Hi, my name is Annie Thomson. I am a scientific diving intern at Shannon Point Marine Center, a Western Washington University lab located in Anacortes, WA. This summer I will primarily be working with Captain Nate Schwarck and Anne Benolklin. Nate is the dive safety officer and captain for the Shannon Pt. research vessels. Anne B. is a REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) intern who will be implementing scientific diving into her research project.
Nate, Anne B. and I have been working through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) scientific diving skills and requirements this past week by practicing rescue diver skills in the local pool. The last task Nate gave Anne B. and I was an equipment swap while buddy breathing. We exchanged masks, BCDs, fins, and weight belts while passing off the reg every two breaths. This was one of my favorite exercises. As we pack packed gear I was reminded of the importance of accident prevention. Although I am grateful for these rescue skills I never want to have to use them. We have also been going through the DAN first aid course, learning about the history of scientific diving and getting ready for the abalone surveys coming up on the 10th of July.
Did I forget to mention abalone?!!!!!!
Pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) is the focus of Anne’s REU project. She is working with Dr. Paul Dinnel (the abalone expert) to conduct survey work and also develop a lab experiment with abalone. We have been meeting with Dr. Dinnel over the past week to learn about the pinto abalone story here in WA state. Here’s what I know so far:
•The WA populations was severely overfished by sport fisherman starting in the early 1900’s causing abalone to diminish from the WA coastline.
• The abalone fishery was closed in 1994 and it was later determined that the pinto abalone population would not recover with out human intervention.
• Abalone are broadcast spawners which makes reproduction success difficult when individuals are far apart and low in numbers. Lack of reproduction due to low population density is termed as the “allee effect”. The naturally remaining abalone in the Puget Sound are old, consequently big and most likely too far away from other abalone to reproduce.
• There has been an attempt to reintroduce abalone back into WA waters by outplanting efforts starting back in 2009. The hope for outplanting is that abalone can be reintroduced into a coastal habitat in adult aggregations with densities high enough for successful reproduction.
• Last summer Jeff Hester (REU intern) and Jenna Walker (AAUS OWUSS intern) conducted surveys to obtain survival rates on the new outplants of spring 2011. Jenna and Jeff found that repetitive dives on the same site is essential for determining accurate survival rates because abalone are very cryptic animals.
Helping Dr. Dinnel and Anne B. carry out surveys on the previously outplanted abalone plots is one of my focuses for the summer. We will go back to the 2011 outplant sites to identify and measure the size of the abalone by the numbered id tags attached to the shell.
I am very excited to be at Shannon Pt. helping out with this project and developing a scientific diving tool set to help explore and better understand the underwater world of my home state.
I’m super stoked to read about your journey this summer because I was in Anne’s role last year! The SPMC crew is awesome and Nate and Paul are incredible mentors. Enjoy your time in those chilly but magnificent San Juan waters:).
Jeff, Thank you for reading!