Category Archives: News

From the Intertidal to the Kelp Forests

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to assist with a plethora of different projects. Two of these projects are Gulf Watch Alaska and NaGISA. Gulf Watch Alaska aims to provide scientific data on the status of the marine environment since the Exxon Valdez oil spill and informs environmental management in the Gulf of Alaska ( Many groups have teamed up to collect data throughout the Gulf of Alaska, and the Konar group contributes to this effort by sampling in Kachemak Bay.

Our sampling consisted of surveys conducted on mussels, the low, mid, and high intertidal community, clams, and seagrass beds. We surveyed sites all across Kachemak Bay from the oceanic Port Graham at the base of the bay to the glacially influence estuarine site of Bear Cove at the head of the bay. This made for a week of experiencing the great variety of marine habitats in Kachemak Bay, learning various different sampling protocol, and sampling at many beautiful locations.

View from Bishops Beach rocky intertidal sampling site near Homer, AK.

While intertidal sampling meant time out of the water, it allowed me to gain a better understanding of rocky and soft intertidal ecosystems. Through percent cover surveys and sorting samples in the lab, I’ve become familiar with my intertidal algae and invertebrate species. It’s amazing how many different species of algae there are and how much the community can change throughout the intertidal zone.

Rocky intertidal sampling for percent cover at Cohen Island.

The seagrass beds required trips to different sites since they are part of soft sediment habitats. Lucky for me, this meant more boat rides with fantastic views of Kachemak Bay. Not to mention the beauty of the sampling sites themselves! At the seagrass beds, we measured percent cover and the dimensions of the bed. Where the dimensions were far too large to be measured with a transect tape, we marked coordinates of the bounding corners. The seagrass bed at the site aptly named Mud Flat was so large that I made it out to the low tide mark; it felt like I was walking out to sea! I might have gotten a bit stuck in the mud, but that just meant more time to appreciate the seagrass and mountain views.

Coming back from measuring the seagrass bed width. Photo by Brenda Konar

With the efforts of a great team, we successfully completed the Gulf Watch Alaska sampling. The week was full of learning and fun with a big group of amazing individuals!

Gulf Watch Alaska 2019 Kachemak Bay team.

Now back to the water with NaGISA! NaGISA is the Natural Geography in Shore Areas project that aimed to measure biodiversity in near-shore habitats and how they change over time. From 2000-2010, this project was conducted across a longitudinal and latitudinal gradient to capture changes in biodiversity around the world. Although the project has ended, the Konar Lab continues to sample high latitude macroalgal habitats for long-term monitoring. This was an extremely exciting experience for me because I was able to dive my first kelp forest! Then I was able to dive another four kelp forests to make our five sampling sites.

Preparing for a dive at Outside Beach near Seldovia, AK. Photo by Emily Williamson

These dives were both interesting and challenging in that sampling required being surrounded by kelp. Sampling consisted of clearing the kelp and invertebrates within 50 by 50 centimeter quadrats, which meant that we had to get to the holdfast of the kelp in order to remove it. Now I can add “how to remove a branching holdfast” and “the best way to remove a chiton” to my research diving skill set! Visibility was also a challenge that varied based on the site. At more glaciated sites, the visibility decreases due to glacial sediment entering the water.

Practicing drysuit buoyancy skills before sampling. Photo by Brenda Konar

I have learned countless skills over the past few weeks and worked at sites from seagrass to under the sea. Being a part of various projects has kept me busy with field and lab work, but I always remember to take the time to soak in the beauty of working in Alaska and how much I have grown as a scientist. Each and every site I have been to have been incredibly beautiful in their own way from booming mountains to adorable baby sea stars hiding between the rocks. I find it import in life and ecology to appreciate the little things, like watching a tiny barnacle filter food from the big bad ocean. At the end of each day, I make sure to look at the sunset and take a few breaths thinking about how grateful I am to be spending this summer at the Kasitsna Bay Lab. Thank you to OWUSS and Brenda Konar for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime!

One of many amazing sunsets around 11pm. So much daylight!

The resident otter in Kasitsna Bay snacking on a clam. Photo by Emily Williamson


Diving into My First Week at Moss Landing!

  • A month ago I did not think I would be writing a blog on a sailboat in a beautiful marina in California. I just arrived in Moss Landing, CA a few days ago and already I will be leaving soon for Mexico. Since arriving, I have gotten to know my internship host and DSO, Diana Steller. She showed me around to Marine Operations and the Aquaculture Facility. In addition, I have met wonderful people including faculty, graduate students, and staff at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. 

View from Moss Landing Marine Labs
Tanks for seaweed at MLML Aquaculture Facility

I got the chance to help a graduate student, Dan, with his work at the Aquaculture Lab by weighing seaweed and emptying tanks. I learned the main five species of seaweed that they grow and SELL to chefs.

Seaweed (Dulse)

I was also able to have my checkout dive at Breakwater before I leave for Mexico. This was my first time diving in cold water and shore diving-so this was a very new and interesting experience for me. My wonderful instructor, Sloane Lofy, is also a grad student at MLML who studies kelp in the Phycology Lab.


I can’t wait to dive in Mexico and to learn more from the amazing graduate students and faculty about marine sciences!


The Beginning

As of five days ago, I had never been to Alaska, let alone a research station tucked into the Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. The AAUS Mitchell Internship has given me the opportunity to join Brenda Konar and her group at the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory studying various aspects of intertidal and subtidal community ecology along a glacial gradient in the Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

Although Alaska is still part of the US, it feels a world away from Colorado. The trip up north took 12 hours across three flights and a water taxi. The views from the plane from Anchorage to Homer and the water taxi were unbelievable! The sights of crisp water, islands and bays, sea otters playing, and looming snow-capped mountains made the nerves of diving in the cold Alaskan waters slip away.

View from the plane from Anchorage to Homer.

My first few days at the research station consisted of processing samples in the lab for species composition, biomass, and reproductive effort. This allowed me to jump right into learning my Alaskan intertidal species. To further my species identification knowledge, I have been putting together a target species list for dive sampling- sea stars, kelp, nudibranchs, oh my!

After these first few days of diving into processing samples, I got to dive into the water. I learned how to properly don a dry suit, the beauty of corn starch on seals, and that the nerves of dry suit diving will immediately disappear once you’re weighted down and overheating. I can now officially say I have dove in a dry suit, and in just a few days we will go to work on dive sampling! I’m thrilled about this opportunity to expand my research diving techniques and experience in order to explore a whole new environment. I have already seen so many organisms, like sea stars and nudibranchs, that I had not often seen in warm water. The ocean is such a vast and incredible world, and I can’t wait to experience the wonders of cold water ecosystems while contributing to research.

First dry suit dive!

Lucky for me, the Konar group’s research covers both the intertidal and subtidal. This means that in addition to dive sampling, I get to help the team with intertidal sampling of mussels, clams, algae, and other critters. Today, I had the opportunity to assist with sea otter surveys where we set up a telescope at a look out point and recorded sea otter feeding behavior.

View from sea otter observation look out point.

I have already learned so much, and I know I will continue to absorb boatloads of knowledge and skills throughout the course of this summer. I have even gained some skills I didn’t expect, like learning how to don a survival suit!

Testing out survival suits!



CLIMATE CHANGE: Anyone Can Change Everything
Dr. Joe MacInnis
Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®
42nd Annual Awards Program
New York Yacht Club
April 16, 2016


IT’S AN HONOUR to be in your company. Each one of you from Rolex Scholar to intern, from
supporter to sponsor, confirm what can be done when good people do small things with great love.

A month ago, Jim Corry and Lionel Schürch of Rolex SA in Geneva asked me to talk to you for ten minutes about climate change. My heart sank. How do you describe the planet’s most pressing environmental problem—a biological crime scene—and our response to it—in 600 seconds? Faced with the possibility of certain defeat on this stage, I did what any ancient diver would do. I sat down and opened a bottle of black rum.

As the days passed and my anxiety increased, I kept thinking of the words from the Rolex Spirit of Enterprise mission statement: “Anyone can change everything.” An electric call to action. “Anyone can change everything.” But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to use the words in my speech.

Two weeks ago, I’m in a service station filling my Toyota Prius. I put my credit card into the slot and look at all the cars and trucks. Black Cadillac. Ford Fusion. Big Hummer. An 18-wheeler sucking up diesel fuel. This is a front-line of climate change. This is where energy-intense carbon molecules really hit the road.

I ease the nozzle into my gas tank. During my lifetime, I’ve done this more than a thousand times. When you factor in all the ships, trains, and planes I’ve taken, I’m a poster boy for global warming. On the plus side, I’m a nation builder. My fossil fuel payments support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As the gas runs into the tank, my mind drifts to New York, this stage, and the speech I can’t write. I think of rising sea levels in Manhattan. There will be water taxis on Wall Street. Wind surfing on Park Avenue. At the New York City Yacht Club, you’ll go to the front door, walk out on a pier, and hail a yellow gondola.

I look at the cash window on the gas pump: $10 . . . $12 . . . $15. I’m more than a poster boy for climate change, I’m a carbon addict. Every day, in one form or another, I mainline diesel fuel, jet fuel, natural gas, and plastics. For years, I thought ExxonMobil and Volkswagen were ethical companies. I know I need help.

I pick up my receipt, slide behind the wheel, and drive off. The good news is that I’m in rehab. I have weekly sessions with my fellow addicts. We tell stories of binging on tail-pipe emissions at the Indy 500. People we know buying mega-stretch Hummers with a helicopter pad. But we exchange encouraging information. How 150 nations came together in Paris to sign a climate change agreement. How cities from New York to San Francisco to Toronto are shifting to green energy. How inspiring institutions and individuals including World Wild Life, Greenpeace, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Justin Gillis are showing us what we can do.

My rehab assignment this week is to produce a short guide about climate change, and how we can adapt to it. With Rolex’s assistance, we have printed copies for each of you. Please read it. Absorb it. Pass it along. Take action. And remember . . . When it comes to minimizing the effects of climate change…with leadership and passion, “anyone can change everything.” Thank you, Jim and Lionel. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you. Justin Gillis Article


2016 North American summer internships Announcement

Founded in 1975, OWUSS has sponsored 94 experience-based Rolex scholarships and 93 internships to young people who want to pursue careers in fields such as marine biology, underwater research, and conservation. The society offers summer internships in North America for 1-3 month periods to college undergraduates and recent graduates. Internship recipients receive an educational grant to help fund travel to/from internship site, room and board, and a stipend to cover living expenses. The sponsor organizations that host the internships are leaders in their fields.

George Wozencraft, Vice President Internships, says “This year’s selection process was competitive, with many qualified applicants. In addition to those selected for the 2016 internships, I want to commend the finalists for each internship. We thank the members of our internship selection committee for their contribution. Additionally, we appreciate our internship sponsors and coordinators for the tremendous support that they provide to our volunteer organization.”

Here are the 2016 internships and recipients:

Dr. Lee H. Somers American Academy of Underwater Science (AAUS) Scientific Research Diving Internship

Allie D. Sifrit, University of Hawaii at Manoa

This internship provides experience for a young person interested in a future in science, diving for research, or scientific diving-related fields. Intern applicants can be students from colleges and universities with an interest in science and diving. The program runs from mid-May through August and will include training at one of several AAUS organizational member sites. This training will give the intern the necessary dive qualifications to allow participation on research projects requiring scientific diving and introduce the intern to careers that utilize scientific diving as a tool. Once trained as an AAUS recognized diver-in-training, interns will participate in underwater fieldwork at one or more locations and research facilities associated with AAUS.

This internship is named in memory of Dr. Lee H. Somers, who was AAUS’ first President and served as a long time officer and board member of OWUSS.

Bonnier Dive Group Publishing Internship

Melissa J. Smith, University of Florida

Based in Winter Park, Florida, the recipient of this internship will gain valuable real world experience in magazine publishing. Bonnier Corporation is one of the largest consumer- publishing groups in America, with nearly 50 special-interest magazines and related multimedia projects and events. The Bonnier Dive Group includes “Sport Diver,” “Scuba Diving,” and “Undersea Journal.” The intern will have the opportunity to contribute to these and other Bonnier Corporation publications.

National Park Service Research Internship

Garrett J. Fundakowski, Shippensburg University

The National Park Service Research Internship provides a unique opportunity to work with leading archaeologists, underwater photographers, and scientists in the National Park Service and other agencies in the American state and federal government. Specific work projects will be determined based upon the interests of the intern as well as the needs of associated projects. The internship is based in Boulder, Colorado, but it is expected that the intern will travel to projects within the continental United States and potentially overseas as part of this internship. Experiences could involve a specific project in a single park or a larger project in multiple parks.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Marine Conservation Internship

Patrick M. Peck, University of Richmond

Offered in Key Largo, Florida, the Marine Conservation Internship provides an opportunity to experience working at a nonprofit environmental organization. REEF is a grassroots, non-profit organization of recreational divers dedicated to protecting and preserving the underwater environment. Outside duties include environmental presentations to local and visiting schools, university, dive, and public groups; working with other local marine conservation entities; and opportunities for conducting marine life surveys during local dives. Office duties include handling memberships, incoming marine life survey data, answering e-mail, and dealing with the public.

For more information about the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, please visit our website:

For the official press release: 2016_OWUSS_Internship_Press_Release_March_2016.


Presentation by Dr. Joe MacInnis at the OWUSS 41st Awards Program

“Too Much of a Good Thing…Is Wonderful” by Dr. Joe MacInnis at the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® 41st Annual Awards Program on April 18, 2015


Three years ago I was the expedition journalist and safety physician on the James Cameron- National Geographic Deepsea Challenge project. Sponsored by National Geographic and Rolex, our objective was to dive Jim’s radical new research sub deeper and deeper until we had the team and technical confidence to make a seven-mile, science dive into the Marianna Trench.

It was the toughest project of my entire professional career. We had a new and untested sub. We had a new and untested team. The western Pacific is a place of hurricane winds and ship- breaking waves. We had injuries from heaving decks, slippery stairwells, and cables under tension. After our second test dive, two of our teammates were killed in a helicopter crash.

But after sixty days at sea, sixty days of overcoming technical failures and setbacks, Jim climbed into his new sub and made the first solo science dive into the deepest, darkest place on the planet. He spent three hours on the seafloor. He travelled two miles across a flat, featureless plain gathering scientific samples, making observations, and taking majestic 3D images.


We succeeded because Jim Cameron and his team had exceptional personal and professional leadership. Our leadership principles included deep empathy, eloquence, and endurance. A deep empathy for the team, the task, the technology, and the ocean. A profound eloquence in our words and actions. A deep endurance in our response to setbacks and failures.

Forty-three years ago, on a ship under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the concept for our Rolex scholarship was born. We had a new and untested idea. We had a new and untested team. As time passed, especially during the early years, we overcame setbacks and failures. Today, we have 89 interns and 91 scholars. And a splendid team of volunteers, supporters, partners, and sponsors.

We’re successful because our chairman, president and team have strong personal and professional leadership. Our leadership principles include empathy, eloquence, and endurance.
A deep empathy among our scholars, interns, and partners and what they learn from each other.
A profound eloquence in the words and images we use to tell our stories.

A sustained endurance in overcoming our setbacks and challenges.

Thank you Jim, Stewart, Mike, and everyone in this room. Scholars and interns. Officers and directors. Partners and corporate sponsors. You confirm what can be done when good people are generous with their time, talent, and tenacity. You have made it possible for young men and women to explore the rainbow edge of knowledge and imagination—and share the joy of their discoveries.

As you prepare for the coming decades, remember the immortal words of the great scholarship society philosopher Jim Corry who—paraphrasing his occasional muse Mae West—said:
“Too much of a good thing . . is wonderful.”


For the pdf and full article: ROLEX SPEECH 2015