Habitat Conservation

Marine Underwater Techniques Course

Marine Underwater Techniques Course

NOAA Fisheries' Pacific Island Regional Office (PIRO) held its third annual Marine Underwater Techniques Training course this year, in partnership and supported by PIRO's Marine Education and Training Program. Six of the most qualified undergraduate students from the University of Hawaii's Marine Option Program were selected and received training in advanced underwater mapping techniques. The purpose of the training is to demonstrate current technologies being incorporated into NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program and PIRO's Habitat Conservation Division, as well as to build capacity within the region by training future marine scientists.

The course consisted of three weeks of both classroom work and boat-based diving, with instructors and students logging more than 100 dives over the duration of the course. Techniques demonstrated and practiced began simply with the use of underwater photography and surface-towed Global Positioning System (GPS) units. Students later linked photos to their GPS track in a Geographic Information System using the ArcGIS software package and Google Earth. As the course progressed, instructors increased the complexity of the students' tasks, and their training included the use of Diver Propulsion Vehicles in conjunction with GPS photo linking, and AquaMap, an underwater mapping system. AquaMap enables divers to collect data underwater with a hand held unit that has sub-meter precision, much like GPS technology is able to accomplish on the surface. Instructors demonstrated other technologies such as underwater messaging devices that are similar to text messaging on a cell phone, and dive trackers, which enable navigation to a sonar-based transducer up to 2,000 feet away. Students were also given a presentation on NOAA's mixed gas closed-circuit rebreathers by Brian Hauk and Jason Leonard from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.