February 25th, 2014
North Coast Regional Manager – Reef Check California Program
Reef Check California is seeking a new NorCal leader! Check it out:
The Reef Check Foundation is seeking a North Coast Regional Manager to help maintain and grow our rocky-reef ecosystem monitoring program in northern California. This full-time position will be based in or near Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, and will entail extensive travel and diving in northern California and, occasionally, throughout the state. Reef Check is part of a consortium that is doing baseline monitoring of marine protected areas (MPAs) in this region.
The Regional Manager will work closely with the Director of the California program to carry out diver-based subtidal field surveys, schedule and conduct volunteer training and outreach activities, recruit and manage volunteer citizen scientists and will run the day-to-day operations of the program in the region. This position requires extensive scuba diving work and regular work on weekends during the training and dive season (April to October).
Applicants should have a Bachelors or Masters degree in marine biology or related field (or equivalent experience) and an accredited research diving certification (i.e. AAUS) with extensive research diving experience in California’s coastal waters (preferably northern California). The ideal candidate will have detailed knowledge of the coastal rocky reef ecosystem in northern California, good taxonomic skills, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively with recreational divers and academic researchers and experience as a dive leader. A certification as Dive Master or Instructor and experience in the Reef Check monitoring protocol will be an advantage. Successful candidates must have a strong work ethic, be able to work independently, with a high level of self motivation and enthusiasm. We are looking for someone who is an outstanding leader and able to inspire volunteers. The candidate must be organized, capable of working independently and have excellent oral and written communication skills. Experience managing and leading volunteers will be a plus.
Salary commensurate with experience, please include recent salary history in application. Medical Plan and 401(k) Plan with company match.
Review of applicants will commence on March 15th 2014.
Please submit resume and cover letter via email to:
Jan Freiwald: email@example.com
Posted by Candida Kutz at 4:37 pm
February 18th, 2014
A Natural Response: Citizen Science and Change
By Patrick Behan
January 2013: I circumnavigate the world aboard the MV Explorer on assignment as a documentary filmmaker. It is here that I met Dr. Ed Sobey, a bearded professor of oceanography with a voice that commands attention. My colleague Matt Corliss and I interviewed him on camera about his background and his experiences teaching science.
Ed was an inspiring character to say the least. He’d spent a winter on Antarctica, recorded the vocalizations of gray whales in Alaska, travelled to over eighty countries, and authored stacks of books. To us he was: The Most Interesting Man In the World. Yet, as Matt and I continued speaking with him and auditing his oceanography classes (something I was inspired to do after the first interview), we learned that Ed’s larger-that-life persona obscured a marvelously blue-blooded human core.
Later that year, as Dr. Sobey planned another of his expeditions, he invited Matt and me to travel with him to Turneffe Atoll off the coast of Belize to study the health of the reefs in the area. His main mission was to determine the impacts of ocean acidification on the reefs of the Caribbean. Of course, we agreed to join him. We asked Ed what his hypothesis was regarding what we’d see. His answer was that we’d see one of the healthiest reefs in the area, and that he hoped to take away a strategy for how to better preserve other struggling reefs in the Caribbean.
After several brainstorming sessions, Matt and I came up with a plan to shoot a short documentary based on Ed and his research. But, as is common with most documentary subjects, we wouldn’t realize until much later that the story we aimed to capture was not the one we’d end up with.
Patrick Behan and Matt Corliss
To finance our film, we planned and executed a crowd-sourced fundraiser campaign on Indiegogo. Over the 30-day campaign, we completely retooled our pitch video three times, reorganized the text and images countless times, produced updates containing video, text, and/or images everyday, and reached out to as many scientific communities as we possibly could. In the end, we failed to reach our funding goal, concluding that we probably set our sights too high. But, we did learn a lot in the process and collected enough to pay our travel expenses.
On the first week of December, 2013, our team of eighteen divers—citizen scientists from all walks of life—arrived in Belize and began to research the reefs over a total of nine dives. But, it did not take long to notice discouraging signs from the reefs. In some areas, the coral had been overgrown with algae. In other areas, we were hard-pressed to find any vibrant color at all. Perhaps the most discouraging sight was the low abundance of fish life. We did not have to be scientists to see clearly that these habitats, once thriving with sea life, are no longer able to sustain it.
Quadrat Samping of Reef Typical at Turneffe Atoll
(c) Dida Kutz 2013
As an amateur, seeing an eel or a turtle can surprise and delight. It’s only after realizing that the surprises were few and far between do you feel confused and heavy-hearted. These kinds of conclusions came to me on the surface. I thought to myself: “We’ve gotten a decent amount of footage, but what is it saying?”
Another unexpected issue we encountered first hand was the ubiquity of the invasive lionfish. They were everywhere. Once introduced to the Caribbean to stabilize another invasive species, the lionfish, with no natural predator, have overwhelmed the reefs. Our dive guide, Eli, showed us his techniques for attempting to train barracuda to eat the barbed unpleasantries. After seeing him spear several lionfish and having to lure the barracuda close to feed it, we thought that the practice was neither safe nor optimistic.
One of our last dives took place at night. This time, I mounted both dive lights to our dive housing so I could get a really good look at the coral while avoiding the blue haze experienced in the daytime. This dive was the pinnacle, in my mind, of the entire project. We were able to see the true vibrancy of what was left of the healthy coral, while at the same time getting up close looks at the struggling fan-coral populations. The late evening was spent in the classroom trading and sharing our best photos and footage from the week. Once again, as we “oohed” and “ahed” over our images, we also were mellowed by the thought that we’d separate after the next day.
Damaged fan coral is visible photo middle and right.
(c) Dida Kutz 2013
We entered Belize thinking we’d be saviors. We thought we’d come back with a replicable solution to ocean acidification. Of course, this was naïve and possibly a bit arrogant. I remember thinking to myself, “You seriously think you could have solved it when NOAA and the world’s leading scientists haven’t found the magic fix yet?” After several days of wondering what the heck we were going to make a film about, it dawned on me that our story was not in our conclusions, but in our effort.
Our film, temporarily named A Natural Response, was once about Ed Sobey and his leadership in the fields of sciences. Then, it transformed into a concept about studying and protecting a specific part of the Mesoamerican reef. Our film will now focus on the concept and effectiveness of what Ed called citizen science, an approach to research in which data is gathered by non-professionals with varying degrees of scientific understanding. I’m sure the film is due for more transformations as the editing process continues, and I’m sure fragments of all concepts considered will emerge in our final product. This is, after all, the nature of documentary storytelling.
In the end, Matt and I want to create a film that inspires people the way Ed has inspired us. We hope it conveys how absolutely crucial it is that amateurs care about issues like ocean acidification, mass extinction of species, polar glacial melt, and so on. An informed citizenry is the key to addressing some of the most significant issues of our time, because citizens, not scientists, will create the necessary momentum for effective action.
To illustrate the point, let me ask a question: when was the last time you learned something because you saw it on a technically complex scientific YouTube clip. Or better yet, if you aren’t a scientist, when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed science paper? I can’t be sure, but I have a hunch that the citizen scientists on our expedition have not—including myself.
Ed once said during the project, “Each one of these people is going to be an ambassador to these reefs.” I truly believe that. It’s a grass-roots delivery to the general population that I believe will be vital for preservation in the future—preservation, not only of the Belizean reefs, but of our natural world as a whole.
You can connect with the Natural Response project at:
Posted by Candida Kutz at 11:46 am
February 17th, 2014
Monterey Bay Aquarium: Underwater Explorers Program
The Underwater Explorers Program at Monterey Bay Aquarium turns kids on to scuba diving, and in the process, I hope, helps sow the seeds of marine stewardship. This unique program is currently seeking an Underwater Explorers (UE) Instructor and UE Assistant Supervisor.
- meet the qualifications (dive master or higher certification)
- apply online through the aquarium’s website (www.montereybayaquarium.org)
o click on the jobs link at the bottom of the page
o find the job post (Underwater Explorers Instructor or Underwater Explorers Assistant Supervisor)
o register a user account
o then follow the instructions on submitting resumes, cover letters, etc.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 6:37 pm
December 27th, 2013
Photos from the Belize Expedition
Click here to see photos from the trip.
(c) Dida Kutz 2013
Posted by Candida Kutz at 4:28 pm
December 18th, 2013
Report #3: A Chain Gang in Belize
by Colin Drake
Colin Drake and Barbara Berg Conduct a Survey. Photo by Kiera Ryon.
A little over a week ago 18 conservation-minded divers made it to Belize. The past two articles on this site lay out what we did and what our goals were.
My name is Colin Drake. I graduated from college in Wisconsin a year ago, studying Biology & Natural Resources. Our team leader, Ed Sobey, invited me onto this expedition. I was one of the younger team members, and what a trip it was for me. I have done my fair share of traveling, but this adventure was a first as it had purpose and goals behind it. One of these goals was to find out how many of the corals were bleached versus healthy (or unhealthy but from natural causes). Monterey local, Barbara Berg, and myself teamed up to form the infamous scientific diving gang we joked and referred to as the chain gang. We would lay down a 15 ft. long chain, divided into segments, on a coral bed and take data on the condition of the reef. We would look at roughly 5 sites a dive. Charles Carmona and Debra Venhaus joined onto the chain gang in later dives and continued our data collection on the corals. The data may be added to existing studies on the Turneffe Atoll.
As a diver and a young scientist, this expedition was a huge mental step forward for myself. To work and travel with these experienced divers and scientists was a great learning experience. We shared knowledge on marine science and filming, but to me the real lessons I took home were from my fellow explorers. To listen to their stories about how they have lived out their professional and adventurous lives was fascinating and very reassuring. I now feel more confident and driven to continue exploring in the name of science.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 8:13 pm
December 10th, 2013
Report #2: Sandy Sediment Collecting and the New Scientific Diver
One of my advisors during my graduate school days was Dr. Ken Cullings, who currently works for NASA as an ecologist. He also remains a good friend. When he heard about my trip to Belize to look into the effect of climate change on the reef there with the help of citizen-scientists, he quickly offered some help. My job, other than being a divemaster to our group and overall cheerleader for them (many of them inexperienced divers and the majority of them new to underwater science), was to collect three samples from three separate sites for DNA barcoding to identify microbes present.
While there has been a great deal of work done on corals, very little research has been done on how bio-geochemical processes may be affected by climate change, if at all.
Ken isn’t necessarily expecting ground shattering results, but what results are culled (yes Dr. Cullings, pun intended!) could provide a framework for further study in this area.
Adam Iversen, a recently graduated engineering student, offered to help me after I described the project at an early group meeting.
Much of what is done is scientific diving is easy. Lay down a transect line, place a quadrat, count fish, gather some sediment samples. Yet what I remembered when Adam accompanied me on my collection dive at Calabash Caye is that simple things can become complex in a weightless environment. Vinyl tapes sway in surges, quadrats won’t stay put, Falcon tubes can float away. Scientific diving requires that a diver is very comfortable in the water, has good buoyancy skills, and can multitask without feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, diving in 82°F water is inherently low-stress, which made the tasks that much easier to complete for the new research divers. And so our only mishap was that one Falcon tube floated away. By the time of our last sampling, pictured above, Adam and I operated as a smoothly functioning machine. And we had a ton of fun too!
Underwater images courtesy Kiera Ryon.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 3:07 pm
December 6th, 2013
Report #1: Turneffe Atoll Ocean Acidification Expedition
From Calabash Caye:
The expedition team, composed of a committed group of citizen scientists, and sponsored in part by the Explorers Club, is now on day 3 of learning to identify and record climate change effects on this largest reef in the western hemisphere.
The team ages range from age 20 to 75, and everyone is eager to contribute by learning various survey techniques. They include tallying dead vs. live coral and the general type (see marcoralwatch.net), REEF fish counts, quadrat sampling of dead, damaged, living corals, and sediment sampling for Dr. Ken Cullings of NASA (microbe-driven biochemistry).
We have completed four dives over the past couple days, and in my opinion, the three sites we have seen have for the most part been drab and monotone in comparison to the mostly healthy reefs I saw while doing research in the Indo-Pacific 18 yrs. ago.
There is a large degree of what I can only describe as rubble. Yes, much of it is hurricane damage, as expedition leader Ed Sobey remarked. However, some bleaching is evident. More significantly, there are many instances of sick-looking fan, brain, and other types of corals. Biodiversity in general seems low.
The metaphor that comes to mind is of a person who has a compromised immune system and develops secondary illnesses as a result.
Excuse any typos; I am reporting from a small screen.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 6:59 pm
November 25th, 2013
New Preservation Treatment for Bronze Artifacts
by Ty Grabowski
As a technology developer and lifelong scientific diver involved in crime scene preservation and artifact preservation I have on several times come across the problem of preserving bronze that has corroded or diseased. It appears I may have found a solution for bronze disease. Objects of bronze that are afflicted when polished or cleaned chemically or physically always continue to degrade or corrode. I suspect this is caused by physical changes to the metal on a microscopic level. Moisture and oxygen as well a nitrogen in the metal and surrounding environments. The solution or treatment that appears thus far to be the best treatment follows.
I used electricity and commercially available degrease agent to clean the objects, then rinsed each artifact in distilled water to remove any chemical residue. I removed the object from the water and placed it directly in a bath of medical grade acetone to remove any remaining moisture from the metal. Once removed from this bath the acetone remaining on the object quickly evaporates leaving only .0001 percent trace residue. I then grounded the artifact to the electronic plating machine and plated it with pure nickel until the object was covered with a microscopic layer of nickel. I then plated the nickle surface with a layer of fresh bronze plate. The layer of nickel seals the metal from oxygen and nitrogen at a microscopic level and prevents any further corrosion of the original metal while the layer of fresh bronze serves to protect the nickel and restore the artifact to its original color.
Nickel is the only metal that can be plated directly to copper. Bronze is arsenic enriched copper with at least .04 percent arsenic, though this process works on antique brass (copper/zinc) or modern brass (copper/ tin). Once the object is plated with nickel it can be plated with chrome, gold, zinc, copper, silver, bronze, platinum, radium, or zirconium.
All of these would likely work. a layer of gold or zirconium would provide even greater protection though they are more costly.
Done properly it is not physically possible to tell on sight that the object has been treated. The plating is thin enough for scratches and fine details to show through. I.e., if we took two identical gold coins and plated one with nickel then with gold and left the other coin alone. with out scratching the coins or weighing them—no one would be able to tell them apart.
I have thus far treated numerous test pieces including severely afflicted bronze swords from China that spent hundreds of years in salt water, several Ming dynasty bronze statues, and numerous coins that where buried or lost in soil. Two years after treatment I am still finding no signs of further bronze disease.
All materials used are affordable enough that a sword can be treated for around 25.00 dollars and the reusable plating machine required runs around 2,500 dollars. A small price to pay to save something like the liberty bell!
Posted by Candida Kutz at 5:56 pm
October 16th, 2013
Onset of Sea Star Wasting Event in CenCal Being Tracked by UCSC
A mysterious wasting event of numerous species of sea stars is currently occurring in parts of Central California. Scientists at UC Santa Cruz have created a couple pages to track the event. They are encouraging divers to fill out the Sea Star Disease Tracking log if you notice the presence OR absence of wasting disease, and include the GPS coordinates.
Interested readers and divers may also be interested in my old friend Chris Mah’s recent post on the phenomenon.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 12:33 pm
October 15th, 2013
Reef Check job announcement – SoCal Volunteer Coordinator
Posted as a courtesy only. Please do not contact me about this position—Dida
Reef Check Foundation is searching for a Southern California Volunteer Coordinator. This position may be a perfect fit for a person with extensive California diving experience who wants to do research diving and has a passion for working with volunteers. We are looking for someone who is highly motivated with strong leadership skills and, ideally, has a background in marine biology. Preference is given to candidates that are professional dive leaders.
Also see here.
Posted by Candida Kutz at 11:25 am