A few months ago I Skyped with a 5th grade classroom jam-packed with inquisitive students at the West Chester Friends School in West Chester, PA. They had lots of questions about my adventures as an ocean scientist. Here are a few follow up questions from the students, along with the answers!

One of the topics we discussed was the Galapagos Islands as I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time there as a researcher working on corals and as the science advisor to Celebrity Cruises’ ship Xpedition that is stationed in the Galapagos. Here are some follow-up Galapagos questions.

Why did you choose to study in the Galapagos Islands?

I was very fortunate that one of my professors in graduate school was studying corals in the Galapagos Islands and asked me to go along with him and another student to help them on their research. So, I didn’t really choose it, but was given a fantastic opportunity to go there to help other scientists in their research. This is one of the very cool things about being a student in marine science¾often you get asked to help on research projects. During graduate school I also went to the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and Fiji to help on projects. But I love the Galapagos and the abundance of incredible animals you get to see there both on land and in the water. I never get bored of going back!

Why did I choose to work on water animals instead of land animals?

Good question. I love animals on land too, but I’ve always liked the water and in high school when I got certified to SCUBA dive I fell in love with diving and even more so, the ocean. And when I had the chance to explore and then study coral reefs ¾ I was really hooked. There’s so much to see, watch, and to try to understand on coral reefs. It is truly an underwater extravaganza. And I liked the fact that to understand coral reefs, you must study biology, geology, and physical oceanography¾all three play an important role in shaping a coral reef.

Another topic we talked about was living underwater. I’ve also have been lucky to have done two missions in Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only operating undersea research station.


Inquiring minds want to know:

Was the underwater habitat like a submarine? What does the underwater habitat look like from the inside and the outside?

The undersea lab is like a long cylindrical metal mobile home that sits on giant metal legs that go down to the seafloor. A submarine moves around, but the undersea habitat does not. It sits in one place all the time and the divers swim out from it each day to do their work. On the inside there are three compartments: The Wet Porch (entrance and a place to shower and dry off) and two living compartments which house all the working space, a bunk room, a small kitchen (no stove or oven), lots of communication gear and life support systems, a little table and benches, and a few other necessities. There are also big round viewports you can look out of (one of the best parts). To see photos you can go to: aquarius.fiu.edu

How did it feel to be underwater for so long?

I’ve done two missions in Aquarius. One was just over a week and the other was two weeks. I loved living underwater because it gave us the advantage of time and access to the surrounding coral reefs. We could dive 6 to 9 hours a day down to about 100 feet. The rest of the time we were inside, sleeping, working, eating and communicating with others. It is very tiring if you are diving a lot and every morning you have to put on a cold, clammy wetsuit. But it is well worth it. One thing that stands out in my mind is when we came up to the surface after the mission and smelled the fresh air and felt the warm sunshine on our skin. Boy did that feel good!!!!

So glad you all enjoyed our talk. Me too! Keep up the good work!

 


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