The Scholar Diver

A conversation with Mae Dorricot

AlgiKnit: We’re so curious to find out: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

Mae Dorricot: My name is Mae Dorricott, I'm from the North West of England but I live in Bristol and I am an underwater researcher for natural history television!

Once I fell in love with the ocean from a young age I was determined that I would have a career that revolved around being near and in the sea.
— Mae Dorricot

AlgiKnit: Your work largely revolves around marine life. Why is it so influential to you and what role has the ocean and its ecology played in your life?

Mae Dorricot: Once I fell in love with the ocean from a young age I was determined that I would have a career that revolved around being near and in the sea. So I pursued to build a skill set in scuba diving and began to gather as much experience as possible in marine biology. The more I learn and see the more intrigued I become. It's strange to say, but the ocean has given me purpose.

AlgiKnit: England has significant access to the water; however, England is not generally associated with diving. What is the diving culture like where you grew up, in Bristol, and in England in general?

Mae Dorricot: So, I grew up in the north-west of England where the tide only comes in once a day where you can actually see the sea! It's super flat and not necessarily dive-able. But we used to go on road trips to north Wales, the East Coat of England, Scotland and Cornwall for diving trips. Back at home, we jumped in the quarry most weekends! Diving in the UK is, in my opinion a hardy sport. It's cold and not simple. But, everyone is always so keen... it makes diving abroad such a doddle!

AlgiKnit: What is it like being an underwater researcher? How did you become involved in the profession? And, do you have any noteworthy experiences?

Mae Dorricot: Being an underwater researcher is super fun. Its exciting to try and find new stories that haven't been done before, or find new ways of doing old ones. You have to read a lot of scientific papers, which I love geeking out on to find new discoveries, and then think of ways you can film it! I always thought that working on documentaries, especially underwater ones, would be the dream. So I aimed to build skills in marine biology and scientific communication. My best experience so far was filming Humpbacks off the coast of Colombia. We could hear them singing through the boat's hull and it was like listening to an underwater party.

AlgiKnit: We noticed that you are an OWUSS Rolex Scholar. Can you delve a little bit into what that entails and how you came to acquire such a high honor?

Mae Dorricot: I've just cut and pasted this from the website :') but basically... “Each year there are 3 scholars from each of the following regions; North America, Europe, and Australasia. Each Rolex Scholarship provides a hands-on introduction to underwater and other aquatic-related endeavors for a young person considering a career in an underwater-related discipline. Each scholar spends approximately one year working side by side with current leaders in underwater fields. Each scholar travels primarily within his or her region, but may have opportunities throughout the underwater world. The range of experiences may include active participation in field studies, underwater research, scientific expeditions, laboratory assignments, equipment testing and design, photographic instruction, and other specialised assignments. Scholars pursue activities in their chosen disciplines during the one-year period between Our World Underwater Scholarship Society® annual spring meetings. Experiences may last from a few days to over a month. At the conclusion of each experience, the scholar moves on to another, so the scholarship year involves extensive travel. I was able to create a unique itinerary, based on my own interests in marine biology and scientific communication... it was awesome! I visited 14 countries, spent over 200 hours underwater and was able to learn alongside some of my underwater icons! I was involved in great white shark research in Australia, ecotoxicology in Florida and a scientific exploration expedition to remote Micronesian reefs, amongst some other phenomenal experiences.” (Courtesy to OWUSS for supplemental text). 

My best experience so far was filming Humpbacks off the coast of Colombia. We could hear them singing through the boat’s hull and it was like listening to an underwater party.
— Mae Dorricot

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Mae Dorricot is a camerawoman, dive master, and Rolex Scholar. With academic backgrounds in Marine Biology and Communication Science, as well as extensive experience as an underwater researcher, Mae is a formidable force in the diving world. You can find out more about Mae and her Rolex Scholarship here, and to see more of her work, you can visit https://www.instagram.com/maekld/