Following a global search, a local graduate is one of just three people in the world to receive the prestigious Rolex Scholarship from the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society.
Mr Steve Lindfield, 23, of Empire Bay on the Central Coast completed his Bachelor of Science degree program with First Class Honours at the University of Newcastle's Central Coast campus in 2007. His Honours research used baited underwater video cameras to examine the distribution of fish in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
The Rolex scholarship is a year-long experience-based scholarship which allows Mr Lindfield and his two overseas counterparts to spend one year travelling the world working with leading underwater researchers in fields such as sustainable fisheries, marine parks and artifical reefs.
Mr Lindfield will also continue his scuba diving qualifications and travel with professional underwater photographers and cinematographers.
"When I heard of this scholarship it seemed like such an incredible opportunity," he said. "I have always known the ocean would be a major part of my life and have worked towards that goal. This scholarship means my dream will become a reality.
"I will use my scholarship to travel to various artifical reefs and marine parks around Australia and overseas, giving me a greater understanding of these two local marine issues.
"I want to use my experiences as a fisherman, scientist and conservationist to provide an unbiased perspective to marine conservation. I would like to further promote understanding of the marine world to maintain and enhance the marine environment for future generations."
Mr Lindfield will fly to New York City on Tuesday 8 April to officially receive his award at The Explorers Club on the 12th April, along with his Rolex watch and underwater video camera.
The Rolex Scholarship has created many world-renowned experts in the underwater world since 1974 in North America and Europe in 2001. Last year was the first time the scholarship was offered in Australasia.
To follow Mr Lindfield's progress through the year, a web page has been developed for the Australasian Rolex Scholar: http://owussaustralasia.org/