By Victoria Escandell
From May 9, 2018
Hello mother, hello father. Here I am in St. Lucia. Class is very entertaining, and they say we’ll become scientific divers if we keep training.
Before coming to St. Lucia most of us became scientific divers in training from the American Academy for Underwater Science (AAUS). Upon completion of this course we will log enough dives to earn full scientific diver credentials, which is a certification higher than the basic open water scuba certification. After diving over the first couple days I have noticed several differences between recreational and scientific diving. Our scientific dives here consist of coral and fish surveys that are used in research to determine how reefs have changed since 2011, and collecting sediment cores with Eckerd geologists. During these dives, we are not always in ideal conditions. For example, we took sediment samples from Soufrière Bay, which was dark open blue water and very different than the normal gorgeous coral reefs on recreational dives. During scientific dives it is very important to keep neutral buoyancy, so the sediment isn’t kicked up and so the corals aren’t disturbed. Simple tasks such as writing information down or identifying different Caribbean fish and corals becomes a lot more challenging underwater. As the days go on and our number of dives increase, our skills underwater are vastly improving as we work towards a full scientific diver status!
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.