Aquarium Divers for Coral Society is a nonprofit organization of aquarium divers with the mission to voluntarily increase restoration, preservation, and education efforts to stabilize coral reef ecosystems.
ADFC is the brainchild of Michael Anderson, Co-Founder and President of ADFC. Over the past two decades, Michael witnessed the decline of coral reefs in the Florida Keys and Bonaire on numerous scuba diving trips, and became interested in what was causing this decline. This led him to learn about climate change, its effects on coral reefs, and what scientists are doing to mitigate coral bleaching. During this educational journey, Michael learned that the majority of efforts for coral restoration relied on volunteer scuba divers who visited these areas while on vacation, but there was a catch. Anyone interested in volunteering had to pay to become certified in coral restoration, which is a deterrent for many recreational scuba divers. Thus, coral restoration work is always in dire need of volunteers. Sympathy for the cause, coupled with his love for the marine environment, inspired Michael to start brainstorming about how to address this dilemma. He spent two years networking with coral restoration foundations, NOAA, colleagues, and fellow aquarium divers to create a program for aquarium divers to travel together to areas around the world for coral restoration work. Thus, ADFC was born, a 501(c)3 non-profit that brings fellow aquarium divers together, gets them certified through coral restoration non-profits, and allows them to help save the coral reefs.
Co-Founders: Michael Anderson, Denise Hassinger, Allen Herron, Abby Ferkler, Ed Frankel, Elysa Leonard, Zoe Bermudez, and Michael Gallagher
Mike has been an aquarium diver for over 12 years and a certified coral restoration diver since 2018. He is a retired educator of 32 years and Past President of the Technology Education Association of NJ. He is also a former Supervisor of Student Teachers for the College of New Jersey and is presently on the Advisory Board and the Education Committee of Plastic Free Delaware. After observing the decline of coral reefs along the east coast of Florida, the Florida Keys and Caribbean islands since 2002, he felt the need to do something about it, so he created ADFC.
Ed has been an aquarium diver at Adventure Aquarium for the past 29 years and was one of the first divers to join the volunteer diver program after the aquarium was built. His passion for the water began at an early age and he became an open water NASDS diver in the mid-70s.
He retired from his manager position at the NJDEP Bureau of Nonpoint Pollution Control in 2012, and has since devoted his extra time to volunteering for numerous organizations to continue his quest to help educate the public about environmental issues. He is a water quality educator on an operational steamboat at SPLASH in Lambertville, NJ, serves on the Lawrence Township Environmental Resources and Green Advisory Committee, and is a board member for a local environmental group called Sustainable Lawrence. He also volunteers at CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services. His most recent assignment through CERT was assisting Mercer County with traffic control for the drive through COVID-19 test sites. In 2020, he joined Grounds for Sculpture as a volunteer horticulturalist and ADFC as a co-founding board member.
Allen has been an active diver at the Adventure Aquarium since April of 2003. A child of the sixties, he was influenced to become a diver by watching shows such as Sea Hunt and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. He believes that it is in every human’s interest to maintain the health of the ocean’s reefs and that every diver has a responsibility to educate others about what they can do to help. In so many ways the coral reefs are the foundation upon which all life on our planet relies.
Abby spent her summers growing up on the water, and this is where her passion for the marine environment was born. She is a graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a BS in Marine Science. She has spent the past four years educating people as a Naturalist in Delaware, Maryland and Alaska. Abby has been a Volunteer Diver at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey since 2018.
Elysa Leonard – CEO & Founder – Splash Communications
Elysa has more than 25 years of experience in the field of marketing communications. She founded Splash Communications in May 2005 and the company takes an integrated approach to marketing and public relations. Splash supports companies by working with clients in the US and abroad on graphic and web design, digital advertising, SEO, social media and public relations. Prior to Splash Communications, Elysa worked in shopping center marketing for 10 years as a Marketing Director for both The Rouse Company and Simon Property Group.
Elysa and her family moved to Bermuda in 1999. While in Bermuda, she worked with dive shops, hotels, and numerous retail businesses and restaurants, even creating an island-wide shopper loyalty program, and decided to start Splash Communications upon her return to the US.
Elysa lives with her family in Northern Virginia and currently volunteers as a diver for the National Aquarium in Baltimore and is proud to be a part of ADFC’s board of directors. Elysa manages publicity and marketing for ADFC and of course, fits in some dive time with the organization as well. She also writes about her travel adventures for QuirkyCruise.com. For Elysa, splashing is truly a way of life.
Michael is a hands-on executive with extensive experience in leadership, training, and strategic planning. He is recognized for his success in planning, developing, implementing and measuring corporate-wide internal and external growth strategies and designing training programs to align corporate goals with stakeholder interests, resulting in long-term stability and growth.
Eric is an active Advanced Open Water diver, was certified as an Aquarium Diver at the Baltimore Aquarium, and dived at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ while working there as the Manager for Security and Safety. He met Mike Anderson at the Adventure Aquarium, and traveled with Mike to Bonaire in November of 2021, where he received his Coral Restoration Certification.
Eric has been in or on the water for most of his life, going to high school in Virginia Beach and then joining the US Navy later in life, reitring as a USNR Captain, Supply Corps., in 2010. Eric’s full-time career included leadership in various manufacturing operations positions for four corporations. He has a BSBA in Fianance from the University of Richmond, an MBA from Drexel University, and a MS in Safety and Emergency Management from Eastern University, and a MS in Safety and Emergency Management from Easter Kentucky University. He currently is a Service Manager for Johnson Controls.
Eric and his wife Greer live in Wilmington, Delaware and are the parents of three children. Eric moved to Wilmington after spending a year living in Madrid, Spain. He has traveled extensively and speaks intermediate Spanish. He is a member of the Delaware German Amercian club and is an active Mason.
After coming to diving late in life, Eric made multiple dives which led to a growing awareness of coral bleaching and reef health decline. Eric then set a goal of finding a way to contribute through ADFC.
Zoe has been diving since 2018 and has volunteered with Adventure Aquarium since May 2019. This year she volunteered for the Annual Mermaid show hosted by the aquarium. She got her SCUBA certification when receiving her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at Temple University and is looking forward to her first major dive trip this fall. Zoe joined the Aquarium Divers for Coral Society’s Board of Directors at its startup to help organize and increase volunteerism needed for coral restoration. Zoe grew up in South Florida and spends most of her free time in or near the ocean. She started working in healthcare in 2018 as an EMT in the Greater Philadelphia Region and has been an Emergency Department Technician since Dec 2018. She is currently working through the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoe is applying to physician assistant programs this spring.
Denise Hassinger, MSc. is a biologist and serves as the Vice President for ADFC Society. She lectures biology courses at Rutgers University, and in the summer takes students to the Lower Keys to survey intertidal and coral reef ecosystems and study various marine organisms. Her main interests are marine ecology and conservation, but she shares genuine conservation concerns for all wildlife. She strongly believes in educating the public about the importance of wildlife and the ecosystem services they provide. In her free time, she volunteers at Freedom Center for Wildlife in Cinnaminson, NJ, helping to rehabilitate local wildlife, and also serves as President of the New Jersey Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators (NJAWR). In the past, she was a scuba diver at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, helping maintain the ocean and shark realms, and inspiring future generations through dive shows.
ADFC is pleased to be working with Sydney Fisch to arrange many of our trips. Sydney has been offering travel services since 1990. Before focusing on travel, she was a dive shop owner. She is an independent travel agent working under the umbrella of Caradonna Adventures, a large travel corporation. Sydney specializes in dive travel and has volunteered her services to arrange ADFC’s coral restoration dive trips.
Eileen Fox is a writer and editor with extensive experience in publishing, marketing and public relations. When she’s not working on website content, proposals, articles, or marketing material, she may be found biking along the beach, hiking through the South Jersey woods, or scuba diving in the Carribean. As a volunteer for ADFC, she will be editing or contributing content to the website, helping out with grant applications, and generally pitching in wherever an editorial eye is needed.