Delaware Run Storm Drain Net Installed and Catching Crap!

Ohio Wesleyan University senior Brianna Graber has spent the past year planning and conducting water-quality research on the Delaware Run, which flows through the university campus and into the Olentangy River.

Her work included collaborating with the City of Delaware to install a 4-foot-high, 18.5-foot-wide, concrete-weighted storm drain net directly into the waterway. Put in place by crane Sept. 9, the 13,000-pound trapezoidal net is now capturing trash and green debris (organic waste such as lawn clippings and leaves). The net is one of the first installed in Ohio and the nation.

More information: Net Benefits: OWU News & Media

Visit the storm drain net: then social media it: #delrunstormdrainnet

The storm drain net is accessible from the OWU campus, just east of the 2nd footbridge east of S. Sandusky St.:

A video of the storm drain net in Delaware Run (Sept. 25, 2019)

Rain last weekend started the process of filling the net and trapping stream debris just upstream from the net (below). An assortment of larger trash along with quite a large amount of organic material is evident. Most notable is the impressive collection of cigarette butts.

Brianna Graber (OWU 2020) has been testing Delaware Run water, and will be able to compare water quality before and after the storm drain net installation. Material caught in the storm drain net will be analyzed for content (organic vs waste, etc.). The effects of such larger water-bourne materials on water quality is the focus of Graber’s work.

The presence of so many cigarette butts is of interest. Not only do cigarette butts contain plastic, but they also contain chemicals including nicotine. Some studies have began to investigate the impact of nicotine and other contaminants from cigarette butts on urban water (see Littered cigarette butts as a source of nicotine in urban waters, Journal of Hydrology
Volume 519, Part D, 27 November 2014, Pages 3466-3474).

Analyzing the contents of the storm drain net will allow the City of Delaware and other collaborators to understand and create target efforts to reduce specific kinds of waste, and to understand how both human generated and organic waste effect water quality.

Watch here for updates and let us know if you have questions!

OWU and City of Delaware Storm Drain Net Collaboration

Students and faculty have been working a project to implement a storm drain net in the Delaware Run on campus. The purpose of the net will be to remove trash and green waste/debris from the Delaware Run behind Merrick on campus.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, Janelle Valdinger, Dr. John Krygier and I (Brianna Graber) have been cohesively working a project to implement a storm drain net in the Delaware Run, on OWU’s campus. The purpose of this project will be for Summer Science Research through Ohio Wesleyan University and for an internship with the City of Delaware. The purpose of the net will be to remove trash and green waste/debris from the Delaware Run behind Merrick on campus.
I will be using funding from the City of Delaware, a Theory to Practice Grant from Ohio Wesleyan that I wrote and was awarded, as well as a donation from FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed), DelCo Water Co., and the American Kayaking Association (AKA). These funds will be used to obtain and purchase the net and research supplies, fund the machinery used for the project, and create an educational sign.
We will be in constant contact with the company used in purchasing and constructing the net, StormX, to give measurements and data for the net as well.
As of mid-January, the run area behind Merrick was surveyed for data and measurements to begin constructing the net and the order will be placed soon.
     
The goal is to have the net delivered mid-April in order to stay on schedule for Summer Science Research. As of right now, the plan is still on track.

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns NSF Funds to Attend First-of-Its-Kind Conference

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University student Janelle Valdinger is one of fewer than 20 undergraduate and graduate students across the country invited to participate in January in the first national Workshop on Community Geography.

Building Community Through Geography

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns NSF Funds to Attend First-of-Its-Kind Conference

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University student Janelle Valdinger is one of fewer than 20 undergraduate and graduate students across the country invited to participate in January in the first national Workshop on Community Geography.

Valdinger, an OWU geography major, has been named a Community Geography Fellow and awarded funds to attend the two-day conference Jan. 25-26 at Georgia State University in Atlanta. According to organizers, the National Science Foundation-supported workshop will bring together 40 to 50 Community Geography Fellows, who are “academic researchers and community leaders interested in using geographic research for community development, social justice, and environmental sustainability.”

In addition to being a full-time Ohio Wesleyan student, Valdinger also is a full-time employee of the City of Delaware, where she works as a Geographic Information System (GIS) technician.

She said her main goals for the workshop include “learning new ways to use geographic research for community development, especially in other countries … and finding new ways to build a stronger, long-lasting working relationship between Ohio Wesleyan University and the City of Delaware.”

Valdinger already has helped to coordinate a joint university-city project to install three water-purifying rain gardens on OWU’s campus. She is helping now to implement a collaborative relationship that involves the city’s Department of Public Utilities hosting OWU students as interns and “developing a partnership with the OWU Summer Science Research Program where the city hires a student-intern for the summer and the university provides housing, along with faculty guidance for a research project.”

The first Ohio Wesleyan student to hold the summer research internship is junior zoology major Brianna Graber. Graber is working with the city this semester on a project to fund and install storm-drain nets to catch large waste items and prevent them from entering the Olentangy River.

While attending the Georgia conference, Valdinger will present information on the developing OWU-Delaware partnership, which currently includes eight university students working on environmental projects.

In addition, she hopes to glean information to assist with her Ohio Wesleyan departmental honors project, which focuses on mapping public utilities in Belize.

On campus, she is collaborating on the honors project with Department of Geology and Geography faculty members John Krygier, Ph.D., director of environmental studies; Nathan Amador Rowley, Ph.D.; and Ashley Allen, Ph.D., and with Jay Scheffel, assistant director of physical plant. Off campus, Valdinger is working with 2003 OWU alumnus Tim Hawthorne, Ph.D., assistant professor of GIS at the University of Central Florida.

“Not only will we be mapping utilities, but we will be providing utility locators to the local government officials in Belize,” Valdinger said. “Citizen Science will play a large role in this project, and learning (at the workshop) about what avenues other professionals have taken will help greatly in the execution of my project.”

Krygier, who was also named a Community Geography Fellow, said he is excited for Valdinger to attend the workshop and share her OWU accomplishments with scholars from across the country, and to learn how to further community engagement on campus, in Delaware, and abroad.

He also is excited by the overall potential of community geography, one of his research specialties, and its focus on engaged community work.

“It’s about creating a win-win situation for colleges and their communities,” Krygier said, “with positive impacts, research experiences, and real-world engagement between people and institutions who share many common goals.”

Learn more about the upcoming national Workshop on Community Geography at www.communitymappinglab.org/commgeog19.html and more about OWU’s geography major at www.owu.edu/geography or https://sustainability.owu.edu.

Student Research: Lucas Farmer: Drones & Spatial Storytelling in Belize

Drones & Spatial Storytelling in Belize

Presented at the ELDAAG Fall 2018 Regional Division Meeting, Ohio Northern University

Using DJI Phantom 4 drones, we captured high-resolution imagery off the coast of Belize. This provides geospatial data to help explain observed land surface changes. Imagery gathered during the data collection process replaces outdated and low-resolution satellite imagery. We use ESRI’s Drone2Map software to process data and create orthomosaics of individual islands. These orthomosaics are used for digitizing to identify several aspects of the islands. We interviewed locals that either reside, work, or visit the islands. After analyzing the latter information, some themes include: how island boundaries have changed over the years, the effects of mangrove loss, and information on structures (seawalls, buildings, docks). All data is open to being used for the betterment of these island communities. The work has significant implications for using geospatial technologies in Belize and globally, to provide much needed local knowledge on the impacts and adaptations of these islands.

 

 

Student Research: Jenelle Collier: Keeping the Culture Alive Using Representation to Combat Gentrification in Urban Communities

Keeping the Culture Alive: Using Representation to Combat Gentrification in Urban Communities

Presented at the ELDAAG Fall 2018 Regional Division Meeting, Ohio Northern University

This poster summarizes research done in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and San Francisco in Summer 2017. I examined the importance of urban murals and gardens as representations of real Black, Latinx, and Asian communities rather than tourist attractions. I found that many recent gentrification efforts have caused concern for these minority communities because they do not want to have to leave a place where their roots are so deeply sewn, yet tourism is important to maintain each neighborhood’s economic structure. The murals display residents’ pride and connection to their communities. Often, they depict minority leaders whose work was impactful or inspirational. The gardens show the citizen’s efforts in not only trying to stay in their communities but bettering their communities. While many of these neighborhoods are seen as run down and unwelcoming, they are actually representative of culturally rich areas at risk of being negatively impacted by gentrification.

Spring 2019 Externships and Summer 2019 Internships & Summer Sustainability Practicum

The worm composting table constructed by Matt Burke (right) intern at MTSO and member of the Summer Sustainability Practicum. A few of the other practicum members are shown in the photograph, on MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm, where the practicum is held. The worm table construction was guided by Aleks Ilic of Blue House Worm Farms, in Delaware Ohio.

Students: It’s time to act together for Spring 2019 externships and Summer 2019 internships in the OWU region. These opportunities are available to any student, freshmen through senior.

We would like you to take the initiative and contact us if you are interested, as soon as possible, so we can work to line up opportunities for you.

  • Externships happen during the semester, typically unpaid and for credit (GEOG 495 or ENVS 495) and are about 8 hours a week.
  • Internships happen during the summer, typically paid and can be for credit (GEOG 495 or ENVS 495) and range from part to full time.

We are always adding partners and work to find specific opportunities if we know students are interested.

Please contact Dr. John Krygier (jbkrygier@owu.edu) ASAP if you are interested.


Below find some internship/externship opportunities: This is not a complete list!

Summer Sustainability Seminar & Practicum:

Tentatively scheduled for 3 hours a week for 10 weeks over the summer, meeting (and eating) on MTSO’s campus. This seminar can be taken for credit if you wish. We hope to get many of the area summer interns together, including students from Otterbein and MTSO.

Summer Science Research Program (OWU):

If you are interested in this funded, 10-week research program with OWU faclty (for students between their junior and senior years) please review information about the program here and talk to faculty you are interested in working with. If you are unsure, ask Dr. Krygier or Dr. Anderson. Students may attend the summer Sustainability Seminar and Practicum as part of the SSRP.

Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Seminary Hill Farm:

MTSO is a leader in food and environmental justice and this summer are tentatively offering several full-time internships which come with lodging, a stipend, and some food. Work last summer included the development of a worm composting table, work on pond restoration and assistance on the farm and with the farm’s food justice efforts. A great place to get all hot and sweaty working on a real farm growing real food for a noble purpose.

Delaware Public Utilities and GIS Department:

Typically working with OWU student and Public Utility employee (and all around terrific person) Janelle Valdinger, on various environmental and sustainability efforts. Recent student-involved projects include bio-retention cell planning and construction, utilities tracking and mapping, stormwater drain netting, green-roofed bike racks, composting and

Delaware Watershed and Sustainability Coordinator’s Office: Caroline Cicerchi:

Caroline and Janelle (Public Utilities) work closely together on sustainability, environmental and ecological projects. Caroline, like Janelle, is a masterful project coordinator and terrific to work with.

Stratford Ecological Center:

One of the longest-running relationships with our program is with the Stratford Ecological Center and Farm, just south of campus. OWU typically has 3-5 externships each semester, and several full-time internships each summer. Work is on projects related to the Center farm, its plants, and animals, its nature preserve, as well as environmental education with the many K-8 summer camps offered at Stratford.

Preservation Parks of Delaware County:

With nine parks county-wide and more on the horizon, Preservation Parks is the primary organization developing and maintaining a range of green spaces which also include a working farm. A range of semester externships and summer internships focused on ecological projects, environmental education, outreach and other efforts. If you like to dress up like a 1930s farmer, this is your gig.

DelCo Water Company

One of the largest water companies in the state of Ohio, both semester externships and summer internships are typically available. Projects include water infrastructure mapping, water sampling and analysis, and water education.

Price Farms Organics:

If your idea of summer fun is driving large tractors and bulldozers, look no further. Price Farms Organics is a regional leader in composting and typically employes a student or two to help with the practical aspects of large-scale composting.

Innovative Organics Recycling:

A new company run by Ray Leard is currently employing students to help with their drop-off food waste and food scraps composting program.

More possibilities include:

  • Central Ohio Communities Project (Terry Hermson)
  • Citizens Climate Lobby (Delaware chapter)
  • AVI Food Service (OWU Campus)
  • OWU Buildings and Grounds (OWU Campus)
  • Delaware City Health
  • Delaware County GIS Office
  • Delaware Parks and Natural Resources

New Bio-retention Cells (rain gardens) by Branch Rickey Arena on OWU’s Campus

Drawing by Jonathan Stechschulte

Branch Rickey Rain Garden (Bio-retention) Development on OWU Campus

Participants: Janelle Valdinger (City of Delaware, OWU), Dr. John Krygier (OWU Geography & Environment & Sustainability), Brad Stanton (City of Delaware), Perry Mickley (City of Delaware), Department of Parks and Recreation (City of Delaware), Department of Engineering (City of Delaware), Carolyn Cicerichi (City of Delaware)

Contact: Janelle Valdinger (JValdinger@delawareohio.net), John Krygier (jbkrygier@owu.edu)

This rain garden project is the outcome of an Environment & Sustainability program student project, in collaboration with the campus Sustainability Task Force, OWU Buildings & Grounds, and the City of Delaware.

Ohio Wesleyan University was established in 1842, in one building (Elliot Hall). Elliot was built near a sulfur spring, which flowed into the Delaware Run, near the earliest settlements in the area (upper green oval, below) The proposed rain garden is located along an unnamed stream just south of the sulfur spring and Delaware Run. The stream was buried sometime in the early 1900s. The area was developed as an athletic field for Ohio Wesleyan shortly afterward. Branch Rickey Arena was built on the site in 1976.

What is a Bio-Retention Cell? MS4 Permit/Storm-water Project: The City of Delaware works diligently to keep waterways healthy. One way this is achieved is through compliance with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (OEPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program. The City has a permit with the OEPA for stormwater discharges, which are generated by runoff from land and impervious surfaces such as parking lots and rooftops. This bio-retention cell helps keep the City in compliance with its permit by treating stormwater pollutants before they reach streams, rivers, and other waterways.

Rain gardens are designed and developed to improve water quality in nearby bodies of water to ensure rainwater becomes available for plants as groundwater rather than being sent through storm-water drains out to local tributaries. Rain gardens have the ability to reduce the amount of pollution reaching nearby streams and rivers by 30%. The purpose of this project is to design and implement two rain gardens located on the north side of Branch Rickey Arena/Gordon Field House.

Two storm basins have were located and inspected by the City of Delaware Department of Public Utilities as approved project sites. Two planning meetings took place with the Department of Engineering, Department of Parks and Recreation, and management to determine the design, layout, plant requirements, grading requirements, and labor needed for the said project. Calculations were made to determine the exact design layout.

Drawing by Jonathan Stechschulte

A quote from the City Arborist placed a $12,500 price tag on this project, and the funding was from a City of Delaware grant. OSU Landscape Architecture graduate student Jonathan Stechschulte provided the excellent drawings of the project, which OWU’s administration required before moving forward with the project.

Fall 2018: 95% of plants planted in the spring survived, with a minimum of maintenance.

Maintenance after the project has been completed will be shared by OWU’s Buildings & Grounds as well as being part of a semester and summer internship (focused on watershed issues). Interns will monitor, maintain, and report on the rain gardens, along with assisting our Watershed Coordinator and Department of Public Utilities employees with other tasks.

This project is part of a larger effort to create a more sustainable, and green infrastructure within the City of Delaware and especially on OWU’s campus. The possibility of this kind of project spreading to more locations on and around campus is high. Students can come back to this project year after year, choose a single storm basin or a collection of storm basins, create a design and implementation plan, and present it to the Department of Public Utilities. The Department of Public Utilities creates a capital improvement budget, along with a working budget every year to every five years, creating a constant allocation of funds for projects similar to this.

Building the bio-retention cell, Spring 2018:

Dustin Braden points to the future location of one of the two bio-retention cells, Spring 2018. Damn cold that day.
Dustin Braden and Janelle Valdinger admire the stakes which will mark the boundaries of the bio-retention cells.
One of the two cells, right after being planted in the Spring of 2018.

Two signs (above) describe the way bio-retention cells work, and the history of the location: a buried stream runs under/near both cells. See the old map of campus (above).

OWU Travel Learning Course to Costa Rica, Fall 2017

Interested in visiting the tropics? In January? Fall 2017 Travel Course: Geography 347TL: Environmental Alteration, Dr. Amador Rowley

Interested in visiting the tropics? In January?

luke

Fall 2017 OWU Travel Course

Geography 347TL: Environmental Alteration, Dr. Amador Rowley

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Locations throughout Costa Rica, focusing on a small, coastal town: Bahia Ballena

Assess human impacts on natural environments in Delaware, OH (Fall ‘17) and coastal Costa Rica (Jan. ‘18), putting it into a regional and global context.

Collaborate with Amy Work, OWU Alum (‘04), and her community organization, Geoporter, and work with local citizens in a developing ecotourism region.

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-10-56-56-am

Activities Include:

  • Visiting Palm Oil & Pineapple Plantations
  • Coffee Plantation
  • Coastal Community Mapping Using Drone
  • Biological Nature & Toucan Reserves
  • Visit Bat Sanctuary
  • Testing Water Quality
  • Kayaking through Mangroves

Contact: Dr. Nathan Amador Rowley with any questions (nsamador@owu.edu)

OWU Environmental Studies & Sustainability Progress, Spring 2017

Established and ongoing efforts in environment and sustainability by Ohio Wesleyan students, staff and faculty and off-campus collaborators active during the 2016-17 academic year.

Established and ongoing efforts in environment and sustainability by Ohio Wesleyan students, staff and faculty and off-campus collaborators active during the 2016-17 academic year. 

A PDF of this document is available here.
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OWU Sustainability Plan: As a liberal arts institution, Ohio Wesleyan University must be a leader in progressive sustainability initiatives through educational, technical, and social means. The proposed Ohio Wesleyan Sustainability Plan (click for PDF) is intended to invigorate and expand a culture of sustainability that has a positive impact on the environment. Draft of the OWU Sustainability Plan, created by faculty, staff and students, is complete and being revised and vetted. Students in our Sustainability Practicum are currently arranging to move the proposed plan through OWU’s administrative network during the spring of 2017.
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May Move Out: A student-initiated project in collaboration with Goodwill, to defer usable materials from the trash as students move off campus in May. We defer 10 tons of reusable furniture, appliances, clothes, bikes, etc. on average, each May. Students are currently meeting with OWU’s Buildings & Grounds and Residential Life staff to plan for and promote the 2017 May Move Out. Ohio Wesleyan’s May Move Out program was awarded the 2015 Recycling Award from the Keep Delaware County Beautiful Coalition.

Reusable Food Containers in Hamilton Williams Campus Center: A student project initiated in the Fall of 2015 is being expanded during the spring of 2017. A new dishwasher was installed in our campus center in part to provide adequate washing of the containers. Students and campus food service staff are working to improve and expand the program during the Spring of 2017.

Environmental Science Major: A proposal for an Environmental Science major (in addition to our 39 year old Environmental Studies major) will be brought before OWU committees and faculty for consideration and approval during the Spring of 2017.

Environmental Studies Minor in Food Studies: A Food Studies Minor (developed from the Food Course Connection) is in place (a collaboration between Health and Human Kinetics [HHK] and Environmental Studies). Two more minors, Sustainability and Climate Science are being developed.

Living Green Infrastructure Proposal: Students and staff are working on a proposal for a Living Green residence hall option. 1) Develop structural sustainability. 2) Allow students to live more sustainably by reducing their water, energy, and material waste. 3) Include workshop/classroom area for sustainable learning (repair, self-production). 4) Trained RA’s to be sustainable life assistants.

Delaware Foodshed Farm and Food Collaboration: Building on the Food Studies Minor and student interest in gardens, farming and food, OWU faculty in Environmental Studies and HHK are developing a collaboration between Stratford Ecological Center farms and the Methodist School of Ohio farms. Initial efforts will focus on student internships and engagement of OWU in a regional food network. With financial support for staff (donations or grants) campus gardens will be developed. Efforts will focus on the practice of ecologically sound farming, food production, regional food networks and social outreach (building on the existing Cooking Matters Program, organized by Dr. Chris Fink) to engage students and community members in growing food.

Environmental and Sustainability Internships: Eight to ten internships are being offered on a regular basis at Stratford Ecological Center and the City of Delaware. Foci include environmental education, marketing, farming, and sustainability. Additional internships will be available at the Seminary Hill Farm (Methodist Theological School of Ohio) Fall 2017.

Global Environmental Change Collaboration & Travel Learning Course: OWU collaboration with Amy Work (OWU ‘04) and her organization GeoPorter in Bahia Ballena-Uvita, Costa Rica. Learning and using environmental assessment methods in Delaware, Ohio (Fall 2017) and during a travel learning course trip (Dr. Nathan Amador’s Geography 347) to coastal Costa Rica (January 2018). Goal: to understand how local environmental data is collected and relates to regional and global climate and environmental change.

Chimney Swift Towers: A collaboration between students and OWU Alumni Dick Tuttle (OWU 1973) to build a chimney swift tower on the residential side of campus. Plans have been drawn up and cost estimates provided by a contractor. Funds will be provided by Tuttle. We anticipate construction during the spring or summer of 2017 pending approval from B&G and OWU’s Administration.

Campus Wildlife Habitat Enhancements: Student efforts continue to install and maintain bird houses, feeders and solitary bee houses on campus.

Green Week 2017: Building on a successful week of events in 2016, students are organizing another week of events for the spring of 2017 (the week prior to Earth Day).

Delaware Run Assessment and Restoration: Ongoing project focused on restoring Delaware Run between Sandusky St. and Henry St. Emerging collaboration with stream restoration specialists who propose restoration of the stream and adjacent riparian zone in return for state of Ohio stream credits. Currently waiting on the establishment of an official Ohio stream banking and credit procedure.

Bottled Water Sales Reduction: Student-led efforts to drive down bottled water purchases on campus, including the installation of hydration stations and promotion of reusable water bottles. Bottled water sales have dropped significantly in the last three years. We continue to install hydration stations (filtered water) at key locations as an alternative to bottled water.

OWU ’17 Michael Durfee: Summer ’16 Diving Internship

Michael Durfee, OWU 2017, is an Environmental Studies and Medieval Studies dual major, and participated in a summer 2016 master diver apprenticeship in Cozumel, Mexico.

massivecoral


Michael Durfee, OWU 2017, is an Environmental Studies and Medieval Studies dual major, and participated in a summer 2016 master diver apprenticeship in Cozumel, Mexico.


Michael Durfee
October 27, 2016

One of the first lessons we are taught as divers is that we are the stewards, the voice of, and the ambassadors of the underwater world. Nobody else has the means to be so intimate with this environment. Even if for no reason other than we love being in it, we must help protect it.

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) stresses the importance of the environment throughout a diver’s training. They teach us how to be careful of sensitive aquatic ecosystems (by maintaining good buoyancy, kicking properly, by knowing we won’t be attacked by animals unless we harass them, or simply by not touching things). PADI provides examples in their training books of ways to be active in the fight to keep our waters healthy.

PADI also advertise and teach Project AWARE both as an independent project and movement and as a specialty course for certification (AWARE Fish Identification, AWARE Shark Conservation, AWARE Underwater Naturalist for example). Project AWARE is the environmental movement within diving, started years ago by PADI and broken off into something grander. AWARE stands for Aquatic World Awareness Responsibility and Education. At its most basic we are given its Ten Ways a Diver Can Protect the Underwater Environment. These are: 1) Dive carefully, 2) Be aware of your body and equipment, 3) Keep your dive skills sharp, 4) Consider your actions, 5) Understand and respect underwater life, 6) Be an Ecotourist, 7) Respect underwater cultural heritage, 8) Report environmental disturbances or destruction, 9) Be a role model, and 10) Get involved.

I went to Cozumel, Mexico to earn my PADI Professional Divemaster rating. I chose a very good location for this dive training. Reasons for this are many, but primarily for the fact that the waters surrounding the island are a huge Marine National Park. All divers are required to be extra careful and mindful. For example, nobody is allowed to dive without a local Divemaster. There are extensive, complex coral reefs along the entire west side of the island. There was greater pressure for me to become a better, more skilled diver here. I have confidence in my abilities to observe sensitive organisms without any accidental harm occurring.

gruntscorals

Diving these world famous coral reefs was remarkable and eye opening for me. I can hardly express what I have learned. I am familiar with numerous species of fish and am only just beginning to understand how they interconnect to form this ecosystem. I learned how a coral reef works in its most fundamental sense and how nearby wetlands like Mangroves can be essential to the reef’s continued survival.

Simply by observation while in over 60 dives, I got to see how some aquatic animals rely on the health of their coral environment. Health has multiple aspects.

I’ve chosen a few examples.

The sea turtles around Cozumel, most commonly the Green Sea Turtle and the Loggerhead Turtle, depend on coral reefs for food and protection.

turtThe turtles will lie there chomping on coral, digging at it with their beaks. I may postulate that the type of coral matters, which makes the coral and sponge diversity important to the turtles.The relative shallow depths of these reefs allow turtles to live and feed well while still having fairly quick access to the surface for air. Here is a Green Sea Turtle who was eating but is now looking at the diver taking the photo.

Often while I was diving I thought to myself how odd some of the fish I see are. Many seem to be just generic and what a human might expect, but others not so much. Filefish are one of these oddities. I love to wonder why they look like they do – inspiring research on my part.

snert_fish

Watching The fish feed is the biggest clue. Their mouths are specialized for a certain diet. What exactly they eat I do not know, but they use their outwards-pointing teeth and elongated mouth to scrape their food off the bottom and the coral. Being so specialized may indicate an existence more vulnerable to environmental changes. Of the animal species here, it is the oddities, the curiosities and the fantastic that are the first to leave when conditions change.

drumfishThe Drumfish is one of the most elegant and beautiful species of fish I was ever fortunate enough to observe. They are shy and love to hide under small, shallow ledges. Diversity of structure is one of the most important aspects of coral reef health. In this case, structural diversity allows for the shy to hide their faces and the very shy to hide their entire body. An example of the very shy would include the endemic species to Cozumel, the Splendid Toadfish who hides in a hole day and night.

Another species which appreciates the structural diversity of coral reef systems is the Stonefish, the most poisonous fish in the world.

stonefish

Stonefish are docile, though, and are named for their ability to blend in with their surroundings and look like a stone or piece of coral. They are one reason why divers in the Caribbean try not to touch the reefs. If we imagine a reef that has been bleached or depleted in its various diversities, a Stonefish would not survive.

There are dozens of animals species which rely on the existence of coral reefs and their diversity. A diver’s awareness of this as connected to their choices and advocacy on land is an essential power. We can help advocate for more Marine National parks and sustainable fishing regulations. We can use sustainably produced products which would not create by-product which ends up in the ocean. We can use sustainable energy sources and/or cut back on overall energy consumption. Our mindful choices have a say in whether these beautiful places and animals will survive.

Having learned in a Marine National Park in Cozumel gave me a heightened sense of my duty as a now Professional diver. My Divemaster training stressed that one of my most essential duties is to be a good role model. This means being a skillful and knowledgeable diver, embracing and adhering to PADI Standards (which keep divers and the environment safe) and embracing and adhering to Project AWARE teachings.