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.