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Fashion Designer Turned Scientific Diver

Photos: Alessandro Donà
Photos: Alessandro Donà


Profile: Angela Richards Donà – University of Hawaii, Manoa

Angela was a fashion designer from New York, living and working in Italy in 2000. That year she got her open water certification and took a diving vacation in Egypt, at Sharm El Sheikh on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. That experience was huge and as she recalls, it changed everything.
“I was blown away by the beauty of those reefs. From a designer’s perspective, there could be nothing more beautiful.”

In an effort to gain as much diving experience as possible, Angela volunteered in 2003 for a five-week coral and reef-monitoring project on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. She credits the project helping direct the course of her future study of corals. “You begin to see the corals not as a backdrop for the fish, but as the living, beautiful creatures that they are,” she says.

Angela had found her calling. “I wanted to have a life that was more important than making clothes. I wanted to do what Sylvia Earle was doing,” she said.

So she moved back to New York and enrolled in a conservation biology program at Columbia University. Since then her work has taken her around the world, studying corals from Bonaire to Hawaii. Today, Angela is part of Dr. Cindy Hunter’s lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, studying and contributing to a diverse range of coral-related investigations.

The journey from designer to marine biologist was not easy for Angela or her husband, but she was up to the challenge and is quick to point out, “Diving absolutely changed everything.”



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