DMC Certifies Scientific Divers

Nine undergraduate and graduate students completed their scientific diving certification at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole. It is a certification that many marine science students put to good use throughout their academic and professional careers.

According to UMaine’s diving safety officer, Christopher Rigaud of Jefferson, scientific divers study the underwater environment using scuba or other diving equipment. The UMaine program follows American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) standards, which require passing stringent physical exams, meeting additional training requirements, and maintaining a sustained level of diving activity.

“Our students spend many hours learning about diving physics, physiology, equipment, first aid and rescue techniques, while studying regulatory and scientific policy and procedures,” explained Rigaud. “They’re also putting those skills into practice under the water.”

Students earn scientific diving certification after the successful completion of UMaine’s School of Marine Science (SMS) course 324, Introduction to Research Diving. The course has run 11 sessions over nine consecutive years, training a total of 87 scientific divers. Graduates of the UMaine program have won numerous awards and scholarships.

“I would love to incorporate what I learned from the course into my career,” said Lauren Rice, from Harpswell, who was recently certified through the program. “When you’re diving, you can get up close and personal with the animal or the subject you’re studying. That’s a valuable experience for a scientist.”

Aside from learning new skills, Rice said that being underwater was thrilling—especially during night dives. “The bioluminescence was strong, so every movement we made sent small blue sparks shooting into the darkness around us.” she said. “It felt like we were swimming through the stars. It was surreal.”

As an Organizational Member of AAUS, UMaine is one of only 150 institutions worldwide to meet the high standards of this community. AAUS membership ensures UMaine is compliant with all requirements for occupational-scientific diving and provides recognition for UMaine scientists and students via a strong network of cooperating institutions.

SMS 324 will be offered at the DMC during the summer of 2017 through UMaine’s Summer University.