22 Jul My Most Favorite Part of Biscayne National Park
Have you ever wanted to test the limits of your body and enhance it through the experiences you went through to complete a job? Well say no more!! Scientific free diving is the job for you! Muscle training, thought-provoking, air conservation, and teamwork are all encompassed into scientific free diving. Who better to learn how to scientific free dive with than the Fish and Wildlife Inventory and Monitoring Program (FWIMP) team, supervised by the caring and supportive spirit, Vanessa McDonough! No matter the task at hand, the FWIMP team and myself get to work by 7am; prep the boat with our gear, supplies, and lunches by 7:30; and say “see you later” to headquarters and the docks by 7:45. After a short ride out of the Biscayne Bay through Elliott Key, we’re out in the Atlantic Ocean ready to complete the tasks for the day. Due to not yet being certified as a scientific diver, only possessing my open water certification, FWIMP found another purpose for me as a topside assistant to the divers. As topside, my job has been to help divers assemble equipment, locate reefs, assist at depth for reefs less than 30ft down, and help the divers back onto the boat after data collection has been completed (depending on the task). With locating reefs, my job was to be dropped off at GPS points with snorkel gear on and acting as a live marker. Once a reef was spotted, I would signal the boat with a surface okay. With regard to assisting at depth, helping the divers underwater by giving them equipment or taking anything they give me back to the boat were included in those tasks.
Nevertheless, whenever I had some free time to snorkel and take pictures, or when waiting for the divers, I occasionally would do underwater stretching exercises and practice my breath holds for whenever I had to go down to a maximum of 30ft depth to assist. Reaching 30ft while free diving wasn’t too hard at first since I had a lot of time on the water growing up. However, being able to do things like hammer a nail, clean a plate, pick up debris, or follow instructions that are being given to me while at depth, was a completely new experience and required me to train my lungs to conserve air and stay calm whilst doing so. After two months of work on the water as the topside free diver, I have become more physically capable and experienced in performing tasks under water and at the surface. I couldn’t thank FWIMP, Mosaics in Science, and Environment for the Americas enough for enhancing my underwater experience and overall capabilities throughout my internship period. Just two more weeks until I head off to DC to present what I’ve been doing here at Biscayne National Park! I’m super excited!!