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Rowing: Kanabrocki enjoys life on and in water

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

As a member of the rowing squad, it’s natural for junior Alyce Kanabrocki to feel comfortable on the water. But when she got her scuba diving license in Hawaii, she found that she feels just as comfortable under the water as she does on it.

“Just being under the water ⎯ it’s a completely different world,” Kanabrocki said. “It’s completely silent, except for the scuba gear, so it’s just really peaceful down there.”

Kanabrocki’s love of life under the sea is matched by her love for a certain sea creature, which she was lucky enough to spot as soon as she earned her diving license.

“I have a sea turtle tattooed on my foot,” Kanabrocki said. “I love the sea turtles, so it was really awesome that I saw them on my first dive. It was really exciting.”

Since “Finding Nemo” came out in 2003, sea turtle love has become commonplace. But Kanabrocki’s love predates Squirt, originating instead with memories of her grandfather.

“My grandpa took me to Shedd Aquarium when I was little, and they have a sea turtle there named Nickel, and when I saw Nickel that’s when I fell in love with the ocean and realized that’s what I wanted to study and what I wanted to protect,” she said. “So sea turtles remind me of my grandpa and the impact he had on me, and also embody the path that I’m on.”

Kanabrocki’s grandfather, a scientist who studied circadian rhythms and multiple sclerosis, helped inspire his granddaughter’s love of science and devotion to others.

“He was really scientific also, but also a really, really kind, spiritual person,” Kanabrocki said. “He’s my ideal role model because he just had everything interwoven so well and everyone loved him. He was great.”

Kanabrocki, an environmental science and peace studies double major, said her grandpa influenced her dreams for the future.

“Ideally, I’d work with a [non-governmental organization] or something and do consulting and resource management and coastal conservation, and work with people to help preserve their environment,” Kanabrocki said.

She hopes she can eventually incorporate diving into her preservation work.

“I applied for a grant last summer to go to Mozambique and do whale shark conservation, so I would love to go diving there and see the whale sharks,” Kanabrocki said. “They’re ginormous, but they’re completely safe, and it must be amazing to be next to something that big, so I think that’d be really cool. I really wish I would’ve gotten the grant, but maybe this year.” 

Even so, Kanabrocki hopes to dive at some famous sites just for the experience, even if it means taking a day off from saving the world.

“Hawaii is the only place I’ve ever gotten to go [diving], because I just got certified a couple of years ago, but it was beautiful,” she said. “I would also like to go scuba diving in the Red Sea in the Middle East because it’s supposed to be some of the best diving, and then the Great Barrier Reef would be awesome, of course.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu