Ultrasounds, Indian food, Rebreathers..and Volleyball?


I worked with the research department at DAN today with Dr. Neil Pollock and his two interns, Jenna and Stephanie. I learned about some of the different projects they are researching for and working on, and the procedures that they use for gathering their data. Some of their projects include the flying after diving study and setting fitness to dive parameters. In both studies they use ultrasounds to look for nitrogen bubbles in the hearts of the divers. Bubbles occurring on the right side of the heart get cycled through the lungs and are not harmful. However, if there are too many bubbles, some of them may end up on the left side of the heart wear they end up flowing out into the body. Which is bad, and indicates a case of the bends.  While explaining these concepts to me, Dr. Pollock actually had an ultrasound machine with recordings of hearts with various levels of bubbles in them. It was really fascinating. I never knew that ultrasound machines were used for anything other than looking at babies. After we finished going over their projects, Jenna and Stephanie actually showed me how to use an ultrasound machine, and I got to see Stephanie’s heart! It was SO cool. But, don’t ever let anyone tell you that performing an ultrasound is easy! They practice for hours, and I would not have been able to get the picture I wanted without them showing me what to do!

After lunch (I had Indian food for the first time! It was spicy, but really good!), Dr. DeNoble gave a presentation on the hazards of closed circuit rebreathers. I really enjoyed it, especially because I don’t really know anything about rebreathers. Once he finished his presentation, everyone gave him feedback and critiques, which was another really good learning experience for me.

A little later I spent some time with Jeanette, who explained how DAN gathers data on dive profiles from all over the world. There is this little keychain device that records depths and times that divers can take down with them. And then, once they have finished their dives, they just fill out a form with the who’s, where’s, and I’m ok’s, and send it back to DAN for processing. I had never heard of this, but I now have my very own device, so I’m going to test it out in Newfoundland next week!

We actually finished today off with a few rounds of volleyball. (Which, by the way, is probably the sport I fail at the most). Every Tuesday a bunch of the DAN employees, and a few of their cohorts from Duke, get together for some friendly competition. I was no where near the best, but, I had a ton of fun playing with everyone, and I even scored a few points!

DAN @ Duke University’s Hyperbaric Chambers


The control panel for the chambers...Beam me up Scotty!

Four a.m. flights are most definitely not anyone’s first travel choice, but I was psyched to get on my plane. Destination: Divers Alert Network, North Carolina. My host, Patty Seery, picked me up a few hours later, and we finished the commute to the DAN office! Patty gave me a quick run-down on the history of DAN, then took me around and gave me the grand tour, introducing me to all of the people that I would get to work with this week.

Hyperbaric Chamber Alpha at Duke University Medical Center

They have a really fun crowd of people, and I can’t wait to get to work with them. But, today Patty wanted to take me to the Duke University Medical Center introduce me to Mike Natoli, and show me their Hyperbaric chamber facility.

One of the chambers set-up for an exercise experiment at altitude on mice.

It’s HUGE! They have five chambers that are all interlocked together so that you could walk from one chamber to another if all the doors were open. They don’t normally keep all the doors open because they are doing many different things at once, and at different pressures. The multiple doors dividing the chambers allow for this so that medical treatments can be performed in one room of the chamber, while a completely unrelated experiment is being performed in another room.

Me and Mike in one of the chambers!

The doors are also useful when a treatment or experiment is being done for a long period of time and people need to switch off. An adjoining chamber can be pressurized to equal the experimental chamber, then the interlocking door can be opened, people can switch, transfer equipment and whatnot, then shut the door, and depressurize to normal atmospheric levels, and go on with their day. It’s a truly ingenious design.

Me, sitting at the door of one of the chambers.

I learned a lot about several of the projects that are currently being worked on, and saw a chamber in action for medical treatment. I also found out that the chambers can not only be pressurized to depth, they can also be pressurized for different altitudes, allowing for studies on events such as flying after diving to be performed.

Mike, modeling in front of the compressed air cylinders...there are more rows of cylinders behind this one!

It takes a LOT of air and machinery to pressurize these chambers! And, one of the chambers is set-up with a small pool in it. During my tour, I actually got to go inside a few of the chambers, but we didn’t pressurize any of them. It was a fantastic tour, but I hope I never need to go back for a treatment! 😉

Wait. There’s MORE!?


All of cleaning the big tank! Notice our Sponge Skates! 😀

*SCREECH* Hold your horses! We’re not going to NC just yet! Turns out I get to have one more New England Aquarium day! Just, with a bit of a twist..I don’t have to leave Duxbury! Apparently the NEA has a holding tank in Duxbury! It’s mainly used as a porpoise recovery rescue tank, but they were keeping the three sharks from the Giant Ocean Tank, two sand tigers and a nurse, there for a little while this summer, and they needed some volunteers to help clean the tank.

Cleaning the algae! Sponge skates and scrubber!

Thirty-two foot diameter, 8 foot deep tank covered in algae? Naturally, I HAD to help 😉 We had an absolute BLAST! Picture about 6 or 8 people in this algae covered tank with sponges on their feet, scrubbers in their hands, good music, and a hose, and you will get a pretty good idea of how our day went. We started in a green tank, and ended in a shiny yellowish colored tank. AND, we found a ton of shark teeth in the process! It was like panning for gold…in algae. Same thing, I swear!

Me, looking at the Brown Nose Shark Tank.

Once the tank was spiffy clean, we ate lunch, and then I got invited to ANOTHER New England Aquarium location by Mr. Dan Dolan! They have a facility in Quincy, and he was in charge of helping to feed the two brown nose sharks that they were holding there. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, and off we went! The building was once used for building ships, so it was HUGE. There were several of the same types of tanks as in the Duxbury facility, and they held a bunch of different critters. Most of them were rays, southern and cownose, and then a few sharks.

Cuttlefish! So cute!

This is where all of the sharks and rays for the touch tank were kept before going on exhibit, and they have a few of the ones that are still too young there. They were SO cute! They also had some rays there in the process of being shipped to other aquariums. And, in another room, they had a few tanks where they raised some corals, and a bunch of little baby cuttlefish! I wanted to take them home they were so adorable!

Me, preparing the food for the brown nose shark feeding.

I got to help prepare the food for the two female brown nose sharks that Dan was there to help feed. They eat a lot of squid, herring, and capelin. The sharks get fed by two divers that go in the water and put the food on the end of a small spear stick for the sharks to take. It was pretty neat to watch, and I even managed to get some shots and footage of it with my little waterproof Olympus Camera. After the sharks were fed, Dan continued to show me around the facility.

Brown Nose Shark

Then, just when I thought I had seen it all,  Dan opened another door that lead to a room almost as big as the one we just came from! It was FULL of a bunch of tanks sitting on a platform, that were like 3footx3foot cubes, with open tops. And, what was inside of them you may be wondering? …TURTLES! They were all fairly young turtles that had been caught against Cape Cod while swimming down the east coast. The aquarium rescues the turtles, rehabilitates them if they need it, and then releases them back into the ocean! I never knew how many other facets of the marine world the New England Aquarium has its hands in! I can’t wait till I get to go back in the future!

Penguins. And Turtles. And Sharks. OH MY!


Our Harry Potter Names!

Ok, so my day today was something out of a fantasy book! I started the day off working with the penguins and today’s interns and volunteers. As many people might know the last movie in the Harry Potter series came out today (i.e. at midnight), and, in honor of that we all assigned ourselves characters and were known as those characters for the rest of the day. AND THEN we went in and fed the penguins and cleaned their exhibit. I worked with the African penguins today, and there are over 60 of them! It was crazy! I’m very impressed that the interns know all of their bracelets and can keep them straight. Once we were finished with the penguins I had to help wash fish buckets, shower-off, grab something to eat, wave hello to my mom and grandma, run upstairs to the Giant Ocean Tank staff room, set-up my scuba gear, pull-on my Aqualung 3mm, then set-up my Gates and Olympus cameras! By then I had a few minutes to teach Paul how to use my cameras so we could each have one, and then we were putting our fins on for dive number two in the GOT!

Me, using the Gates camera to get some video!

Can I just say, whoever invented cameras is a GENIUS! Paul and I switched-off using my Gates video camera and Olympus camera for stills, and got some fantastic shots and footage! I am SOOO glad that I had the cameras! The dive was amazing. I got a lot of close-ups of the critters, including some of the sharks! They were RIGHT next to me! I had a lot of fun waving at kids and my mom and grandma on the other side of the glass, and Myrtle even came down to get her back rubbed again! Paul caught it on video! We also went down to one of the places that pumps water into the tank, and sprinkled fistfuls of sand over it, causing the sand to shoot out in a cloud and float back to the bottom.

Me, using the Gates camera to film in the GOT!

BUT, it turns out that the fish and rays really like the feeling of the sand against their scales, so they would come over to get a “shower.” It was pretty fun, and they would get really close. While we were giving them there shower I found a sand toger shark tooth! A big, whole one! I was so excited that I swam up to the glass and showed my mom, grandma, a little boy, and his mom! They got really excited too, and actually came up and met me when I got out of the tank! The little boy was so happy, that I gave him one of the teeth. It was an awesome dive!

Me, taking pictures of the Rockhoppers using the Olympus camera!

Once I got out of the tank though, it was time to jump back into the swing of things. I had to break down all my gear and cameras, get out of my 3mm, run down to Penguins, help sort fish, get back into that wetsuit (the penguin water is MUCH colder), and then it was round two of penguins! This time though, I brought my little Olympus camera into the exhibit to take some pictures. Oh.My. Gosh. The penguins thought it was better than fresh fish! Especially the juvenile Africans!

The picture that I took of the Rockhoppers with the Olympus camera!

They were swimming all around me, trying to tug and peck at the camera. Thankfully the housing protected it very well, and I was able to fend them off by pushing them away gently with my arms. BUT, it did allow me to get some pretty great shots and even a few little videos. When it was time to get out, I didn’t want to leave, and the penguins didn’t want to let me! However, I did have to get out, take my final shower, and say all of my goodbye’s and thank you’s. Then it was time to fade back into the civilian world with a whole new appreciation for how everyone works together to make this world go round. I’m definitely going to miss the aquarium and everything that comes with it, but I’m excited to head to NC and spend a week working with the Divers Alert Network. And so we go! 😀

Is that a shark jaw!?


Ahh! So much to do, so little time! I really got a good sense of the New England Aquarium today while working with the Visitor Education Department. My host for the day, Dave, introduced me to a ton of the volunteers and interns, gave me a schedule that had me moving around about every 30mins with at least one other intern/volunteer, and let me go! It was SO much fun! I got to be an educator at the Edge of the Sea Exhibit where visitors can pet and hold a variety of critters including starfish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and horseshoe crabs.

The Penguin Exhibit

I really enjoyed answering questions and seeing people’s faces light-up when they held or touched one of the animals, and I felt like my shift there was over before it even started! Every half hour or so after that I moved on to a different part of the aquarium and helped educate visitors. I walked around a few times during the day with a bio fact, which is some kind of marine related object. When it’s your turn do bio facts you get to go to this huge cabinet that has all these different marine bones and artifacts in it, pick one, read it’s bio fact card, then go somewhere in the aquarium with it and walk around showing it to people and answering questions. It’s also a good way for us to learn more at the same time. I picked a sand tiger shark jaw, and my partner picked a nurse shark jaw, which are the two types of sharks that are currently in the Giant Ocean Tank, so we got a lot of questions. It was so neat to see how big the eyes of the little kids would get when they saw us walking around with these shark jaws. The other three places that I got to divide my time between where the penguins, Giant Ocean Tank, and Shark and Ray Touch Tank.

One of the Sand Tiger Sharks in the Giant Ocean Tank

At each place we would stand or walk around the exhibit offering to answer questions, and then fielding as many as we could. These were probably my favorite three places to be assigned to, because I learned a ton from the people asking the questions. I was able to answer many of their questions thanks to everything that Paul Leonard taught me, and all that I have learned myself from school and many of my past hosts from this summer. It felt so good to be able to share all of my knowledge! It was a crazy day, but I had a lot of fun, and learned as much as I told! 🙂

Vets, brussel sprouts, caves, and…SHARKS!?


The vets working with Myrtle, the green sea turtle.

Yesterday at the New England Aquarium I spent my day around the base of the Giant Ocean Tank(GOT) in the penguin exhibit. Today I climbed a few flights of stairs and spent my day working in and around the Giant Ocean Tank !  Normally everyone helps prepare all the food in the morning, then there is a feeding at 10am, but today was a little different because the vets were there to do check-ups on some of the critters. This doesn’t happen that often, so I was really excited to be a part of it. We had to get a big crate that they lower down into the tank via a pully/lift system so that they could safely weigh and contain the animals they were working on. They weighed and gave the turtles shots (Myrtle weighs 554 pounds!), clipped the barbs on the cownose rays (they grow like finger nails), and did a check-up on one of their moray eels. It was a really exciting way to start the day!

Me, feeding Myrtle Brussel Sprouts! Her favorite! 🙂

Once the vets were finished it was feeding time, and all the animals were hungry because it was high-past breakfast by now for them. I got to go out on the platform and feed Myrtle, their 75-80ish year old green sea turtle. She is quite the character, and loves following the divers around, so she gets fed from her own special platform. Her diet consists of a bunch of different veggies, from cabbage to broccoli, but her favorite treats are brussels sprouts! I’m sure there are more than a few kids that would be willing to donate their sprouts to her! 😛

Once we finished feeding, it was time to get ready for my dive in the Giant Ocean Tank! I was SO excited! And, my mom and grandmother were in the aquarium, so they were going to get to watch! Paul went in with me as my guide, and we had an absolutely fantastic time! The water was SO much warmer than the penguin exhibit yesterday because the GOT is a Caribbean environment. One of the number one rules that you have to follow in the tank is that the animals always have the right of way. So, when you are getting ready to take your giant stride into the tank, you have to watch and be patient for a gap so you don’t accidentally land on one of the animals.

Me and Paul Leonard gearing-up for our dive in the GOT!

Once we were in the tank I followed Paul as we swam around the giant fiberglass coral structure a few times to get the layout of the tank. I hadn’t realized how many tunnels and caves ran through the coral structure! The ones down towards the bottom were more than big enough to swim through, and there was a tiny cavern in the middle where you could look all around an up at the different exits and entrances.  Most of the time there was someone looking back at you! The bigger fish like hanging inside the caves sometimes, and you can see the smaller ones hovering around outside. It is definitely a good, unique, and rarely seen vantage point of the tank.

Me, scratching Myrtle's back in the Giant Ocean Tank.

When we were swimming out around the coral it was like being a part of an extremely active reef. There were fish EVERYWHERE, and if you looked closely you had a chance of finding one of the four freen moray eels hiding in the crevices. The bigger critters would make passes as we swam around. The GOT is home to two southern rays, two cownose rays, four turtles, two sand tiger sharks, and a nurse shark. All of them have names! It was any divers’ dream come true to see all of these guys together at the same time in such close proximity.

To top the experience off I got to scratch Myrtle’s back! She loves it, and it was really fun. She is like a big dog, and does that thing where she clses her eyes and leans into you as you scratch. (We use a conk-type shell to scratch with). When it was time to get out, I didn’t want to go! These guys have got an awesome job! 🙂

“Hello, welcome to the Penguin Exhibit. Step Right In!”


Outside the New England Aquarium!

Let me start by admitting that I have never been to the New England Aquarium before. So, when I showed up and met Paul Leonard at the front desk, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. Turns out I was going to get a better first look at the aquarium than most people could dream of! In less than an hour I had helped with food prep, changed into a wetsuit, and climbed down a ladder INTO the penguin exhibit!  How’s THAT for the first time visiting an aquarium!?  I got to actually go in the exhibit and help Paul feed the penguins and clean their rock islands! The New England Aquairum is home to four types of penguins, two different types of rockhoppers (the ones with the crazy yellow feathers on their heads), Africans, and little blue penguins (smallest penguins in the world). They have something akin to 80 penguins in their facility, and EVERY single one has a name! If you’ve ever been to the aquarium you may have noticed the bead bracelets that the penguins have on their wings. By looking at the colors of the beads and what side the penguin wears its bracelet on, the interns and employees can determine their names. One of the things in their job description is to actually memorize each penguin’s bracelet and name! It was so cool, and it really helps them keep track of how each penguin is doing.

Some of the rockhopper penguins! 🙂

All of the penguins are basically wild, and no one touches them unless it is absolutely necessary. However, all of the penguins have been trained to be hand-fed. This also helps everyone keep track of each individual penguin’s health. As one person feeds the penguin (normally the person that has memorized all their names..) their scribe (me!)  tallies how many fish that penguin eats. And, while the penguin is being fed, they are also getting a visual check-up. The penguins get fed twice a day, so they get a min-check often enough that it is easy to tell when there is something wrong with them…which isn’t often. These little penguins are treated like royalty!

Interns and volunteers check every single fish before putting it in the feeding bins, and the fish is all restaurant-grade. The kitchen that the preparation is done in is also kept super clean at chef-standard. They actually do this in all of their kitchens for every animal in order to minimize disease transfer from damaged food to the animals. So, basically, you could cook-up this fish in this kitchen and eat it yourself if you wanted to! It’s a pretty spiffy set-up.

Cleaning the rock islands in the penguin exhibit.

In the exhibit, which has no glass separating it from the public and sits at the base of the giant ocean tank, there are a bunch of fiberglass rock islands that the penguins live on. These are also kept as clean as possible, getting scrubbed and washed down once every day. I worked with the little blue penguins in the morning, and then the rockhoppers in the afternoon, and got my fair share of scrubbing in. (Side Note: Rock climbing in a wetsuit = easier said than done). One of the neat things about there being no glass between the public and the exhibit means that they can ask us questions while we are in working with the penguins, and, if we can hear them, we get to interact with them at the same time as the penguins! Today was a ton of fun, and  a spectacular way to both get introduced to the aquarium for the first time and to learn about penguins! What happens tomorrow? I get to see what the world looks like from the perspective of a giant fish tank! Giant Ocean Tank, here I come! 😀

Hogwarts at Harvard!

July 7th -8th

Me, outside of Harvard Hall

I think I’ve spent the last couple days at Harvard’s Natural Museum of History in just about every department that they have! Now I really understand what people mean when they say that when you go to a museum, you  are only ever seeing about 10% of what is actually there. Museums are like, enormous libraries. Except, it’s not always books that they have available; it’s specimens and lab space, and projects, and pictures, and just about anything else that you can think of! And, Harvard’s museum is no exception. I spent most of my time in the invertebrate zoology department, but I got to tour around in the mammals, ornithology (birds), herpetology (amphibians and reptiles), ichthyology (fish), and malacology (mollusks) divisions.  All of their collections are enormous, extremely impressive, and contain many, or most of the original holotypes! A holotype is the specimen that a species was described from..so, in layman’s terms, the critter that was discovered and described as the first of a “new species.”  The museum has scientists from all over the world come and look at, or ask for loans of their specimens to perform studies on. I couldn’t believe how much of a working library the museum really was, and I definitely have a new appreciation for them.

Annenberg Hall, the inside looks like the dining hall from Hogwarts!

Besides spending a lot of time learning about the museum and helping with various cataloging projects, I also got to spend some of my time this week with George Buckley, and one of the past Scalli Interns, Kate Douglas (1st Scalli Intern). George is a professor at Harvard and one of the board members of the Boston Sea Rovers. He was actually one of the people that interviewed me when I was in the application process for the internship. So, it was really great to be able to spend some time with him. He took me to visit the Scientific Instruments area, which is kind of a mini museum of old scientific devices like radios and instruments used in astrology and navigation. It’s pretty amazing to see the kinds of things that humans can invent when they put their minds to it. After that, George took me to lunch at Harvard’s historic Annenberg Hall. I never would have guessed that the big church-like building was actually a cafeteria. When I walked in I felt like I had just entered into the dining hall at Hogwarts. All of the tables were packed with students taking summer classes, so the place was alive with activity. It was fantastic, and we had a really good chat and lunch.

Me and Kate Douglas in Harvard Square! 🙂

After lunch I headed back into the museum for a few more hours, then I met with Kate Douglas in Harvard Square to spend some time catching up. Then we both made our way to Brattle Street where we got to attend George’s lecture on Environmental Management. We both really enjoyed it, and I added a few more books to my reading list!

I’ve had a wonderful time exploring Harvard and learning some of the secrets to their museum, and, who knows..maybe I’ll be back one day to do some research of my own! J


Harvard Museum of Natural History

July 5th -6th

Ahh!! SO cool! This week was my first time riding trains on my own! And, where was I headed? Even Better:  TO HARVARD! I’ve always wanted to visit, and this week I am working with some of the wonderful people at the Harvard Museum of Natural History! (If you haven’t had a chance to go yet, you should!).  I spent the majority of my time working in the Invertebrate Zoology collections department, where they perform curatorial and taxonomic work. Harvard’s Invertebrate Zoology folks host one of the world’s premier collections, with some specimens dating back over 200 years. And, those specimens include many of the original holotypes! A holotype is the specimen that a species was described from..so, in layman’s terms, the critter that was discovered and described as the first of a “new species.”  Their collection is fantastic!

All of the white packages are drawers from a collection of shells that was donated to the museum.

While I was there I helped them do a lot of different jobs. One was to open and sort through a new collection of shells that was donated by a family a few weeks ago. The husband had spent his entire life traveling and collecting these shells. When he passed his family finished numbering and labeling and identifying the shells, then they wrapped them all up and donated them to the museum. None of us had ever seen the shells before, so it was a really exciting process. Unwrapping each drawer was like opening a present! And there were a TON of drawers.

Drawer full of olive shells from the collection

The collection contained over 5,000 lots. A lot is a group of  the same species that was obtained in the same place at the same time. So, for example, if you went diving and collected 3 clams and 2 snails, the 3 clams are one lot, and the 2snails are another. There can be ANY number of specimens in a lot. So, basically, this shell collection is absolutely enormous, and extremely impressive. It even contained a few species that Harvard didn’t have yet! None of us could believe how dedicated this man and his family were to the collection. We all felt pretty special getting to see and sort through it. I can’t wait till it goes on display in the future!

Filming the Sub Races

6/28 – 6/29

A team getting ready to bring their sub down. You can see the race supervisor in his stand on the left.

AAH!! Cameras, cameras, and more cameras!! Oh..and submarines..Lottttssss of submarines! The past couple of days I spent the majority of my time in the water helping Nick Caloyianis take pictures and film the submarine races. Nick is one of the associates of the Boston Sea Rovers, and has worked with the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and a whole slew of other organizations over the course of his career. It was absolutely fantastic working with him at the submarine races! He taught me how to operate both of his cameras, and explained how pictures and videos are all about lighting. So, I would go down and shine light where he needed me to, and then he also let me use the cameras! I got some really neat footage of the Navy dive team loading both of their drivers at one point.It was so cool to actually be down there watching the submarine races underwater.

A team bringing their sub down to the starting line!

The process was really neat. Each team would swim their sub out on top of the water to somewhere behing the starting line. Then they would swim the sub down to the bottom and get it stabilized. Once they were ready, another diver brought the driver down to the sub using their octopus. The drivers are only wearing a wetsuit and mask because they breath the air in the sub, and they have to pedal with their feet. Once the driver was laoded and comfortable in the sub, a team member closed the hatch, and then another member swam up to the surface to let the race supervisor know that the sub was ready to race. Down on the bottom there would be a team member holding up the front end of  the sub and another holding up the back end. The race supervisor would give them the “Go,go, go, go!” signal, the driver would start pedaling, the team members holding the sub would “hit the floor,” and off the sub would go! The sub passed through several timing gates, and then the finish line. At the finish line there were a bunch of navy divers waiting in front of an enormous net to catch and stop the subs. Then they got the driver out and brought the sub to the surface where team members were waiting to tow it back so they could do it all again! It was awesome!

One of the teams towing their sub back after a race.

One of the days that I was helping Nick film, we swam all the way down to the catch net to film that part of the race. It was kind of spooky waiting down there with this huge net and blackness behind you, looking into murky water, waiting for a submarine to come charging towards you. It was one heck of an adrenaline rush when the sub came into sight and all the divers went after it. Once we got some good shots it was time for the long swim back to the dive station. Nick had been using a scooter (one of those little missile looking things that you hold onto and it pulls you through the water) with a camera attached to the end to get some side footage of the subs as they were racing, and he let me ride it on our way back! IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I need one! 😀 It was a great way to polish off my time filming with Nick. I also got some great shots with my Olympus and Gates cameras! Tomorrow is the last day of the races, and then we have the banquet and find out who won all the categories!