Monday, December 1, 2014

Somewhere over the rainbow

It was the coldest boiling water I had ever felt. One hundred and forty degrees colder, to be exact. The water boiled like witches brew in a giant cauldron as I hovered overhead, confused by the sight of boiling juxtaposed with the water that surrounded me like an icy blue blanket.
A photo posted by Jenny Adler (@jmadler) on
Can you guess where I am? I am dressed in a suit and feel as though I’m flying, yet I’m not in outer space. Here, sunfish can fly and sand ripples appear to reflect overhead, as the wind etches patterns in the sky. It feels as though I’m on another planet, lost in a deep, blue slumber.

The need for air pulls me to the surface, reminding me that I am not dreaming. I am in fact on earth, and despite how crazy it sounds, it would also be accurate to say that I’m somewhere over the Rainbow.

Over Rainbow Springs, that is.

But for an hour, I let reality blend with dreams. As they become one in the same, we soar with the shad and explore the 72-degree boiling water that animates the sandy bottom. Water re-emerges from its underground lair, perhaps to start its journey back towards the sea, while drops careen from above, joining the journey.

We are in the middle where the waters meet. We play in the aquarium-like world, and when the boiling water becomes too cold to bear, we hesitantly morph from mermaids to mere mortals.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Another Illusion

Thanks to David, I'm officially on Google maps! While my Illusions exhibit was on display at Santa Fe College last month, David worked his photo magic and made a 360 degree virtual tour of the exhibit that is now publicly viewable on Google.

So if you didn't get a chance to check it out in person, click the photo below to take a 'walk' around!

Also, David and his company Trident Global Imaging have some other amazing photospheres in the springs, including the natural well at Silver Glen and the swim area at Rainbow Spring state park. Check out his google page to explore his awesome work!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spreading the springs love

November is the forgotten month - it does have Thanksgiving, but it's squished between Halloween and Christmas, and every year, the canned cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and cornbread mix display at the grocery store seems to shrink as it's encroached upon by stuffed Santas, Christmas lights, and candy canes. 

I shared this Christmas manatee last year after an awesome early-morning adventure with Bird's Underwater. November is "Manatee Awareness Month," so I'm reminding you with this baby Santa manatee. But don't be fooled (by this or the grocery store displays) - it's still November and Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet... there are still many springs adventures left before Christmas!
Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas and I'm definitely guilty of wishing away the end of November ... Christmasy things become acceptable on December 1st and classes end soon thereafter. But this year, November has been exciting and full of springs! The late fall and early winter months usually mark the beginning of our "spring season" (aka springs-hopping during the non-tourist season), and this November has included the added excitement of my springs photos being shared with the diving community via Scubaba's "Photographer of the Month" series. A huge thank you and shoutout to them and SeaLife Underwater Cameras for sponsoring the series... it has been so much fun to re-live the adventure that goes along with each photo as they share one photo per day through their social media outlets. You can find Scubaba on Facebook, Instagram, g+, and Twitter - check them out to book a dive vacation and/or see 13 more of my springs photos posted for the rest of the month. I hope that this helps, even if it's just a tiny bit, raise awareness about Florida's springs and bring these amazing and threatened ecosystems into people's minds (and hearts) :)

Check out Scubaba's blog for the full interview :)

Thank you so much for the kind words, Scubaba! And thank you for featuring the beautiful springs - I feel lucky to have such gorgeous playgrounds in my backyard. Get out and enjoy the springs, Floridians!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Halloween is a time for ghosts, ghouls, scares, and screams, and although I'm easily frightened by guts and gore, the chills I had running down my spine the morning after Halloween were not from fright.

Hours after dozens of trick-or-treaters braved the chilly nighttime temperatures in their little costumes, the windows rattled and the wind whipped through the trees. Maybe the night was haunted, but a better guess is that chillier temperatures and a cold front are finally hitting north Florida. This is the time of year when us 'winter warriors' rise early from under the cozy covers and speed to the springs, only to find we have the entire parking lot to ourselves. When it's 47 and windy, apparently there is no competition for parking spots or a refreshing spring swim...

But winter is the perfect time to take a dip in the steaming water. Yesterday the water temperature was almost 30 degrees warmer than the air, so it's surprising more people don't flock to the springs during the cooler months. We've been waiting all year for this... springs season is just getting started.
Bundled in jackets and sweatpants, we explored a bit above water first, fooling ourselves into thinking it would somehow warm up a few degrees before we submerged. We checked out Catfish Hotel and watched the duckweed slowly swirl at the surface of the sinkhole, creating mesmerizing patterns that we examined like cloud formations in the sky.

Thinking warm thoughts, we finally made the switch, trading cozy clothes for suits (wetsuits or swim suits, depending on who you're talking to in our group...). Touching our toes to the water, it was surprisingly warm compared to the air, but our already-goosbumped skin was not very happy about being wet. But the water was calling, so we took the plunge.

Algae and a lone sunfish shine in the morning sunlight.
The visibility in the spring has significantly decreased since I was here with Harry and a group of open water students 3 months ago. At that time, the spring had just re-emerged from a flood - tannic river water had covered the spring vent and entire basin and cut off sunlight for photosynthesis for long enough to kill off most of the benthic algae. The karst formations were, for a short while, free from flowing green and brown algae. But yesterday the carpet was back and as thick as ever, swirling in the strong flow of the vent below.

As I glided out the spring run, I drifted with long ribbons of algae. The green and brown colors took over, and to add to the eerie feeling, I swear I saw a lion - do you see the face??
Reflections form a ceiling overhead and rays of light illuminate the algae-filled basin and stairs.
It goes without saying that crystal clear water is gorgeous - and I will admit, it's still my favorite - for both aesthetic and ecosystem health-related reasons. But there is also something eerie and beautiful about water that has less-than-perfect visibility. Perhaps it was fitting for the Halloween spirit and also a little reminder that there is often beauty in the breakdown.

Sunlight beams down light spotlights as I gaze into the depths of the spring.
Bass loom in the algae-filled shadows in the shallows along the edges of the spring run.
Looking up or down?
Shivering on the inside and hands frozen to the camera, we made the last minute decision to sprint over to Catfish Hotel. By the time, we reached the sinkhole, the once-warmish water in our wetsuits had turned cold and the wind not-so-subtly reminded us of its presence... but I simply couldn't give up a chance to take photos in the magical, duckweed-covered sinkhole.

From the surface, it almost looks like a grassy field. But once you're under the green, you realize that it's so much more.
Fall in the springs.
Although it looks like a slimy algae from a distance, duckweed is actually a tiny flowering plant - it's not slimy at all! (Although it does get very easily caught in your hair, stuck on your wetsuit, etc.) It is a subfamily (Lemnoideae) of the aroid family (Araceae) - there are several different genera of duckweed found in Florida, but Lemna is one of the most common. A few different species can live together and can be difficult to tell apart - some species that look practically identical to native species are actually invasive in Florida. No matter what species is present, it creates amazing scenery from below the surface as islands of duckweed swirl and migrate at the surface.
Greg playing with his GoPro in the sunlight and duckweed-filled waters. 
Searching for the sky.
Taking the plunge.
Eyeing the exit - has the above water world disappeared?
Morning light.
So don't be afraid to venture beneath the surface - even if it appears to be covered in a thin layer of green. What lies beneath will surprise you and surpass all of your wildest dreams. As you lay cozy in bed on Saturday morning in north Florida, just remember what you now know lies nestled in the woods not far from your doorstep.


If you're interested in a winter springs adventure, Go Native Adventures is hosting "Freedive SpringFest2014" at Troy Spring on December 6 - check out their page for details... I will be the event photographer and am excited to meet many new winter springs-hopping, freediving friends - hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Illusions Abound

The mild Florida fall weather resembles an endless New England summer. But as gorgeous weather continues to play tricks on my mind, pumpkin-flavored-everything and Halloween candy galore remind me that it's just an illusion, and October has in fact come to a close. Illusions abounded throughout the month of October, but it wasn't only because of the beautiful weather.

The exhibit was featured on the Santa Fe website - use this link to see the full article.
My first photography exhibit, titled Illusions, was on display at the Santa Fe College President's Hall gallery for the month of October. It was made up of 27 photographs (framed prints, canvases, and wooden photo boards) and associated text panels that blended science and storytelling. Each panel also included QR codes that linked to the full blog posts where I had originally written about each photo at some point over the past 3 years. The goal of the exhibit was to inspire in others a true appreciation for our beautiful, but fragile and endangered, spring ecosystems. Photography is an avenue for me to share both the magic and misery of Florida's springs, and it allows me to connect and communicate with people in ways that are not possible using science alone.

The idea for the theme of the show was originally inspired by what my favorite author Cynthia Barnett calls the "illusion of water abundance." I first drew the parallel between my reflective springs photos and Barnett's illusion in my Illusions blog post in March 2014; the introduction text panel for the exhibit summarizes the "illusions" story:

This post, and Cynthia's beautiful words, came to life when the exhibit went up on October 6th. And today, the last day of the exhibit, the UF College of Journalism officially announced that Cynthia Barnett will be joining the school as a visiting professor. I am beyond excited to take her Environmental Journalism class in the spring and have the opportunity to work with someone who has been such a huge inspiration for me. The J-School and UF students are incredibly lucky to have her!

Talking to Cynthia Barnett and her husband Aaron at the opening. I highly recommend her two water books (Mirage and Blue Revolution) - the New York Times and Tampa Bay Times recommend them too ;) Cynthia has been a huge inspiration for me and has taught us all so much about Florida's water and how we can move forward with a new water ethic. Can't wait for her book about rain to be released in April 2015! 
Putting the exhibit together was a lot of fun - and also much more work than I anticipated. This was my first show and it ended up being an incredible learning experience as well as a great crash course in 'how to do an art show on a grad student budget.' I printed, matted and framed all 8 of the white photos myself, and besides taking many many hours, this process turned our living room into a framing gallery as it simultaneously became littered with boxes and large canvases splashed with every imaginable shade of blue.

Some of the photos in the exhibit, before the text panels were installed. Thank you again to Santa Fe's gallery manager Kyle Novak for laying out and installing every piece! He also printed the text panels and the exhibit title, which I am standing next to on the night of the opening in the middle photo.
The crew at Santa Fe was absolutely amazing to work with and made the whole process very enjoyable. The gallery manager Kyle Novak set the bar high for future shows - he answered my every question, printed the text panels and QR codes, and installed (and took down!) every piece. He also gave up a Friday night to help set up for and clean up from the gallery opening celebration - a huge thank you to Kyle! It was surreal to walk into a giant room to find the walls filled with my artwork - it was both confusing and wonderful, and it felt like diving into a dozen springs at once!

The opening was an evening that I will certainly never forget. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of people that came (about 70!). I feel so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such a wonderful community - to my labmates, friends, family, the springs community, and everyone in between, you seriously all made me so happy and words can't express how much it means to me that you all came to show your support and celebrate the springs!

Lesley and John are champions for our springs, incredible writers and artists, and are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met - thank you both for all that you have taught me and for many fun adventures, starting with The Springs Eternal Project and continuing into the future :) 
My mom and Harry take a look at the playful manatee. It was wonderful to have my parents in town for the exhibit opening and birthday weekend - they have always been my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. It was exciting that they got to meet Harry, who has basically adopted me as a granddaughter - he took me on my first springs dive, my first cavern dive, first cave dive, and got me outfitted in and comfortable in sidemount gear and continues to teach me new things about photography and diving on every single dive. 
Calendars for sale on opening night. 
I still can't believe how many people who I really look up to came out to opening night. David and Dee, who I worked for the year before starting grad school, continue to bring endless smiles to my life and have been incredible mentors, teaching me about everything from videography, photography, and diving, to how to have a happy, optimistic outlook about life in general. Also in the background of this photo is Mike, one of the biologists I worked for at USGS when I first moved to Gainesville - he and Ken taught me everything I know about the Suwannee River and sturgeon. Mike was the first person to suggest I visit a spring and then he and Ken took me to several along the banks of the Suwannee at the end of our long days of sturgeon fishing on the tannic river.
You can find more photos from the opening night HERE.

I truly appreciate everyone's support and incredibly kind words. I am excited that the University of Florida (UF) Journalism School bought the 8 framed photos for their conference room and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) conference center in Citra, Florida is graciously allowing me to use their space as a rotating gallery and is also buying some larger pieces to hang permanently. If you missed the exhibit, the text panels and most of the photos will be on display again shortly!

And as a happy end to the springs story (for now!), after a few weeks without rain, the skies opened up just as I loaded the last of my exhibit photos into the car. I drove home in the downpour, dreaming of swimming in the rain and taking photos on this weekend's springs adventures.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mission Blue

The future of the aquifer is in our hands...

Here, I am holding a tiny piece of the Floridan aquifer - and if you live in Florida, you are too. Here in the Sunshine State, we live on top of our main supply of drinking water - it winds its way through cavernous limestone tunnels beneath our feet.

The Floridan aquifer itself is massive. It's so huge that most Floridians naively assume we couldn't possibly have an impact on the quantity and quality of water beneath our feet. But fresh off a viewing of the must-watch documentary Mission Blue, I now realize that this is exactly what we thought about the ocean not too long ago. The vast, blue ocean at one time seemed unchangeable.

Mission Blue is a documentary about the amazing life of pioneering oceanographer and ocean explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. I actually meant to post this story a few weeks ago, but last weekend I got a lot of inspiration from fellow writers at the National Association of Science Writers conference in Columbus, Ohio. A few days chalk full of info-packed, dynamic sessions on everything from science blogging to pitching stories and writing science for children, has given me the extra spark of creative energy. Also, our badges for the conference, besides having our name and Twitter handle, asked us to write the name of our science hero. I penciled in "Sylvia Earle" on mine without hesitation, which of course reminded me of Mission Blue.

Anyway, her story is compelling from several perspectives - it's inspiring not only for budding marine biologists, scientists, and educators, but for women in general. She became a scientist during a time when women weren't exactly viewed as science material; I was surprised to see many of the newspaper articles and old video clips in the film that portrayed women as bikini-clad girls more likely to lay tanning on the beach. But Dr. Earle forged ahead, leading expeditions to the deepest parts of the ocean, heading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and blazing a path for not only women scientists but all marine scientists and oceanographers. Dr. Earle is still speaking for the oceans - in the documentary, she says she spends about 300 days out of the year traveling, speaking, and sharing her unparalleled knowledge of the ocean. She is the embodiment of a smart, strong, and well-respected woman (who is often referred to as "Her Deepness"). I can only hope that little girls idolize her when they're growing up instead of the next up-and-coming Disney pop star.

The documentary is tragic yet beautiful and very compelling - basically, Dr. Earle explains how we are all tied to the ocean and why we should all care about the sea regardless of our proximity to the coast. She extended Aldo Leopold's land ethic and the U.S. national parks system to the ocean via "hope spots" and explains why it is extremely important to protect our oceans. The tone of the film is concerned and "doomsday" enough to get your attention but not leave you altogether depressed - she is optimistic in that she says there is still time for us to mitigate the damage we have done.

Dr. Earle concisely sums up the essence of the problem as "no blue, no green." Basically, without the ocean, we have nothing. But this is directly applicable to freshwater as well.

Crystal clarity at Blue Spring, Gilchrist County, Florida. Dr. Earle's "no blue no green" applies to our aquifer and springs as well as the ocean.
This "Mission Blue" needs to be applied to our groundwater, which is the water that ~90% of us in Florida rely on as a source of drinking water. It is all too often "out of sight, out of mind." Just like the surface of the ocean does not appear to be changing (and prevents people from seeing and recognizing the problem with their own eyes), we are blind to changes happening in the aquifer. But the springs are here to tell us the story - and like the algae that currently dominates many once-pristine reefs worldwide, many springs have also transitioned to an algal dominated state. Besides the negative implications for these irreplaceable ecosystems, this is also a telltale sign of problems regarding the future of Florida's water.

So remember, if you live in Florida, the aquifer is in your hands, our hands. So let's protect it like our lives depend upon it... because they do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Without Words

Reading to a young child usually isn't reading at all. Most of the time, they want to look at the pictures, point at the farm animals while making moo, cluck, and oink noises, and curiously inquire what's that? when they come across an unknown creature. Cutting you off as you struggle to power through the paragraph about Farmer John and his herd of happy cows, the kid turns the page, eager for the next picture. Not much changes as children grow up - in a society with information overload, we are still scanning, skimming, and searching for what's relevant in everyday life. I'm definitely guilty of flipping through the pages of a new book to see if there are any pictures that catch my eye. Photos simply speak to us in ways that words cannot.

I love to take photos that portray the incredible beauty and magic of being submerged in a spring, but it is also important to document how they are changing over time in order to raise awareness about the periled status of these irreplaceable ecosystems. Besides their artistic and conservation purposes, photos of 20+ return visits to Gilchrist Blue Spring in just over a year serendipitously led me to document some incredible changes in the underwater world.

Over the past year, I quantified and documented the turtle "invasion" at Blue Spring in Gilchrist County, Florida. On this blog, I wrote a few posts about the turtles (see It's Raining TurtlesTurtle Soup, and Turtle Party 2). With other researchers, I designed projects to (1) tag and quantify the number of turtles in the spring and the (2) quantify the amount of vegetation they ate (grazing rates). The former project was performed out under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Johnson, a turtle researcher from Santa Fe College who runs the Santa Fe Turtle Project, while the latter was a field-based project that a fellow grad student Savanna and I did in Fall 2013.

We prepared a note (a short scientific article) about our vegetation study for publication in Herpetological Review. The note documents this unprecedented ecological phenomenon, which turned out to be the highest ever recorded density of freshwater turtles. In the note, we also quantify and report grazing rates of the freshwater turtles (Suwannee Cooters, Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) and report a significant decline in hydrilla biomass (but not other types of vegetation) during the month between sampling events. Our data makes for a nice bar graph and a highly significant p-value - all exciting things for scientists... but without words and fancy graphs, what exactly does it look like when 500 turtles graze a significant amount of vegetation?

I went back through my archives and found photos of Blue Spring before the turtles arrived. At that time, Blue was not blue at all - in fact, it would have been more aptly named Green Spring or Hydrilla Hole. Because I visited so frequently over the past year (mostly with Danielle and Greg), I had a time series of underwater photos visually documenting the decline in vegetation and was able to piece together a photographic version of our scientific research. This "photo science" is not quantitative, but I think it's pretty dramatic. Without words, I will let the photos speak for themselves...

Naked Spring Run

February 19, 2014
May 29, 2014
July 14, 2014

Dock at Naked Spring Run Crossing

February 28, 2014
May 10, 2014
May 29, 2014
Please visit the "Photo Science" Project section of my photography website to explore many more areas throughout the spring! I will be adding more photos tomorrow and over the coming weeks as I edit those from more recent trips and continue to return to the same spots in the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

MOOving Along

What do cows and cave diving have in common? 

Traveling to almost any sinkhole or remote spring in the back country woods of north central Florida, farmland dominates the landscape. Pin-straight rows of corn sprout up along the side of the road along with bright green fields of peanuts and endless fields of watermelons. Where vegetables, fruits, and legumes aren't emerging from the ground, grassy pastures are cluttered with hundreds of cows of all shapes, sizes, and colors: spotted, black, white, brown, you name it. Most of the animals crowd a watering hole or one of the few remaining live oak trees in the wide open field, anticipating the arrival of the first few rays of morning summer sunshine that will trigger the onset of intense heat.

The majority of the hour and fifteen minute drive from Gainesville to Cave Country Dive Shop yesterday morning consisted of cows, river crossings, and towns that appear to have been forgotten many years in the past. Along the way, I crossed the Santa Fe, the Ichetucknee, and finally the great Suwannee River, a telltale sign that I was getting close to Cave Country. The big blue bridge that has the words "way down upon the Suwannee River" written in big letters marks the transition from Lafayette to Suwannee County, and as I drove across it and looked down at the dark, tea-colored water of the Suwannee, a rush of sturgeon-fishing memories flooded my mind and the excitement of exploring a new Suwannee spring woke me up like a stiff cup of morning coffee.

I met Dave and Harry at Cave Country where we signed in and got the key to the spring of the day. As if the cows dotting the endless fields on the way to the spring weren't enough, we all piled back into our cars and caravanned over to Cow Spring, nestled about 100 yards and just out of sight from the banks of the Suwannee River.

This photo shows our first view of Cow Spring. It's an interesting spot that lies quite far off the beaten path - and its hydrology is really cool too. There is no visible spring run aboveground, but underground, there are both upstream and downstream tunnels: the upstream tunnel sends you winding your way down to 109 feet, at times with your fin tips over your head and pulling against the flow while the (much shorter) downstream tunnel heads out to the Suwannee River. (Although there is no way to dive out through the underwater spring run and end up in the river because the tunnel becomes too small.) We dove the upstream section, and before I describe it, take a look for yourself... Harry shot this short video on our drift out of the cave:
(Disclaimer: don't watch if you're claustrophobic!)

While all caves are pitch black, this cave is perhaps the darkest I have dove thus far. The walls have famous fragile clay layers and on top of the limestone rock, there is a thin black film. Despite our lights, it felt like night time. This is also the smallest cave I've ever dove. After the tight initial entrance, the passageways open up, but there are still spots that I wouldn't necessarily want to have to squeeze through using backmount. As you saw in Harry's video, this spring can have one of the highest flows - to help us get through the cave, we used a permanently installed rope that runs next to much of the main line in the cave (called the "poor man's scooter"). The flow wasn't insane, but it was certainly strong and the line really helped us pull our way through the tunnels. We dove to thirds (until the first diver goes through 1/3 of their air, so that you technically have 2x as much gas as you need to exit the cave) then turned around and rode the flow out of the cave. It was a fun and relaxing ride as we swiftly mooooved with the flow of Cow Spring, using our fins like sails on a boat headed downwind, and adjusting them ever so slightly like a rudder to weave our way through the twisted underworld until we again saw the light.
Sunlight and shadows in the Cow cavern.
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After the dive, Dave and I walked through the woods to find where Cow Spring meets the Suwannee River - we found two breathtaking little springs, each with multiple vents. "Liquid light" is the best way to describe the brilliant blue color of the two shallow spring pools. Crystal clear water poured out of several openings in the surrounding limestone walls, tumbling its way down to the tannic Suwannee and eventually out to the sea.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Morning Meditation

As air fades to liquid, we are cradled by the crystal clarity of spring water.

Masked ninjas fluently fly by, suspended in what appears to be thin air. Most wave a friendly hello as they effortlessly squeeze through tight limestone tunnels, following guidelines into the darkness. 

These mesmerizing tunnels extend for miles. Carved by the greatest sculptor, their intricacies are unparalleled – tirelessly weaving its way through the passageways, water ever so slightly shapes everything in its path - drop by drop, gallon by gallon, day by day.

We are suspended in the water that will soon appear at the downstream springs – before it appears at the vent, it winds through the puzzle-like underworld that forms the world’s most amazing (and perhaps most advanced) playground. It's time to play.

Pushing our way through the flow, I clutch my camera. Kick, pull, kick pull along the left side of the wall after our initial descent into the cave. I breathe slowly and steadily but can feel my heartbeat increasing as I push against the invisible force that is doing its best to expel me from its rocky home. Finally we duck out of the flow, as we arrive at the Catacombs – time to play with light.

We station the four lights like torches in the hallway of a medieval castle. But instead of illuminating eerie stone walls and suits of tarnished armor, we illuminate the aquifer. Harry helps me set up the lights in a way that brightens the walls in a magnificent pattern – his years of experience and thousands of dives have taught me so much and this dive is no exception. 

As I set up the camera and peer through the viewfinder, I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness – I can feel the excitement flowing through my veins like the water rushing through the catacombs and miles of caves that surround me. But it’s a different type of excitement – it’s a calm, collected feeling of ultimate relaxation. It's my form of meditation.

It’s practically impossible to imagine that 65 feet away, there is a rambunctious party – country music blares, monster trucks rev their engines, and the crisp sound of a freshly opened beer accompanies laughter and singing. It is the middle of a sweltering summer afternoon, yet as we switch off the lights, it is pitch black. Despite our apparent proximity to a raging party, the world is silent. Hidden below your feet, we are weightless and free at an underwater disco. Reflections of light dance to the rhythm of runaway bubbles and we swim to the sound of silence.


Recounting this story is serving as my Monday morning meditation - as I scroll through and edit my photos, I can practically feel the crisp spring water on my face. As I fell asleep last night, I could see divers floating around behind my eyelids, suspended in a dark night sky. While the caves are beautiful and exotic, they are also incredibly dangerous without the proper training - but whether you relax and reflect by the ocean, on the river, in the springs, or in a hammock by a lake, it doesn't matter... any water is wonderful for a morning meditation.

Also, this week marks exactly three years since I packed up the Prius and drove 22 hours south to Gainesville. I planned on staying until I could find a way to move closer to the ocean. If you had asked me 5 years ago what I would be doing now, I never would have said cave diving or studying freshwater, only ocean diving and marine biology. Now, I wouldn't trade my freshwater world for anything and can't imagine what life would be like without the amazing people I have met and places I have been during the past 3 years - it has been an incredible adventure, thank you!