Ocean First Sustainable Dive Leader Program

What The Program Is About

The Ocean First Sustainable Dive Leader is a five-day professional development program located at Ocean First in Key Largo, Florida. Hosted at the internationally acclaimed Marine Lab, this immersive course was created specifically with the dive professional in mind. Divemasters and instructors who want to increase their knowledge and hone their teaching skills can enroll from any training agency. This hands-on, interactive experience includes academic sessions, workshops, fish surveys, and a foray into scientific diving, all facilitated by marine biologists and dive industry experts. Course participants learn how to effectively organize and teach marine, shark, and turtle ecology, coral biology, and fish identification. Participants are provided with digital learning materials, detailed instructor outlines, and presentation slides to enhance their knowledge and teaching techniques. Participants are also provided with sustainability best practices and are coached on implementing them within the specifics of their unique business model. This course is designed for dive industry professionals who want to tap into the lucrative and growing market of sustainable adventure tourism in ways that fit their personal or company’s ethos and brand.

Partners & Contributors

Dr. Alex Brylske

Sustainable tourism expert Dr. Alex Brylske, former Marine Science and Technology Professor at the College of the Florida Keys, authored the Ocean First Sustainable Dive Leader course. Alex's background combines training as an educator and marine biologist with a highly successful career in the scuba industry. This has given Alex a unique understanding of both marine resource management and marine tourism. For more than four decades, he has partnered with the private sector, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations to create innovative marine conservation programs that combine responsible tourism practices and citizen science initiatives.

 Alex's honors include NOAA's prestigious Walter B. Jones Memorial Excellence Award for Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the 2012 DAN/Rolex Diver of the Year. He is the author of numerous courses, seminars, and books, including Beneath the Blue Planet: A Diver's Guide to the Ocean and The Complete Diver: The History, Science, and Practice of Scuba Diving.

Cathy Christopher

Cathy grew up in northeast Ohio knowing that she loved science - biology specifically - from an early age. While her interest in marine science started with whales, by the time she got to undergrad, she was enamored with the invertebrates. While in grad school at Florida Atlantic University, Cathy earned her Open Water and Nitrox scuba certifications and gained experience with various projects about birds and sea turtles and everything in between. Cathy moved from Florida to Colorado in 2015 to work full time for Ocean First Education (OFE) where she and the rest of the team develop K-12 marine science content. If you've taken any of the SSI Ecology courses, you're already familiar with the work done by OFE – the two companies partnered several years ago to make marine science education more accessible to divers. In 2017, Cathy became a dive instructor for Ocean First and enjoys pointing out the unique invertebrates she comes across on her dives throughout the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific. If you ask nicely, she might even help you ID your fish and invert images.

Chrissy Frederick

Chrissy Frederick spent 20 years as a classroom science teacher in both public and independent schools. She now brings her passion for science to her role as the Education Team Leader of Ocean First Education (OFE). At OFE, students are taken to the intersection of fascination and education, through engaging, relevant, and student-centered learning experiences. 

Chrissy is an SSI instructor, who primarily teaches scuba to youth. When not diving, she can be found playing outside either trail running, climbing, paddling, or skiing.