My name is Catie Mitchell and I’m thrilled to serve as the Dr. Lee H. Somers AAUS Scientific Diving Intern this summer! I’m extremely thankful to the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) and the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society (OWUSS) for providing me with funding and support to make this experience possible. In particular, I want to acknowledge the generosity of Dr. Lee H. Somers and his family. This year my internship was renamed in remembrance of Dr. Somers and his immense contributions to the scientific diving community, and I’m honored to continue his legacy.
As a rising Junior at Vanderbilt University, I’m pursuing a degree in Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology with a minor in Communication of Science and Technology. I’ve always loved spending time on the water and have become passionate about ocean conservation and exploration. This summer, I’m excited to have a chance to spend time underwater and explore the marine world. Before the start of my internship, I spent one month as an Ocean Sciences and Mapping Intern on board the E/V Nautilus in the Gulf of Mexico. I had the opportunity to work with researchers from institutions around the world and was able to take part in three different expeditions. The first expedition was led by the ECOGIG consortium and focused on monitoring the long term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 on deep-sea corals. The final two expeditions explored different seafloor habitats in the Gulf of Mexico to learn more about the biological communities that inhabit them. One of my favorite sites that we visited was an underwater brine lake that was absolutely incredible! Overall, my first time at sea was an amazing experience.
After about a week at home, I headed to the Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, Maine to start my internship. I’ll be working towards my AAUS Scientific Diver Certification (along with a few other certifications!) and assisting with different research projects at the DMC. The certification requires a minimum of 100 hours of training and will definitely be the most rigorous dive program I’ve participated in so far. My prior diving experience is purely recreational, so this will be my first opportunity to use diving as a tool and apply my skills to research projects underwater. By the end of the summer I hope to really hone my diving technique. This will also be my first time diving in cold water, which will definitely be a new experience for me. USiA has generously donated a dry suit for me to use, but I’ll be diving wet until I have a chance to go through a dry suit certification course. For now, I’m armed with a 7mm wetsuit, hood, gloves, and booties and hoping that I won’t be a human popsicle by the end of the summer!
I spent my first weekend in Maine settling in and exploring the land around the DMC. There are some great hiking trails mapped around the center, and I really enjoyed spending some time outdoors. I have a feeling I will be pretty busy for the rest of the summer, so it was nice to have some down time before jumping into my internship. On Monday morning I report to the dive locker for the start of “dive week.” It will be an intense week of training for everyone diving at the DMC this summer to be certified as Scientific Divers-in-Training and kick off the Scientific Diving course. During the week we’ll do several check out dives, learn about dive rescue, take care of the pre-requisites for the Scientific Diver Certification, and complete a DAN Diving First Aid course. It’ll definitely be hectic, but I can’t wait to get in the water and start exploring.