Working Under Pressure: Disney Divers

Entertaining, engaging and educating thousands of mouse fans.

Six thousand species, 5.7 million gallons of water and about 6 million human observers all inside a world-famous theme park: Entertainment is the name of the game at Disney's The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot.

"We are here to entertain and put on a show," said Barry Olson, Disney's dive safety officer and animal programs manager, who trains and oversees 175 divers and related programs. "It is an aquarium inside a theme park; that presents certain challenges and opportunities."

Disney divers strive to awe their visitors with the wonders of the sea while trying to provide a take-home message of ocean conservation. Customer interaction is a major factor; the aquarium provides an opportunity to share the underwater world through land-based observation, or certified divers can opt to participate in Epcot DiveQuest and take a dive in Epcot's Caribbean Coral Reef aquarium.

There are a lot of opportunities for dive professionals at Disney facilities, and nearly every job in the industry plays a role from equipment maintenance to marine biology. Divers can be part of the cast that leads the DiveQuest tours; scrub coral to maintain the delicate balance of tank ecology; or work on one of the many research projects Disney sponsors, such as dolphin research or the rehabilitation and release programs for manatees and sea turtles. Disney also hosts a diverse internship program, offering college students the opportunity to explore careers in the dive industry. Disney program managers find their days filled with tasks that range from designing and casting programs to conducting safety meetings.

No matter what role they play in the Disney cast, each diver continually learns through a variety of training programs. In addition to their professional dive training, Disney divers go through hazardous material training, the DAN Diving First Aid for Professional Divers program and continuing education courses with Disney's guest services.

"The positive impact we have on our guests is very rewarding," Olson said. "Our employees love their jobs; they're dream jobs. We get to entertain, engage and educate."
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© Alert Diver — Winter 2011