Science Student Shark Dives for 18th Birthday

  • On March 21st—the occasion of her 18th Birthday—Sayville Science Research student Melissa Domenchello chose to get up close and personal with her research subjects, the Sand Tiger Sharks at the Atlantis Aquarium in Riverhead. Although, after months of study, Missy had become an expert on the topic of her research, “Sand Tiger Sharks and Their Reaction To Color Stimuli in Captivity,” she also wanted to spend a little “leisure time” with her newfound friends.


    As the Atlantis Aquarium schedules Caged Shark Dives, Missy didn’t have to go far to get her birthday wish.


    Surrounded by her family, parents Patricia and Anthony, friends, fellow students, and Science Research Advisor Maria Brown and her family, Missy planned to celebrate her birthday by climbing into the Shark Cage accompanied by her father. (Now age 18, Missy did not need a guardian to join her, but her dad was up to the challenge.) TV55 Reporters were on hand to interview her on her amazing story. Teacher Maria Brown was as excited as Missy's parents about this fabulous opportunity. Missy's friends were supportive, curious, and in awe of her courage and resolve to dive in.  The suspense was thick.


    After receiving a training session and lessons in Shark Dive protocol, the two Domenchellos, along with an Atlantis Aquarium expert, were submerged in the cage for approximately 30 minutes of eye-popping excitement. Outside the tanks, spectators not only enjoyed their safer views through the glass windows, but were able to listen to Missy and her father verbalize their diving experiences via underwater microphones in the masks.


    Melissa has long loved aquatic life. She previously swam "uncaged" with the black reef sharks (also accompanied by her father) during their travel to the Bahamas. She looks forward to more opportunities to study sharks and their behavior when she attends Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, on a scholarship and majors in marine biology next fall.