Little Cayman 2017
After a successful first program in 2016, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute allowed Diving with Heroes to get its hands dirty on a wide variety of projects in 2017. Of course, divers spent time learning about the coral nursery and CCMI’s deep-water lionfish studies. They cleaned more than 1,200 coral fragments in the shallow and deep coral nurseries, participated in the weekly Little Cayman lionfish cull, and even dissected some lionfish to examine their stomach contents.
The divers had the opportunity to assist a CCMI research intern, a graduate student of Penn State University, in setting some BRUVS (baited remote underwater video systems) to monitor apex predators (sharks!) in Caymanian waters. The BRUVS is simply a weighted box with a camera and, at the end of a 1.5-meter pole, a bag with 200 grams of bait. After leaving the BRUVS on the sea floor for a couple of hours, the DWH team recovered the systems and assisted the intern in reviewing the video and logging a variety of factors, from types of fish who were interested in the bait to the underwater terrain in the camera’s view.
The divers were also tasked with more manual labor to assist researchers in their projects – this included moving more than 200 cinder blocks from the CCMI facility into a boat moored offshore, which ferried the blocks to the ‘drop zone’ above a sand bed about 65 feet below the surface. Once the cinder blocks were on the bottom, the divers made a dive to move and arrange the blocks into the required pattern.
One of the researchers, a Fulbright Scholarship graduate student at University of Florida, said, "the group saved [his] project many weeks of work by moving and arranging the 200 blocks.” On a subsequent dive, the group collected yellow tube sponge fragments to use for another project. Following the sponge collection dive the divers learned that those sponges turn your hands purple.
The divers logged 10 dives that excursion, and earned their PADI Coral Conservation and Fish Identification Specialties.
DWH Beneficiaries: Chris Borger, Jeff Downen, Ethan Hughes and Rich Lawrence.
Returning Alumni: Heather Deerenberg, Jade Sharrocks (as a DWH volunteer) and Ernie Spycher.