Oregon State students dive into field research

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 11:35 pm | Updated: 6:12 pm, Tue Feb 11, 2014.

Scientific diving program encourages greater student participation in Oregon State University research diving.

As a sea grant institution, Oregon State University made a forward move in the 1990s by implementing a formal scientific diving program in order to enhance research capabilities.

OSU is an organizational member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, which sets the standards for certification at the Scientific Diver-In-Training level.

The scientific diving program at OSU aims to provide comprehensive safety and training standards and guidelines for students to work on successfully being a team of scientific divers. 

The scientific diving program is offered as a graduate-level course during spring and summer terms under the office of research integrity, the university’s research office.

The course is for all students who plan to use scuba diving as a tool for research.

The course covers diving topics related to working in the marine environment, including diving physics, physiology, medicine, rescue, decompression, theory, navigation, environment, marine life, research methods and tools, equipment and university and national scientific diving standards. 

“The scientific diving program is a wonderful way for students to fine-tune their dive skills and gain the practical experience in the underwater environment that serve them well when entering into their respective fields,” said Kevin Buch, the program’s dive safety officer. “It’s a bridge for students to collaborate with OSU researchers and agency partners who are out there working in the underwater world.”

Previous student participants in the scientific diving program at OSU have come from various research fields, which include the department of fisheries and wildlife, the College of Pharmacy, the department of microbiology, Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, Ocean Observatories Initiative, and the marine resources management program.

Students need a minimum of a recreational Advanced Open Water certification from a recognized training agency in order to enroll in OSU’s program. The dive safety officer and the scientific diving program prefer students have a recreational Rescue Diver certification. 

Students may acquire these certifications through the physical activity dive program offered at OSU. However, going to a local diving shop is another way that students obtain the necessary certification prior to enrolling in the scientific diving course.

“Students can take basic diver training at OSU, too — so a non-diving student can learn to dive and progress all the way through to scientific diver here at OSU,” Buch said.

Lindsay Hunter, an OSU 2009 marine biology graduate, completed the scientific diving program certification course. During her studies, Hunter applied her newly cultivated skills by working as a scientific diver for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans.

Hunter is now the dive safety officer assistant for the OSU scientific diving program. 

“For students who might be interested in taking the course, organizations and principal investigators in the field can tell by looking at a student’s resume that he or she has received advanced dive training using scientific methods and tools underwater,” Hunter said. “It’s been a great addition to have on my resume.”

At the end of the scientific diver-training course, students take a three-day field trip up north to the Hood Canal to put their science diving skills to the ultimate test. 

In order for students to acclimate themselves with this new underwater landscape, they dive during the daytime and at night. 

Within this practical field setting, students demonstrate their academic mastery in the areas of diving physics, diving physiology, decompression, their knowledge of diving equipment and their facility when working within different diving environments.

The course lab fee of $413 includes lectures, confined water training, open-water dives and nitrox certification. 

Dacotah-Victoria Splichalova

Science reporter


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