The uniqueness of the SCUBAnauts International program is its focus on guided learning by discovery. With each new exploration, we step into unknown and exciting experiences. Our activities center around leadership, environmental science, community service, social interaction, fitness, and citizenship. Through marine research SCUBA diving, classroom participation, project leadership, research expeditions, field trips, weekend excursions and one-on-one interaction with mentors, Nauts master skills that will be beneficial for the rest of their lives and make them better stewards of our environment.
Ongoing Projects and Training:
Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge
Since 2011, SCUBAnauts have collaborated with Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge (CWVC) and MOTE Marine Laboratory. The Nauts buddy up with wounded or injured United States Veterans and head to their mission: transplant corals and save our reefs! In 2018, buddy teams in competed to hammer underwater anchors used to secure future coral trees. Continuing the competition each year, Nauts and Vets study and practice for a SCUBA navigation challenge involving a 500-yard underwater swim. The team closest to the bullseye enjoys serious bragging rights. Each year, the Nauts rank their CWVC experience as their favorite part of the week, finding inspiration in every interaction.
SCUBA Sci-Diver and Safety Training
Since its beginnings, SCUBAnauts’ first focus is providing youth with a safe learning environment. Thus, we devote a great deal of time training our divers in safe diving techniques. Each year, all diving members review this training to reinforce and better develop skills learned in open water and advanced SCUBA courses. This training also continues the rescue diving skills of our members, like buddy tows, underwater mask clearing, loss of regulator and underwater navigation. Additionally one must have excellent spacial awareness as a scientific diver, so we also work to perfect finning and buoyancy for working divers. It is vital that exercises like these become second nature so that adding a clipboard, pencil, fish identification sheets, and the tasks to observe and record data, do not become overwhelming or dangerous.
The SCUBAnauts train with notable marine research scientists to collect and record data such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, and other data parameters on a series of artificial reefs and shoreline in the Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico, as well as more distant locations on summer research expeditions. Using a grant from Tampa Bay Estuaries Program, we are collecting data on both natural and mitigated seagrass sites near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Comparing this data will help determine the efficacy of the mitigation process and potentially assist with future seagrass site selection. Two SCUBAnauts began work at this site in summer of 2018 to work toward their Masternaut rank. To do so, they each must determine exactly how to effectively conduct research and lead teams of SCUBAnauts to correctly complete each step of the process to support or negate their hypotheses. Once data is collected and analyzed, each Masternaut candidate must present to his or her peer and in an academic setting.
MOTE Coral Transplanting
SCUBAnauts play a crucial role in supporting MOTE Marine Laboratory and their Coral Restoration Program in the Florida Keys. Beginning in 2011, SNI and MOTE have collaborated to transplant endangered coral species like Acropora cervicornis (Staghorn Coral). Last year, SCUBAnauts were the first citizen scientists to help transplant an endangered boulder coral. Our involvement in these efforts, from preparing mono-loops to hang corals on underwater trees to fragmenting corals to hang, supports our mission of marine conservation and activism.
Reef Ball Monitoring
In 2014 and 2018, SNI secured funding from a new artificial reef project in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Hernando County. The Nauts helped build these reef balls in late 2017 and have monitored them since for changes in coral, sponge, fish and algal recruitment on the new reefs. Despite the colder temperatures of the Gulf waters in the winter, the Nauts will continue to collect data all winter long. So far, the Nauts have been happily surprised to find hardy growth in a very short time. This dive continues to be one of the favorite local dive sites for our SCUBAnauts.
One important aspect of the SCUBAnauts program is the opportunity to educate our community about marine science. SCUBAnauts demonstrate data collection methodologies employed during their coral reef monitoring activities to the public each year at the St. Petersburg Science Festival in conjunction with Marine Quest each fall. Additionally, you will find SCUBAnauts SHARKcon and other marine and youth events surrounding Tampa Bay including the Gasp! Our Beads clean up held annual each spring after the Gasparilla Parade.
Coastal and Wilderness Survival Training
SCUBAnauts conduct underwater navigation training operations with America’s elite Army Special Forces and Navy SEALS, but those who want to take fun (and training) to the next level, hone their survival skills on land as well as at sea. Each trip involves some of our highest-trained military personnel specializing in different aspects of living outdoors. Our brave leaders choose our curriculum based on the items at hand. Among the things we have learned are star and compass navigation, wilderness eating, wilderness first aid and fire starting techniques.
Centipede Bay Oyster Bed Build
SCUBAnauts do more than dive. If we can make the ocean a better place, you may find us there. SCUBAnauts assisted Hernando County, along with several other groups of volunteers to build an artificial reef from oyster shells. The shells were previously bagged with the help of Boy Scouts. Then they were placed on county and volunteer boats to transport to the reef location. The location had been surveyed and approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. In a bucket brigade style line, the volunteers placed each bag precisely to complete the project exactly to the specifications.
Aquarius Underwater Habitat is located off the coast of Tavernier in the Florida Keys at 60 ft of depth. It serves multiple purposes of scientific research, NASA astronaut environment training, and development of new marine technologies. SCUBAnauts visited Aquarius in 2003, 2004, and 2007 and a select few nauts entered the habitat to speak with researchers and scientists living in Aquarius.
Operation: Deep Climb
In October 2007, SNI embarked on a 10-day expedition in Hawai’i to summit the world’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea; the endeavor was known as Operation: Deep Climb. The Operation included three-phases: (1) Exploration of the deep sea along the undersea slopes of Hawai’i, (2) climbing the summit of Mauna Kea, and (3) the extension of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS). To begin, eight ‘nauts hiked the 13,786 ft summit traveling through habitats on Hawai’i, only found on the remote island. Following the mountain climb, two nauts entered Pisces IV and Pisces V submersibles to visit Japanese midget submarines sank during the Pearl Harbor attach in 1941. The mission concluded as Lt. Dominic Gorrie aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-123) video-chatted with SNI aboard the ISS in March 2008.
Gulfstream Natural Gas Reef Monitoring
The first project SNI supported required SNI divers to record changes in bottom type on newly designed artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. With support from the University of South Florida and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, SNI was able to establish a presence in research diving since 2001.