Girl Scout Scuba Troop 40349 in Central Texas does everything that other troops do – but underwater.
The Scuba Scouts is a special interest troop where girls ages 12 to 17 can become certified scuba divers, taking their love for service to new depths – 130 feet underwater, to be exact.
Girl Scout AJ – also known at Cuttlefish – talked about her troop during one of her volunteer dives at Spring Lake in San Marcos.
“I think the troop helped me, like, get out of my comfort zone a little bit,” she said. “When I first started diving, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the water is so cold.’ But then as I kept going and kept diving, I felt more confident. And I believe it really helped me, like, mature as a teenager.”
Along with exploring Texas’ waterways through scuba diving, the scouts are also examining the environmental impacts of things like sunscreen or zebra mussels. For scout Eva – nicknamed Atolla, a type of jellyfish – being in the troop has given her a new perspective of water conservation and her role in it.
“I feel like one thing that you hear talked about a lot when you’re talking about conservation like, oh, take shorter showers and make sure to separate your recycling. And those things are really important because they’re things that everybody can do really easily,” she said. “But then people do those things and they kind of limit themselves because there are lots of other things that you can do really easily that make a big difference.”
The scuba scouts have given AJ lessons that she shares with her high school friends.
“I’ve gone to school after learning all this stuff in the troop and they’re like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And I’m like, well, here’s the explanation why,” she said. “So I feel like it’s very important for us as young people to get educated in these kinds of things so we can share with our friends and, you know, clean up the world as we grow up.”
Spring Lake is home to five endangered species, including Texas wild rice and the blind salamander. Eva and AJ dove into the lake with thick wetsuits and oxygen tanks weighing anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds to pull out invasive plants in the area.
According to the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, there are about 2.5 million active scuba divers in the U.S. – and approximately 60% of them are men.
“These girls are out there; they are shattering any presumptions that people have about what they can and cannot do” said Girl Scout leader Karina Erickson. “And they are really taking things to new heights and depths.”
Erickson said that she hopes Eva, AJ and the rest of the scouts in Troop 40349 learn how to be responsible for themselves and their environment.
“We are seeing that they really understand that it’s up to us and this next generation to protect our underwater environment, whether they’re creating sunscreen patches and talking about reef-safe sunscreen or working with our local restaurant community to help them go strawless or use biodegradable straws so they’re not entering into our waterways,” she said. “They’re really just these eco-warriors who are working to make the world a better place. And I think that is the most incredible thing that we can pass on to the next generation.”