How much time are students in the water?
Scientific diver training requires a minimum of 100 hours of course time and 12 logged training dives. The actual number of dives varies year by year, but in general, if students participate in every dive they can log between 14-18 dives during the course. Most students come into the course with only about 4-6 career dives, so the class has the potential to more than double their experience in a fairly short amount of time and in a progressive and focused manner.
How does classroom work integrate with fieldwork?
We have an academic schedule for the class and we build in guest lectures from the UMaine faculty and other experts in the field whenever possible. When we go out to dive, it is always with a certain objective in mind, either science- or skills-related. After the first few dives, we integrate students into the process and require them to create their own dive plan for executing the scientific protocol or skills objective for the day.
What kinds of science diving projects have you worked on?
I started my scientific diving career here at UMaine as a diving intern in summer 1996, and since then have worked on scientific diving projects as a working diver or diving supervisor for a variety of scientific and academic institutions. Prior to coming to UMaine, most of my diving was done either in my native New York, or in the Gulf of Mexico while I was a graduate student in Texas. At UMaine I’ve assisted in a few remote field expeditions, but I’m mostly involved in our local marine-related projects where, in addition to training divers, I fill in as an experienced diver or act as expert on the local conditions. Not all of our diving is marine related however, and I’ve also worked with a UMaine graduate student who studies invasive plants in Maine lakes. In order to make the best use of available field time, we incorporated the required training objectives into her research plan so it became an integrated process.
How did you get into diving?
I have always been a water person and I learned to dive in my backyard pool on Long Island when I was very young. My dad had a scuba tank and taught me the basics so by the time I took a certification course I had already spent countless hours underwater. I built up my experience in college diving with our scuba club and volunteering at the local dive shop. I eventually earned my instructor rating and during my junior year was hired as a diving intern here at UMaine. Between college and graduate school I worked at a marine lab, and remained active as a scientific diver and scuba instructor. I’ve been at UMaine full-time since 2003. I’m usually in the water at least one day a week for eight or nine months of the year; I’d much rather be diving than in my office.