Scientists living underwater

November 12, 2007 by Scuba Herald 

Students, faculty and staff who are interested in learning more about the health of marine ecosystems–particularly coral reefs–and those who want to learn about how scientists conduct research while living underwater will soon have a unique opportunity. Art Trembanis, UD assistant professor of geological science, is hosting a live question-and-answer session with aquanauts aboard an underwater laboratory known as Aquarius Habitat. The event will take place from 7-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in 311 Pearson Hall.

Aquarius is an underwater laboratory and habitat that sits at a depth of sixty-two feet under the ocean’s surface. It is located nine miles southeast from the habitat’s operations center in Key Largo, Fla., and three miles offshore in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The habitat was created to advance underwater research by creating an environment that allows scientists to spend significantly long periods of time underwater without risking their safety.

“The marine environment is a complex and delicately balanced system, subject to potential harms caused by global climate changes. Regrettably, while the oceans are critically important to the health of the planet they have been woefully under sampled,” Trembanis said. “Resources like the Aquarius underwater habitat–the only underwater science station of its kind–provide a unique platform for researchers to gain unprecedented access to the sea.”

Scientists who live in Aquarius, or “aquanauts” as they’re called, can live in the habitat indefinitely and have much more bottom time (time spent at depth underwater) than surface divers, who complete single dives from a boat. Aquanauts can work and live on the seafloor for such a long period of time because they “saturate,” meaning that their tissues absorb maximum partial pressure of nitrogen gas.

To prevent decompression sickness (commonly know as “the bends”) when the divers return to the surface, the aquanauts stay in Aquarius for 17 hours at the end of the mission while the pressure inside the habitat is slowly brought back to that of sea level. This unique technology allows scientists to research safely underwater for an indefinite period of time.

The session will take place during a saturation mission as part of Project SeaCAMEL, an educational outreach effort funded by the Living Oceans Foundation.

Please R.S.V.P. for this event by e-mailing Art Trembanis at

To learn more about the project, visit []. For more about the UD College of Marine and Earth Studies, visit [].

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