July 18 is Global Women’s Dive Day, and we’re so proud of our women diver-aquarists here at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium! Marine biologists who each have countless dive hours here inside our Pacific Seas Aquarium (PSA) and South Pacific Aquarium (SPA), as well as around the world, these ladies lead their fields in animal care, research and conservation.
Here’s a snapshot of some of them. Thank you, PDZA women divers!
Mikiko Williams, aquarist
I learned to dive when I was 20 in Fukuoka, Japan. I do 1-3 dives per week in the Northwest Waters, octopus and occasionally Baja Bay exhibits in the PSA.
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: Ratfish and giant Pacific octopus
Favorite dive spot in the world: The Pacific Northwest!
My ocean conservation passion: Microplastics in storm water, and habitat restoration.
Heidi Wilken, dive safety officer
I learned to dive 20 years ago in Monterey, CA. Now I do 3-6 dives a week, including diving outside of Zoo work. I dive most of the exhibits in both aquariums, both warm and cold, and am also a field diver for PDZA.
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: The sandtiger shark in SPA, and the sturgeon in Northwest Waters in PSA
Favorite dive spot in the world: It’s a tie between local waters, especially Titlow Beach and Deception Pass, and the Great Barrier Reef.
My ocean conservation passion: Shark and rockfish conservation. I oversee the Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive program, which is all about inspiring shark conservation, and I am the lead for PDZA’s rockfish survey project.
Jessica Miles, assistant dive safety officer
I learned to dive right here in Puget Sound when I was 18. I do about 2-3 dives per week in Outer Reef, Blue Hole and Lagoon (SPA,) and Northwest Waters, Baja Bay and Tidal Surge (PSA,) plus some field diving in Puget Sound.
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: Sharks in the Outer Reef – particularly Sammy the sandtiger shark
Favorite dive spot in the world: The San Juan Islands and the Great Barrier Reef – both very different!
My ocean conservation passion: Shark finning. I work here to promote shark conservation and connect guests (especially kids) to these amazing animals to inspire and empower them to help protect them.
Melissa Bishop, aquarist
Melissa mostly dives in Baja Bay, where she is the lead trainer and aquarist for our green sea turtles, Sunny and Azul.
“One of my greatest satisfactions has been raising juvenile scalloped hammerheads and spotted eagle rays in the Pacific Seas Aquarium, and now watching them grow before our visitors’ eyes,” she says.
Melissa earned her Associate’s Degree in Aquarium Science. She worked at the National Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium before coming to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Cindy Kagey, aquarist
I learned to dive in Florida when I was about 25. I dive once a week, usually in the South Pacific Aquarium.
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: Leopard eel
Favorite dive spot in the world: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium! I only dive here at the zoo.
My ocean conservation passion: Seahorse conservation. I raised seahorses for several years here.
Tai Fripp, animal care assistant
I learned to dive here in Tacoma when I was 26. I dive 1-2 times a week, usually with Japanese spider crabs and the Tidal Surge exhibit, but sometimes in the SPA Outer Reef or Lagoon, Northwest Waters or Baja Bay
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: the Japanese spider crabs
Favorite dive spot in the world: Point Hudson, near Port Townsend
My ocean conservation passion: Ocean plastics. Whenever I dive in Puget Sound I collect as much garbage as I can to throw away back on land.
Sarah Anderson, part-time diver
I learned to dive when I was 22, in the Columbia River. It varies, but I usually dive 4 times per week in Northwest Waters, Under the Narrows and Baja Bay (PSA) plus Outer Reef, Blue Hole or the Lagoon (SPA).
Favorite animal to dive with at PDZA: Peanut our zebra shark, I think, is quite possibly the cutest animal on the planet!
Favorite dive spot in the world: I haven’t been many places yet, but Deception Pass is pretty spectacular.
My ocean conservation passion: I LOVE sharks, and they desperately need our help. Not only have they gotten a bad rap, but 70 million die per year just due to human actions. It’s my goal to do anything I can to help, even just talking to people about sharks to raise awareness about how important they are to our oceans. There’s many things we can do to make a difference: Not purchasing shark fin soup( and reporting it,) participating in the Seafood Watch program and even paying attention to the ingredients in the products you buy to make sure none of them were sourced from sharks.