2015 AAUS Symposium Print

Congrats to Peter Straub who won Key West Paradise by Kathy English!  Thanks to all who participated in this scholarships fund raiser.  

Kevin Flanagan Travel Award

Catie Mitchell and Marissa McMahan are the 2015 Kevin Flanagan Travel Award recipients. 

Rebreather Standard Update

The AAUS Standards committee is working to update the AAUS Rebreather Standard and we want input from our membership. Your suggestions and comments can be submitted online.

AAUS Standards Change 2013-Required Adoption

In October of 2013, AAUS implemented a change to Sections 4.0 and 5.0 of the AAUS Standards. As of January 2016, all AAUS OMs will be required to adopt and incorporate these changes into their manuals.  Please follow the link below for more information.

AAUS Certification Program

It is time for your annual AAUS-ITI Instructor Renewal.  More information here.

Current E-Slate

Current E-Slate is available on the first of every month.  You can access older editions in the resource library under "publications".


Event Calendar View All

Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd European Conference on Scientific Diving, 9-11 May 2016

2nd European Conference on Scientific Diving
    05/09/16 - 05/11/16

This year the conference will be held in Sweden at The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences-Kristineberg. This meeting highlights scientific outputs achieved principally through the use of scientific diving as a research tool.

Deadline for registration 31st January 2016

For more information please visit our home page: www.loven.gu.se/english/research/ecsd2016

AAUS Student Scholarship Applications Due

AAUS Student Scholarships 

The AAUS Foundation awards scholarships to graduate students engaged in, or planning to begin, research projects in which diving is used as an important research tool or studying diving science. The Kevin Gurr Scholarship awards $3000 to a Master program student. The Kathy Johnston Scholarship awards $3000 to a Doctoral student. AAUS may also award additional $1500 scholarships to the second ranked proposals in each category.  The Foundation also grants the Kevin Flanagan Travel Award providing up to $800 for undergraduate/graduate students to attend an AAUS scientific meeting and the Hollis Gear Award that provides up to two recipients with an award valued at $1250, good towards Hollis dive gear and travel monies.  Applications are submitted electronically and all proposals are due June 30. For more information and application instructions, visit www.aausfoundation.org,or send questions to the Scholarship Committee Chair at aaus@disl.org

Latest News View All

2nd European Conference on Scientific Diving, 9-11 May 2016 -Call for abstracts

This year the conference will be held in Sweden at The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences-Kristineberg. This meeting highlights scientific outputs achieved principally through the use of scientific diving as a research tool.

Deadline for abstract submission 4th December 2015

Deadline for registration 31st January 2016

For more information please visit our home page: www.loven.gu.se/english/research/ecsd2016

2015 AAUS Scholars

2015 Kathy English Scholars

Amalia Harrington
The Unviersity of Maine

I am a first year PhD student in the Marine Biology Program of the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine. I was SCUBA certified as a high school student and did some recreational diving while attending the University of San Diego for my undergraduate degree. However, it wasn’t until I attended San Diego State University for my master’s degree that I became an AAUS certified Scientific Diver. I am broadly interested in understanding how organisms interact with and use their environment, particularly in the context of survival. In my master’s thesis work, I examined habitat use and sheltering behaviors of the California spiny lobster within and outside of a series of recently established marine protected areas (MPAs) through the use of diver-based transect surveys. I also conducted a series of field and laboratory experiments to assess antipredator behaviors and potential survival strategies in subadult lobsters. Together, these data provided a baseline for the lobster population to assist in future assessments of reserve efficacy.

At the University of Maine, I hope to continue exploring the relationship between marine organisms and their surrounding environment using the American lobster as a model organism. Specifically, my dissertation will focus on the response of lobster populations to a changing ecosystem as a consequence of global climate change. I will examine both the direct and indirect effects of climate change on the American lobster through a combination of laboratory and field based experiments. Funding received from the Kathy Johnston English Scholarship from the AAUS Foundation will assist me in completing the research diving component of my PhD research project during the 2016 field season.

Chelsie Counsell
University of Hawai’i at Manoa

I am a third year Marine Biology Ph.D. student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and I am lucky enough to be conducting most of my dissertation research on SCUBA. Broadly my research interests are the biotic and abiotic drivers of marine communities. While I was pursuing my Bachelors of Science degree at Elon University, I completed an honors research thesis focused on the distribution of various grouper species including an assessment of adult and juvenile habitat use. I was also able to spend a summer at the University of California at Davis’s marine lab in Bodega Bay researching the impacts of climate change on an intertidal snail. Before I began my graduate studies, I worked as a Science Instructor at the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in the Florida Keys and as a Waterfront Research Intern in the Turks and Caicos Islands with the School for Field Studies. I was able to participate in a large variety of research projects ranging from lionfish diet composition, to shark mark-and-recapture, to an assessment of reef communities on artificial reef habitat. For my Master’s thesis, I worked with Felicia Coleman and Kevin Craig at Florida State University to investigate how the distribution of sharks and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico is impacted by seasonal low oxygen events. As an AAUS diver, I assisted with research on goliath grouper spawning aggregations near Jupiter, Florida, tropical reef surveys in Panama, and benthic surveys along the gulf coast of Florida.

My dissertation work is focused on community dynamics within a model coral reef community. With the support of my advisor, Megan Donahue, and NOAA, I have already been able to conduct surveys around O’ahu and within the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. With the AAUS Kathy English Scholarship award, I will be able to complete my surveys of this community throughout the Hawaiian archipelago by surveying at sites around Maui and the island of Hawai’i. This dataset will enable me to look at large scale biogeographic patterns in coral reef community composition and to determine how changes in the community are correlated with different anthropogenic effects, e.g. overfishing of top predators, deterioration of reef habitat.


2015 Kevin Gurr Scholars

Miranda Brett
San Diego State University

 I am a third year master’s student at San Diego State University in the Biology, emphasis in Ecology program. Since I began scuba diving at 15-years-old, I have been fascinated by marine life. When I started college I became AAUS and scuba instructor certified, which allowed me to work as a scuba and marine biology instructor in San Diego, Bahamas and Caribbean islands, as well as a scientific diver on a variety of research projects.  When I began my masters program I immediately began diving and observing the interactions in the rocky reef and kelp forest habitats off our coast. I found that Egregia, or feather boa kelp, has distinct grazing scars on its fronds formed by a host specific limpet, Lottia insessa. It appeared that these grazing scars led to breakage of the Egregia fronds, and I was compelled to find out whether a predator of the limpet could be playing a role in regulating the limpet’s abundance, and in turn benefit the kelp. Through lab experiments, I have found the abundant microcarnivorous fish, the senorita, Oxyjulis californica consumes the limpets, and the presence of senorita decreases limpet movement and grazing, which in turn increases Egregia’s breaking strength. I have tested the relative importance of these consumptive and non-consumptive effects and demonstrated the non-consumptive effects drive the majority of the interaction. A large gap in the scientific literature is whether these cascading non-consumptive effects found in the lab are in fact driving factors in nature. I am currently testing if these interactions found in the lab are occurring in the field through caging experiments. If we find an effect, this will be the first study to demonstrate a cascading non-consumptive effect in the subtidal marine environment.


Genoa Sullaway
San Diego State University

I am a graduate student in the Ecology program at San Diego State University studying kelp forest ecology. I aminterested in using primary production as a metric of ecosystem function, specifically in subtidal algae communities. For my thesis work I am studying how an invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, alters algal biodiversity, and how this in turn may affect ecosystem function in California Marine Protected Areas. S. horneri was first documented in southern California in 2003 and has since spread to the nearby Channel Islands, throughout the southern California bight and down to Baja California Sur. However, the ecological consequences of this invasion is largely unknown as this is the first time this alga has been found outside of its native range.

My experiences with the ocean started when I was young, sailing and surfing in San Diego, but my interest in science and the desire to combine science and the ocean did not become instilled in me until a Marine Biology class in high school. I completed my undergraduate degree at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo where I gained valuable research experience. Additionally, this is where I started SCUBA diving and became inspired to continue in marine subtidal research. 

My graduate research is conducted at three sites in Southern California that have been heavily invaded by S. horneri. The Kevin Gurr scholarship will ameliorate my travel costs and aid in my research efforts to assess the impact that S. horneri has on native algae biodiversity and how this may alter the intrinsic functioning of the kelp forest ecosystems it has invaded. 



2015 Scientific Diver Lifetime Achievement Award

2015 Scientific Diver Lifetime Achievement Award

The 2015 American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) recipient of the Scientific Diver Lifetime Achievement Award is Charles Birkland.

Charles Birkeland earned his PhD at the University of Washington by determining how sea pen populations were able to persist despite the intense combined predation pressure from seven species of predators, some of which were specialists on sea pens. Also while a student, he dived from a Coast Guard buoy tender on Cobb Seamount 280 miles off Washington and found that the most common invertebrates on the top at 110 ft depth were ordinarily found in the intertidal and were brooding species that did not disperse larvae in the plankton.

In 1970, he spent a continuous three weeks on Tektite and in 1978 spent a week on Hydrolab and published the results from each. The science career of Charles Birkeland has always been underwater where he combined his ecological field experiments with natural history observations.

Birkeland was a post-doc at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute from 1970-1975 where he did the first experimental underwater field studies of coral recruitment and demonstrated the importance of nutrient input to the survival of coral recruits and that recruiting larvae often survive better in places they do not actually grow as rapidly. These studies on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Panama led to an understanding of how nutrient input affects ecological processes differently on a large scale on coral reefs among the geographic regions of the world.

Birkeland was a professor at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory from 1975 to 2000 and at the University of Hawaii from 2000-2010. He has done much of his field work in American Samoa since 1979. He established a research program to determine the capacity of corals to adapt (genetic changes in populations) or acclimatize (behavioral, physiological or morphological changes in individual colonies) to environmental change in pools on the small island of Ofu in American Samoa where the temperatures often fluctuate 6°C daily. He has guided and supported important field transplant experiments that have determined the changes in genes and proteins that come with stress from environmental change, indicating potential to successfully respond to climate change. He had also determined that nutrient input from terrestrial runoff into the coral-reef ecosystem leads to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks through fertilization of phytoplankton blooms that feed the starfish larvae. This was controversial for a while because the loss of predation by over-collection of triton shells was the popular explanation, but recent laboratory and field studies on the Great Barrier Reef have proven Birkeland’s hypothesis correct.

Birkeland’s current interests are presented in his latest book “Coral Reefs in the Anthropocene” which is expected to be available from Springer Science this coming September. One of the messages of the book is that the trophic structure of the coral-reef ecosystem provides the greatest gross productivity and the least net productivity, perhaps of any natural system. To extract a substantial supply of food for humans, the net production is enhanced by reducing the upper trophic levels, and this had generally been happening widely before coral-reef science became active.  Some islanders harvest reef resources for subsistence and local market, yet maintain the integrity of the original coral-reef system, by harvesting the intermediate-sized individuals from fish populations. This maintains the stock because large fishes potentially produce exponentially more offspring and the juvenile fishes grow the fastest. The larger individual fishes of species such as parrotfishes fulfill their role in maintaining the ecosystem by clearing algae from the substrata and facilitating coral recruitment, while smaller parrotfishes have little effect even when common. Palauans have exemplified the favorable globalization of their economy while maintaining the integrity of their coral-reefs systems by keeping resource consumption local and having their international economy service-based (tourist) rather than export-based.


Birkeland has authored or edited four books, 70 papers in scientific journals, dozens of technical reports, and numerous other publications. He was the third President of the International Society for Reef Studies, organized the seventh International Coral Reef Symposium, was given the first Excellence in Research Award by the University of Guam, the award for "Outstanding Scientific Advancement of Knowledge" by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, and was elected Honorary Fellow of the Pacific Science Association. 

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