November 19, 2012
Learning To Be a Scientific Diver
by Maria Kyong
When I signed up for a the two-week AAUS summer intensive science diver course I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wondered if it would be like living out one’s childhood fantasy of being a marine biologist for a day or like that nightmare where you’re back into school totally unprepared and in over your head.
Having absolutely no background in the sciences (marine or otherwise) and only being a recreational diver for about 4 years I was surprised to find I was able to take the course. I came across the course through BluePlanetDivers.org at a point in my diving "career" where I wanted the time I spent diving to contribute to something and wanted to learn more about the things I so loved to see underwater. So, stars were aligned and I learned about the course and was able to sign up just weeks before it started.
The course was run by Diana Steller and Scott Gabara of Moss Landing Marine Labs in conjunction with CSU Monterey and consisted primarily of students (undergrad and postgrad) that were studying and working in various areas of marine biology, ecology, and the like. It was a small group, less than a dozen participants of varying age and experience in diving and science. We had a week of lab sessions in the pool, classroom, a few dives at Breakwater, and lots of figuring out gear, supplies, and logistics for the following week "in the field." The following week we loaded up a van and truck including 2 dozen steel tanks, air compressor, dive gear, camping gear, food, training material, and 12 eager bodies and were off to Big Creek in Big Sur for 6 days of diving, camping, and learning to be science divers!
Here is where reality hit... we stood inside the gates looking at the long rocky path down to the beach and wondering how we were going to set up air compressors, fill tanks, and transport gear, a Zodiac, kayaks, etc., over rocks and poison oak for the next 6 days then make the mile trek up to our campsite to set up camp. Much like the rest of the week things that seemed impossible at the start just seemed to work out. Any dismay about the work ahead of us was quickly dismissed by the awe of this incredible site.
The next 6 days were a blur... waking up at 6 try to get coffee and food prepped for a full day at the beach, getting dive teams, learning to navigate the site while learning protocols for Reef Check (some were learning algae for the first time, some were still learning to dive, operate an air compressor or fill tanks, learning how to launch an Zodiac or kayak from a very rocky entry...) managing equipment issues, minor injuries etc. We left camp at 8 in the morning, walking a mile to the dive site each day and returned to camp 10 hours later with just enough energy left to try to put on an evening meal and a fire. If we were able to sit around the camp fire for a bit before making it back to our tents to crash we got to check in and talk about the amazing moments, calamities, and "other" experiences of the day. Before you knew it we were talking about our last day at Big Creek... where did the week go?
Like I said, it was a blur. Driving back to Monterey on Sunday afternoon fighting sleep I couldn’t take it all in. Weeks later I’m sorting through notes on Reef Check protocol, algae identification, and pictures of the week and making plans to do my next practice survey.
Posted by Dida at November 19, 2012 11:43 AM