With so many incredible women living in the tropics, often going unnoticed on their little islands by the rest of the world, I wanted to take the opportunity to share their stories here. This series, Women Who Rock Their Rock, features island women in all their glory, inspiring others with the work they do and how they’re making a difference on their islands.

If you missed some of the other posts in this series, be sure to check them out:

 Jenny Hawkes

Buki Cahane 

Ange Dovel 

Susan Blehr

Jillian Morris

Kelly Ann Sebree

The woman featured in this addition to the series is committed to renewing the health of our oceans while empowering an island’s youth along the way. 

 

MEET NICHOLE DANSER

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

ISLAND: Aruba

ORGANIZATION: Scubble Bubbles

NOMINATED BY: Her colleague, Amanda Murdoch

 

Nichole Danser is a California girl who has always been passionate about the ocean and living near the beach. From a young age, she was a bit of a nomad and constantly on the move. After teaching in northern California for 6 years, she felt the need to explore more of the world so she packed up and headed to Italy to live in the Tuscan countryside. She spent two years in beautiful Florence, Italy where she taught Math and Computer Science. Feeling a bit landlocked in Florence, she packed it all up (including her two Italian cats) and moved to the island of Aruba. Now she is a Math teacher at the International School of Aruba.

Nichole was nominated by a colleague because she embodies what it means to be a woman who rocks her rock. In a short time, she has created an island-wide phenomena which is quickly going global. The inspirational work she is doing with youth on the island centers around protecting our most valuable resource – the ocean. Her work is giving the next generation the opportunity to work toward not only conservation and protection, but also renewal. While many of us feel hopeless in the face of environmental issues, Nichole has created a foundation which is making real change. The youth working with Nichole on Aruba are not only protecting the ocean, they are learning leadership, collaboration, environmental science, diving skills, and having a lot of fun! According to her colleagues, Nichole is a hero at the International School of Aruba.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

 

Her foundation, ScubbleBubbles, started as a school project. Nichole, as their teacher, convinced 8 students to learn how to SCUBA dive. Two other students who were already certified decided to join the group. The group spent the first year working on skills and enjoying dives around Aruba, but over time they noticed the reefs were changing. Corals were not the same colors they once were and fish were disappearing. After summer break, they watched the documentary Chasing Coral and they knew they had to do something.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

The students started doing research while Nichole reached out to other organizations. They soon realized nothing was being done on Aruba… yet. They spent a year conducting research, raising money, and traveling to Bonaire to get specialized training on coral restoration.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

They brought their knowledge back to Aruba and with approval from Directie Natuur en Millieu and the Minister of Environment, they started a coral restoration project in conjunction with DePalm Island.

Here are some of the amazing works currently being done by the ScubbleBubbles team:

 

Coral Restoration Project

Due to the decline of coral health in the ocean, there is a global effort to increase the conservation and restoration of coral reefs. The ScubbleBubbles are implementing coral restoration techniques on Aruba that are currently being used on neighboring Bonaire and around the world to encourage asexual reproduction in branching corals.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

 

Dive Against Debris / Reef and Beach Clean-Ups

Pollution from plastic, cans, and other trash are dangerous to the health of the ocean. The ScubbleBubbles try to avoid single use plastic in their daily lives and do monthly reef or beach clean-ups to do their part for the waters around Aruba. With the help of Happy Divers Aruba, many of the ScubbleBubbles earned their PADI “Dive Against Debris” Specialty training.



Reef Health Surveys

Using a combination of existing techniques and methods “under construction,” ScubbleBubbles conducts surveys on reef health. They look at fish counts, ground cover/substrate, and coral bleaching and disease. They also hope to begin testing water quality as part of their data collection.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project



Youth Empowerment

While it would be easier for Nichole to do the paperwork and presentations herself, she spends more time supporting and empowering the students. The ocean and coral health is important to Nichole, but the project started because her students wanted it and she wanted to support their drive. She feels like the students need to know (and feel) like they CAN make a difference in the world.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project



A group of students completed the lengthy application for their second coral nursery, presented their plan to government officials, and wrote a letter to the ministry about why they should be given approval. Nichole also supported a group of students to present a reef survey project to a group of potential sponsors in order to receive funding. They were successful and will soon begin AGRRA training.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

 

While there have been struggles along the way, they’ve been no match for Nichole’s devotion to her cause. Finding money was difficult at first, but Nichole garnered a lot of support from the community, raising funds to get SCUBA equipment in order to make SCUBA diving accessible to any young person on the island who desires to learn, not just those who can afford it.

When the original group was looking to support a project, instead of giving up, they created their own project which has led to the volunteer base growing to over 30 young people in less than a year and two coral nurseries.

 

Nichole Danser Aruba ScubbleBubbles coral restoration project

 

Thank you, Nichole, for all you do for the youth and the ocean on your island. Rock on!!

 

— — —

 

If you’d like to support Nichole’s efforts, you can follow ScubbleBubbles Foundation on Facebook and Instagram, and you can make donations to further support their mission on Go Fund Me

You can also click here for more detailed information about the Coral Reef Project.

 

Do you know of an amazing woman on your island who deserves recognition for the difference she’s making on her rock? Send us an email and nominate her for a chance to have her featured in this series.

Written By:

Chrissann Nickel

Current Rock of Residence:

Virgin Gorda, BVI

Island Girl Since:

2006

Originally Hails From:

California

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood’s imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

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