The Island girl finding her way

Some kids know exactly what they want do to when they grow up, that was me, at least to an extent. My name is Jhénelle Williams and I was born and raised on the island of Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean. Island life cultivated an appreciation and love for the water and the marine environment and so I decided that it didn’t matter what I did in my career, as long as I got to be close to the water. In fact, that obsession started early. As a young girl in the first grade, I really wanted to learn to swim and compete, but my parents weren’t exactly on board at the time. I decided to go anyway. Three days a week, I took the school bus to the stadium to learn to swim with other students from my school. In hindsight, that really was not a good idea since anything could have happened to me, but to be honest I don’t regret it. From the moment I started, I’ve never stopped swimming. I went from competing with swim teams to competing in synchronized swimming and playing for Jamaica’s Water Polo team. It was exhilarating, but little did I know at the time, the best was yet to come through diving, in fact, its in the interest of being a better diver that I met Cristina.

As many of you know, Cristina is a master and an incredible source of knowledge in the diving field, especially when it comes to learning about sharks. I read all about her online and found out that she was also a member of The Explorers Club, an organization that I also dreamed of being accepted in. So that was it, two-point of interest, one amazing woman at

the center of it; it was time to be brave, so I sent her an email and hoped for the best. She responded and after great conversations she offered to train me to earn my PADI Rescue Diver Certification in the Bahamas. Ecstatic is an understatement for how I felt, even more so, I earned it on my birthday!

So what does it all mean for my career? I’m currently working at a research facility in Jamaica where we utilize nuclear techniques to study the environment, its state, and potential impacts; in my case, specifically the atmospheric and marine environment. While I don’t get a chance to dive as frequently as I would like, my love and appreciation for the ocean and the life it inhabits propel me to do work that would enable positive action from policymakers and people.

Achieving targets outlined under the sustainable development goals (SDGs) requires knowledge of the environment, an establishment of baseline data, and the provision of adequate information so that we can fight the negative impacts from an informed position. I also volunteer with the local marine labs on the island with underwater cleanup activities and aiding in the replanting of mangroves. I look forward to the day we all appreciate and respect the life of the ocean, it truly is one of the most beautiful places to


Jhenelle Williams

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