The Beneath the Waves Film Festival aims to encourage, inspire, and educate scientists, advocates, and the general public to produce and promote open-access, engaging marine-issue documentaries. Our goal is to facilitate widespread science communication by bringing together marine films from around the world for open discussion, while also providing hands-on educational opportunities for researchers interested in film and media outreach.
It all started on a dock in Moorea, French Polynesia. Having completed yet another coral research dive, we were dismantling our dive gear and rinsing our cameras when we were suddenly struck with the question: Where is this research going? The gravity of this statement increased over the coming weeks, as we marveled at the stark difference between the beauty of the marine realm and the current status of oceans globally. Many discussions and collaborations later, the idea for an engaging and exciting science communication event emerged. Since many of our most memorable experiences were happening beneath the waves, the idea for a film festival took hold.
The Beneath the Waves Film Festival, now in its fourth year, has solicited hundreds of films from seven continents and engaged hundreds of scientists, filmmakers, and students worldwide. We hope you will join the growing family.
Austin Gallagher, Founder and Co-Director
Driven by a passion for discovery and adventure, Austin feels most at home when immersed in nature – the ocean was his first true love. Austin is an conservation ecologist and PhD student at the University of Miami in Florida, where he is currently studying risk assessment and physiology and behavior of tropical Atlantic shark populations. His scientific background is ecosystem-level marine ecology and fish biology. He has made numerous documentaries, including a short film on southern California marine protected areas that was used in the public vote to expand the regional marine protected area network in 2010, and most recently completed a short film sponsored by GoPro cameras on people’s fears and fascinations with sharks . A strong believer in science communication and outreach, Austin is the founder and co-director of the film festival and currently resides in Miami, Florida.
Erica Staaterman, Co-Director
Erica’s love for the ocean began during summers of her childhood, spent in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She began her scientific pursuits at Duke University and is currently a PhD student at the University of Miami. She is intrigued by acoustic communication in marine animals and is concerned about the effects of anthropogenic noise on these systems. From the kelp forests of Southern California to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys, Erica is always listening to the ocean. Her first film told the story of a mantis shrimp research team, and her second film focused on the Florida mini-season and its impacts on spiny lobster populations. Erica has been involved in the Beneath the Waves Film Festival since its infancy, and is the co-director.
Danny Gleason, Benthic Ecology Event Organizer
Danny Gleason is Professor of Biology at Georgia Southern University. He received his B.S. degree in Biology from Furman University in 1980, and M.S. (1984) and PhD (1992) degrees from the University of Houston. Since arriving in Georgia in 1996, Danny has maintained research programs in both tropical and temperate marine ecosystems. His recent work on Caribbean reefs has been centered on coral larval behavior and the ability of larvae to repopulate degraded reefs. His temperate work has been conducted in and around Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and is directed toward gaining a better understanding of the ecology of the non-mobile invertebrate fauna (e.g., corals, sponges, sea squirts) that dominate the hard-bottom reefs. In the classroom, Danny enjoys teaching courses in Marine Ecology, Physiological Ecology, and Invertebrate Zoology. He also facilitates the ability of graduate and undergraduate students to enter the world of research diving by serving as the Diving Unit Officer at Georgia Southern.
Ashwin Bhandiwad, Associate Director
PhD Student, University of Washington
Ashwin grew up far from the ocean, but fell in love with it from his first dive. Today, he researches auditory neuroscience and acoustic communication in fishes. His first film concerned recreational beach driving and its deleterious effects on the nesting shorebirds of North Carolina. You usually can find him holding a hydrophone and a recorder if you’re in Seattle or on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, or performing stand up comedy at various locations.
PhD Student, Florida International University
Andrew became enamored with nature while living in Colorado where he studied environmental science and anthropology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Although he was far from the sea, his love of travel quickly brought him to some of the greatest stretches of ocean in the world and it didn’t take long for him to catch the diving bug. Currently Andy is working on his PhD at Florida International University, where he studies nutritional drivers of foraging and how they impact coral reef community development. An ecologist at heart, Andrew is fascinated by how the natural world works and while he has focused on academia as a tool to understand that complexity, he continues to look for new ways for himself and others to share their passion, wonder and knowledge for the natural world.
Perri Moeller, Student Intern and Organizer
Perri’s love for the ocean originated as a young girl when her parents first brought her to the beach, but then was solidified when she did her first night dive and experienced the world of bioluminescence. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Miami working on a double major in Marine Affairs and Policy and Ecosystem Science and Policy. Her career goal is to become an advocate and liason for conservation of Arctic environments through the use of visual communication to understand and promote a sustainable relationship between stakeholder sand the environment.
Although he grew up hundreds of miles from the coast, David has been fascinated by the ocean and the amazing creatures that live in it as long as his family can remember. He spent much of
his childhood at the Pittsburgh Zoo’s aquarium or watching the Discovery channel. David got his junior open water diver SCUBA certification as soon as he was old enough, and currently, as a NAUI assistant instructor, has hundreds of dives on three continents. He is now working on his Ph.D. at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, where his research focuses on how the loss of sharks impacts coral reef ecosystems.
Masters Student, San Diego State University, CA
Since first diving into the immense kelp forests of Southern California at the age of 13, Alex hasn’t turned back. Currently, she is studying Marine Chemical Ecology as a Masters student at San Diego State University. Specifically, she is interested in the topic of chemical interactions between predators and their prey and how these interactions can be disrupted by human pollutants. Beyond the confines of the lab, Alex is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of her research to the general public using the outlets of film and social media.
We are always interested in hearing from other students who share a passion for science and film. Please email us and introduce yourself!
Beneath the Waves Scientific Advisory Board:
Dr. Mark Butler (Marine Ecology), Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Dr. Richard Tankersley (Marine Ecology), Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL
Dr. Kenny Broad (Social Anthropology and Marine Exploration), University of Miami, FL
Dr. Salvatore Genovese (Marine Ecology and Oceanography), Northeastern University, MA
Dr. Neil Hammerschlag (Marine Ecology), University of Miami, Miami, FL
Dr. James Leichter (Physical Oceanography), Scripps Institute of Oceanography, CA
Dr. Jeremy Long (Chemical Ecology), San Diego State University, SD
Dr. Joseph Pawlik (Coral Reef Ecology), University of North Carolina Wilmington, NC
Dr. Sean Powers (Marine Ecology), University of Alabama, AB