Trinidadian marine scientist collects Anthony N Sabga Awards for Excellence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

CELEBRATING EXCELLENCE: The Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Excellence Awards 2024 laureates received their awards at the awards gala at the Barbados Hilton on May 25.
They are, from left: pediatric neurologist Dr Morris Scantlebury of Barbados (Science & Technology – Joint); disability rights advocate and educator Kerryann Ifill of Barbados (Public & Civic Contributions); musician and composer Dr Stefan Walcott of Barbados (Arts & Letters); Johann Epstein of Jamaica (Entrepreneurship); and deep-sea marine biologist Dr Diva Amon ( (Science & Technology – Joint). – Photo courtesy ANSA McAl/Chukwuemeka Iweze

Trinidadian-born deep-sea marine biologist Dr Diva Amon was the joint recipient of the Anthony N Sabga Awards, receiving $250,000.

The Caribbean Excellence Awards gala was held at the Hilton, Barbados, on May 25. Amon spoke after winning the award with Dr Morris Scantlebury, a paediatric neurologist who was born in Canada and raised and educated in Barbados.

Amon, who has worked with actor Will Smith on the National Geographic series Welcome to Earth and is an advocate for more effective stewardship of the world’s oceans, began her acceptance speech by expressing her humility and honour in sharing the award with Scantlebury.

“Thank you so much to the awards’ founders and the team who created and executed this unique recognition for exceptional Caribbean leaders. There’s something truly special about this initiative, which is built by Caribbean people for the Caribbean,” Amon said.

She called the award the highest recognition for science in the Caribbean and believes the field is “chronically undervalued,” especially marine science. She called the ocean our greatest asset.

“It is our greatest lifeline and small island developing states like Barbados, Jamaica and others are already feeling the pressure of the climate and biodiversity crisis.”

Amon said deep-sea pollution may be out of sight, but it is not out of reach. She believes we are just beginning to explore and find new species. She said as scientists explore, they are finding trash.

“It’s not just pollution and climate change but also the potential opening up of absolutely devastatingly destructive industries like deep-sea mining in the future.”

Dr Diva Amon at the 2024 Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Excellence Awards gala at the Barbados Hilton on May 25. – Photo courtesy ANSA McAl/Chukwuemeka Iweze

Amon said without fully understanding the underwater world, we could lose parts of the planet before we appreciate and value them and believes there is much more work to do in the Caribbean’s “watery backyard.”

Amon thanked the awards committee for what she called uplifting and valuing science and those who have chosen the “challenging road.”

She also thanked her mother and reminisced on memories they shared on the beaches of Barbados, which she credits for her love of marine biology. She spoke about discovering a dead manatee when she was three years old.

“I felt wonder and sadness seeing this incredibly strange, fascinating and helpless animal on the beach.”

Amon said she shed literal blood, sweat and tears along with her team to advance marine science education and advocacy in Trinidad and Tobago and stressed that funding is still needed for Caribbean people forging unconventional paths to create change and find solutions.

Despite the challenges, she is hopeful and believes the tides are changing.

“This award will help make the light that we shine on the deep ocean so much brighter, and it will be used to especially uplift students and help us answer critical questions and co-create ocean solutions.”

She ended with a call to action to ensure the deep ocean and its “incredibly fragile and important ecosystems” are preserved so many more people can experience them in the future.