As I took a giant stride off the boat, I could feel the cold water rushing into my 7mm wetsuit. At a water temperature of only 48 degrees, the chill nearly took my breath away and I knew it was time for me to invest in a drysuit. However, my first experience with cold water diving, despite the chill, was nothing short of incredible! I soon forgot about the cold water as I descended down into the beautiful submerged kelp forest ecosystem where I discovered a Mecca of fish, plants and invertebrate creatures that my eyes had never seen before!
Looking up at my bubbles from below, I could see giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera that reached the surface, almost like an underwater rain forest canopy. I was mesmerized by this new world below the waves. The kelp grew upward clear to the surface as the sunlight filtered down into the nutrient rich waters below.
Cruising along at depth, I became captivated by the white spotted anemones, giant sunflower starfish and blue rockfish that congregate near the top of the giant kelp forest. I very much enjoyed this experience with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) http://www.reef.org/. Learning how to identify a vast array of Central California fish and invertebrate species and putting this knowledge to use by recording data using REEF survey methodology was a fun and rewarding experience for me.
Most of our Roving Diver Fish Count survey dives were conducted in central California aboard the vessel Monterey Bay Express, although some of these REEF survey dives were also conducted from shore entry at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel http://www.pointlobos.org/diving and at the Breakwater dive site here in Monterey Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting many new friends while diving my first week here in Monterey.
This great experience was made possible through my new affiliation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium as the recipient of the 2012 Our-World Underwater Diving Safety Internship. Before my internship at the Aquarium had “officially” started, I was already getting my feet wet by having the honor of being part of this exceptional team of dedicated, enthusiastic REEF divers and I am looking forward to many more dives and adventures to come, both above and below the water.
-Alison Watts – 2012 Summer Intern, Monterey Bay Aquarium – Our-World Underwater Scholarship Society
To learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium visit: www.montereybayaquarium.org