programs blog

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  • May 06, 2022 11:28 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Will Schrier has been a recreational diver for about 14 years, approaching 500 dives.  Being a native of Pittsburgh, PA, his early dive experience was limited to a dive trip or two per year to various Caribbean locations (we won't really count the training/certification dives in a lake in West Virginia - and no, there really isn't any diving in the three rivers of Pittsburgh!).  Prior to the pandemic, Will took some time away from his career in the Information Technology sector to simply travel and spent extended stays in Madagascar and Timor Leste doing voluntourism expeditions with a conservation group called Blue Ventures, as well as a couple stints in Bali exploring the Amed and Tulumben dive areas.  When the pandemic squashed his plans to return to Bali for an another six months to work as a dive master, Will returned to his tech career but decided to become a digital nomad and continue exploring domestically while working.  Many of you may have met Will during his stay in Florida where he joined USA Dive Club and participated in a number of local dives as well as plenty of dives at the Blue Heron Bridge.

    Eventually, Will decided it was time to move on and circuitouslyy made his way up to Washington state to check cold water diving off his bucket list.  He had completed his drysuit certification in the summer of 2019 - though an ill-fitting rental drysuit for his course meant he did not stay dry for a single dive during the course.  The certification was intended to facilitate a couple dives with a friend in Plymouth in the United Kingdom, but after arriving there again found rental drysuits a complication and was eventually given a 7mm "semi-dry" wetsuit which he spent the weekend shivering in to explore the waters off Plymouth.

    One might question why a self-professed "easily chilled" diver would head to the waters of Puget Sound in the autumn of 2021, but after 60+ dives over the course of a few months, Will is convinced that the Pacific Northwest does indeed offer some  world class diving and he'll be sharing the experience of a warm water diver going through a conversion to cold water and an overview of the highlights of PNW diving... oh, and he'll explain why he headed there to dive through the coldest months of the year!

  • April 20, 2022 11:07 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shelly Krueger is the Florida Sea Grant  agent for the University of Florida IFAS Extension,  Monroe County since 2013. Shelly is part of the UoF Extension faculty.   Florida Sea Grant is a UF-based program that supports research, education and extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for the people of Florida.  In 2019, Shelly wrote the Sponge Restoration module for the new UF/IFAS Florida Master Naturalist Program Marine Habitat Restoration and she is the outreach and education lead for the Florida Keys Community Sponge Restoration program, a multi-agency collaboration led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to restore sponge communities. 

    Sponges are essential for healthy ecosystems because they continuously filter large volumes of water while feeding on phytoplankton, viruses, and bacteria. Sponges also transform water chemistry by cycling nutrients and provide essential nursery habitat for important fisheries species such as spiny lobster, stone crab, and bonefish.  The loss of such an important component of nearshore habitats has prompted calls for sponge restoration.  By transplanting sponges onto experimental sites, researchers are evaluating how to ensure sponge transplants become self-sustaining and help restore the health of Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay.   With Florida Sea Grant and EPA-funding, researchers are now testing transplant techniques to see if they can accelerate the restoration process.

    Plan to attend and welcome back Shelly after she spoke to the club in March on Sargassum.
     

  • March 19, 2022 11:08 AM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Cora Berchem is Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Multimedia and  Manatee Research Associate. She has a bachelor degree in Communications and a Master’s in Film/Media, as well as a graduate certificate degree in Aquatic Animal Health and Conservation. Born and raised in Germany, Cora moved to the United States in 2002 and started out working in film and television in New York before moving to Florida in 2014 to join the Save the Manatee Club team. She oversees the club’s live webcams and social media and produces educational videos and public service announcements for the club in addition to assisting with outreach efforts. During the winter months, Cora assists Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley with the photo-ID research at Blue Spring State Park. She also volunteers with FWC assisting with manatee rescues, releases and recoveries. In her free time Cora enjoys scuba diving, traveling and the outdoors.

    Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and governor Graham. Our mission is to protect manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations.

  • February 10, 2022 5:07 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shelly Krueger is the Florida Sea Grant agent for the University of Florida IFAS Extension, Monroe County. Shelly has a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and a master’s degree from Savannah State University in marine science. Shelly will talk about sargassum and a pilot sargassum composting experiment that Shelly has been working on with Michelle Leonard-Mularz at the Key West Botanical Garden.

    This summer, you may have noticed tons of brown organic material washed up on beaches and decaying all over beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. But what is it, really? And why is it appearing on our beaches? It’s called sargassum, and it is brown algae, or seaweed, that floats in massive mats out on the open ocean. The area sargassum comes from is called the Sargasso Sea, which is not a true sea at all, but an area far offshore in the Atlantic Ocean between the eastern coast of Florida and Bermuda.

    The Sargasso Sea and the mats of sargassum that float within it are defined by the dominant ocean currents – the Gulf Stream on the west, North Atlantic Current to the north, Canary Current on the east, and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current to the south, which creates a swirling gyre that contains the sargassum floating out at sea. Frequently, the sargassum gets caught up in one of the currents and escapes the Sargasso Sea.

    If you like to fish, you may have heard these floating algae mats called the “weed line,” and they are fantastic spots to sportfish. Sargassum is actually a very important habitat type out in the open ocean as it provides one of the only places for some species of fish, crabs, and juvenile loggerhead sea turtles to forage and hide from predators. A thick clump of sargassum provides a feast for many species, including birds, and also attracts the larger gamefish who prey upon these species, like mahi and tuna. NOAA Fisheries considers sargassum essential fish habitat for snapper, grouper, gray triggerfish and coastal pelagic migratory species like mackerel.

    In the Florida Keys, when we experience prevailing winds from the south and southeast, these massive floating mats of sargassum that have broken free from the circling gyre of the Sargasso Sea are washed onto shore with the wind and waves. Tons and tons! Unfortunately, the dead and decaying sargassum can remove oxygen from the water and lead to fish kills, smother seagrasses and turtle nests, and can become packed so thick inside the residential canals it can become difficult to get your boat out.

    Historically, washed-up sargassum is one of the ways beaches were created in the Florida Keys, as the accumulation of seaweed along the shoreline helps to keep the sand from eroding and provides nutrients to help enrich the soil. But when the sargassum encounters a seawall or a canal instead of the beach there is little benefit for it decays, sinks, and stinks! Unfortunately, this is a major cause for fish kills because the decomposition of organic matter literally removes the oxygen from the water column.

  • January 19, 2022 1:10 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Connie Sonnabend is the CEO/owner of Wetwear Inc. and the club's guest speaker for February.

    Wetwear has been manufacturing custom-made to measurement wetsuits for over 40 years and is located on the west side of I-95 just south of Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Connie has measured and made over 20,000 custom wetsuits since becoming the owner of Wetwear in 2001. Wetwear has created a very unique wetsuit called the Easy on Wetsuit. Long expansion zippers in the arms and legs  along with a slanted back entry zipper allows divers to don their wet suits in less than two minutes. Wetwear also offers an array of options you can add to your wetsuit such as seal sets at the wrist, ankle and neck to make your suit semi dry. Also, options such as hoods, spine pads, pockets, butt pads, elbow pads, relieve zipper and more.

    Connie will guide you to make the proper choices with wetsuit thickness needed to keep you warm and comfortable in various water temperatures. Wetwear also has a military contract for the air rescue swimmer suits and supply numerous police and fire departments with specialized wetsuits for search and recovery. Wetwear produces wetsuits for movies, plays, commercials such as River Wild, Cape Fear and Mamma Mia to mention a few. Wetwear has a neoprene proto-typing department helping inventors bring their product to market. 

    You can visit the Wetwear website www.wetwear.com or stop by Wetwear located at 2930 SW. 30th Ave., Suite A in Hallandale, FL.

  • December 24, 2021 9:25 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shipwreck Park was established in 2014 for the purpose of creating an artificial reef system off the coast of Broward County, Florida.  It was incorporated and received 501 (c) (3) status in 2015.  The organization has acquired and deployed two vessels since then off the coast of Broward County.  The first was the 324ft Newtown Creek rechristened the Lady Luck in July of 2016 and the second a 103ft tugboat Okinawa in August of 2017. Since inception Shipwreck Park has raised Jay Underkofler$979,000 in donations and spent $956,000 on the deployment of the two vessels and the exploration of new projects. Shipwreck Park is all volunteer organization.

    Jay Underkofler will be talking on the current Wahoo Bay project, taking place at the Hillsboro inlet.

  • October 21, 2021 11:37 AM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    ABOUT ROBERT MYERS


    As a teen, Rob started studying marine life in 1967 and did his first scuba dive in 1969 while living in Hong Kong. Graduated from U. Hawaii with a BA in zoology in 1975. Rob also surveyed Oahu fish populations, collected fish for ciguatera research at Johnston and Enewetak Atolls as an assistant to John E. Randall.

    Moved to Guam in 1977 to pursue graduate studies at U. Guam Marine Lab. Divided time between studies, u/w photography, and employment; earned MS in Biology in 1984. In 1981, founded Coral Graphics and from 1982 to 1995 worked as a fisheries biologist for government of Guam. From 1993 to 2000, served as a consultant with Sumeria for Ocean Life CD-roms.

    Retired in 1995 to pursue photography, writing, research, and consulting. In 2002, moved to s. Florida. Since 2006 has been voluntarily serving with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN aka World Conservation Union, Bern, Switzerland) as a member of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) specialist group of the Species Survival Commission for coral reef fishes. Aug-Nov 2011, conducted fish surveys on Guam for CSA International. Aug 2013, surveyed fishes in Palau marine lakes; Sep-Oct 2016, visiting Professor, Univ. of Montpellier, France for initial work on Atlas and database of coral reef fish distributions. Participated in New Caledonia deep reef and seamount surveys (2019-2023 study), but was locked out after initial trip due to covid restrictions. Has written or collaborated on numerous scientific papers and technical reports on the Micronesian and Red Sea ichthyofaunas, and authored or co-authored several books including Micronesian Reef Fishes (1989-1999), Coral Reef Fishes (with E. Lieske; 1993), Coral Reef Guide Red Sea (with E. Lieske; 2004), Dangerous Marine Animals (with M. Bergbauer and M. Kirschner) and three books on Florida shells (with E. Petuch and/or D. Berschauer). Maintains comprehensive spreadsheets of Indo-Pacific and W. Atlantic fish distributions.

    Rob is currently dividing time between continued faunal studies of Indo-Pacific fishes and books (with co-authors), specifically a Caribbean field guide, and new edition of Micronesian Reef Fishes and continues volunteer work with the IUCN and related consulting work.


    Ambon, the southern gateway to the Maluku Islands has an often brutal history almost as fascinating as the region’s fauna and flora. Our stay there was not originally on our itinerary which was to get to the Damai II for a fabulous 12 day journey that would take us through the tiny volcanic islands of the Banda Sea, the eastern end of the Maluku Islands and on to Misool and West Papua. Once I found out our flights had been rerouted via Ambon, I contacted the newly opened Spice Island Divers to arrange a short stay. Conveniently located less than 10 minutes from the airport, the resort sits on the northwestern shore of Ambon Bay, a 3,000 ft deep bay between two mountain ranges. It is not only a fabulous muck dive site but also dotted with species-rich coral reefs and is an ideal site for blackwater diving, pioneered there by USA’s own Linda Ianniello and Bob Weybrecht. Although we managed only 10 dives in 4 days, we found a treasure trove of critters new to us. Our last day included a special tour of the island with a visit to historical Fort Amsterdam. Of more recent historical interest is the wreck of the Aquila, a Panamanian merchant ship sunk in 1958 by a covert CIA operation with huge cold war implications.

    The morning after our tour we flew to Saumlaki, Tanimbar to board the Damai Dua, our base for the next 12 days. Running at night, diving by day, we visited small islands from three distinct arcs, each with its own distinctive geology and reef development as we crossed the Banda Sea. The Forgotten Islands of Dawera and Dai rise abruptly from deep mountain ranges and are capped with ancient uplifted reefs and presently surrounded by fringing reefs with sheer walls and steep slopes. We then moved on to the volcanically active islands of Nil Desperado, Serua, Manuk and Banda Neira, the only inhabited island cluster. Some of these uninhabited islands are home to huge populations of the highly venomous but completely docile Black banded sea krait (Laticauda semifasciata). These recently emerged islands have volcanic boulder slopes variably coated with corals and other marine life. Sea kraits may be found from the surface to the bottom where they are either sleeping or hunting, often accomapnied by predatory fishes, always ready to snap up prey escaping the snakes. Banda Neira, the home of nutmeg and mace has a fascinating history more brutal than Ambon’s that is well-documented in a wonderful local museum.

    Our next stop, Koon, is a coral atoll at the eastern tip of the long island of Ceram. Its reefs are more reminescent of those of Wakatobe or Micronesia, with coral slopes bisected by chutes of white coral sand.  After an over night transit across the last deep water gap, we arrived at Misool, the southernmost and largest of the Raja Ampat Islands, all on the relatively shallow West Papuan shelf. These islands are the uplifted remnants of ancient coral reefs, much like the rock islands of Palau. Most are surrounded by narrow fringing reefs and shallow shelves bordered by steep coral walls and slopes that end on a sandy sponge and coral shelf at depths of below 100 ft to about 200 ft. As if the coral reef fauna isn’t diverse enough, by being connected to the continental shelves of New Guinea and Australia, the shelf is a bridge to their unique faunas. The most iconic fo these among fishes are the Epaulete and Carpet sharks, always high on my list of photographic subjects. These coastal shelf waters are a bit more turbid than the deep open sea over abyssal depths but make up for it by hosting the richest reef fauna in the world. The added nutrients nourish vast shoals of slivery baitfish and juvenile reef fishes, which attract feeding mantas that may suddenly appear out of the blue. Our trip ended after a 2-day transit punctuated by a final dive at the Fam Islands. The morning we disembarked I counted 21 live-aboards anchored within sight, in the bay at Sorong.  Another shock was the large modern steel and glass terminal complete with jetways and several waiting aircraft, a far cry from the open shack and unfenced runway of 2004, when over the course of 2 weeks,
    only one live-aboard was encountered.

  • September 20, 2021 2:54 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Alexa Elliott is the creator of Changing Seas, a marine science series produced at South Florida PBS in Miami, Florida.  Now in production of its 14th Season, Changing Seas episode topics have ranged from the plight of Peru’s penguins to American Samoa’s resilient coral reefs. The series has aired on 95 percent of PBS stations and in more than 39 countries.

    Alexa has worked in public broadcasting since 1996, both in public radio as well as television production. She has produced television programs of various genres, but nature, science and environmental programming have always been her favorite. Alexa has received numerous awards for her work, including the prestigious Communication Award presented by the National Academy of Sciences, eleven Emmy Awards, and others.
     
    In addition to her day job, Alexa is on the board of the Ocean Media Institute, a creative hub that works with various stakeholders to openly create and distribute media that promotes public understanding of ocean science and conservation. She has two degrees in Broadcast Journalism – a BA from Morehead State University and a MA from the University of Florida. 

  • August 19, 2021 1:40 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Black Water Diving in Southeast Florida

    Linda Ianniello has been diving and doing underwater photography for over 30 years. For the past six years Linda has been focusing on black water dives, up to  four times a week locally. A black water dive consists of going six to seven miles off the coast and performing a drift dive in the edge of the Gulf Stream, at night. The bottom is approximately 700 feet deep, but we generally stay in the top 40 feet. It is fascinating to find and photograph the pelagic animals  who spend their whole lives in this environment, the various larvae that spend the early part of their lives here, and the deep water animals that migrate vertically at night to feed.

    Linda will be talking about the mechanics of a black water dive and the variety of creatures that can be found on these dives. Also, how she is using her images for several “citizen science” projects. Linda along with Susan Mears have co-authored and published a book on the subject of the talk titled  
    “BLACKWATER Creatures – A Guide to Southeast Florida Blackwater Creatures."

  • July 21, 2021 12:26 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Greetings Fellow Under Sea Adventurers!

    Many of you know me, but for new members I would like to introduce myself.

    https://usadiveclub.org/resources/Documents/Cayman%20Aggressor%20V%20abovewater.jpg

    My name is Clare Anthon. I joined the USA Dive Club in May 2004 and always had the desire to dive, but raising my family came first. After my girls were grown, it was time to get certified. As an active club member, I’ve held positions as USA’s Co-VP of Social, Social Butterfly and for the past 12 years Hospitality Coordinator.

    Overseas diving has been a yearly activity for me. My very first trip in 2005, was aboard the Cayman Aggressor IV. In 2009, I was trip leader for 24 divers on a wonderful adventure to Curacao. The next trip as trip leader was in 2012 with Explorer Ventures Liveaboard to the Turks & Caicos. Curacao was so beautiful the club decided to repeat the trip in 2013, and I volunteered to be trip leader. Along came 2017 and once again, I was trip leader for 18 divers to gorgeous Cozumel. My most recent trip lead was in 2018 with a cozy group of 8 to Boni Bonaire.

    Looking forward to being your Cayman Aggressor V 2022 trip leader. Please join me!

    Sunny regards,
    Clare Anthon

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