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Lawyer swims with the sharks as a Clearwater Aquarium volunteer

CLEARWATER — We've all heard the jokes about lawyers and sharks being equally aggressive, but a Clearwater lawyer does more than just work with sharks — she swims with them.

Linda Griffin-Keliher, 55, specializes in tax and estates, wills and trust law during the week. On the weekends, she sheds her business suit for a wet suit to volunteer as part of the more than 50-member dive team at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Griffin-Keliher became a certified scuba diver in 1999 and has traveled around the world exploring dive spots.

"It's very peaceful underwater," she said.

One or two Saturdays a month, Griffin is part of a daily show at the aquarium featuring native fish, including nurse sharks. She demonstrates her diving apparatus though the clear glass of the aquarium tank and interacts with visitors to the facility.

"I love seeing the kids and seeing them smile," she said.

Although the live show is a part of what the dive team does, the more important job is helping to keep the tanks clean.

There are six large tanks at the aquarium, and with the Florida heat and humidity it doesn't take long for algae to build up on the walls.

"Algae has a poor effect on the water quality in our pools, and we try to keep the water as clean as possible," said Diane Young, director of animal care at the aquarium. "The divers help us maintain the appearance of our pools."

Griffin-Keliher, who lives in Belleair, is not afraid to swim in the same tank as the sharks.

"When you dive, you often see sharks," she said. "These are friendly sharks."

When she is not volunteering for the aquarium, Griffin-Keliher spends her time volunteering for Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Florida Bar Association. She is also training to become a certified dive instructor.

"It is my dream to take a group of other attorneys or a group of friends on a trip," she said, "and be able to certify them to dive."

To volunteer

Get in on the act

The aquarium is accepting adult volunteers 18 and older and dive team volunteers who are 15 and older and scuba certified. Call (727) 441-1790, ext. 230, or visit seewinter.com for information.

Lawyer swims with the sharks as a Clearwater Aquarium volunteer 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 10:55pm]

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