Plunging Into the Depths: Rachel Martin’s Journey from Student to Explorer

Rachel Martin’s career path has been anything but traditional.

A proud alumna of the UF/IFAS School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences, Rachel’s master’s degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from 2015 was only the beginning.

Rachel grew up in the water, whether competing in swim meets or working as a lifeguard. She even took a SCUBA diving course for gym class while attending Eastern Connecticut State University. Eventually, she found a position in the Florida Keys where she got her open water and nitrox certifications, while also becoming an avid recreational diver.

During her graduate studies at UF, Rachel realized more about her career ambitions and interests.

“It was there I realized diving could be more than a pastime,” Rachel said. “This could be my career.”

The opportunity to get scientifically dive certified in Alaska was a career opportunity she could not ignore. In 2021, Rachel moved from a Ph.D. pursuit at the University of Florida to the depths of a scientific diving program at the University of Alaska Southeast in Sitka.

“I know it’s cold water, it’s a little crazy,” Rachel said, “but cold water would make me more competitive for jobs, so I thought if I want to be more competitive and get the edge for some of these positions, let’s just go get it all at once.”

Rachel will never forget the first time the ice-cold Alaskan water hit the back of her neck.

“I could not feel my fingers by the end of the day. I could not stop shaking and I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice, but you get used to the cold,” Rachel said. “Since then, that’s all I’ve done. I have not gone back to anything warmer than 58 degrees for a while.”

Lindblad Expeditions

Rachel Martin, UF Grad and Professional Expedition Diver. Mountains and water in the background.
Rachel Martin poses for a picture after a dive in the cold waters of Alaska.

This bold leap propelled her into a professional diving position with Lindblad Expeditions, a luxury expedition cruise company that partners with National Geographic to bring people up close and personal with various locations around the globe. Lindblad immerses guests in the culture and environment of their destinations, while also adding an educational factor thanks to the expertise of staff like Rachel.

With Lindblad, Rachel discovered a niche where her diving expertise aligns with guiding nature enthusiasts through some of the planet’s most pristine environments—across all seven continents.

“You’re getting to interact with people, some who have never seen these animals in the wild,” Rachel said. “They’re seeing things with this enthusiasm for the first time, and that’s contagious.”

In her most recent expedition in Alaska, Rachel’s days included encounters with marine life ranging from shrimps to giant Pacific octopuses, to sea lions and rare orcas.

One notable highlight of her career was an impromptu expedition to Antarctica, which turned into a month-long trip across the icy wilderness of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. While Rachel has visited many places, from the rugged landscapes of Patagonia to the frozen expanses of Antarctica, her heart is always set on future explorations. Two destinations on her radar include the Galápagos Islands and a chance to dive in the Red Sea.

Career Advice for Others

Rachel offers some advice for those on the cusp of decisive life changes: “Dive in. Take those chances,” Rachel said. “I am married, I left my dogs and my husband for a whole semester and went up to Alaska, but it has turned into a great opportunity for my career. Now I have the chance to continue to grow and expand and work in these amazing places and share that with people.”


Posted: December 8, 2023


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