Hi everyone! I’m Julia Mason, and this summer I’m lucky enough to be serving as the 2013 Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society National Park Service Submerged Resources Center Dive Intern. I’ll spend the next three to four months scuba diving in some of our National Parks, participating in various projects and getting a first-hand look at how marine science, conservation, and interpretation operate in the Park Service. One of my duties as an intern is to update this blog every few weeks, so I hope to keep everyone informed of and hopefully entertained by my underwater escapades.
After a whirlwind of graduation festivities, moving the entire contents of my dorm room from Boston to San Francisco, and packing for months on the road, I touched down in Denver for a week of training and orientation having narrowly missed actual tornado threats at the airport–an auspicious beginning. Although Denver may not spring to mind as a scuba destination, it’s an ideal central location for the Submerged Resources Center (SRC), an elite, highly-trained team that dives both coasts as well as lakes and rivers throughout the country.
National Parks tend to evoke terrestrial rather than aquatic landscapes, and even as an intern specifically dedicated to diving in the parks, I was surprised to learn how extensive park water resources are. 150 of 400-odd NPS units (which include National Monuments, National Seashores, etc.) have substantial water features, and the NPS supports 25 dive teams with some 200 divers, including the SRC, which primarily works with archaeological projects like historic shipwrecks or American Indian sites flooded by dam construction. Although I’m based in the SRC office, I’ll also work with a variety of park dive teams on projects all over the country, from culling invasive fish in Biscayne to diving on the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor. As an environmental science major interested in marine conservation and public outreach, I’m looking forward to meeting park scientists and learning about marine resource protection and policy in our National Parks.
This week in Denver I met the wonderful members of the SRC team, who welcomed me to their office and, in some cases, their homes. I received my dive gear (including my very own official National Park Service wetsuits!), and underwent the training and testing necessary to become an official NPS diver. This certification included written tests, medical evaluations, dive skills demonstration, and a swim fitness test (thankfully the 1200 ft swim in under 15 minutes and underwater swim of 75 ft were not, as I originally misread in considerable dismay, in meters). I also had a chance to cruise around in a government SUV and experience Colorado sights and society, from mountain hikes to downtown Boulder to a fierce game of underwater hockey with the Denver Underwater Hockey team at Carmody Rec Center.
A huge thank you is due to the whole SRC gang, especially Brett Seymour for coordinating my internship and patiently overseeing my training, Sami Seeb for hosting me and bringing me to all my appointments, Jessica Keller and John Bright for introducing me to all sorts of Colorado cuisine and culture, and Dave Conlin and his wife Michelle for also hosting me and for their incredible kindness and generosity during my stay. You’ve all been so welcoming, and have made me even more excited for the upcoming months (which I didn’t previously think possible). Thanks also to the OWUSS and NPS for making this internship possible–I am so grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started!
My giant dive bag is packed and I’m heading off to Biscayne National Park in the Florida Keys for the first leg of my journey. I’m ready to get in the ocean, spear some lionfish, and try out the underwater camera awaiting me there!