conservation Governmental Policy Advocate, Shark Conservation Spokesperson
Providing leadership of the highest caliber on an international level, Wendy Benchley has worked with fierce determination to protect our oceans – and sharks in particular – through the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, and serving on the boards of a number of organizations including WildAid, Shark Savers (serving as President), Ocean Champions, Blue Frontier and has spent 28 years with the Environmental Defense Fund as Trustee and Advisory Trustee. Wendy is now based in Washington, D.C. engaging in the marine policy community and supporting many of the world’s leading ocean and environmental philanthropies. She has appeared in many documentaries, articles and television shows for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, PBS, and others. Wendy is knowledgeable, motivated, and her efforts have helped to shape smarter, stronger environmental and marine conservation policies. She is the recipient of the International SeaKeepers Award which is given annually to an individual or organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ocean conservation. Wendy has also been avid scuba diver for over 40 years.
Cecilie Benjamin, Pioneer Scuba Instructor, Ocean Conservation Leader, Marine Environment Education Program Advocate
Cecilie Benjamin went to West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, as a new agricultural science graduate in February, 1972, and worked with the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries of PNG as an agricultural extension officer for over 11 years. A diver since 1976 and FAUI instructor since 1982, the first woman in PNG to do so, she and her husband built and opened Walindi Plantation Resort in September, 1983. Work over the years now means Kimbe Bay, where Walindi is located, is now recognised worldwide by such organisations as National Geographic, award-winning underwater photographers, and eminent marine scientists for its globally significant marine biodiversity and conservation initiatives. Cecilie is Chair of the Board of Directors for Mahonia Na Dari (Guardian of the Sea) Research and Conservation Centre, PNG (2006 to present). The Centre, at Kimbe Bay, designs, disseminates and conducts marine conservation education training programs for PNG youth, annually reaching 7,000 students and 3,000 community members. The Centre developed the Marine Environment Education Program or MEEP which is the core of the organisation’s teaching ethos.
Amanda Cotton, Underwater Photographer, Cave/Tech Diver, Educational Outreach Program Creator
Amanda Cotton was the first female photographer to photograph American Crocodiles underwater in Banco Chinchorro in Mexico for a feature on the Discovery Channel showcasing the UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve Project. She was the lead underwater photographer on the USS Mohawk artificial wreck project for a 360 spherical mapping survey for Google Earth. Founder and CEO of Water Women Inc, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering girls ages eight to eighteen to become leaders and advocates in water related industries through internships and mentorship programs. She is the creator of “Children and Sharks,” an educational outreach program, seeking to educate children and teens about sharks through hands-on diving experiences, documentation, and lectures. Amanda is an experienced cave diver and cave/tech diving photographer, and is working on several dive industry equipment advertising campaigns.
Meg Donat, Pioneer Scuba Instructor, Hyperbaric Chamber Instructor, Diver Medical Technician, Ocean Advocate
Margaret (Meg) Donat is a valuable member of the diving safety community on the Monterey Peninsula. She has been leading the operations of the Pacific Grove Hyperbaric Chamber for over 30 years and is a charter dive volunteer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium since 1984. She became a NAUI Instructor in 1968 after being introduced to diving in 1965 and was the only woman in her dive class. She was the first female volunteer on staff at the hyperbaric chamber and has been instrumental as their Education and Training Officer for over 22 years. She is an ocean advocate, delivering conservation messages during her feeding shows at the Aquarium. Meg has received Distinguished Service Awards from the American Heart Association, the U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Award and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Wendell Ayers Memorial Leadership Award.
Grace Landers, USN, Diving Medical Officer, Submarine Medical Officer, Medical Pioneer and Innovator
Lieutenant Grace Landers was commissioned in the US Navy in 2007 and entered Uniformed Services University as a Medical Student. Always looking for the next challenge, she sought and succeeded in operational medicine opportunities setting herself apart. In 2011, Landers graduated with her medical doctorate and began her internship in Family Medicine. She was selected for Undersea Medical Officer Candidacy graduating in June of 2013. Landers’ innovative thinking led to the creation of the first Authorized Medical Allowance List for specific undersea capabilities, reducing medical evacuation response time.Dr. Landers consistently strives to increase the high level of medical support for the extremely hazardous diving conditions faced by her sailors. As part of her efforts to improve her support, Landers quickly attained the skills and qualifications to perform the same complex dive profiles required of her sailors, becoming the first female officer to do so. Grace continues to seek understanding of her environments, recently becoming an Intermediate Free Diver, a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine and qualifying as a Submarine Medical Officer, an honor only achieved by 30% of Navy Undersea Medical Officers.
Amy Slate, Scuba Instructor, Ocean and Environmental Conservation Leader, Educational Outreach Advocate
From her start as a YMCA teaching assistant in 1976 to her dream achievement, Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, a PADI 5-Star Dive Resort and BSAC School, Amy Slate’s passion for marine conservation has earned her the first Blue Star designation by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for marine conservation education. Since Amoray opened in 1993, the Amoray Diver has served over 60,000 divers and Amy and her instructor staff have certified over 6,000 PADI divers, touching each with her marine environmental message.
Amy started performing underwater weddings in 1979 and was featured on The Geraldo Show, The Wedding Story and in People Magazine along with many national and international publications. She has been the owner/operator of Dive Charter/Scuba Instructional Operations in Key Largo since 1978 and has served on numerous community and national boards. She currently serves on the board of the Coral Restoration Foundation and Community Bank of Florida and as the Key Largo Dive Umbrella representative to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. Amy has also served on the board of REEF.For more information about the Women Divers Hall of Fame, log on to www.wdhof.org.