Home / News & Events / News & Announcements

News & Announcements

2013 AAUS Foundation Scholarship Recipients - 09/30/13


Lillian Tuttle
2013 Kathy Johnston English Scholar

I am a PhD. student starting my fourth year in the Department of Zoology at Oregon State University, under the direction of Dr. Mark Hixon.  I was born and raised along the Kentucky River, where I first learned to appreciate living things both above and below the water.  At sixteen I became scuba-certified in a filled rock quarry, and got hooked on diving.  I stayed close to home for college by attending Centre College, a small (but mighty!) liberal arts school in Kentucky.  As an undergraduate I made my way to the ocean with internships in coastal Oregon and the Virgin Islands, during which I studied the fascinating world of fish-parasite ecology.  After college, I spent a year as a Fulbright Advanced Student in southern France at the Université Montpellier 2, where I studied fish “eco-immunology,” and I volunteered as a tutor for three months at an elementary school for orphans in rural Kenya.  I was honored to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2010, when I began my career as a graduate student at OSU.

            My ecological love affair is with species interactions, and how these interactions both affect and are affected by invasive species.  My dissertation has focused on lionfish, an invasive species on Atlantic coral reefs that pose a major threat to native fish communities.  My research has discovered that lionfish have extremely few parasites infecting them compared to other fish in the Caribbean, perhaps allowing lionfish to divert more energy toward feeding and reproduction.  I’m also investigating whether or not lionfish eat or alter the behavior of cleaning gobies, little fish that pick parasites off the skin of larger fishes.  Ultimately, if lionfish change cleaning behavior they could indirectly alter parasite transmission, and native fish health and diversity on coral reefs.  I’ve conducted my research at three locations: the Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman, the Perry Institute for Marine Science in the Bahamas, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in the Bahamas.  I’m looking forward to another summer of intensive fieldwork at CEI, thanks to the Kathy Johnston English Scholarship!

Darcy Bradley
2013 Kathy Johnston English Scholar

Darcy Bradley is a PhD student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she studies interactions between humans and large marine predators in structuring coral reef ecosystems.  Darcy is particularly concerned with the precipitous decline in shark populations that has accelerated in recent decades; while declines in pelagic shark species are well documented, similar population depletions are thought to exist for previously untargeted coral reef associated sharks. Yet, to date the majority of reef shark abundance estimates are derived from visual survey data that are plagued by a lack of comparability and reproducibility.Crucially, these estimates also fail to account for shark behavior, which may significantly bias results.

In the spring of 2013, Darcy was invited to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy and the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium in mark-recapture reef shark population study at Palmyra, a remote U.S. National Wildlife Refuge in the central Pacific Ocean. Over the next year, Darcy will make several site visits to Palmyra with the goal of establishing a baseline measure of grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)population size without the biases inherent in visual survey estimates. However, as much of the world’s reef shark abundance assessments rely on data collected in underwater diver surveys, Darcy is further working to quantify a behavioral response by reef sharks to human SCUBA diver presence. Reef shark behavior will then be incorporated into a bias correction factor that will be used to update and reevaluate abundance estimates throughout the central Pacific.


Scott Gabara
2013 Kevin Gurr Scholar

Scott Gabara is pursuing his M.S. degree at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) and is conducting research on the ecology of rhodolith beds around Santa Catalina Island.   Scott received his B.S. from University of California Santa Cruz in 2007 while volunteering for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO).  He completed his AAUS scientific diving training at UCSC.  Scott was employed by PISCO for three years and developed his diving skills through subtidal surveys and oceanographic instrument maintenance and boating skills by operating inflatables and small boats.  Scott became a NAUI Instructor which led to employment at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories where he currently helps teach marine science diving during the summer and fall, and helps run the MLML diving program.  At almost 900 dives and 24 hours underwater, Scott believes his strong foundation in diving has lead to a lifelong pursuit of conducting his own marine research and teaching science diving.  His research on understanding energy flow through rhodolith beds, an understudied habitat, has suggested that rhodolith beds around Santa Catalina Island benefit from giant kelp drift, which subsidizes the base of the rhodolith bed food web.

Danielle Claar
2013 Kevin Gurr Scholar
I am a first year graduate student at the University of Victoria under the direction of Dr. Julia Baum. Our lab seeks to understand how human activities are altering marine ecosystems, and my dissertation focuses on how human impact can affect interactions between corals and their algal symbionts (Symbiodinium). The goal of my AAUS funded research is to evaluate the dynamics of Symbiodinium diversity on Kiritimati atoll (Christmas Island). Symbiodinium diversity is important because it can indicate the overall health of a coral, and provide insight into the history of coral bleaching. This past summer, I traveled to Kiritimati for a month to collect baseline ecological research and coral-Symbiodinium samples. My research is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ruth Gates at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, where I will travel to conduct training and genetic analyses of coral-Symbiodinium samples from Kiritimati. Ultimately, my goal is to further our knowledge of coral-Symbiodinium interactions in order to better understand the fate of coral reefs in a changing environment. 
Melanie Garate
2013 Hollis Gear Award Recipient

I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston in August of 2012 where as an undergraduate I examined the land use effects of the Neponset River watershed and the microbial composition of the Dorchester Bay to determine the water quality at these two sites. For two and a half years, throughout undergraduate and conducting research, I volunteered over one-thousand hours in several departments of the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA, which mainly focused on educating the public about the marine environment as well as ensuring all exhibit animals were getting the best care. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. at the University of Rhode Island under Dr. Serena Moseman-Valtierra examining how anthropogenic nutrient pollution and benthic invertebrates are affecting the biogeochemistry of intertidal and subtidal coastal zones. 

Emily Aiken
2013 Hollis Gear Award Recipient

Emily Aiken grew up in the desert in southern California, where she obtained her AA in Liberal Arts at a local community college.  At this point in her life, SCUBA diving was foreign and intangible to her because she was land-locked and did not personally know a single diver. Three years ago, she transferred to CSU Monterey Bay as a first generation college student and switched her major to Marine Science. The handful of times she did visit the beach, filtering the sand for sand crabs and exploring the abundant life in tidepools, is what kindled her passion to pursue her adventures in the many unique outlets ocean science has to offer.

During her college career, Emily enrolled in the SCUBA open water course taught by Frank Degnan and shortly after, she completed her advanced, rescue, master, drysuit, and AAUS scientific diving certifications. In the meantime, she volunteered as a cleanup diver for Monterey Harbor, a maintenance diver for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Animal Research and Care Center, a TA for CSUMB’s SCUBA program, and was elected as the undergraduate representative on the Dive Control Board. She was one of the two students at CSUMB to conduct an underwater research project as her Honors Thesis, studying the interaction between invasive and native organisms in Monterey Harbor in collaboration with NOAA. Apart from her Honors Thesis, she works with Marine Protected Areas as a research assistant at the Institute for Applied Marine Ecology. She broadened her role in the marine science community by establishing CSUMB’s first Marine Science Club as the club president. This past summer, she brokered a research diving experience through Florida International University, where she studied how the grazing rates of different-sized herbivorous fishes impacted coral reefs off the Florida Keys. Through all of these experiences, Emily has defined her passion for marine science and underwater research. She plans to pursue her research through getting a Ph.D. to contribute knowledge about marine ecology so that decision makers, managers, and the public have a better understanding about how to conserve our ocean. 


2012 AAUS Scholarship Recipients Updates - 05/15/13

Julia Stevens
2012 Kathy Johnston Scholar

I am a doctoral candidate finishing my fourth year of Ph.D. work at the University of Alabama under the direction of Julie B. Olson, Ph.D. The graduate program here has a broad focus in biological sciences reaching from molecular and cell biology to ecology and evolution. Our lab is a marine microbial ecology lab, and my dissertation focuses on the bacterial communities associated with the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic and in their native Indo-Pacific region. The funds I received through the Kathy Johnston Scholarship Fund awarded by AAUS are allowing me to travel to the Smithsonian research island of Carrie Bow Cay, Belize in June. The work I will complete while there, will allow me to analyze the chemical composition of lionfish mucus for antimicrobial activity as a potential chemical defense mechanism against disease. I am also testing the lionfish-associated bacteria for antimicrobial activity against known fish pathogens. Results could have implications for explaining the success of lionfish in the invaded range as well as potential host-microbe interactions. This project stemmed from previous work of ours, which showed that lionfish harbor a significantly different bacterial community than native Caribbean fishes.

 Photo of Julia Stevens and a lion fish by Cheih-wen Wang


Alexander Modys
2012 Kevin Gurr Scholar

My name is Alexander Modys, and I'm from Fort Myers, Florida. My interests are freediving, SCUBA diving, spearfishing, and surfing. I am currently a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where I am working on an MS degree in Geology in the Department of Geosciences. My degree focuses on Marine Geology and Paleoceanography. I became interested in marine science at a very early age, exploring the estuary and Gulf of Mexico waters where I grew up and snorkeling the reefs of the Florida Keys. 

My AAUS funded research focuses on a relict Holocene reef system off the coast of Boynton Beach, Florida, constructed from Acropora palmataand Acropora cervicorniscorals. Using a combination of reef coring, stable isotope analysis, and remote sensing, I am working to reconstruct the Holocene reef environment at its northermost termination during the Holocene. Specifically, I am working on determining Holocene reef zonation patterns, paleo-temperatures, and exact age of the reef termination. Using this crucial new data, I will compare Holocene shelf-edge acroporid reef growth at this site to modern shelf-edge acroporid reef growth throughout the Florida Keys. Ultimately, our findings will reveal information on the long-term ecological stability of shelf-edge acroporid reefs in the southeastern Florida.


Jennifer Hellmann
2012 Kathy Johnston Scholar

I am a second year PhD student in the Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology department at The Ohio State University. My laboratory studies the evolution of sociality and my research focuseson the formation, structure, and fitness benefits of social networks. Being well connected within a social network provides several advantages, including increased offspring survival, greater mating opportunities, and higher social rank. However, social networking has not been widely explored outside of primates, and we do not know to what extent individuals in other taxa make decisions on the basis of networking opportunities. My research uses Neolamprologus pulcher, a species of African cichlid with a highly complex social system, to better understand how social networks function in fish. This past spring, I traveled to Lake Tanganyika to examine how colony density affects the ability of individuals to interact with their neighbors. Specifically, I explored how density affects how often males are able to mate with females on other territories and how easily subordinates are able to move between groups in the colony. Social network structure has important implications for information flow, disease spread, mate choice, and social stability, and this project will help elucidate the extent to which spatial patterns and social interactions align, which will provide valuable insight into the evolution of social structures and group organization.

 Photos by Susan Marsh-Rollo


FSU Panama City's Dive Symposium - 04/29/13


PANAMA CITY, Fla. –On Thursday, June 20 from 3:30 to 6:30 pm, Florida State University Panama City will present “Deep Submergence: Past, Present and Future of Ocean Exploration”. The program will feature renowned scientists and adventurers on the cutting edge of ocean engineering and deep sea exploration Don Walsh, PhD, Kurt Uetz and Chris Welsh. The event is free, open to the public and will be held in the Holley Academic Center Lecture Hall. 
Kurt Uetz: DSV Alvin Project Manager
Kurt Uetz is the Project Manager at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the modernization of the Alvin deep submergence vehicle. Uetz’s oversight of this $40 million project to redesign and implement major upgrades to the Alvin submersible systems will increase its working depth from 4500 meters (2.8 miles) to 6500 meters (4.04 miles) and its operational capability with the Naval Sea Systems Command.
Captain Don Walsh: USN (Retired), PhD:
Don Walsh is an oceanographer, ocean engineer and retired Navy Captain. In 1960, he, along with his co-pilot, Jacques Piccard, descended to the ocean’s deepest point aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste. More than fifty years later, in 2012, film director James Cameron made the second manned descent to Challenger Deep in his submersible Deep sea Challenger. 
Chris Welsh: Virgin Oceanic, USA
Chris Welsh is an accomplished entrepreneur, sailor and aviator who co-founded the business venture Virgin Oceanic with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson in 2009. The company’s mission is “to explore the possibilities of enabling adventurers and pioneers to participate in oceanic exploration.” The Virgin Oceanic deep sea submersible, Deep Flight Challenger, is currently being developed and tested to dive to the depths of Challenger Deep. The sub’s innovative design prefigures the future of deep sea passenger vehicles.

Master's Thesis Survey - 04/23/13


Kristen Richards is asking for any and all members to help her with her master's thesis by filling out a short online survey regarding underwater technology.  She is asking for 2-3 responses from each OM.  Follow the link below to participate!

Scientific Diving Course in Albania - 02/26/13


Scientific Diving Course in Albania

The Albanian Center for Marine Research (ACMR) is offering a Scientific Diving Course for the 2013 field season. Students will gain diverse diving experience, participate in ongoing underwater research, and learn diving theory and methods in classroom sessions taught by experts in the field from institutions including East Carolina University, the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, and RPM Nautical Foundation. Deadline to apply is April 15, 2013. For more information, visit www.aaus.org or check out www.albaniamarinecenter.org.


Rebreather Forum 3.0 - Consensus Findings and Recommendations - 06/12/12





(May 18-20, 2012)



The Forum acknowledged the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the efficacy of checklists in preventing errors in parallel fields that share similar technical complexity. Two recommendations regarding checklists were consequently agreed:

1.   The Forum recommends that rebreather manufacturers produce carefully designed checklists, which may be written and/or electronic, for use in the pre-dive preparation (unit assembly and immediate pre-dive) and post-dive management of their rebreathers.

•      Written checklists should be provided in a weatherproof or waterproof form; and,

•      The current version of these checklists annotated with the most recent revision date should be published on the manufacturer’s website.

2.   The Forum recommends that training agencies and their instructors embrace the crucial leadership role in fostering a safety culture in which the use of checklists by rebreather divers becomes second nature.


Training and Operations

1.   The Forum applauds and endorses the release of pooled data describing numbers of rebreather certifications by training agencies and encourages other agencies to join ANDI, IANTD, and TDI in this initiative.

2.   The Forum endorses the concept of making minimum rebreather training standards available in the public arena.

3.   The Forum endorses the concept of a currency requirement for rebreather instructors. We recommend that training agencies give consideration to currency standards with respect to diving activity, class numbers, and unit specificity for their instructors.

4.   The Forum recognizes and endorses the industry and training agency initiative to characterize “recreational” and “technical” streams of sport rebreather diver training. These groups will have different operational, training and equipment needs.


Accident Investigation

1.   The Forum recommends that training agencies provide rebreather divers with a simple listof instructions that will mitigate common errors in evidence preservation after a serious incident or rebreather fatality. These instructions will be developed under the auspices of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Diving Committee in consultation with the relevant RF3.0 presenters.

2.   The Forum endorses the concept of a widely notified centralized “on-call” consultation service to help investigators in avoiding errors or omissions in the early stages of a rebreather accident investigation and to facilitate referral to expert investigative services.

3.   The Forum recommends that in investigating a rebreather fatality the principal accident investigator invite the manufacturer of the incident rebreather (or other relevant equipment) to assist with its evaluation (including the crucial task of data download) as early as is practicable.

4.   The Forum endorses the DAN worldwide initiative to provide a means of on-line incident reporting with subsequent analysis and publication of incident root causes.


Design and Testing

1.   The Forum recommends that all rebreathers incorporate data-logging systems, which record functional parameters relevant to the particular unit and dive data, and allow download of these data. Diagnostic reconstruction of dives with as many relevant parameters as possible is the goal of this initiative. Footnote: An ideal goal would be to incorporate redundancy in data logging systems, and as much as practical, to standardize the data to be collected.

2.   The Forum endorses the need for third party pre-market testing to establish that rebreathers are fit for purpose. Results of a uniform suite of practically important unmanned testing parameters such as canister duration, and work of breathing (qualified by clear statements of experimental parameters) should be reported publicly. Ideally, this testing should be to an internationally recognized standard.

3.   The Forum acknowledges recent survey data indicating a poor understanding of rebreather operational limits in relation to depth and carbon dioxide scrubber duration among trained users, and therefore recommends that:

·         Training agencies emphasize these parameters in training courses; and,

·         Manufacturers display these parameters in places of prominence in device documentation and on websites.

4.   The Forum strongly endorses industry initiatives to improve oxygen-measurement technologies, and advocates consideration of potentially beneficial emerging strategies such as dynamic validation of cell readings and alternatives to galvanic fuel cells.

5.   The Forum identifies as a research question the issue of whether a mouthpiece-retaining strap would provide protection of the airway in an unconscious rebreather diver.

6.   The Forum identifies as a research question the efficacy of a full-face mask for use with sport rebreathers.


Kevin Flanagan Student Travel Award - 06/06/12


The Kevin Flanagan Student Travel Award is a competitive award developed to support the professional development of students engaged in diving science or the study of diving science. The award was created in memory of Kevin Flanagan (1970-2012), an AAUS board member (2009-2011) and diving safety officer (1998-2012).

To qualify applicants must:

·   Be a current member of AAUS (student or full member).

·   Be enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student.

Electronic submission of the following is required:

·   Two page curriculum vitae (including academic history and connection to diving).

·   Brief essay (600-1000 words) describing relevant personal history, aspirations and the professional benefits to be derived from attending an AAUS meeting.

·   Budget page (numbers plus brief justification) for travel expenses requested from AAUS (maximum $800; smaller amounts may be requested).

·   Letter of support from one faculty member (submitted with the package or directly to AAUS Foundation).

Submit application package to:

·   aausfoundation@gmail.com - specify 'Kevin Flanagan Student Travel Award competition.'

The deadline for 2012 applications is July 01. Only complete applications will be considered. Award winners will be notified by August 01.

Donations to help fund this award can be given at www.aausfoundation.org. Please indicate "K Flanagan Fund" on the donation page. 

This site designed by Lunar Cow.