Down Under, Out Yonder 2011

posted Jan 2, 2012, 8:03 PM by Jason Stanley   [ updated Jan 2, 2012, 8:06 PM by Jacqui Stanley ]

In mid-July, I flew back to Houston from Canada, packed my dive gear, and drove down to Galveston where I met my class mates for the next 5 days in the Down Under, Out Yonder 2011 Expedition. 

    We started school in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary offices. We were taught some entertaining lesson plans by Kelly Drinnen, and we were fortunate to have presentations from scientists such as Emma Hickerson and Dr. Steve Giddings. It was really valuable to have such up to date information about the Gulf of Mexico. Just as we thought we could not identify one more fish, we all headed over to Moody Gardens for real time fish ID! Kevin Buch patiently gave us great lessons and tips on how to quickly recognize fish species and as there was a test looming, we did not want to disappoint him!

    Sunday night, we drove to Freeport where we all boarded the M/V Fling a 100 foot live-aboard dive boat where we would be exploring the coral reefs and two oil platforms.

     We dove on the East and West FGBNMS and Stetson Bank and conducted fish counts for REEF. Between dives, and food and some sleep, we had several presenters; among them were Dr.LarryMcKinney, who  is the Executive Director Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies where he leads an interdisciplinary team that work to ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable Gulf, and Dr. Christi Savarese who is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas and is currently documenting and describing deep water sponges collected via Remotely Operated Vehicle(ROV) from depths greater than 120 feet.

I also gave a presentation on the Aquarius mission: If Reefs Could Talk.

    It was sensory overload! The beautiful sanctuary and marine life, the great exchanges with teacher colleagues, so much new information and thousands of ideas about how to use information in the classroom! It was fantastic experience in biology, oceanography, geology, physical science, American government and environmental science all in the company of great dive buddies. Wow!!!

I’d do it again in a heart beat.

Thanks to FGBNMS and to Conoco Phillips and Gulf of Mexico Foundation.