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The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition 

May 13, 2011

Photosynthetic Slugs

This is by far one of my favorite animals collected on the expedition, I did not even knew these existed!

Marionia rubra

Marionia rubra

This slug’s sequesters/hosts single celled, algae as symbionts in its cerata (the fuzzy bits on its back).  The symbiosis is a mutualism: dinoflagellates from the genus Symbiodinium get raw materials required for photosynthesis and a safe place to live with full access to sunlight inside the slug’s body.  In return the dinos donate some portion of the sugars they generate from photosynthesis to the slug, meaning that most of the slug’s food is generated inside its body!

(Explanation courtesy of Dr. Michele Weber)

Elliott Jessup
Diving Safety Officer
California Academy of Sciences

Filed under: Academy,Diving,Jessup,Philippines,Shallow Water — ejessup @ 4:15 am

May 8, 2011

Got the tools and they know how to use em’

Scientific Diving involves an extensive toolbox, some that might be familiar to the technical, commercial, or recreational diver, and some that are completely unique to science underwater.  One of the biggest challenges scientific divers run into is task loading.  The scientific diver is operating life support equipment while monitoring time, depth, and decompression status as they complete the scientific tasks underwater.  This can involve everything from running transect tape, laying line, working in quadrats, operating video and photo equipment, collecting, sampling, and recording all of this information accurately!

Proper education is a must and includes a minimum of 100 hrs of advanced training in areas such as physics, physiology, decompression, nitrox diving, navigation, site survey, collection, diver rescue techniques, CPR, 1st Aid, AED use, O2 Administration and more.  After scientific diver authorization the training doesn’t stop – underwater researchers are always learning new techniques and increasing their efficiency underwater with the proper tools for the job.  The following are  a few of the tools we are using on the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition:

Bob Van Syoc takes a clipping

EMT Shears double as a required cutting device and a collection tool used for taking small clips of corals without remove more than what’s needed.  “Whirl-pak” bags are used for storing specimens individually in salt water until they are preserved for future study, all the collections are then stored in a mesh collecting bag with a rigid opening and clipped to the diver with a double ended bolt snap.

Divers Notebook, Pockets, Backup lights, SMB, and Lift Bag

Underwater notebooks are a great addition to a research divers toolkit, enabling date recording and communication without the limited space of a slate which must be erased after each use. Auxiliary pockets can be useful storing smaller items that the diver might not want to clip to one of the d-rings on the backplate/wing/harness configuration. Surface Marker Buoys (aka Safety Sausages) are a must for ocean diving, they can not only be a life saver if caught in a current or diving with heavy boat traffic, but can also be used for live-boating to identify the divers location. LED lights are useful during night dives and during the day to make up for lost light associated with depth – very helpful when searching for the next new species!

Piotrowski and Jessup bring live-rock to the surface using lift bags.

Lift bags are used carefully for bringing samples such as live-rock to the surface.

Jessup using canister light to look for barnacles

The hip-mounted canister light provides considerably more lumens than the standard dive light, and allows for hands free operation.  These lights from Hollis Gear are 16 watts and provide up to 5 hours of burn time with a lithium battery. Also worn in this shot is a Datamask by Oceanic – this mask was designed for military use and provides the diver with a heads up display showing depth, dive time, decompression status, and tank pressure (via transmitter) all in the bottom right corner of the mask.  This one is new for me. I have to say I was quite skeptical at first, but after testing the mask extensively I’ve found a new tool that definitely improves a scientific dive!

Placing the camera

Underwater photo and video equipment can play a key role for the scientific research diver allowing them to document the worksite, specific species, and can even be used as shown leaving a weighted tripod at the bottom of the water column to record animal behavior without divers disturbing the habitat. Underwater housing and cameras can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands for production quality media. With recent improvements in dSLR technology a research diver can capture both high resolution photos as well as high definition video all with a single mid-range priced camera.

With 140 safe dives under our belt and 28 new species discovered, the first two weeks of 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition have been very successful for the shallow water team. Stay tuned for more posts from the rest of the team!

Elliott Jessup
Diving Safety Officer
California Academy of Sciences

Filed under: Academy,Diving,Jessup,Philippines — ejessup @ 3:41 am

April 30, 2011

First days of research diving in Mabini, Philippines

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition dive team has completed a very successful first few days of research SCUBA diving in the Mabini area of the Philippines. The team traveled with 4 trucks and vans from Manila, through Batangas, Anilao, and finally to Mabini.

Shortly after settling into accommodations, an orientation and dive safety briefing was held.  This included location and review of our automated external defibrillator (AED), 1st Aid, and oxygen units (brought on each dive boat), review of the dive plan, and equipment configuration overview for the Academy research divers who are using new backplate/wing buoyancy compensators and regulators and more thanks to Hollis/Oceanic.

Equipment Configuration Briefing

Equipment Configuration Briefing...

Air sharing demonstration with a 7' long hose

Air sharing demonstration with a 7' long hose...

Equipment assembly

Equipment assembly...

After the orientation, we did shore entry check out dives, getting comfortable with equipment, proper weighting, practicing a few skills, and then some collecting.  The conditions were are superb with 75-100′ of visibility in flat calm 80 degree water – perfect for a first dive!

Getting in the water

Shore entry for the first dive...

Nitrox and Carbon Monoxide Analyzers

Nitrox and Carbon Monoxide Analyzers...

Since we’re planning multiple days of repetitive diving, we decided it would be best to dive on Enriched Air Nitrox to extend our bottom time and also reduce our nitrogen exposure.  Enriched Air Nitrox is a mixed gas composed of higher levels of oxygen than air (which is composed of 21% O2, 78% Nitrogen, and 1% trace gases).  Specifically we’re diving on Nitrox 32% which is the most common and versatile mix for our use.

The last two days were packed with scientific diving involving quite a bit of collecting along with photo and video documentation. All of the collecting requires a great amount of processing lasting late into the night.

Research team processing collections...

Research team processing collections...

More to come, time to get ready for another night dive!

Elliott Jessup
Diving Safety Officer
California Academy of Sciences

Filed under: Diving,Jessup,Philippines,Shallow Water — ejessup @ 3:26 am

April 26, 2011

1st Stop Manila

The first group of researchers have arrived in Manila, with most research expeditions comes a need for permits. While Dr. Gosliner was out arranging the necessary paperwork, Dr. Catania, Dr. Van Syoc, Dr. Piotrowski, V. Knutson, and myself ventured into the bustling metropolis of Manila to secure a local cell phone, we made a stop at the local supermarket and found some interesting specimens to add to our collection:
"Sundried Sap-Sap"

Catania and Knutson dig deeper…

Does your local market have a section devoted to dried fish?

Does your local market have a section devoted to dried fish?

And then onto the “wet” section…

Biodiversity Begins

Fresh Catch?

Fresh Catch?

Now time to get our DAN Emergency Oxygen units filled.

Not without getting a sniff from the curious K9

Not without getting a sniff from the K9

Finally a parting shot of the Jeepney we may utilize next as our means of transport to Batangas

Thank you to everyone involved for making this happen, more posts on the diving side to come over the next few days as we get wet!

Elliott Jessup
Diving Safety Officer
California Academy of Sciences

Filed under: Jessup,Philippines — ejessup @ 10:22 pm

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