Home / 2018 AAUS BOD Election


The 2018 AAUS election opens May 01 and closes June 30.

This year the Academy will elect a Director-at-Large whose terms will start on January 01, 2019. Below are the candidates' bio and answers to the AAUS election questions.

The election is open to Full Voting Members (individual and OM Reps) in good standing (dues paid, etc.). Ballots are accessed via the AAUS website, www.aaus.org, by logging into your individual account and selecting 'Voting and Polling.' To write in a candidate, send an email with the name of the candidate for which you are voting to two of the election committee members: 

Rick Riera-Gomez (rgomez@rsmas.miami.edu)

George Peterson (gpeterson@mbayaq.org)

Rob Robbins (Rob.Robbins.Contractor@usap.gov)

Lora Pride (Lora.Pride@ch2m.com)

Steven Sellers (steven_sellers@nps.gov)


2018 Director-at-Large Candidates



Jonathan Langham

Georgia Aquarium

Jonathan grew up on the Gulf coast where he developed a love for the water and SCUBA diving at an early age. After attending the University of South Alabama, he became a paramedic and moved to Atlanta, GA to pursue a career in EMS helping others. Jonathan served metro Atlanta as a paramedic for 12 years. During his tenure at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, he was a flight paramedic who specialized in emergency and critical care for pediatric patients across the Southeast. As a Field Training Officer, Jonathan helped teach students and new medics throughout their career path. In 2011, he accepted a position with Georgia Aquarium as a part-time maintenance diver. Continuing education has always been important to Jonathan as he progresses on his career path. During his time at the Aquarium, Jonathan has achieved an instructor rating with NAUI, DAN, the Handicapped Scuba Association as well becoming a Sport Rebreather Instructor for RAID on the Poseidon Se7en CCR. His technical ratings include NAUI Technical Decompression and Cave Diver, and he has his sights set on instructing at a technical diving level. In addition to continued education, Jonathan worked his way from a part-time maintenance diver to become the Dive Safety Officer for the Georgia Aquarium. In his current role, Jonathan manages all training, from initial onboarding up to and including continuing education, advanced trainings and scientific diver training. Jonathan applies his knowledge and expertise gained during 12 years of high volume EMS, to help him see situations from a different perspective and has used this ability to strengthen the dive team by providing a wide array of emergency scenarios resulting in an improved team response in drills and real-life rescues. Jonathan is proud of his ability to refine processes and fine tune procedures in order to save his employees time.  Most recently, he managed, developed and launched Georgia Aquarium’s Diver Administration System through the mobile web development platform, Outsystems, Inc. He collaborated with volunteer developers to launch the Admin portal and Electronic Dive logs to make information easier for divers to obtain and to decrease paper consumption by removing paper dive logs. Jonathan is committed to educating staff and volunteers in dive safety and strives to make everyone a better, safer and more knowledgeable diver and person. He listens to others and communicates effectively to come up with the best solution to a scenario, both above and under the water.


In your vision, in what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?

Since my first AAUS symposium in Key West, I have enjoyed being a part of the organization and meeting the wonderful people associated with it. From different training opportunities and networking events, I feel the direction that AAUS is heading is positive and would be honored to have the opportunity to help continue this forward momentum. By providing its members with an open forum, updated standards and awesome opportunities to be a part of, AAUS is moving in the direction that I feel like I can add value to, especially as a newer Dive Safety Officer.

One of my strengths is bringing innovative ideas to support and refresh an established system. One vision I have is to coordinate additional teamwork on training opportunities with each OM. When I began my journey with AAUS, I found it difficult to find how other OMs conduct their Scientific Diver training. I understand each place has to conduct trainings differently, but through collaboration and sharing ideas it can help each other apply these strategies to their home institution. Since our formation at Georgia Aquarium, I have looked to find other ways to train our divers to make sure we are meeting new standards and training methods. I would love to be able to increase the communications in this area to make each institution even better.

One of my favorite sessions was the networking opportunity I experienced at the Key West Symposium. It took place at Bahia Honda State Park and our task was to do skill stations. This was a great opportunity for collaboration and since it was my first session, I loved meeting and getting to know my peers I would love to see more of sessions of this nature in the future as I feel it provided me with the best avenue for getting my feet wet in the community. AAUS provided me with a sense of belonging in the diving community, and I would be so passionate about making sure that community learning aspect is fostered and encouraged for all members, both old and new.


Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.

My scientific diving experience began seven years ago when I started at Georgia Aquarium. I experienced our scientific diving program from the perspective of the student and the instructor. These different perspectives taught me how important it is to train quality divers to conduct and finish a project while maintaining the safety standards. I also took the EPA Scientific Diver course in Gulf Breeze, Florida which helped me bring new ideas to our program. Twice a semester, I’m invited to be a guest speaker for the University of Georgia’s Scientific Diving Program. I talk to the students about the different field projects we do and conduct an in-water session where we allow the students to try DPVs in order to learn through hands-on experience. We also give them an orientation session to the CCRs with an emphasis on explaining how useful they are for scientific diving. One of my favorite memories of this program is witnessing young divers get excited about the potential of what they can do in their career. It’s very rewarding to see that I inspired these students to make a difference.

I frequently go into the field to work with the Coral Restoration Foundation, assisting in reef assessments and coral out-plantings. My most recent international trip was to Cenderawasih Bay where we conducted the first full health assessments on whale sharks. We performed blood draws, took measurements and analyzed them on the boat. Once back on land, we studied additional data and shared results with the University of West Papua, the Indonesian National Park Service and Conservation International. My experiences in safety and emergency medicine have helped shape me, not only as a diver, but as a person. I intend to use these positive experiences to drive the momentum of the academy in a positive direction.


What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?

I have unique experience in the sense that the majority of my career has been with non-profit organizations. Working at Georgia Aquarium, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Grady Health System, has given me the ability to see how these types of organizations function. Serving different roles has allowed me to witness the way these companies are structured, operate and project for the future. I am proud of my ability to network with all types of people, which allows me to source a foundation of information for any project that has been assigned to me. I have managed a variety of platforms of training, events and development. Although this is my first nonprofit board I am running for, I am a part of a few committees at the aquarium and have experience in a leadership role from serving on the Aquarium Safety Committee and our 3C Care Fund Committee. The latter, is a special committee that reviews applications that they receive from staff who are suffering a financial hardship. The committee is funded by staff members who donate a portion of their paycheck to help their fellow staff during a time of financial need.  I am passionate about these two committees and I take my role on both of them very seriously.



Will Love

University of Washington

I have been working in the diving safety field since 2007, though being a DSO was not my original career goal. Originally, when I was about six, I had decided I wanted to be a marine biologist and like all six year olds, I wanted to study sharks. Growing up in a small town in southern Idaho I didn’t have much exposure to the ocean. I think this only served to drive me to work hard and get to a place where I could. So, when the time came I applied and was accepted to the Marine Biology program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I lived in Hawaii for six years before moving back to the mainland where I worked at the California Academy of Sciences as an ADSO for five years. Currently, I am the Diving Safety Officer for the University of Washington in Seattle. The UW program consists of around 70 divers, but through visiting divers at UW’s Friday Harbor Marine Lab, the program oversees around 140 divers conducting 1,200 dives a year. When I am not working I like to fly fish, shoot underwater photography, and play with my Boston Terrier.


In your vision, in what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?

In the next ten years, new challenges for our organization will arise and command the attention of the board. However, the core of AAUS is its members and I feel they should always be the priority for the Board of Directors. As Director at Large, I would hope to facilitate sustainable growth while maximizing the value of membership for current members. As an organization, we have seen rapid expansion over the last decade and while it is important to continue to grow, we should prioritize strengthening and solidifying the foundation of our organization, our current membership. I believe OM Accreditation and National DSO Certification are worthwhile endeavors that would add significant value to AAUS members if executed well. One of my goals is to help move these programs forward, however current members should not bear the costs associated with those programs alone. I would like to see new organization member applicants paying higher costs to become members in order to subsidize these efforts for current members. This would both ensure sustainable growth and solidify the foundational efforts for accreditation and DSO certification. Another way I think we could add value to AAUS membership is by optimizing contact time during the annual symposium by offering more classes/experiences. I have had trouble justifying spending Monday-Saturday at the Symposium in order to attend classes and the science symposium, as I know many others have, and I believe offering classes concurrently with the science symposium would allow more members to justify symposium attendance. These are a few ideas that I have been thinking on for a while and with your support, I believe we can make these types of changes to facilitate sustainable growth for the organization and enrichment for the individual members.


Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.

My career in scientific diving began at the University of Hawaii where I majored in Marine Biology. At the end of my first semester I found an opening as a student assistant at the UH Diving Safety Program and enrolled in their scientific diver course. My fifth-ever dive was the first dive of that course and I have been conducting scientific dives ever since. In my time at UH I primarily supported the scientific diving course and helped as a buddy on as many different dive projects as I could. I also worked as a recreational instructor at a local dive shop. My time at UH was formative and acted as a cornerstone for my career. After I graduated, I took a position as an ADSO at the California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium where I managed the aquarium volunteer diver program in-house and participated in collecting expeditions around the world supporting both shallow scuba and deep mesophotic rebreather dives. Getting to work in a program where we managed divers conducting dives to both scientific and commercial standards, no-deco and decompression diving, and on both open and closed circuit gave me a broad range of experience. Next, I took the position as DSO for the University of Washington where I have been for the last 2.5 years. My background having previously worked at a private non-profit aquarium and now at a large public university has helped me understand the challenges presented by these very different Organizational Member types, which is vital as more Aquariums become OMs. Diving Safety is the only career I have ever known, I got my start in the field twelve years ago at the age of nineteen and I have spent a third of my life as an AAUS member and scientific diver.


What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?

The most important relationship and contacts I have are the ones I have made within the AAUS membership itself. The very first AAUS symposium I attended I felt a bit like an outsider so I made a point to get to know as many of my fellow DSOs as possible. Then, from 2012 until recently, I volunteered on the AAUS membership committee so I could better understand AAUS as an organization and connect with new DSOs. I feel it is vital that we not overlook our membership as our biggest resource as we have such a great network of individuals. While I have never served directly on the Board of a non-profit, I have served as a committee member and worked directly with several past and present board members. What I may lack in experience serving as a director I feel I make up in energy and work ethic. I want to serve AAUS and more importantly the membership as Director at Large.



Ross Whippo

University of Oregon

Ross Whippo is a marine ecologist with nearly ten years of scientific diving experience. For the past four years, he served as field biologist and dive technician for the Smithsonian Institution's MarineGEO program. Before receiving his BS in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington and MSc in Zoology from the University of British Columbia, he was trained as a scientific diver in the Friday Harbor Lab's (FHL) first full-term scientific diving course in 2009. Since that time, he has worked as a dive technician for AAUS OMs, and served as assistant DSO for the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) under the Canadian Association for Underwater Science (CAUS). He is most interested in marine invertebrate community ecology and has worked with researchers across Washington State and British Columbia on projects ranging from deep subtidal sea urchin behavior to seagrass-associated invertebrate community dynamics. He has also been very active in outreach and education working for FHL's 'Diver for a Day' Program, BMSC's 'Live Dive' Series, and World Oceans Day at the National Museum of Natural History. He will be beginning his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in late 2018, leveraging his experience with the Smithsonian's MarineGEO program to implement nearshore biodiversity surveys, food web analyses, and experiments on a global scale including sites in arctic, temperate, and tropical regions. Ross has been very active within AAUS, serving on the Membership Committee since 2013 and has volunteered for various administrative and practical duties within the Academy including the Standards and Scholarship Committees. For the past six months he has also served as an Appointed Director At Large and is currently the chair for the Scholarship Committee. 


In your vision, in what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?

AAUS has experienced so much growth in recent years with the enrollment of new OMs and organizational partnerships, but we also have a solid membership that has been part of AAUS for many years. With this diversity of membership in mind, I think it is critical to improve general understanding of AAUS standards by effectively communicating these standards to all members, both established and new. It is also important to ensure that AAUS standards as they currently exist and are implemented by OMs, are recognized from federal regulators all the way down to prospective OMs as the authority for safe scientific diving. One way to accomplish this is through the continued development and implementation of the accreditation program. This program as set forth by the AAUS strategic plan will go a long way to reinforce AAUS dive standards and a culture of safety that we expect of all our members. As a Director At Large I will make it my priority to bring together the resources we need to complete the program which is currently under development, both from within the board and across our membership base. My goal is to help launch the accreditation program with those who have already worked so hard to bring it this far, and ensure it is running smoothly by the end of my term on the Board of Directors.

In order to effectively communicate AAUS's goals and responsibilities, we also need well trained DSOs who are steeped in the letter and spirit of scientific diving standards. The completion of the DSO training and certification program also currently under development will ensure well trained and well-informed DSOs at each and every AAUS OM that participates. I will work actively with the board to ensure that this program is launched in a timely fashion. By fostering the culture of safety that AAUS strives for, each DSO that participates in the training will not only improve the standard of their individual OM, but also that of AAUS as a whole.

Finally, I would also like to see AAUS take a leadership role in revisiting the OSHA scientific diving exemption with federal partners and other key organizations that undertake scientific diving. By clarifying our position as the experts in safe scientific diving with national regulators, we can position ourselves to take a more active role in the development of international partnerships with other scientific diving organizations. With international scientific collaborations at universities and research institutions becoming more and more commonplace, this will only facilitate our ability to provide the very best safe diving practices to AAUS divers conducting research all over the world.


Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.

As a scientific diver who was trained specifically to AAUS standards since practically my first dive, I have a unique point of view into how AAUS applies those standards: from the perspective of a student, a teacher, and of a scientific diving professional in the field. This experience gives me a broad view into how AAUS governance impacts diving programs at many different levels and will be a valuable asset when considering how to implement elements of the AAUS strategic plan. I have also had the opportunity to work for multiple AAUS OMs of very different types and coordinate large-scale multi-OM operations with partners like the University of Washington and the Smithsonian Institution. For UW I have served as both a researcher, and a teaching assistant for the Friday Harbor Lab's scientific diving course, and for the Smithsonian I have led research dive activities throughout the Caribbean, Pacific Northwest, Oceania and beyond. The contrasts between diving with a university and a government agency have highlighted for me the need to consider the specific operating procedures of the individual OM when considering policies that may impact each OM in very different ways.  With the diversity of OMs that are currently applying for membership to AAUS, I believe this experience will be a valuable asset.

Finally, my work under CAUS standards for the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the Hakai Institute have given me the chance to make broad comparisons between AAUS and other similar agencies. This long view will allow me to identify established strategies that might be integrated into AAUS to improve communication and implementation of our standards.


What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?

My time with the Smithsonian's MarineGEO program was both highly collaborative and inter-disciplinary in nature, putting me in constant contact with scientific diving professionals of many types all over the world. Leveraging these diverse contacts both within the Smithsonian and across our various partnership networks, has given me access to knowledge, experience, and resources that will serve to benefit AAUS's strategic goals.

Additionally, my experience as an Appointed Director At Large, and my long service on the Membership Committee has provided me with practical working knowledge of Academy business and prepared me to actively contribute to the development of AAUS's goals. I have worked with current board members and staff to improve communication with potential OMs and provide them with detailed knowledge of our history, requirements, and expectations. I have also personally worked with more than half a dozen new AAUS OM applicants, many of them consulting firms and other non-traditional AAUS member types that are continuing to make up a larger proportion of our new membership each year. I have also developed practical non-profit board experience by serving on the AAUS Foundation Board and the Advisory Board of the Black Girls Diving Foundation.

I have developed a working knowledge of the trajectory of AAUS by being an active participant in the majority of AAUS Symposia since becoming a member of AAUS in 2009. I have presented my own research, spoken with existing and prospective members, and participated in activities at each of these symposia. This has allowed me to 'take the pulse' of the Academy and determine what the needs of our membership are. I believe this is vitally important, especially considering the members that may not actively participate in calls for feedback but have valuable insight just the same.


This site designed by Lunar Cow.