Effectiveness of Trained Volunteer Divers in Scientific Documentation of Artificial Aquatic Habitats
Abstract:The reliability of field measurement of 15 environmental variables by trained volunteer divers was evaluated at artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean 10 to 65 km offshore Jacksonville, Florida, USA from July 1990 to May 1991. Overall performance of the diver organization included nine field trips by the Jacksonville Scubanauts Reef Research Team, in which 49 members and three technical advisers maintained a 100% safety record with 222 dives and 120.1 h underwater. Diving conditions typical of the U.S. Atlantic coast included slight to moderate currents, visibility of 3 to 20 m, and depth of 20 to 40 m. Volunteers successfully performed seven tasks during initial trials, i.e., determining site location, presence of natural reefs, salinity, sediment composition and reef profile, sampling attached invertebrates, and compilation of a fish species list. Five other variables were determined reliably after modification of the methods initially used by the organization: reef perimeter, visibility, current direction, temperature, and thermocline depth. Two tasks, measurement of sediment thickness and current speed, could not be executed successfully due to inadequate equipment or technique. Finally, quantitative fish census failed from insufficient training and knowledge of some of the participants. During the project the volunteer diver organization revised and published its methods manual. The conclusion is that volunteer divers offer a credible capability for field sampling and measurement of certain environmental variables when proper training and support services are provided. Volunteers can augment the scientific observations of research organizations, and reef managers.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 1994
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