January 30, 2013
Pacific Grove, CA Chamber Needs Your Donations to Operate!
Via Phil Sammet, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary representative.
Dear Fellow Divers;
Brian and I want to report to you about the meeting that was attended this afternoon by your MBNMS rep.
T he meeting included reps. from the research dive community, City of Pacific Grove, NOAA,The chamber supervisors. and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation(a non-profit 501c3).
The chamber has been off line now for 8 months
The problems that face the chamber are being addressed.
DAN will insure the chamber and the volunteers once the chamber is certified safe and operational.
Insurance will cost $5000 a year
2.The city of PG has agreed to cover workman's comp. to the volunteers
3.NOAA has offered to send chamber Techs. to address the need for new windows in the chamber. Parts have been sourced. The labor is needed.DAN WILL THEN CERTIFY THE CHAMBER FOR OPERATION.
4.The Chamber has over $35,000 in a account with the City of Pacific Grove
This is just enough to do the work and certify the chamber as well as buy insurance.
That will likely drain the account .
5.The City of Pacific Grove has frozen the money until the chamber can show fiscal responsibility.
The city needs to see a budget and plan to fund the chamber in perpetuity.
The budget will be $10,000 a year. The supervisors are compiling the data for the city as we speak.
6.The research diving community including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the universities in the area with diving programs have pledged to help financially.
This will prove to the City fathers and mothers that there is annual funding.
This leads me to my point. For the chamber to continue we need the help of the Recreational dive community. We are the group that requires the chamber most of all.
Our group by far out numbers all the others put together as far as bodies in the waters and we need your help.
To show the City that we can fund the chamber for the long haul I am asking that a donations be made with a promise of continuing annual support from our community.
In the short term individual donations are needed quickly with a promise in an attached letter that the contribution will continue annually.
In the long haul Our community will be creating fundraiser Gala events as well as in water "Chamber Days." These take time to plan and you will see them coming down the pike soon enough.
In the mean time Donations are needed now.
There are Two ways to get the money to the chamber;
1.) Checks Can be Made payable to; City of pacific Grove Recompresion chamber.
300 Forest Ave. Pacific Grove Ca. 93950
2.) If you need to make your contributions to a 501c-3 or are distrustful of city government in general.
Please send the check payable to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Please put PG hyperbaric chamber in the memo space.
99 Pacific St, Suite 455E Monterey CA. 93940
Atten; Dennis Long
Soon there will be a "donate here" button on the web site. http://www.mbnmsf.org
After donating you will receive a letter thanking you for your tax deductible donation.
Posted by Dida at 2:50 PM
December 12, 2012
San Miquel Island Abalone
Back in 2006, some gov agencies, the Calif. Abalone Association and some NGO's cooperated in surveying red abalone at San Miquel Island in the Channel Islands of Southern California. It's the only place in SoCal where an abundance of them can be found out and about (rather then cryptic). Seeing so many in one location was quite a remarkable sight, and as one of the lucky few who participated, the memories of that trip are some of the fondest of my sci-diving career (esp. as I was diving with my late-BF, Chris). (It was also the first time I tried diving with a hookah.)
Yesterday, a proposal to reopen the abalone fishery allowing a take of 1% of the population was considered in La Jolla. It was ultimately rejected, but the meeting proved to be a productive sharing of ideas moving forward—the kind of outcome you always hope government agencies and stakeholders can accomplish.
Chris Knight, a friend and formerly of Reef Check, wrote an in-depth article about the proceedings you can read here.
Images copyright Jody Pesapane.
Posted by Dida at 11:35 AM
November 6, 2012
Nice article about University of Santa Cruz's sci-diving program here.
Posted by Dida at 10:06 AM
June 26, 2012
NOAA'S Scientific Diving Standards and Safety Manual
NOAA'S Scientific Diving Standards and Safety Manual is available in PDF format online and free here.
Posted by Dida at 7:19 PM
May 31, 2012
Fifteen Years of REEF Data from Monterey
Check out this PDF of a PowerPoint presentation that looks at 15 years of data collected by REEF. The graphics demonstrate that the roving diver methodology has yielded data that shows clear population trends in several species, as well as the finding that REEF data is consistent with data that PISCO has collected.
A peer-reviewed journal article is in the works.
Posted by Dida at 8:49 PM
February 3, 2012
Jelly Watch: Another Player in the Citizen Scientist Movement
Posted by Dida at 10:17 AM
August 21, 2011
Third in a Series: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
by Phil Hartmeyer
Maritime Fest '11 was a huge success: thousands of people joined us to celebrate our country's birthday and Lake Huron's maritime heritage. I ended up helping in the dive tank, where three spectacles were occurring simultaneously. The 13-foot deep pool became the temporary home for three activities: a kayak demo from Green Planet Extreme, an ROV demo hosted by NOAA, and a chance to observe a scuba open-water certification class in action, executed by Captain Luke Clyburn, Lieutenant Kathy Trax and the US Naval Sea Cadets. Guests could paddle around in the clear-bottom tandem canoes, while watching an ROV operate below and the scuba students run through drills. The ROV attraction was open to everyone, and guests could maneuver the ROV around the pool. The ROV was one of the two built by Bob Thomson and his Sanborn Elementary School students. The students engineered the ROV to move in four directions, with a camera mounted on the front that relays the picture onto a small screen by the controls. Having never operated any such vehicle, of any size, it was fun to get behind the controls and sneak around the pool.
The Cardboat Boat Regatta was an absolute hit, with two high school students hoisting the Thunder Bay Cup after battling down the Thunder Bay River. The Thunder Bay Cup is the most prestigious award of the Regatta. This trophy draws from teams of all four classes. Observers lined the foot bridge next to the course, and filled out on the hillsides.
Most importantly, the event brought thousands of people into the sanctuary, many of whom had never been through our exhibits.
In more personal news, I celebrated my birthday over five dives aboard the Pride of Michigan. Captain Luke Clyburn of the Pride of Michigan, president of the Noble Odyssey Foundation and acclaimed underwater researcher, invited me aboard the Pride for a day of wreck diving in Thunder Bay. It has been a long wait to get under the surface in Lake Huron, but it was incredible. We took two dives on the Grecian, a 296-foot bulk freighter that sunk in 100 feet of water in Thunder Bay. It struck a reef north of Thunder Bay, and while in tow to Detroit for repairs, flooded and sunk in Thunder Bay. All divers can relate to the excitement getting geared up before a big dive. The time had finally come for me to get on these wrecks that I've been salivating over the past four months since I received my AmeriCorps acceptance phone call.
As I wrote in my wet-notes, "ABSOLUTELY NUTS!!!" describes my first experience on the Grecian and on a Great Lakes wreck. Timbers, planking, the triple-expansion engine and windlass were the highlights. Having never dove in fresh water before, the preservation and abundance of wooden features was the most notable theme as I explored the different levels of the ship.
We took two on the Grecian, and headed out to Scanlon's Barge, of main shipwrecks we visit on the glass bottom boat. Having talked about this wreck many times aboard the Lady Michigan on shipwreck tours, it was a cool opportunity to dive on it. A little hand-fanning exposed perfectly-preserved 2x12 wood deck planking. I used this tidbit on a tour I gave the following day, and passengers reacted positively. I find it helpful to the passengers to supplement the script and "hard-facts" about Scanlon's Barge with my personal accounts underwater.
Scanlon's Barge is also within swimming distance to a natural feature that Captain Luke has studied immensely: tree stumps. Clyburn and his Sea Cadets have identified nineteen tree stumps, with an average radio carbon date of 7,500 BP. The particular grouping of the tree stumps yield valuable information as to the progression of the Lake Huron water line. Cool stuff.
We then took the Pride of Michigan over to the Montana: a 236-foot package freighter sunk in 60 feet of water. The freighter has an interesting history: the ship carried just about every cargo imaginable on the Great Lakes. In the last part of it's career, the Montana was converted into a lumber-hooker, until it caught fire in 1914. The Montana sports a three-story steam engine with a mammoth boiler close by. The doors to the boiler are open, and coal remains in the fuel pit. The propeller is 12' in diameter, and is a great photo spot; too bad my Nikon died 25 kicks before we rounded the stern! We took two dives on the Montana, and then headed back into port. I had an awesome day on these wrecks; they turned out to be far more intricate and preserved than I have seen in pictures. Dry suit repair is keeping me topside for a couple weeks, a cruel punishment after my first day on the wrecks. Can't wait to have it back, and get back under the surface.
Up and coming this week is another installment of Friday Night Downtown and the Roscommon River Festival, both are high-traffic outreach events! More on this later.
Posted by Dida at 5:02 PM
July 6, 2011
Second in Series: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Since I started my work as an AmeriCorps member at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on June 20th, I've been trained to do a variety of tasks, mainly education-and-outreach related. Perhaps my biggest task on the intern agenda is giving shipwreck tours on the Lady Michigan, a 65-foot glass bottom boat. The Lady Michigan is a brand new vessel, and it just completed its first month of service to tourists and locals of Northeast Michigan. The boat leaves from its dock just outside the Sanctuary and each cruise lasts 2.5-3 hours. During this period, guides like myself give narrations about a variety of things: the National Marine Sanctuary System, ship construction history, local Lake Huron history, and information concerning the different industries local to Alpena that made Thunder Bay a busy, commercial port. We generally cruise out to two wrecks, and out to Thunder Bay Island, an important natural landmark historically used in maritime navigation. This cruise is a great way for visitors of the Sanctuary to apply and build upon their knowledge of Great Lakes maritime history by seeing some wrecks face-to-face. The glass bottom boat tours have become somewhat famous in the last few weeks, since the tours started. Journalists of all sorts frequently mingle with the passengers and snap photos for articles that will be published in local papers. While the boat itself is not owned by NOAA or the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the company who does own it provides the boat for tours everyday at 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM.
Giving these tours is a great way for me to learn how to teach others who do not have the same academic background about shipwreck construction and maritime history. Finding words to emphasize Lake Huron's incredible history and maritime heritage without alienating visitors has proved a valuable skill. In this sense, not only am I educating others but also I am learning, myself, about public relations, an important part of all sciences.
While much of my time in the past two weeks has been dedicated to preparing tours, I have also been assisting with the Sanctuary's biggest event: Maritime Fest '11. This event, held every 4th of July, attracts people from all over the state. Last year the Sanctuary hosted more than 10,000 people, as Maritime Fest has become one of the biggest 4th of July events in Northern Michigan. Live music, vendors, bouncy-houses, water slides, an ROV demonstration, face-painting and the 1st Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta make up some of the activities offered. The Cardboard Boat Regatta is held just outside the Sanctuary, on the Thunder Bay River. Participants must design a vessel made of only duck tape and cardboard, and race each other across the river. Four trophies will be administered by the judges including the Titanic Award, given to the team with the most dramatic sinking.
All of these activities are held on the lawns surrounding the Maritime Heritage Center, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's shipwreck museum.
It's a good feeling to see the immense public interest in the services and events, like the glass bottom boat tours and Maritime Fest, that NOAA and the Marine Sanctuary are generating.
I can't wait for tomorrow, but now I must sign off and head over the Sanctuary to help set up.
Posted by Dida at 6:06 PM
June 19, 2011
Announcing a New Series on Research Diving in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
I'm proud to announce the beginning of a new series of reports by Phil Hartmeyer of Saint Mary's College, Moraga, California. Phil is an AmeriCorps Member serving at NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary as an Education and Outreach Specialist. Located in Lake Huron, Michigan, Thunder Bay's particularly nasty mix of dense fog banks, unpredictable gales, and rocky shores has earned it the nickname "Shipwreck Alley." Phil is going to have some fun!-Dida
Phil at Machu Picchu, June 2011
For those out there reading this, I would like to start with a little about myself. My interest in maritime archaeology stems from a few events during my childhood: the release of "Jurassic Park", getting certified as an open water diver and traveling with my parents. Despite it's fictional paleontological setting, Jurassic Park was the first time I became excited about the idea of studying the past, in any capacity. My excitement was later narrowed by experiences I had traveling through Pompeii, France, Turkey, and other historically-incredible places. At this point in life, at age 16, I started diving, and fell in love with the ocean. My checkout dive in Oahu was on the Corsair wreck, a beautifully preserved WWII aircraft sitting at 85 feet in a sand bar. Since then, my passion has become wreck-diving, and my interest in everything old has led me to define a career in maritime archaeology as my goal in life. Since high-school, when I starting working at the Archaeology Laboratory at Saint Mary's College, I have kept my dream alive attending field schools in Bermuda, Hawaii and at Fort Ross, California. I have been so lucky to have an incredible mentor, Dr. James Allan, who has been instrumental in my development as a student of archaeology. I have studied under his direction from high school through college, a cumulative six years of personal and academic development. As of now, I am here in Alpena, Michigan as an AmeriCorps member anticipating my start as an Education and Outreach Specialist at the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary at Thunder Bay. All of my experience in the field, in the classroom and underwater has led me to this point, where I have the opportunity to demonstrate my love for maritime history, preserving our cultural resources, and educating others about the miraculous stories that lie in the depths.
Posted by Dida at 10:35 AM
February 8, 2011
Spaceman Spiff: One Person's Experience of Research Diving in Monterey Bay
by Alex Olson
It's instantly cooler, almost cold, as water trickles into my wetsuit and seems to purposefully seek out the warmest of air pockets. All I can see are bubbles skittering toward the surface with a sizzle. They fade away and my attention is drawn to the light smeary splotches of green streaking below me. Kelp. The visibility isn't that great, I realize. Had I not read 45ft on the depth sounder, I would have thought the kelp descended forever into the void. "How am I supposed to see fish in this!" I check my gear again to make sure I'm all set. Slate in hand, I descend.
photo courtesy Chelsea PrindleOn more than one occasion I've pretended I'm an astronaut, plummeting towards the surface of a zero gravity world, engaging reverse thrusters to slow my approach with the press of an inflator hose button. (Think Calvin & Hobbes' "Spaceman Spiff") What creatures of my imagination lay in wait, to awe and scare the crap out of me?! Who knows!
Just as I had trained years ago as a fledgling AAUS candidate, I get neutral, check in with my buddy, grab a heading and start our transects. It's the 16th month of the 18-month pilot study at McAbee Beach and it's almost always still a rush. The cold of the ocean and dark, dangerous things that loom beyond the viz in my mind are ever present, but they cannot hold a candle to the fire of discovery.....even if it IS the same kelp rockfish who seems to greet you on each dive every month, seemingly demarcating only the best holdfasts for us to set our meter tape.
photo courtesy Chelsea Prindle
After the second dive, data collection is complete and we organize things neatly in the Whaler and head back to Monterey Harbor. Risso's dolphins surface off our port bow, blows of breath lingering in the sun. Above the roar of the wind in my face I can hear myself think about how great I really have it. I am afforded the chance to dive in Monterey, one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet, while facilitating the collection of data and knowledge that are steps to creating a more informed and smarter world. I am in a place where humans are historically not meant to survive for more than a few minutes, meters below the surface. A very small percentage of the world gets to see what I see, let alone do what I do.
photo by Dida KutzIn a way I am the astronaut, or explorer of a world that few regularly or ever lay eyes on. I owe all this to the opportunities that various instructors made available to me, and without them, I'm not so sure about where I might have found myself. Anywhere else almost seems unthinkable.
The sea beckons.
A San Franciscan native and Marine and Coastal Ecology graduate from California State University, Monterey Bay, Alex Olson works under and on the ocean as a diver, deckhand, and budding scientist, pursuing his passion for the sea.
Posted by Dida at 2:45 PM
September 23, 2010
Two New Species of Nudibranch Discovered in Cental California, one at Point Lobos, Big Sur, CA
Photo courtesy Gary McDonald
Photo courtesy Gary McDonald
In March of 2009, diving at about 40 m, BAUE divers Rob and Allison Lee found a nudibranch they were unable to key out after consulting numerous guides. After obtaining a collection permit, they sent a specimen to Terry Gosliner, nudibranch expert at California Academy of Sciences.
Okenia felis is about the size of a Rice Krispy (7-8 mm), and superficially resembles a less robust, white version of Okenia rosacea, often seen locally. However, both DNA and morphological analysis proved that it was a previously undescribed species. This new species appears to be abundant at Point Lobos on brown bryozoan.
The new name of Okenia felis was inspired by the collecting team of Ron and Allison Lee, John Heimann, and Clinton Bauder, collectively known as "Team Kitty."
Flabbelina goddardi laying egg mass
Photo courtesy Jeff Goddard
Flabbelina goddardi laying egg mass
For a full description of these new species, see the latest edition of the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.
Posted by Dida at 7:19 PM
August 14, 2010
EcoRigs Dive Report from the Gulf of Mexico
EcoRigs is a non-profit 501 (c) corporation founded by Steve Kolian that monitors oil and gas rig ecology. As their website states, the NW Gulf of Mexico contains 3,954 oil and gas platforms, which produces tremendously prolific ecosystems containing Caribbean coral reef plants and animals. Steve and his team have been busy monitoring the impact to the coral reef communities of the rigs since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Here is their latest report.-Dida Kutz
This report includes observations from an EcoRigs scuba sampling trip, on the east side of the Mississippi, to Main Pass (MP) 311 on August 8th 2010. We were surprised by what we found, the subsurface plume layer was larger, the water more turbid and currents were swifter than we normally encounter. We periodically saw scummy foam and oil sheen on the surface and oil on the pilings and the heavy murky plume for the upper 40 to 45 feet. The water cleared up at about 45 feet and we saw white noodles at 45 to 60 feet. Noodles are stringy white materials that fall out of subsurface plumes that are located in the upper water column. We caught a few on tape, but we missed catching a flurry of them on film when the noodles were coming down like snow.
The currents were extraordinarily swift, 5 mph down to 60 feet (the extent of our dive). I was holding on to a pipe and the current forced me horizontal like a flag in a strong wind. The plume was much more turbid than any other time in the past, with the exception of a dive on Mississippi Canyon (MC) 194 on June 24. (Aug. 8 video here.)
On a previous visit to MP 311 on June 6th, we observed a similar phenomenon and was described on the scene as big balls of brown “snot” and can be seen on video here.
We also have a video of MP 311 on May 19th and you can see materials from globules, flakes and small particulates to fine materials and dissolved oil and dispersants. You can view that here.
The May 19th video at MP 311 shows particulate oil and dispersants moving down the water column. The oil has not broken down to fine materials yet, as seen in the June 6th and August 8th video. The oil appears to be in transition to finer materials which may be caused by agitation from the wave action and currents. The water is relatively clear and fish do not appear to avoid the areas.
Finally, a video from October 2008 is presented for reference to view water conditions before the Deepwater Horizon spill.
I should note that MP 311 is on the east side of the river in 250 ft (76 m) of water and in a marine transition area, where the water is sometimes green due to freshwater flows on the surface of the ocean (freshwater floats) from the Mississippi. When wind and currents blow from a southerly direction, as it often does during the summer, blue ocean currents prevail and the water conditions around MP 311 are blue and clear. When fresh water prevails, there is greenish layer in the upper 10 -20 feet called murk. The fresh water gets pushed east and west of the Mississippi depending on prevailing wind and currents. When the winds are from the easterly direction, the surface water is blue at MP 311 and the murk is on the west side of the Mississippi.
We are very cognizant of the fact that we may be mistaking the oil and dispersant plume for a freshwater plume. There are characteristics that distinguish the two, first, the presence of the noodles or snot falling down the water column indicates that the plume is not just fresh water. Secondly, plume has a different mixing pattern than a freshwater layer. Looking at the oil and disperant plume from below, the underside of the plume billows and is not as even a layer like fresh water. The fresh water and the oil plume can both be present, however, the combination is much darker than freshwater alone. A freshwater layer was present on August 8th and May 19th but not so prevalent as in October 2008. We are presently collecting water samples and testing for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) & Trace Metals to verify our observations.
Posted by Dida at 2:25 PM
March 11, 2010
New Publication: Monitoring MPAs by SCUBA in waters off Central California
News from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation:
A new publication - "Monitoring MPAs by SCUBA in waters off Central California: 2007/8 results of PISCO baseline monitoring surveys" is NOW available.
The booklet describes the patterns in state marine reserves based on two years of baseline data collected by PISCO at 8 sites. The project represents the most extensive ecological surveys to date of central coast kelp forests, and the results will provide a basis for long-term evaluations of MPA and reference sites.
This publication was made possible through funding and in-kind contributions from Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation, California Grant Sea, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lead authors are Dr Mark Carr, Hugo Selbie, Dan Malone with PISCO, and Dr. Steve Lonhart with MBNMS.
We will also be posting this publication to the MBSF website. As always check the website for updates, as new products are being uploaded for your use.
Thank you - The MBSF Team
Posted by Dida at 7:28 AM
October 26, 2009
Research Diving Nirvana
I found a great research diving site today, Billy's Sabbatical Blog, that reveals much about the peculiar joys of conducting field research while diving. "Billy" is doing MPA related work with lobsters at Catalina; he presents heartfelt stories about science in action. Here's an excerpt from one blog entry:
Down we go. John spies a bug, moves down to the bottom, and presents a sea hare. Lobster attacks, John floats up, Dan moves down for a close-up. After 10 sec, Dan moves up, and I move down with the shrimp. This operation is orchestrated without words, in three dimensions, completely improvised. Spontaneous movement in three dimensions. We were deep enough (30 feet), where you can control your buoyancy by breathing. Take a somewhat deep breath, and you slowly rise off the bottom. Take shallow breaths and you sink down. The cool thing is, this is not just showing off. John noticed a few weeks ago, and I’ve now seen it too, that lobsters often spy the bioluminescence when you kick your fins or make any other movements, and shy away. So don’t kick down to get into place, let out a long breath, and empty your lungs instead. This is tricky. You can’t hold your breath (this risks getting an air embolism and a consequent underwater stroke), but instead only inflate your lungs a little bit, then let it way out. Yoginis can do this easy, I guarantee you. But it’s a bit tricky for the rest of us. Anyway, presentation 1: lobster eats sea hare, lobster eats shrimp. Not test there, but still nice to know.
For the entire story, click here.
I'm always looking to publish original pieces about science diving, from virtually any vantage point (as long as it serves to educate), so please email me with yours.
And Billy, if you're reading this, thanks for sharing!
Posted by Dida at 10:36 AM
June 8, 2009
REEF Survey Report Carmel/Montery 2009
Michael Bear, REEF Volunteer Surveyor, San Diego, California. Publisher of Rapture of the Deep.
On Saturday, May 30, 2009, a team of 18 REEF volunteer divers completed a nearly week-long series of marine life surveys covering 9 dive locations up and down the coast of Monterey and Carmel, under the supervision of REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens and Dr. Steve Lonhart, Senior Scientist, Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN) at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The pace was sometimes grueling: 2 dives a day for 5 days in a row, with the 3 dives on the 3rd day, but the rewards were well worth the effort: with over 55 separate species of fish and invertebrates identified and counted, including some fish species rarely found in these areas, including bococcio, stripefin ronquils and rainbow surfperch, to name just a few.
Spaces on the boat Cypress Sea were paid for by a science grant to REEF, and the volunteers worked with energy and enthusiasm in making the 2 dives per day up and down the coast of Monterey and Carmel, including sites such as: “Mono/Lobo” (Monastery Beach/North Pt Lobos Wall), Lobos Rocks, Malpaso Creek South, Outer and Inner Pinnacles, the “Butterfly House,” and Dali's Wall (Stillwater Cove).
Red abalone and coon stripe shrimp
at Dali's Wall, Stillwater Cove.
Photo by D. Kutz
Each dive team used a technique known in REEF as the “Roving Diver” method, in which each team surveys an area within a roughly 300 ft radius of the entry point, in this case a dive boat, and notes the presence of various species of fish and/or invertebrate on their REEF data sheet.
For fish and individually identifiable invertebrates, such as sea urchins or abalone, the animals are counted as: 1 (Single], 2-10 (Few), many (11-100), and abundant (>100).
Some species of sponges are not readily “countable” as individuals and are therefore listed as 'Present' on the REEF data sheets.
At the end of each day, the volunteers attended an “After Action Report” meeting, in which problems or issues with species identification and/or the data collected were “hashed out” with the resident marine life experts, Dr. Pattengill-Semmens and Dr. Steve Lonhart, and later, the volunteers entered their data online in the REEF.org online database set up for this purpose.
Speaking personally, the experience was both fun and rewarding and served to reinforce already acquired knowledge of Pacific Coast marine life fish and invertebrates, as well as provided the opportunity to contribute to an on-going scientific database being maintained by REEF.org.
For more information on how REEF.org utilizes and trains volunteer “citizen scientists,” please click here.
Posted by Dida at 6:32 PM
June 29, 2008
An Evening on a Tropical Beach: Tektite Man-in-the-Sea Project
Ed Clifton is a Geologist Emeritus, U.S. Geological Survey, and fellow board member for the Point Lobos Association. He's got lots of crazy research diving stories from back when the Navy dive tables were still being tested, and he agreed to share this one. I'm hoping he'll share more soon-Dida
-by Ed Clifton
The night of February 14, 1969, I sat alone on the south shore of St. John, listening to the waves lapping against a beach of coral rubble. The sky was brilliantly lit with stars, and a light, warm breeze touched my face. Introspection claimed me, for I was on the brink of trading my familiar sun and starlit world for an alien undersea environment. The following afternoon, 3 marine biologists and I would splash down to a seafloor habitat where we would spend the next 60 days as aquanauts in the Tektite Man-in-the-Sea project.
I was not, I must admit, a seasoned diver. I had become certified with SCUBA two years earlier, and had since made a few tentative dives in the southern Oregon surf zone, where we had hoped to employ underwater observation in our research of nearshore sedimentology. I suppose I had, all told, a total of 25 dives under my belt. My primary qualifications for being a Tektite diver was probably my willingness to commit 60 days of my life to being the first geologist-aquanaut. So much for "The Right Stuff"!
As I sat in the darkness, I could hear a steel band and shouts of revelry in the distance. The Navy Seabees, who had carved a base camp out of the jungle and were providing logistical support for the project, were justifiably celebrating Spashdown Eve. I wondered what part of my subaerial existence I would miss most over the next 2 months. Would it be the stars? The feeling of a breeze on my face? The underwater world seemed dark and forbidding. What did it hold? How was all this going to work?
As I mused, listening to the lap of the waves and the sound of distant partying, I became aware that there were other sounds in the night: splashes and the distinctive popping sound of feeding fish. The sea was alive! Suddenly my introspection dissolved into eagerness to explore this world in a way privileged to very few others. I sat there for awhile longer listening to the sound of life in the sea, then returned to the party.
The Tektite project proved to be a wonderful, rewarding experience. I returned to the Oregon coast the following summer and we put scuba to full use in the first comprehensive study of a high-energy surf zone. I was also an eager participant a year later in the Tektite 2 experiment which gained me an additional 20 days of undersea habitation.
And what was it that I most missed while living underwater (other than wife and family, of course!)? It was something I had always taken for granted – the healing warmth of the sun.
Posted by Dida at 8:36 AM
March 15, 2008
Calling AAUS Divers – DFG Needs YOU! (and so does Reef Check California): Results of 2007 DFG Abalone and Urchin Surveys
Ed. note: Greg Holzer's 2006 report on the Fort Ross, CA, abalone and sea urchin survey he participated in can be viewed here. He's back with a 2007 report that includes a detailed cruise report --Dida
by Greg Holzer
Each fall for the past several years, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), has conducted red abalone and red sea urchin density surveys at designated sites in northern California. Survey sites range along the Sonoma and Mendocino County coastlines. The 2007 surveys were lead by Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett and were conducted at Ocean Cove in Sonoma County, as well as Van Damme State Park, Point Arena, and Stornetta Ranch in Mendocino County. The Cruise Report for Arena Point/Stornetta Ranch can be found (here) and makes for compelling reading, but I’d like to stress another aspect here--that of actually getting divers in the water for these surveys and cruises.
The DFG survey teams typically include divers from the Department, Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML), Humboldt State, and other related organizations, as well as volunteer AAUS-certified scientific divers. And as the boat leaves the dock, it’s usually clear that more divers would be a good thing.
For most everyone concerned about the progress of marine life conservation, repopulation efforts, and developments surrounding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the effort that goes into the work is recognized, as well as the dedicated people involved. There are a lot of deserving projects though, and so DFG is developing a process in collaboration with Reef Check to recruit qualified divers who are interested in this research. AAUS-certification as a scientific diver is necessary to work from DFG’s boats and facilities, and that carries with it the associated training. However, speaking as one of the volunteer AAUS divers on the cruises the last few years, the rewards and benefits are definitely worth the effort to get and maintain the certification, if you’re interested in the work. Among the benefits:
• Use of research vessels and equipment not available to recreational divers;
• Working with biologists and researchers closely involved with the science needed to better manage our marine fisheries (not to mention being able to pick their brains on a wide array of topics of interest to divers).
• Opportunities to obtain related training and instruction, like small boat operation.
• Access to areas not normally dived.
• The confidence and camaraderie of diving with experienced people, all who share your skills and interests;
• …did I mention all the air you can breathe, even underwater?
• Great food prepared by none other than the DFG Captain and crew…and these guys can cook up some fish! (Or burgers for that matter.)
If all this sounds appealing, and you’re AAUS-certified, DFG would sure like to hear from you, and Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett would appreciate an email from you about possibly helping with the 2008 abalone and urchin surveys.
So, you’re not yet AAUS certified? Not to worry! There is a great alternative for those who want to begin the training and get involved in scientifically-valuable research that even now is shaping the MLPAs along the California coast. This alternative is Reef Check California (RCCA). If you are an experienced diver you can get involved directly with helping to conserve California’s rocky reefs by becoming a trained and certified Reef Check diver. AAUS certification is not required and RCCA trainings are held in the spring and summer throughout California. As an RCCA diver myself, I can say it’s a very rewarding way to spend some bottom time. In addition, as we did on this trip during the cruise at Stornetta Ranch, Reef Check CA sometimes teams up with DFG to expand the scope of the data gathering. Presently RCCA is working with DFG and others to be able to facilitate AAUS Scientific Diver Certification. Look for updates on the RCCA website. In the meantime, check out the RCCA training page or go to this link to hear from other divers about what it is like to be a RCCA certified diver.
The DFG and Reef Check survey protocols are directly comparable to commonly used sampling methods (see Memorandum of Understanding) and were developed in collaboration with DFG, PISCO and others subtidal research programs to ensure the data collected can be used to improve marine management (see article by C. Dawson published on this site here). Divers lay 30-meter transect tapes, each on a specific heading, then conduct surveys along the transect while completing a datasheet tabulating measurements and quantities of selected species that occur within one meter on each side of the tape. The starting point of each transect is identified with GPS coordinates in the case of DFG abalone transects, and haphazardly placed in the case of RCCA surveys.
DFG survey species include emergent (i.e., large enough to be seen easily with the naked eye) red, flat, and pinto abalone as well as red and purple sea urchins. In addition, selected algal species and certain associated species (e.g., bat stars), as well as notes on seafloor composition are recorded. These species are also surveyed in RCCA surveys. Typically, it takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete a DFG abalone transect depending on a variety of factors like the number of animals, amount of rugosity, and general sea conditions, which can be challenging in some of the shallower spots with kelp and heavy surge.
The main objective of the surveys at Point Arena Cove and Stornetta Ranch was to assess the density and size frequency distribution of red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) and red sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) populations. However, the task list for research cruises evolves continuously, based on opportunity and other needed research, and every effort is made to maximize the value of the cruise. Additions during this cruise included:
• Taking a small sample of epipodium from 50 red abalone, for genetic research (yes, they were returned “home” with strange tales to tell their friends).
• Collection and examination of 70 small boulders to assess recruitment levels of red abalone.
• Conducting plankton tows to assess levels of larval abalone.
• Conducting fish and related survey transects, in support of ongoing monitoring by RCCA in collaboration with DFG. As mentioned above, some divers aboard were trained in Reef Check protocols and were able to conduct surveys for a wider range of selected invertebrate, algal, and fish species as well as quantifying the type of substrate at this site. The RCCA transects were completed to provide a more comprehensive ecosystem site assessment at this site. Such collaboration is valuable in leveraging the skill sets of the participating groups, make it possible to field more divers, and maximize the value of each cruise. With the compatibility of DFG and RCCA data-gathering procedures and protocols, used together they provide a more complete picture of the overall underwater habitat and communities. These results, in turn, provide a more complete body of scientific evidence needed for creation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and assist managers in making sustainable management decisions. (Click here for more information on Reef Check)
During the four days of the cruise we sampled a total of 36 transects at Point Arena Cove, and 33 at Stornetta Ranch, for a total of 69, exceeding considerably our goal of 56 total for the two sites. All the details are available in the Cruise Report (click here).
One particularly interesting aspect of this cruise was surveying abalone at Stornetta Ranch. This site was closed to public access until 2004 when the land was transferred to the state from a private owner. Prior to the public opening an extensive intertidal as well as subtidal survey was conducted to document abalone and urchin densities. The survey completed this year was the first survey of the subtidal area since the public access opening in 2004, and yielded a striking display of the effects of public access on abalone populations (see Cruise Report).
A few other cruise details:
• Again this year, the divers had as their base of operations the DFG’s enforcement vessel P/B Marlin, a 54-foot aluminum catamaran, skippered by Captain Keith Long, with Warden Steve Johnson and Engineer Jeff Rose as crew. The Marlin is equipped with a 17-foot Rigid Hull Inflatable and electric/hydraulic hoist for launching. In addition, BML supplied a 14-ft. Zodiac with a 25-horse motor. The Marlin is a capable and comfortable diving platform, and with this combination of personnel and equipment, we were able to field as many as five dive teams each day to lay and survey sixty-nine, 30-meter transects during four days of diving operations. The Department also provided a portable compressor so that empty tanks could be filled during diving operations, minimizing the number of tanks that had to be handled, and preventing the need to load and unload tanks during the cruise. Incidentally, support for the dive teams comes from the department’s Wildlife protection patrol boats, captains, and mates. Funding for many of the surveys is made possible by the recreational abalone fishing stamp funds.
• As is common, we had some mechanical problems to overcome, and some divers were limited by illness, so the schedule necessarily varied each day with status of the divers, equipment, and the research efforts.
• Water temperatures for this cruise were in the low to mid 50 Fº range, and visibility varied from less than five feet in shallow, turbulent areas, to near 40 feet on some deeper transects. Overall sea conditions were essentially flat for the entire week, making for some very enjoyable diving.
All in all, as one of the volunteer AAUS scientific divers, it was a very rewarding trip, and I encourage anyone who shares these interests to touch base with Dr. Rogers-Bennett (email). If this year is similar to the last few, trips will be scheduled periodically from mid-August through late October 2008. I hope to see some new faces this year!
Posted by Dida at 1:10 PM
March 12, 2008
US Geological Survey Researchers Collaborate with National Park Service Scientists to Understand the Impact of Watershed Erosion on Coral Reefs in War-in-the-Pacific National Historical Park, Guam
by Curt Storlazzi
Josh Logan (USGS) deploying a wave/tide gauge and temperature/salinity sensor. Because of the complex bathymetry and delicate nature of coral-
reef environments, the scientists must deploy instruments using scuba
gear and lift bags (yellow) to avoid damaging the corals or the instruments. Water depth is approximately 10 m (33 ft). Photograph by Curt Storlazzi (USGS).
Guam, the largest of the Mariana Islands and an American territory since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, had quickly and easily fallen into Japanese hands in the early morning of December 10, 1941, putting approximately 20,000 Chamorros (natives of Guam) and U.S. citizens under the flag of the Rising Sun. Two and a half years later, on the morning of July 21, 1944, first elements of the U.S. 3rd Marine Division landed at Asan, Guam, and lead assault troops of the U.S. 1st Provisional Marine Brigade at Agat, about 10 km to the south, on the other side of Apra Harbor. These 30,000 Marines faced 18,500 Japanese defenders entrenched in caves, pillboxes, and bunkers on the island. The battle for Guam lasted a month and cost more than 12,000 American and Japanese lives. In commemoration of the United States and Guam's involvement in World War II, the National Park Service (NPS) established War-in-the-Pacific National Historical Park in 1978. The park, which honors the bravery and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War II, seeks to conserve and interpret outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects on the Island of Guam (see website). The two beaches where the U.S. Marines landed at Asan and Agat were incorporated as the two largest (of six total) units in the park; the other four units are old Japanese defensive positions in the hills overlooking west-central Guam.
One of two dozen U.S. Marine Amtracs
(assault amphibious tractor) that sank off
Agat beach during the invasion on July 21,
1944. Most of these landing craft were
destroyed by a Japanese gun emplaced
in a hardened concrete bunker that still
stands at Ga'an Point in War-in-the-Pacific
National Historical Park's Agat Unit. Water
depth is approximately 13 m (42 ft).
Photograph by Curt Storlazzi (USGS).
War-in-the-Pacific National Historical Park comprises 926 acres of land and 1,002 acres of marine waters. The marine waters are home to more than 3,500 marine species and 200 species of coral, giving the park one of the highest levels of species diversification within the National Park system. Corals generally need clear, oligotrophic waters (low in nutrients and suspended sediment). Human activity has significantly increased the rate of sedimentation along many areas of Guam's coastline, including within the park. These human activities are related primarily to land-management practices, including urban development, unregulated use of off-road vehicles, and illegal wildfires. The wildfires, which are intentionally set by hunters to clear lines-of-sight and draw in new game, remove the grasses and small trees that stabilize the soil. Typhoons strike Guam frequently, commonly dropping more than 30 cm of rain in 24 hours and flushing the unstabilized soil down to the coast and into the park's waters. Studies by the Park's Natural Resource Division staff have shown that:
1) soil loss from burned areas is nearly sixfold higher than from vegetated areas,
2) sediment-collection rates in tube traps on the park's fringing reef are very high,
3) the trapped material is composed dominantly of fine terrestrial sediment, and
4) trap-collection rates vary widely.
Their work further shows that the input of terrestrial sediment to the park's nearshore waters is greater during the wet season (July-December), which coincides with peak coral spawning and larval settlement.
In 2006, War-in-the-Pacific National Historical Park asked the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop studies that would provide quantitative information about the deposition, residence time, and movement of fine terrestrial sediment through the park's fringing coral-reef system, so that the NPS can better manage the park's marine resources. The USGS Coral Reef Project established a plan with NPS, and in July 2007, Curt Storlazzi, Josh Logan, and Kathy Presto (USGS, Santa Cruz, California; see website) along with Greg Piniak (NOAA), traveled to Guam to conduct a cooperative study with NPS for increasing our understanding of geologic and oceanographic processes on Guam's coral reefs. Storlazzi, Logan, Presto, and Piniak worked with the park's Natural Resource Division scientists Allison Palmer and Holley Voegtle to scout out sites for USGS and NPS oceanographic and terrestrial instrument packages. Over the next 2 weeks, the USGS team installed seven benthic instrument packages, three moorings, a terrestrial digital-camera system, a weather station, and a stream gauge in the park. These instruments will provide quantitative time-series measurements (measurements collected at regular time intervals) of oceanographic processes (currents, surface waves, internal waves), meteorologic forcing (winds, rainfall, barometric pressure), and water-column properties (temperature, salinity, turbidity, photosynthetically available radiation). This study will last 7 months, and the results will be used to identify flow and transport patterns under various forcing conditions.
Two World War II artillery shells, outlined in
red, in a previously unmapped field of
unexploded ordnance near one of the USGS
instrument sites in War-in-the-Pacific National
Historical Park. Water depth is approximately
20 m (66 ft). Photograph by Curt Storlazzi
USGS staff returned to Guam in late October 2007 to recover the instruments, download data, and refurbish and redeploy the instruments until the end of the typhoon season in January. This work will be another chapter in ongoing USGS research to investigate the impact of land-based pollution on coral reefs in the United States and U.S. Trust Territories (see website), and will build on continuing USGS-NPS multidisciplinary cooperative coral-reef research efforts (see NPS web page on coral). This experiment will also provide NPS with quantitative baseline data to compare with possible future measurements during the planned large-scale expansion of U.S. military installations at Apra Harbor, less than 2 km from the park. Furthermore, this work will address shared objectives with the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF)'s Guam Local Action Strategy (LAS; scroll down to fact sheet link here), which designated the Asan watershed as one of its five priority watersheds for study. USGS researchers, along with the NPS staff, hope to continue this cooperative-science program on behalf of the coral reefs and reef ecosystems in one of our Nation's historic battlegrounds.
Posted by Dida at 4:27 PM