A LITTLE LESSON IN DECOMPRESSION
As an intern with Coral Restoration Foundation™, the first thing one's mind goes to is diving. Diving constitutes over 50% of the responsibilities for a CRF™ intern. Coral Restoration Foundation’s Education Program strives to provide its interns with as many learning opportunities, in and out of the water, as possible within their time here. The internship program is a learning opportunity, as there are so many new skills that interns learn and acquire during their time with us.
Decompression hyperbaric chamber at Mariners Hospital, Tavernier, Florida.
© Don Rhodes/Florida Keys News
Patti Gross, CRF™ Board Member and Dive Safety Officer, plays a big part in reinforcing the interns’ dive skills and education through presentations and pool practice sessions on dive safety. Patti decided to take it one step further this past month and coordinated a tour of the decompression hyperbaric chamber at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, Florida.
"I’ve seen three other chambers before this one and I gotta say, it really is the most unique one. Because it's painted with a mural, it really takes away the fear associated with this big scary machine and makes it much less intimidating," said Krista Laforest, CRF™ lead intern.
A decompression chamber is essentially a large container that raises and lowers the atmospheric pressure inside to treat pressure related injuries, often from SCUBA diving. Scott Fowler, manager of hyperbaric medicine at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, gave our interns an informational tour of the chamber, bringing them inside and showing them the specifics of how the chamber is run. This isn't just an ordinary chamber, however. The outside of the chamber is painted with a beautiful mural, depicting all sorts of marine life.
CRF interns inside of the chamber at Mariners Hospital. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
Although our interns are experienced divers, hearing the stories from Scott Fowler reminded them about how serious DCI injuries can be and how important it is to follow all recommended safety guidelines while diving.
“With diving being such a big part of the job, it really got me thinking about safe diving practices, even if we are only diving in 30 feet of water," said Darcy Justin, CRF™ lead intern.
Many people from all around the world can attest to the truly life-changing and memorable experience it is diving in our beautiful coral nurseries for the first time! It's not everyday that you get to swim through a forest of coral trees and outplant coral to a suffering reef. This is one of the main attractions that draws our group of diverse interns down to the Keys to join our organization.
“I have spent the last six months fantasizing about getting to see CRF's Coral Nursery, so when I found myself diving between tall beautiful trees, my brain couldn't comprehend that I was finally there! I didn't expect to have an audience of fish closely watching my every move while cleaning, hoping to get a tasty snack out of what I was scrubbing off of the trees. Talk about a dream job,” said Maria McCausland, CRF™ intern.
A CRF™ intern cleans a boulder coral tray. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
With eyes tightly glued to the weather app, our first-round interns this season awaited a long month of on-land training before getting in the water with our corals. The unruly weather conditions over the last few weeks had prevented our team of new interns from getting out for their training dives. Recently, however, the winds were finally on our side! Our new interns were able to see our nurseries and reefs, and the magic of the experience did not disappoint. They are all looking forward to a wonderful semester underwater!
“Outplanting for the first time was truly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had," said Ashton, CRF™ intern. "Looking around and seeing nothing but coral rubble at the beginning of the dive, but then by the end of the dive seeing a field of colorful, living coral was incredibly fulfilling. I can’t wait to return to the dive site in a few months to see how much they've grown!”
CRF™ intern Andrew holds a baby boulder coral. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
“After poor diving weather during the first 2.5 weeks of my internship, I was nervous about having to outplant on my first working dive with CRF™. But being on the boat with other lead interns and staff that day, chatting and laughing and enjoying our jobs, it made it easier for me to relax," said Andrew, CRF™ Intern. "And it turned out to be one of the most memorable days ever! Seeing the hundreds of baby corals out on Carysfort Reef next to healthy year old clusters of stag and elkhorn was incredible. I was even lucky enough to look up at the right moment during my third dive to see a dolphin 30 feet away!"
To learn more about internship opportunities at Coral Restoration Foundation™, please visit our website. Thank you to all of our new interns for a great start to this session!
"Heads Up" Editorial Interns
Andrew was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and spent many hours in the Atlantic Ocean swimming and snorkeling as a child. He graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and minors in biology and mathematics. In school, he researched marine gastropods and conducted sea turtle tagging surveys. After graduating, Andrew wanted to dive (no pun intended) into the world of marine conservation and do something to make a tangible difference for the ocean. After completing 50 dives in the Upper Keys and witnessing ghastly coral graveyards, struggling ecosystems, and degraded portions of the Florida Barrier Reef, Andrew was inspired to apply to CRF™ to actively help restore our beloved marine ecosystem. He is super excited to join the CRF™ family and learn a variety of skills both above and below the surface. In his spare time, Andrew loves playing any and all sports and watching Marvel movies on repeat.
Maria, growing up in Seattle, knew from a very young age that she wanted to be an environmentalist. The vastness of the ocean and adventure embodied in marine conservation spoke to her the most, and this passion led her to travel the world to study sustainability, live on a boat for a short time, and receive her scuba certification before graduating high school. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies, where she gained experience in documentary filmmaking, coastal grant reviewing, and was connected with many other environmental and social activists. After being an educator for the last year, Maria is enthralled to be joining CRF™ as the first big step in her hopefully long career with environmental non-profits.