Conrad Limbaugh Memorial Award for Scientific Diving Leadership
Presented biennially to an individual who has made a significant contribution in diving safety and diving leadership on behalf of the scientific diving community. Open to any active member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Nominated and voted upon by the AAUS general membership. Current BOD Members are not eligible during their term of office. Note: Beginning in 2016, this award is being offered every two years in rotation with the Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement Award.
2022 Awardee: Danny Gouge
The 2020 AAUS Conrad Limbaugh Award for Scientific Diving Leadership goes to Danny Gouge. Danny received his initial dive training in 1971, at age 15, from a military dive club in Ft. Monroe, VA. On his 3rd night of pool training, a panicked diver rescue drill went wrong. He doesn’t precisely remember the role reversal part where he was the one rescued from the bottom of the pool with a broken nose, but he distinctly remembers the period afterward when he was sitting in the emergency room waiting to be seen. His father, an Air Force sergeant, dryly commented that his son needed to find a safer way to engage in this activity, or find another vice. With cotton stuffed up his nose, and his eyes swollen shut, he was somewhat sensory impaired. With few remaining options, at least for once, he listened.
Five years later (1976), he applies for an ‘Instrument Maker’ position at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). At the time he thought his several years of machinist experience was what qualified him as a scientific equipment fabricator, but on reflection, now believes that his diploma from the Sand Sharks Skin Diver Club may have been largely responsible for his hire. He quickly learned that the Instrument Shop was also the repository for institutional dive gear plus what records and paperwork existed. He found the paperwork from a defunct diving school out of Norfolk where they had donated “AS IS: 18 US Divers double hose regulators, 13 Voit backpacks, and 20 Nemrod facemasks”, dated 1974. Considering that document was eerily similar to current inventory, it implied that any equipment existing prior to the donation was less satisfactory, and had been disposed of. Half the regs were hanging on the wall, apparently available for issue, and in varying stages of need. There were approximately a dozen steel 71.2 CF cylinders, some even tested. He also recalls a compressor of unknown vintage with the intake above the Motor Pool repair shop which was directly below. Despite a sense of urgency to make a few improvements, he was repeatedly side-tracked by the most obvious question of all – who thought it was a good idea to put a Dive Locker on the second floor up a narrow flight of stairs? So began his first 30 years in marine science support.
Things evolved quickly. Within the year, Danny was transferred to the Dept. of Vessel Operations where he went about accumulating sufficient sea time to sit for his 100-ton license. The Dive Locker followed him, down the stairs and across to the boat basin. The Dive Locker was relocated to an old ice house, a relic from the marina days. It had two massive insulated steel doors, but now had a cozy air-tight office in one side, and a compressor plus gear storage in the other, 20ft from the water. He obtained US Divers factory training to service and repair the stock of regulators, including some of the double hose. He promptly weaned the divers off the aging regs and onto the newly obtained US Divers Conshelf XIV single hose regs. The double hose regulators were then surplused.
In 1977 he received his YMCA and PADI certifications, quickly followed by Advanced certification training held in the north Florida springs in 1978. While there he became enamored with the lure of cave diving. Though he had no formal cave training (this was a year or two before cave training agencies adopted standard risk management rules such as 1/3 air volume penetration limits and the 3 light minimum rule, per DAN 2009 article on cave fatalities), he did not venture underground lightly. He learned of DSOs at scientific institutions with experience in cave diving and obtained two publications on this technical subject. The first was SAFE CAVE DIVING (1973) by Tom Mount (Univ. of Miami DSO mid 70’s); and secondly CAVE DIVING: EQUIPMENT AND PROCEDURES (1971) by Lee Somers (Univ. of Michigan DSO). Of course, he learned from both of those texts that Conrad Limbaugh himself died in a cave diving accident in 1960, often referred to as the best diver in America. Danny credits those texts and their authors for keeping him out of harms way during his early exploits in the overhead environment.
In late 1979, he earned his scuba instructor’s certification. And in 1980, he obtained his 100-ton USCG license.
In 1982, Danny was officially appointed as the VIMS DSO, the same year of the OSHA scientific diving exemption. His notice arrived as a cautionary memorandum from the Director that he will face daunting regulatory challenges and internal push-back from the old guard. Attached was the unanimous support writings of each of the ‘Dive Committee’ members. In the context of the time, his predecessor for diving oversight was also on the committee (an administrator and faculty member) for the previous decade and wrote: “for years, the VIMS diving program was not a program at all. I was designated Chief Diving Officer with no money, no equipment, and absolutely no authority”. Danny immediately set about authoring a formal Guide for Diving Safety. Later that year he sees an ad in Skin Diver Magazine announcing AAUS’s 2nd Annual Symposium (Oct issue, page 50, registration $25). He requests to attend, but travel to CA cannot be funded. He writes a letter to the address listed, and Jimmy Stewart of Scripps responds to that letter and sends a copy of Scripps’ dive manual for consideration.
In Sept. 1982, Danny and select VIMS dive team members attend UNC Wilmington (UNCW) training at their National Undersea Research Center (NURC) for surface supply umbilical diving utilizing a wet (open) bell and AGA masks. They return again for additional training in 1983 on Kirby Morgan masks and Superlite 17 helmets. During the period 1982-1984 they perform several series of lengthy decompression dives off the coast of VA and NC, collecting sediment cores and running benthic experiments from the UNCW ship R/V SEAHAWK.
In 1986, Danny attends the 6th Annual AAUS Symposium, held in northern Florida, (the first on the east coast). He and a DCB member found the symposium well attended with people of like mind and ultimately a major turning point for the VIMS Diving Program. The decision to become an OM had effectively been made. In addition, at the conclusion of the symposium, as part of an AAUS workshop, Danny becomes formally trained and certified as a Basic Cave diver. Learning of the numerous cave diving fatalities in the area, he returns to north Florida one month later and receives training and certification as a Recovery Specialist by the NSS-CDS (taught by Henry Nicholson and the legendary cave diver Sheck Exley). This was a particularly dark period for area cave fatalities, with law enforcement agencies acknowledging they were ill-equipped to properly respond. For the curious reader, he unfortunately did later test those skills in practice, and has been a firm disciple of accident analysis ever since.
Early 1987 VIMS applies to become an OM, with a recently revised manual, and receives an acceptance letter from AAUS dated 15 May 1987. The August 1987 Slate lists the 9 OMs, with VIMS listed in the number 8 position. He also receives a letter from the same VIMS Director that appointed him five years previously, on his personal stationery, of a congratulatory mission-accomplished nature. Copy added to his personnel file.
Beginning in the early 1990’s, VIMS establishes close ties to the NOAA Diving Program. Morgan Wells and his NOAA Experimental Diving Unit are just 10 miles away in Ft. Eustis, VA. When his space there was being reallocated, he moves a 42” NOAA recompression chamber to the newly constructed VIMS Dive Safety Office (built around the old ice house), where it will reside for the next decade. Cliff Newell, Director of the NOAA Diving Program in Seattle, requests VIMS permission to hold his NOAA training courses at the spacious new facility (featuring classroom/conference room/showers). For a period of 4 years, NOAA east coast divers and divemasters were trained at VIMS.
In 1992, the manager of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (MNMS) requests NOAA Diving Program support for a trimix operation to assess deterioration of the Civil War ironclad resting in the confluence of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador current, on the bottom at 235’ off Cape Hatteras. In the ensuing months, the Harbor Branch vessel R/V EDWIN LINK was chosen due to the additional capability of the Johnson SEA LINK submersible. Seven divers with broad and deep diving experience were also picked. Danny was selected due to his wreck diving experience in the Hatteras area, his close association with NOAA diving, and his previous experience with decompression diving out of open bell. The bell was an unfortunate requirement for dives over 200’ (per the 1991 NOAA Diving Manual), but necessary once communication umbilicals were added to the mix.
Six weeks from Monitor mission start, the VIMS DCB and VIMS administration voice serious concerns over his participation in a deep mixed gas operation. It was no secret in the diving community that a similar mission to identify a sunken U-boat in the NE at a depth of 230’ had racked up three fatalities in the previous year (see book Shadow Divers). While arguing those fatalities were air dives, there was no denying that one trimix diver was evacuated by helicopter for chamber treatment. The same book notes “there were no technical diving classes or certification agencies for trimix at the time”. And in another similarity, both missions were relying on trimix tables cut by physiologist Bill Hamilton of Hamilton Research. The VIMS administration therefore refused to budge. NOAA was to accept all liability for his participation. In perhaps a model case of federal efficiency, he was quickly hired as a ‘NOAA Expert’ (unpaid), and the letter from general counsel stating he was indeed covered “for temporary or permanent injury resulting from his participation” arrived a scant three weeks before training began. With his participation green-lighted, the mission moves forward with all seven divers being NOAA employees. One week of dive training was held at Harbor Branch in Ft. Pierce in mid-July of ’93. Danny met the other divers, including one Cheryl Thacker who was then a NOAA Corp Officer and the Assistant Manager of Gray’s Reef NMS.
The 17-day mission (July 26- Aug 11, 1993) is the stuff of adventure novels. The sanctuary manager later wrote (see book Monitor, 2012): “it was one of the worst extended periods of bad weather ever encountered in the sanctuary”. The first storm destroyed mooring lines and literally caused a capstan under pressure to implode. The R/V Edwin Link was hung by the remaining lines stern towards the seas, with waves crashing on the back deck and threatening the submersible. The harsh reality that the entire vessel could sink atop the Monitor was a real possibility. Fortunately, the remaining lines were cut, and the vessel scurried to Morehead City NC to undergo two days of repair. This ordeal was captured on video, entitled “All Hands on Deck” and segments apparently aired on National Geographic Explorer. Once back on the 4 point moor several days later, the manager writes “we suffered rough seas, frequent squalls, waterspouts and poor bottom conditions throughout our time on site”. Much has been written and critiqued about the ’93 mission, but thanks to the dogged determination of divers and crew, it was deemed a success. Four of the five mission objectives were accomplished, it was the first NOAA dives on the Monitor, and it was the first deep mixed gas dives ever conducted by NOAA. The dives were conducted using open circuit (twin 121’s), full face masks, mix blended onsite, with all deco stops shallower than 40’ conducted in a deck decompression chamber. Over concerns with the depth and unfamiliar gas, the divers were required to be tethered to the surface by a communication umbilical. This resulted in additional challenges to already challenging diving conditions, with the 300ft of tether creating significant problems of its own. Regardless, this initial expedition of firsts ushered in a decade of follow-up missions with emerging and better suited technologies.
Danny also participated in numerous missions at the Key Largo NURC facility when it was under UNCW control. His 1995 saturation in the Aquarius habitat was perhaps one of the most unique diving experiences of his career. Monitoring corals in respiration chambers around all photoperiods did not lend itself to conventional surface-to-surface daytime diving. He returned again in 1996 for a week-long dayboat mission, and a final time in 2002 to provide surface support to a follow-up team of saturated VIMS divers. His association with the UNCW/NURC diving program had now spanned a period of over 20 years.
Besides the typical DSO certifications he received the following training: Recompression Chamber Operations and Remote Duty Diving Accident Management (NOAA, 1990); Diver Medical Technician (NOAA, 1993); Recompression Chamber Technician (NOAA, 1994); Aquanaut (UNCW/NURC, 1995); Working Diver (NOAA, 1996); Bauer Compressor Repair and Rebuild Technician (1996); Master SCUBA Repair Technician (International Register of SCUBA Technicians, 2006).
In 2005 Danny was awarded the Abe Davis Safe Cave Diving Award, by the National Speleological Society- Cave Diving Section. His qualifying dive was a 6,000 foot traverse executed the previous year beneath the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Specific to AAUS (pre-retirement) he served on the Board of Directors as Statistics Chair in 92/93. The stats were compiled strictly on paper in 1992, but in 1993 he took a course in dBase III Plus and wrote a program to handle the task. It was distributed to requesting OM’s, and records were stored on floppy disc. He served on more committees and sub-committees over those years than he can remember, but recalls being part of nearly every write or revision of overhead standards. Related to statistics, as a point of reference, he can tell you there were 21 reporting OMs in dive year 1990, and 34 for dive year 1991.
Since his VIMS retirement in 2007, he has been temporarily employed as interim DSO at OMs on three different occasions. He has served on, or as advisor to, four DCBs. He has served the Academy as an Accreditation Inspector, and has assisted with Accreditation Guideline rewrites. He was the full-time Station Manager for UF’s Seahorse Key Marine Lab for 1.5 years. He is currently on an AAUS committee looking into the process of recognizing retired or retiring DSOs, in the hopes of retaining their services and expertise. His service to the AAUS community, and the exemption itself, share the 40-year mark. He is also quietly amassing historical documentation of early east coast scientific diving, since the west coast history is better known. He looks forward to sharing that information soon.
Danny and Cheryl reside in north Florida cave country. His instructorship remains current and he continues to teach overhead diving. He is a volunteer diver at 3 OMs and travels regularly on foreign missions, usually with DSO responsibilities. Over the course of his VIMS career and since, he has helped to professionalize diving safety and scientific diving, mostly through behind-the-scenes efforts helping scientists and principal investigators achieve their research goals safely and efficiently. He has mentored numerous DSOs, young and old alike, and is regularly called on to educate organizations and individuals in the nuances of setting up and managing diving safety programs. He still goes to sea just enough to maintain his USCG MMC credential. He also enjoys the occasional nostalgic dive on a US Divers DA AquaMaster double-hose regulator stamped “Martens and Davis Diving School”, one of the original VIMS regs rescued from a surplus bin long ago, and meticulously maintained by him for nearly 50 years. His desire is to remain active in the AAUS community for some time to come. Given his father is still dispensing sage advice, with any luck, perhaps he can too.
Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement Award
Presented biennially to an individual from the scientific diving community who has made a significant contribution in advancing underwater science and technology. Open to anyone in the scientific diving community. Nominations from the AAUS general membership. Voted and approved by the Past Presidents of AAUS and Past Award recipients. Current BOD Members are not eligible during their term of office. Note: Prior to 2017, this award was offered annually. As of 2017, this award is being offered every two years in rotation with the Conrad Limbaugh Memorial Award for Scientific Diving Leadership.
2021 Awardee: Mark Carr
The 2021 American Academy of Underwater Sciences recipient of the Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement award is Mark Carr. Mark attended UC Santa Cruz where he took the AAUS Scientific Diving course from Dr. Rob Ricker, which allowed him to take Dr. John Pearse’s Kelp Forest Ecology. That one course sealed Mark’s academic trajectory. Upon receiving his BA at UCSC, he worked for Pearse surveying kelp forests prior to the reestablishment of sea otters, then spent several years as a subtidal ecologist and DSO for a marine environmental consulting company, Kinnetic Laboratories. He then pursued his Master’s degree at Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) and San Francisco State University.
Upon finishing at MLML, Mark was a subtidal technician for Drs Valerie Gerard and Wheeler North at the California Institute of Technology, studying the environmental factors that influence the production of giant kelp. While conducting those studies at the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island, he continued studies of the influence of giant kelp on the larval recruitment and species composition of rocky reef fishes. That work led to his doctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), with his advisor, Dr. Sally Holbrook, which demonstrated how spatial and temporal variation in recruitment of kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) was strongly influenced by patterns of giant kelp dynamics.
Mark’s career shifted markedly for the next 10 years as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Mark Hixon at Oregon State University (OSU). Together, with Dr. Jim Beets (Univ. of Hawaii), they conducted studies of the recruitment of coral reef fishes to an experimental array of coral and artificial reefs at the Caribbean Marine Research Center in the Bahamas. That work demonstrated how increased diversity of predator assemblages causes the regulation and persistence of prey fish populations. The experimental array fostered numerous PhD studies for well over a decade. Mark eventually returned to UCSB where, working for Dr. Russ Schmitt, he studied the ecological consequences of alternative approaches to oil platform decommissioning in the Santa Barbara Channel. That work was conducted in collaboration with Don Barthelmess at the Santa Barbara City College’s Marine Diving Technologies Program.
Mark joined the faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz in 1997, where he teaches Kelp Forest Ecology and Marine Ecology with his colleagues, Drs. Pete Raimondi and Kristy Kroeker. To date, Mark has had the great fortune to mentor nine Masters’ and 19 PhD students, most of whom conducted underwater research. Since 1998 and 2004, Mark has been the Chair of the Diving Safety Control Board and Scientific Boating Committee, respectively at UCSC.
Mark has also been a co-principal investigator with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) since its inception in 1998. With Dr. Jennifer Caselle (UCSB), Mark oversees long-term kelp forest surveys along the coast of California. Based on his expertise in rocky reef and kelp forest ecosystems, Mark co-chaired the Science Advisory Team for California’s planning process that established a state-wide network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs). From that experience and his continued studies of the design and evaluation of MPAs, he was a recent member of NOAA’s MPA Federal Advisory Committee and provides scientific advice on MPA programs around the world. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and technical reports.
AAUS Service Awards
AAUS Service Awards are presented to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the Academy. Distinguished service awards are presented to an individual board member of the Academy whom has provided outstanding service to AAUS and its mission. Awards are presented at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Current BOD Members are not eligible during their term of office.