The National Aquarium in Baltimore!

I’m ecstatic to be spending this week in Baltimore with Holly Bourbon at the National Aquarium! After finishing up at the races, Vin Malkoski drove me to Baltimore where I met Holly and her husband Bill at their home. They recently moved to Maryland after Holly accepted a position at the National Aquarium as the Curator of Fishes and Dive Safety Officer. I’m staying with the Bourbon’s and their lovable dog Wally for a week at their home outside the city! Each day I will drive with Holly into work and shadow her, as well as numerous other people on her staff, in order to obtain the full experience of working at the Aquarium!

On my first day, I was stunned by the size and complexity of the Aquarium. It’s situated on a pier in Baltimore Harbor and boasts several distinguishing exhibits including the Blacktip Reef, Puffin Colony, Atlantic Coral Reef, Australian Outback and the Tropical Rainforest exhibit. Holly allotted time for me to explore the Aquarium as a visitor in order to see the exhibits from their perspective as well. Jackie Cooper, the senior aquarist from Holly’s staff, gave me a tutorial on how they fill tanks in the dive locker as well as the logistics associated with diving in an aquarium. She also gave me a tour of the Blacktip Reef, which is the Aquarium’s stunning and newly renovated exhibit on the first level. The exhibit is home to an Indo-Pacific Reef community and is named after the several blacktip reef sharks on display. A few of the distinctive species on display include Reticulated Whiptail Rays, Humphead Wrasse, Zebra Sharks, and a charismatic Green Sea Turtle. Calypso is the Aquarium’s beloved rescue Green Sea Turtle who likely lost her front flipper in a boat strike. Jackie explained that she serves as an excellent educational piece for the visitors. I was able to help target feed the Blacktip Reef Sharks by tossing squid, capelin and mackerel at a colored buoy in the water which the sharks have been trained to feed at. We fed the Reticulated Whiptail Rays with a releasable pole that allowed us to place the food on the end, then pull up on the string when it was in front of the animal to release the food. This method of feeding ensures that all the species in the exhibit are well fed and it also prevents the assertive species from overeating.

Later in the afternoon, Holly and I walked along the waterfront and had our lunch on a bench overlooking the harbor. She explained to me how much she truly loves her job and told me that her passion for working with animals began with a life changing internship she had in college at the New England Aquarium. Holly wanted to ensure that I obtained a rich and full understanding for how the aquarium operates by working with many of her aquarists and having a variety of experiences throughout the week. One of those memorable experiences was diving with Holly in the Atlantic Coral Reef (ACR). The ACR is the Aquarium’s original 335,000-gallon tank that has numerous fish species from the Caribbean. Holly and I went into the tank with the volunteer divers to watch them feed and we completed a checkout dive to certify me to dive in their exhibits! After completing the dive skills, Holly and I went around the tank placing and inspecting quarantine bins. Using coral rubble to hold them bins in position, we carefully placed them into position.

We completed the first live animal transfer of new fish for the exhibit today! I was able to help the Fishes team complete an animal transfer comprising of over 700 tropical reef fish whose introductions were spread out to facilitate their acclimation. After being brought in from the offsite quarantine facility, the aquarists and I measured temperature and O2 before giving the fish “freshwater dips”. This is a process by which the saltwater fish are quickly dipped in a freshwater bath to help kill any lingering bacteria or parasites on their bodies. This prevents spreading infection to other fish on exhibit and since it can be stressful on the animals, we had a recovery bin on standby to allow them to recover before being introduced to the tank. Holly and Jackie were diving in the exhibit and releasing the fish into their quarantine bins. Oscar, one of the resident moray eels, came up to investigate the commotion at the surface and he could sense the nervousness of the newly introduced fish. Holly quickly wrestled the eel, and gently put him around her arm like a scarf and towed him back to the other side of the exhibit. Only Holly could get a Moray eel to cooperate! After completing the dive we brought all the fish gear back to the supply closet and the loading dock to be picked up by the quarantine team. I spent them afternoon with Allan Kottyan in his gallery observing his work! He is responsible for a few different exhibits; one includes the “Maryland Mountains to the Sea” exhibit. It starts with a mountainous freshwater river ecosystem, then continues onwards to a salt marsh, coastal beach community and finally to an offshore reef. Allan said that he has completed numerous collection trips in the area and he prides himself on his work and trying to make his exhibits look as good as possible! All the aquarists here are extremely dedicated to their work and it has been inspiring to meet such dedicated people! Holly and I then headed home to take Wally on a walk to local reservoir and later I accompanied her and Bill for dinner at a Mexican restaurant where Bill used his Spanish and humored Holly and I with his endless jokes. They’re both such good souls and I’m loving every minute I spend with them!

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The 13th International Submarine Races

This year the 13th biannual International Submarine Races (ISR) was held at the Carderock Navy Base in Bethesda, Maryland! The races are held to encourage and promote the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. High schools and colleges from around the world compete to build and race their own human-powered submarines.

The Malkoski family invited me down to Maryland with them to assist the dive team with safety and logistics throughout the week. I met the Malkoski’s at their home in Marion and we began the eight hour drive down the East Coast! Vin, Kim, Amy, Sean and I all carpooled together and we picked up Vin’s friend Neil Churchill, who was also volunteering as a part of the dive staff. Kim Malkoski was the 2008 Boston Sea Rovers Intern and she provided me with useful insight into both the internship and careers in Marine Science. Kim moved to California after graduating to work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where she met her boyfriend Sean Swing. Sean and I had plenty to talk about since he grew up in San Diego! Amy Malkoski and I also shared the common love of photography and we took many photos of the event throughout the week. Amy and Kim (Or May-mer and Kim-Kim, as they jokingly say) both have an excellent sense of humor and I absolutely loved spending time with them this past week. Vin Malkoski is as genuine as they come and both he and Neil were excellent mentors to me throughout the races.

After arriving in Maryland, we spent the first day setting up and getting ready for the teams! The Carderock Navy Base has a testing pool that the races utilizes for the submarines. The basin is twenty feet deep and 1/4 mile long; this provides the submarines with ample room to be raced. Charlotte George was the coordinator of the races at Carderock and she served as the liaison between the Navy and ISR. Without her help, ISR would not have maintained such a strong relationship with the Navy. Jim Corey was the announcer of the races and he also was the designated speaker for many of the ISR events that week. Jim has a deep passion for the races because of the good will and sportsmanship that they generate. Jim was able to electrify the races with his quick wit and humor over the speakers.

Once the races began there were teams from all over the world present! The international teams came from The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Oman, New Zealand, etc. The teams that represented the U.S. came from Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Texas and Michigan. All of the teams had to drive or ship their submarines to Maryland and they set up tents outside to work on the submarines. For some teams, simply being able to race their sub once all week was a victory.

As a part of the dive staff, it was our responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of all the racers. From acting as a lifeguard, screaming “no running” to checking tanks for their VIPs and Hydros, I was involved in a variety of tasks throughout the week! Kim and Sean preformed check-out dives with many of the new divers or those who needed a refresher. I was able to shadow them as we watched the team members preform their basic open water dive skills in the pool. A key component of the safety aspect of the races involves keeping track of who is in the water at all times. ISR utilizes a system of name badges that everyone wears out of the water and drops off at a table before going in. The woman who runs the table is named Barbara and I spent time at her station learning how she keeps everyone safe. She has been working at ISR for many years now but has superb vision, hearing and memory; all of which helps to ensure that everyone is accounted for.

Throughout the week I was able to dive in the basin and watch as the submarines were lowered into the water and brought to the starting line by the group of divers from each team. The pilots were escorted to the bottom on a diver’s air  and then they crawled into the submarine where they had their own cylinders to breathe from. The races themselves were exhilarating for the teams since they had worked for months just to get to the starting line. The entire basin would erupt in applause whenever a team would cross the finish line, since everyone knew just how much dedication it took to get to that point.

The atmosphere surrounding the races was extremely positive and all week there was an overwhelming sense of community and sportsmanship. Regardless of the country or placement of each team, everyone rallied when they were successful and was supportive when they weren’t. I loved every minute that I spent at the races because of the unique opportunity it afforded me to witness such immense human ingenuity and teamwork. Meeting racers from around the world and spending time with the Malkoski family was certainly the highlight of my week. See you in two years Submarine Races!!

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Diving Fort Wetherill & Nitrox Certification

The past few days I spent with Rick Simon in Coventry, Connecticut finishing my Nitrox certification and getting in some more dives! I drove down to Connecticut and met Rick for his open water night class at a local YMCA. We reviewed some skills in the pool and I was able to shadow him while he was teaching the class. It was excellent being able to speak with aspiring divers in Rick’s class! The next day we drove to Jamestown, Rhode Island to go diving at Fort Wetherill. Diving here with Rick was nostalgic because I completed all of my open water certification dives here in 2012 with Sarah Driscoll and Bill Murphy! While diving we encountered a Torpedo Ray on the bottom; this is not an animal that you want to disturb since they have the potential to generate up to 220 volts of electricity! We saw numerous local fish species hiding along the side of the cliff which was covered with dense algae and kelp. After the dive we drove back to Connecticut and I took my certification test for Nitrox at Divers Cove in Essex! It was a great few days with Rick in southern New England and I’m very grateful to him and his wife Erin for hosting me again!
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Backscatter Underwater Photo & Video Center

The other day I visited Mike Lodise at Backscatter Underwater Photo & Video in Derry, New Hampshire! Mike welcomed me into his shop and we organized all of the underwater camera gear that Backscatter donates every year to the internship! From a GoPro to a Gates underwater housing and Sony camera, Backscatter generously provides the intern with the necessary equipment to document our experiences throughout the summer. Mike was very thorough and showed me exactly how all of the gear worked! He also gave me numerous helpful tips for keeping my gear organized and in good condition. After working with the cameras and gear we talked extensively about diving in New England and underwater photography in general. We even discussed going diving at Nubble Light in Maine sometime this summer! I loved speaking with Mike and I’m incredibly grateful to him for his unparalleled diligence and generosity. I look forward to seeing him and the people at Backscatter again soon! backscattewr

Quincy Rehabilitation Center

Today I drove to Quincy, Massachusetts to complete my time with the New England Aquarium and visit their Animal Rehabilitation and Care Center! Dan Dolan met me outside the Navy Shipyard and he introduced me to Adam Kennedy from the Sea Turtle rescue team. He gave me a tour of the facility and I met his staff of vets, interns and volunteers who take care of the animals on site. The Quincy Rehabilitation Center is primarily used for either quarantined animals or those that were rescued and are being rehabilitated to be released into the wild. There were a number of Kemp Ridley Sea Turtles as well as one Hawksbill Turtle on site. All of the turtles were rescued from Cape Cod Bay, where many turtles are stranded each year due to the hook-like topography of the Cape. Turtles ride the Gulf Stream north each summer in search of food in the plentiful waters of the Gulf of Maine. However, since turtles are exothermic they can experience cold stun and hypothermia in the Autumn when the water cools down. Many turtles are caught in the arm of the Cape and cannot escape in time to survive the cold. NEAQ had their largest rescue season ever this year with several hundred turtles. They have approximately a 90% success rate with the rehabilitation and the turtles are then released back into the wild. The Quincy center has large basins for the turtles to swim in and they are all labeled with marker on their shell by the order in which they were rescued. Turtle 479 had been injured by a boat strike and was having difficulty staying afloat in the water column so the vets were going to operate on her this weekend to remove a portion of her infected lung. I sincerely enjoyed being able to work with the other  interns at the Rehab Center too and hearing about their similar interests. Thank you to everyone in Quincy for being so welcoming and sincere!

That evening I met Dan Dolan and his wife Donna at their home in Hingham and we went out for dinner to wrap up the week! They are both incredibly personable and sincere people and I loved being able to spend time with them. We had dinner with their daughter at a restaurant near the water and then walked around to explore the waterfront. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to meet Dan and his wife, for they are some of the most authentic and genuine people I have ever met. I look forward to seeing them again soon and I cannot thank Dan enough for everything he has done for me and the internship.

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Marine Mammal Center & Giant Ocean Tank

My next stop at the New England Aquarium was the Marine Mammal Center! I met the staff that morning in their office and we began the day by preparing all the necessary food for the mammals on exhibit! NEAQ has a recently renovated Marine Mammal Center sponsored by New Balance that overlooks the Boston Harbor. The exhibit is home to both Northern Fur Seals and California Sea Lions. Everyday there are multiple training sessions which to help stimulate the minds of these highly intelligent animals. In addition to the Marine Mammal Center, the Aquarium also has an outdoor Harbor Seal exhibit in the front of the building.  I assisted the staff in both training and feeding the Harbor Seals, which quickly responded to the commands given by the trainers. The seals happily toss dog toys and ice treats around in the water and curiously investigate the visitors on the other side of the glass. They listen attentively to the trainers and watch their gestures before preforming the desired command. From speaking to kissing to blowing bubbles, these seals can respond to over two hundred commands!

Later on in the afternoon I was able to watch one of the training shows for the California Seal Lions and Northern Fur Seals. The crowd was ecstatic and loved seeing the marine mammals on display. In addition to the show, the trainers take this opportunity to educate the public and promote awareness about the issues facing marine life. Afterwards, the trainers brought me inside to meet Ursula, one of the oldest fur seals at the Aquarium. She is blind and has aged significantly but the Aquarium staff does an excellent job at keeping her happy and healthy. I also met Commander, a 550 lb Northern Fur Seal who was extremely well behaved and intelligent. I was able to help with his feeding and training session as well! Overall, it was a phenomenal day working with the seals and sea lions; I’m very grateful to everyone in the Marine Mammals Center for making it all possible!

Today I had the unprecedented opportunity of diving in the Giant Ocean Tank with Dan Dolan and my family was able to visit me as well! It was my last day at the main building and I was determined to make the most of it. That morning I met Dan and we helped the Dive Staff prepare for the day by conducting food preparation and target feeding the animals on exhibit. My parents, grandparents and three little sisters all drove into Boston so that they could see me dive in the Giant Ocean Tank and Dan helped film me in the exhibit! It was an incredibly  fulfilling and memorable day that I will never forget. For my family it was a dream to be able to watch me dive in the tank and my sisters were simply elated. I cannot thank Dan Dolan enough for being so diligent and helpful all week. I have learned far more than I ever anticipated and I look forward to returning to NEAQ in the future!

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Animal Medical Center & Penguin Exhibit

Yesterday I spent the day with the NEAQ Animal Medical Center’s veterinarians. Dr.Charlie Innis and Dr.Julie Cavin welcomed me into their medical center and gave me an inside look at what being a veterinarian is all about! Charlie has an entire staff dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of care for the animals at the Aquarium. I immediately became part of the team when a penguin came into the medical center for an endoscopy. The penguin was having difficulty swallowing and had been ignoring her food recently so they wanted to examine her digestive tract. Once the bird had been given anesthesia she calmed down and a small camera was inserted into her esophagus, which relayed a live video stream to the monitor in the examining room. It turned out that she had ulcers in her stomach and the vets prescribed her medication and altered her diet to improve her condition. This penguin was over thirty years old, which is a very impressive age for a bird that only lives to about fifteen in the wild. Later in the day I helped the medical staff with the necropsy of a Bangghi Cardinalfish that had an inflated swim bladder. Aquariums and zoos often preform necropsies to determine the cause of death in order to prevent a similar situation from occurring with another one of their animals on exhibit. The next project for the day was draining the harbor seal exhibit in order to give Amelia, one of the beloved harbor seals on display, an annual check-up! She was lifted out of her exhibit in a makeshift dog crate and then we gave her a full examination in the marine mammals center!

Today I was working with the staff from the Penguin exhibit! I met Andrea in the penguin office and she spent the morning with me conducting food preparation with the volunteers and teaching me about penguin behavior and physiology. We then got suited up to feed the penguins in the exhibit! NEAQ has three distinct species on display including the Rockhopper, African and Little Blue penguins. Each species faces unique threats in the wild depending upon their native range, which includes Patagonia, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand. Shifting ocean currents due to climate change and overfishing by humans threaten all three species. Many populations are also threatened by invasive species that compete with the penguins or hunt their eggs. Penguins face many threats around the world and the Aquarium is working diligently to collaborate with other zoos and aquariums to promote a healthy captive breeding program. NEAQ is also making a difference by educating the public about the actions that they can take locally which translate into a collective global impact.

After learning more about penguins Andrea and I got suited up to feed the birds on exhibit! Wading through the frigid water and being surrounded by squawking penguins was simply exhilarating. I was able to help Andrea feed the birds and keep a tally of which ones had already eaten. Every bird is named and they each have a wing bracelet with a unique color and pattern it. The males have their bands on the left wing and the females on the right wing (The staff says its because girls are always right). I had a waterproof clipboard that listed each bird’s name and I kept a tally of how many capelins each bird consumed. Some of them were feisty and did not hesitate to nip at our wetsuits but most of them were well behaved and extremely curious. I loved working with the penguins today and I sincerely appreciate all the help from the Andrea and the penguin staff!

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Cold Water Marine Gallery & GOT Dive Team

I spent yesterday with in the Cold Water Marine gallery at the New England Aquarium with aquarist Bill Murphy. I first met Bill a few years ago at the teen dive program that I was certified through at the Aquarium! It was a pleasure having the opportunity to spend time with Bill and seeing how he operates the gallery from behind-the-scenes. In the morning we first walked around on the public side of the exhibit to examine the animals and clean the glass. Bill told me about how the various species are collected and the importance of proper care while transferring them to and from other aquariums and zoos. There are many Pacific Northwest and Northeast species on exhibit. Brightly colored anemones and echinoderms made the exhibits pop and I was fascinated by the unique species on display such as the lumpfish! I was very impressed by the attention to detail that Bill put into his work by ensuring that every animal is properly cared for. I worked with his intern Montana, who is studying Marine Biology at BU, to target feed the animals in the afternoon. We placed bits of capelin and squid on the end of a retractable line and individually fed many of the fish in the tanks. Bill also has many rare lobsters on display that were donated to the aquarium from blue lobsters and calico lobsters to a humungous lobster affectionately known as “Mark Clawburg.” Thank you Bill for welcoming me into your gallery!

Today I shadowed the GOT Dive Team and spent the morning with Sarah Taylor, who certified me to dive through the Aquarium’s teen dive program. Sarah is a phenomenal human being in all aspects and it’s hard to not enjoy spending time with her! We talked extensively about the Aquarium’s various conservation efforts and collection programs that she takes part in including trips to the Bahamas to find fish species for the GOT! I was able to see how they fill the tanks on site at the aquarium and learn more about the history of the Aquarium and it’s dive team. Sarah gave me a tour of the dive office and the food prep room as well! I was then able to help with the exam of a cownose ray which needed to have it’s barb clipped. Stingrays have barbs on the ends of their tails which grow in a similar manner to our fingernails and the Aquarium staff clips the barbs to keep them short so that they do not harm the other fish or the divers. I was able to help lift the stingray out of the water and into a holding tank. Dr.Charlie Innis and Sherrie Floyd then poured anesthesia into the water to calm down the ray so they could preform the examination. After clipping his barb, the ray was released back into the exhibit with the help of Hollis and Connor, both Northeastern co-op interns. I sincerely enjoyed spending time with the dive team today and I look forward to returning on Saturday! Thank you for everything Sarah; especially for introducing me to diving!

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The New England Aquarium – Shark Transfer and Giant Ocean Tank

My passion for our oceans began during the time I spent as a child at the New England Aquarium. Returning to Central Wharf in Boston feels like coming home in many ways, given that I participated in numerous programs at the aquarium as a child and volunteered throughout middle school and high school. My SCUBA career also began at the New England Aquarium since I was certified to dive by Sarah Taylor who heads their teen dive program. After two years of living in California, it was good to be back at the Aquarium. This week was invigorating thanks to the hard work by Dan Dolan, who worked tirelessly to ensure that I witnessed all aspects of the Aquarium and forged a deep understanding for how the Aquarium and it’s diverse departments operate. I had the unprecedented opportunity to shadow several departments of the Aquarium including the Giant Ocean Tank Dive Team, Cold Water Marine Gallery, Veterinary Services and Animal Medical Center, Penguin Gallery, Marine Mammals Center and the Quincy Rehabilitation and Rescue Center. Each of these entities within the Aquarium have their own unique role to play in ensuring that the Aquarium carries out it’s mission of protecting the blue planet. I am incredibly grateful to Dan for his undivided support and kindness this week at the Aquarium and I feel very, very lucky to have him as a mentor.

On my first day at the Aquarium I met Dan Dolan outside at 6:00 AM to participate in the Bonnet-head shark transfer. Dan wanted for me to be able to experience this rare animal transfer and allowed me to help the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT for short) Dive team assist them in moving two new sharks into the Giant Ocean Tank. I met Dan Laughlin and Sherrie Floyd from the GOT Dive Team that morning too and they were both very helpful throughout the week and offered to assist me in any way possible. They helped me fill an animal transfer container with sea water inside the elevator to send down to the first floor to pick-up the sharks from the transfer truck. It was my job to hold the shark sling and help the other two staff members carry the shark out into the tank. I felt humbled to be able to help during such a pivotal animal transfer and I enjoyed seeing the sharks acclimate to their new home during the week.

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Top left: Me in front of the Aquarium on my first day! Top Right: Transferring the sharks into the tank! Bottom Left: The recently released Bonnethead!

Later that morning Dan gave me the grand tour of the dive office and the behind-the-scenes area associated with the GOT. They have their own compressor for refilling tanks, showers, changing rooms, food prep room and a splash room to prepare their gear. Before the renovations at the Aquarium, the dive team had cramped quarters since the Aquarium was built in the 1960s and had limited space. He explained to me how much more efficient the Aquarium has become thanks to the sweeping renovations.

I was then able to help in the kitchen with the food preparation for the GOT! I observed as they meticulously weighed and measured the food for the animals. Each species on exhibit has a distinct diet and must be fed according to their unique needs. From squid to capelin to lettuce, the Aquarium uses restaurant grade quality food for their animals to ensure proper health and strong nutrition. I learned during my time at NEAQ that individually feeding the animals allows the aquarists to observe any physical or behavioral changes overtime which is critical to understanding their health. Target feeding the animals is a commonly used method of training individual animals to accept food from the aquarists which allows them to monitor the amount of food each animal consumes. Many animals also receive vitamins and I helped make “squid tacos” which consists of squid stuffed with capelin, shrimp and vitamins! I had the opportunity to help target feed Myrtle, the charismatic 90 year old and 550 lb green sea turtle in the GOT! She eats a hearty diet of lettuce, brussel sprouts and broccoli which mimics the sea grass she would consume in the wild and provides her with proper nutrition. I was able to stand on the platform and toss food to Myrtle at the surface with Hollis Jones, a Northeastern co-op student and GOT diver. Hollis helped me thought the week at the Aquarium and was my “go-to” intern to ask any questions. She was incredibly helpful and eager to show me how the dive team operates and the importance of maintenance and care of the GOT and it’s diverse animals.

Dan and I then got ready for my first dive in the GOT! I had dreamed of diving in the GOT since I was a young boy and I never could have imagined that someday I would be able to go diving in the Aquarium that helped shaped my love of the ocean. The Giant Ocean Tank has 200,000 gallons of filtered and heated Boston Harbor sea water and the tank is 25 feet deep and 40 feet across with a large Bahamian reef fiberglass structure in the center. To prepare for the dive, I set up my Undersea Divers gear and slipped into my new wetsuit before walking out onto the platform with Dan. After explaining the do’s and dont’s of diving in the GOT, we both plunged into the water with several onlooking visitors waving and smiling at us. Once we were underwater I was fascinated by the colorful display of marine life swimming against the current within the tank. From curious pufferfish to beguiling moray eels, I could not wrap my head around the sheer number of fish in the tank. Dan and I began to swim around the tank and through the coral structures within the tank. Astonishingly, you can easily see the visitors through the glass and my favorite part about diving in the tank was placing my hand on the glass for the children to touch. This was a fulfilling and humbling experience because I knew that I was once that starry-eyed child on the other side of the glass. After about a 25 minute dive that consisted of scratching the turtles and marveling at the southern stingrays, Dan and I headed to the surface. I was ecstatic because I could not believe that I had just fulfilled a lifelong dream and I am forever grateful to Dan Dolan for making that dream come true. What a phenomenal first day at the Aquarium

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Dan Dolan and I preparing to dive! 

Simon says…

This past week I had the opportunity to enhance my dive skills with the 2005 Sea Rovers intern Rick Simon! I stayed with Rick and his wife Erin on their farm in the quaint town of Coventry, Connecticut. In addition to diving, I was also able to help care for their horses, dogs, cows, and chickens; this was a fascinating experience considering that I had never lived on a farm before. I was even able to help pick up their new horse for Erin’s stable during my stay!

Rick served as a phenomenal mentor throughout the week because of his sincere willingness to help me refine my dive skills and prepare for the summer ahead! While it rained profusely for the first two days, I was able to work on my Nitrox certification and learn more about the operations behind Manta Industries. Rick is the proud owner of Manta Industries, a dive manufacturing company that produces high quality and American made dive products. I sincerely enjoyed learning more about the operations behind a dive manufacturing business and hearing about Rick’s dive experience. Both Rick and his father are proficient cave, wreck and technical divers so I enjoyed hearing their fascinating stories!

On the first day of diving we went to a reservoir in Essex to practice my skills and get more comfortable in the water. After setting up all of my gear, I slipped into my brand new DUI Dry Suit that Faith Ortins fitted me for at the Sea Rovers Clinic in March! The dry suit was custom made and sent all the way from San Diego to Boston! I am extremely impressed with durability and quality of the suit and I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful piece of dive equipment.  Thank you to Faith and everyone at DUI for your very generous donation to the internship!

Once we completed our dive we headed to Divers Cove where Rick teaches as a Dive Instructor. It was there that I met Ed and Chris Rosacker who run the dive shop and specialize in dry suit repair. Ed showed me around his shop and generously donated a dive bag to me for the internship! He also briefed me on the history of diving in the area and helped me learn more about how to care for my excellent DUI dry suit!

The next day Rick took me to his fathers boat Simon Says… to go on our first ocean dive! Eric Simon was incredibly helpful and genuine throughout the entire week and was kind enough to take me out on his boat to go diving with Rick. We dove at the Stonington bottle dump, which is an area along the coast of Stonington,CT where the bottom is littered with old bottles and trash from the late 1800s. After jumping into the water we descended to the bottom where we began feeling for bottles in the sand under the kelp. After a few tries, we began finding bottles in the sand and Rick found an old Whiskey bottle and I found a glass ink bottle. That evening, we returned to Divers Cove to fill our tanks and Rick taught a dive class that I was able to listen in on.

On my last day in Connecticut, I worked with Rick on my Nitrox class and said goodbye to everyone before heading home for my internship at the aquarium tomorrow!  Thank you very much to Rick, Eric and Erin for being so welcoming and pleasant during my stay in Connecticut! 11390247_1040304322654340_5933472612146866581_n 11393166_1040304369321002_5176269276273962472_n 11406952_1040304459320993_5249127111548116700_n 11425132_1040304295987676_184712103591925676_n