Hailing from Columbus Ohio, 28-year-old Jamil Wilson was mostly raised in the rural parts of central Ohio in a small town called Centerburg. At an early age Jamil learned what it meant to be different and to stand out. As one of the only black families within a 30-mile radius, his mother was not only intent on teaching her children their black heritage, but she was also adamant that they get a good education along with a chance to experience the outdoors. As a child, Jamil often frequented the small creek and forest behind his house and quickly developed a strong interest in nature, history and discovering the wonders of world.
Hoping to foster his curiosity, in high school Jamil interned with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and worked at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium his freshman year. He also took up piano and singing up through high school and into college, starting his freshman year as a music major. However, as he continued his college studies, he began to understand that he was neglecting his original love. It was not until he switched majors from music to biology that he was able to reignite his passion for science and discovery.
In order to support his studies, Jamil balanced being a full-time student while consistently working no less than three jobs his entire college career. Along with other side and night jobs, Jamil began to tutor K-12 kids in predominately black areas and simply loved it, receiving The Best Tutor of the Year award during his first year. Later he also began working at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, which proved to be the perfect juxtaposition of aquatic biology and teaching. It was also where he first discovered the prospect of SCUBA diving.
Additionally, Jamil became an active member of several academic groups including The McNair Scholar’s program. It was the McNair program through which he was initially able to conduct scientific research. In 2017, Jamil investigated freshwater mussels in the Ohio Rocky River with an emphasis on the Lepidis fradgulis genus, and how populations have changed over a period of 15 years. The next year, Jamil was then awarded an NSF funded REU(Research for Undergraduates) at the University of Puerto Rico. While in in Puerto Rico, Jamil built a successful experiment detailing the effects of severe hurricanes on the abundance of freshwater Meiofauna communities. Enthused by his findings, Jamil subsequently began working further with specific meiofauna and wrote a research proposal outlining the limitations involved in the biochemical elasticity of tardigrades. Jamil was awarded the opportunity to present and expand upon his previous research at multiple university conferences, including places such as the University of Chicago and Cornell. Jamil was also named as one of Princeton’s 2018 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Scholar Finalists.
In December of 2018 Jamil graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, a minor in Music and a strong desire to dive and travel. Falling deeply in love with both, in 2019 alone Jamil was able travel to several different U.S. cities like New York, Miami, Houston and Atlanta as well as visit seven countries including Guatemala, Egypt, The Dominican Republic and Canada. All the while obtaining up to his rescue diver certification, accepting a position in the Peace Corps and proudly joining as a member of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers or NABS. It was through the fellowship and community of NABS that Jamil learned of other diving opportunities, some of which would change his life.
At the start of the 2020-year Jamil was thrilled to be a recipient of the OWUSS Rolex Scholarship, a prestigious award that allows the winner to travel the world for a year to pursue any learning or career objectives concerned with diving including underwater ecology, tourism, scientific research, photography, conservation, etc. After competing for a single spot out of all North America, Jamil was proud to be the first African American in history to receive this award. He thus postponed his departure for the Peace Corps, excited to embark on a new journey. However, despite his victory, 2020 had other plans. With the eruption of a global pandemic and the increasing need to restrict travel the scholarship was postponed until next year, leaving Jamil with no other option but to find local work.
With the help from new and old colleagues, Jamil was able to secure a virtual internship working at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Ft. Pierce Florida and later that year gained a position as a lab technician at an environmental consulting company.
With the hopeful decline of the pandemic, Jamil looks forward to continue his scholarship and expand his involvement within the NABS society with the hope to promote more black activism, awareness and representation in the diving community. In the future, Jamil wishes to further his education in grad school and to provide guidance for other young diverse students who are interested in the pursuit of science, underwater research, ecological activism, education, and diving.