Ocean Ambassador

Marty Snyderman

A self-proclaimed "animal-geek" and prolific underwater photographer, Marty has an undeniable passion for the ocean and all of its creatures


"Something I can only describe as pure magic happens during a close encounter when a humpback whale and I not only make eye contact, but lock in."


When and why did you start diving?

Like so many of my generation, two of my childhood heroes were actor Mike Nelson (Lloyd Bridges), the lead in the hit television series Sea Hunt of the late 1950s and early 60s, and legendary underwater explorer Captain Jacques Cousteau. I wanted to “be like Mike” long before I became a fan of basketballer Michael Jordon. My childhood days preceded cable television by several decades, and in those days watching prime time “Cousteau Specials” on a major network was assigned homework. I think my attendance record was perfect for those shows. I also read all the Cousteau books I could get my hands on.


My interest in becoming a diver centered around the fascination with all types of marine life I developed as a kid, and the allure of the adventures to be had while exploring the world’s oceans. In my childhood head, I had a lot of visions of Mike Nelson and me helping good guys make the world a safer place, and making all kinds of discoveries while diving with Captain Cousteau. I got both of them out of some tough spots. Not bad for a kid that grew up in landlocked Little Rock, Arkansas!

What do you enjoy most about diving?


When I first started diving, it was all about animals for me. I think of myself as an “animal geek”, and for as long as I can remember, I have loved to watch animals do whatever they do. I still love that part of diving as much as I ever have, but what I did not realize when I first got certified is that diving would take me to as many countries and enable me to meet as many people from all over the world as it has. Traveling and experiencing different cultures made my head explode. It is such a privilege to experience the world, especially with diving being such a big part of those experiences. I have spent a lot of time with and made friends with people all over the world. Not just acquaintances, but enduring friendships. I can’t put a value on that, except to say that I am sure I have benefitted as much from meeting so many people as I have from the diving.


I still love to learn about, observe, and photograph marine wildlife as much as I ever have. I don’t care if the subject of my attention is a nudibranch or a blue whale, I can’t get enough of it. And I especially enjoy diving with friends that feel the same way. I always learn from them, and I enjoy sharing what I have learned through my experiences.


How do you approach non-divers to get them excited about learning to dive?


With non-divers, conversations about diving often start when someone asks me what I do to make my living or they find out what I do for some reason. At that point, I have an opportunity to tell them what sport diving is all about, what my job is like, what my life is like, and what they can do to become a diver.


At some point in those conversations, people often tell me about the problems they have with their ears not clearing when they dive down to the bottom of a swimming pool, and they ask me about my experiences with sharks. I explain that a lot of people that have not had some training experience some pain or problems with their ears in a swimming pool, but that can easily be avoided by learning and using proper techniques.


Any hidden talents?


I can juggle, laugh at myself, and tell you who won the baseball World Series in most recent years.
What steps are you taking to improve the health of our oceans? Any advice for those who want to help?
For starters, I am trying to live a life that minimizes the negative impacts I might have. I try not to use as many single-use goods, especially those that contain, or are wrapped in, plastic. I avoid eating shrimps, fishes and other seafood listed in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood ® program. Sometimes it’s hard to comply, but I do try.
As far as any advice is concerned, I encourage others to get involved with any of a number of conservation oriented entities and local aquaria. Trying to pick the right one can be overwhelming at first try, so just get involved with one. Do that, and I think people are often surprised by how easy it is to find the entity or path that is right for them.
I also serve on the Board of Trustees of the Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (REEF). REEF conserves marine environments worldwide. Our mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community. REEF members survey fish populations in designated regions around the world as part of our effort to help scientists gather important data that would otherwise be unaffordable for them to acquire. In addition, we work to conserve and expand populations of Nassau grouper in Grand Cayman and throughout the Caribbean, and we play an important role in dealing with invasive species, especially the lionfish that have been introduced to the waters of the western Atlantic in recent years.