Cozumel Ocean Research Team

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Liang Chen

COR Co-Founder, Project Manager and PADI Course Director

Born and raised in NYC, she decided to pursue her passion, the world underwater, transforming her life and devoting it to the sea on a continuing basis. Choosing Cozumel for its world-class reefs and nearness to family stateside, she has been working in this Paradise Isle since 2006. Her belief in furthering knowledge and education has since, led her to reach the level of PADI Course Director, and her thirst for development continues.

Watching the behavior of all UW creatures, even everyday creatures like lobsters having a showdown, has fueled her curiosity (why are some nudibranch only abundant at certain times of the year?) and has for years, compelled her to try and find out more.

Spotted Eagle Rays, the iconic and majestic fish that are seasonal here in Cozumel have always been one of the biggest mysteries. Where do they go? Why do they come here? How to find out more? She was not alone, and through a marine biologist, was put in touch with oceanographer and fellow SCUBA Instructor Ernesto, and Cozumel Ocean Research was founded!

Working as a dive professional she has created scuba training career programs for international gap year students, with a focus on leadership, communication, environment, safety and service training. In addition, she organizes and directs the Veterhands Scuba College Internship program, a non-profit organization dedicated to training, certification and job assistance for veterans.

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Ernesto Hevia del Puerto

Our Oceanographer, Co-Founder and PADI Instructor

Was born in Mexico City in 1972, since childhood I have been a lover of nature and have had a great curiosity to understand it. My first diving experience was at the age of 12, that was the first moment that I went SCUBA diving, I have remained amazed by the feeling of being in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere and the harmony of the marine environment fascinated me, it was then that I decided to dedicate my life to the aquatic world, explore, understand and protect it; so I started on my way in 1989 getting certified as an open water diver, went on to Divemaster, completed studies in Oceanography, and in 1997 I became a recreational and technical diving instructor.

I have worked as a scientific diver, commercial diver, in exploration and Oceanographic studies (largely away from the Mexican coast) England, Finland and the Mediterranean Sea.

From my years of study and to date, I have made hundreds of dives monitoring and identifying marine species as well as documentation and photo identification of humpback whales. I currently live in Cozumel and work as a Recreational/Technical dive instructor and collaborate with the local Hyperbaric Centres and participated actively with some NGOs as a volunteer in programs and conservation campaigns.

From my first encounter with Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus Narinari) I have been fascinated by its beauty and majesty. Because of my nature and hunger for knowledge, I undertook this project to understand more about their ecology, search methods and scientific support to preserve their existence as an essential part of the marine ecosystem.

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Steven Hazard

Associate Director, COR photographer and PADI OWSI

Steve began diving in 1972. Childhood weekends were spent in a lake in north Texas, diving in low visibility with his dad and brother. Adulthood and a career in the Irving PD led him to photography. Looking for a better way to take pictures through the tinted window of a van, he was sent to photography school in Austin. His interest piqued, he bought a camera the moment he got back.

During this period, his time on the water was spent fishing and he would often swim with a mask to just see the fish under the floating mats of seaweed. He refreshed his diving skills in 1996 and started diving around the Caribbean, returning often to Cozumel. A few years ago, an opportunity opened up to stay and spend his time doing what he loves, diving.

He says; not just eagle rays, but everything about the ocean is amazing. What appears to be nothing but sand, never is. There is more going on than we’ll ever see or probably comprehend.

Steve enjoys working on developing and improving his dive equipment, whether it is sewing a keeper for his long hose or a thigh pocket.

When he is not teaching divers or taking them diving, he can be found shore diving camera in hand, taking photographs of everything in the sea and serenely waiting for spotted eagle rays to come by.