Like so many other divers out there, as a young lad I was bewitched by the sights of underwater exploration by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and others. As I got older, Shows like The Sea Hunters with Clive Cussler kept my interest alive. When I took my first steps into a dark prairie lake in Alberta, I was excited that I was finally going to be able to see the underwater world. Needless to say, Clear Lake wasn’t exactly the tropics, or really clear for that matter. It got the ball rolling though, and years later I found myself engaged in or conducting scientific dives in the emerald waters of British Columbia. This article is a bit about ocean research and the ways that you as a diver can get involved!
Oceanic research and science comes in two flavours. Professional study and “Lay” or citizen science. The former is the realm of academic study, conducted by marine biologists and limnologists (freshwater biologists). The latter is conducted by everyone else; whether they’re just interested in the local environmental scene, part of a larger organization or a self trained naturalist. Interestingly, citizen science can often support the efforts of professional science by building up large, long term data bases.
Diving professionally for research or science is often a matter of training and/or education. If you have the training, you can find yourself employed or volunteering; if you have the education, you can often be part of a study process or experiment in addition to just doing the leg work. This sort of diving is often regulated by national organizations, universities, aquariums or similar institutions. AAUS, CAUS and CMAS cover the United States, Canada and large parts of Europe respectively for this. These groups aren’t all encompassing though, and some institutions set their own standards.
On the “Lay” or citizen science side of the show, there are many organizations that offer training to varying levels of skill and ability. PADI recently brought back their Research Diver course, and both SSI and SDI/TDI have programs available as well. GoPro Utila (a PADI IDC centre in Honduras) developed the local marine biology centre and created their own tropical oriented scientific study course as well, Red Sea Research created a program as well. REEF.org and Cousteau Divers focus on marine biodiversity, and are readily available to divers as well.
Citizen science and naturalist path is the easiest way for you as a diver to get involved in the world of oceanic science. Truth be told, any diver with an interest in the field and a reasonable amount of skill can add to the field, even if only by keeping track of the types and number of fish or invertebrates they see on a dive. Scuba diving, and undersea research by extension, are very young. Being able to be part of it, at any level, is pretty fantastic by any measure.
Next Week: Neptune Canada! Plus the long awaited picture update… I need to organize this better!